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.


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”


–Jerry Actually

The Menzingers – On The Impossible Past

(c) 2012 Epitaph Records
Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★

I have had a few things on my docket in recent weeks that I said I would review, but I just haven’t done it, and I kept telling myself I have to come up with something, but couldn’t. I just wasn’t inspired enough, I just couldn’t listen and put anything together. Fast forward to today, I had taken the day off work to take my little boy in for vaccinations, and he wasn’t having the best day afterward so we were just sitting around and I came across The Punk News’ exclusive stream of The Menzingers On The Impossible Past and we shared my headphones as we listened.

Maybe it was getting to share the music with my son or the music was really just that good but I started to get a feeling of joy that one only gets when they find something that was truly worth the time spent. From the opening track I was blown away. I started thinking about past albums that may have evoked the same feelings and I thought of albums that I could tell you exactly where I was when I first heard them, Dookie (skateboarding in a friend’s basement in March of ’94), American Idiot (at a New Year’s Eve party in ’05), and The ’59 Sound (in the Toronto Airport waiting for another delayed Air Canada flight in December of ’09). I don’t know why this particular thought crossed my mind, but as the stream continued to play and we sat listening it started to become more apparent that this very album may turn to be the 4th on that list.

Top to bottom the album is stunning, lyrics, vocals, guitar, drums, everything. I think I will skip my standard picking out of stand-out tracks and just say that I love them all. While the title might seem to imply that it is impossible to bring back the past, but after listening today I would have to beg to differ and say that no matter where you are or what you are doing when you listen to this it will invoke some sort of memory, and maybe play a part in a new one.


You can now stream The Menzingers Epitaph Records debut On The Impossible Past by going to: http://www.punknews.org/article/46191

The Ducky Boys – Chasing The Ghost

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Welcome back, Ducky Boys. Chasing the Ghost, the first album from the band in six years, is definitely a rocker, albeit an often sad rocker. It is a respectable blend of punk rock tempered with rock and roll. The real world guts and grit is intact and the songs have heart and blue collar soul.

Chasing the Ghost offers 17 tracks, written primarily by bass player and vocalist Mark Lind. The tracks are often melancholy or at the very least have an overtone of loss and longing. The sounds of pining for what life could have or should have been perhaps?

In general, the tracks are mid tempo rock with several deviations such as the more lively opening track New Chapter and the sing-a-long style of Surrogates. In addition to the more “active” tracks, there is some counterpoint in the folkish styling of Feeling Alive and the rock ballad sounds on the closer: There’s Always Another Way.

The bottom line is that this is a rock solid release, but it won’t likely end up on my heavy playlist unless I’m feeling depressed and looking for catharsis. While the tracks are great, they are pretty down note. Don’t get me wrong there is a sound of hope there, but a far away hope that might not ever show.

–Jerry Actually

Classics of Love

© 2012 Asian Man Records
Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

Firstly I have to admit that I’ve been waiting for this release since I first caught wind of it last year. I’ve been a fan of much of the past efforts that have lead to this release and I can’t say that I am disappointed by what the new album has to offer. Secondly, here is some good news. Punk’s not dead. For real this time.

For those who are unaware, Classics of Love is the current musical project of Jesse Michaels of Operation Ivy, Big Rig and more recently Common Rider. Jesse and co., a.k.a. the San Jose band, Hard Girls, combine to form the whole of this newest venture. The self-titled release is follow up to the Walking in Shadows EP. With 13 tracks on the new full length, we’re offered a bit more substance this time around, just for sheer virtue of quantity. (Quality notwithstanding)

Musically, the sound offers a nice split between the early sounds of Op Ivy and the more sophisticated sounds of Common Rider but with a decidedly more raw punk edge. As a side note, if you get the chance, see this band live. While the recorded material is completely rad, it pales in comparison to the songs performed live. I dare say they are one of the best bands I’ve seen perform.

Lyrically, the album is very socially aware. I’ve read some interviews with Jesse Michaels and while he asserts that he isn’t trying to be overtly political, the songs certainly have their finger on the pulse of some modern western problems. The songs, however, aren’t trying to cram ideas down your gob, as much as they are throwing out a point of view. They are bringing voice to the current state of hypocrisy in a world that really could use the change we’ve all been promised.

Anyway, if you’ve ever been a fan of any of the bands mentioned, this album would be hard pressed to disappoint. The bottom line is: 13 tracks of punk rock with a skapunk pedigree and a strong sense of society, political or otherwise, to boot.

–Jerry Actually

For fans of: Operation Ivy, Big Rig, Common Rider, Hard Girls

1.What A Shame
2.Castle In The Sky
3.World of the Known
4.Gun Show
6.Moving Pictures
7.It Will Not Be Moved
9.Would-Be Kings
10.Last Strike
11.Light Rail
13.We Need A Change

Blossom Hill – Sidetracks

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

There’s a common theme in music and especially punk music where band’s that have been around for awhile will have fans who will say “their music was better when…..” and they yearn for the “the good old days.”. Enter Blossom Hill, a pop punk band from Finland who released their debut LP, Sidetracks, in October.

On Sidetracks, the group seems to have (fairly successfully whether intentional or not) melded together what sounds like two different eras of Green Day inspired music. From the get go a listener can expect vocals that sound like they are inspired by 39/Smooth or Kerplunk eras and guitar riffs that sound derived right from the Insomniac/Nimrod timeline.

This is what I hear when I listen, and is what I am going to base my critique on. To me they sound like one my favorite Green Day eras (Insomniac/Nimrod) and my least favorite (39/Smooth). Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy Sidetracks, but my feelings are very mixed. I hate to make direct comparisons to bands as they take time to create something their own but I can’t get over my first impressions of the album, and for a person who can still tell you what he was doing when he first heard Dookie in ’94, nothing will ever compare. At the same time, I can’t think of another band that has brought me back in time to a groups (so-called) glory days the way they have.

With that said, Sidetracks does not really have tracks that stand out in my mind either good or bad, and it had things I liked and things I didn’t. But if you are one of those nostalgic Green Day fans who thinks “they were better when….” check out Blossom Hill, maybe they can transport you back there.


Top 10 of 2011

It’s been a long and productive year here at !upstarter and a lot of good music came across this desk. I regret that I didn’t have the time to review each and every release. I can only hope that in 2012 the music keeps on coming in and that I once again have the privilege of listening to the hopes, dreams, and efforts of musicians and bands from around the world.

People love lists, so once again I’ve compiled a top ten for this year’s reviews. There were so many great releases to choose from, but after some deliberation I’ve narrowed it down to the following:

#1. Dan P. & The Bricks – Watch Where You Walk

#2. 20 Bulls Each – A Glorious and Bloody Revolution

#3. Swingin’ Utters – Here, Under Protest

#4. The Snallygasters – Black Aggie EP

#5. Cubicle – The Severance Package

#6. Shoot the Hostage – So Polite

#7. Überband – Live In Poland

#8. Prize The Doubt – This Will Die Unrecognized

#9. Do It With Malice – The Burned Over District

#10. Flatout Jones – Closed Doors and Weird Situations

There you have it, the top ten reviews for 2011. Let’s have a big round of applause for all the bands that made the cut.

I’d also like to give honorable mention to a few bands that didn’t hit the top ten. Holding Onto Sound for their EP – The Tempest and to Darrow Chemical Company who sent in a kick ass release that I didn’t have time to review.

–Jerry Actually