The Gaslight Anthem-Handwritten

It would be stupid for me to believe that I am going to tell you something you haven’t already read about this album, or figured on your own if you have listened to it (my first borrowed line from Nick Hornsby’s description of Handwritten).  The Gaslight Anthem’s latest work has been out for almost a month now, and I have spent a lot of time driving recently which usually equates to a lot of chance to enjoy some good music along the way.  While Handwritten wasn’t the only record to grace my cd player while driving, it was thoroughly played.  Some songs played more than others as my wife is my opposite number when it comes to listening to music.  I am an album listener and I listen from beginning to end, her on the other hand will play the same song over and over again.  She does that with a few songs from the album, most notably “45”, “Keepsake”, and “You Got Lucky.”  She also has her own dance for the latter song, and she has listened to it so many times that her copy of the cd skips on this song. 

Anyway, we were travelling through Manitoba and during one of our many listens to “Keepsake” she pointed out to me that the song reminded her of me.  We listened to it over and over again, and I could not figure it out (and she wouldn’t stop playing it until I guessed).  So finally I asked “is he singing about his  (a) dad?”  to which she replied “yeah, I figured that out like the first time I heard it.” 

So while she likes to hear her favourites over and over again, I like to break up the monotony of driving the Trans-Canada highway by playing music trivia, and more specifically, “Who was the original singer for this song?”  I have to point out the she got “Which deceased 90’s rock star was the original artist for this song?” (Kurt Cobain and Nirvana on “Sliver”) and “Who was the original singer to this” (Tom Petty on “You Got Lucky”)  both wrong.  But she now claims that when she does her dance to “You Got Lucky” that if I “didn’t want me to dance like this you shouldn’t have introduced me to the song.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I am glad I did, and I am glad that she enjoys the group (almost) as much as I do.  It is hard to describe, but when listening to a Gaslight Anthem song there is an energy that isn’t present in most music.  I remember being younger and listening to  Born in the U.S.A on my grandmother’s 8 track player, or the Black Crowes Shake Your Money Maker on my step-dad’s cassette in the car and just knowing that the music was something special.  I remember telling my wife when American Slang came out that one day our boy (not long after he was born) will look back and tell people about how his parents used to listen to The Gaslight Anthem on long trips, she agreed. 

Not long after this, I remember Lady Gaga being on an awards show and dressing up in meat (notice how I don’t really remember what show) and somebody at work stating how she is such a fashion icon.  I tried to gently explain that Lady Gaga needs that type of gimmick because her music isn’t very good, but guys like Brian Fallon and the like just exude cool through their music and don’t need that type of stuff.  I don’t think she understood me.  As it turns out, Nick Hornsby would write something eerily similar on the album write up as I said almost two years prior when he wrote ” even clothes made out of meat won’t do you much good if your music is 1980’s dance-pop.”  So while I may not have anything to say about Handwritten that hasn’t already been said I will take some solace in knowing that the group themselves are not trying to recreate the wheel when they record an album, but are just carrying on the tradition of rock ‘n’roll, in their own voice and doing  with as much conviction and authenticity as they can muster (my third Nick Hornsby reference).


Money In The Banana Stand – Giant Steps II

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Do you like subtle irony? Do you? I don’t care what your response was. Listen to this band. A reference to one of the most genius TV shows is enough to garner a listen, but wait, there’s more.

Money In The Banana Stand crafts clever songs; songs which are both well instrumented and well articulated. It is poetry done with music and done quite well.

I’m doing the micro review thing here, so get this CD (EP) ok? OK!

–Jerry Actually

Backyard Surgeons – No Anesthetic

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

It’s been a while since I’ve done a DVD review. This one is well worth the wait. (the DVD, not the review)

If you are a fan of travel, roadtrip movies and things like NOFX: Backstage Pass, this little travel doc from Melbourne’s Backyard Surgeons is a must see.

DIY funded and booked, a largely unknown band (at least here in USA) sets out to bring their brand of poppy punk rock to China. It’s heartfelt and real. Train rides, beers and good times abound.

Sorry for the bevity, but I’m on a tight deadline (self-imposed)

At any rate, this is so worth seeing. If you’re a fan of making your own way in this world and would like to bring punk rock to the masses, by all means, get a hold of this DVD. I think you can find them here for the time being:

On a more personal note, having owned a Gibson Explorer for 20+ years, I know what a bitch it can be lugging that thing around, kudos to you brother. I never had to lug mine that far in such a short time.

–Jerry Actually

PROBLEMS – Make it Through the Night

© 2012 P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Life is shitty. We all have problems. Life would be less shitty if we all had the new CD by Portland punk rock and rollers, P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. ! (well, I suspect life would be piled with cash for the band if everyone in the world bought a copy of this, but I digress) Out in time for the summer west coast tour and the up and coming European tour, P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S has a shiny new compact disc available for your listening pleasure. (as a side note, I have no idea if P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. stands for anything or if they fellas are just totally down with the full stop.)

Make it Through the Night is the latest release from P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. The disc kicks down 18 tracks of sonic bombast that reminds me a combination of Zeke and Nerve Agents. For those of you that know (and enjoy) those other bands, I suspect that this is right up your alley. Technically, Make It Through The Night is 9 official tracks and 9 “Bonus” tracks of previously released material. Technically you could put it in a box and call it box set, so you do what you want with that information.

The important thing is that P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. is badass and they have a pedigree to back that shit up. Some might dare to say they are a bit of a “Super Group”. Featuring former members of bands such as: Resist, Poison Idea, Detestation, The Weaklings, Masskontrol and Defiance might bring a certain amount of credibility to the aforementioned, but unlike other “Super Groups”, like the Damn Yankees, P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. is not all about the douchebaggery. (as far as I can tell). There is another band I know of that has members of some of these same bands. Oh sure, they’re good, but not nearly as cool.

Some of the stand out tracks include the opener, “D.U.M.B” and track 6, Bad News. For the cover fans among you, there is also a great cover of The Cortinas “Fascist Dictator”.

The bottom line is that Portland, OR is still kicking out some hard rocking tunes and P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S is right there at its gritty rain-soaked core.

If you’re interested in picking up a copy of this disc, I suppose you could contact the band here: of course there is a link to their MySpace page, so I wouldn’t blame you if you thought they broke up half a decade ago.

–Jerry Actually

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:

–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:

–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:

–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