Teenage Bottlerocket-Freak Out!

I say it’s not your music, it’s my attitude.  That is the only way that I can explain my reluctance toward listening to Teenage Bottlerocket.  I think it goes all the way back to SXSW 2011 when Ben Weasel had a physical altercation with two female fans.  A lot has been said of that of course, and why would that have anything to do with it? Especially considering they were very outspoken about the incident and were very quick to drop out of Weaselfest.   Well I was a fan of Screeching Weasel and couldn’t wait for the new album to come out (which I promptly sold), and I think I subconciously swore off any Ramone’s inspired pop-punk.

Fast forward to 2012 when Teenage Bottlerocket posted a stream of their first single from Freak Out, “I’m Done With Love.”  It caught my interest, and I even went back and listened to some of their older songs and I was hooked.  I am actually listening to it for a third time time today, and the thought of a fourth time just crept into my mind as I am currently listening to the final track “Go With The Flow” and the lyric “…I do as I feel like doing…(forgive me if I got that wrong)”  just inspired me to give it another go.

The other day I wrote a review of a new split from a couple Canadian hardcore bands, and while I did my best, hardcore is not my favourite punk genre, pop-punk is.  It is a combination of a lot of things, but mostly I love a good hook that I can sing along too.  Not to mention pop-punk is my style of choice while driving, I sing along, I do interpretive dances at times, and I drive equivalently fast as the music.

This last fact may get me into trouble as I drive across country this weekend and I head into Ontario where the Provincial Police and the 90 KM/H (approx 55 MPH) speed limit reign supreme.  Either way, it doesn’t matter much, songs like ” Who Killed Sensei”, “Freak Out”, “Mutilate Me”, and “Summertime” should fuel my driving and if I listen to it a compulsively as I have today, ensure that my fuel mileage isn’t as good as would be preferred.

Harrington Saints – Pride & Tradition

© 2012 Pirates Press Records / Contra Records
Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

With a name like “Harrington Saints”, I’m immediately struck with the idea that this is a serious business, no holds barred, blue collar, in your face, working man’s street punk band. Maybe it’s familiarity with the genre, but there was no mistake in my assumption. These particular saints hail out of a little east bay town know as Oakland. You may have heard of it.

The band has been around since 2005 and Pride and Tradition is their second full-length. This one is produced by Lars Frederiksen. You may have heard of him. With it you get 11 tracks planted firmly in the vein of Oi and Street Punk; Blue collar rock and roll for the poor souls that have had their back broken by the man and get nothing in return.

The music is short, crisp, poignant, and timely yet timeless. (until such a time as people aren’t getting the short end of the stick I guess … so yeah, timeless.) That said, Street Punk isn’t the be all, end all for me. There is a strong tendency to get a bit repetitive. The Harrington Saints work to remedy this by not sticking strictly by the books. Tempos shift and not every track is a full on shout along. The themes run constant though; A desire for more, the tenuous grasp on the American Dream, white collar bandits, the ones who don’t put the effort in for their fair share.

Bottom line: If you like punk rock and you feel like you’ve constantly got the boot against your neck, rock the hell out and shout along with the Harrington Saints when they come crushing through your town.

–Jerry Actually

Dead Ellington – Refuse

© 2012 Dead Ellington

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Refuse is the 3rd release from Boston’s Dead Ellington and the first EP in a three part series. Recorded at Little Eden Studios, Asbury Park, NJ with Pete Steinkopf (of Bouncing Souls), the EP delivers 5 solid punk rock tracks.

The recording, upon listening, is obviously punk rock, but there is definitely an emo-ish feel to it in both the vocals and the tempo downturns on the majority of the tracks. As well, there is a very 80’s poppy feel on the closer, “Miracle”. I’m thinking Plimsouls maybe, but what do I know? I’m not familiar with previous material from the band, so I can’t suggest that this is normal for them or otherwise. Either way, it isn’t my cup of tea, but not an unpleasant experience either.

