Archive for March, 2015

Hey, look, it’s another Amp Session live! Three different bands to last time, but the quality was still as good. Kicking off the evening were Staring Out The Sun, a relatively new rock band from London, whose debut EP came out last month. It is difficult to say exactly, but I think Staring Out The Sun probably stole the show. Their brand of emphatic, energetic rock, complete with cool breakdowns, chugging guitars and powerful vocals, works so well in the live setting. The lead singer, in particular, really interacted well with the audience (an already packed venue by this point). It reminded me at points of mid-00s alt rock like Fightstar or Thrice! Next up were Affairs, an altogether different proposition, synth-y, ethereal indie rock, in the vein of Interpol, Bloc Party or a dancier Smiths. The memorable part of their performance was perhaps not the music itself, but the theatrical performance of the lead singer, as he swayed/danced about on stage. Along with his vocals, he is reminiscent of Ian Curtis or Morrisey. Of their set, their latest single “Blood Science” stood out as the most powerful song. Van Susans were the final band on of the night, showcasing their poppy, folk-y rock, with keyboard and violin sounds to boot. They have built a decent sized fan base already and you can see why. The five-piece band are very tight and are clearly very comfortable playing together. You can totally see their stuff being played regularly on Radio 2! All in all, another successful Amp Session night then, helped by the sheer variety of bands on display.

Check out The Amp Session here: http://www.theampsession.co.uk/

CYLS 087 Footbal, etc.- Disappear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following a couple of albums, including 2013’s awesome Audible, and a few 7”s and splits, Football, etc return with a new EP, which continues in the same vein as their previous releases, again straddling the line between cutesy indie and earnest emo; the only change here being that the melancholy has been turned up a few notches. ‘Disappear’ is full of contemplative lyrics and drawn-out melodies that call to mind Waxahatchee’s slower moments. Kicking off with the following lyrics on opener “Sunday” sets the tone for the rest of the EP: “Sometimes I find myself in an awful place/ And I can pretend that I am not there/ And I disappear”. The idea of disappearing is the theme of the EP, I guess. The highlight of ‘Disappear’ for me is “Sweep”, which has a great soft/loud dynamic. If you already know Football, etc, this will please you; if you don’t, this is not a bad place to start at all.

Listen here: http://countyourluckystars.bandcamp.com/album/disappear

The Kimberly Steaks "Chemical Imbalance" EP cover art

 

The ‘Steaks are back! And this EP is probably my favourite release so far in 2015 (still feels weird writing that year). The Kimberly Steaks build on their debut album and continue to channel Kerplunk through West Central Scotland, albeit with slightly better production. ‘Chemical Imbalance’ is pop-punk personified, mixing early-mid ‘90s Lookout pogo-pop with a little grit from contemporary punk. The Kimberly Steaks flit between frantic, super-fast, super-melodic pop-punk (“Chemical Imbalance”), mid-tempo angst (“Change Your Mind”) and high-tempo pop, with a cover of Herman’s Hermits “Something Good” to ensure that you do not get bored. To be honest, there is no time to get bored with this EP: with the intensity the ‘Steaks play at, it is over before you know it.

But what is there is substantial. ‘Chemical Imbalance’ is full of ideas and thoughts that any youth will have felt at some point or other: awkwardness, boredom, loneliness and the dreaded hope. There is a feeling here that the protagonist is drifting, unsure of himself and going nowhere. It is this that reminds me of early Green Day: sitting around, just watching the time pass, bored or drugged out of your mind. The protagonist’s questioning of his own mind simply adds to that feeling of detachment from the world, which paints a stark picture: “and it’s hard to keep yourself sane when you’re fucked up almost every night”. Lines like “There must be more to life than just killing time” sum up the issue. What I like here is that feels real, a frustration and detachment that is tangible, much more so than many other punk bands that go down the “my life sux” route. I mean, who can’t relate to “I need something to take the edge off of life”? (which is probably my ‘hook’ of the year so far, by the way). It is essentially a kick in the guts that feels like your own. And then Herman’s Hermits comes on…

