So, a new feature on Keep Track of the Time: a roundtable discussion! Here, a few punk rock writers discuss a bunch of songs based around a particular theme or time period. This is (hopefully) the first in a series of discussions, with the first one being based on songs released in 2017. Future editions may include, I dunno, pop-punk songs from the ‘90s or punk rock songs from soundtracks. So, who are we and what songs did we discuss, you ask?

The Discussants:

Dave, Keep Track of the Time

Paul, Jersey Beat, Razorcake, New Noise, Keep Track of the Time

Rene, Keep Track of the Time

Colin, Colin’s Punk Rock World (http://colinspunkrockworld.blogspot.co.uk/)

The Songs Discussed

Slotface- “Magazine” (Try Not to Freak Out)

Worriers- “Future Me” (Survival Pop)

Onsind- “Immature” (We Wilt, We Bloom)

Katie Ellen- “Sad Girls Club” (Cowgirl Blues)

Colour Me Wednesday- “Don’t Tell Anyone” (Anyone and Everyone EP)

The Dopamines- “Heartbeaten by the Police” (Tales of Interest)

Iron Chic- “Invisible Ink” (You Can’t Stay Here)

The Lillingtons- “Villagers” (Stella Sapiente)

Teenage Bottlerocket- “Gay Parade” (Stealing the Covers)

Bad Cop, Bad Cop-“Womanarchist” (Warriors)

Great Cynics- “Only in Memories” (POSI)

All of these can be heard on the Spotify playlist below:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/milo-age/playlist/2wGzgNfsdKKRYRiYgatRNX

Introductions to each of the discussants:

Dave: I’m Dave, I’m from the UK. I run and write for Keep Track of the Time, doing a bunch of reviews, interviews and other random punk/pop-punk related features. Been doing that for about the last three years. I’m basically a pop-punk nerd!

Paul: I’m Paul Silver, based in San Diego, California. I’m the old guy in the scene, been writing for Jersey Beat for over 25 years and going to shows for around 35+ years. I should add that I also contribute to Razorcake, New Noise, and of course, KTOTT. Been doing those only a shorter time, the last 2-5 years or so.

René: I currently live in Bergen, Norway. Been writing for Keep track of the time since 2014, mostly my column “Read Hard’s pop punk picks” and in the Years of our Lives column. Been doing some reviews in Norwegian on the side as well.

Colin: I’m Colin from the UK. I run Colin’s Punk Rock World, have been for three and a bit years. We do album and gig reviews, top tens, playlists, columns, band of the week, future classics. We cover all of the different sub-genres of punk. What made you start?

Dave: I used to write previously for a paper zine (that later became a webzine) called Punk or Nothing, and totally missed writing. I was itching to get back to it. So, that, plus I felt like there was lacking a blog or site that focused more specifically on Lookout! style pop-punk. I was also inspired after reading Larry Livermore’s book where he talked about doing his zine in the ’80s. I remember reading that on the train and thinking I am gonna start something up asap. And I did so about a week later. How about you guys?

Paul: Jim Testa sent out a general request for people ti review 7″ records for a second magazine he did in the early 90s called Glut – to handle the glut of 7″ers he received for review. I did a couple of reviews for that, and he liked my writing so asked me to start writing for Jersey Beat. Been doing that ever since. I got involved in Razorcake and New Noise via doing live band photography, and also do interviews for Razorcake.

Colin: I just wanted to find away to give back to the punk scene by trying to give some exposure to bands that people might not have heard of and quite enjoy writing and CPRW was born.

Dave: Cool, yes, there was definitely an element of that for me as well, giving exposure to some relatively unknown bands.

René: I remember being inspired by Larry too because he said that my music taste was more old fashioned than his father’s was so I figured I could use that to write about old records that came out before I was born.

Dave: I wanted to make it international too, a good mix of bands from around the world rather than specifically focusing on local stuff, or any particular scene.

I thought it was time to try something new, hence the roundtable discussion. So, how I thought of this working was going through each song, one by one, in the order of the playlist (i.e. beginning with Slotface) and discussing these. Each person can make a first comment on the song one by one, perhaps in the order that we just introduced ourselves. Following the first comment, we can all just chip in with discussions, and we’ll see how it goes. Does that work?

Colin: Sounds good

Paul: Sure – but first I want to make a comment about the collection of songs in general. Man, could you have picked a sadder more depressing collection of songs, lyrically?

René: We should name the discussion “Sad songs don’t make good lives”

Song #1: Slotface- “Magazine” (https://slotface.bandcamp.com/album/try-not-to-freak-out)

Colin: I hadn’t heard of Slotface before I was sent the playlist

Paul: Me either. So, my comments about the first song, “Magazine,” by Slotface. Great indie pop song, simple but hook filled melody. It’s got a strong message about feminism and sexualization of women in the scene. I like it a lot.

Dave: Yeah, I just became aware of these guys in the last year or so (thanks Rene!). Saw them live recently in a tiny venue in Birmingham and got totally sold on them. Super energetic live. I love the melodies on “Magazine”, it’s probably the stand-out for me from the record. It’s a spiky little, super poppy tune, with a great chorus. Love the ‘Patti Smith’ bit in the song. It’s just a great pop song, really. Good to know that I introduced them to you two!

René: I first heard of them in 2014 and thought they were a metal band for some reason. I remember being a bit blown away with them the first time I heard their first demos and when I saw them live. This song feels very different from their early stuff in many ways. I’m not sure if it’s better or worse, it took more time to grow on me than the earlier songs, but on the other hand it sounds even more “mainstream catchy”.

Colin: I like how it’s very poppy and potentially a bit mainstream but still has plenty of attitude and such a good message. It also reminds me a bit of 2000’s American pop punk that you’d get in a teen movie.

Paul: Did any of you watch the video for the song? It’s a really clever one, going with the theme of sexualization of women, showing a woman spending endless time putting on makeup to look “pretty” and at the end she goes crazy with it to show how stupid the whole thing is.

Dave: Yeah, I have seen the video, Paul. It’s really cleverly done, perfectly encapsulating the meaning of the song in a semi-humorous way.

René: A review in a Norwegian paper compared it to Sum 41. I can sort of see it. Especially the main riff.

Paul: Ooooh, I don’t see that at all. I mean, sure they’re pretty poppy and all, but I don’t really see them being nearly as mainstream as Sum 41 were.

Dave: I like the whole album it’s off too, but it doesn’t all sound like Magazine, there’s good variety on there. Hmm, yeah I hear some parts of ’00s American Pie pop-punk, but without any of the ‘dumbness’ associated with that, ya know? It also has a somewhat ‘indie’ feel to me, too.

Paul: Yes, to me it’s more indie pop than pop punk

Colin: It’s a really good first impression of the band.

René: I think they have two types themes that appears throughout their career. The political side and the cultural reference side. So they seem to be trying to get a point across about the representation of women in the music industry as well as give heads up to the music and movies that inspire them. And I feel like they manage to do both in this song.

Dave: Yes, it’s true. A nice balance. Rene, as you have known the band from their earlier stuff, how have they changed over the years? I am not that familiar with their earlier stuff, really. Also, Paul, going off your comment, this is probably the most upbeat/least sad song on this playlist…

Paul: True – I mean it’s not sad on the surface, but the fact that we have to have this sort of discussion in the scene is very sad.

René: I think they’ve always had that Indie sound. The biggest change is in the production, I guess. My favorite song of theirs is “Kill ’em with Kindness” that is basically a straight up pop song. They re-recorded that one on a later release though, but I prefer the original recording. I feel like they are both rougher AND more polished on this album.

Dave: Yeah, I get that feeling too, Rene, like, it’s polished but at the same time it feels very DIY. Although other songs on the record highlight this point much better than Magazine. I’d definitely recommend a listen to the album to you two as well.

Colin: I’m just listening to bits now and I’m liking it

Paul: Same

Colin: I’m hearing more of the indie sound

Dave: Yeah, I guess that Magazine is the most ‘pop-punk-y’ one. Colin, they are touring the UK loads these days it seems, so if you get a chance to see them live, give it a go, they were great when I saw them.

René: Another cool thing about the band is how each instrument stands out in their own way instead of just being buried together in one mix

Colin: I will keep my eyes peeled and let some promoter friends know about them.

Song #2: Worriers- “Future Me” (https://worriers.bandcamp.com/album/survival-pop)

Dave: Ok! So…on to Worriers- “Future Me”. A band that’s really grown on me (I don’t know why it took so long really…). I think their latest record is definitely their strongest to date. “Future Me” is particularly great. It’s got fantastic hooks, an emotional centre and a memorable chorus: “I should have left; I should have settled for lonely”. Sounds like a cross between Gateway District and lead singer Lauren Denitzio’s former band The Measure (SA).

Paul: My god, I love Worriers. Their last LP was on my 2015 list of best of the year. The song, again, is more indie and not really punk. It’s a bouncy melody with hints of sadness in it. Lauren’s vocals are perfect and they are an incredible song writer.

Colin: This is the first Worriers song I’ve properly listened to and really enjoyed it. Have dipped in and out of Survival Pop. Robyn from CPRW has reviewed the album and has said that this is one of the stand out tracks.

René: Just a general comment: I think something I’ve noticed in all these songs are how they all have some tiny details that makes the songs more interesting. I still haven’t listened to the entire Survival Pop album, but I thought Imaginary Life was one of the best albums in 2015.  I think it’s a great song! And I feel it sounds like a good continuation of IL. For some reason both the feeling I get from the lyrics and the melody reminds me a bit of “Gifts” by Proagandhi/Weakerthans.  Even if I don’t think they are that similar.

Dave: Ooh! I hear that a bit as well. Just a little bit in the melody but more in kind of the feeling of the songs?

Paul: I think the lyrics of this song are pretty devastating the way I read them. Imagine being in a relationship with someone that’s gone so sideways that you’re imagining your future self thinking back about it having forgotten about it and not wanting to think about it. And you’re still in that relationship.

Dave: Absolutely, it’s imagining ‘regret’ before it’s even over…

Paul: One has to wonder – do they feel stuck in the relationship and can’t see a way out yet?

Dave: I didn’t get too much into the lyrics etc of Imaginary Life, but I get the impression that was what was being referred to on that record too?

Paul: The song that most sticks in my mind from Imaginary Life is They/Them/Their, which was a pretty strong commentary on gender identity.

Colin: I got the impression that it’s about the past affecting current life experiences

Paul: I don’t get that – with lyrics referencing “When I leave” and “Here I am future me” – it seems to be imagining what the future will be like

Dave: Yeah, there do appear to be direct references to the future.

Paul: It’s like ,”I want out of this relationship. This other person seems uncaring, but I can’t see the way out yet. But when I am out, here’s what the future might be like”

Colin: Yeah I see that too Paul.

René: I feel like in some ways, I have interpreted the song differently. Maybe I’m overthinking it or “underthinking”  it, or missing something. I kind of thought the “you” in the song was her past self. And that the relationship isn’t really with another person, but with herself and the choices she’s made in the past. I had to listen to it again a couple of times, but that still makes sense to me.

Paul: (just an aside – Lauren uses they/them/their pronouns)

Dave: On another note, have you heard the entire LP yet, Paul?

Paul: No, but I want to because I love the band so much

Dave: It grabbed me straight away after 2 or 3 listens to a much greater extent than the other two records did.

Paul: That’s saying a lot, since Imaginary Life was on my top albums list of 2015.

Colin: From what I’ve heard it’s all good stuff. Nothing I’ve heard from it yet has made me want to skip.

Paul: Now you’ve made me want to go to the Side One Dummy online store and buy it – doing that right now

Dave: Yeah, I enjoyed Imaginary Life but, minus a couple of songs, never got fully hooked in and I dunno why really. Are any of you guys fans of The Measure (SA), Lauren’s former band. I was quite a big fan of them at one point.

Paul: There was a period in my life where I sort of stopped listening to anything I didn’t get for review, so I missed a lot their stuff, but what I’ve heard I liked.

Colin: I know of them and checked them out but it never really stayed in my mind. Paul, that kind of sounds like my life right now.

Dave: Ha, yeah, I know that feeling too…In fact, it was a Measure (SA) singles collection I was reviewing for Punk or Nothing years ago that got me into them. To be fair, they released loads of stuff that I never even got around to listening to. I guess I like The Ergs/Measure split the best.

Colin: How long were they around for? And How long have Worriers been a thing?

Paul: First worriers release was in 2011, so they’ve been around for a while now. The Measure (SA) was around for about 5 years or so I think, right before Worriers formed, from like 2006-2011, then Worriers is 2011-present.

Colin: No break between bands then.

René: I never really got into the Measure (SA), which is why it surprised me I enjoyed Worriers so much.

Paul: I saw Lauren do a solo gig at Awesomefest 4 in 2010, and I think it was around the time The Measure (SA) was ending and right before Worriers was formed

Dave: Yeah, I feel the song structures and songwriting style is pretty different between the two, despite the obvious similarities. But yeah I like both basically! Lauren’s a great songwriter.

Song #3: Onsind- “Immature” (https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/we-wilt-we-bloom)

Colin: I’m so excited for the new ONSIND record

Paul: There’s the obvious comparison to Martha, of course, but I found the melody to be simpler than Martha’s stuff and the arrangement a little sparser. But of course bouncy and happy sounding. As the old guy here I feel uniquely qualified to comment on the lyrical content. GET OVER IT! Every generation feels misunderstood by their elders, and when they become elders they can’t understand what the next generation is going through. The generation gap is constant and never ending.

