Archive for June, 2016

IAR 41: House Boat- The Delaware Octopus LP (November, 2009)

So, this is the modern pop-punk super-group of the Insubordination fest generation: Grath and Ace from The Steinways, Zack from Dear Landlord and Mikey Erg! It was enough to make fans of the sub-genre drool at the time. Members of the best pop-punks of recent years joining forces. I don’t think many were disappointed. I personally prefer their sophomore LP (The Thorns of Life), but this is excellent, too. The Delaware Octopus pretty much builds where The Steinways’ final release Gorilla Marketing left off. With Grath remaining as the primary songwriter on The Delaware Octopus, it’s the natural progression of his writing: wittier, more ascerbic and more cynical. It’s crunchier and meatier, but still as melodic,as previous Steinways material, probably adding to the influence of Dear Landlord. It’s a pretty pessimistic tale of dudes in their thirties feeling directionless and going through arrested development, but Grath still retains a sense of humour in his songwriting, notably in “Are you into metal?” Album highlight though is obviously Ace and Grath trading complaints with each other on “13 Going on 13”, who have both got “one foot out the door”. A modern pop-punk classic.

Grade: A-

IAR 42: The Varsity Weirdos- Can’t Go Home LP (March, 2010)

Oh, the Varsity Weirdos, the Ramones-worshippers with their bratty vocals and catchy melodies. They only went and grew up on this release (since their high school teen party). Well, kind of. I mean, it is still essential, fun-loving Ramonescore, but with more of an adult perspective. Basically, ‘Ramonescore after going to college’ or ‘Ramonescore after you discover The Smiths’. Some are still straight-forward pining love songs (“Look at the Stars”), but The Varsity Weirdos deal with depression and isolation on Can’t Go Home, that makes them stand out from the crowd. I mean, they open the record with “Cut My Throat”, for God’s sake, with the lines “I wanna cut my throat; I wanna do it now”. `The whole album is about disconnecting oneself from the world (literally in the case of “I Hate the Phone”). I remember this release kind of changed my whole opinion on Varsity Weirdos and kind of what was possible within the realms of Ramonescore.

Grade: A-

IAR 031910: Be My Doppelganger/ The Dopamines split 7” (March, 2010)

Not much to say here. This is a Frankenstening of The Dopamines side of their split with The Copyrights and the BMD Sonic Annihilation 7”, which was pressed for a tour the bands did together. Cool idea!

Grade: N/A

IAR 43: Be My Doppelganger- No Composure (August, 2010)

This is clearly the standout in Be My Doppelganger’s discography. The previous 7”s were a mixed bag and the previous LP (Rock ‘n’ Roll Genius) is great, but kind of a one-trick pony in terms of its rock ‘n’ roll love-in. However, No Composure was the point where Be My Doppelganger perfectly straddled that line between pop-punk and ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll, matching intensity and passion alongside melodies and love-sickness. There are some absolutely perfect pop-punk songs on this thing: the nostalgic hit “Turning Seventeen” (I know this song is already well-loved enough, but it is undeniably fucking great), the pogo-tastic, frenetic “Cha cha chump” or the relentless, adolescent-beginning “Backpack Full of Beers” (including the brilliant line, “Search and Destroy? Is this a decoy?”). There is passion and emotional intensity evident on this record, something normally lacking in the pop-punk/rock ‘n’ roll crossover sub-genre. Towards the end of No Composure, things get interesting when they slow down for “Peggy Sue Me”, where the pained, expressive vocals send shivers down your spine with their despair of a relationship ending: “It’s a travesty how painlessly we moved from here to there”. Things get even more gut-punch-y as a follow-on from this with the album closer “Chemical Spin”, which kicks things back up a few gears: “I’m soaked in love and it’s just not enough”. In this way, No Composure follows a roughly similar formula to The Unlovables Crush/Boyfriend/Heartbreak, beginning with the idealism of “Turning Seventeen” and ending with the crushing heartbreak of “Chemical Spin”. An artistic high for the band.