Listen here: http://rounddogrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-kimberly-steaks-chemical-imbalance-ep

Arnos Vale cover art

Personal Best’s brand of scuzzy power-pop is so tight and well-crafted, it is as if they have been making records for years. Yet, Arnos Vale is actually their first LP, following last year’s ‘Lovin’ EP. This album is bright, joyful and poppy, without being cheesy or glossy, like all the best power-pop. The power-pop elements here overlap with ‘90s indie and pop-punk influences. Superchunk, Sugar and The Descendents spring to mind. The latter is perhaps less obvious, but I certainly hear some Milo melodies on Arnos Vale; notably “Beauty is Terror” kind of sounds like a slowed-down, poppier Everything Sucks b-side (as an aside, I wonder if the “million books” line in this song is a reference to All’s “Million Bucks”). So, yes, there are some obvious influences on this album, but Personal Best make it their own, not least with their attitude.

Indeed, there is so much happiness and joy spilling out of this record, it really does put you in a positive mood. Personal Best’s PMA approach to music is a breath of fresh air in the indie/punk underground. Amid the cynicism, this is the glowing reference that ‘love’ needed. It’s obvious in some of the song titles from the get go, like “If You Meet Someone in Love (Wish Them Well)” or “Love is on Your Side”, but for me, the highlight of the album, lyrically and sonically, is “This is What We Look Like”. It is an earnest account of love triumphing over adversity: “I wanna kiss you in the street, where everyone can see/ ‘cause this is what we look like”. All of which is yelped out as if yearning to emerge for years.

Listen here: http://diymag.com/2015/03/26/personal-best-stream-debut-album-arnos-vale-in-full

I first heard of Beatnik Termites in 2007. I like the band name, it’s mixing the 50’s/60’s rebellion of the Beat poet movement and the parasitic goofiness of 90’s pop punk (see the Parasites and so on). Sonically, they are a mix of these decades, but don’t resemble most of the beatnik ideals, except maybe the need to be offensive every once in a while, but they seem more inspired by the 60’s beat music movement, as well as surf music from the same era. Pat Kim (Also known as Pat Termite) started the band in Cleveland, Ohio in 1987 and he has had many different bassists and drummers in the band. I think their best effort is their first one, their eponymous EP from 1989. The EP is sweet, sugary and wistful. Pat’s voice is sweet and innocent and sings songs about his sand castle not standing the next day (“Sand Castles”), having to let go of a crush that is in love with someone else (“Strawberry Girl”), Charlie Brown getting a Valentine (“Charlie Brown gets a Valentine”) and the Monkees-esque song about familiar faces in your town (“Faces”).

My favorite song of the band is probably “How Many Times” that appeared on the comp Ben Weasel presents Punk rock USA from 1995. They have put out several other releases like Taste the Sand, Girl crazy! They also followed Screeching weasel, The Vindictives, The Queers, MTX and Boris the Sprinkler in covering a Ramones album in its entirety and recorded Pleasant Dreams. Along with the Boris the Sprinkler’s End of the Century, it’s one of the underrated albums in the series; what’s more, I think Pleasant Dreams is an underrated album in itself. The album I’m going to talk about is Bubblecore, which is maybe their most aggressive release and introduced a new type of singing in addition to his cute, juvenile voice: what I like to call the “Eric Cartman singing” or “Bart Simpson with a throat cancer singing”. This singing has later been used by other pop punk singers like Brandon Dung and Bill Mcrackin. The commerce of these voices is perfect for the soundtrack to 30+ singing about high school and throwing teenage tantrums. Pat also played bass on the album. The bass lines are maybe my favorite part of it. Beatnik Termites were apparently a favorite band of Kurt Cobain, according to his post-mortem released diary. Taste the Sand (their first album) came out in 1995, a year after Cobain died, so he never got to hear it, let alone Bubblecore.