Colin: I thought it was interesting that Daniel and Nathan have gone full band here when they have Martha.

Dave: Same, Colin. One of my favourite bands. Great political folk-punk from Durham. I played their last record ‘Anaesthesiology’ to death. A band with consistently great songwriting, highlighting some of the social and political injustices occurring today in the UK. “Immature” shows a bit of an evolution in the band’s sound, moving away from purely acoustic stuff. As ever, the lyrics are great.

Colin: I’m intrigued to see if the entire record is full band or there will still be acoustic songs.

Dave: Yeah, it is interesting about them going full band for this song. Are they doing that live now as well or only on record? I haven’t seem live in ages.

Colin: Last time I saw them was at Manchester Punk Fest and they were still acoustic.

Dave: Aha.

Paul: Even though the song is full band, like I said, it still feels simpler and thinner than Martha’s stuff.

Dave: In regards to Martha, I basically love both, but yeah, Onsind is very different melody-wise. Onsind has always been rawer and more about the lyrics, I guess?

Colin: I feel like the rawness is missing on Immature.

Dave: Yes, with the move to full band, they may be moving away from that classic raw sound somewhat. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

René: This was pretty much a grower for me. I was a bit annoyed by it at first, but now it’s kind of stuck in my head, in a good way.  I do like the lyrics a lot. I think it’s a good description of the generation gap between this generation and the last. I think my favourite part of the song is the slow part with only vocals and guitar.

Paul: I hadn’t heard their earlier acoustic stuff, so I was unaware of the change in sound

Colin: I read an interview where they spoke about choosing songs for ONSIND and Martha and basically ONSIND get the more political and socially aware songs. I’ll try and find the interview to check I haven’t just imagined that.

Paul: Now I need to go back to the Razorcake interview with Martha and see if they comment about that. Listening to some acoustic Onsind now, and I like it better too

Dave: I dunno, I like “Immature” quite a lot (especially that part too, Rene), but wouldn’t want the whole album to be in that style. That album cover is great too, it has to be said.

Colin: Here’s the paragraph from the interview I read:

“Despite clocking in at just 29 minutes, new record We Wilt, We Bloom still manages to cover some new ground – perhaps the most significant being that Onsind is no longer a strictly acoustic band. The album is bookended by pairs of songs that, musically, would sound perfectly at home belonging to…well, a certain other Durham-based queer-punk band… “Yeah, and I would agree,” says Ellis, “’Magnolia’ sounds like an early Martha demo to me. And with ‘Sectioned’, initially that song we wrote for Martha but realised it was too heavy and sort of passed it on to Onsind. And that’s a good thing because it kind of solidified what Onsind was for us.” Stephens-Griffin steps in to summarise the distinction: “Onsind does the sad political songs, and Martha does the hopeful happy love songs. At the end of the day, our bands are similar sounding, who cares? That’s inevitable. They’re both fundamentally pop. And there’s only like… 8 notes.”

Here’s the whole interview https://trackseven.net/2017/10/06/onsind-we-are-never-breaking-up/

Paul: That sounds about right

Dave: Makes sense. It must be weird writing songs for two bands, thinking which song suits which band.

Colin: Particularly if they are writing full band for both

Dave: Yeah, indeed.

Song #4: Katie Ellen- “Sad Girls Club” (https://katiebandellen.bandcamp.com/)

Dave: So, if you didn’t know, this is Anika Pyle of Chumped. This is her first album under the pseudonym of Katie Ellen (apparently her grandmother’s name), recorded as band (including former members of Chumped I believe). I thought Chumped was a great band, but honestly I think this record blows anything they did out of the water. Maybe my album of the year. “Sad Girls Club” is a kind-of upbeat indie-pop song and doesn’t fit in that well with the rest of the record really, but it’s one of my top 3 from Cowgirl Blues. Very memorable. The lyrics really stick in your mind. Love that the vocals are simultaneously defiant and vulnerable.

Paul: Oh man, such a poppy jangly song with such sad, sad lyrics. I’m not sure if the song is angry and bitter or from a standpoint of resignation, but either way it’s so sad.

Dave: I dunno, Paul, I see the song as a few things at the same time. Bitter, angry, defiant, but ultimately sad, yeah.

Paul: I couldn’t tell if the lyrics were sarcastic and angry, or if she felt, yeah, I know I’m doomed to be alone because I have emotional issues and wouldn’t make a good wife.

Colin: I completely missed the boat with Chumped and this was my first experience of Katie Ellen (I’ve seen a lot of people digging it though). It was very sad. Really good vocals though.

Dave: For me, Chumped was great, but only tipped the iceberg really of what Anika was capable of.

Colin: Was Anika the lead in Chumped? The build towards the end of the song is fantastic. Really enjoyed that.

Dave: Yeah, she was. I love how the melody soars at the end, “you have known for quite a while…” part…

Paul: I can’t quite put my finger on which band, but the sound reminds me a lot of 90s indie pop.

René: I think this is one of the best songs out of the seven.  I think the “sad girls don’t make good wives” line stood out the most of any lyric we’ve talked about. I do think the lyrics are even more defiant than they are sad.

Dave: I will say that the whole album’s sad lyrically (well it is called ‘Cowgirl Blues’), but most of the record sounds properly sad, while the melodies here are pretty upbeat despite the underlying sadness. That line stands out a lot, Rene, yeah.

Paul: for sure

Dave: I love the emotions behind Anika’s vocals, too. There’s a really good interview where Anika says that the album (and that song specifically) is more about independence, rather than a sad, break-up record.

Paul: That’s interesting. I didn’t get that at all.

Dave: Me neither at first. I’d fully recommend a listen to the whole album. It all kind of comes together.

Colin: That would suggest that the tone of the lyrics is more sarcastic rather than bitter

René: I think the word “sad” is important in the song. Whether we’re talking about depression, or general sadness or assumed sadness (from the ex in the song and their family). I think if the song is about depression and how that ruined this relationship, that is sad, but I think the bottom line is that if the woman in the song has to be a happy image of someone that’s impossible to live up to, I get the feeling that the woman feels better off not being the “in law”‘s idea of a good wife.

Dave: Yeah, I mean this song is partly a comment (maybe above all) on the ‘ideals’ of what a wife should be like and a rejection of that. To draw a link with the Slotface song…

Song #5: Colour Me Wednesday- “Don’t Tell Anyone” (https://colourmewednesday.bandcamp.com/album/anyone-and-everyone)

Paul: In my notes I wrote, “Female fronted version of The Smiths”. I mean, happy bouncy melody with devastatingly depressing lyrics about giving up and committing suicide. Three of the four songs on the EP are the same, sounding happy, but awfully depressing

Colin: Definitely prefer them live than on record.

Dave: I’ve always found this band to be hit and miss, but on this song, they really knocked it out of the park for me. I haven’t stopped listening to it for the last few months. Love the melodies. The Smiths comparison is interesting, I never heard that myself!

René: It’s hard to describe the song. My first impression was that it sounded it pretty good. It’s a nice indie pop song. I don’t think it’s groundbreaking or anything, but I enjoy. It sounds like a soundtrack, I guess. If the Sløtface song could be in a 2000s teen movie, I could see this song appear in a more serious, grown up drama series.

Paul: I wonder if this idea of happy melodies with downer lyrics comes from a feeling that one has to hide true feelings, especially sad ones, and put forward an appearance that everything is OK?

Dave: Yeah, I think so. That dichotomy between upbeat melodies and somewhat sad lyrics has always worked well in pop-punk.

Colin: I’ve never thought of it like that but it’s a good point

René: I think this song seems genuinely sad though. I think it works well with pop punk because there’s a level or irony with the sadness, same with the Smiths. I think this song feels more sincerely sad.

Dave: But I don’t find this song to be that downbeat myself. It of course has that element (this band has sung about depression a lot), but there is hope in this one.

Paul: Um, it’s incredibly downbeat – look at these lyrics:

 

“My spine is twisted beyond repair,

I just lie in bed, face the ceiling and stare

And there is no hope for me.

I procrastinate, deliberate,

I lust and yearn with a full face of sunburn

And I will never learn.”

 

Dave: Yeah, I was referring to the “I have never been better” line, to suggest some hope towards the end of the song.

Paul: I see that line as the opposite – I’ve never been better than I am now, and it’s bad, so what hope is there for the future?

Dave: Oh wow, I didn’t read it that way at all. What do people think about the “don’t tell anyone” line, what is that referring to?

Paul: I think what we were talking about before – the need to have an appearance that everything is OK – don’t tell anyone I committed suicide because they’ll think less of me (or tried to commit suicide).

Colin: I’d say its about hiding your truth self and putting a front on

Paul: I agree, Colin.

Dave: See, I saw it that line a little differently. I read it as trying to moving on and start a new life, but not wanting others to know.

René: I thought of it as completely opposite again.. I think it’s about someone that feels like they have failed, but they tried for something better (rather than killing themselves) and they would rather pretend they didn’t even try, because then the failure wouldn’t be so bad. The “another life” line seems ambiguous.

Paul: Probably purposely

Dave: It is. Considering we’ve all come to different conclusions…Often, they are the best kinds of lyrics, right?

Paul: The best and the most frustrating! haha

Colin: Always interesting when people take different meanings from songs

Paul: and that brings up a great question: Do songs mean what the songwriter intended or what the listener takes from it?

Dave: Great question, indeed. I would say the latter. I mean it’s always interesting to hear what the songwriters originally intended, but the meaning is really for the listener.

Colin: I’d say the latter

René: I think the purpose of the song is what it is intended by the songwriter, while the meaning of the song is up to the listener. If we’re talking political songs though, I think it would be problematic to attribute another political stance to a songwriter than they really have. Like having far right politicians preach your song because they interpret it as a white power song sounds like a nightmare.

Paul: It happens – not to that extreme, but in the US there have been political candidates on the right who use certain popular songs in their campaigns and the artists demand they stop using them because they are the opposite, politically.

Rolling Stone has an article about that phenomenon – http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/stop-using-my-song-34-artists-who-fought-politicians-over-their-music-20150708/bruce-springsteen-vs-ronald-reagan-bob-dole-and-pat-buchanan-20150629

Dave: Yeah, I guess political songs tend to have more specific meanings that are problematic to mis-interpret.

Song #6: The Dopamines- “Heartbeaten by the Police” (https://radgirlfriendrecords.bandcamp.com/album/tales-of-interest)

Paul: The Dopamines song is the most punk of the lot – and it’s a cover!

Dave: Another one of the highlights of 2017 for me was the release of the latest Dopamines album. One of my all-time favourite pop-punk bands. I love how they evolve or change it up on each album and ‘Tales of Interest’ took things down a darker, grittier route. “Heartbeaten by the Police” is probably my favourite song off it and it’s a cover. It’s a cover of the High Hats, a Swedish pop-punk band that I hadn’t heard of before, but safe to say, the original sounds great too. The song is, I’ll say, intensely melodic. Hook-filled, but relentless.

Paul: 1950s tragedy of lost love, very true to the original, but with the Ramones pop punk sort of flavour to it.

Colin: This is a prime example of only listening to things I’ve reviewed. Somebody else reviewed it so I haven’t had any proper time with it. I hadn’t realised this was a cover

Paul: My buddy Josh is in the Dopamines! #Namedrop

Dave: That is Josh, of Rad Girlfriend recs right?

Paul: Yeah.

Dave: Melodically, this is quite different to what The Dopamines normally do, but certainly fits in with the rest of the album.

Colin: The “ooooo” at the beginning reminds me of surf pop punk, before getting into a more mature/dark Dopamines sound

René: I guess I was a bit bummed out that it was a cover when I heard that since it was my second favorite Dopamines song.  I love the little guitar finesses and the back up vocals. The melody is really great though. I actually like it a lot more than the original. But maybe that’s cause I heard it first. The original sounded a bit like the Manikins, but not as good as the Manikins

Colin: When I think about The Dopamines I instantly think of Public Domain and was expecting more of that kind of sound.

René: The “ooos” seemed more appropriate in the original I thought, but I actually thought it was cooler in the Dopamines, since they did seem a bit out of place.

Paul: I think the atypical sound is due to it being a cover. Like I said, it has that 50s sound that all those tragic songs had back then. And there were a lot fewer ooo oooohs than there could have been! I started adding some in as I sang along when listening to it. haha!

Dave: First favourite Dopamines song, rene?

René: My favourite is Public Domain. That’s probably a crime.

Dave: They have moved on quite significantly from Public Domain now. Super dark-sounding on the new one. It works! Having said that, I enjoy Public Domain a lot, too.

Colin: Do you think the oooohs were an ode to the original?

Paul: I think yeah, they wanted to stay true to the original

Colin: That’s cool

René: All the back up vocals also seem identical to the original.

Paul: The original also had horns that the cover doesn’t.

Colin: I’m listening to the original now and they’ve barely changed a thing.

Paul: Yup, just traded the horns for Ramones style guitars

Colin: Normally I’m not keen on covers sounding so similar because I kind of think “what’s the point?” But learning that the bands are such huge fans it’s nice that they’ve stuck to the original.

