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:

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

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.

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

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.


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.


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.