Bubblecore was recorded in 1996 and released the same on Recess Records. It was later re-released on Insubordination records. The album cover is yellow with “Beatnik Termites” in red in all caps and “Bubblecore” in a blue with a ™ after it, both referencing Termites and Trademark. Below there’s a girl blowing a bubble out bubblegum with the band inside the bubble. The cover is drawn like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon or Archie comics, which is suitable to their childlike, bubblegum image.
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1. “I Don’t Wanna Hang Around”: A snotty song with snotty lyrics! Continuing in the vein of the Ramones and their “I wanna/don’t wanna” songs. This is one of the negative ones like “I don’t wanna walk around with you” or “I don’t want you” or The Queers’ “I don’t want you hanging around”. The music also sounds like the Ramones with its “oh yeahs” and minimalist lyrics. The best line is maybe “I see you found your niche/You snotty, superficial bitch”. The song always struck me as a fan favorite!

2. “You’re All Talk”: This song continues the Ramones-style and sounds inspired by “Beat on the Brat”. It’s also similar lyrically. This time the protagonist is mad that someone, possibly a girlfriend, is all talk and not showing up to their dates. The person doesn’t even show up when the protagonist has put them on a guest list. “I could have sold your ticket and it makes me really pissed”. The protagonist also accuses the antagonist of having mental problems “I think you need a shrink”, something that is also similar to “I don’t want you hanging around” (“Clinically depressed, you’re just one pathetic mess”). This song is, however, a lot catchier than “I don’t want you hanging around” and has an even angrier conclusion :“As far as I’m concerned, baby you can go to hell!”

3. “A Girl I Know”: A much happier song. It has a really awesome bass line that basically makes the whole song a whole lot better. And the song takes us back to the cuter days of their self-titled EP. The song is about infatuation and about someone being so much in love with a girl that he can smell her perfume even before she’s in the room. There’s something honest about the song and describes the feeling of new love perfectly. And did I mention that bass line?

4. “Shit, Fuck”: In this 21 seconds long track, the singer (I don’t think it’s Pat) yells “shit” and “fuck” a shit load of times! It’s probably the most “Punk” song on the album.

5 “I Don’t Wanna Be Bad”: This song sounds like Pat wanting to be Dee Dee Ramone, and it’s inspired by songs like “Wart Hog”, “Endless Vacation” and “Love Kills”. Like “Shit, Fuck” it just seems like someone throwing out random obscenities. And seems to apologize in the chorus singing “I don’t wanna be bad, but I can’t help feeling mad”. This could be a reference to “Now I Wanna Be a Good Boy”. The protagonist could maybe suffer from Tourette’s syndrome.

6. “Skateboard”: In case you forget, this album is from the 90’s. Not only is this song about skateboarding, but there’s also in this song “a new song by the Ramones” and that’s kind of hard to imagine, but this was around the time when they split up and released Adios amigos!. The song describes someone who claims to be ugly, but doesn’t want to be a “teen heartthrob” and seems to hate their job and just wants to get on their board and skate around. This skater doesn’t want to go to parties cuz people there are mean! It seems like in the 90’s, and probably still, skateboarding seemed to be a way to get away from your problems. Skateboarding was edgy, skateboarding was rad, skateboarding was punk! And an escape from parents, school and work and everything getting you down. You could say the same thing about surfing, and the lyrics are quite similar to Weezer’s “Surf Wax America” in that regard. The song references Thrasher, the legendary skateboarding magazine and JFA (Jody Foster’s army), an 80’s skate punk/Hardcore band. And FYI: both these were founded in 1981! Sk8 and destroy, maan !