Dave: Basically. The band are super big fans of the High Hats, it seems. Fyi, this is what Jon Lewis said in a recent interview I did:

“Well we toured Europe in 2015, and the band Priceduifkes toured with us. It was an amazing tour for many reasons, one of which came in the form of a mix CD. The dudes in Priceduifkes made a couple tour CDs, with a mishmash of different bands, genres, etc. One particular song was “Heartbeaten by the police” By The High Hats. They’re a pop punk band from Sweden and I’m genuinely shocked that they’re relatively unknown in the states. Both records (that I know about) are total rippers.  Anyway we immediately fell in love with the song, and then decided to do a cover of it. I’m not sure we were always committed to putting it on our full-length but as our material began to develop, that song really started to reflect the vibe of the record. So we were like “fuck it, lets cover it for Tales of Interest”. I actually asked permission from them to cover it. Jonk, the guy who put out both High Hats LPs (Alleycat Records) gave me the go ahead, but as I understand it some of the guys in The High Hats don’t really communicate regularly via the internet, so I don’t know if the band is ACTUALLY fine with our cover.”

René: I don’t like when covers sound too similar at all, but I think these sounded quite different. I think they turned into a Dopamines song pretty much.

Song #7: Iron Chic- “Invisible Ink” (https://ironchic.bandcamp.com/album/you-cant-stay-here)

Paul: I love it. I love Iron Chic (seeing them this Wednesday here in San Diego). It’s got that same big open sound as progenitors Latterman and cousins RVIVR. Great sing-along stuff, too

Dave: Personally, I got kind of bored of Iron Chic following the first record, which had some real hits on it. I thought the second album was kind of formulaic, but the new one is much more interesting. I like that things have got more melodic and open!

Colin: I also love Iron Chic but on first listen to the song and the album in general I was left a little disappointed by it. I love Not Like This (one of my top five albums ever). I’m sure it will grow on my, as like Dave said it’s got a bit of a different sound than on the previous two albums.

René: I think it might be a bit sacrilege, but I never really got into this band. I think what puts me off is the vocals. I think they just might be too masculine for me. In this song though, that’s still the case, but outside of that the music is pretty alright, but it still doesn’t do much for me aside from the chorus. The chorus, on the other hand, is pretty great! And probably one of the strongest choruses I’ve heard in a while. Definitely the best song I’ve heard from Iron Chic and I get why people are so into them.

Dave: I think they really nail that big open, anthemic sound on “Invisible Ink”. Get what you mean about the vocals, Rene. I didn’t get them much at first either….

Colin: I love Lubrano’s vocals. It makes me feel like he’s just like everyone else but he sings in this awesome band. Kind of like anyone can do this.

Paul: What about the lyrics – they’re kind of cryptic to me, but what I think I get is that it’s about not finding real meaning in life, but short of giving up and committing suicide, just spend life in a drug induced haze? Maybe I’m missing something about it.

Dave: I didn’t examine the lyrics too much, but got a sense that it was about having a stark realisation about your life and not knowing what to do with it? And yeah possibly just getting drunk/high to forget about it

Paul: yeah, that’s kind of what I got from it

Colin: I agree with that Dave

Dave: Love the line:

“There’s a poetry

In the lies that spill from our mouths

But the truth that we hold inside

Is gonna start slipping out”

Paul: That line reminds me of a line from a song by tUnE yArDs – “There’s one thing about living a lie, and that’s wondering just when they’ll find out.”

René: I don’t feel like this song is necessarily suicidal either. I think where “Don’t Tell anyone” seemed to me like a song about trying and failing, this is a song about barely getting by and maybe death seeming preferable to life, but you never really take that step that is killing yourself, but you dream about it.

Dave: Yeah, I’d agree with that. There’s a line about death being a ‘whisper’ or something…and the lyrics more or less fit in with what Iron Chic have been singing about since the beginning…

Colin: “Deaths Sweet Bliss, Is Just A Whisper”

Dave: Aha yeah, it fits in with the idea of death being there, perhaps in a dream or in your subconscious, but I agree that it’s not suicidal.

Paul: Yeah, the “we’re not giving up part” says that.

Dave: I would like to see Iron Chic live, looks like it would be a bunch of fun.

Paul: I’ve seen them live a couple of times – the last time was about 3 or 4 years ago. Like I said though, seeing them in a few days.

Colin: It’s incredible. I got to see them in a small pub in South London this summer and they were so good.

Dave: I’ll keep an eye out for when they tour the UK again…

Colin: They’re one of those bands that don’t really do a lot on stage but are completely captivating.

Dave: Yeah, I know what you mean. I can imagine the crowd singalongs being good.

Paul: They are!

Dave: I read that they toured with Propagandhi, is that right?

Paul: Don’t know – but RVIVR is touring with Propagandhi right now. It’s crazy – Tuesday is an off night for that tour, so RVIVR is headlining a show in San Diego – the night before Iron Chic is here.

Dave: Ah nice. Kind of unexpected.

Song #8: The Lillingtons- “The Villagers” 

Colin: The intro sounds like “Take On Me”.

Paul: I couldn’t get into this one. It sounded a lot like 80s Billy Idol and Pat Benatar pushed through a punk filter

René: I gotta admit that I was skeptical about the new Lillingtons album. I didn’t really know what to expect. I think Death by Television is a great album, but I feared that this album would be indistinguishable from TBR or be a boring continuation of the Too Late Show or just try to phone in a new Death by Television. And boy was I shocked. I didn’t expect this, and I think surprise is pleasant. To me it was definitely the right direction for them. I love how 80s the album sounds and that is probably very apparent in “Villagers”. Someone described this as “Take on Me” meets “White Wedding” before I heard it, and now I can’t unhear it. They really did something great here, they managed to completely change their style and still remain the Lillingtons. The lyrics are still the same kind of conspiracy and aliens stuff. I’m not sure what the actual lyrics are a reference to though.

Paul: I couldn’t find the lyrics online and couldn’t perceive the lyrics while listening, and frankly I didn’t care to after listening.

Dave: Yeah, I like that they have kept the Lillingtons spirit, while progressing their sound. I was also pretty surprised about the path they went down!

Colin: Whenever I hear Kdy’s vocals I just assume it’s TBR now. So used to hearing him sing with them. Yeah, I think we were all expecting a faster paced album

Dave: There is definitely an ’80s element to the sound. It’s interesting, at times hit and miss on the record, but I enjoy this one quite a bit! It’s kind of corny at times, the sound I guess, but I think it mostly works.

Colin: Do we think the ’80s element’ is what they were going for?

René: I definitely think the 80s thing is very deliberate

Dave: It reminds me in parts of The Creeps/Crusades with cleaner production.

Paul: Not even close! I love The Creeps, and Crusades to me just sounds like commercial heavy rock music.

Colin: And were they purposely changing the sound to sound less like TBR rather that progessing The Lillingtons sound?

René: I think it’s a motive for sure, but I think they went for both. The EP they released a while ago sounded pretty straightforard Lillingtons-esque and I think the reception was mixed.

Dave: Interesting question….it would make sense. It’s also interesting that the EP was more traditional Lillingtons sound.

René: I think they released the EP for people to expect the same thing to make the shock even bigger when the album came out.

Colin: That seems risky. I wonder how the new material fits in with the old classics when they play live

Dave: And when you listen to stuff like “Project 313”, it basically could be TBR if you didn’t know otherwise. It’s fine, but yeah, nothing super interesting. What are people’s thoughts on Too Late Show?

Colin: I guess if they hadn’t changed the sound a bit then what’s the point of The Lillingtons when we have TBR. I really liked Too Late Show. Was my first experience of Lillingtons.

Paul: I really am not a lillingtons fan – I like TBR a lot better. Lillingtons to me sounds way too formulaic and the songs sort of drag a bit to me. especially this song, they sound like they should be played faster and louder.

Dave: I guess I heard it “too late”, but I never got into it. I was too obsessed listening to Death by television to listen to the others much, but I really, really like a couple of songs on TLS.

René: I’m not into it (Too Late Show), It sounds a lot like TBR, just not as good as those early TBR albums.

Dave: Well, I guess we might as well just start discussing the TBR song now then!

Song #9: Teenage Bottlerocket- “Gay Parade” (https://teenagebottlerocket.bandcamp.com/album/stealing-the-covers)

Paul: I really like TBR, but I couldn’t get into the covers album. And this particular song just seemed kind of silly

Colin: I still haven’t listened to the entire cover album. I really like the idea of it though.

Dave: I love the idea of the covers album too. But the execution is somewhat lacking.

Paul: I think they chose songs that were kind of silly in general, from obscure bands no one ever heard of.

Dave: Yeah, I think so. I was pretty excited coz I thought they could have pulled it off.

Colin: I believe they were all bands that they’re friends with or have met on tour.

Paul: A covers albums can be really good if you carefully choose the songs and then make them your own, but here I think the idea was just collect a bunch of dumb songs that were juvenile humour to be funny

Colin: I wondered if they did this as a fun way to ease back into the studio after Branden’s death.

Dave: Yeah, that’s a thought… More cynically, while I love the idea of the album cover, I did have the suspicion that TBR may be running out of ideas a bit. I have felt that in the last couple of records, too. The original of “Gay Parade” was by a band called The Gullibles, anyone heard it?

René: I think the original is a lot better. The entire album (demo)? is great. It sounds very amateurish and lo-fi and this song might not be the best song ever, but it had a certain charm in the original recording. The TBR cover pretty much took that away and to me it just feels like a mediocre song now. I don’t know if the lyrics are supposed to be nonsensical or what they original thought with them. I also feel like the more I hear this cover, the less I like it. The most interesting part is the glockenspiel or whatever it is in the second verse. InThe Gullibles Demo/album that is,

Paul: I think all of the songs were chosen for nonsensical lyrics and titles. check out some of the other songs on the TBR record. RoboCop is a Halfbreed Sellout” or “Shit Fuck God Damn” or “I Kill Butterflies”

Dave: The Gullibles original is super lo-fi and quite a bit slower. But yeah, definitely more charm in that one, I agree!

Paul: Yeah it is, and not really any better in my opinion.

Colin: I’m curious what people think TBR’s best album is?

René: Total.

Dave: Total for me, definitely

René: Totally

Colin: Total for me as well

Paul: Haha! I’ll go along with that

Dave: Haha. We have a consensus.

René: But Warning Device is close though.

Colin: I think the others have some great songs but Total is killer all the way through

Dave: Agreed. Warning Device is great, too. I like some of what they did on They Came from the Shadows, but not all of it. Then, I never got into the later two records, minus a couple of songs.

Colin: Am I right in thinking that Kody didn’t join until Total?

Dave: I think that’s right, yep. I read somewhere that he was just originally filling in for the guitarist too?

René: They Came from the Shadows didn’t age well with me, but “Without You” is probably my favourite TBR song. The melody just makes me smile every time I hear it.

Dave: Same for me actually, Rene. I loved They Came from the Shadows when it came out, but I skip a bunch of tracks if I listen to it these days. For me, the highlight of that record is “Todayo”

Colin: So we’re not keen on the covers album but the old stuff is the best?

Paul: Yes

Dave: Basically, yep!

René: Yep

Song #10: Bad Cop, Bad Cop- “Womanarchist” (https://badcopbadcop.bandcamp.com/)

Paul: Bad Cop/Bad Cop are my mates! They played my birthday show in 2016. A photo I took of them is the back cover of their “Not Sorry” LP. I interviewed them for Razorcake. I am heavily biased in favour of Bad Cop/Bad Cop

Dave: Holy shit, that’s cool!

Colin: Wow. I want a birthday show haha

Paul: haha! I do one every year, have for the past 5 years

Dave: Different bands playing each year?

Paul: yeah, I’ve only had one band play twice. Western Settings

Colin: I gotta start doing that, haha. Also, Western Settings are a fantastic band. I really dig the Bad Cop Bad Cop song.

Dave: I don’t have too much to say about the song itself, except to say it’s super catchy, has a great chorus and lyrics and is probably my favourite by them! I need to get around to properly listening to the album.

Paul: The song is about being a strong individual, not letting anyone, left or right, try and define you are tell you how you are supposed to act. It’s about being true to yourself and standing up to others who want to put you in a box. A lot of the interview I did with them was about this subject. The song works well with the lyrics – it sounds defiant and hopeful. Bad Cop/Bad Cop songs always sound great!

Colin: It kind of ticks all the boxes for what I like about a pop punk song. It’s uptempo, catchy and has some meaning.

René: I’ve mistakenly read the title as “WomanChrist” until today. I first heard them on Ryan Young’s show Anxious and Angry and I really dug the song. I think it was Cucumber, and then I heard Nightmare and was sold. I think the new album is even better than Not Sorry, but I haven’t found time to listen to it much. This is a great tune, I feel like it’s a step up from most of the songs on Not Sorry.

Paul: A month or so ago I also saw Stacey and Jennie doing an acoustic set and they played an acoustic version of this song. it was pretty good, too – I captured a video of it that’s on my Facebook.

Dave: Is the interview you did with them online anywhere?

Paul: The interview is not online, sadly – print version of Razorcake #96.

Colin: There’s a punk snottiness to the vocals which is really cool. Is that the Fat Mike influence on the production or has it always been there?

Paul: They’ve always had that, even before they signed to Fat.

René: I think the last line “(…) who wants to make the whole world coexist” is my favourite line. I definitely hear a more NOFX-influenced sound on this song than on the older stuff.

Dave: I like the “ooh-ooh” part towards the end of the song; does that remind anyone else of NOFX, too?

Paul: I like the obscure historical reference to Nancy Morgan Hart. Makes people go google some history about strong, revolutionary women.

Colin: I saw The Bombpops for the first time recently and really enjoyed them live and then listened to the album and was disappointed by how clean the vocals were. I think that Bad Copx2 being not so clean makes me enjoy them more

Paul: I love the mix BCBC has of sweet melodies and harmonies and snotty lyrics and attitude

Dave: yeah, agreed. I haven’t heard too much of The Bombpops, but what I heard was more clean sounding for sure.

