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.

T.J.

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

Cubicle – The Severance Package

Rating: ★★★★☆

Cubicle is an L.A. based punk band, rocking out with near total corporate schtick; Songs of coffee, languishing in noward* mobility, and Ponzi Scheme greed abound. The sound is somewhat comical ala Guttermouth and certainly classic punk reminiscent of Circle Jerks. The later influence goes even so far as to include a very convincing cover of “Beverly Hills”

The band certainly isn’t a tribute band though. While harnessing much of the energy of the early California punk sound, they manage to admirably infuse their roots with a new burst of energy and a style of their own. The EP offers up five originals and the aforementioned cover. The tracks keep up the pace and remain edgy throughout without sounding either too garage-y or over-produced.

Overall a fun release with a decidedly anti white collar wage slave agenda. You can listen to some tracks on the band’s MySpace page (whatever that is)

-Jerry Actually

*noward is neither upward or downward. lateral.

Tracks:
1. Not Going Anywhere Fast
2. Brainwashed
3. Ponzi Scheme
4. Coffee Break
5. Beverly Hills
6. Yo-Yo

Kepi Ghoulie – I Bleed Rock N Roll

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
© 2011 Asian Man Records

Kepi Ghoulie is a Rock N Roll Shark who also happens to bleed Rock N Roll. Don’t believe me? Perhaps then you should check out Kepi’s new solo release, “I Bleed Rock N Roll”, out now on Asian Man Records. You might be familiar with Kepi as the frontman of the Groovie Ghoulies. Perhaps you’re not familiar with Kepi at all? Too bad I say. Either way Kepi is doing the solo thing now, and he’s doing it well.

I Bleed Rock N Roll is a 13 track testament to Kepi’s ability to create compelling, catchy, and very danceable pop-punk. The songs on the new album, in general, pay homage to 50s style rock albeit with more modern tones and pace laced in. There is, despite the pop-punk trappings, also an unusual dark side preset.

When Kepi’s singing, “What the world needs now is love sweet love”, it’s as if he’s possessed by the worlds friendliest devil; very much the lightest side of darkness ever. I’m even going to suggest that Kepi Ghoulie is the Bizarro counterpart to Rob Zombie, if you get where I’m going with that. If you want evidence to my assertion, track eight, “I Just Wanted You To Know” clocks in at precisely 3:33 and reminds me of the Cowboy Junkies, so, um take that.

All in all, I Bleed Rock N Roll does what it says; 13 tracks of pure rock and roll, each one nearly even in rocking as they are rolling. Balance is crucial. And as if the rock alone (and also the roll of course) wasn’t enough there are some awfully clever lyrics in play too. “Don’t try to figure me out because I’m rather unfigueroutable” and “I’m a rock n roll shark. I gotta keep moving’ I gotta keep swimmin’”’ are just some small examples. Damn fine wordsmithing inside indeed.

So if you were a fan of Groovie Ghoulies, or just want a tasty new Rock N Roll treat, stop over to Asian Man Records and pick up a copy or two. I swear you won’t regret it.

–Jerry Actually

Tracks:
1. Rock N Roll Shark
2. Nikki Lee
3. I Bleed Rock N Roll
4. The Fever
5. Part Time Romeo
6. When I’m Gone
7. Unfigureoutable
8. I Just Wanted You To Know
9. Love To Give
10. Break My Heart
11. Cupid Is Real
12. Blame It On Mom
13.Hard To Forget

Broadcast Zero – Some Concerns Regarding This Revolt

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

The album I have been listening to lately is one that I have been wanting to listen to for a long time, but so much music that I am interested, or have become interested has come out since its release date that it has been put on the back burner. But lately, I have been back on the hunt for new music and not finding anything of particular interest. Well about two weeks ago Rebel Time Records sent out a tweet seemingly from above about a sale that they were having. Their entire discography was put on sale for 5 dollars a cd (you can still take advantage of this deal until the new year), a price I couldn’t say no to. So I finally decided to do what I had set out to do in September 2010, and purchase a copy of Broadcast Zero’s Some Concerns Regarding This Revolt. Considering the album is over a year old and the band is no longer together, I’m not really sure if what I am about to write is a review or a revisit.

