Archive for May, 2015

After School Special is another hidden treasure in the cove of Pop Punk! There’s not much information about them anywhere. As I’ve gathered they started in San Francisco in the mid 90’s. The band members were Charlie Bunce, David Jones and Ted Hunter. They released one self-titled album, and three 7 inches: “Wrong”, “The Existentialist Blues” and “Adam Baum”. I first came aware of the band in 2012. I checked out a few songs on YouTube and didn’t get it at all. Later, I heard more songs, mostly from the “Adam Baum” EP, and I really fell in love with “Teenage Crush” and “I Only Want to Be With You” (No relation to the Dusty Springfield song) and then there was no way back! Now I like most of their songs and wonder what songs I didn’t like in the beginning. The band has been a huge inspiration for bands like the Steinways. Singer and guitarist, David Jones, started the band Enemy You when the band broke up in 1997. Enemy You released three full-length albums, on three different labels: Panic Button (Where No One Knows My Name), Red Scare (Stories Never Told) and Nitro (Fade away). They also appeared on the Four On the Floor split alongside Screeching weasel, Teen idols and Moral crux! With among others the fantastic song “Boy in a Bubble”. March 3, 2015, David Jones tragically passed away. The cause of death was suicide. According to his obituary, he had a Bachelor’s degree in Cinema and worked the last thirteen years of his life in San Francisco Superior Court as a Court Clerk. The Steinways and House boat’s Grath Madden and Red Scare Records’ Toby Jeg both gave him memorial words.

After School Special was released in 1997 on the legendary Mutant Pop label. The album cover is a picture of the three band members with sort of frowny faces standing at a school campus(at least it looks that way to me), with the band name in pink. Musically, the album drifts in two directions: A really poppy direction, sounding like the most sugary Queers tracks, as well as the later Honest Don’s band Limp, and a faster direction that seems more inspired by bands like Bad religion and No use for a name. Lyrically, the album is mostly about girls and also drifts in two different directions. Either the protagonists are afraid of approaching the female characters and seem bummed that they don’t seem to feel the same way, or the protagonists get approached by female characters they aren’t interested in and feel uncomfortable about it. It has many similarities with last pick I don’t want to grow up, but without the blatant misogyny and with more focus on the insecure and innocent side. The album also masters to create interesting female characters, even if seen from a male point of view. Other than that, the album has the usual Pop Punk themes like parents, school (what a surprise!) and outsider characters feeling discontented with society.

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1. “Kelly Burkett”: The opening track “Kelly Burkett” is a fast Ramones-y sounding song. The song is about a girl named Kelly Burkett being in love with the protagonist. He sings out “Kelly Burkett is a psycho! She said she’s in love with me”. Kelly Burkett is described as a creepy stalker that follows the protagonist around, even if she has a boyfriend. In the middle of the song, there’s a part where there only is a drum beat and a bass comes in. Later Jones sings “whoah oh oh’s” until “Kelly Burkett is a psycho” is repeated again. The vocal harmonies in the song are in the typical Mutant Pop style, and I find them quite enjoyable!

2 “The Generation Game”: A title with an alliteration! That’s always a treat! The song is about how generations change and how every new generation thinks they are special and the old one sucked. The message of the song is that this generation gap is just fake and how different generations aren’t that different at all. The song criticizes both the older and the newer generation for creating and buying into these fake and corrupted generation gaps. Musically, the song sounds like Bad Religion, more specifically the Suffer album, with more Pop Punk lyrics and vocals.

3. “Sarah, Plain and Tall”: The third song “Sarah, Plain and Tall” is a much more Pop Punk song than the two first. There’s a great tambourine in there and a nice little guitar lead. By end the of the song it’s complimented with handclaps. The song is about a girl named Sarah, seen through a, most likely male narrator. The song starts “She’s got her face buried in a book”. Sarah, from the point of view of this dude, is described as a nerdy, smart lady with glasses. The dude has fallen in love with her, when he saw her at the mall and he is upset that other dudes don’t find her attractive and he calls them out for being mean to her. He sees her as someone who doesn’t care much about how she looks and “she’s more concerned with world hunger/and maybe that’s, that’s why I love her”.

4. “I Don’t Wanna Hold Your Hand”: A much punker sounding song. It actually sounds a bit like the Dwarves, before the singing comes in. It’s got a different guitar sound than the earlier songs, and might have been recorded in a different session. The title is probably a parody to the Beatles classic “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. As the title implies the song is about not wanting to hold someone’s hand. The message is clear: “Don’t touch me until I say it’s OK!”

