yr rochelles

Following a number of EPs and singles, the Young Rochelles released their first full-length at the tail end of last year. If you don’t know, the Young Rochelles are a pop-punk outfit from Long Beach, New York, which are not to be confused with the New Rochelles with which this band shares members. The Young Rochelles play Ramones-y, fast-paced, Mutant Pop-esque pop-punk with sugary sweet vocals and buzzsaw guitars. The album flies by in less than 25 minutes. It is super melodic stuff that recalls bands like Teenage Bottlerocket, The Guts or Teen Idols. The strength of the vocal melodies and the harmony-led choruses definitely bring to the mind latter. At times, the harmonies also remind me of Project 27, which is perhaps unsurprising since the primary songwriter (Joey) from P27 also plays in the Young Rochelles. With the emphasis on hooks, I also get the sense of a ‘punkier’ or sped-up version of Kung Fu Monkeys or the Beatnik Termites.

Generally, the songwriting on this LP is of a high standard. The Young Rochelles often slow it down for the verses before bursting into a sweet, catchy-as-fuck chorus which I appreciate. The vocals (from Ricky Rochelle) are cool, but perhaps overly sweet for some. They are certainly not hidden in this album production which is very clean and tight sounding. Perhaps overly so at times. For me, the vocals could be a less ‘tuned’ for the Ramones-y pop-punk that they are going for. The band actually used a more exaggerated form of autotuned previously on previous songs with the rest of the production being rawer than what we find here.

There are a bunch of earworm-y tracks on this record: notably “Monster in My Hallway”, which is more of a slowed-down, mid-tempo pop-punk track about falling for a drama queen, and “You’re Tops”, a heartwarming track (about, yep, telling somebody that they are ‘tops’) with a hell of a chorus. The latter is placed brilliantly before “My Stomach Hates My Guts”, probably the grittiest and ‘punkiest’ track on the LP with much raspier vocals. It is a great one-two punch of two different ‘kinds’ of pop-punk while still retaining the Young Rochelles’ charm. There are a few fun, silly tracks on the album, like “Return of the Skunk Ape” and “Coffee in the Dog Dish”, that could be throwaway in lesser hands, but work well here. Following “My Stomach…”, I feel that the quality of the songs tail off a little, but there are no bad songs on this album by any stretch. Overall, then: a sweet and highly-melodic pop-punk blast from Long Beach.

Check it out: https://theyoungrochelles.bandcamp.com/album/the-young-rochelles

DB

 

Advertisements

R-3734972-1363592388-4773.jpeg

Let’s go back to the 70s again. Let’s face it- both punk and pop punk music were the best back then. This time, we are going to Scotland. We are going to a classic album that combined the aggression of punk rock, the innovation of new wave and the poppiness of 60s pop groups. The band is of course the Rezillos. Inspired by 50s and 60s rock ‘n’ roll, cartoons and science fiction movies Joe Callis and Alan Forbes started the band in 1976 in the ashes of the cover band Knutsford Dominators that they started in college. Along with the Misfits, The Cramps and B-52s in the US the Rezillos were part of starting a tradition that linked B-movies with punk and new wave music. Connecting punk rock to the novelty music of the 50s and 60s and the Rocky Horror Show.

In an interview (http://www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk/MagSitePages/Article.aspx?id=3519), Callis said the following about the band name “There was an early 70’s DC comic called ‘The Shadow’ . The Shadow was a real pulp fiction character. The very first issue of that comic has in one of its pictures the Shadow standing there with his two guns and his mask. There is a street scene in the background and what was meant to be either a club or a bar. It was actually called “Revilos” with one “L” and we took that and changed the letter to a “Z”. I think we probably had the name before we had the band.” Forbes changed his name to Eugene Reynolds and sang the male vocals in the band. Fay Fife did the female vocals. The two lead singers sang about half in half and often did vocal trade offs and callbacks. In 1977, they signed to the same label as the Ramones (Sire Records). Journalist Ian Cranmer, who hated the band at first, decided to help them out by contacting his pen pal in Sire Records to aid the band in releasing their major label debut “(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures”. They signed to Sire as an eight piece, and ended up a five piece because many of the members didn’t want to quit their day jobs and didn’t see a future in working with music. I always found their record fascinating and decided to buy the LP in early 2012. I was told it was quite a rare pressing. The Rezillos changed their name to Revillos (with two L’s) and made some records without Callis, but they re-united and made the album Zero in 2015.

Can’t Stand the Rezillos was released on July 21 1978 on Sire Records and was recorded in the Power Station in New York. Quite fitting to the album, the album cover looks like a comic book. It was produced by Bob Clearmountain, Tony Bongiovi, Lance Quinn and the Rezillos. It peaked at #16 in the UK album chart. As well as Fay Fife and Eugene Reynolds on vocals and Jo Callis on guitar; Mysterious (AKA Alastair Donaldson) played bass (and sax at the bonus live recording) and Angel Paterson played drums. The album peaked at #16 on the UK album chart.
——————————————————————————————————————————–
1. “Flying Saucer Attack”: The album opens with a sci-fi themed song. A catchy song about the dangers of an alien invasion. The earth’s citizens in this song fear the horrors of Venus and Mars. Nothing can protect earth from this invasion. The verses are sung by Fay and the choruses are sung by Eugene. The protagonist in the choruses is planning to leave earth and not come back until the attack is over. The melody kind of has this American folk vibe going for it and the bass line is classic Rezillos. The guitar also has a nice rock ‘n’ roll touch to it. They also rhyme “horizon” with “flies on”. The same theme is found on the non-album single “Destination Venus”.