7. “You’re the Only One”: The seventh track of the album “You’re the Only One” is a punk rock inspired classic pop song. Mixing the harmonies of the beach boys with the melody of doo-wop and the lyrics of “Phil Spector girl groups” and some sweet handclaps. The bridge goes “When I look into your eyes it’s me you apprehend/all I ever wanted was to be more than your friend” The band made a black and white music video to accompany the song, and the punk rock image of the band seems sort of out of place with the content of the song, but when it’s the Beatnik termites, it works! And to me that doubleness is what makes me love the video and the song! Should’ve been a hit in a perfect world!

8. “You Make Me Sick”: Another of the “I’m really fucking pissed at you” songs, and this time he really seems to mean it. Not only that, but in the background of the adult “hating you” teenage tantrum throwing there’s backup vocals that sound like they’re straight out of Grease! And it’s catchy as fuck! And it probably has the meanest order to give someone “Go shoot yourself 20 times in the head/Cuz I think that you’ll be happier when you’re dead”. The bridge goes “You say I don’t show enough affection/but you don’t even give me an erection”. The lyrics sounds like they could’ve been straight out of a TV-show called “Insult your Significant other”, if such a show existed.

9. “Circles”: I feel like this song takes us back to the cuteness of “A Girl I Know”, this song actually also appeared on their first EP and it has the second best bass line on the album. Like the bass line on “A Girl I Know”, it’s simple, but it really fits the song. The song is about a girl who always dances by herself, “In her little world I can tell”, the protagonist as well as other weirdos want to dance with this lady, but neither the protagonist or the others dares to ask her; later she looks away and the protagonist knows he has lost his chance. The girl in the song will to the protagonist only be a fantasy, in “Daydream land” or “a little wonder land”. It’s like of like in the movie Angus where Angus really likes Melissa, but he doesn’t really get to know anything about her until the school dance other than his own phantasm of her. The chorus of the song is, to me, pretty much perfect and I think the whole song goes in the category “perfect pop punk song”. There’s been so many times since the first time I heard it that I’ve listened to this song and just bounced up and down on the floor and getting lost in the song. I think the Bubblecore version is better than the original.

10. “Eddie’s Got a New Zit”: One of the sillier songs on the album. When you’re in a pop punk band you can write songs like this! And that’s why I love pop punk! And why so many other dweebs are embarrassed by it. The song is about someone named Eddie who has lots of zits, but the girls like him anyway! Now he’s trying to shave and, guess what? He’s got a new zit again!

11. “Can’t Pretend”: This songs shares its name (basically) with The Barracudas’ hit from their Drop out with the Barracudas (that will get their own article one day!) The song is about the protagonist trying to think about a girl or be in love with her, but he just can’t! He can’t even pretend that he doesn’t have feelings for her.

12. “Jailbreak”: This song also has a classic song title shared with many bands, most famously being Thin Lizzy. The song is about a dude wanting to escape from prison because he doesn’t want to be someone’s “bitch” in the shower. So not exactly the Thin Lizzy song.

13. “Beach Girl”: I don’t know if it’s just me, but “Beach girl” reminds of Tacocat’s “Crimson Wave”. I get the same feeling when I listen to the song. The subject matter is obviously different, even they’re both about girls surfin’ waves. “Beach Girl” is about being in love with a surfer girl, much like “Surfer Girl” and “Surf Goddess” and also fits more into the Beach Boys end of the ‘Termites spectrum. They are also mentioned in the song along with the Ramones. Like in “Circles” the character never really gets to be with his crush: “Only in my dreams can I ever be with you/I can only hope that my dreams will come true” I remember listening to this song in the University cafeteria when I was standing in line for food and it made my day a little better. I guess outside of unrequited love part of the song, the song could also be seen as incredibly creepy coming from older men: “You’re the raddest in my school”.