5. “Lala Won’t Shut up”: The fifth song “Lala Won’t Shut up” starts up with a bass intro and goes into something that sounds like it could be on Love Songs for The Retarded. It goes back to the same theme of the first song, this time it’s not Kelly Burkett, but a girl named Lala that talks to him and he doesn’t want to talk to her. The melody reminds me a bit of Stiff little fingers. It’s catchy enough, but not the most standout track on the album.

6. “Somewhere Inside”: Another Pop Punk track! I often listen to next to the Barracudas’ “Somewhere Outside” because of the similar titles, but I don’t know if they are related in any way. The song seems to be about Telephobia (or Telephonophobia: the fear of telephones). The song is about a protagonist who wants to call someone, seemingly a crush, but can’t find a reason to call and is also afraid to do it. This results in just sitting for hours listening to the dial tone. The song seems really honest and has a self-degradation that is relatable if one struggles with this kind of thing, even the protagonist separates themselves from the audience (“If you like yourself, you’ll never understand”) the protagonist claims this problem is somewhere inside(hence the title) and all they can do it wonder why. Outside of the relatability and honesty in the song, another interesting part is that it’s one of those songs that are somewhat obsolete. The second verse starts with “There are fifteen holes in the receiver” and takes us back to the 90’s when people actually had landline phones and not just a cell phone. The song will probably never be dated though. Landline phones or cell phones or whatever phones they have in the future, will still be frightening as hell!

7. “Wrong: One of the singles from the album was “Wrong”. The song is pretty much classic Lookout style Pop Punk, but with a lead guitar that sounds more like Blink-182 or even early Sum 41, as well as Riverfenix, and goes in the direction Pop Punk was taking at the time. The song is catchy and one of the strongest on the album. The opening line and pretty much the central line is: “I was hoping that one day everything could turn out right, but now it’s wrong”. “Wrong” is one of the songs that sound like the cheeriest of Pop Punk ditties, but when you listen to the lyrics it’s kind of sad, the conclusion of the song is: “Everything is all wrong”.

8. “Adam Baum”: Another single from the album, the single was the band’s first release from 1995. The song is another of the straight up Punk Rock Bad religion inspired tunes. The song is about a boy named Adam who is just sixteen, and is a bully victim and ignored by his peers and classmates. The song bases on the punny name “Adam Baum” that is homophonic with “Atom Bomb”(at least in American English). The song predates tragedies like Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, but the song seems to be about how Adam one day will become a school-shooter because of the way he is treated. I think this is the band’s finest work lyrically, and the song sounds great too. The line “He can’t be seen though he is right there in front of your face” is great! Adam has a gun in his backpack and the song predicts that he will use it one day: “One of these days he’s gonna go off”, this line is also related to his name! I think what makes the song great and filled with such pathos is how it’s predicting the future, we see it as an inevitable fact that Adam Baum will “go off”. This peak into the inevitable future is reserved for the listener of the song. No one else could foresee it: “You’re gonna say you never saw it coming”, which is something that is common to say when a tragedy like this happens. Overall the speed and the terrifying lyrics makes it one of their best, there’s an aggression and desperation, as well as a sense of social commentary, so it’s also one of their most memorable as well as most uncomfortable. It differs from Green day’s “Having a Blast” and Boom town rats’ “I Don’t Like Mondays”, as those songs are actually from the point of view of the shooter/bomber, it’s strange that we actually get a distance from the shooter in those songs. “Adam Baum”, however, describes a future and fictional event, but it still feels closer than the other two songs of the same subject. The other two songs makes you somehow feel sympathy with the shooters, but “Adam Baum” doesn’t necessarily give you sympathy with Adam, as much as it gives the listener a sense of guilt, asking oneself “Can we pretend stuff like this?”

9. “There She Goes”: One of the cool things about the album are the vocal harmonies, they are maybe not the best sung harmonies, but they are definitely charming and adding to Mutant Pop sound. “There She Goes” is the only song, as far as I can hear, that has female harmonies. It’s also the most “Pop” sounding song on the album, with a keyboard in the background. The lyrics are about a girl again. The song ends “She’s got something over on me”. The protagonist wonders: “Would she ever like a geek like me?” The chorus is a little depressing and shows what unrequited love can do: “She’s got me crying every day” and “She’s got me seeking therapy” and “She’s got me walking into walls”.