2. “No”: While “Flying Saucer Attack” was pretty much pop punk, “No” is more of a straight up punk song. The song is the anthem for the angry young punks who are denied their teenage requests. The first two verses this little guy is asking his parents if he’s allowed to go out and have fun, but as the title of the song is “No”, you can guess their answer. In the third verse, he is trying to get his “baby” to go out and have fun with him, but guess what, she says “No” too. There’s almost something Freudian or Lacanian about the song, the mother’s “No” being the child’s first disappointment and all. In one of the biggest comedy shows in Norway “Åpen Post”, the music part of the first episode was the Norwegian rock band Dum Dum Boys playing a version of “No”.

3. “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Heads Kicked in Tonight”: This is another quite punk number, maybe even punker. For some reason, when I think of “punk”, this is what I think of. The original isn’t necessarily that punk. It appeared on Fleetwood Mac’s “Man of the World” single as the B-side. It was credited to Earl Vice and the Valiants, even if Fleetwood Mac played it. It was sung and composed by Jeremy Spencer. The Rezillos cover became more of a classic.

4. “Top of the Pops”: And now for the band’s biggest hit by far. “Top of the Pops” is a satirical view on the music industry. Bands get fame and then they’re out. And the Wall Street of the music industry (in Britain at the time) was Top of the Pops. A music show where the artists on the charts would come and lip-sync the shit out of their hits. We’ve also seen bands like Stiff Little Fingers, Green Day and Nirvana make fun of the show by showing that they did not actually sing themselves. Bands would pre-record their hit before lip-syncing it on the show, but most bands would just lip-sync their single. The Ramones performed “Baby I Love You” (their biggest UK hit) on the show and it was just Joey lip-syncing and the band pretending to play and an orchestra pretending to play. Much ado about lip-syncing. Blink-182 sounded like Blink-182 though, so either pre-recorded their song live or they actually played live and the show has started to allow actual live-performances. It sure as fuck wasn’t the singles. But yeah, back to the Rezillos, the song really makes fun of the show and how it makes music into a money game, or maybe the show just symbolizes the consumerist aspect of the music industry in general. It’s really where the trade-offs of Eugene’s weird vocals and Fay’s Scottish accent really stand out. It reminds me a lot of The Buggles’ song “Video Killed the Radio Star” and predates it by a year. As mentioned earlier, “Top of the Pops” became their biggest hit and charted at #17 and they “performed” it on the actual show twice. I remember reading somewhere that the song was played frequently on the show because of the title. I can’t find the source however, so don’t take my word for it. Looking, however, I found a fun fact on Fay’s name. The word “fae” is used for “from” in the Scottish county Fife, so her name is a pun on “from Fife”, where she actually is from.

5. “2000 A.D: Another science fiction themed song. It is most likely a reference to the comic book series that was first published the year before in 1977. Kind of like Orwell’s 1984 and Blade Runner, it’s strange to think of works that were futuristic at the time, but now are far in the past. The comic book was where the comic book hero Judge Dredd was first introduced. He appeared in the Specials song “Stupid Marriage” a couple of years later. And synthpop band the Human League had a song called “I am the Law” about Judge Dredd in 1981. After the Rezillos John Callis would join the Human League and be part of writing some of their biggest hits like “Don’t You Want Me” and “(Keep Feeling) Fascination”, but not “I am the Law”, ironically. “2000 A.D”, in many ways, comments on the unrealities of the comic book.

6. “It Gets Me”: The only song on the album that is solely written by Mysterious. The lead vocals are all done by Fay in this one. It’s another tune where her accent really stands out. I also think all the back up vocals are female in this one as well and it shares the nr 1 spot for me as “best song on the album”. Even if it is a quite a poppy tune, the ending is kind of depressing. It describes how seasons change and uncertainties of the future: “I don’t know if I’ll be here by the turning of the year”. It also uses the word “uncool”, something that continues in the next track. I really love the way she sings “it gets me”. Pretty much a perfect song!

7. “I Can’t Stand My Baby”: While “(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures” was the band’s major label debut single, their first single ever was another song with “baby” in the title and also the song that titled the entire album, seemingly. I assumed the song was about someone who hates their significant other, but now I see that it also could be about a young parent that hates their child and would rather want to be a child themselves, while also realising that they have become old and boring and can’t stand the noise anymore and would rather be uncool and listen to classical music. Another song that Fay primarily sings lead vocals on.

