Handheld – “A Canadian Tragedy”

Handheld are a friendly looking punk band from Kitchener, Ontario. When I saw their picture I thought to myself, “They seem fine”. After seeing the music video for “Leaving Candyland,” off their forthcoming album, that feeling only intensified. Before we get into the music, the band, and the history of Kitchener formerly being called Berlin before anti-German sentiment during World War I resulted in changing the name to a former British field marshal (we might not actually get to that part), let’s talk about this amazing music video in greater detail. 

Both the song and the video pay homage to the peerless John Candy, who is a Canadian treasure of the highest order. If you don’t love John Candy, then you’re a bad person who hates punk, and must only be here for those stupid Google ads about that company who makes tech fiber cargo shorts with knife holsters. This video brings back to life many of John Candy’s best roles, with the band dressing up as Barf from Spaceballs, Uncle Buck, Del from Planes, Train, and Automobiles, and more. Famous scenes from these seminal films are reenacted, but with guitars. It’s well done, and a lot of fun to watch. The song itself is catchy early Fat style punk that should appeal to anyone who snowboarded with blue hair in the 90s. In particular I hear the first two Strung Out albums, but with some Blink 182 in there as well. It’s got the young goofiness of the latter, but also there are multiple kick drums firing off at rapid speed the whole time, bits of metallic noodling, and tons of dudes going, “Aaahhhh, laaahhh”. I think if you like either of those bands, you’ll like this record too. It’s got a lot of good things going for it. John Candy for one, it’s a comeback album (their first in 14 years, which I love), and they’re from non-Toronto Ontario, which has churned out some of the best punk rock the world has ever known.  

These guys seem like they’re having a good time and actually like each other, which is something that always translates well into the music. Look at Oasis for example, they’re terrible. I bet catching Handheld live in their hometown, especially after a long hiatus, is not a bad way to spend a night out in Kitchener.

–Zack Akenson

Rockin Bob Punk Band – Almost Gone 7 Songs

I wanted to take a moment to give  a quick shoutout for the new Rockin Bob Punk Band EP: Almost Gone 7 Songs. It, as one would anticipate, contains seven tracks. Four on the floor punk rock, at its core, with some tricks up its sleeve. 

Tracks are straight ahead rockers with the occasional frill here and an accent there. For an East Coast band, I hear a lot of West Coast influence between a Social Distortion reminiscent sound on “Almost Gone”, and a rather classic Swingin’ Utters feel to “I Bleed.” Don’t let me pigeon hole it for you. Head over to their bandcamp page and stream it for yourself. I promise you it’s worth the listen. 

Cheers!
Jerry Actually

7 song CD featuring Rockin Bob Cenci, guitarist song-writer for Boston’s Jerry’s Kids, Bob Furapples on drums from Boston’s The F.U.’s & Earthdog on bass from Silver Screams.

Tracks:
Almost Gone
Never Trust A Terrorist
Private Jet
Kamikazi Love Song
I Bleed
Off Your Comfort Zone
Got A Minute

Pulley – The Golden Life

Pre-order some vinyl here.

Man, Scott Radinsky is an interesting guy. The level of success he’s achieved in both professional athletics and punk rock is unparalleled. It’s especially impressive when you factor in that his punk career not only includes being in a hardcore band that put out a record on Mystic in the 80s, but also in Pulley who were at the top tier of the 90s Fat/Epitaph melodic punk boom.

I can think of a few other people who have had some sort of career in both sport and punk rock, but those who come to mind have only a peripheral or brief affiliation with the former. Ross Knight from Cosmic Psychos won a world championship in weightlifting, Mick Jones reportedly had a tryout with Crystal Palace, Bob Mould wrote scripts for the WCW, and Russ Rankin from Good Riddance is a talent scout for the WHL.

Scott, on the other hand, was a legit Major League Baseball pitcher, most notably for the White Sox and Dodgers. According to his Wikipedia page, his teammates in Chicago called him “Rad” (which is how he will be referred to from this point forward in the review) and he rode his bike to Cominsky Park for games. He later became a fan favorite local hero while in LA. 

