The Real McKenzies Westwinds

© 2012 Fat Wreck Chords
Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Vancouver BC’s venerable Scottish torch bearers are at it once again with a new release. 2012’s Westwinds gives us 14 new tales of wild seas, bad luck, foolish ways and the drink.

For the uninitiated, The Real McKenzies are a Canadian Celt-Core band with a focus on Scotland as opposed to the more or less omnipresent Irish variety. The lads bring a be-kilted, bagpipe heavy, and a Mike Meyers-esque ala “So I married an Axe Murderer” variety of Scottish charm to the genre. For those in the know, Westwinds brings with it the quality and character that you’ve come to expect.

As with many bands that have any sort of duration, there is maturity in the songwriting especially as it pertains to the ability to work together and the quality of craftsmanship. In other words, the song writing isn’t suffering from age or boredom. While all the tracks are top notch in their own right, a few that standout for me are the opener, “The Tempest” and the self-deprecation of track 6, “Burnout”.

In the end, what you have is another fine release by the best damn Scottish-Canadian band in the world.

–Jerry Actually

Spraynard – Exton Square

© 2012 Asianman Records
Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

So I can’t say that I’m terribly familiar with West Chester PA’s Spraynard. In fact, this is the first that I’ve actually listened to them. That said, I’m rather enjoying the catchy pop/punk styling and the infectious nature of the four tracks on their brand new EP, Exton Square.

If I had to group this release up, I’d say that it carries a heavy amount of influence from past Asianman peers. It strikes me as a combo of Lawrence Arms and Shortround. On a perhaps less apparent comparison, the vocals make me think of Flashlight Brown. Or maybe my wires are crossed and they sound like something else (as well as themselves) but either way, I like it.

As with most pop/punk, the songs are mid to upper tempo. The vocals are lilting, the guitar and bass saturated and the drums are big without being enormous. As noted, the tracks have pep, but there is a minor slow down on the track “Intents and Purposes”. While noticeably slower, it doesn’t kill the whole “vibe” of the release. Granted this, being an EP, only has a smattering of tracks for reference, but if these are resplendent of Spraynard as a whole, I dare say they have a new fan.

–Jerry Actually

Anti-Flag-The General Strike

On March 20th, Anti-Flag released their 8th studio album, The General Strike, and it seems like they haven’t received a whole lot of press for their efforts.  But that isn’t to say they don’t deserve it.  Much like their last record, The People or the Gun, Anti-Flag has once again scored the soundtrack to an important political issue of the time, the Occupy movement ( while the previous album addressed the Bailout situation).

It seems funny to me that just like both of these events have been largely ignored by the mainstream, Anti-Flag’s last two albums have seemingly flew under the radar of the punk scene.  Now, Anti-Flag is not breaking any new ground with their latest 12 tracks as they carry the same type of sound that they have become known for by mixing melodic moments with more street punk sounds.  What they are doing is putting together politically scathing lyrics and touching upon subject matter that is not common in a lot of music. When they released The Bright Lights of America, I read a review stating that the album really lacked direction.  This is not the case with The General Strike, and the direction becomes quite clear from the first aggressive track. Combine their tried and true sound with their lyric themes and direction and then you get something special.

I just received my copy of the album yesterday and I am still getting a handle on it, but I am completely enjoying it.  One of the coolest surprises though was when I opened up my package and a drop card for the Vans Warped Tour EP came out which includes 3 songs from the album and 2 unreleased tracks (“SKATE” and “Whistleblower”).  I knew that the download would be given out at the cd release shows, but I didn’t know it would be included in my order.  All I can say is this, if you are at all interested in Anti-Flag or political punk rock give the album its due, give it a listen, you won’t be disappointed.

The Projection – While You Were Out

(c) 2012 Paramount Drive Records
Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

While You Were Out is the forthcoming release from Chicago based pop-punkers The Projection. The disc offers up ten tracks of rock and roll with the catchy hooks and snotty vocals that make pop punk the perennial favorite that it is. The tracks are all clocking in at around the 3 and a half minute mark, perfect for that drive time radio slot, right?

The genre isn’t without its flaws though. When your band started years after the Warped Tour, there is a considerably number of acts to compare to. I’m inclined to think they’re like a less cheeky Sum 41 or a slower Goldfinger minus the Ska. That said, the sonic mashup of pop and punk is still rather a new kid on the block and largely still trendy. Despite the flavor-of-the-month nature that pop punk is, this release is not without its own charm. There are some interesting progressions and breakdowns in the tunes that keep it from becoming too stale too fast.