8. “Glad All over”: Side two of the LP opens with a cover of Dave Clark Five’s “Glad All over”, which I think was inspired by the song of the same name by Carl Perkins. The song was written by Clark himself and bandmate Mike Smith. The Rezillos cover pretty much stays true to the original, despite the more punky vibe. Fay and Eugene share the vocals and sound great together. The song also gained some notoriety in Dr. Frank’s novel King Dork. Tom Henderson (AKA King Dork) loved the song and interpreted the lyrics as being about sex and having an orgasm. He also uses it as a euphemism for having an orgasm. Christian drummer, Todd, wanted to sing “He makes me feel glad all over” and make it be about Jesus, something King Dork wasn’t a fan of.

9. “(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures”: I think this song pretty much sticks out on the album. I think it’s a lot more new wave or rock ‘n’ roll than pop punk or punk. The song is about a lad who has a girlfriend who does sculptures and that is why he loves her. She doesn’t seem to care about one-night stands and naughty boys. Their relationship seems to be based on her artistic abilities and her shaping sculptures of him. The bass is also quite important for this song. This one is sung by Eugene. Along with “It Gets Me” this is my favorite song on the album. Self-important me, wanted you all to know that!

10. “I Like it”: A cover of Gerry and the Pacemakers’ classic. The first time I heard this (the original that is) was on the English television series Heartbeat, which I believe is bigger in Norway than it is in the UK. It’s still airing like every day! I’ve loved this tune since I was a kid. The song was written by Mitch Murray who wrote Gerry and the Pacemakers’ first single “How Do You Do It?”. It was actually written for the Beatles, but they didn’t want to release it as a single, but GatP did and had a #1 hit with it in the UK. Following up, I believe John Lennon wanted the other Liverpudlians to record his song “Hello Little Girl”. Instead they went with another Murray composition; “I Like It”, and it also went to #1. And their third single also went to nr 1, I think and became the official song of a sports team the band apparently didn’t support, but this isn’t ESPN, so let’s not focus on this. Like “Glad All Over” the Rezillos version is a punked up one that is pretty much true to the original. I like it!

11. “Getting Me Down”: With an intro that sounds a bit like the Surfaris’ “Wipeout”, “Getting Me Down” is probably the least memorable song on the album, but still quite an enjoyable tune. The lyrics have a really sad vibe to them. It’s about plans that went down the drain, not having money and just wanting to leave, because your town is getting you down. I can relate to it in many ways. I like the line “Living, not existing/ that’s the thing to me”. Just the idea that there is more to life than just existing and wanting to find that thing is probably something that never gets old.

12. “Cold Wars”: The surf-inspiration from “Getting Me Down” continues on “Cold Wars”. The solo is a fantastic little surf jangle and it adds a lot to an otherwise great tune. The song itself is a really good one. The intro is probably the most Ramones sounding intro they have. It also has the naïve and somewhat silly lyrics about serious topics like the Ramones did; “Cold wars are cooling me down”.

13. “Bad Guy Reaction”: Another rock ‘n’ roll song. Finishes the album on what I would call a glamrock-y note. To me it’s the combo of “Ballroom Blitz” and the Ramones’ “Ignorance is Bliss”. The lyrics sound like they could be an oi! Song. I’m not sure if it’s on purpose, but the chorus ends with “you only try to put me down”. The chorus in “Cold Wars” goes “Cold wars are cooling me down” and “Getting Me Down”, goes, well “getting me down”, but I see a pattern here! I think it finishes the album on an entirely different note than “Flying Saucer Attack” and shows the diversity of the album.

—————————————————————————————————————
In the next one, we are going to skip like three or four years forward and continue in the oi! genre. The ultimate album for tough guys in army clothing and skinned haircuts. The songs are more pop than ABBA though; the songs are definitely more ABBA than they are The Business. I’m of course talking about Shock Troops by Cock Sparrer. Skinheads are gonna hate me after this….

This is the debut EP from the trio that is Cheerbleederz. The four songs are wall-of-guitar pop with the most gorgeous harmonized vocals I’ve heard in a long time. One of the key things I love is how the instrumentals are grittier and more rhythmic, while the vocals seemingly glide above, serene and angelic. I adore the huge sound of the chorus on “Don’t Hesitate,” and how it contrasts with the sparser guitar of the verses. The constant beat and drone of the rhythm section, unceasing, unchanging, reminds me of Stereolab a lot, and in turn, the amazing minimalism of bands like Neu! going further back. And the closer, “Cabin Fever,” starts out with glorious a cappella harmonies. This was the lead single, and it’s a short two-minute track that includes the repeated refrain, “I think that we’re all doomed.” Why? Because of a crush. Don’t we all feel that way in the initial stages of a crush? I look forward to more from Cheerbleederz.

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

PS

Active since the mid 1990s, Cursive have been a prolific band, releasing numerous LPs and EPs. Yet I’m wholly unfamiliar with this band. This record, though, makes me want to delve into their back catalog. The band has been described as emo-tinged post hardcore, but I think that does them a disservice. They’re much more than that. Sure, there are elements of emo and post-hardcore. But also, Cursive are an incredibly creative, orchestral indie rock band. The arrangements are thick and non-traditional, with piano, cello, chimes, violin and synths. The judicious use of noise adds a darkness to some of the tracks. Some may say that some of the tracks get too close to a progressive rock sound, like many overblown rock bands were doing in the 70s. And there’s some truth to that – the arrangements are big, the songwriting complex. But these songs are just plain good. The edginess and roughness keep it from getting too wanky.