I like to envision a scenario where Rad is just super focused in the bullpen during a game listening to his Walkman, and Bobby Thigpen walks up and is like, “Hey, Rad. What are you listening to that’s got you so jacked up?”. To which he replies, “RKL” and then stands up and throws a flaming 120 mph fastball into the bullpen catcher’s mitt. The catcher then has to remove his mitt because of the heat. Rad lowers sunglasses onto his face and looks into the camera just as the bassline to “Hangover” starts. Then the White Sox lose the game to the world champion 1991 Minnesota Twins.

There are a lot of different iterations of this. Make up your own! It basically just needs to include Rad, any random Nardcore band, sunglasses, another MLB player of that era (preferably American League for accuracy), a flaming baseball, and the bassline to “Hangover”. 

Moving along, Rad put up solid numbers throughout the 90s, despite missing the entirety of the 1994 season winning a battle against Hodgkin’s Disease. His playing career squeezed him out of being in Ten Foot Pole (who his 80s band Scared Straight had morphed into), due to his inability to tour during the MLB season. Rad just went ahead and started a better, more successful melodic punk band, who began a string of well received records on Epitaph in 1996. As his playing career came to a close, Pulley kept active and Rad began a career as a pitching coach for a variety of MLB and minor league squads.

This album is Pulley’s first in six years, and only their second in the last 17. I had to go back and refresh my memory of what the “classic” Pulley records sounded like, but stylistically this one does not seem to stray too far from the winning formula. It’s a strong batch of songs that their fanbase will be stoked on. Rad has the perfect vocals for melodic SoCal punk, similar to contemporaries like Tony Sly. Although I don’t listen to this type of punk very often as a man deep into his forties, I sure as hell did as a teenager deep into his 40s (of Olde English), and that nostalgia will always be there for this sound. If you’ve ever moshed in a pair of Arnettes and would like to revisit that period of your life, then check this one out. 

–Zack Akenson

Tracks:
01 Repeat Offender
02 Lonely
03 Wake Up
04 Two Winds
05 Align The Planets
06 Northbound
07 Sad Song
08 Golden Life
09 Frances
10 Dust Off The Dreams
11 Transmigration
12 California

One Hidden Frame – I Am Not Here

I’ve been putting off having to write this review because although I could tell this was a very good record, I didn’t really like it at first. Being as I’m a nice young man from Minnesota, I don’t generally care for badmouthing. I just sat on it instead, and periodically gave it a spin. I found myself doing this more and more as the weeks passed, and I’m glad I did because this album kicks ass.

That it took me several listens to come around on “I Am Not Here”, in many ways speaks more to its strengths than weaknesses. No matter how good a record is, if it’s not your type of music (almost especially if it’s not your type of punk, as we’re the most fickle of bastards) you’re probably not going to dig it right away. It doesn’t have the advantage of sounding like your favorite band to immediately grab you. It needs to grow on you with its hooks, and keep your attention by staying interesting. It’s a circuitous route to the happy part of your brain that likes stuff, but the end result is the same. The immensely talented One Hidden Frame have successfully trailblazed this path in my brain.

To give my questionable taste some context, I’m the sort of loser who didn’t like Potemkin City Limits when it came out. On the other hand, I can listen to Ramones-core songs about outer space all day long, and that shit is stupid as fuck. I am under no false pretenses that what I like is pretty dumb.

One Hidden Frame are very much a mash up of newer Propagandhi and Ignite. I came up with this equation independently of their bio, but it also says the same thing. They thankfully do not indulge too much in the operatic howling of the latter, which is something I would have a hard time getting past. Some noises should be private, and the guy from Ignite is one of them. Because I’m not super familiar with post-“Today’s Empires…” Propagandhi, I put some on to make sure this comparison was accurate, and had difficulty remembering which band I was playing as I switched back and forth. The only way I could tell was that the dude from One Hidden Frame (who are from Finland) has a slight accent, but otherwise the difference was negligible. In song structure, style, and quality they are definitely FFO the aforementioned Canadian heroes.

