It’s Alive Records School Report Pt. 2 (Releases 11-20)

Posted: March 2, 2015 in Reviews


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:


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