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:

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