Paul: I think that’s more the production than the band.

Colin: Emma and Robyn from CPRW have both told me that they felt empowered by BCBC’s album when they listened to it. That’s always a good thing.

Paul: What’s so cool is all the little girls that see them and look up to them as role models – they get to see that yes, women can do this too. Anything they want, in fact.

Dave: Indeed

Colin: That’s fantastic.

Paul: In the interview, they mentioned women who’ve also come up to them after shows to thank them about certain songs – like the song Sugarcane about domestic abuse and fighting back

Dave: I do want to delve into the lyrics a lot more…

Paul: Their lyrics are always pretty spot on and meaningful

Dave: I love the positivity on this one.

René: I’ve always sensed a duality (is that the right word?) in  BCBC lyrics between fighting both one’s own demons and the patriarchy/oppression.

Paul: If you check the lyrics for most of their songs, they’re about personal empowerment and not taking shit, and yes, fighting ones demons – those songs are pretty much the ones Stacey writes. Stacey and Jennie both write songs about empowerment and feminism. Linh just started writing for the band recently too, and has some stuff on the new album that she wrote.

Song #11: Great Cynics- “Only in Memories” (https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/posi)

Colin: The beginning always makes me think of “Gates” by The Menzingers.

Paul: Love Great Cynics! Saw them live when I was in London over the summer. They were direct support for Pears, actually, at New Cross Inn.

Colin: New Cross Inn is the best venue in London.

Dave: Do you know what? I hadn’t heard The Gates thing at all until you mentioned it, that’s cool.

Paul: I really like the lush sound of the song, but the lyrics are pretty depressing. “You never made me feel happy inside, you never made me realize that dreams are just lies.” The song is a real slam on someone.

Dave: This song hits the sweet spot between indie rock and pop-punk for me. Great chorus, too. Despite the album being entitled POSI, the lyrics here are pretty depressing. Remember when 21 was old?

Paul: For sure.

René: Another depressing song I must say! I think this is a great one. I like the mix of indie rock and pop punk too. I just read that the band describe themselves as “pop”.

Dave: The whole record is great, to be honest. I dunno why but I never got into Great Cynics until the last couple of records. I probably should revisit.

Paul: Seeing them in London this past summer was my first time hearing them. I need to pick up some records

René: That line makes me wonder how old the band members are.

Colin: I believe Giles is in his twenties.

Dave: Yeah, they have been a band for a fair few years, haven’t they?

Colin: Oh yeah, they’ve been around for ages.

Dave: Am I right in thinking Giles was solo at first?

Colin: It started as a solo project. Then he got Bob to play on the first record and he just stuck around all this time.

Paul: Yeah, just saw that in wikipedia. Solo project called Cynics.

Dave: I remember seeing him support Menzingers solo in like 2010.

Colin: POSI was an interesting album because Iona left not long before the recording to focus fully on Shit Present. I wondered how this would affect the sound.

Dave: Yeah, I wondered about that, too, especially as I really liked the ones she wrote on the last rec.

René: I’m listening to POSI now. Much good material here!

Dave: I feel like they went from strength to strength on POSI despite Iona leaving (I love Shit Present, too).

Paul: Great Cynics were a 3 piece when I saw them – the video for this song has them as a 4 piece.

Colin: For a time after POSI was released they played as a four piece with a keys player but she seems to have left more recently. The new bassist is Ollie who also plays with Bob in Myelin. He’s been a friend of the band forever and puts on loads of shows in London. He may have put on the Pears one you mentioned.

Paul: Ok, not sure. looks like the same person who is in the video.

Colin: Oh, when I say new bassist I mean Ollie is new for this record. Iona from Shit Present plays on their previous records. The keys player seems to have left, wasn’t in the band very long.

The Discussants’ Top 5 Songs from the Playlist

Dave: I’m struggling.

René: I’m torn on the fifth

Colin:

  1. ONSIND
  2. Great Cynics
  3. Worriers
  4. Bad Cop, Bad Cop
  5. Slotface

René: The CLW song was my least favourite at first, but it’s become my favourite since our last discussion. I have it stuck in my head all the time.

1 Colour Me Wednesday-Don’t Tell anyone

2 Bad Cop Bad Cop-Womanarchist

3 Lillingtons-Villagers

4 The Dopamines-Heartbeaten by the Police

5 Katie Ellen-Sad Girls Club

Dave:

  1. Katie Ellen- “Sad Girls Club”
  2. Colour Me Wednesday- “Don’t Tell Anyone”
  3. The Dopamines- “Heartbeaten by the Police”
  4. Worriers- “Future Me”
  5. Bad Cop, Bad Cop- “Womanarchist”

Sorry, Slotface!!

Paul: I think mine is as follows:

  1. Bad Cop/Bad Cop – Womanarchist
  2. Worriers – Future Me
  3. Great Cynics – Only In Memories
  4. Colour Me Wednesday- Don’t Tell Anyone
  5. Katie Ellen- Sad Girls Club

Dave: Pretty tough, that. The Great Cynics and Slotface songs defo could have been in mine. Cool that we all have a different favourite!

René: I expected Sløtface to be in mine too, but I think it would be seventh behind worriers.

Paul: I think it’s interesting how many great bands these days are fronted by women or are all women.

Dave: You have betrayed Norway, Rene.

 

 

 

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Interview: Jon Lewis, The Dopamines

Posted: October 26, 2017 in Small Talk

No introduction to the band really required here. The Dopamines are a fucking ace Midwest punk band. Listen to the new one ‘Tales of Interest’ if you haven’t already. Here’s me having a chat guitarist/vocalist Jon Lewis about the new record, Futurama and ‘Cold Duck’….

Image result for jon lewis dopamines

Dave: So, the new Dopamines album, ‘Tales of Interest’, did it turn out as you imagined? I heard recently (on the Angry and Anxious podcast) that it is the album you always wanted to make- what do you mean by that specifically?

Jon: I think what I mean by the “record I’ve always wanted to make” is that this was the first time I didn’t really hold back on ideas I had, no matter how far-fetched they seemed at the time. I mean, the record doesn’t have anything wacky on it. There’s nothing too far outside the box we’ve created based on our previous records. But we didn’t hold any ideas or criticism back. And the reception from Michael, Jon and Josh on everything I had to bring to the table was awesome. Everyone was honest about what worked and what didn’t. Everyone understood the vibe of the material. Everyone made it their own. And that’s how all our records were made for the most part, but this one was different in that nothing felt like, “this song might have been better if…”. At least not to me. Everything from the inception of each song to the finished recording felt natural. It was a blast to make. 

D: How do you think that ‘Tales of Interest’ differs from the other Dopamines releases? How has the band’s sound/songwriting evolved over the years?

J: It doesn’t stray too far from the reservation in terms of how it sits in our catalog, but it’s definitely darker. The songwriting hasn’t changed much at all. We just write what we want. If it doesn’t fit whatever standards we set for ourselves at that point in time, we tweak it to see if we can reign it in. If we can, great, use it. If not, well then lets write something else. We don’t set very high standards, we just kind of process what’s brought to the table, and see if it comes out a ripper. As far as lyrically? I had a blast. I’m much happier these days, so it was fun to kinda dig around and see what’s been bothering me that I forgot about. 

D: How does the songwriting process work in the band?

J: For this one it was very different. We usually write as a team. and by write, I mean music. Lyrics are just Jon or I taking it home and coming back with some shit. Anyway for this record I did a lot of demoing alone. I would write 3 or 4 songs, do some demos at home, and then bring them in to practice for everyone to hear and tear apart. about 1/2 of the record was written that way. Which isn’t really normal for us. From 2012-2015, we didn’t get together much to work on new shit. We used to always write together. Someone would come in with like a hook or half a song, and we’d piece it together, together. It was a foreign concept to write shit the way we did for this record, and I didn’t like it at all at first. But eventually we got into a groove of getting together consistently and all this shit I felt like I was writing alone started to feel more like a joint effort, like it used to. I mean the end result couldn’t have happened without an equal effort from everyone, so ultimately it ended up feeling like I thought it should in the end, a team effort. 

D: I heard that ‘Tales of Interest’ was recorded in like four and half (booze-fuelled) days. How does that compare to other Dopamines LPs?

J: Pretty much par for the course. I think the first LP was mostly whiskey and beer, Expect the Worst was a lot of five star pizza and Weird Al DVDs, Vices was a lot of Andre Brut Champagne and Tales of Interest was Space Bags and Cold Duck. You gotta prioritize these things.

D: What is the album cover about?

J: That photo is of a junkyard I frequent in Cincinnati, when I need parts for my car. I’ve always hated spending money on cars, so if it’s feasible I try to work on shit myself. Anyway this particular junkyard is a “pull-n-pay”. You literally check to see if a car that matches yours is “in stock”, and you go pull parts from it. All the cars are setup in aisles, like in the photo. I don’t know, I mean it looks pretty ominous in the photo, which was the intent. But in reality, that place kinda puts me at ease. Plus there’s all walks of life there, it can get pretty hilarious. I took that particular shot years ago when I was there looking for a turn signal lever. I was giving a friend a ride home and he was fucking really wasted, and we were listening to metal and he kind of got out of control and kicked my steering wheel while i was driving, and completely snapped the turn signal lever off. The photo actually wasn’t hi res enough to use for the cover, so I just went back and took the same shot with a slightly better camera. I dunno, just thought it looked kinda neat. 

D: What was the thinking behind the decision to re-record “Douglas Bubbletrousers” (and re-name it) and “Business Papers”?

J: “Douglas Bubbletrousers” (Hot Rod reference. Go watch it) was re-recorded because we love that song and wanted it to get proper exposure. It fit the vibe of the record and I always wanted the bridge to be more outer space-y. So we threw it on and renamed it “Expect the Worst”. Michael thought that was a good name for it because it made it seem more mysterious, naming it the title of a previous record. Like when NOFX did “Pump up the Valuum” and didn’t put the title track on the record. I mean, it looks better on the back of the jacket than “Douglas Bubbletrousers”. we didn’t want to write this serious as fuck record and then you’re taken out by a WTF song name.  

“Business Papers” was the first song written after Vices was done. It is by far my favorite Dopamines song. I so badly wanted to hold on to it for a full length, but when Larry Livermore calls you and asks if you want to put a song on a comp that he is curating, you fucking give Larry the best you got. I thought we would have had a new record out way sooner than 2017, so when it came time to start putting Tales of Interest together we were like fuck it. Put it in there. Honestly, Business Papers is the song that kicked the door in for every song I wrote after that. That’s why I wrote a reprise of it for the end of the record. I would have written a 30 minute version of that song and put it out as a record if someone asked for it. Love that song. Everyone fucking killed it on Business Papers. Hopefully Adeline doesn’t get miffed that we re-recorded it. The Thing that Ate Larry Livermore was an incredible comp to be a part of. Maybe that song should have lived and died there. Oh well. Also, we stole that song title from our friend Jonathan Pool (Brickfight, F.Y.I.). Sorry dude. 

D: Titling the record ‘Tales of Interest’ is the second Futurama reference I’ve found The Dopamines have made along with the clip that was played at the end of “Dick Simmons” on Expect the Worst. Are there any other Futurama references that I am missing?

J: There’s the song “Try This Kids at Home.” On the copyrights split. Bender says it during the episode “Bender Should not be Allowed on TV”. It was the pain in the ass to get that as the song title; everyone thought I meant “Try This at Home, Kids.” and I kept having to correct everybody. I think that’s it. I wanted to do something Futurama-y on every record, but I get vetoed constantly with all my stupid ideas. I actually wanted to put the sound clip from “Anthology of Interest” on the new record, to close out side A, and right before the last song on the record. But it was too goofy.   

D: What do ‘Kalte Ente’ and ‘Kaltes Ende’ refer to?

J: They both mean “Cold Duck”, which is a flavored champagne we drank a lot during recording, because it’s fucking called “Cold Duck” so why not drink it? We wanted to call a song Cold Duck on the record, but because the record is kind of dark we thought it might take away from the vibe which is weird because we usually don’t care about that shit. So I jumped on Wikipedia to learn more about Cold Duck, because why the fuck not? Turns out the original names for it come off really cryptic and dark when you make them song titles, so in they went! And another happy coincidence, the German name for Cold Duck translates to “cold end”, and the song “Kaltes Ende” on the record is about a family member who died of an overdose. So what started as a joke ended up actually fitting.  

D: What inspired the decision to cover the High Hats song “Heartbeaten by The Police”? How does it fit in with the rest of ‘Tales of Interest’?

J: Well we toured Europe in 2015, and the band Priceduifkes toured with us. It was an amazing tour for many reasons, one of which came in the form of a mix CD. The dudes in Priceduifkes made a couple tour CDs, with a mishmash of different bands, genres, etc. One particular song was “Heartbeaten by the police” By The High Hats. They’re a pop punk band from Sweden and I’m genuinely shocked that they’re relatively unknown in the states. Both records (that I know about) are total rippers.  Anyway we immediately fell in love with the song, and then decided to do a cover of it. I’m not sure we were always committed to putting it on our full-length but as our material began to develop, that song really started to reflect the vibe of the record. So we were like “fuck it, lets cover it for Tales of Interest”. I actually asked permission from them to cover it. Jonk, the guy who put out both High Hats LPs (Alleycat Records) gave me the go ahead, but as I understand it some of the guys in The High Hats don’t really communicate regularly via the internet, so I don’t know if the band is ACTUALLY fine with our cover. 

