At Both Ends – Wheel’s Out The Window

At Both Ends is a pop-punk ska band reminiscent of the big 90’s 3rd wave era. They come from Sacramento and “Wheel’s Out the Window”, released under Morning Wood Records! Is their second album.

Alright, let’s get into it. One word I would use to describe this album is dynamic, and my opinion changed several times as the album progressed. As a predominately hardcore and ska-core fan, I was pleasantly surprised by some elements in this work. From the great rumbling bass riff to a thrash-like breakdown, I found many things to enjoy. Don’t let me paint this as a heavy ska-punk album though. The majority of the riffs are built around a poppy electric (emphasis on electric) guitar that most of the time got on my nerves, as did the singing which I will get into soon.

I do have to say I am a big fan of the horns on this album. Although they aren’t in every song I found them fantastic and well linked with the guitar, but were also original and crisp similar to that of Streetlight Manifesto’s many hits. Overall I am a fan of the music except for the voice. The lyrics and singer definitely put a damper on my appreciation of the piece. Though the songs have themes of unconformity (“Your Way”) and freedom (“Freedom”), the lead singer Gene sounds similar to the tone you think of when someone says pop-punk and not in a good way. Not to mention cheesy lyrics and rhymes, I found the album at its best when there wasn’t any singing at all. However, if Reel Big Fish, Green Day, and Less Than Jake are your jams, I think you will enjoy this album. Personally if Gene could pull off a kind of Jason Navarro of The Suicide Machines this album would be twice as good.

Overall I would recommend the album due to an overall appreciation for creating something fresh in the ska scene that announces similar values to that of the masters. Although I critiqued the guitar heavily, it did have its moments as well as the rest of the instruments. About 2/3 of the songs I can see myself listening to again, leaving about 5 or so songs that were in my opinion mediocre due to a pop sound and vocals.

You can find it at bancamp at:
https://atbothendspunk.bandcamp.com/album/wheels-out-the-window

Thanks for reading and leave your comments and opinions below! What did you think of the album?

-PW

The Best of the Worst – Painted Fools

Ska, Punk, Rock and Roll!

New Jersey based The Best of the Worst is back at it with a brand new EP. Painted Fools (available on 04/20/2017) offers up 7 new tracks of, well, ska, punk, and rock and roll.

From dreamy to screamy the band hits a wide range of sounds both across and within individual tracks. I’ll be honest here, I’m not at all familiar with this band, so I’m going to go out on a limb here with who their influences might be. I hear the subtle guiding hand of Bomb the Music Industry, Less Than Jake, Isaac Green and the Skalars, Lawrence Arms and, I don’t know, maybe some Tom Petty.

I am honestly a bit disappointed that I haven’t heard of them before, because I’m rather enjoying what I’m hearing. They’ve got track complexity, without being obtuse. The songs are well crafted with subtlety and nuance. Good takes. Good mix. There’s a link below. Go and buy a copy. Support local music, even if local is 1000s of miles away from where you really are.

We have the internet people! You can listen to sweet new music and then give a band some of your hard earned ducats so that they too can enjoy the sweet life of top shelf ramen on occasion.

http://chokeartist.storenvy.com/products/19480255-the-best-of-the-worst-painted-fools-cd

Cheers!
Jerry Actually

Tracks:
1. Habits Live Hard
2. Inside My Apartment
3. Where Complacency Lives.
4. Spoiler Alert:
5. Doesn’t Really Matter, (feat. Tom Etts)
6. Like Bugs in Amber
7. We’ve Been Held Captive

And The Wasters – State of Repair EP

© 2017
Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

Here’s an interesting little slice of audio for ya. State of Repair, a forthcoming EP by Bristol based folk-ska-punk act “And The Wasters”. Five tracks of music spanning several decades of influence.

I’m immediately struck by how much it reminds me of many of my favorite late 70s / early 80s UK favorites: The Specials and Fun Boy Three, Madness, Pogues, Clash, then throw in a bit of more modern influence of Flogging Molly and Gogol Bordello. Blend it up even more with some dub ska instrumental jams ala Skatalites and I think you’ll get a sense of what I’m picking up.