14 “Don’t Tell Me”: This song is about finding out about a crush having a new boyfriend. The protagonist clearly would’ve wished to remain ignorant on the subject, maybe so the fantasy about the crush could still continue, but the news of the boyfriend is devastating and the protagonist asks, “What can I do?” That’s the unrequited love angle that we’ve seen in the rest of the album, the song could also be seen from an ex, the protagonist being bummed out that their ex has found a new love without them and moved on and they aren’t able to do that themselves.
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I think this album will always get you in a good mood, from the silly songs, to the angry “throwing tantrum” songs to the sweet and innocent, surf-y love songs. I definitely think the Termites should get more love than they currently do! The next album is I Don’t Wanna Grow Up by the Descendents!

Pushin' it 2 the Limit cover art

Pushin’ it 2 the limit are a new-ish punk band from Philadelphia and this is their first release, which came out at the tail end of last year. It may take a while to get into your head, but there is something ultimately irresistible about this charming self-titled debut. And charming it is; this is lo-fi punk rock that is all about the fun and the melodies. It kind of epitomises the spirit of punk: it was created to be something pure and joyful, yet with a ‘fuck you’ in mind at the same time. The kind of reaction I had after watching the brilliant Swedish, coming of age punk flick ‘We Are The Best’. I wish, at times, that better production had gone into this record, but basement recordings are nothing if not charming. The band shouting out the name of the song in unison before playing it is also their thing. Which is cute as fuck, especially when it involves shouting “Totally extreme, fuck yeah!!”

So, what do PI2TL specifically sound like? Well, I guess it is broadly pop-punk, in that it’s ‘poppy’ and it’s ‘punk’, but it sounds nothing like say Green Day or Screeching Weasel. PI2TL play scrappy, lo-fi, poppy punk, which has Descendents-esque melodies and female vocals which are kind of Tacocat-ish. When they are at the most sneering and angry, they sound a little like something from the ‘riot grrrl’ era (see: “Pump Up the Shred”). The noodle-y guitars really fits well throughout with the high tempo of the songs; this album will definitely make you want to get up and dance. It takes a little while to ‘get’ this album and what they are going for, and I’m not sure about the extent to which they are really ‘pushin’ it 2 the limit’ musically, but this album is so much fucking fun. If I lived in Philadelphia, I would be at their shows whenever I could. And when they belt out their ‘band statement’, you can’t help but sing along: “Cos we’re pushin’ it 2 the limit!!!”

Stream the album here: http://pi2tl.bandcamp.com/releases

DB

Epic Problem / Holiday - Split 7" cover art

This is a great punk rock 7” from two bands I hadn’t previously heard of. Holiday and Epic Problem are both on the ‘gruff’ end of the punk spectrum, and you can definitely compare the two to certain No Idea heavyweights. However, there is no US-apeing here; this release has UK punk rock written all over it. As such, there are influences here from Off With Their Heads and Hot Water Music, but also Leatherface and Bangers. Epic Problem play gritty, heart-on-sleeve punk rock with gravelly vocals and awesome, poppy guitar leads. There is an aggression and intensity here which is great and would work well in grimy, punk basements, particularly with “Blindside”. The other song “Petrol Blue” meanwhile has some great bittersweet lyrics about leaving your small town behind, which brings to mind Banner Pilot if they were from North-West England:

“Petrol blue was the colour of the sky that day
When we plotted and we schemed, we planned our getaway
Gotta get out of this Godforsaken one horse fucking town
And I’m never coming back, I’m never turning round”

Holiday come from roughly the same sub-genre as Epic Problem, but sound different enough for the team-up to work on a split 7”. They are more melodically driven and slightly slower-placed than Epic Problem, while still packing the same sort of punch. It’s still ‘fists in the air’ punk rock, but perhaps more of a band that you could listen to it in your bedroom while lazing around. I assume (although I may be wrong) that different vocalists are used on the two Holiday songs on this 7”, as the vocals on “Isolation is a Lonely Place to be” sound Chuck Ragan-esque, yet they are more standard pop-punk sounding on “New Eyes For Old Things”. Predictably, the latter song is my favourite song of the four, sounding to me like a cross between early Green Day and the poppier end of ’77 punk, with “nanananas” to boot. For a sound that is caricatured and painted into a corner more than most, Holiday and Epic Problem display the sheer variety on this 7” that the gruff-punk sub-genre can offer when challenged a little.