Right from the dark, noisy opening of “Free To Be Or Not To Be You And Me” you can tell this is something different, something out of the ordinary. The anger in the vocals is palpable, the vitriol spewing forth (thus the album title). The pounding rhythm of the song is repeated in the snare drum on the second track, “Pick Up The Pieces.” “Under The Rainbow” is a hard-hitting track with a unique chord progression that gives occasional relief from the intensity, like a tiny bit of hope amidst the hopelessness. “Ouroborous” is a favorite. It reminds me of the late, great The Fire Show, of Chicago, and has an evil circus feel to it. “Life Savings” starts with screeching guitars and tired sounding female vocals, providing an aching sense of pain. And the closer, “Noble Soldier Dystopian Lament,” seesaws between angry, dissonant pounding from the whole band and a thin, sad, dreamy sound. This is adventurous, creative stuff.

Check it out here: https://15passenger.bandcamp.com/album/vitriola

PS

Last spring Debt Neglector released their debut LP and I commented that I couldn’t wait to hear what they did next. Well, next is here! This six-song EP continues the Orlando band’s powerful music, which I’ll dub pop-core. It’s pop punk, but with a harder post-hardcore edge. There’s less diversity on the EP than there was on the LP, but the songs are still catchy and strong. I still hear some Rocket From The Crypt influence, particularly in the use of driving guitars, chord progressions, and bass lines in “Go Fund Yourself.” I really like “Wrong Side,” a catchy song about being on the wrong side of “it,” whatever “it” may be. It’s simple, but it’s definitely an earworm. Likewise, “R.P.F.O.” is super catchy. I really like it when music is melodic and bouncy, yet aggressive at the same time and Debt Neglector do that really well. The title track closes things out as the hardest track of the bunch, with an almost metallic feel, with Metallica-style vocals. Now, to get Debt Neglector to tour the west coast of the USA!

Check it out here: https://debtneglector.bandcamp.com/album/the-kids-are-pissed

PS

Australian indie-rockers Dental Plan have released their debut EP, three songs of pleasant music from the trio. They’re indie, bordering on pop punk and power pop, but not solidly falling on either side of the fence. Though they break no new ground, the songs are decent enough to listen to. They jangle on the thinner parts, and sound fuller than a three piece in the thicker parts. Two bits of (hopefully constructive) criticism: The first and last songs, “Weighed Down” and “Stare at the Sun,” sound too much a like. They’re the same exact tempo, have the same feel, and the melodic lines have too much in comment. Vary things more. And the vocals on “Stare at the Sun” just seem a bit off, a little too loose. The middle track, “Deep Low,” is a slower one with a grungier, darker feel than the other two. I normally like the jangle, but this track may be my favorite of the three.

Check it out here: https://dentalplantheband.bandcamp.com/album/dental-plan

PS

A little like Goodbye Blue Monday whose EP I also recently reviewed, Uniforms are a Scottish punk band that straddle the line between anthemic street-punk and gruff, Fest-esque pop-punk. Uniforms have that raw, heart-on-sleeve charm that is reminiscent of say Dear Landlord or Leatherface. The gang vocals and the anthemic quality of the choruses recall a ton of other quality underground punkers, like Iron Chic, Heavy Heart and The Manix. I also like the varying dynamics and tempos on the ‘Reasons to Breathe’ EP, with Uniforms veering from fast-paced and intense chant-y punk to more considered and spacious mid-tempo melodic punk.

“Get Me Out of Here” is a great opener to the EP and is definitely the most street-punk-y track. It has a certain Rancid feeling to it, while RVIVR’s melodic licks come to mind as well. The repeated, earworm-y lines in the chorus, “I’m getting out (get me out of here)” have a familiar feeling and hook to them, but I love when lead singer Derrick’s vocals are let loose at the end of the song. “My Wise Friend” is more of a straight-forward gritty, pop-punk track that is decent, but not distinct. “Searchlights” is probably my favourite from the EP, though, in terms of songwriting craft. It starts with some high-octane guitar leads, before stripping back to Derrick’s vocals: “Remember when we were kids, put those records on/Lie there on your bed, hold hands and sing along”. It is here where Derrick’s gritty and raw vocals come to the fore and, amid mid-tempo melodic punk, it feels not unlike a Leatherface track in the verses. After a whole track at a restrained, mid-tempo level, Derrick’s vocals fully explode at the end of the track: “Searchlights out at seaaaaaaaaaaaaaa”. It is fucking great. Catharsis at its best. “Searchlights” goes down as one of my favourite songs of 2018- and the whole EP really distinguishes itself in the contemporary punk landscape.