10. “The Lottery”: The tenth track “The Lottery” as a more punker Queers sound to it and lyrically echoes “The Generation Game”, even if it is about the opposite. The Opening line is: “Just because your parents did it doesn’t mean that it’s right”. The message of the song seems to be that we should distance ourselves from the shitty things we inherit from history and how we have some traditions, we could do without. The song touches on religion, growing up and privilege. Where “The Generation Game” sees the relation between past and future generation as a phony game, “The Lottery” sees it as a lottery, where the privileged win and others lose.

11. “I’m a Loner”: One of the more Pop Punk songs on the album, it’s also slower than most of the other songs. It has the same production as “I Don’t Wanna Hold Your Hand”, so they might have come from the same session, there’s a chance “There She Goes” is from the same one as well. “I’m a Loner” is pretty straight forward, the protagonist feels like a loner and wants people who like him to stand up and say “hey”, happily, someone does! Even if it’s a silly Pop Punk song, it comes from the voice of the outsider, both from a friend perspective and from a love perspective. The chorus goes “I wonder if love will ever come my way, my parents has started wonder if I’m gay” and ends with “I’m just a loner with an expired box of my gum”.

12 “Not Gonna Take It”: One of the shorter songs on the album. It’s also another of the Bad religion sounding tunes, I also think it sounds a bit like early No use for a name at times. The song is about fighting back against people trying to tell you what to do. “You can keep trying to change me/by telling me I’m lazy, but I’m not gonna take it anymore!”

13 “School Sucks”:
Another, short Punk track, maybe the fastest song on the album. It also has the Fat Wreck sound. Also this song has a Sum 41 and Fenix TX(Riverfenix after they changed their name)reminiscent, so even those MTV darlings sound like they’re inspired by After school special, no matter if they’ve heard of them or not. The song is about how school sucks, obviously, there’s something Queers-esque about the lyrics. My favorite line in the song is “The girl I love just punched me in the nose”.

14 “Kitty Corner”: This is one of the albums that ends on its best note. A straight up Pop Punk number. The song is about a protagonist who is in love with a lady, that he only sees from his window, as he never seems to leave his room. There are plenty of ways to analyze the song and discuss why the protagonist doesn’t leave his room. I guess we can exclude laziness(“it’s not that I’m lazy”), it seems like he doesn’t leave his room or hang out with his friends because that could result in him missing her walking by his house. I guess the song also could be seen as sort of creepy and voyeuristic, but there’s an innocence and soulfulness in it that makes that part of it seem absent. His whole world seems to evolve around seeing this girl walking by his house, and the opening line “for my convenience the places I go are never too far apart/Taco Bell is right next to the Dairy Mart”, even this seems to be because there’s a chance she’ll walk by and he doesn’t want to blink and miss it. A small detail that makes the song really cool is how the drums build up before the last chorus, and this song also has awesome harmonies.

Even if he never really talks to her, he seems to want to do anything for her: “To be with you I think I would have walked on hot coals/But since they were never near aero hobbies I never got to know” and “at least I have ambition, direction in my life/to make whats-her-face from down the road my wife” are two lines confirming this. Since this is a Pop Punk song, it’s not hard to guess that in the end he sees the girl hand in hand with another dude. Aside from the isolation and somewhat innocent voyeurism, there’s also an almost obsessive compulsive attitude towards things being in the correct or appropriate distance from each other (“If you only had lived a little closer to the arcade” “The places I go are never too far apart” “). A “kitty-corner is defined by Merrian Webster as”: “used to describe two things that are located across from each other on opposite corners»” When realizing that this love of his dreams will not come true, he consoles himself with the fact that it never would work anyway, because of the distance between his heart and her soul. “I guess for now I’ll have to be satisfied knowing: My heart’s kitty-corner to your soul”. Another contestant in the non-existent “What is the most Pop Punk song ever?” contest.

There’s not much to find or read about when it comes to After school special, the band at least. And I’m not sure if this album will ever get the appreciation or recognition it deserves, but who knows?! Rest in peace, David Jones! Next Pop Punk pick is Show Business Is My Life by Dr. Frank.

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I Feel Weird cover art

Great Cynics walk the tight boundary between ‘90s indie-pop and straight-forward pop-punk in a similar way to label-mates Personal Best. They are equally indebted to Weezer as they are Descendents and that means one thing: hooks-a-plenty! I Feel Weird is seriously one big pop-fest; the melodies on display here will gradually draw you in and not let you leave for days. There is a punk element to this record, but make no mistake, the core here is classic, sugary pop. The uplifting, positive nature of I Feel Weird gives it all a summery feel, recalling youthful, care-free days in the park.