Stream the split here:http://brassneckrecords.bandcamp.com/album/epic-problem-holiday-split-7

DB

“TODAY, IT’S ALIVE COMES ALIVE”

Time to crack on with the It’s Alive-a-thon. Here, I grade releases 11-20, but there is more than 10 releases, as there was also the ‘wedding record’ sandwiched in between IAR 18 and 19. Enjoy!

IAR 11: Retarded- Gambling on Rock 7” (January 2007)

Another one of those pop-punk bands that was fairly prolific during the early to mid 2000s, but doesn’t exist anymore. I was a semi-fan of Retarded’s early stuff when they were a harmony-led Ramonescore band, releasing splits with bands such as The Huntingtons and EP titles such as “Judy Wants to Be My Girl”, but I must say that they lost me with their final releases, when they moulded their hook-y pop-punk with a ‘70s ‘rawk’ sound. I realise that this 7” is semi-satirical (which the four Kiss tribute sleeves allude to), but the songs just aren’t that good. If ‘Gambling on Rock’ is mainly about mocking ‘70s cock-rock, then I don’t think it’s funny enough; if it aims to be anything more, then I don’t know what to say. I guess it’s just not my thing. Don’t worry, I didn’t ‘get’ The Darkness either.

Grade: D

IAR 12: The Copyrights- Mutiny Pop LP (January 2007)

Hey, look it’s IAR’s first LP release! The Copyrights sure are featuring a lot so far. I get the impression that a lot of Copyrights super-fans hold up Mutiny Pop as the pinnacle of the band’s work, but, for me, it’s only on their next release (Make Sound) that they start to get properly good. This album is inconsistent and patchy, but the good stuff on it is really, really fucking good. I mean, it is pretty difficult to beat the punchy sing-a-long of “Cashiers” as an opener, while “This Ain’t Broadway” gives lessons on how to make a simple pop-punk song great with superior songwriting. Mutiny Pop also finishes really strongly with the one-two trade off of “Playing Dead/Dumb” and the knock-out blow of “Kill the Captains”. A taste of what was to come.

Grade: B-

IAR 13: The Manges- Go Down LP (April 2007)

If we’re talking about euro pop-punk, Italian band The Manges are up there with the best. And this LP, Go Down, is pretty good, but the problem I find with Manges’ albums is that I get burnt out towards the end. I don’t think it’s particularly because of their style as they are relatively varied in sound when we are talking about Ramones-y pop-punk. I am sure if I heard these songs separated into 7”s, I would probably love them all, but, as it is, I am only really into the first half, with the rest being just ok. The placing of “Another Day” (which was the first Manges song I remember hearing) next to “Revenge of the Nerds” is great, though. You know what I think would work really well? A best-of Manges collection.

Grade: B-

IAR 14: The Popsters- “Two Minutes” 7” (April 2007)

As a great link between IAR 13 and 14, here is another Italian pop punk band, with artwork drawn by none other than Manuel Mange. The Popsters’ last 7” on IAR (as graded last time) was infinitely more interesting; this one is just fine, I guess, as straightforward as pop-punk gets. That is no bad thing in itself, but I don’t think that The Popsters have the necessary hooks to make that statement positive. “Two Minutes” is non-descript, while the cover of DeeDee Ramone’s “Runaway” is alright, but I preferred it when The Popsters had a pop at something more ‘exotic’ like “American Girl”.

