Moonraker – The Forest

In this cursed golden age of music availability, it’s not hard to find a band or record that suits your taste. I feel like I’m always sifting through countless Bandcamp pages of stuff that’s ok, but never really gets me to stick with it after a couple listens. Part of this problem is that you can listen to basically any band on earth whenever you want to, often without having to pay any extra money. It’s a mixed blessing, because even though you can find a new band every day that sounds like your favorite music, if anything it becomes more challenging to find something that really grabs you. Then sometimes you get lucky, and Jerry sends you a link to review the new Moonraker record.

Moonraker describe themselves as “The Michael Jordan of baseball of punk rock”. It’s not a very useful descriptor, but I like it, so I’ve decided to include it here. Stylistically, I would say Moonraker are a blend of UK bands Reverse and Stay Clean Jolene, crossed with Banner Pilot. I also hear some 1995 throwback SoCal punk, a la Rhythm Collision. Their most redeemable quality, however, is that they can really write a fucking hook. This collection of songs have some huge choruses, and take plenty of interesting turns. Some bands have that extra gear where they can turn a decent song into an excellent one with a special little bridge or something, and Moonraker definitely have that ability. 

The subject matter seems to mostly be of a dark, personal nature, but the lyrics are well written and only add to the quality of the songs. I had intended to reference specific tracks here, but I’m writing this at work and cannot stretch the illusion of doing my actual job any thinner than it already is. Alas, Upstarter is a budget operation and we are required to maintain day jobs. Listen to the entire thing, I won’t spoil it for you.

I found time to listen to this all the way through pretty much every day during a week where I’m working a ton, have young children, a new Superchunk record that I enjoy, and am also studying up for the Jawbreaker/Jawbox show this Sunday. It’s that good. If you like catchy punk rock, I can’t imagine how you won’t be pumped when you hear this.

–Zach Akenson

Tracks:
Incendium
My First Rodeo
Mouth Full of Rust
Vanishing Act
The Great Glass Elevator
Autumn
Crickets
Fogdancing
I Really Wanted To
In Confidence
The Better Man
Soot

Jolly Roger – Kung Fu Grip

“I wonder what this song is about,” is something you’ll never have to ponder when listening to Carbondale, Illinois’ Jolly Roger. You also won’t have trouble figuring out anything about the band themselves. Within the first two songs the listener is informed that the band hasn’t played a show since 2003, that they never really broke up, and also how they selected their name (it’s because they liked it, but not because they’re a pirate band). From the standpoint of someone who has never heard of them and is tasked with having to write about their new record, I found this to be extremely helpful.

Now that we have some background on the group, we quickly arrive at the third song, which is titled “Update”. As you can imagine, this song fills us in on what Jolly Roger and the people they used to sing about have been up to lately (Jared finally got a car, John got an injury, Stinky still smells, etc.). I actually love the concept of starting a new album off with an update on current happenings from characters who appeared in previous songs. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know if methadone worked for Cindy, or if Johnny X ever grew up and became a realtor or something?

Other song topics include Home Alone (“Wet Bandits”), a girl who is punk (“She’s Punk”), John’s retirement (“John’s Retired”), and a song about how they met working in a movie theater together (“Theater Daze”).  “Had lots of regulars, some odd ones that we met. Like crazy popcorn guy and the lady in the helmet.” They close out the album with a 22 second song called “Disclaimer” where they apologize for not working very hard on the actual music, because Ken spent a long time making the cover art. Said artwork depicts a photopshopped old NES game that says “Kung Fu Grip” on it with an image of an 8 bit guitar on the front. 

I would say the most accurate stylisitc comparisons for Jolly Roger would be early Mutant Pop stuff, namely The Automatics, or maybe The Queers when Wimpy was still with them. I like poppy stupid stuff just fine, so long as it strays away from juvenile sexuality (which Jolly Roger is only partially succesful at doing), but the main issue I have with this album is that the production is hard to get past. It’s not that it’s too lo-fi or rough, it’s that everything sounds so separated. Stuffing an iPhone into the insulation of the practice room and pressing record would be an improvement. I imagine Jolly Roger’s budget wasn’t huge for this venture, so it’s completely understandable why the recording is not up to snuff. I just think they might’ve benefitted from doing a quick live run through of the songs using a couple of dangling mics instead.

It may not be apparent by what I’ve wrote so far, but I actually have a real fondness for these guys. They are nerdy old dudes who decided to get their punk band back together, and record an entire album worth of songs. That’s fucking great. It isn’t pretentious, cool, or attempting to accomplish something that it’s incapable of. Will I revisit their Bandcamp page and listen to it again? Maybe not, but that’s not the point. Jolly Roger aren’t in it for the glory, they’re doing it because they appear to have a good time together. Too often people are in bands with people they don’t even like. Maybe it’s more important to have fun with your friends than it is to make art.

