It’s Alive Records School Report Pt. 4 (31-40)

Posted: August 22, 2015 in Reviews

Remember this? Here’s ten more IAR releases graded!

IAR 31: The Manges- Rocket to Hollywood LP (August, 2009)

You know how I talked about how good a best-of Manges collection would be when reviewing the Go Down LP? Well, this is the closest thing we have to it. This is a live recording of a show in Hollywood back in 2007 on a tour with The Queers and The Methadones, which is a pretty mouth-watering line-up. It seems like it was such a fun show and The Manges sound so tight on the recording. The Italian Ramones, indeed. If it were up to me to make an actual Manges best-of collection, I would take a few off this and add a few others, but this string of songs is not bad at all, including such hits as “My Rifle”, “Secret Agent in East Berlin” and “Blame Game”, as well as a couple of obligatory Ramones covers. The negative thing is, live albums like this always just make me wish I had actually been there.

Grade: B

IAR 32: Barrakuda McMurder- Slow Crawl 7” (May, 2009)

Barrakuda McMurder! The best or worst band name ever? You decide. I think it’s kind of awesome and probably better than ‘Houseboat’ as a band name. This is Grath Madden’s first post-Steinways project (God, I feel like such a dick writing that) and this 7” is amongst his best, I think. Four harmony-led, pop-punk-as-fuck little ditties that are all interesting in their own ways, with lyrics that are typically self-deprecating. This 7” (as well as the “More Songs about Girlfriends and Volcanoes”, which followed) definitely feels like a bridge between Steinways and Houseboat, but is also great in its own right. I love how poppy and energetic Barrakuda are here. The slow, almost-country-ish, beginning to “The Royal You” is Grath’s first attempt at something really different and totally works, while “(I Want to) Make Out (With You (Because You Wear Sweatpants)” is one of my favourite love-sick Grath songs: “I’m overcoming acting dumb, I’m breathing, thinking twice/ But I’m stuck, I’m frozen shut/ Can’t open up, Please come and break the ice”. Meanwhile, I love the melancholic, closing line to “It’s a Slow Crawl to the Finish Line”: “Cos every step’s up a step when you’re down here”. This EP would gain a bonus point if it included volcaaaaaaaaano.

Grade: A

IAR 33: The Methadones/ The Copyrights split LP (June, 2009)

One of my favourite ever splits. I don’t think there is a bad song on this. I always think that The Copyrights easily win this split ‘battle’ and regard it as probably their best collection of recorded material, but then I re-listen to The Methadones side and realise that their side is also pretty fucking great. “Imperfect World” is a perfect pop-punk song. I like how it mixes the more recent pop-punk obessions with turning 33 and being stuck in a dead-end job with a more straight-forward love story. “On the Clock” is a mid-tempo, melodic punk anthem about working class problems, but “Easter Island” is probably the best Methadones song on this split. A simple, melody-driven pop song at its core with a killer chorus: “oh, where is Easter Island?” The Copyrights, often a little hit-and-miss, have a side of the split which is just pop-punk hit after pop-punk hit. From the minute-and-a-half buzz-pop blitz of “Keep me in the Dark” straight through to the fantastic cover of The Primitive Gods’ “Locked Outside a Motel Without Shoes, a Wallet, or a Phone”. The highlight of their side though is clearly “Holidays”, with its euphoric, anthemic chorus of: “We all know, much too well, there’s no heaven, there’s no hell/ But we can dream, we can dream/ That the calendar is full of holidays/ Instead of numbers, instead of work weeks, instead of deadlines”. For consistency alone, this is the best Copyrights material.

Grade: A

IAR 34: The Copyrights/ The Dopamines- “Songs about Fucking Up” 7” (May, 2009)

Hey, look it’s more Copyrights!! And with their younger brother/clone The Dopamines. I think this split proves, putting the bands’ songs side-by-side that while there a few similarities, the two are not identical at all. The Dopamines tend to be angrier, more passionate and growlier than The Copyrights’ more standard approach to pop-punk. Their songwriting technique is also generally more interesting and developed. Having said that, this split 7” is not a showcase of the bands’ best material, with The Copyrights and The Dopamines having a very good song and a so-so song apiece. For The Copyrights, “Grown Folks Business” builds from melodic verses to a scream-it-from-the-rooftops chorus seamlessly, with a cool lead guitar, but “Days of Despair” is just a little, well, unremarkable. It is fine, just nothing particularly interesting. Meanwhile, for The Dopamines, “Try This Kids at Home” is nothing to particularly write home about, but “October 24th” demonstrates everything good about the Cincinnati band: hooks, intensity and passion abound. Also, kudos to whoever did the cover art for this take on the classic Big Black album Songs About Fucking.