The album itself is very good and packed with 16 fast paced punk songs and if you have ever heard Broadcast Zero, the style of the songs does not stray too much from what you might expect from them. There are two major digressions from their norm although. The first, happened right at the time I pressed play, it was the Yellow Ledbetter-esque intro to “Wake me Up.” The change of pace (one that I found very interesting) only lasted 26 seconds and then it broke out into Broadcast Zero’s signature guitar sound that would continue to last for 16 songs with the endurance of a triathlete and speed and explosiveness of a 100 meter sprinter.

The second digression is the theme of the album, and I don’t think I could explain it better then the title of the album itself. I found it very interesting. Most of the time punk bands are very steadfast in their beliefs, opinions, and politics. Some concerns….. really calls this practice into question throughout the album with such songs as “On Freedom” where Nick Shrubsole sings from two perspectives where the status quo tells “Tommy Bones” “Tommy you are deaf you see because this revolution will set you free.” Tommy replies “freedom for you ain’t freedom for I because when you speak for me you take away my autonomy.”

I can’t really pick any particular favourite tracks as I do really like them all, but “Just Entertainment” really sticks out to me as it references one of my favourites and fellow Rebel Time band The Rebel Spell throughout the song. As I said, the album is very good, and I recommend it to anyone, so go ahead, take a chance, head on over to Rebel Time and pick it up for 5 bucks, you won’t be disappointed.

-T.J.

The Slow Death – Born Ugly Got Worse

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

I have been a fan of mid-west pop punk for some time now, but I am still new enough that I am unfamiliar with the other bands that The Slow Death members belong to (Pretty Boy Thorson, or The Ergs for example), and maybe is that ignorance that is skewing my perception of the record. But I have heard enough to know that these guys aren’t reinventing the wheel, but what they are doing (and it comes out in the music) is making the type of music they love, and loving it all the while.

It reminds me of yesterday while I was watching one of my favourite movies, Rocky Balboa (don’t judge me). A line at the beginning of the movie says “all of boxing is looking for a warrior who thrills us with their passion.” While boxing in real life is in much the same state, music is too, but music can give us something boxing can’t, the warriors who can thrill us .I think that is what drove me to buy the record, and when the band recently had a Kickstarter campaign to help them go on a European tour, I purchased the record again (only this time signed). Sadly the campaign failed and I won’t get to add that record to my collection.

But enough of my bitterness, Born Ugly Got Worse is a collection of 12 pop punk anthems that are full of the 3 punk H’s:hooks, heartbreak, and hanging out drinking. What else could you want if you are a fan? What else could you ask for? To me, nothing. If you want a good down and dirty pop punk album, listen to Born Ugly Got Worse, if you’re looking for something else, you won’t find it here.

-T.J.

The Shell Corporation – Force Majeure

(c) 2011 The Shell Corporation
Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

The Shell Corporation, to be confused with the Shell Corporation is what comes up when you google the band and see the link to the group’s website. A lot of times bands won’t have an accurate picture of what they really sound like, but this time I think they hit the proverbial nail on the head. I may not have said that after the first listen. After initially hearing Force Majeure (the group’s new album), I was really looking for a frame of reference and someone to compare them to. I had been listening to Holding Onto Sound’s The Tempest EP recently and I heard (imagined) so much of them in the Shell Corporation that I had to check to see if any members of the band happened to be in both groups (the answer is no). Like I said the comparisons were imagined and the only song that I could even hear what I thought I had was on “Ozymandias”, the second last track of the album.

While downloading the album I was reading the webpage and they mention a comparison to early Against Me! Confusion would run rampant again. I was convinced that “Broken Hearted Loser” was the second coming of “Shit Stroll.” While I can still hear where I got the comparison from it wasn’t completely accurate.