–Zach Akenson

Quaker Wedding – Total Disarray

I enthusiastically volunteered to review this new Quaker Wedding record when the opportunity came up. I enjoyed both their previous full length that came out in 2020, and especially the “Russian Hill” single that came out last year. Those two songs also appear here, and the band continues its upward trajectory on their forthcoming LP “Total Disarray”.

Providing some context to this record helps to understand where it’s coming

from. Quaker Wedding are from NYC, but frontman/bassist Marco Reosti returned home to Detroit for an extended period of time during the pandemic, and discovered that he had left some things behind. Namely, feelings. Although he is five years removed from a divorce, coming back to the scene of the crime has reopened a lot of those old wounds.

The album opener is about coming across his ex-wife’s wedding dress in a closet. On the following song he sings, “Now I know how it feels to be a ghost. To haunt the place I love without the people I miss most”. This trip home is not an easy one.

The band are able to capture the same quality of sadness that Jawbreaker, Tiltwheel, and Broccoli are able to, which really puts them in the high society of melancholy punk rock. That ability stems not just from subject matter, but also (and maybe even especially) the way a properly played sour note can evoke an emotional response. A lot of bands can SOUND like Jawbreaker, but not very many FEEL like them. Put on “Staten Island Ferry” by Quaker Wedding, and you’re going to FEEL the Jawbreaker.

Another stylistic comparison that’s hard to ignore is Needles//Pins. The most notable difference being that Quaker Wedding have a couple more gears to their vocals, making the gravelly parts more effective, rather than tiresome after repeated listens. This is an unpretentious, honest, adult human record about loss and complicated recovery. The lyrics, instrumentation, and overall vibe come together in a nice way through the uncomfortable vignettes the band illustrate for us in the songs.

I hope this album has provided Marco with some cathartic relief, and that time has provided him with something better. If nothing else, his band has provided us with what will definitely be one of my favorite records of 2022.

–Zach Akenson

Rotten Flag – We Are…

So I had a chance to check out “We Are…” the sophomore album by Gothenburg Sweden’s very own DIY punk rock band Rotten Flag. Trying to put this band into a category was a little difficult, and I landed on Punk. They are a punk bands punk band. Picture Cock Sparrer and Angelic Upstarts with a splash of Ramones for good measure. This album is twelve short tracks of simple riffs and alternating vocal stylings that range from hoarse growling to a semi-melodic tone that will keep you invested. 

Boasting a somewhat apolitical stance with the first track Oxymoron Stereotype, you’ll get the impression that they’d rather spend the short time given to each song (averaging well under two minutes) discussing the more important things in life like drinking, doing drugs, and having promiscuous sex. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But they do take a more political stand later in the album with the songs When We Attack, and Damnation. The song The Evil of Religion sounds exactly like you’d expect from the title. 

This album embodies that classic punk attitude of railing against conformity and giving the middle finger to authority figures with a shit eating grin. It’s the kind of punk your parents tried to warn you about. Rotten Flag clearly doesn’t give a shit about your PC sensibilities, so if you’re easily offended by a little off-colour language then this might not be a great choice for you. Personally I find it refreshing. They seem like they’d be either the most fun guys at the party, or the most terrifying. 

All in all, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable album. My personal favourites include We Are…, You Didn’t Hear It On The Radio, and Do You Wanna Be My Anarchy. I will definitely be looking for the LP when it finally comes out, and will be keeping an eye on these guys for their third album. And considering that their first release “the band from the pubs” came out in December 2021 I Will be expecting something possibly in early 2023 or so. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part though. 

Keep up the good work guys! 

Jëffy 

The album will be released on streaming platforms on January, 31st 2022, with a vinyl release to follow as production allows.

The Sleights – It’s Not That Easy

Click here to listen to It’s Not That Easy

This band includes members of the Nobodys, who are most famous for out-Guttermouthing Guttermouth as the shittiest, most mysogynistic punk band of the 90s. With song titles like “She Can’t Say No”, “Kielbasa Queen”, and “Just Another Cunt”, it was surprising to me even then that they were embraced to the extent they were. Here’s a lyrical sample from a 2001 album, “I like young girls. I like the way they smell. I like their pretty curls. Their parents can go to hell”.

Look, I don’t know if any of the chief songwriters are in The Sleights, but why the fuck would you even put it in your bio? Aren’t you embarrassed now? You should be. I’m not even a super PC dude when it comes to my punk rock, I love The Dwarves and Cosmic Psychos, but there is a big difference between those bands and the Nobodys. In an effort to be fair, there is also a dude from The Lillingtons in here, who as far as I know are NOT sexual predators. Also to be fair, this band is factually not The Nobodys.