It always seems a bit insulting to compare a band so strongly to another, but I really don’t mean it that way. These songs may sound like another band, but that band is fucking incredible, and these guys are right up there with them. The songs on “I Am Not Here” are unskippable if you’re paying attention. There’s something interesting and different around every corner, and each track has like 8 different cool parts that avoid seeming unnecessary. Because I’m a gentle boy, I prefer the poppier tracks, namely the one-two punch of “Watch For Your Head On The Way Out” and “You Are Free To Go”. I do recommend playing the album all the way through though, the songs compliment each other so well, and the entire package is just solid.

Although my Propagandhi collection ends in 2001, I am all in on “I Am Not Here”.

Despite my initial stylistic distaste, this is some of the best shit I’ve heard all year. Some records are good enough to transcend genres. If you like Propagandhi, I don’t see why you aren’t already throwing money at One Hidden Frame’s Bandcamp page. This’ll be your new favorite band.

–Zach Akenson

Tracks:
1 – Run To The Rescue With Love
2 – Information Blackout
3 – Distract And Digress
4 – Watch For Your Head On The Way Out
5 – You Are Free To Go
6 – Dry Out
7 – Obstacles
8 – The Playground
9 – Tunnel Vision
10 – And The Crowd Roars
11 – I Am Not Here
12 – Wipe The Slate Clean

Bio:
One Hidden Frame was established in the year 2002 in Lappeenranta, South East Finland, close to the Russian border. Bowing down to the direction of Bad Religion, Propagandhi and Adhesive, their main focus was to create energetic melodic punk rock, spiced with melancholy and aggression and meaningful lyrics towards a more solidary world.

OHF has musically moved forward all the time with 5 albums released: Time To React (2005), Comforting Illusion (2007), Giant Steps (2009), the Water Seems Inviting (2013), Harmful Content (2017) and a split 7″ with Thousand Oaks (2018). They’ve been happy to perform at Manchester Punk Festival, twice in Punk Rock Holiday and +20 countries.

One Hidden Frame:
Pekka Multaharju – Lead vocals / guitar
Vesa Sinkko – Guitar/backing vocals
Emil Stenbäck – Drums
Vesa Ahonen – Bass/backing vocals

Snuff – Crepuscolo Dorato

Long-running UK punks Snuff are releasing a new album titled ‘Crepuscolo Dorato Della Bruschetta Borsetta Calzetta Cacchetta Trombetta Lambretta Giallo Ossido, Ooooooh Così Magnifico!’ ( or ‘Crepuscolo Dorato’ for short)

Following on the heels of “There’s A Lot Of It About” (well, heels and a pandemic) Crepuscolo Dorato offers 10 tracks of inimitable Snuff style. I’ve heard it likened to Motown Punk, or Punk Soul Blues, but no matter how you want to define the band’s sound, it’s unmistakably Snuff.

I’m sure you know about Snuff, if not you can read a bit more about them here. It’s a wild ride. The band has gone through fits and starts since ‘86, with name changes and numerous side projects such as Guns N Wankers, and Billy No Mates. Despite the hurdles of time and personnel changes, Snuff has managed to put out solid material over the years. 

The songs are of a shortish nature and rarely break the three minute mark. There is a rather rhythmic, punchy feel to the album that helps lock you into its groove. It makes all the Motown references make a lot of sense. The core is still very much punk rock, however, with all that you’d want punk rock to entail. 

Standout tracks on the new album include “Green Glass Chippings”, and a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Hard Times”. The keys on the latter are electric, no pun intended. 

Grab a copy when you can. The pre-order is up now.

Cheers!
Jerry Actually

FFO: Leatherface, No Use For A Name, Hi-Standard

Tracks:

1. Looks Alright From Here
2. Green Glass Chippings
3. One Of Those Days
4. Fish N’ Chips
5. Hard Times
6. Barba Gelata
7. Lemon Curd
8. Stolen From View
9. Small F
10. Bing Bong

Sacripolitical – Heart Attack

Here’s a fun little single release from NorCal old school punkers, Sacripolitical. Nothing so terrible as the realization that you’re not immortal like you were in your 20s.

The track is short and to the point. It’s about exactly what the title says. Give it a listen, will ya. Don’t turn it up to loud though, you might be old and give yourself a Heart Attack.

