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

The Zeroes

The Zeroes

© 2102 Patrick Roesle

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

It’s the end of the millenium. Somewhere in the shopping mall saturated, suburban New Jersey, The Returners are riding high on the last wave of Ska. Charlie, Sal, Jack, and Joe are fresh out of high school or there about. The world is theirs and nothing stands in their way. So starts what rapidly turns to inauspicious beginnings of The Zeroes, a new novel by Patrick Roesle. At its heart The Zeroes is a story of growing up, growing apart and coming to the bitter realization that even with all the drive and all the talent and all the potential, sometimes life leads nowhere.

The book is presented in a narrative manner by a character that I can best discern remains nameless throughout. He’s Charlie’s best friend and a talented comic artist, but the storyline takes a very first person aspect and is viewed almost entirely from this lens. Charlie, of course is the brains behind The Returners a four piece, ostensibly 3rd wave Ska band with Sal on drums, Jack on bass and Joe on trombone. But this isn’t a book report.

Sufficed to say, things get bad. Nothing goes as planned and the best intentions fall to pieces. Despite the best efforts, people get out of high school and leave town. Relationships drift apart. Dreams are dashed. People snap. People become cynical and jaded. Inevitably there are those that remain behind.

The Zeroes is a fantastically depressing read. It is perhaps an epitaph upon the dying embers of the last wave of Ska or more likely, it is a somber note that not everything works out. For those of us that lived through the turn of the last century, especially ones who were into Ska, Punk and Hardcore, the book reads like a chapter out of life anywhere in the USA. The bands, the shows, the friends, the triumphs, and the failures could have all happened to any one of us.

The stark, visceral reality, combined with the sonic backdrop of my relative youth makes this one hell of a book. It reminds me of what life would be like a bit less than a generation after Salad Days. A little more jaded and a lot more East Coast, but still a wild ride that doesn’t always work up where you wanted to go.

-Jerry Actually

(Oh, for the record, Permanent Revolution is a brilliant record.)

MayOrWest – We, Reborn

© 2011
Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

I’ve got a new release here from Hoboken New Jersey’s MayOrWest and well, things are looking up. The last time I reviewed this band, I had a bit of a beef with the lengthy tracks. Much to my preference, “We, Reborn” does, for the most pat, deliver on shorter track length. I also made some assumptions about sound and influence. I’m happy to report that the band is starting to find their ground. Whereas in the last review, I likened them to a mix of AFI and Queensryche, this time around I’m confident that MayOrWest is really paving new ground with their sonic dimensions. So, um, yeah, advice partially taken.

Positive leanings aside, I still find the band a bit operatic. As well There is a busy quality surrounding a lot of the tracks. It really strikes me as an audio version of MTV fast camera. It’s as though everything is a cut scene and because there is so much going on in the background, it makes it really hard to focus.

I won’t belabor my minimalist critique. Either you get it or you don’t, but here’s the take away; MayOrWest: definitely better over time; Still going in a direction that leads them more towards radio than any other direction. If that is what they are aiming for though, then, by all accounts, this is a successful release.

–Jerry Actually

Echo Screen – Goodbye Old Life


(c)2009 ES Music
Rating: ★★★☆☆

echo_screen_goodbyeFor those of you unfamiliar with Echo Screen, They are, as far as I know, a poppy-rock quartet from straight outta Jersey. Goodbye Old Life may or may not be a departure from the bands previous two efforts, but then again it might. It is way in the pop vein, but in a weird good way. It is, oddly, like a mix between James Taylor, Neil Young and Ben Folds. Normally not my cup o’ tea, but I’m kind of in a groove with this five track EP. I say what the hell, Echo Screen is alright, even if they sound almost nice enough to be grandmother safe. The tracks tend to alternate between quick slow quick (to an extent, ’cause track five wrecks that scheme) They all have a flowing dreamy feel to them, but consequently I prefer tracks 1. “I Amsterdam” and 3. “When I Escape (L.A.)”, the later very obviously about Snake Plissken. Never the less, some not-so-bad stuff, from the East. Then again, what did I expect? New Jersey has all the best bands.

–Jerry Actually