The opening track, Lion’s Share sets the tone of disenchantment. Without picking apart each track, I get a strong sense of anarcho/pirate punk and a bit of an anti-establishment bent, certainly helpful for any sort of protest music. The tracks are up-tempo and catchy and at only five songs, I’m left with wanting more.

I feel like maybe the tracks I’ve been given to listen to are a bit out of order, what with “Intro Dub” occurring last, but hey, who am I to judge? At any rate, I’ve listened to the EP about 10x through now and I am totally into it. If you haven’t heard And The Wasters, I demand you check them out!

“After many years touring Festivals, Squats and far-flung venues, And the Wasters have evolved from their Folk-Punk-Ska roots through elements of Hip-hop, Balkan & Latin. They weld this explosive musical concoction with an empowering political message to create a relentless live energy!” ~And The Wasters

https://willtunandthewasters1.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/willtunandthewasters

Cheers!
Jerry Actually

Tracks:
1. Lion’s Share
2. Small Victories
3. Reduce, Reuse, Rebel
4. Bound as One
5. Intro Dub

Behind Deadlines – Status Quo

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

behind_deadlines_status_quo

Yay! New Ska!

I’m listening to “Status Quo” the forthcoming debut full-length album from Philadelphia based ska punk band, Behind Deadlines. The release features 10 peppy tracks, and is a damn nice way to start into this holiday season. [Edit, the album actually will have 11 tracks when released. The updated track listing is below.] I think the band and I may differ slightly with the punk to ska ratio. I’d say, that the punk portion is tempered a bit with funk. But hey, I’m not the arbiter of such things (or am I) Overall it’s a winning combination and more of what this world needs.

The album sounds polished. Mix is clean and the levels all seem to sit right where they ought to. I suppose this stands to reason. The production has a solid pedigree, having been recorded by Dan Malsch (Bigwig, Four Year Strong, Forever the Sickest Kids) and mixed by Mark Michalik (The Swellers, We Are The Union, Fireworks, Into It Over It, The Wonder Years).

Over the years I swear it’s become more challenging for me to decide on specific influences that bands have. They have to be pretty blatantly obvious. If I had to throw a few out there, I’d suggest Less Than Jake, Mustard Plug, Deal’s Gone Bad, and Bosstones. I might just be name dropping. Who knows? The takeaway is that fan’s of the aforementioned bands, will probably find some affinity for Behind Deadlines as well. Give it a whirl.

A few notes on individual tracks: I’m not a big fan of guitar solos, but the first solo on track 4, “Hey Dear Friend” is tasteful as all getout. I fully approve. As well, the horns that kick in around the 8 second mark on track 5, “Making Change” are damn tasty too.

I won’t spend a whole lot of time telling you what you already know. If you like ska, punk, fun danceable rock and roll, or any combination thereof, please checkout Status Quo and if you can, go check out a live show. If you’re not on the East Coast, the band is playing a few select dates on the Best Coast too.

Cheers!
Jerry Actually

Tracks:
1. Biochemistry
2. Sick Of It All
3. Laid Off
4. Hey Dear Friend
5. Making Change
6. Six Months
7. Sink or Swim
8. Optimism
9. Worthless
10. Escape From Philadelphia
11. Drinking to Brazil

Bankshot EP

© 2015 Bankshot

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

bankshotAt this very moment, I’m listening to a new EP from a band called Bankshot. They are a ska punk band outta Davenport, IA. The five tracks on the self-titled release bring me back to the sweet 3rd wave days when all of my favorite bands came out of the Midwest and college towns, and sometimes from Midwest college towns. As I listen I’m reminded of old Mustard Plug, Los Rudiments, new acts like I Voted for Kodos, and the combined roots of multiple generations of punk and ska.

The music on the whole is energetic and upbeat the way in the way that you’d assume if you knew anything about skapunk. In keeping with the nature of the genre, track length is short (generally) and the songs are rather rapid paced. The tracks can, at times, seem a bit busy and perhaps careening towards falling apart. That’s not a bad thing per se, as within those same attributes, there’s the raw urgency of youth. a quality which rarely transcends later years. The production is sparse and suited to the material. There’s a very garage rock / old school sound to the recording. I think it provides a sense of how the band might sound live.