D: You covered Guided by Voices for a 7” recently too. Are there any future plans to record any more covers?

J: We just kinda record covers at random. We actually did a cover of “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News. We did it for Josh’s wedding, his wedding favor was a real limited 7″. It’s kinda awesome, except I slowly got real drunk while recording it, and by the time I finished my vocals, some of them are REAL bad, but we kept them in because it was kind of funny. It’s floating around the internet, I submitted it as our song for the Fest 16 comp and I think you can hear it on Rad Girlfriend Records’ bandcamp page.

D: So, more broadly, what is going on with the band right now? You had a hiatus of sorts for a while, but you are going back on tour in the summer, is that right?

J: Yeah we’re doing a tour starting on June 18th in Baltimore, and hitting up all the upper east and Canada, dipping back down through the Midwest. Just check our Facebook. It’s been ages since we’ve hit up a lot of these places, and honestly, I don’t think this is the beginning of serious activity for us, so come out!

D: I understand that you recently had to cancel the planned European tour. Are there any plans to come back over here at some point?

J: Oh absolutely. 2018 definitely. We’re really bummed that we had to scrap the tour, but there were some circumstances that got in our way. But rest assured we’re going to get back there! 

Check out the new record here: https://radgirlfriendrecords.bandcamp.com/album/tales-of-interest

So, this thing continues. If you haven’t read it you should probably read (https://keeptrackofthetime.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/read-hards-classic-pop-punk-picks-33-propagandhi-how-to-clean-everything-ess-talk-more-rock/) first. In this one there’s a guest comment from Dave on the public dis-service announcement made by Shell.


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Shell Sucks

“A Public Dis-service Announcement from Shell” (Less Talk, More Rock)

The lyrics in this interlude song are taken from an excerpt from the Winnipeg Free Press in 1995 (a piece called “Clear Thinking in Troubled Times”), which appears to be more or less PR propaganda for Shell corporation, to protest its innocence over oil extraction activities that had been taking place in developing countries in the early 1990s. This extract is likely to refer to the human rights violations in Nigeria in 1995 that Shell were accused of being involved with. Oil money and corporate influence was said to have enabled a number of human rights violations in Nigeria, including executions and torture. Although Shell never accepted liability for this, they did nevertheless pay $15.5 million in a legal settlement. Human rights campaigners were bringing attention to this issue around the time Less Talk, More Rock was released.

Shell don’t appear to have learnt anything in recent years as their continued involvement in Nigeria has led to further human rights abuses, particularly in regards to gas flaring and oil spills. Amnesty international has published a report into the whole thing. Of course, despite all this, Shell present a humanitarian, ‘sustainable’ image of the brand that tries to cut ties with any previous ‘demeanours’. Shell along with the rest of the fossil fuel industry has similarly been involved in a campaign of misinformation towards climate change, despite the consensus built around it. I think the point of this song is to highlight the sheer disparity between multinational corporations’ PR and the reality of their engagement in the world. Like this part in the extract: But the sound and ethical business practices synonymous with Shell, the environmental investment and the tens of millions of dollars spent on community programs would all be lost. Again, it’s the people of developing nations that you would hurt”. Which, of course, is a load of PR horseshit and says nothing of their oil spills or human rights violations. The last line highlights irony and a sheer lack of self-awareness on behalf of the writer/speaker: “The world where companies use their economic influence to prop up or bring down governments would be a frightening and bleak one indeed.”. Shell’s influence in Nigerian politics highlights the shift towards the very process described in that line happening throughout the world.

“Ska Sucks” (How to Clean Everything)

This seems to be a song that the band hates even if it’s quite a catchy one and a pretty good ska song. It uses a pretty standard ska bassline, but it does it pretty well. It bears similarities to Operation Ivy’s “Yelling in My Ear” and there’s also a reference to “A Message to You Rudy” by Dandy Livingston, made popular by the Specials. The song is just about how ska sucks and it’s a trend that will end and that the bands playing it are only in it for the money. Ska became even bigger after this though.

Connection:

I could find very few connections between these two songs and I guess there really aren’t many. One is a song and the other is spoken political propaganda over music. What they both have in common musically is that they both have a very outstanding bass line that makes up most of the music on the tracks. A very huge difference is that “Ska Sucks” is a piss-take song made with mostly humor while “Public Dis-announcement” is a bit more serious and is about a perhaps more serious issue than Ska music. The similarity is that the tracks both show contempt for something, one for Shell’s violation of human rights and dishonesty and the other for a genre of music. Another difference is that it’s easy to see why Propagandhi would show this dissatisfaction with Shell, but it’s up to imagination what about the wonderful genre of Ska that could get on their nerves. Music genres are, of course, about taste so it becomes hard to argue with someone’s taste. One thing that I took notice of earlier was how good of a ska song “Ska Sucks” really is. It’s a catchy song with a sweet bass line and it just always gets me in a jolly mood. And it’s somewhat hard to grasp how someone who hates the music could make such a cool Ska song. An important thing to note is the origins of Ska. It was a Jamaican music that became popular on Jamaica in the 1960s and became popular with white skinheads in the UK in the late 60s and early 70 and the music bridged the black rudy culture and mostly the white skinhead culture. At that point the performers were still mostly black Jamaicans and popular ska-acts like Symarip (or Pyramids), Toots and the Maytals, Prince Buster and Desmond Decker ruled the record players of both black and white youth. In the first ska-revival that happened in the late 70s with the two-tone label. At this time, we would get all white bands like Madness, but also bands with both black and white members, like the Beat, The Specials and Bad Manners. This racial harmony was often symbolized by the black and white checkered pattern of the Two-tone logo.

So when talking about Ska music, we aren’t just discussing a music genre, we’re also talking about culture and race. With Propagandhi writing songs like “White, Proud and Stupid” it would be ridiculous to accuse Propagandhi of hating Ska for being black music. There is also nothing in the lyrics that would suggest this. Could they possible be stating something else though? If I’m going to stretch this a bit (which I seem to be doing a lot in these articles!), the song is mainly about the third wave and second revival of Ska. This time it happened in America with bands like Operation Ivy and Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The song shows hatred for the trend of ska revival and wanting to monetize it rather than the actual music. With this revival we can see that the music is mostly played by white musicians and we can again see example of white musicians hijacking black culture. A term known as cultural appropriation. We can see endless stories of black music being made as a result of oppression from white people and then again being exploited by white people that would make more money on it. I’m not sure if this is what Propagandhi are attacking in the song, but it seems to be a thing that Propagandhi would have an opinion on. So here we can make more connections between the two tracks as they both to different degrees show how white people can exploit black suffering and make money on it. In one case we see white musicians appropriating black culture and in the other case we see Shell, a European company, being involved in human rights violation in Africa.

Military, War and Indoctrination of Children

“I Was a Pre-teen McCarthyist” (Less Talk, More Rock):

This song is about Chris’s upbringing in a conservative family. He said in an interview with the Charleston City Paper that he grew up in a Royal Canadian Air Force town in Winnipeg, his family weren’t far right wing, but they were living in the military. The song describes going to Harold Edward’s Elementary School, a place where you pay respect to their god, their flag and their military. The song is about indoctrination of children to be afraid of the left. He sings about writing about the dangers of communism in third grade and going to a military base for spring break. 12 years later, he has found out that he had been fed lies and decided not to be a part of this anymore. The end is pretty brilliant: “when you jump ship, you either swim for shore or drown. Don’t let the fuckers drag you down” It’s pessimistic in the sense that when you break out from a shitty political ideology (or a religious cult or whatever), you can end up completely on your own and you have to get by alone. It’s positive in the sense that it’s never too late to get out, and you can always change your mind and become better and wiser. Musically, the song is pretty standard pop punk with very high harmonies and it’s one of the most melodic songs the band has written.

“Rio De San Atlanta, Manitoba” (Less Talk, More Rock):

Quite a short track and it gave us a preview of the sound the band would evolve into. The lyrics are about cities creating ghettos so the rich can forget about poverty and continue to the trickle-down economics. He also sings that the real murderers are the rich people who by PR campaigns and politics wage war against the poor. The conclusion of the song is “this system can’t be reformed”. I’m not sure what the title means, but I feel like he is trying to compare Canada to Brazil.

“Stick the Fucking Flag Up Your Goddam Ass, You Sonofabitch” (How to Clean Everything):

This classic from HtCE starts up with an argument between Chris and his dad. His dad says the “boy scouts chanting war” is the sound of freedom and don’t want to hear his son’s disagreements. In this moment Chris opens his eyes and says “Wait a minute dad, did you actually say freedom? Well if you’re dumb enough to vote, you’re fucking dumb enough to believe ‘em”. He then he claims that if the country was free he could burn the flag and stick it up someone’s ass. This sounds kind of like an Anti-American anthem, but it’s then important to remember that Propagandhi is Canadian and that the song ends with the opening notes of Canada’s National Anthem “O’ Canada”. In the next part, he sings the regrets of his past. He used to carry someone else’s anthem and pretend it was his own, but it wasn’t. He also used to step in line until he discovered that it was false and this was not something he could stand for. Later, the narrative changes, we’re now in second person and it’s the listener who carries the anthem that isn’t theirs and how this phony national romanticism can have fatal consequences like enlisting in the army. The song takes an, if not anti-war, anti-military stand. The last line of the song is “fuck the troops to hell”. There’s also a Bette Midler reference I’m not sure about. It might be a reference to her 1991 movie For the Boys, about a jazz singer entertaining the troops. On the back cover of the album it is noted that the word “bitch” in the title is not supposed to be gender specific.

Connection:

War and militarism is the big link between these three songs. In “Pre-Teen McCarthyist” and “Stick the Flag” there’s also a theme of changing your political views and the difference between parents and kids when it comes to politics. “Pre-Teen McCarthyist” could also be seen as a part two of “Stick the Flag”, as they both have to do with Chris’s childhood, growing up with patriotism and supporting the military and being indoctrinated into anti-communism and boy scouts shouting wars into turning the other way, jumping ship and converting to the left. An interesting thing to consider is the way the word “war” and the symbol of militarism are used in these three songs. In “Pre-teen McCarthyist” the word “war” isn’t used, but militarism and the struggles of the “airforce town” are in the center of the song. In “Rio”, the real war is the war that the rich wage against the poor. The weapons here are pens, desks and policies. In “Stick the Flag”, sticking with patriotism (instead of sticking it up your ass) could lead to being sent to war. Also, the indoctrination of children to support their country and their troops is referred to as “boys scouts chanting war”. This is also a theme we can see in “Pre-teen McCarthyist”, both when it comes to military indoctrination and pledging allegiance

Leaders, A Thousand Slaves

Resisting Tyrannical Government” (Less Talk, More Rock):

The song offers two solutions to end the injustice in the world carried on by the wealthiest and most powerful. The first verse asks rhetorically: “Why don’t we all strap bombs to our chests and ride our bikes to the next G7 picnic?” and the second asks “Why don’t we plant a mechanic virus and erase the memory of the machines that maintain this capitalist dynasty?” in a similar manner.  In the first verse, Chris sings that it’s become way easier to engage in such actions, but ask who would benefit from this, Chris? The listener? The rank and file? Or would it actually benefit the government? In 1996, like now, the G7 consist of the wealthiest nations of the world’s leaders, for years they were, with Russia, known as the G8. Chris asks what bombing such a G7 event would be good for, or if this is something that would only help the government. Chris later goes on to say that he doesn’t want his actions to result in the second Final Solution, a reference to the Holocaust, I believe.

He also says he doesn’t want to be the Steve Smith of the revolution. I tried to find out which of the many Steve Smiths this could refer to and the most rational answer is the Scottish-Canadian hockey player who was responsible for hurting fellow player Pavel Bure’s knee. The reference in the song is probably to his own goal against the Flames, he played for the Oilers.  This own goal resulted in the Oilers losing the series and the Flames went on to win the Stanley Cup. This happened in 1986, ten years before the song. Chris asks if the listeners understand his analogy, and compares the people fighting against the power to the Oilers, while the World Bank is the Flames. This could also be a pun on their names, as oil will set fire to flames. The people who fight the power need to be careful with their actions, because when they have the numbers so much against them, any wrong step could turn the action back on them. This gets emphasized in the following lines: “Yeah, Jesus saves! Gretzky scores!/ The workers slave. The rich get more. / One wrong move, we risk the cup. /Play the man, not the puck.” There’s really not much of a discussion when it comes to the second question, it just asks rhetorically if planting a virus to erase the capitalist dynasty and later he continues by recognizing the irony that this system is also what’s made him privileged compared to many others in the world as a middle-class Canadian is the system he is fighting against, and he encourages every other privileged person to do the same. The title is a reference to the second amendment in the American constitution that the right to bear arms is to resist tyrannical government.

“Head? Chest? Foot?” (How to Clean Everything):

The song starts with three choices and one bullet and there’s one trigger, again there’s a rhetorical question, who will get to pull the trigger? I’m guessing the three choices the leader with the gun has are: the head, the chest or in the foot?  Chris describes a totalitarian leadership with only one leader and the rest of us are slaves, we’re all just sheep that are part of the machine. He doesn’t want to be part of this machine and wants to stand up against it. The following lines describes this bleak situation: “They subsidize your nightclubs and they subsidize your malls/ They herd and brand the masses within painted prison walls/ ‘Til your freedom of assembly becomes the missiles they create/ Or just mass delusion dancing to this music that you fucking hate”. This doesn’t describe a totalitarianism driven by force and fear, it describes a society that is driven by government subsidization and false freedom. The problem isn’t the tyrannical being in total power, but the illusion that we are free. We’re free to shop and dance to music (that Chris fucking hates!) in night clubs, but our freedoms just exist to keep up the system and weaponize them. We’re sheep that are herded in a prison. Chris repeatedly needs to state how much he doesn’t want to be part of the sheep and just lose against the power, the ones who in George Orwell’s novella Animal Farm would be the pigs. 1984 and Animal Farm are works from Orwell that criticize totalitarianism and state power and has given the name to the adjective that describes a society that is controlled by surveillance and misinformation. Chris uses this term in the song and he says he’d rather be imprisoned in such a world than to be pacified and pretend to be free and dance and sing along with the other goons. He wants to know his enemy and who he should attack instead of staying silent and ignorant. In the end of the song, we’re left with two choices instead of three. To oppose the power or be destroyed by it.