“Lost in You” is probably my favourite track on the record (although it could be a number of any in reality) and offers a good indication of what the rest of I Feel Weird sounds like. It is bright, breezy, guitar-led and has a mother of a chorus: “If you’ve got something to say, then say it”. What’s more, it feels like a collective effort from the three-piece, where so many bands can feel very frontman-centric. Bassist Iona offers lead vocals on a couple tracks and absolutely shines (including probably the most ‘pop-punk’ song on the album, “North Street”). There is a decent variety on display here, keeping the listener engrossed throughout: the poppy, ultra-positive party of “Everyone’s A Little Bit Weird”; the addictive indie-rock stomp of “I Went Swimming” (ft. Ian Graham from Cheap Girls); the love-sick folk-y ditty closer “By The Sea”. There is not necessarily a sense of quarter-life crisis on I Feel Weird, but certainly a feeling of twenty-something unease and uncertainty: yet, despite being unsure of what is around the corner and where they are headed, Great Cynics are simply happy to go along for the ride.

Check it out here: http://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/i-feel-weird

Spoilers - Stay Afloat cover art

Spoilers are a Kent-based four piece melodic punk band and are clearly influenced by what many consider the classic ‘90s epi-fat sound. Their mini-album Stay Afloat is fast-paced, frenetic and yet retains hooks. I would file this under skate-punk, rather than pop-punk, but the hooks are fairly big when they come. “Freaked” is a great example of this with its recurring hook of “I can’t speak, ‘cause I can’t stop laughing”. There are elements of Face to Face, Snuff and Down By Law here, which is not a bad thing at all. Influenced by them, the guitars sound great: they strike the right balance between clean and gritty, something which goes for the production of Stay Afloat in general. Spoilers are clearly deeply rooted in the genealogy of punk, with elements of both Lookout pop-punk and ‘80s US hardcore present here. “Who’s to Blame” invites a mid-tempo sing-a-long, while “The Unlucky Winner Is” is probably the fastest track on here, recalling in parts early Propaghandi. Overall, a very enjoyable mini-album, which proves that the epi-fat sound of the ‘90s still has some legs in it yet.

Check it out here: https://brassneckrecords.bandcamp.com/album/spoilers-stay-afloat

Here is part 3 of my descent into It’s Alive madness….

IAR 21: The Peawees- Walking The Walk LP (January 2008)

The long-standing Italian pogo-ers The Peawees (who sit nicely alongside fellow countrymen The Manges and Latte+, the latter of which recently released a new record, reviewed on this very site) form part of a small selection of bands who like their ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll as much as they like their pop-punk. The Leftovers (and then more recently Kurt Baker’s solo stuff) come into mind, in that regard, but The Peawees are more structured and predictable than that. Their fourth LP Walking The Walk is decent and toe-tapping in parts, but the soul influence on the album means that many of the songs are just too damn slow for me and blend into one another. There is a lack of passion and energy which stops this album from being properly good, but the handclaps, guitar solos and melodies in “Bleeding For You” show what The Peawees are capable of.

Grade: C-

IAR 22: Chinese Telephones- S/T LP (November 2007)

What an underrated punk rock band Chinese Telephones really are. They were never really around for long enough to build up a proper fanbase, but for a fleeting, all-too-brief moment in the mid-noughties, Chinese Telephones could do no wrong. Every note they hit was fucking perfect. They released a couple of great splits too (including the already reviewed Dear Landlord split), but if I were to recommend a place to start with for Chinese Telephones, it would be this, their self-titled and only full-length. Like The Marked Men before them (I know, an obvious reference point, since Marked Man Jeff Burke actually did backing vocals on this LP), Chinese Telephones combined the grit and passion of pure punk rock with the hooks and melodies of pop-punk, adding in a sprinkling of garage punk for good measure. The way it was recorded was perfect to me, capturing that basement show aesthetic, while not compromising the audio quality. From re-listening to the record, one thing is clear: the ‘Telephones wore their heart on their sleeve, but they didn’t forget the hooks. This is evident on a number of their hits: “Live Like This”, “Crying in the Chapel”, “Tell Me, Tell Me”. I could go on; there is literally no filler on this thing. All possible fat has been cut away from this thing like an efficient punk rock butcher. Normally, lyrics are a big element of a band’s sound for me, but with Chinese Telephones, I don’t give a shit, such is the quality of the songs. I would sing along to gibberish with them in some Mid-western basement, wouldn’t you?