They are The Sleights and sound like mid-tempo Good Riddance with Samiam-style vocals. Subject matter seems to focus on the vague interpersonal negative feelings of 40-something-year-old bearded white dudes in black band T-shirts, and also on alcohol. I am, regrettably, the target demographic. I have to say though, I like this more each time I listen to it.

The song “Fucked Up” in particular, even though it clocks in at nearly four and half minutes, has some Wrath of Khan strength ear worms and does not seem overly long. I went a few days between listens, and the song had burrowed its way into my brain enough that it was echoing around in there. Lots of echoing in there. Mostly of other mid-tempo punk rock and stupid things I regret saying between the years 1989-present.

In conclusion, The Sleights are sort of good. It’s better than I could do. Maybe when they hangout together and get deep enough into the night, they speak in hushed tones to one another about how fucking dumb The Nobodys were and how they’re better people now. Maybe the guilt of having been in The Nobodys is what echoes around in their brains.

–Zach Akenson

Tracks:
1. It’s Not That Easy
2. I Don’t Give a Damn
3. Skin and Bone
4. Fucked Up
5. Faded
6. The Morgue

Special Duties – 7 Days A Week

So I had a chance to check out the new album 7 Days a Week by English punk band Special Duties. If you’re in the mood for an old-school Oi! sound that’s been polished up and produced in a much more modern way, then look no further, 7 Days a Week is exactly that. 

This album is chock full songs about social issues, addiction, and class struggle, as well as some songs that feel like you should be singing along to while tipping back pints in an English pub. And that is exactly what you’d expect from these guys.

At first pass the album kinda falls flat and seems like the lyrics were put together in a hasty, hap-hazard fashion. Subsequent listening will have you singing along to the better constructed tunes like the albums namesake 7 Days a Week and Punks and Bootboys. The songs Fight Back, Rebel and Time Bomb show a more aggressive side of the band and are my personal favourites from this release. 

At times the high quality of the recording feels like it takes away from the expected “punkness”. If that’s a thing… but this is just wishful thinking on my part I suppose. It’s not like we can expect modern engineers to deliberately make a band sound like shit… can we? 

All in all it’s a passable album, and if you grew up listening to the older British punk of the early 80s you should definitely at the very least, give this a try. I won’t be running out to get the first pressing or anything, but it might be fun to catch the live show at some point.

–Jëffy

Milquetoast – Caterwaul

I can’t pretend like I’m ever terribly excited to hear a band that has descriptors like “doom”, “stoner”, and “sludge”. This is mostly because modern bands who fall into these categories often take themselves too seriously, and frankly I just don’t understand why you’re so goddamn negative and serious if you’re blazing up all the time. Thankfully, Milquetoast does not fall into this genre trapping.

They have instead crafted a modern day album of AmRep-style bangers that sometimes even veers into old school hardcore goofiness, a la Flag of Democracy. Before grunge was called grunge and ruined by shit bands like Alice In Chains, it kind of sounded like this. There is definitely some excellent Mark Arm howling going on. I’m also hearing Cows, particularly in the way Milquetoast throws instrumental curve balls at you to keep things interesting.

I’m listening to this via a YouTube link, so it’s difficult to refer to specific tracks, but there’s enough variety on here to make the whole thing worth your time. This is a quality I’ve found lacking in other “doom” and “sludge” bands. Unless your band is exclusively marijuana referencing in the name, I don’t get the “stoner” part either.

Historically, AmRep, Mudhoney, and proto-grunge bands like Cosmic Psychos (who invented that blown out sound) have been way more famous for beer consumption. To me, this is drunk music more than stoner rock, and that’s a good thing. Whatever you like to do to your brain when you pretend like the world isn’t ending, do it while blasting Milquetoast. This is a super fun record that I wish I had a hard copy of. Highly (or drunkenly) recommended.

–Zach Akenson

Tracks:
Intro
Dead Inside
Recognize
Matapacos
Stoner Safari
Step Off
Space Force
Fake News Blues
Wall
Forgotten Death

Bio:
When Milquetoast (milk-ˌtōst) is used as an adjective, it means timid, meek, or unassertive. But you only need a single distorted power chord or unhinged howl from the Indiana trio’s punked-up party sludge to get sucker-punched by the band name’s irony. Milquetoast will kick 2022’s front door off its hinges with their debut LP mastered by Chris Fielding of the mighty Conan, appropriately named Caterwaul.

Formed in 2018 by vocalist/guitarist Ty Winslow, Milquetoast was devised as an expression of weirdo punk fury. In fact, it was Winslow’s penchant for loud riffs and cheeky vibes that initially lured vocalist/bassist Andy Bowerman as a collaborator.