Connection:

These songs are pretty similar. Even more similar that I figured when I decided to group them together. They are both about fighting the capitalist powers that treat us like slaves. In “Head? Chest? Foot?” it is clear that we need to fight this power, while in “Resisting Tyrannical Government” this still stands, but we’re met with challenges that such a fight could bring, because the choices we have might come back to us. In “Head”, the choices are simple “to oppose them or let them destroy us”, but in “Tyrannical Government” opposing them could destroy us as well, if we don’t play our cards right.  

A Good Kick in the Ass

“The Only Good Fascist Is a Very Dead Fascist” (Less Talk, More Rock):

Sadly, this is a song that has become relevant lately. The song almost, even eleven years before, perfectly describes the attitudes of the right-wing protesters in Charlottesville recently. The song describes the KKK and Nazis with swastikas and right-wing groups and attitudes. Chris sings they can wear his nuts on their Nazi chins (and later his brown power ass in their white power face). In the second verse, he questions why these white power people are so proud of their race, when all we’ve really produced is capitalism, slavery, genocide and sitcom. In the end, the conclusion is “Kill them all and let a Norse god sort them out” a reference to the Papal Legate Arnaud Amalric who said, “Kill them all and let God sort them out” before a massacre, it was also a slogan used in the Vietnam war.

“Hate, Myth, Muscle, Etiquette” (How to Clean Everything):

This song describes the moment when you realize where you stand politically and understand how the world really works and how unfair the whole thing really is. The song refers a lot to ass-kicking. First in second person; “You need a good kick in the ass” and then in first person, singular; “I need a good kick in the ass” and then lastly, first person, plural; “we all need a kick in the ass”. We all need someone or something to push us toward realizing injustice and fight against it. The song is also in many ways an anarchist manifesto. It concludes that we don’t need rules, we just need common sense. The most important lesson to learn from this song is that the most importing thing is educating yourself. Education derived from discussions trumps the four words in the title: hate, myth, muscle or etiquette. The song ends: “Status symbols yield to respect between sex, species, environment”.

“Who Will Help Us Bake This Bread?” (How to Clean Everything)

Another song from HtCE and it’s about being threatened with violence for your political beliefs. It’s about standing up to violence and show that answering with fists isn’t gonna help and that nothing can touch his mind and his ideals. And that he’d rather die than to join their team. It’s also about standing up for what you think is right and speaking your mind about it, rather than going along with what’s going on. The “I won’t bleed for you, have no need for you” part is probably my favorite part in any Propagandhi song.

Connection:

Out of all the songs I think they were the hardest to find a link between and they were basically just leftovers that I couldn’t find another song to link it to. If I’m gonna stretch a lot I’ll have to look at the theme of physical violence versus figurative violence. I don’t know if I use these terms correctly. But when I use these terms I mean physical violence as violence that happens, while figurative violence is violence that only exists in language and is more symbolic than actual violence is. It’s interesting to think of the motivation for the Amalric quote. During the war in Vietnam, right-wing rednecks seemed to love wearing t-shirt with this quote on it. It seems to me that Amalric meant the quote quite literally, but did the rednecks really think that we should everyone in Vietnam? It’s possible, but it’s also possible that this was just a way of saying America should take no prisoners in their fight in Vietnam. The actual violence and killing in Vietnam, was of course very real. Does Chris mean killing all fascists literally? He very well could! And it could relate to “is it OK to punch Nazis debate?” Woody Guthrie, used to have “this machine kills fascists” on this guitar, this could also be taken figuratively as in the music from the guitar is meant to destroy fascist, but Guthrie was also enlisted in the army to fight against Nazi Germany, so he was also very literal about it. When Chris sings “Kill them all”, he’s making a reference to the rednecks during the Vietnam war, but he could also mean we should kill all Nazis or use any means necessary to destroy fascism.

When Chris sings “you can wear my nuts on your Nazi chins” or “my brown-power ass in your white-power face”, it’s his way of saying “kiss my ass” or “lick my nuts”. Similar insults such as “suck my dick” or “eat my shit” when sexual or non-sexual acts that are not consensual to, in your language, create power over the person you’re trying to insult. It’s possible that Chris is trying to make an anti-homophobic statement like he did in “Less Talk, More Rock” and using it in an opposite way that these are usually made, in the way that “suck my dick” is meant to be a homophobic idiom in itself, because it’s based on people’s aversion to homosexuality. I assume that it’s meant to repulse homophobic Nazis, rather than use it homophobically. Regardless, it’s still a type of language that normalizes figurate sexual violence. In “Hate, Myth, Muscle, Etiquette”, I assume that muscles referred to violence. In the song, physical and figurative violence and much of the basis behind the song. When we need a good kick in the ass to become better people this is not meant to be literally. “Muscle” is not the way to make the world a better place, education is. “A kick in the ass” means that we need to open up our eyes and educate ourselves not that we need the muscle of authority (whether from government or other authorities) to indoctrinate us with their beliefs through violence. We see the same in “Who Will Help Us Bake This Bread?”, “you boycott your brain, you answer with fists”. Education; “getting a kick in the ass” intellectually trumps getting a kick in the ass literally.

Prospects for DemocracyThe State Lottery” (Less Talk, More Rock)

This track starts up with a sample from Noam Chomsky. I believe it is the conclusion of his lecture “Prospects for Democracy” from 1994 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chomsky is a linguist, philosopher and political activist that is probably familiar to most people. His political ideas of Anarcho-Syndicalism and Libertarian Socialism seem very influential to the ideas that Propagandhi convey through song. The lecture is a critique of American democracy and how it doesn’t uphold the prospects for democracy which the founding fathers intended. Corporations have taken over political power and the government serves as the provider for these corporations to be even more powerful. Chomsky also compares the current American democracy (as of 1994) to that of the Soviet Union. According to Chomsky, manipulation and misinformation is being used to control the voters. I watched this lecture on youtube ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsCstfMvS4c) , but it cut before the end. The conclusion that starts the song serves as a rational conclusion to this lecture: “Now, the real prospects for authentic democracy depend on something else. They depend on how the people in the rich and privileged societies learn some other lessons. For example, the lessons that are being taught right now by Mayans in Chiapas, Mexico. They are among the most impoverished and oppressed sectors in the continent. But, unlike us, they retain a vibrant tradition of liberty and democracy. A tradition that we’ve allowed to slip out of our hands or has been stolen from us. And unless people here in the rich and privileged society, unless they can recapture and revitalize that tradition, the prospects for democracy are indeed dim.” The song views this democratized political situation through the reflection of the people who are actually in political power and how they seem more like lottery winners than someone who want to be responsible for real political change. They seem more content with keeping those that are holding this system up pleased than challenging the system. By the end of the song Chris asks a rhetorical question similar to the questions he’s asked before: “Is it not our obligation to confront this tyranny?”

“…And We Thought the Nation States Was a Bad Idea” (Less Talk, More Rock)

This song has been given many titles like “Nation States”, but it’s represented with the full title on the album. The same idea is apparent here. Multinational companies are in power, and this means class war. We’re owned and consumed by these companies.

“A People’s History of the World” (Less Talk, More Rock)

Again the bleak view of modern democracy appears. Those in power fear knowledge and therefore we need to educate ourselves and fight that power, is what this song preaches. Again, manipulation and misinformation is used to control the masses, to let the wealthiest at the top control the rest. It also echoes the message of “Stick the flag” that if you’re dumb enough to vote you’re dumb enough to believe ‘em. The song concludes: “Yeah, you can vote however the fuck you want, but power still calls all the shots. And believe it or not, even if (real) democracy broke loose, power could/would just “make the economy scream” until we vote responsibly”. To me it seems like the title is a reference to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Author Chris Harman also wrote a book with the same name (world not the US), inspired and endorsed by Zinn.

“Middle Finger Response” (How to Clean Everything)

An angry punk song for you to sing “fuck you” to? Or an important political statement against the establishment? The geographical references in the song are from Calgary such as the Waskasoo Creek and the Parkland mall. Chris questions the hegemony of the peaceful democracy known as Canada. These fun-loving Canadians with their “aryan” pride and flag march to the beat of conformity and wealth gained by the wood industry. Lyrically, it’s one of Propagandhi’s most immature lyrics as there is a motivation to provoke and offend rather than to educate and engage. Chris states that he has offended many people now he wants to offend the rest, he’s gonna tell a great deal of the world’s population to fuck off.

Connection:

The connection between all these songs are there due to the co-operation between government and corporation and democratizing of a country’s citizens. These ideas are shown through the ideas of intellectuals of the libertarian left like Chomsky and Zinn. Two figures that are often used as the spokesmen for the left in general. This is something we can see in other punk bands as well. NOFX’s mention the two as reading to wake up from apathy and apolicalism  in the song “Franco Un-American” (from the War on Errorism), while Ben Weasel satirizes the left’s worship of the two in his “Come See the Violence Inherit the System” on Screeching Weasel’s album First World Manifesto. All these albums are on Fat! There exists a will to fight against these powers of multinational corporations and governments’ aid to them, either through saying “fuck you” or direct actions, in these songs.

There’s a Difference Between Sexism and SexualityRefusing to Be a Man” (Less Talk, More Rock)

The last song on LTMR is probably my favorite Propagandhi song. It doesn’t keep politics and personal themes separate. More importantly, there’s a lot of criticisms and “fuck yous” in the Propagandhi’s lyrics, this song is Chris’s “fuck you” and criticism of himself and his own sexism. We can see many of these reflective lyrics on LTMR, and we see them even more on later albums. The song title and song itself are inspired by John Stoltenberg’s essay (and essay collection) with the same name(s). Stoltenberg was married to radical feminist Andrea Dworkin. The essay(s) are often centered around pornography. Both Stoltenberg and Dworkin are known for their anti-pornography views and this is something both fellow feminists and the porn industry (Like Larry Flynt) have criticized them for. Fat Mike doesn’t seem too fond of Dworkin in his disturbing NOFX song “The Black and White”. Stoltenberg is known for the quote “Pornography tells lies about women, but tells the truth about men”. In this song, Chris, as opposed to Fat Mike (who put out the record), shares many of these ideas. It’s not only a song that criticizes the faults of the patriarchy, but it’s an individual male’s realization that he oppresses women and wanting to do something about it.

The song starts up with addressing the fact that he isn’t different from all the rest. He says this to a “you”. This could be addressed to all women or just one woman in particular. He goes on to say that he has the same nurturing as other men and that men are taught from a young age to objectify women and think that they are superior to women and even have the right what to do with their bodies. In italics in the lyric sheet, Chris says that hetero-sexist men are “potential rapists”, I’m not sure why this is written in italics, maybe it’s because it’s a reference or maybe it’s something Chris doesn’t really believe. He claims that from early childhood he has been nurtured into becoming someone who objectifies women, this is not natural and shows the power of the patriarchal indoctrination of children. This song pretty much establishes the core of the beliefs of Propagandhi. That we one day find out something like what “patricentricity” means, and wanting to change it. He has been taught something all his life (that he should be superior to women and that he’s allowed to make women HIS sexual objects), he now realize that these male-centered ideas are wrong and he is ashamed that he is attracted to body types. He calls for a redefinition of eroticism because sex has been distorted. The most outstanding line of the song is “there’s a difference between sexism and sexuality”. The song is not anti-sexuality, it’s anti-sexism. The song also brings in sex and gender, and probably in a different way that we discuss them today. The song ends with Chris refusal to be a man. Here, instead of italics, the word “man” is used in quotation marks. Chris can’t refuse the biological fact that he’s a man. He can’t refuse to be a man, by sex. If Chris identifies as a male (I’d hate to assume someone’s gender!), he can’t really refuse to be a man, by gender. What he does, however, is refuse to take part in the culturally constructed ideals of what it is to be a man. If these ideals are based on male-superiority and sexual objectification of women. I think in 1996, it’s possible that the quotation mark would serve as a way of separating sex and gender, but I think, if I understand correctly, that in modern gender thinking it would rather separate between sex/gender and gender roles and the constructed ideals of how genders should act out.

This Might Be Satire” (How to Clean Everything)

As the title suggests, this song might be satire. The song is kind of a classic pop punk song with super cute and bubble gummy lyrics. It was often played before the song “Fuck Machine” and comes right after it on the record. The songs are supposed to be next to each other as they are about the same theme. I think the song just as much parodies popular music as it parodies society as a whole. The song is a guy serenading a girl at school. He sings that he wants to do everything for her at school, carry her books and chew bubblegum. He also wants to fuck her up the ass. The song shows how men patronize women by socially constructed “chivalry” (“I wanna carry your books to every class”), but also sexually objectify women and want sexual rewards for their behaviors (“I wanna fuck you up the ass”). The girl in the song says she loves the man, the man wants to try to fuck her. The references to school shows that this happens at a young age and the parodic element of the song is that many of the performer of silly songs that echoes this “I wanna carry your books in school” attitude comes from old men. The song shows how girls from a young age are objectified by older men and how this pedophilia or hebephilia is rooted in popular culture. In the end the man exposes his own pedophilia by asking “where the hell are my priorities? Left in the hands of the authorities”.