As a bonus, literally the bonus track, the band throws in a cover of the Buddy Holly classic, Oh Boy! Any band that appreciates Buddy can’t be all bad. At any rate, the faster numbers make the cut. They’re peppy and danceable. The wanking ballad variety, on the other hand, not so much. I like the vocals and overall the band has a good sound, that is if you want an edgy version of The Rembrandts. 😉

–Jerry Actually

The Magnificent-Bad Lucky

About once a year I will come across a band that at first listen I don’t love, but I keep goiing back to, then I try to resist buying the album because I am not sure I like it, but then I just bite the bullet and get it anyway.  The next thing I know I am waking up with the songs in my head although I may not have listened to it for a while.  Then the love affair truly begins.  This year’s album that has had that effect on me is Bad Lucky by The Magnificent

Looking at the album cover I can’t help but be reminded of The Ramones self titled debut album.  Then I am reminded of a quote from The Magnificent’s webpage that said ” If you are American, the music sounds English. If you are English, you have never heard of this band.”  From there I can’t help but think that  just as The Ramones’ debut introduced the world to the now legendary group, it would be nice if Bad Lucky were able to do the same type of thing for The Magnificent

At times the last statement may seem like wishful thinking, but when I listen I start to think that maybe it is not so far fetched.  Bad Lucky has everything that allows punk albums to endure for generations.  Not only does it contain slick guitar driven melodies and sing along choruses, the lyrics speak to a generation that doesn’t quite know how to make it’s way in the world.  All qualities which allow music to trascend time. 

Now only time will tell if this particular album will be considered great 30 + years later  (plus they may need to become known in their homeland first too), but if you take the time to listen, it will be something that you keep coming back to for some time to come.

Lemon Party – Trash City

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

© 2012 Suitors Club Records

Edgy/Indie suits Bay area outfit, Lemon Party quite nicely. The band has a new EP, Trash City out now. The EP features four tracks of past-era garage-fi melancholy, garage-fi angst, and plate reverb. (I don’t know if they actually used a big ol’ plate reverb unit or not, but the spacey echoing makes me think so. … What am I am engineer?) At any rate, there are four tracks on a recording that immediately reminds me of Dinosaur Jr. and things I can’t quite place at the moment.

The songs run tempos from the mid-slow opener, Jerusalem Cruisers to the mid-quick sophomore and junior tracks, Hesh-Kevin and Massachusetts Meltdown respectively. The latter containing some fun woo-hooing. (like a Vonage commercial w/ the 5-6-7-8s.) The senior track, if you will, keeps the tempo up, but reduces the overdrive and achieves an even more decidedly 60s sound, (tonally if not musically.) I can’t make out much lyrically on initial listen, but the words sounds on the sad side … like “love” and “anymore”.

To sum it up, Trash City by Lemon Party (curious about the name. have I lost touch with youth culture?) is a decent fun EP. I’d totally throw it in the mix every now and then for some tunes that are both up-tempo and downtrodden. Best of all it is a no risk move. Think you might like it? Think you might hate it? Is that so important these days? You can check it out compas gratis at their bandcamp page: http://lemonparty.bandcamp.com/album/trash-city

–Jerry Actually

The Class Assasins-Equalize X Distort The Studio 3 Sessions

I have long been a fan  of Rebel Time Records and I own and enjoy almost every single release on the imprint, but for some reason I have always been weary of listening to one particular group that has released music through them, The Class Assassins.  I don’t even know if I can come up with a valid reason as to why, which became even more apparent when I actually sat down and listened to them.

I recently sat and listened to their two latest releases, Treason, which is available on 7″ vinyl from Rebel Time Records, and Equalize X Distort The Studio  3 Sessions. The latter recording is an 8 song live recording which was done in November at CIUT FM in Toronto.  The recording features 6 songs from the groups back catalog (including ” Treason” and ” Start Again” from the Treason 7″) as well as two covers “Breaking the Law” and “Fortunate Son”  (which I have heard covered before but the group has definitely added their own spin to this classic with a bass and drum intro).  The recording was apparently limited to 100 copies on cd but it is available in its entirety on their bandcamp page.