“In a church 2.5 hours in the middle of nowhere,” Bowerman recalls, “I was looking out into the melee [of a mosh pit] and seeing crossdressing members of [Winslow’s then-band] Battersea riding each other around like jousting mounts. So the friendship came easy—and came often.”

After recruiting drumming dynamo Nick James, the band’s unique impish energy took shape. Gather the mops that soaked up sweat and blood from stages in the ’80s west coast punk and Seattle grunge scenes. Squeeze the fluids into a shot glass…

MILQUETOAST IS:
Ty – guitar and vocals
Andy – bass, vocals, and synth
Nick – drums

The Dynamite Club – Is The Dancefloor Calling?… No.

So I had a chance to listen to the debut EP from The Dynamite ClubIs The Dancefloor Calling?… No.” If you’re unfamiliar with them now, you won’t be for long. This EP hits hard right out of the gate with the opening song “Wake Up” and then keeps you guessing just what kind of band you’re listening to with more anthem styled tunes like “Apocalypse” and “One Sixth” to more pop punk influenced tunes like “Erotomania”. 

This hard working punk band from across the pond with two snarky English singers has been working it out for the past five years in the London area. Their DIY ethics are evident in this recording produced and mixed by James Kirsch

My only complaint about this EP is that there isn’t, as of yet more from The Dynamite Club to listen to. If you’re in the mood for a band that is a little different than you’re used to, but would fit perfectly on a playlist with your favourite SoCal punk bands, Is The Dance Floor Calling?… No. might just hit the spot.

-Jëffy

Tracks:
1. Wake Up
2. Apocalypse
3. Erotomania
4. Lights Out
5. Third Eye
6. One Sixth

The Dynamite Club is
Sam – vocals and guitar
James  – vocals and guitar
Luke – Bass 
Steven – Drums 

Bio:
Been a band for about 5 years, with James and Steven joining in last couple. Everything you see and hear is done totally DIY (with a little help from our friends). 

​We’ve played shows for the likes of the Garageland club, Camden Rocks and South London Punk Collective.

​Influences: fast punk n roll from 1950s to present day.

The Effens – New song “Punishment” out now!

Punishment” is a sweet yet sinister love song. It’s about all the ways that someone can control another by ‘caring’ or ‘helping’ them. You can put yourself in the role of caregiver and have it become such a deep rooted part of your identity that you actually don’t want the person you ‘care’ for to get better.
 
This song is written from the point of someone who is sabotaging an individual just enough so that they are unable to become independent and will continue to rely on their ‘caregiver.’

Hear “Punishment,” taken from our upcoming EP, Eventually (out July 30th), on your preferred streaming platform.  

Do I get what I want, when she sets fire? The narrator of this song needs to be with someone who ‘sets herself on fire’ to feel like they are needed. Maybe they are admitting this to themselves for the first time in this cycle or maybe this admission is part of the cycle as well.

Instagram // Twitter // Facebook // Bandcamp
http://www.theeffens.com/

Skism – 2021

Got a CD in the post box the other day. It’s been on deck in the CD player for a week or so now. Finally enough of a lull in the day job to throw a few words at it. A paucity of words leaves them hanging though, right?

Here’s some quick thoughts about Skism and their new release “2021”. A blast of old school (which I realize is a term I use a lot) street punk from NYC. 

Loud, gritty, in-your-face Punk / Hardcore / Oi

The lyric run a course from the murderous lament of “Eyes”, into the markedly anti-Nazi “U.S. Nazis Fuck Off and Die”, to the questioning retorts of “Agent Orange” and “Trioxin”. 

Things delve into the personal with “Knocked Down With A 40”, a song, as it turns out, about being knocked down with a 40. The final track, something we all can relate to, “Outside the Club” brings how the feeling of being shut out in the cold. 

You know what street punk sounds like? The drums pound. The guitar chugs. The bass rumbles. The vocals are somewhere between a sing and a shout. You know what you like. So check out Skism on all the streaming platforms. (but especially Bandcamp)

Tracks:
1. Pain and Pain 02:12
2. Eyes 02:24
3. U.S. Nazies Fuck Off and Die 01:32
4. Agent Orange 01:46
5. Trioxin 01:52
6. Knocked Down With A 40 01:26
7. Nomad 02:08
8. In Control (Eyes Reprise) 02:00
9. Outside the Club 01:29

Bio:
Skism is an anti-social, angst ridden, hyperactive punks who pound out driving music with screaming vocals, fast guitars and pounding drums, with old school punk, hardcore and oi influences, featuring players who played in The Krays, American Eagle, WRENCH and Mad Mulligans. 

Cheers!
Jerry Actually