“Fuck Machine” (How to Clean Everything)

The song “Fuck Machine” also discusses conditioned attraction and reactions. It’s also about beauty-tyranny and the way the media wants women to look like. There’s a bikini film on and the female anchor’s reaction to the movie is “boys will be boys” and by this, according to the song, she condones the movie and agrees that she’s just a toy, a fuck machine. This changes. She now takes charge. The anchor has her fist in a clinch. She no longer wants to be a toy in men’s possession. It’s unclear to me whether the last couple a’ lines are from the point of view of the anchor or Chris himself: “And though I long to embrace, I will not misplace my priorities: Humor, opinion, a sense of compassion, creativity/ And a distaste for fashion”.

Connection:

The link between the song is that Stoltenberg and Dworkin’s ideas could be applied to all of them. “Refusing to Be a Man” reflects on being a male and being taught these sexist attitudes, “This Might Be Satire” parodies these attitude by humorously putting them in action. “Fuck Machine” tries to inspire women to take a stand and not become “fuck machines”. I think out of the songs “Refusing to Be a Man” is the more mature song and probably the most feminist song of the three. I think there’s good intention by the rather crude songs. And “This Might Be Satire” being satire gives it a pass, even if the song might be cringeworthy to some. “Fuck Machine”, however, might be a bit more problematic. It seems undeniable that in this patriarchic society women are the ones that suffer from the structures being as they are. Chris seems to recognize this. There’s very little about males in the song, and faults of males in society at all. The song, on the other hand, shows unnecessary malice toward women who don’t agree with him and a, still, male-centric look into what he thinks women should be. Whereas, “Refusing to Be a Man” blames nurturing and the patriarchy, but also puts the blame on men. It establishes that men oppressing women is men’s fault, and not women.

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Hope this wasn’t too long and boring, but if you’re crazy enough that you made it this far, I hope you enjoyed it at least. The next pop punk pick will be the Muffs’ Blonder and Blonder.

 

There’s something in the water in the north and midlands of the UK. There are some excellent bands that are sort of pop punk and sort of indie pop, but not either. Just sort of in between. Count Yr Poetry amongst that group. Their songs are quite bouncy and edgy like pop punk, but they’re more jangly, complex and melodic, more like some of the best indie pop. The quintet of songs is the first release in a three volume set planned for a twelve month period, according to Yr Poetry. This volume focuses on events that happened an hour apart from each other on a single night out. “These Are Not The Days of Our Lives” is the beginning of the evening, out at a club in a group. The club doesn’t quite live up to expectations, though (“Hey Pauly, you said this place was punk, I’ve seen DJs pulled from decks for lesser crimes.”) As the evening wears on, one of the group, Damian, decides he’s not going home along, thus, “Damian and the Shark Metaphor.” It’s good that they recognize their mate is inhuman as he stalks his “prey.” “Headlights! Headlights!” won’t protect you from the night, just illuminate the signs to our one night alive! This song occurs after the group has started to break up, people leave, and there’s just two people left. “Guess we are a couple now.” The melody is a strong one, as certain and sure-footed and opposite of what the couple must feel as they head out together. “What the World Needs Now Is a New Guitar Hero” is a little bit math-like with complex rhythms as the night gets more complex. The night comes to a close with “It’s All There.” It starts quietly, with piano and vocals. Two thirds of the way into the track the full band comes in and the quiet waltz time track gets more raucous for a bit, with feedback and the slower pace seemingly representing the wind down and exhaustion. My understanding of the events described may be a bit fuzzy, but my love of the music is solid. This is a gorgeous release and I can’t wait to hear the other mini-LPs Yr-Poetry plans.

Check it out here: https://ibelieveinyrpoetry.bandcamp.com/album/one-night-alive

PS

“Just four dudes playing fast songs.” That’s the lone description this quartet from Lille, France gives for themselves. And it’s at least partially accurate. It’s four dudes, and three of the four songs on this demo are fast. “The Devil Rides Out,” “Embrace my O-gosh,” and “Stand Out of My Sunlight” are classic hardcore tracks, fast, loud, and crunchy. The third track is a cover of the Ramones classic, “Pet Semetary.” It’s something that others have covered. The version here isn’t really anything to write home about, sounding like a mash-up of Bad Religion and a non-descript metal band. “Stand Out of My Sunlight” starts out well enough, with enough speed and power to satisfy any hardcore fanatic. But about halfway through the track it suddenly changes. It slows considerably and turns into a dirge-like metal track. It’s the first two tracks that are the standouts for those who like hardcore. The fun opening sounds like an old Speak and Spell sped up, saying “Welcome to your doom!” These two openers are a relentless onslaught of guitar, bass, and drums at breakneck speed. If you’re more into pop punk or other types of punk, you may not get into this demo, as there’s not much to make it stand out from other hardcore bands, but if you’re into the metallic crunch of hardcore, check this out.

Check it out here: https://stupidkarate.bandcamp.com/

PS

T

his debut full-length LP from Montreal’s Mansbridge opens the way every album should – with the best song on the record. “Single Lens Reflex” isn’t flashy, fast, or overly exciting. But what it is is a solid song, mid-tempo, with a great melodic line and bangin’ harmonies. Most of the tracks sound like the band would be very at home in the Fat Wreck Chords family, with their 90s melodic pop punk/skate punk sound.  But Mansbridge raise the bar on this genre with a bit more complexity than in your average punk band. Listen to “From Sean, with Love.” It’s equal parts power, beauty, and speed. You just don’t hear these kinds of melodic lines and chord progressions in your average skate punk, and it’s glorious. “Hotel Canmore,” too, is atypical. On the surface it’s a ‘90s style melodic punk tune, but it’s those chord changes, the arrangement, the harmonies – it all works together to create something unique. “Straight for the Knees” has a soaring quality, and uses two separate melodic lines in counterpoint!  And let’s not forget to mention that bass line on  “185 King St!” Punk music can be pretty stagnant, with bands just aping other bands, staying inside the lines of genres and styles, so it’s really awesome when a band takes an established genre and innovates, marking it with their own stamp. Mansbridge do just that.

Check it out here: https://mansbridge.bandcamp.com/album/juxtapose

PS

Great sing-along melodies, gruff vocals, and a dark sense of loss and self-deprecation are key features in the six songs on this London band’s new EP. It’s a sound that’s prevalent in some of the best bands from the West Coast of the USA, from Bastards of Young to Fools Rush, Western Settings, and others. The songs lend themselves well to big sing-alongs, everyone with one arm around another person and the other lifting up a pint, pressing forward toward the stage and singing along at the top of their lungs. It’s a sound uncommon in the UK, from what I know of UK bands, but The Burnt Tapes would be right at home here in California. My absolute favorite track of the half dozen has to be “Things Get Weird.” The calm opening and clear vocals are so beautifully aching and I really want to hear an all acoustic version of this song. Even as the rest of the band explodes with emotion after the intro, I can’t help but think that the sentiments expressed would be perfect in an acoustic track. The opening (and title) track starts with a bright enough sound that belies the lyrical content of unhappy separation. Looking to the past, loss, change, and regret are common themes running through these songs. The music is universally good. I hope The Burnt Tapes come tour the West Coast of the USA so I can lift a pint with them to toast the wreckage we leave behind us.

Check it out here: https://burnttapes.bandcamp.com/

PS

 

IAR 61: The Maxies- Greenland is Melting LP (May 2013)

Yeah, I really, really don’t get this band at all, as I discussed in the last review block. I don’t mind dumb and silly in principle, but The Maxies take it to ridiculous levels and don’t even have the songs to back it up. A pop-punk/ska mash-up of The Aquabats, Masked Intruder and Reel Big Fish, but without any of the abilities to write tunes of these bands. That’s the thing: they have a schtick and little songwriting ability. A lethal combination, for me. This is a re-release of their first LP, but more-or-less aligns with everything else I’ve heard from them: just plain annoying. Anyhow, enough about this, lets get to the good stuff…

Grade: E-

IAR 62: City Mouse- S/T 7” (August 2011)

Good stuff. I feel like City Mouse are generally a bit of a mixed bag, but this 7” has two of their best songs on it: the powerful, emotive “You” and the super-catchy punk-pop tune “Dumb dumb dumb”. City Mouse play a kind of a gritty, melodic punk rock that has its roots in pure rock ‘n’ roll, but not in a Be My Doppelganger kind of way: this is a much tougher, aggressive form of rock ‘n’ roll. Frontwoman Miski’s vocals are powerful and growly in a kind of Gateway District way, also recalling a touch of ‘90s riot grrl. City Mouse’s hooks are enveloped by gritty production values, very much fitting in with the contemporary underground pop-punk zeitgeist. P. good!

Grade: B+

IAR 63: Weekend Dads- S/T 7” (October 2011)

A band that I too-rarely listen to, but always enjoy when I do, Weekend Dads. The band comprises of Corey from Varsity Weirdos and a couple of members from The Hemingways, who I don’t really know. This was their first release and although you can hear a little bit of Varsity Weirdos in here (obviously in the vocals), Weekend Dads generally veer away from Ramones-y, mid-tempo pop-punk towards fast-paced, edgy ‘fest’ pop-punk (for want of a better term). In a similar vein to say The Copyrights or Dillinger Four, Weekend Dads opt for crunchy guitars and anthemic choruses. It’s pop-punk for sure, but with extra doses of intensity and grit. “Erase My Brain” is like a cross between D4 and early Delay, but “Desperation Mart” is my clear favourite on this thing: the intensity on this EP reaches boiling point here and the sing-a-long melodies are relentless.

Grade: B+

IAR 64: Sass Dragons- New Kids on the Bong LP (October 2012)

This was a re-release of Sass Dragons’ second LP, which originally came out in 2010. Chicago’s Sass Dragons have built up a reputation for themselves as an underground ‘party-punk’ outfit. They are a band I have really neglected to properly check out, despite being one of the more interesting and diverse pop-punk bands to crop up in recent years. That’s certainly evident in the New Kids on the Bong album, which makes use of banjos, saxophones and thrash influences at varying points. For instance, they go from the rather bizarre, thrash-y, 1 minute-long “Dear St. Anne, Please Send Me a Man” to the emotional, sing-a-long Delay-esque punk-ballad of “Give it Back” to the pure pop-punk of “8 or 9 on a Bike”. Despite such variety, the LP flows really well together. Reviewing this is a reminder to me to check out these guys more! Good stuff.

Grade: B

IAR 65: The Manix- Neighbourhood Wildlife LP (December 2011)

I love this record! The Manix offer pretty much everything I want from a Minneapolis, ‘gruff-punk’ band: striking melodies, crunchy guitars and sing-a-long choruses. As to be more or less expected, I guess, Nieghbourhood Wildlife is somewhere between Dillinger Four and Banner Pilot, musically. The Manix are led by Corey Ayd who was formerly guitarist in Banner Pilot, so you know, it is natural that this band would have a superior sense of hooks and lyrical prowess. Clearly, the songs off this thing deserve to be screamed along to in basements: “I’m nothing but a heartsick heathen”; “This business is bullshiiiiiit”. By contrast, there is no bullshit here; The Manix go straight for the jugular and provide straight-up, basement-punk hits. I lose track of the amount of times I have played this record. It’s a shame the Manix are no longer around, but, as a sole LP to leave behind, it’s pretty fucking great!

Grade: A

IAR 66: The Dopamines- Vices LP (June 2012)

Well, I’ve already talked enough about The Dopamines recently (see ), so I’ll try to keep this brief. Suffice to say, this is possibly my favourite Dopamines album. I love all their releases basically, but this is the one that I feel is the most consistent, most enlightening and memorable. The short story: following the beer-chugging and shots downed on Expect the Worst, the band found themselves at the morning after the night before; this is the cold, hard look at yourself in the mirror, questioning what you are doing with your life, wondering if you can now control that beer chugging. It’s an intense self-examination and it gets pretty fucking dark and weird at times. Nevertheless, the melodies on Vices are as strong as ever and anthemic tracks like “Paid in Full” and “Don’t Mosh the Organ” are among their best. My favourite It’s Alive release? That’s a tough one, but it’s up there.

Grade: A+

IAR 67: The Brokedowns/ Vacation Bible School split 7” (May 2013)

This split is fine. I mean, I more or less enjoy the gritty and relentless melodic style presented here, but it’s largely nothing special. Both of these bands are from Illinois. I know The Brokedowns from a couple of other splits (including with The Copyrights on this very label); it’s a bit of a lazy comparison, but screw it, the dirty, feedback-laden, driven anthemic punk of The Brokedowns is somewhat reminiscent of Dillinger Four. They would fit in well on a bill with bands like The Slow Death and Vacation. The three songs on this split are decent, particularly “This Future Sucks”, but don’t expect a re-invention of the wheel. Vacation Bible School, who I know very little about, play a kind-of straightforward, snotty and snarly pop-punk that could have come direct from a basement on the East Bay in 1992. Pinhead Gunpowder come to mind, but they’re a little heavier than that, at times. “Middle Son(g)” is a great little, catchy pop-punk number, sounding somewhat like Sass Dragons, but the other two tracks are rather unmemorable. I am much more on board with the style of Vacation Bible School really, but minus that one song, they don’t really pull me in.