Check it out here: https://uniforms.bandcamp.com/album/reasons-to-breathe-ep-2

DB

Review: Fair Do’s- Leopards (Lockjaw)

Posted: September 27, 2018 in Reviews

It is worth prefacing this review by saying that The Fair Dos are not really my thing and, while I appreciate elements of this record, it is kind of out of my comfort zone (where are the downstrokes?!) Fair Do’s are a Manchester-based melodic hardcore/skate-punk band, fitting closely alongside Strung Out and Propagandhi, and bands like The Human Project in the UK. The Propagandhi influence is almost too obvious to point out, but it is absolutely evident throughout latest LP Leopards: encompassing the fierce call-to-arms, the political polemic, passionate vocals and techy guitar leads. Essentially, Fair Do’s represent latter-day Propagandhi with a Manchester accent.

I am not against Leopards by any means and for those into melodic hardcore, you will probably be more than happy with the record. There are a bunch of things done well on the record. The production is just right for what the Fair Do’s are going for- not too raw, not too sleek- and the vocals really bring out the indignation and anger of the politically-charged lyrics and align well with the intensity of the guitars. The lyrics are very much in the vein of Propagandhi or Capdown, a capitalist critique and call-to-arms (“I’m aware that I’m enslaved, just a name and number” as one example from the first track) that go more or less where you would expect them to.

More broadly, this is a record that does not rip up any trees and for a punk record in 2018, maybe it shouldn’t be expected to. However, as somebody not invested in this sub-genre, Leopards, while a decent record, hasn’t done anything to entice me over to the ‘dark side’. Many of the tracks mould together and stick to somewhat formulaic structure and patterns. It is an intense, passionate and fast-paced record, which is a given in this sub-genre, but I think the Fair Dos could have done with mixing it up on occasions.

Check it out here: https://lockjawrecords.bandcamp.com/album/leopards

DB

This Japanese-inspired band from San Diego is, according to Facebook, a reincarnation of the studio project ErichFuckingPeacox!!!!. I wasn’t familiar with this band upon reviewing them, neither as Watashi WA Dance Party or ErichFuckingPeacox!!!!, but their animé (excuse me if I get that term wrong) album covers are a part intriguing and part disturbing. The cartoons are sugar sweet, but portray disturbing and violent images.

The first thing I notice about this band is the 2003 pop punk vocals. The first song “Daylight” is sort of cloying, but catchy. My favorite thing in the song is the keyboards. “Mio” sort of reminds me of “2nd Foundation” by the Ergs. Lots of minor chords in that song! Anyways, it tells us that it’s ok to be afraid of the dark. In a way, it’s sort of like Screeching Weasel’s “Don’t Turn out the Lights” thematically and it seems narrated by a young child, but it also relates to adults. The title gives me associations to the Swedish book Mio My Son, but I doubt that’s what the song is referencing. “Really Over” is more of a power pop song, but it’s an unusual and a kind of weird one. I assume there’s also a Blink reference in “so sorry it’s over”. “Halle” I would label as the illustrious genre of progressive power pop, if that wasn’t a genre before, it is now! It has strange math rock elements and some ska elements. It’s catchy shit! The melody is really good! The ska continues in “Ruminating”, which reminds me a bit of Bomb the Music Industry. The EP ends with “My Lava Lamp”, an early 90s alternative rock jam. A lot of cool elements in it. Great harmonies. It has some cool yelling in it too.

There’s something quite cute about this EP, but the lyrics are often a bit dark and depressing. This makes the ambivalent covers quite appropriate. As a whole, I don’t think this band is my thing, but they’re definitely talented and the music is really interesting. I feel like it gets a bit weird for me at times, but it could also grow on me. I will continue listening!

Check it out here: https://watashiwadanceparty.bandcamp.com/album/skate-pop-suicide-2

RH

Rene’s Picks

1994 was not only my year, but it was also the year American punk rock reached the mainstream. I remember a lot from this year. I feel like kid-René peaked this year. I was still totally into the Moomin trolls. There was a football world cup this year in the U.S and all I remember that the logo with the dog was on the coke bottles. Norway also hosted the Olympics for the second time. Again I only remember the logo. I don’t think I even knew what sports were. I did have a girlfriend at the time and was pretty stoked on that. Again, me and my parents went to Mallorca for sunshine in our dreary, rainy Norwegian lives. My fondest memory from the trip was going to a supermercado and buying a toy that was a surfer (thinking back I think it might have been a jetskier, but I thought it was a surfer) and a box of Cadbury’s Roses. At this time I had decided that I wanted to become a drummer and started drumming on the Cadbury’s Roses box after I ate the chocolate in it. I still have the box, all smashed up. I was, however, not very interested in music at all outside of that. And Green Day, The Offspring and Rancid were not in my radar at all. I didn’t pick any of the most famous punk records from the year, Smash by the Offspring, Dookie by Green Day and Punk in Drublic by NOFX, but I probably would have picked Punk in Drublic if I hadn’t written about it in the Pop Punk Picks column. The picks I’ve chosen from this year are Self-titled (The Blue Album) by Weezer, Let’s Go by Rancid.
Weezer-The Blue Album