With only five tracks, it is a brief introduction into what has the potential to be a very promising band if they can keep on refining and defining their sound.

You can listen to the Bankshot EP here.

Cheers!
Jerry Actually

The Barstool Preachers – One Fool Down

The Barstool Preachers – One Fool Down
Pirates Press Records

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

PPR139“Never look down on anyone, unless you’re giving ‘em a hand up.” ~The Barstool Preachers. This lyric sets the tone for the debut EP from UK ska punk band The Barstool Preachers. I’ve been listening to the three track EP for a couple weekends now and the more I listen, the more I get drawn into the upbeat hook heavy sound.

If I may make an attempt to describe the sound, (you know I’m going to) I’d say we’ve got about a 60/40 blend with the high side leaning towards the ska end of the ska-punk spectrum. I hear influences of Madness, Specials, NOFX, Dropkick Murphys, Goldfinger, and “Stay Tuned” era Let’s Go Bowling. Of course these other bands may or not be influential in the least for this band, but artifacts or their sounds can be gleaned if you listen in.

All of my perceived references aside, despite lyrics that are tinged with a bit of drunken regret, I get a solid sense of positivity out of this band’s sound. They don’t come across as pissed or whiney, but friendly and real. Sure, I like ska punk and this is 100% up my alley, but the songs tell a story and the sound puts me in a happy mood. The only drawback is that you only get four-ish minutes of this gem.

What you get at the end is a one fine EP from what seems to be a promising beginning to an new ska punk band. Three cheers for The Barstool Preachers.

And just in case you don’t want to take my word for it, please enjoy this video:

-Jerry Actually

Backyard Superheroes

© 2014
Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

backyard_superheroesI wonder if Mustard Plug ever thought in a million years that they would be “influential”? Well, I guess if you have a long enough career and enough exposure, you’re bound to influence somebody, right? Well, welcome to that somebody They go by the name Backyard Superheroes.

To be fair, there’s a number of influences that can be heard on the new self-titled album from Brunswick, NJ ska band, Backyard Superheroes. On casual listening there’s elements of Less Than Jake, Streetlight Manifesto, a reminiscence to an old Oregon band, The Varicoasters (who probably didn’t influence this band at all, so it’s some other common influence), and of course a heavy dose of Mustard Plug.

Don’t let me mislead you though. The band isn’t a clone. They are a current interpretation and perhaps amalgam of 3rd wave ska punk. I for one applaud it. I loved this music in my youth. I love it today.

The album of concern here, Backyard Superheroes, the first full length (second album) by the band of the same name, drops 14 tracks of fun loving 90s throwback ska punk. The songs are all quick paced, quirky and largely delivered with a tongue-in-cheek speak/sing-a-long style. The horn section meshes nicely with the distorted guitar and walking bass lines, just like it is supposed to. Beyond that, I’d suggest that this is a solid fun release. I would seriously confuse this with 90s era Ska if I didn’t know better.

Aside being from Jersey, I don’t know a whole lot about the band specifics. However, based on their bio that they are professed to be loud, and, well, that’s good enough for me. You can catch a sampling of their sounds here: http://www.reverbnation.com/backyardsuperheroes I suggest that you do.

–Jerry Actually

Mad Caddies – Dirty Rice

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

© 2014 Fat Wreck Chords

mad_caddies_dirty_riceI apologize for not having this review up before the official release date Tuesday, May 13th, but I suppose if you can wait seven years for a new Mad Caddies release, a late review isn’t going to concern you in the least. So, if you did not read the prior sentence, there’s a new Mad Caddies album. Fresh off the presses, once again on (the now venerable) Fat Wreck Chords, I present to you Dirty Rice!

First things first, though. If you’re aren’t familiar with The Mad Caddies, let me give you a brief back story. The band started back in their high school days, way back in 1995 in Solvang, CA (Santa Barbara County). Over their illustrious career, the band have produced multiple full-length recordings and E.Ps. Their sound, while very firmly footed in 3rd wave ska-punk has influences from wide ranging styles including, dixieland, polka, swing, reggae, jazz, punk, and traditional ska. What I’m saying is that you get a whole lot of flavor from this one sweet band. I digress; back to the review.