Grade: A+

IAR 23: The Copyrights- Make Sound LP

A tape clicks into the machine and then: “Day to day, night to night/ That’s how we live and we’re alright”. A fist-pumping chorus follows. Later, someone plays a harmonica. “Kids of the Black Hole” is such a great way to kick off an album; probably one of the best pop-punk openers in recent memory. For me, Make Sound is the moment when The Copyrights started to get properly good. Their shout-y, anthemic brand of pop-punk began to incorporate the catchiest of hooks and a real knack for top-tier songwriting here. All 14 hits on display here have that great combination of ‘pop’ and ‘punk’ meaning that you can head-bop along to it in your room or fist-pump along to it at a punk rock show. “Planet Earth Nineteen Ninety Four” is great commentary on punk’s mainstream breakthrough period underpinned by a driving pop-punk anthem; “Caveat Emptor” is brilliant, mid-tempo defiance with probably the chorus of the album; “Big Mistakes” is my highlight of the album though, an instant, ultra-poppy, super-fast tune with simple, but effective lyrics, including the following which I have always really liked: “If we leave here together, don’t take it as a sign/ good things happen to bad folks all of the time”. Lyrically, there were elements of the anti-money obsessed and grinding, soul-destroying day jobs discourse that would form a bigger part of their next two albums, but although this isn’t a perfect record, and though they certainly improved later songwriting-wise, The Copyrights perhaps have yet to top the relentless melodies and hooks on offer on Make Sound.

Grade: B+

IAR 24: The Veterans- S/T LP (June, 2008)

As surf-pop-punk albums go, The Veterans’ self-titled is probably the best. I know there aren’t many to count within that niche of a niche (with The Lemonaids being a recent example), but what there is tends to be patchy and repetitive, yet The Veterans avoid these pitfalls with their Italian, Ramones-y pop-punk almost perfectly complementing the surf-y influences. The Veterans are Andrea Manges’s surf project, backed by a multitude of performers from the pop-punk underground of the time (including The Popsters and The Leftovers). It is a shame that since this The Veterans only went on to release a couple of 7”s (on Killer Records), as I like this record a lot more than most of The Manges’ more recent output. Tales of Charlie chasing the sun, hula girls and a Tiki art show; a Lillingtons-esque UFO number (“Easter Island UFO”) and a cover of “Be True To Your School”. After The Veterans S/T, was it really worth any other surf-pop-punk bands even trying to make a record?

Grade: B+

IAR 25: The Dopamines- S/T LP (June, 2008)

This is probably going to be a bit biased given how much I love this band, but, fucking hell, what a debut album. The Dopamines have gone on to write more mature, complex and sophisticated material (particularly on Vices), but it is the opposite of these things which makes their self-titled album so Goddamn loveable and joyful. As has been said multiple times on the interwebz, the pop-punk here is a little Copyrights-esque, but its passion, purity and focus is far enough removed for The Dopamines to make it their own sound. Its heart spills out onto the floor, but it’s fun too, as we hear tales of drunken debauchery, cupidity, childhood loss and a plea to just be 23. It is all relatable to some extent, because who can’t relate to that deadly mix of youthful defiance, naivety and stupidity? On my personal album highlight “Fun Tags, the protagonist explains, seemingly straight-faced, “I’d rather get a DUI than give up his life”, after getting caught drunk-driving. Indeed, there is a nihilism evident throughout the album, particularly on “Dan Teet Runs A Marathon”: “I’m falling down the stairs and I don’t even care/ Not even thinking twice about my poor health care”. If you think about it, there have been very few Millenial pop-punk albums about growing up (and failing); most recent underground pop-punk has been sung by guys in their late twenties/thirties working shitty jobs to make ends meet and not getting anywhere in life, so it is great to hear a record before all that shit happens, when there is still enough youthful hope and naivety for it all to be kind of ok: “Tonight, we’re drinking, on the roof, not thinking, of how we’re going to get by”.