Don’t get me wrong, there are comparisons that can be made, and you can pick out possible influences in their songs (I even heard a little bit of Dead to Me’s “A Day Without War” in “Get Busy Living, or Get Busy Dying”). But I learned a few things from listening to Force Majeure (a good listen by the way, with something for everyone from political punk to punk ballads): think critically before you take things you read at face value, take your time before making any snap judgements, and finally The Shell Corporation, to be confused with the Shell Corporation.

T.J.

Burning Streets – Sit Still

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆
© 2011 Sailor’s Grave Records

Boston band Burning Streets has a new release. “Sit Still” is out now on Sailor’s Grave Records and with it you get 11 tracks of emotionally charged rock and roll. On the whole, Sit Still hovers in the punk rock vein, but is heavily laced with a melancholy that accompanies other similar acts like The Loved Ones or American Steel and to a lesser degree, Dead to Me.

The songs, averaging around the four minute mark, tend to be longer than what usually sits well with me. However the individual tracks have enough variety to maintain interest. The album is also well arranged, so the lengthy tracks aren’t as much a hindrance as they might otherwise be.
Nearly all the tracks are of the emotive and moody variety. In the right frame of mind I can get into this more mellow side of punk rock. The album begins to gain momentum around track five, “The Safety”. After which the velocity appears to be too much and begins to lose control of itself as it careens into the oddly Black Crows gone glam rock sounding “Let Me Go”.

Once the wreck is over “Sit Still” falls back into its more familiar, and frankly more enjoyable, paces. The disc winds down through a few more tracks and culminates into the feedback and tape hiss of its final track leaving you, I can only hope, feeling cathartic.

So as a final note, while I prefer my punk faster, a bit more raw, and a little less emo, this is still pretty good stuff and great if you’re a fan of the sub-genre. Don’t believe me? Check out some tracks for yourself over at Sailor’s Grave Records

–Jerry Actually

Tracks:
1 Distance Between
2 Disappointed
3 Blood I Need
4 Different Drums
5 The Safety
6 Let Me Go
7 Comfort In Confusion
8 Simplicity
9 Full-Time Gamblers
10 Strange Me
11 M.I.A. (Hold On)

Holding Onto Sound – The Tempest

© 2011 GC Records
Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

When you think of musical entertainment in Las Vegas, there’s a pretty good (or bad) chance that you’re conjuring up images of Beatles tributes bands, performers in drag, or heaven forbid, Celine Dion. Well, if this describes you, you can extract yourself from the turnip truck right now.

Holding Onto Sound (or HOTS) are stalwarts of the Vegas music scene and over the last eight years have honed their brand of progressive punk rock to a fine edge. The music is filled with intensity and sincerity alongside its punk rock core. The band elicits a comparison to bands like Dead to Me and American Steel, but with enough distinction that you’d not want to pass over one for the other.

The Tempest is the bands newest release and provides three tracks of the aforementioned intense and sincere punk rock. In just about 9 minutes you get a showcase of some of the best efforts for HOTS that I’ve heard to date. If you get a chance, check out their live show. The band plays fairly frequently around the West and of course, Las Vegas.

… and while I know that it is only a 7” with a sparse three tracks, and sure, that probably won’t fill you up, instead, they give you enough to leave you wanting more.

You can pre-order the new release from GC Records.

–Jerry Actually

Get Dead – Letters Home

(c) 2008 Horns Up Records
Rating: ★★★½☆

Have you ever, as an ever tough punk rocker wanted to let you inner-emo out?  But how could you and still  save face with all your extra tough punk rock friends?  San Francisco’s Get Dead holds the answers to your fears.  Their “punkcoustic” anthems reek with their innermost feelings but still come across as cool and nonchalant.  I venture to say that you can safely listen to Letters Home and you will still command the respect of your spike-bedazzled friends and maybe you’ll even show that cute little pale girl all dressed in black a little bit of your own tortured soul (but not too much) Aside all that, Get Dead brings some fine non-electrical punk rock in an anthemic and almost piratical way. If I had to make up some adjectives that you can use to tell your friends about them, I’d go so far as to say that they are both Clashtastic and SwinginUtteriffic.  For those of you back east, you can say that they’re wicked sweet!

–Jerry Actually