weezer blue album

It’s something incredible to think about how great an album can be. From start to finish, Weezer’s Blue album is perfect, to me. Even the songs I like the least like “Undone (The Sweater Song)” and “Say It Ain’t So” are classics. The album starts with the folky fingerpicking of “My Name Is Jonas” and goes into one of the greatest power pop verses ever. The album ends with the beautiful “Only in Dreams”, with its weird intro and long-as-fuck outro. In between, we find the Neil Young-esque harmonica driven “In the Garage” and “The World Has Changed and Left Me Here”. “In the Garage” also has my favorite guitar solo of all time. The entire record seems like an emotional journey inside Rivers Cuomo’s mind, a preview to what we’d expect on Pinkerton. Many fans of both Weezer and rock music prefer Pinkerton, but I definitely prefer Blue. If I try to think of a perfect album, it’s probably the closest I think of. I remember at 14 seeing the Happy Days themed video of “Buddy Holly” without knowing who either Buddy Holly, Mary Tyler Moore or Fonzie were. Like “Hush” by Wax (mentioned in 1992), it was directed by Spike Jonze and it’s among his most famous music videos. A song that a lot of people seem to dislike is “Holiday”, but it’s actually one of my favorite songs on the album, but they all are basically.  Even the songs that didn’t make it to the album “Mykel & Carli”, “Suzanne” and “Jamie” are just as good as most of the songs on the actual album. Weezer tried to follow it up with a Green album in 2001, a Red album in 2008, a White album in 2016 and a Black album is coming up this year. None of these have been even close to touching Blue, we’ll see about the new one though.

Blink(-182)-Cheshire Cat

blink cheshire cat

It seems like the news in Ohio is saying that Blink-182 are being discussed as inductees to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame (https://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2018/06/is_blink-182_rock_roll_hall_of.html). A big question is when they are eligible to be inducted. Their debut album Cheshire Cat was officially released in early 1995. Meaning they wouldn’t be eligible before 2020. The reason they might be eligible anyway is that it was recorded as early as 1994 and advanced copies were out in 1994. This was the time that the band was only called Blink. They had to change their name becomes of that Irish techno band, or alternative rock band, which they actually played. So, despite being released in 1995 on Grilled Cheese and Cargo Records, and re-released by Universal in 1998, the copyright said 1994 because that was when it was recorded and meant to be released, it’s usually regarded a 1994 album, which is why I take the liberty to include it here.

Since this column is called “The Years of Our Lives”, I can’t save too much up for the 2002 column, since I could probably write a book about that year and me discovering new Blink records. So I’ll share this memory here: I remember ordering the live album The Mark, Tom and Travis Show from the local chain record store, when I came back the next week when they said they’d have it, they said it hadn’t arrived. They had tons of other Blink records though, so I figured, why not buy another one? So I bought Cheshire Cat instead. The store never got in MTTS, and I could probably step by every Saturday and buy a new record, I called their bluff early and didn’t fall for the trick though. The purchase of CC was one I don’t regret, however. I loved it instantly. I remembered their performance on MTV Europe Music Award and I just thought they sounded awful and I find something quite charming about that. I think glossiness of music and every song sounding perfect was something that bored me with music so listening to these guys mess up their songs big time was great to me. On Cheshire Cat, I got the same feeling: that this wasn’t a mass produced rock album, this was the real shit. The fast drums and the somewhat low-fi production made me go wild. I also really loved the more slow-paced songs like “Cacophony” and I think it showed that the band had a talent for ballads really early on. I still think it’s one of their finest works. And not really cacophonous at all, like one might say about the following track “T.V”.

Another song that really struck me early on was “Romeo and Rebecca”. I was really impressed by the intro and Tom’s kind of terrible singing made it seem even more sincere to me. I guess I’ve always seen it as the perfect anti-love song. Referencing Shakespeare and creating a dissonance between his most famous play Romeo and Juliet and replacing the girl in the tragic love affair with another girl’s name. Maybe I’ve been overthinking it. Of course, other songs on the album are of course the singles “M+M’s” and “Wasting Time” and the live staple about loneliness “Carousel”. I also have a soft spot for “Does My Breath Smell?”. The joke tracks at the end are also great, except “Just About Done” (I don‘t think I’ll ever like that one). “Ben Wah Balls”, is a tale about family reunions (as most Blink fans know, their idea of family reunions are kinda weird), incest and sex toys. It goes from cheery, funny to sad and downright disturbing.