Grade: A+

IAR 26: The Dazes/ The Wimpys ‘Greetings From Japan’ 7” (May, 2009)

Two pop-punk bands from Japan whose split which came out in 2009 seems to have been the last thing either of them did. They always seem to have a great pop-punk scene over in Japan and this 7” is as good a representation of that as any, with these bands’ brand of super-melodic buzz pop. The Dazes win this split by a country mile for me: a 3-piece girl band who play bubblegum-y, harmony-led pop-punk, influenced in equal measures by ‘60s girl groups and ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll. The Wimpys are perhaps a little more generic in their pop-punk, and the inclusion of a by-the-books cover of Ramones “She’s The One” doesn’t help matters. Fun stuff!

Grade: B-

IAR 27: Varsity Weirdos- ‘High School Teen Party’ 7” (August, 2008)

Talking about fun and pop-punk, Varsity Weirdos are back! To be honest, this 7” is kind of generic as they come pop-punk wise, but there is something on it that I have always found particularly appealing. I mean, it’s pretty standard down-stroking Ramonescore, with songs about High School teen parties and also not getting invited to said parties. Why don’t you go to parties? Because you don’t get invited! Genius. But there is something that elevates the ‘Weirdos above the Converse-wearing masses, and it’s mostly probably their vocals and natural charm. This 7” makes me want to get up, jig around for a while, handclap along and then get rejected by jocks all over again.

Grade: B+

IAR 28: Be My Doppelganger- ‘Sonic Annihilation 7” (December, 2008)

Sonic Annihilation came out a couple of years after Be My Doppelganger’s criminally underrated debut album Rock ‘n’ Roll, Genius, but this 7” was more pop-punk than rock ‘n’ roll, although there was still evidence of the latter. What I have always liked about BMD is their ability to combine a number of genres (pop-punk, rock ‘n’ roll, power-pop, ‘70s style punk) and still make it work, and ‘Sonic Annihilation’ is no different. I really, really like the first two songs on this (the upbeat, frenetic, riff-y, power-pop hit “Get In Line” and dose of pop-punk nostalgic romanticism and fan favourite “Turning Seventeen”), but the other two are just kind of there and stop the 7” from being truly great. But it’s worth getting for “Turning Seventeen” alone to be honest.

Grade: B+

IAR 29: The Copyrights- We Didn’t Come Here To Die LP (January, 2009)

This is the vinyl re-release of The Copyrights’ first album, which first came out in 2003 on Insubordination Records. We Didn’t Come Here To Die is just kind of an ok pop-punk album and mostly a lesser version of what would be on Mutiny Pop. The Copyrights had not really refined their melodies or songwriting at this stage, so the LP is mainly just raw, three-chord, shout-y pop-punk. But lets talk about the good things! There are two songs on this album that I kind of love: the infectious, bounce-y “Face For Radio”, which has fantastic lead guitars, and the sweet, adorable pop gem “Four Eyes” (“She’s got glasses on, and I don’t know if she reads with them or if she even needs them, but I do”). Also, the artwork for this LP re-release is pretty fantastic: it’s a picture disc which is available in four different versions, one for each band member, with the artwork picturing each of them having met a grizzly end. Pop-punk is dangerous.

Grade: C-

IAR 29b: The Copyrights- Chicago Smasher 7”

This is a ‘Frankenstein’ mash-up of two previous Copyrights 7”s already graded, so obviously I’m not going to blabber on about them again. It features the A-sides of ‘Nowhere Near Chicago’ and ‘Button Smasher’, which is kind of cool. I believe it was pressed just to go alongside the aforementioned We Didn’t Come Here To Die picture discs. I will give this a middle grading of what I put down for the separate 7”s.

Grade: C+

IAR 30: The Dopamines/ Till Plains split 7” (December, 2008)

The Dopamines, back so soon after their first album release, put out a 7” with their fellow Cincinnati buddies Till Plains. The two Dopa songs here act as a fairly good transition point between their first album and what would come later, building on, but not too far removed from, the former. Having said that, there are subtle differences: for instance, the structural playfulness and acoustic starting/ending of the brilliant “You Must Be Joking” and the darker, more self-critical elements of “Car Trouble” on what is otherwise a straight-forward pop-punk song (“Another town, another let-down, another shot glass upside down”). Till Plains are a different beast altogether and on the surface shouldn’t be on a split 7” with The Dopamines, with their scream-y, atmospheric post-punk, but it kind of works. I love the use of the ‘woahs’ as build-up in “Bitter Innards” (God, that is such a pop-punk thing to say) and its desperate crescendo. More bands so different from each other should release splits!

Grade: B+

Check out these It’s Alive releases (and more) here: http://itsaliverecords.bandcamp.com/