Grade: C-

IAR 15: The Children’s Crusade- “Get Awesome” 10” (June 2007)

Most of these early IAR releases I heard at the time, or at least knew of the band, but it is only relatively recently I have come across The Children’s Crusade. I couldn’t stop playing “A Meeting in the Board Room at the Law Offices of Kafka and McBeal” when I first heard it. Now, that is some catchy shit. This is a style of pop-punk far removed from Euro Ramonescore: passionate, driven, snarly tunes, with dual vocalists and subtle melodies that reveal themselves over time. It is pop-punk more in the vein of For Science or Charlie Brown Gets a Valentine, with similar vocals to the former. Also: the songwriting. I feel like, minus a couple of Zatopeks songs, this is the first IAR release which attempts to write intelligent and memorable lyrics outside of the standard pop-punk formula. Apparently, the songs on this collection are what inspired the setting up of It’s Alive and I can see why. I only wish they had released more stuff.

Grade: B+

IAR 16: Fear of Lipstick- “Indie Band” 7” (July 2007)

I am fairly sure that this was the first IAR release I heard, and it was not a bad one at all to start with! This is one of Fear of Lipstick’s very early releases, but even then you could see that the Canadian punks had something different about them. They would go on to better things, but all the classic hallmarks of the FOL sound were already here: the harmonies from ‘70s power-pop/pop-punk, with the grit and balls of today’s punk rock, and vocals which are clearly influenced by Billie Joe. They have an element of The Briefs about them. I love on this release that they have the super-speedy “Indie Band” and “What You Do” next to the mid-tempo strut of “Bad Motel” (close your eyes and it could be a Nimrod b-side). Also, at the mainstream peak of major label indie bollocks, to hear “I got a band, an independent band, not an ‘indie’ band” was pretty great.

Grade: B

IAR 17: Dear Landlord/ Chinese Telephones Split 7” (June 2007)

“Three to the Beach” has to be one of the best punk rock songs released in the last ten years or so, right? It is heartfelt, urgent and has a catchy-as-fuck group vocal chorus: the summation of everything that Dear Landlord excel at. I love the positive message of the song. In a sub-genre where pessimism reigns supreme, to hear such hopeful chorus is great: “We’re not that hopeless/ We’re not as fucked as you think/ In short-lived moments, we can do anything”. It is such a trait that allows Banner Pilot and Rivethead to stand out from the crowd. The two Dear Landlord songs present here (the other being “I’m Not Sayin’ Get ‘er Done, But Don’t Just Stand There”) would offer a taste of what was to come on the modern classic that is Dream Homes. We’re still waiting for the follow-up to that one! Chinese Telephones were an under-rated underground garage-punk/pop-punk sensation, and the two songs on this split are indicative of their frantic, urgent, yet melody-driven style. “Prescription Pills and Medical Bills” reminds me melodically of Weasel’s “Kamala’s Too Nice”. I think the awesome-ness of these four songs, as well as the complimentary nature of Dear Landlord and Chinese Telephones makes this one of the greatest modern punk rock splits.

Grade: A+

IAR 18: For Science- “Way out of Control” EP (July 2007)

I feel like these gradings are going to just become “oh, this band was great and now they don’t exist and now I’m saaaaad”. Because that is the case with For Science. They burned brightly, but only for a very brief period. As far as I’m aware, they only released three things, with the “Tomorrow’s Just Another Day” album (also released in 2007) and this “Way out of Control” EP ruling so hard. For Science had a way of combining scrappy punk rock with the catchiest of melodies: a killer combo if I ever heard one. The vocals kind of make it, too: urgent, snarly, personable. In the pop-punk scene of the mid-‘00s, I think For Science had something pretty original going on, song-writing wise, and it is sad they didn’t do more releases, but they have left behind nearly perfect edifices such as “Way out of Control” and that is probably enough.