Listening to The Class Assassins reminds me of the Street Dogs songs “Punk Rock ‘n’ Roll”.  Not because it sounds like it, but because if Punk Rock ‘n’ Roll was added to the many sub-genres of punk I imagine they would have either wrote the recipe for it or redefined it.  Now while I am only currently familiar with the 8 tracks from these two releases, they are full of exactly what I like in punk songs,fast paced guitar attacks and  fist pumping, rabble rousing, sing along choruses.  Treason and Equalize X Distort were my introduction to The Class Assassins, and it is as good as a place as any to start, and I highly recommend you do.

Pangea – Killer Dreams EP

(c) 2012 Lauren Records / Ghotsbot Records
Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Back in the early 80s when the first tide of Punk gave way to a New Wave, a couple new styles started to coalesce. On one side there was the move back to basics, picking up chicks style rock and roll that paved the way to all so much hair metal. On the other end there was the more cerebral college shoe gazing rock that found its way to the masses as indie or alternative.

Los Angeles based act, Pangea summons up the spirit of the latter with a four track 7” that is as much at home on 120 minutes of yesteryea as it would be now on the stage at Coachella. Killer Dreams is a quirky little EP with an alternative yet punky eclectic blender concoction of Lou Reed, The Cars, The Dickies and The Pixies all frappéd with an early 60s rock and roll feel. (and that is just “Plasma” the lead in track.)

The 7” continues with a roots/Americana Violent Femmes via Andrew Jackson Jihad sounding ditty called “Love & Alcohol”. The track carries the full weight of the emotional train wreck that the title suggests.
Moving to the B-side we’re entertained with a more up tempo number called “River”. I’m again reminded of Pixes. There is definitely a very strong influence going on there.

Finally the EP comes to a close with the title track. It is a myriad soundscape that is at once its own and yet still firmly attached to the vision and sound that alternative evokes.

Overall, Pangea’s Killer Dreams EP is a new fresh burst of familiarity that grafts a new branch on old roots. You can check out the release on their bandcamp page. Like it? You should buy it.

–Jerry Actually

Banner Pilot – Heart Beats Pacific

© 2011 Fat Wreck Chords
Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

To build on the momentum of last night, I decided to sit down and do something that I have meant to for some time now.  That is to review Banner Pilot’s Heart Beats Pacific.   This has been a long time coming for me, first, when I bought the album it was delayed getting to me so I didn’t get to hear it right away and also I have just been lazy.

Either way, the album is fabulous.  It actually made my top ten list where I blamed it for causing me to speed while driving my truck.  But it is also responsible for an even more ridiculous side effect.  While alone on my 30 minute commute to town it is usually my album of choice.  One day recently I actually caught myself (and I don’t know how long I had been doing it beforehand) doing only what I could describe as the “bow down.”  Now for anyone not aware there was rap music before everybody in the club started getting tipsy and rappers had to explain why they were hot there was a group called Westside Connection who put out a single called Bow Down.  Well the video included Ice Cube, WC, and Mack 10 raising their arms and making a bowing motion, hence the name of my dance move. This isn’t the first time an album has done that to me, I actually went through a stretch of time where I would do jazz hands while listening to In Desolation.

Now I don’t know making listeners do ridiculous dances was their intention when writing but it was definitely a result.  I’m sure listeners will also experience several other side effects which may include singing along to the tremendously catchy songs which include (but are not limited to) “Alchemy”, “Spanish Reds”, “Expat”, and “Division Street.”   There are not many bands around that are going to write catchier hooks then can be found on Heart Beats Pacific.  It may not have had the hype of some albums that came out at around the same time but it is the one that I listen to the most and it will continue to be one of my favourites for a long time.

T.J.

Good Things – Demos

© 2011
Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

All right, here is some raw as all get out, punk to the muthafuckin’ gills rock-n-roll. “Demos” by Good Things gives up four brief tracks of basement-grade ballast; chunky guitar, chunky bass, chunky drums, chunky everything. It’s raw, but its got balls.

While you only get four tracks, the ones you get are like a time machine dragging your ass back to the early 80’s and then stomping a riot straight into your guts. Plus they have a song about Ghostdad, so Bill Cosby would pretty much love them right out of the gate.

Despite the basement laden recording, there are some dynamics that are apparent in the band if you make it all the way to track four, “The Scofflaw”. It is easily the winner for polish out of the quatrain of tunes.
While I generally don’t comment much on cover art, it does appear that Good Things are fans of sodomy, so if that’s your thing too, then perhaps you should check them out. In the end though, I think the tags on their bandcamp page really say it best: “punk fuck punk Rockville”

http://goodxthings.bandcamp.com/

–Jerry Actually