The new album is a nicely polished example of what a 3rd wave SoCal ska band can do after close to two decades of rocking. For those who are familiar with Mad Caddies at all, youl know that while they come correct, they don’t come traditional. They’ve definitely got their own brand going; This album is no exception. A fine mixture of ska, punk, ragtime, dixieland, and soul are well represented on the new album, though sometimes on a more subtle note. It reminds me a little bit of Stay Tuned by Let’s Go Bowling, another awesome record that is a departure from prior work, yet completely badass after you succumb to its charms.

12 new tracks. Mad Caddies are back. Get the album. Find them on Tour!

–Jerry Actually

The Skashank Redemption – To Victory!

© 2013
Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

SkashankCoverI miss the days of 3rd wave ska. I’m pretty sure that any other fun lovin’, skankin’, also liken punk sorta folks feel the same. Well I’ll be damned if life doesn’t sometimes provide it’s own time machine, ‘cause ska (in a decidedly 3rd wave variety) is making its rounds again.

I’m listening to “To Victory!” the new E.P. by The Skashank Redemption (not to be confused with The Skaskank Redemption … I know, confusing, right?) but I digress. These boys, Skashank, not Skaskank are from the bustling, 14th largest city in the USA, Columbus, OH. Maybe there’s something about the midwest? The beer, the weather, the sassy ladies? There’s something that brings out the pep in the horns, the plink of the strings and the silly antics of high number of member bands.

Enough of that though, To Victory! makes good with six tracks of solid ska. Among other influences, The Skashank Redemption sound reminds me so much of Spring Heeled Jack (USA) yet without coming off as derivative or posing. They’ve got plenty of their own spin in the mix. The songs are peppy and danceable and well polished. There’s an effort being put forth by the musicians that shines through in the recording. It takes a lot of talent to coordinate a seven member band with the level of precision that To Victory! provides. To that I say cheers and keep on skankin’

The only detractor for me are a bit too much of the joke banter. Some folks may like it. I’m not a fan. That aside, a solid release.

Bottom line is that if you’ve not been getting your fill of fresh ska, head on over and check out The Skashank Redemption over on their page here: https://www.facebook.com/theskashankredemption

Cheers,
Jerry Actually

After the Fact – Limit Break

(c) 2014
Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

atf coverFlorida has been a stronghold for ska punk since the mid 90’s. Just check out the “Closer Than You” compilations that were released in ’96 and ’98 if you need proof. Florida ska band After The Fact fights to keep this legacy alive with their freshman release titled “Limit Break”.

The overall sound of the album is decidedly ska with heavy elements of punk, some screamo, and metal thrown in for good measure. Opening the record is “Sick as a Dog” which starts with guitar that immediately makes me think of MU330 and their big tune “LA”. The difference in this song, however, is that it soon kicks it up a notch with Reel Big Fish-style horn breaks, and Bosstones-esque vocals.

Lyrics are well written and songs are structured really well around the vocals. Clean backing vocals are everywhere on this album and if you’re anything like me you catch yourself singing along with them more than the main lines more often than not. The tune “Take a Hint” is a perfect example of the call-and-answer between the primary vocal line and gang vocals + horns that ATF does really well. There are some really sick guitar solos that blew me away and the layered harmonies made them even better.

With all of the good that’s in this album, there are some areas for improvement. Vocal performances sometimes seem pushed to their limits, horn blend is off regardless of solid performance by the players, themselves, and while listening through the CD I could occasionally hear the trademark click that can happen with digital editing.

With stand out songs like “Ridiculous” and “Last Fight”, ATF might just be going places if they continue to polish their sound. As someone who listens to a lot of ska (probably more than I should), I really enjoyed hearing all the influences that these guys have. I suggest you go like them on Facebook (at https://www.facebook.com/atffla) and check out if they’re playing a show near you.

THE TL;DR is..

After the Fact’s freshman album “Limit Break” scored 7/10 with me. The songs are killer and well written. The members are talented and bring some great moments to the album. That said, there are some recording issues that hold this back from being really top notch.

-Joe Ska