Rancid-Let’s Go

rancid lets go
Not to be super punk or anything, but Let’s Go is the ultimate Rancid album. Not only does it have that punk edge that we love, but it’s also super melodic. The songs are catchy as hell and shows quite a musicianship without being too wanky. Let’s Go was released on Epitaph June 21, 1994. Unlike later records, we don’t get many songs with lead vocals sung by Lars Frederiksen on Let’s Go, but “St. Mary” is sung primarily by Lars and it’s one of the best songs on the album. That being said, his back-up vocals are fantastic on most of the album. The song “St. Mary” is one of the darker songs on the album, it’s, I think, about a woman revenging the death of her murdered husband. One of my favorites is definitely “Side Kick”, a song about being Wolverine’s side kick and fighting crime as a vigilante and shooting cops in the head. I think “Radio” is the most well-known song from the album, co-written with Billie Joe from Green Day, and about the power of music. I think this is the album with the best Matt Freeman songs. Songs like “Gunshot”, “Black and Blue”, “Motorcycle Ride” and, of course, “Tenderloin” are catchy, but seem a lot more “punk” than Tim’s songs. That being said, the verses and bridge to “Gunshot” and the chorus of “Black and Blue” would be the perfect punk song together. The album starts with “Nihilism” and ends with “7 Years Down”, both dealing with substance abuse problems. Also, for some reason I sing the song “You Gave It Away” after the chorus to “Last Christmas” by Wham. I’ve always wanted to make a mash up of those two songs. A mash up of “Burn, “The Roof Is on Fire” by Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three and “Fire Water Burn” by the Bloodhound Gang (and a lot of other songs) as they all contain the line “We don’t need no water let the motherfucker burn”. The album peaked at #97 on the Billboard top 200. It also has the sort of Billy Bragg sounding track “Harry Bridges” about the American union leader with the same name.

———————————————————————————————————————-

Dave’s Picks

Weezer- Blue Album

weezer blue album

When I look back at ‘90s alternative rock, Weezer’s Blue Album is one of the few things that really holds up and possibly even gets better with age. The strange thing is that I look at the Blue Album as such a classic, teen album, with the angst-y awkwardness just imbued in the record, as if to soundtrack a thousand teenage failings. At the same time, though, the album has only got stronger as I have got older. Although I always enjoyed it, I felt Weezer as a whole were a bit cheesy in my ‘only punk will do’ teen years. Now, though, I basically agree with Rene that it is a perfect record. The nadir of ‘90s alt-rock? Probably. There certainly isn’t any filler in sight on the Blue Album.

It such a fun record, but one that has soul, depth and meaning that are all too often lacking on Weezer’s more vapid, recent efforts. How can you not want to dance around to “Buddy Holly” or “Surf Wax America”? Or get a warm, tingling feeling when you hear the opening chords to “My Name is a Jonas”? Or cringe when you hear the lyrics to “No One Else”? Weezer’s energy and charm feels effortless, too. I think another issue with their later stuff is that they tried way too hard to be ‘quirky’ or ‘nerdy’, but at this stage of their career, it was pretty natural.

I think one of the best things about the Blue Album is that Weezer managed to bridge the gap between the harmonies of pop-punk/power-pop and the angst of alt.rock/grunge. Lead singer Rivers Cuomo had got swept up in the ‘90s alt-rock craze, but had clearly been brought up on pop music. With those super big hooks and self-aware lyrics, they tapped into a form of indie rock that wasn’t pretentious or self-indulgent. Not that there isn’t self-reflection on this thing of course: “No One Else” and “Say It Ain’t So” will attest to that. Indeed, the stark autobiographical details on the latter paved the way somewhat for Pinkerton.

“Say It Ain’t So” is definitely up there as one of my favourites from the album. It’s very Pixies-esque in its quiet-loud dynamics. A classic slow-burner with a loud, crunchy and cathartic chorus that is probably the most standard ‘alt-rock’ song on the record. “Surf Wax America” is a whole silly ball of fun. I think it’s the first song from the record I heard. It is essentially a pop-punk track that packs considerable oomph and has its tongue firmly in its cheek. The lines “You take your car to work, I’ll take my board” are so memorable, simply driving home a message of individualism- ‘yeah, I’m different, so what, fuck you’. There is a dichotomy on the Blue Album that is neatly encapsulated by these two: the bouncy confidence of “Surf Wax America” next to the angst and vulnerability of “Say It Ain’t So”.

What else? “My Name is Jonas” is probably one of the best album openers of all time, a quirky Beach Boys meets Pixies sing-a-long. I love Rivers ‘yeah!’ towards the end of the song and the neat guitar solo that follows. “In the Garage” is just about perfect in showcasing indie rock angst in all of its pomp. Meanwhile, when Weezer toned it down with tracks like “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here”, the results were just as good, with Rivers’ vulnerabilities left bare.

Weezer would never, ever come close to the heights reached on the Blue Album, with not an ounce of filler or fat in sight. Pinkerton? Good, but lost some of the hooks, charm and ‘fun’ that made the Blue Album such a classic. You take your Pinkerton to work; I’ll take my Blue Album.

Jawbreaker- 24 Hour Revenge Therapy

jawbreaker 24 hr

I am not going to talk about Jawbreaker’s best record. I will save that for the 1995 discussion (that’s right, Dear You, motherfuckers), but their third record 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is a classic pop-punk record of the ‘90s and evidences the quintessential Jawbreaker sound: gruff, raspy vocals and punchy, (relatively) lo-fi and hook-filled pop-punk goodness. Bivouac was an altogether different beast to 24 Hour and Unfun, an experimental record that shifted the Jawbreaker sound towards a noisier and more chaotic avenue. It turns out that Bivouac is the only Jawbreaker full-length that is not going to feature in these Years of Our Lives articles. I was never into it, really, and, for me, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy got things back on track, expanding on and enhancing the stuff on Unfun. Recorded with Steve Albini, this was Jawbreaker’s ‘breakthrough’ record, riding the crest of alt-rock’s rise to the mainstream.