–Jerry Actually

Moonraker – The Forest

In this cursed golden age of music availability, it’s not hard to find a band or record that suits your taste. I feel like I’m always sifting through countless Bandcamp pages of stuff that’s ok, but never really gets me to stick with it after a couple listens. Part of this problem is that you can listen to basically any band on earth whenever you want to, often without having to pay any extra money. It’s a mixed blessing, because even though you can find a new band every day that sounds like your favorite music, if anything it becomes more challenging to find something that really grabs you. Then sometimes you get lucky, and Jerry sends you a link to review the new Moonraker record.

Moonraker describe themselves as “The Michael Jordan of baseball of punk rock”. It’s not a very useful descriptor, but I like it, so I’ve decided to include it here. Stylistically, I would say Moonraker are a blend of UK bands Reverse and Stay Clean Jolene, crossed with Banner Pilot. I also hear some 1995 throwback SoCal punk, a la Rhythm Collision. Their most redeemable quality, however, is that they can really write a fucking hook. This collection of songs have some huge choruses, and take plenty of interesting turns. Some bands have that extra gear where they can turn a decent song into an excellent one with a special little bridge or something, and Moonraker definitely have that ability. 

The subject matter seems to mostly be of a dark, personal nature, but the lyrics are well written and only add to the quality of the songs. I had intended to reference specific tracks here, but I’m writing this at work and cannot stretch the illusion of doing my actual job any thinner than it already is. Alas, Upstarter is a budget operation and we are required to maintain day jobs. Listen to the entire thing, I won’t spoil it for you.

I found time to listen to this all the way through pretty much every day during a week where I’m working a ton, have young children, a new Superchunk record that I enjoy, and am also studying up for the Jawbreaker/Jawbox show this Sunday. It’s that good. If you like catchy punk rock, I can’t imagine how you won’t be pumped when you hear this.

–Zach Akenson

Tracks:
Incendium
My First Rodeo
Mouth Full of Rust
Vanishing Act
The Great Glass Elevator
Autumn
Crickets
Fogdancing
I Really Wanted To
In Confidence
The Better Man
Soot

Jolly Roger – Kung Fu Grip

“I wonder what this song is about,” is something you’ll never have to ponder when listening to Carbondale, Illinois’ Jolly Roger. You also won’t have trouble figuring out anything about the band themselves. Within the first two songs the listener is informed that the band hasn’t played a show since 2003, that they never really broke up, and also how they selected their name (it’s because they liked it, but not because they’re a pirate band). From the standpoint of someone who has never heard of them and is tasked with having to write about their new record, I found this to be extremely helpful.

Now that we have some background on the group, we quickly arrive at the third song, which is titled “Update”. As you can imagine, this song fills us in on what Jolly Roger and the people they used to sing about have been up to lately (Jared finally got a car, John got an injury, Stinky still smells, etc.). I actually love the concept of starting a new album off with an update on current happenings from characters who appeared in previous songs. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know if methadone worked for Cindy, or if Johnny X ever grew up and became a realtor or something?

Other song topics include Home Alone (“Wet Bandits”), a girl who is punk (“She’s Punk”), John’s retirement (“John’s Retired”), and a song about how they met working in a movie theater together (“Theater Daze”).  “Had lots of regulars, some odd ones that we met. Like crazy popcorn guy and the lady in the helmet.” They close out the album with a 22 second song called “Disclaimer” where they apologize for not working very hard on the actual music, because Ken spent a long time making the cover art. Said artwork depicts a photopshopped old NES game that says “Kung Fu Grip” on it with an image of an 8 bit guitar on the front. 

I would say the most accurate stylisitc comparisons for Jolly Roger would be early Mutant Pop stuff, namely The Automatics, or maybe The Queers when Wimpy was still with them. I like poppy stupid stuff just fine, so long as it strays away from juvenile sexuality (which Jolly Roger is only partially succesful at doing), but the main issue I have with this album is that the production is hard to get past. It’s not that it’s too lo-fi or rough, it’s that everything sounds so separated. Stuffing an iPhone into the insulation of the practice room and pressing record would be an improvement. I imagine Jolly Roger’s budget wasn’t huge for this venture, so it’s completely understandable why the recording is not up to snuff. I just think they might’ve benefitted from doing a quick live run through of the songs using a couple of dangling mics instead.