Lyrically, the band brings a very positive message. To wit, from track three, “Network”, “There ain’t no power like the power of people, ‘cause the power of people don’t stop.” I think the band sums up their message well from their website with these words: ‘Refuse, Rethink, Rebuild is a new way of thinking. It is about looking at the reality of ones surroundings and creating something new. It’s all about refusing the present, rethinking the future, and rebuilding the past. “It’s a way of life not just music, it’s our manifesto, embracing the D.I.Y scene from street art to punk rock.”’

So, in the end, heartfelt punk rock, coming at ya straight outta Boston; Support your local scene and pick up a copy for yourself and/or your mother. You can find out more here: http://www.deadellington.com

–Jerry Actually

The Atom Age – The Hottest Thing That’s Cool

© 2012 Asian Man Records

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

It is a rather rare occurrence when an AMR release doesn’t just thrill the hell out of me when I listen to it. The Hottest Thing That’s Cool, the new release by Oakland’s The Atom Age is no exception. To that I say, “Hooray for rock and roll!”

The Atom Age is a 5-piece punk/rock band with a lot of horn laced garage punk cache. Don’t let the garage moniker throw you though; the tracks are by no means lo-fi. It is merely a designation, like a map marker to help you locate things that have some Hammond B3 in there somewhere 😉 If it’ll help you get a better idea of the sound, I’m thinking immediately of Rocket From The Crypt. That influence is inescapable, however the overall vibe is decidedly more aggressive. The additional punk-rockery (when combined with the horns) makes me think more along the lines of King’s of Nuthin’. I also guess that on a purely on a rock plus horns level, they also make me fondly remember a late 90s Portland band. So a nod to The Sauce, for all who remember.

The tracks run around the three minute mark, on average, with the occasional number clocking in at the three and half mark. This works out well with my appreciation of compact tracks. In conjunction with shortish track length, most of the songs are up tempo, with exception of track five, “I’ve Been Thinking.” For this release, I’m a fan of the faster pace as well. The structure of the music isn’t overly complex, but the addition of horns, effects, and strong arrangements make for a larger soundscape than might otherwise be imagined.

So, in a nutshell, five piece horn-laced punk rock with an intriguing and solid sound. The Hottest Thing That’s Cool is out now on Asian Man Records. The band is on tour in June, so check them out if you can. You can get more tour dates on the webs: http://theatomage.com/

–Jerry Actually

The Downtown Struts – Victoria!

© 2012 Pirates Press Records
Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

Ok folks, here it is, Victoria! the brand new full length from Chicago’s Downtown Struts. I’ve long been a fan of the punk rock sounds coming out of the Windy City and this newest venture doesn’t disappoint; equal parts rock and roll and angst all rolled together with enough ennui to bend the ear of the most cynical among us.

The tracks are longer and a tad slower than my attention span generally allows for, but the song writing and delivery is in a such a manner that I’ll sit transfixed through the entire album (and on a bad traffic day, I’ll sit through it twice) I’ve talked about bands that are wearing this new mantle before: Dead to Me, The Loved Ones, Hollowpoints. The list could go on, but I hope you get the point. The music is full on rock and roll but loaded with introspection and damn I do love some introspection.

What you get with Victoria! is 10 tracks that set a great stage for sad story telling; telling tales of a life lost in America. To me it symbolizes lost glory, a pining for halcyon days but retaking the faded sense of hope. The album encompasses a dying ember on a still burning torch. Not everything is lost, but what exactly does it take to rekindle that waning flame?

The bottom line is one of the best new releases that I’ve heard so far this year. If you’re a punk fan that also gives a shit about song writing and you can feel the heavy weight of words, especially in combination with music that matches the spirit of the lyrics, then grab a copy of Victoria! You can find more info on the band here: http://www.facebook.com/thedowntownstruts

–Jerry Actually

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.