Tracks like “Boxacar”, “Do you still hate me?” and “Condition Oakland” demonstrate Jawbreaker’s strengths: a heart-on-sleeve brand of punk that is sincere and romantic in the classic sense of the word. Blake Schwarzenbach’s emotive and Kerouac-esque songwriting (although I would hesitate to label them an ‘emo’ band) is a tour-de-force and rarely matched in punk. Jawbreaker’s raspy pop-punk sonics and romanticism laid the foundations for a ton of bands that emerged in the punk scene in the ‘00s, from Banner Pilot to the Credentials.

The ‘punk poetry’ on Unfun reached a new level on 24 Hour, amid tales of moving from place to place, heartbreak and drinking on porches. I mean, they were the original ‘fest’ band. Blake’s songwriting style is clearly influenced by Kerouac’s sentimentality, notably on “Do You Still Hate Me?”, one of the best slower pop-punk songs of all time (and has been brilliantly covered by Upset) with a series of questions filling up the chorus: “Are you out there?/ Do you hear me?/ Can I call you?/ Do you still hate me?” There is a reading from Kerouac on one of the tracks and Blake even self-mockingly references his Kerouacian influence on the record (“You don’t know what I’m all about/ Like killing cops and reading Kerouac”).

Elsewhere, Jawbreaker’s most memorable tracks on the record drifted towards ‘scene critique’, getting all meta and poking fun at the uptight and insular underground punk scene that they had emerged from. In the midst of Green Day moving to a major (see below!), the punk scene seemed obsessed with who was or wasn’t ‘selling out’ and laying down judgements based on a set of strict ideals. Blake laid into these on “Boxcar” and “Indictment”. On the latter, he sang of writing ‘dumb songs’ and ‘singalongs’, after which “all our friends will clap and sing/our enemies will laugh and be pointing”. It was tongue-in-cheek, but also a prediction of what was to come just the following year with the release of Dear You, when the punk scene turned its back on what was one of its most beloved bands at the time.

The anthemic “Boxcar”, meanwhile set out Blake’s stall, hitting back at the righteousness of the punk scene: “You’re not punk, and I’m telling everyone / Save your breath, I never was one.” On 24 Hour, Blake displayed a confidence in his band’s ability to do whatever the fuck they wanted, no matter the scene cred (“if you think we changed our tune, I hope we did”), but the fallout of Dear You would ultimately tear the band apart. In all honesty, though, while Dear You was more glossily produced and more angst-y, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy was already supplying the sing-a-long pop-punk goodness (see “Boxcar” for one thing), albeit rawer and raspier than what Green Day were offering.

Green Day- Dookie

green day dookie

Another classic ‘teen’ album of the era to fit alongside The Blue Album. Dookie is, of course, very different in tone and substance to that one; it perfectly captures that sense of disaffection and boredom that all teens feel at some point. The opening lines of the album set the tone for what is to come: “I declare I don’t care no more/ I’m burning up and out and growing bored/ In my smoked out boring room” (as with “My Name is Jonas”, “Burnout” is an absolutely perfect opening track). It is pop-punk with a shrug. I prefer Kerplunk’s idealism and romanticism, but Dookie still catches Green Day in that era when they could almost do no wrong.

Tracks like “Basket Case”, “Burnout” and “Coming Clean” were sharp, bouncy, hook-filled pop-punkers that lodged themselves in your brain for hours after. For all its surface level slackerdom, these engaged with deeper issues, too: questioning one’s sexuality at seventeen and living with anxiety. “Longview” is clearly a fan favourite, with its memorable baseline and tales of boredom-induced masturbation that suggests a kind of mental prison that Billie Joe had built for himself.

Nevertheless, these tracks evidence a teenage, self-mocking engagement with these issues: “do you have the time to listen to me whine?” That is, of course, why Dookie (and the stuff that preceded it) retains its charm. Everyone can relate to some extent with Billie Joe’s tales of boredom, discovering one’s identity and disaffection. As Jawbreaker did the following year, Green Day faced struggles with their Gilman St. fanbase after having signed with a major label. Green Day faced the same call of ‘sellouts’, but grew and grew in the face of adversity, in contrast with Jawbreaker. Also, as with Jawbreaker, it was on the following record that Green Day would move away from their straightforward pop-punk sound towards a more mature, indie sound that involved more serious, ‘grown-up’ discussions of mental health and addictions. In many ways, Dookie marked the beginning of the end of what we knew as Green Day, with Billie Joe shifting away from lovelorn, teenage tales towards a multitude of other beasts (mid-90s alt-rock angst, ‘mid-00s ‘political’ punk and whatever the fuck they are now).

Other 1994 albums I enjoy:

NOFX- Punk in Drublic/ Screeching Weasel- How to Make Enemies and Irritate People/ Sunny Day Real Estate- Diary