It may not be apparent by what I’ve wrote so far, but I actually have a real fondness for these guys. They are nerdy old dudes who decided to get their punk band back together, and record an entire album worth of songs. That’s fucking great. It isn’t pretentious, cool, or attempting to accomplish something that it’s incapable of. Will I revisit their Bandcamp page and listen to it again? Maybe not, but that’s not the point. Jolly Roger aren’t in it for the glory, they’re doing it because they appear to have a good time together. Too often people are in bands with people they don’t even like. Maybe it’s more important to have fun with your friends than it is to make art.

–Zach Akenson

Quaker Wedding – Total Disarray

I enthusiastically volunteered to review this new Quaker Wedding record when the opportunity came up. I enjoyed both their previous full length that came out in 2020, and especially the “Russian Hill” single that came out last year. Those two songs also appear here, and the band continues its upward trajectory on their forthcoming LP “Total Disarray”.

Providing some context to this record helps to understand where it’s coming

from. Quaker Wedding are from NYC, but frontman/bassist Marco Reosti returned home to Detroit for an extended period of time during the pandemic, and discovered that he had left some things behind. Namely, feelings. Although he is five years removed from a divorce, coming back to the scene of the crime has reopened a lot of those old wounds.

The album opener is about coming across his ex-wife’s wedding dress in a closet. On the following song he sings, “Now I know how it feels to be a ghost. To haunt the place I love without the people I miss most”. This trip home is not an easy one.

The band are able to capture the same quality of sadness that Jawbreaker, Tiltwheel, and Broccoli are able to, which really puts them in the high society of melancholy punk rock. That ability stems not just from subject matter, but also (and maybe even especially) the way a properly played sour note can evoke an emotional response. A lot of bands can SOUND like Jawbreaker, but not very many FEEL like them. Put on “Staten Island Ferry” by Quaker Wedding, and you’re going to FEEL the Jawbreaker.

Another stylistic comparison that’s hard to ignore is Needles//Pins. The most notable difference being that Quaker Wedding have a couple more gears to their vocals, making the gravelly parts more effective, rather than tiresome after repeated listens. This is an unpretentious, honest, adult human record about loss and complicated recovery. The lyrics, instrumentation, and overall vibe come together in a nice way through the uncomfortable vignettes the band illustrate for us in the songs.

I hope this album has provided Marco with some cathartic relief, and that time has provided him with something better. If nothing else, his band has provided us with what will definitely be one of my favorite records of 2022.

–Zach Akenson

Rotten Flag – We Are…

So I had a chance to check out “We Are…” the sophomore album by Gothenburg Sweden’s very own DIY punk rock band Rotten Flag. Trying to put this band into a category was a little difficult, and I landed on Punk. They are a punk bands punk band. Picture Cock Sparrer and Angelic Upstarts with a splash of Ramones for good measure. This album is twelve short tracks of simple riffs and alternating vocal stylings that range from hoarse growling to a semi-melodic tone that will keep you invested. 

Boasting a somewhat apolitical stance with the first track Oxymoron Stereotype, you’ll get the impression that they’d rather spend the short time given to each song (averaging well under two minutes) discussing the more important things in life like drinking, doing drugs, and having promiscuous sex. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But they do take a more political stand later in the album with the songs When We Attack, and Damnation. The song The Evil of Religion sounds exactly like you’d expect from the title. 

This album embodies that classic punk attitude of railing against conformity and giving the middle finger to authority figures with a shit eating grin. It’s the kind of punk your parents tried to warn you about. Rotten Flag clearly doesn’t give a shit about your PC sensibilities, so if you’re easily offended by a little off-colour language then this might not be a great choice for you. Personally I find it refreshing. They seem like they’d be either the most fun guys at the party, or the most terrifying. 

All in all, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable album. My personal favourites include We Are…, You Didn’t Hear It On The Radio, and Do You Wanna Be My Anarchy. I will definitely be looking for the LP when it finally comes out, and will be keeping an eye on these guys for their third album. And considering that their first release “the band from the pubs” came out in December 2021 I Will be expecting something possibly in early 2023 or so. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part though. 

Keep up the good work guys! 

Jëffy 

The album will be released on streaming platforms on January, 31st 2022, with a vinyl release to follow as production allows.