Grade: C+

IAR 68: Lipstick Homicide/ The Turkletons “We’re gonna need a bigger coat” 7” (May 2013)

This split is so much fun, pure poppy punk-y goodness, embracing everything that made you fall in love with pop-punk in the first place: the charm, the melodies, the relatable lyrics. It evokes that classic ‘90s Lookout! Sound. Lipstick Homicide are definitely one of my favourite bands to have recently emerged from the pop-punk underground. Energetic, insatiable melodies and songwriting that belies their young years. I loved seeing them live, one of my favourite ever shows. It’s just a shame that the band haven’t done much recently (basically since Out Utero came out in 2014). What is probably stopping this from being a higher grade is the fact that I think these are two of Lipstick Homicide’s weaker songs, but their consistency means that: they are still pretty fucking good and catchy as shit. I just don’t think of putting these two on when I want to listen to some Lipstick Homicide. The Turkletons’ side is great: putting the pop back into pop-punk, refreshing when reviewing It’s Alive’s back catalogue and listening to The Brokedowns and Mall’d to Death. I like both sub-genres to be fair, but I’ll always side with the melodies and The Turkletons have these in abundance. Super sweet, rough around the edges heartsick hooks with boy-girl vocals; it perhaps calls to mind Teen Idols, The Unlovables or The Riverdales, as in: fun, foot-tapping and a joy to listen to.

Grade: B+

IAR 69: Mean Jeans/ Underground Railroad to Candyland split 7” (May 2013)

Decent split, but you get more or less what you’d expect from these two bands: pogo-tastic, ‘party’ pop-punk from Mean Jeans, with a song declaring that the band are ‘possessed to party’, and poppy, garage-y punk rock from Underground Railroad to Candyland, a band formed by Todd Congelliere, to fit alongside his work in Toys that Kill and Stoned at Heart. Getting what you’d expect is not a bad thing in and of itself, and I’m sure the fans of these bands would be more than happy with these songs, but it certainly doesn’t lure new fans in. The Underground Railroad’ songs are more-or-less straightforward, garage punk (with a hint of surf music), that I would definitely have mistaken for Stoned at Heart had I not known otherwise. I do quite enjoy, “I’m Alright”, with its toe-tapping melodies and increasing urgency as the song progresses. Despite this, the two songs from Underground Railroad’ don’t particularly make me want to delve further into their catalogue. Mean Jeans, on the other hand, I have known for years and have probably heard all their releases. Fun band, but a little like Masked Intruder, their schtick has a got a little old for me: yes, you guys party a lot and, yes, you probably drank a million beers by now. Mean Jeans tick all the boxes you would expect, but don’t go anywhere they haven’t gone before or since.

Grade: B-

IAR 70: City Mouse- “Bad Weather” 5×7 Flexi Postcard (October 2012)

Hey, it’s another City Mouse release, a single put out on a super-interesting format: a 5×7 playable flexible postcard that originally came out with an issue of Jerk Store Fanzine (an Australian punk zine that I remember being pretty cool, but that doesn’t appear to be running anymore). The song offered from City Mouse here is a re-recorded version of “Bad Weather”, which is driving, mid-tempo and melodic, with a memorable chorus: “it’s dark and it’s cold, but it’s nothing compared to my heart”. Its urgency, emotion and strong female vocals definitely call to mind Gateway District. Good stuff. This song also features on the newly-released album from City Mouse (Get Right).

Grade: B

Check all these releases out and more here: https://itsaliverecords.bandcamp.com/

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Rene’s Picks

In Norway, 1990 wasn’t the most eventful year, but it was the year of a terrible tragedy. An arsonist set fire to the ship Scandinavian Star on April 7th and killed 159 people. In the UK, it was also the year of the Lichfield shooting where the Provisional IRA shot three British soldiers and one died. It also was the year that Margaret Thatcher resigned as prime minister, but it would be a stretch to call that a tragedy. I, of course, can’t remember any of these things, nor can I remember any of the albums I’m writing about, as I was like one year old. The albums I have picked are Green Day’s 39 Smooth, Bad Religion’s Against the Grain and Jokke & Valentinerne’s III.

Green Day-39/ Smooth

Image result for Green day 39/smooth

The debut album that basically started it all. An album released April 13th on Lookout Records and is now in the hands of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ Reprise just like the rest of the Green Day catalog. As a debut album, it really showed the start of the sound that the band would perfect the forthcoming years. Many of their biggest classics like “At the Library”, “Disappearing Boy” and “Going to Pasalacqua” are on the album. The song “Green Day” is also on there. The album was re-released a year later in 1991 with the two EP’s “1000 Hours” and “Slappy” and the song “I Want to Be Alone” as on 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours. I think the best songs are from the two EP’s are “Paper Lanterns” and “Only of You”. They are among the band’s best work and they were extremely young when they wrote them, which might be what makes the juvenile lyrics so effective. “Slappy” is also where we find the Operation Ivy (see last year!) cover “Knowledge” and “1000 Hours” was the band’s first ever release when they changed their name from Sweet Children to Green Day last minute. Drumming on the album, was John Kiffmeyer AKA Al Sobrante and not Tre Cool, who joined the band later this year! (1990 that is)

Bad Religion- Against the Grain

Image result for Bad religion against the grain

There have been some comments about the 1989 picks, that they lacked No Control by Bad Religion, so at least here is Against the Grain. I think it’s the superior album of the two, a way more substantial album. That being said, I think both albums (No Control and Against the Grain) suffer from the fact that the songs are too indistinguishable, same goes for Suffer really, but I think the All Ages collection really shows all the gems that are on all these albums, but I consider Against the Grain to be the best one of them with songs like the opener “Modern Man”, the Simon & Garfunkel inspired and strangely enough still relevant “Flat Earth Society” and fantastic slower songs like “Anasthesia” and “Faith Alone” that showed their abilities to create beautiful and thoughtful melodies along with their punk anthems. The original version of their, maybe, biggest hit “21st Century Digital Boy” also appeared on this album and I think it’s better and the re-recording that ended up on Stranger Than Fiction. The title track “Against the Grain” and closing song “Walk Away” should also not be forgotten. It was their first album that sold over 100.000 copies. The album was released November 23rd on Epitaph.

Jokke & Valentinerne-III

Image result for Jokke & Valentinerne-III

I, of course, had to include a Norwegian album in this thing too. III is the third (what a surprise) album by Jokke & Valentinerne.  They had during the 80s gotten an underground reputation in Oslo and their sophomore album Et hundeliv scored some hit and brought the band to the mainstream. Their previous albums were punk-inspired rock albums that mixed up genres and showed Oslo from its darkest, but with their comic book album covers also added humor to the tristesse. III took the genre-blend even further and the album at pop, folk, rock, punk, pop punk, new wave and ska. The three last songs stand out, the album closes with “Koteletter”, a new wave song with a beatbox about pork chops, the second to last song, “Telefonen ringer” is a song about the annoyance of telephone calls and the paranoia that might occur when it the phone rings sung to a ska composition and an intro similar to The Clash’s “All the Young Punks” and before that the beautiful “En dag”, a straight up pop song with an keyboard lead that probably is among the most wonderful pieces of music ever recorded. It’s a wonderful song about love and friendship and thinking about the times you’ve spend with someone and things you’ve done together and things you wish you could’ve done and that one day you’ll do those things.

The most classic songs on the album are probably “Paranoid” a song about being scared of being followed on the street and about being stared at by women in bars, even if these are just cases of the protagonist being paranoid, and “Gutta”, a song about a group off fellas that have done everything together and just wait for someone to go buy more beer and they’re starting to get bored with their existence. At the time, the band consisted of drummer May Irene Aasen, bassist Håkon Torgersen (His last album before Petter Pogo joined on bass) and main songwriter Joachim “Jokke” Nielsen. Probably one of Norway’s greatest songwriters of all time who tragically overdosed in 2000. His lyrics offered a peak into the minds of the characters of the dark sides of Oslo and with self-deprecating humor and honesty made it relatable to a mainstream audience. His brother, Christopher, is a comic artist and drew the band’s album covers as well as the comic strips in the booklets. I remember always liking this band when there was a song on the radio in my early teens, but I didn’t decide to check out the band until the summer of 2005 when there was a tribute show on the radio with Norway’s biggest bands doing covers of these classic. This was the same day as I had gotten one of 1991’s picks in the mail, so that was a great day. Just a few days after I bought the compilation Prisen for popen and I would later in 2005 start to buy all the albums by the band. III was their major label debut and was released on Sonet, a label owned by Universal. Their first two were released on their own label(s) JEPS and VEPS, meaning Jokke’s own record label or Our own record label. According to iTunes it was released on January 1st, but I’m not sure if that’s the correct release date.

Dave’s Picks

Green Day- 39/Smooth

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Yep, the first Green Day album. I go back and forth on what is my favourite Green Day release (it’s probably Kerplunk), but it’s no doubt that this was their most fruitful period. The kind of pop-punk that Green Day made at this point was wistful, earnest and had melodies that their 2000s selves could only dream about. The pop-punk was largely mid-tempo, but never dull or plodding. On the contrary, it was full of youthful vigour and optimism. This is a collection of ‘tales about girls’, a pop-punk tale as old as time; the songwriting is somewhat naïve and open-eyed, but instantly relatable as a teen. My favourites? Probably “Going to Pasalacqua”, “Disappearing Boy” or “At the Library”, but there is no stinker on 39/Smooth. It’s just fun, and, furthermore, it hasn’t dated whatsoever, despite it being an album full of high-school lusts over girls who are out of reach. The songwriting was always there, right from the beginning; Green Day’s production simply got better later. So, yes, 39/Smooth is raw and garage-band sounding, but for me they have never sounded as good as they did during this period. I sometimes think they have never topped “At the Library”.

Jawbreaker-Unfun

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You have chosen Unfun, I hear you cry! But what about the stone-cold classic that is 24 Hour Revenge Therapy? That is surely the one you should be discussing! Or if not, the controversy of the major-label debut Dear You? Yes, yes, I will get to these, but first, it is worth outlining what made Jawbreaker’s first record Unfun so good. I am not really going to engage with the debate of ‘what is the best Jawbreaker album?’ here, but for what it’s worth, and sorry to the purists, but Dear You is by far my favourite of the band’s releases and I will be certainly be coming on to this when we get to 1995.

But nevertheless, I say that Unfun was one of the three best records released in 1990. It is intense, gritty and raw, but also unrelentlessly catchy. It has many of the hallmarks of classic, underground pop-punk, really, but filtered through a distortion machine. The production is rough and the melodies unrefined, but the latter is arguably as strong as what is found a couple of years later on 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. Just listen to “Busy” and “Imaginary War” if you don’t believe me: pained and visceral, but intensely hook-filled; these two are probably my favourites from the record, that is, minus the absolute classic that is the opener, “Want”. For years, I was too obsessed with Dear You, and never really got into Jawbreaker’s earlier stuff, but always, always adored “Want”. Blake Schwarzenbach’s grizzly yelps probably hit as hard as they did in 1990.

Indeed, it’s partly Blake’s unique and literate songwriting that helps Unfun to stand out from the crowd. Hailing from New York, they have nevertheless been an intense source of inspiration for those mid-Western ‘gruff’ punk bands who find a mid-ground between distorted punk and melodic pop. Jawbreaker’s sullen tales and Bukowski-esque drunken musings have all been more-or-less replicated and romaticised in the years that followed, but they must have been pretty revelatory at the time. Jawbreaker also heavily influenced the emo scene, with their at-times melancholic songwriting style, as well as Blake’s continuous emotional outpourings that never becomes overbearing. “Fine Day” is a great example of this, very much recalling that early-mid ‘90s emo sound that Blake would move closer and closer to with Jawbreaker and later with Jets to Brazil, culminating in Orange Rhyming Dictionary. The band was very young at the time Dear You was released, and hadn’t ‘peaked’ yet, but for a debut album, this is up there with the best. A pop-punk classic of the era.

Fugazi- Repeater

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Yeah, so following the discussion of 13 Songs in the 1989 section, I have decided to harp on about Fugazi a bit more with Repeater. This is definitely Fugazi’s best proper full-length. While they went kind of weird and overly-experimental in their later work, Repeater found Fugazi at a happy medium, between pure, shout-y punk rock and the intricacy of post-hardcore and emo. While they had dynamic and experimental song structures (more so than what was found on 13 Songs), there were also singalong, catchy choruses, too. The title track “Repeater” and “Merchandise” particularly come to mind for their memorable choruses and punchy guitar riffs. There is also a groove to Fugazi’s sound more than ever on Repeater (which is a little bit reggae influenced, as I said last time), from Joe Lalley’s bass, which gets those toes tapping. So, yeah, the spacey-ness of the sound on the record rendered it to be kind of post-hardcore in some aspects, but Repeater also bleeds punk, not least in the lyrics. At times, the lyrics are a bit obtuse and not particularly easy to follow, but in others Mackaye couldn’t have been more straightforward: for instance, on “Merchandise”- “what could a business man every want more than a business man sucking at his store?”. Fugazi were vehemently anti-consumerist (notably refusing to ever sell any band merch) and “Greed” and “Merchandise” couldn’t be clearer in this regard.  I don’t think any band since has really hit the nail on the head in terms of ‘not being what you own’ as Fugazi did on this record. Aggressive and ferocious in terms of the band’s ‘anti-system’ and ‘anti-corporate’ agendas, but intricate and experimental in song structures, Fugazi remain one of the most interesting outliers in the evolution of punk in the last 30 years.