Grade: A

IAR 102007: The Steinways/The Varsity Weirdos Wedding Split 7” (October 2007)

A split 7” to commemorate Adam and Jenna Alive’s wedding! This release is something of a rarity, having never been actually sold by It’s Alive, with 150 copies being distributed to bands and friends. The two songs on here are short, but sweet, and perfectly fit with the theme of the split. The mid-tempo sugar of “Gotta Be With You” from The Varsity Weirdos compliments the frantic, super-poppy fast-paced “Today is the Day We Are Getting Married” from The Steinways. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any other ‘wedding records’, but if they are all this good, they should be done more!

Grade: A-

IAR 19: The Mugwumps- “Do Time” 7” (November 2007)

Aaaand, back to Ramonescore! The Mugwumps are in the upper tier of the straightforward, Lookout-influenced pop-punk, although I don’t think that this 7” is particularly great. There is pretty decent variety on “Do Time”, though, with some good mid-tempo melodies (“Pass Out”) mixed in alongside the more standard Queers-esque punk rock stompers (“Monkey Face”). Not to be confused with the Japanese punk band “Mugwumps”

Grade: C+

IAR 20: The Steinways- Unoriginal Recipe 7” (January 2008)

The Steinways’ first proper release with IAR, and it’s a pretty great one! This was The Steinways’ prolific era, putting out four releases on top of this in 2007 alone. The “Rocket Surgery” is probably the better overall package, but “Unoriginal Recipe” has some hits, too. It evidences classic Steinways song-writing really: immature, catchy, super-fun. This 7” was slap-bang in between The Steinways two full lengths and you can see it as a transition era in terms of songwriting, clocking up more minutes on the song lengths and branching out slightly in terms of song ideas than Missed the Boat. To sum up the highlights, there’s a Portuguese written song (“Voce Tem Labios De Uma Galinha”, which according to Google Translate means something like “You have the lips of a chicken”), an Ace written song (“I Shit (You Not)) and a Grath written song, that is possibly his creepiest overall, including these as lyrics: “I swipe my card and climb aboard/ Confronted by a dozen or more/ pretty little girls from another world/ Oh, I want to touch them all”. Then again, there is that “masturbating at work” song.

Grade: A-

To check out/buy any of these releases, head to: http://itsaliverecords.com/

Chico's Revenge cover art

Brown plaid is a band from Merrick, New York. “Chico’s Revenge” is a short record: 9 songs in under 10 minutes. They describe the album themselves on their bandcamp page as “Songs we wrote while drinking beer, listening to screeching weasel and watching cats poop in a dirty basement.” The first two songs “Records” and “Hippies” reminds me of early Less than Jake and Teri Yakimoto era of Guttermouth. “Different World” is more of a Screeching weasel-esque song and it has a somewhat good lead guitar. It sounds like something that could fit in on Teen Punks in Heat. Lyrically, the band explore the sillier spectrum of Punk, with Joe Queer-inspired lyrics in “Hippies”: “Hippies stink, literally” and other lyrics like “You are a girly band!!!!!” and a song about hating the Sex pistols. Even Marilyn Manson and Good Charlotte get their minutes of fame (well, not literally, the song is hardly a minute) in the song. I don’t know if this hate for the Pistols is justified, but it’s a funny song. And the cred that Punk purists give the early punk bands that basically all were on major labels is kind of funny. The song ends with an anti-homage to “God Save the Queen” where they sing “God save my ears”; after the song someone yells, “I pooped myself!”

“Flapjack Faceslap” takes the band back to the Guttermouth sound and “Baby Wants a Bottle” is another Weasel-inspired song. It’s also the longest song on the record and clocks in at one minute and thirty one seconds, I think it’s their best song as well! The cover art is a night vision picture of a cat in a litter box with lit up eyes. I’m guessing the cats name is “Chico”. It looks really simplistic and funny which fits the EP perfectly. This record is no Pet Sounds, it’s not even My Brain Hurts, but it’s Chico’s Revenge and that’s something too: it’s a fun album that doesn’t take itself too seriously for people who are into this sort of thing.

Check out the 7″ here: http://brownplaid.bandcamp.com/