Grade: B+

IAR 35: The Gateway District- Some Days You Get The Thunder LP (June, 2009)

I appreciate this album more in retrospect than I ever did at the time and while I consider the latest Gateway District album to be their best, Some Days You Get The Thunder has probably the band’s top tier of songs as well as the more interesting country material. Their more recent songs still have a country-tinged element here and there, but there were a few attempts here at proper country (or country-punk, whatever) tunes alongside the straight-forward melodic punk stuff, like “Falling Down and Leaving Town” or “Run to Me”. As well as that, the poppy-punk hits “River Trash” and “Lake Street is for Suckers” stand out on this album as songs you will enjoy more and more as the years pass. The chorus of the latter is amongst my favourite in punk rock in recent years. Meanwhile, the addictive, melodic nature of “United Crushers” makes it a sure-fire winner, as well as the brilliant closing lines of “I am dreaming of oceans/ I’m wasted out on Heaven Hill/ I can see the world passing me by and I hope like hell it always”. Also, opening track, “Keeps Track of the Time” may have partly inspired the name of this very website. Don’t sue me, IAR.

Grade: A-

IAR 36: The Crumbs/ The Ridicules split 7” (October, 2009)

Two bands I am not particularly familiar with. The Crumbs had a couple of releases out on Lookout! Records in the late ‘90s and I don’t think they have done much since this split 7” in 2009. They play fast melodic proto-punk. There is a bit of a ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll influence there, but The Crumbs spiritual home is clearly the mid-70s. The two tracks on offer here are decent but nothing particularly special. Enjoyable enough, but largely forgettable. The Ridicules are the kind of pop-punk I find much more appealing and interesting. There is certainly some ‘90s punk evident on these two tracks (Pinhead Gunpowder?), but I can place The Ridicules squarely within the modern, underground pop-punk zeitgeist: passionate, fast-paced, gritty. They would fit nicely on a bill alongside Chinese Telephones and The Dopamines. “Black Picket Fences” is the standout track on this split, coming off like a Dear Landlord demo. I love the passion in the vocals. Kind of a weird duo to put together on a split.

Grade: B-

IAR 37: The Methadones- “Gary Glitter” 7” (August, 2009)

The Methadones have some absolute hit songs, but I find them largely inconsistent, and this split sums that up nicely. The song “Gary Glitter” is just weird and I don’t think works at all. I find the content of the song weird. I know The Methadones are asking, “what the fuck is wrong with Gary Glitter?”, but still, I find it a bizarre subject to write a song about. It is not a particularly great sounding song anyway and The Methadones can do much better. And they do…one song later. The other tune on this split 7” is “Over the Moon”. It is a tale of a girl getting high and not wanting to come back down, backed by addictive power-pop. One of my top 5 Methadones tracks.

Grade: B-

IAR 38: The Legendary San Diego Chargers/ Sunnyside- ‘Give ‘em Enough Booze’ 7” (October, 2009)

Not one of my favourite IAR splits. The Legendary San Diego Chargers side (who I don’t think have released anything else but this) is fine enough I guess, if unspectacular. It is grunge-y, gravelly, Off With Their Heads-core that would go down well at Fest. “Things are Pretty Fucked” is the best of the bunch and is decent, but I still feel as if I could be hearing another band doing the same thing better. The lyrics are not particularly enlightening either: “I hate this town and everything within it”. However, Sunnyside, I don’t get at all, probably 95% because of the production. It is way too lo-fi and dirty sounding for me. Talk about tinny. I feel like with better production, they could be Rational Anthem, but, as it is, it is almost unlistenable.

Grade: D

IAR 39: The Festipals- ‘Gold Magic’ 7” (October, 2009)

Pretty cool one-off 7” from a band comprising of members of Dead Mechanical, Nancy and Charlie Brown Gets a Valentine. It is Charlie Brown who I am reminded of a lot when listening to the Gold Magic 7” and that is not a bad thing at all. The emotive, whiny vocals backed by subtle melodic punk rock is something I can listen to any day of the week. I definitely would like to hear more by Festipals and I am kind of bummed that they didn’t record anything after this 7”, because it was definitely promising. After listening to this 7”, I always have to dig out Commencement.

Grade: B-

IAR 40: Get Bent- ‘Dead It’ 7” (October, 2009)

For a very brief period in the mid-2000s, Get Bent were awesome! The members have been in a ton of bands before and since, but I feel that Get Bent was in the real upper tier of these New York-based bands. The “Dead It” 7” is probably not their best work by their standards, but it is still pretty good. “To a Buddy at War” is clearly the standout track, with its chugging, relentless melodic punk juiciness. Their emotive, passionate vocals help to separate Get Bent from the pack and that is certainly on display in this song. This 7” is the last thing we hear from this band, which is a dying shame.

Grade: B-

DB

Next time: Fear of Lipstick, Varsity Weirdos, House Boat….

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