Grade: A

IAR 44: Fear of Lipstick- S/T LP (July, 2010)

I am being incredibly positive in this section, but this really was the purple patch of IAR releases. From Varsity Weirdos high point to BMD’s high-point to Fear of Lipstick’s high-point. Another excellent record, from start to finish. This, their debut, self-titled album, is where FOL really defined themselves. I don’t think they really had a particular identity up until this point, despite being a pretty decent pop-punk band. By the time of this LP, however, they had become a pop-punk/garage-punk cross-over band, mixing the best of The Briefs with the best of Green Day. They play songs which are short, sharp and spikey. The vocals are always passionate, but to the point. I dunno, I always associate this S/T LP with the Varsity Weirdos release, partly because they came out around the same and partly because they had some similar underlying themes. FOL’s sound is much grittier and fast-paced than Varsity Weirdos, but they similarly share issues of declining mental health, lost loves and trying not to fuck things up (please, operator). There are some obvious outliers on this LP, including the anti-system protest song “Dumb Dumb” and the ridiculously fun “I Wanna Be a Werewolf”. The stand-out lyric for me is on “Summertime” (see this song title on a pop-punk record and you can probably guess that it is a beach or surf pop-punk hit, instead of the ‘fuck you, winter’ it actually is): “The winter’s never been so cold; and I am feeling quite a chill, staring at the power bills; wishing I could be just as high”. I like well enough the record that followed this (2013’s Seasons), but it sounds so cold compared to their S/T LP.

Grade: A-

IAR 45: That’s Incredible ‘S/T’ 7” (March, 2010)

I don’t know much about That’s Incredible at all. As far as I know, this is the only thing they have released. They were formed by members of Toys That Kill, The Soviettes and Dick Army and have a kind of garage-y pop-punk thing going on, which is not that surprising considering the previous bands the members have been in. “Magnetic Hands” is probably the best song on the 7”, combining drive and energy with garage-pop melodies and a brilliant pop-punk-y guitar solo. “80 doing 90” could be a Toys That Kill b-side, while “It’s All Good” is pretty standard pop-punk with sugar-y female vocals. It is kind of like Sugar Stems or Riff Randells or something. Pretty forgettable stuff, on the whole.

Grade: C

IAR 46: The Creeps- ‘Follow You Home’ 7” (July, 2010)

The Creeps and It’s Alive seem pretty made for each other, but this is actually the band’s first release on the label. They offer a fun and catchy, yet passionate brand of punk rock, aligning themselves with IAR’s ethos and roster. If you don’t know The Creeps much, here’s the short story: when they formed in the late 1990s, they were basically standard Lillingtons-influenced Ramonescore and didn’t stand out much from the crowd, but by the release of classic LP Lakeside Cabin, they had honed a unique sound of their own, which took a new spin on the horror-inspired pop-punk sub-sub-genre. This was the follow-up 7” to that LP; after setting such a high bar, could they match it again? You bet they could. In fact, they topped it and they continue to top their previous release each time. This 7” offers four tracks of insanely melodic and catchy pop-punk that treads the thin line between sweet and creepy (“I can feel your heart beat, baby”). They were doing the whole stalker pop-punk thing years before Masked Intruder and to a much more sustainable level (as much as I love that first MI record). The title track is clearly the stand-out here, opening with some noodle-y chords and a low-tempo, calm manner, which allows room for the vocals to breathe and the lyrics to have maximum impact: “I’ve been watching you, but I’m sure you’ve noticed this”. The atmospheric, brooding nature of “Follow You Home” is in contrast to the intensity and more straight-forward pop-punk of “Cold Feet”. Canada’s finest creepy bunch.

Grade: A-

IAR 47: The Spinoffs- Stayin’ Alive 7” (December, 2010)

There’s an interesting story about this 7” being originally scheduled for release on Mutant Pop but never making it to the release stage before the label closed for business. It’s Alive took on the responsibility and eventually release this Spinoffs 7” years later. I don’t know hardly anything about The Spinoffs. As far as I know, they only have one other 7” released. They play just kind of a mix of garage-punk, rock ‘n’ roll and poppy-punk, but they are sonically quite far removed from traditional pop-punk (especially Mutant Pop stuff). I dunno. It is just not my cup of tea at all, really. It kind of sounds a bit like psychobilly in parts. All the melodies are kind of forced. They sound like a lame bar band I would just walk past. I don’t ‘get’ this kind of music at all. Sorry, Spinoffs.

Grade: D-

IAR 48: Chinese Telephones- Democracy LP (May, 2011)

Chinese Telephones. An underrated band, for sure and one which shone for an all-too-brief period of time, producing a mere 24 songs. The S/T LP, the ‘Telephones only album, is a release I have already reviewed on this very site and basically have already said how I loved it to death. The Democracy LP (a brilliant album title) is a collection of everything else which is not on that S/T LP: all their splits, 7”s and un-released shizzle, which is…a mixed bag. It’s not a release I find myself going back to much, partly because of the recording quality. There are clearly some gems hidden here, but they are sometimes difficult to identify because of the ridiculously lo-fi production on offer. Some of these (This Time Next Year, I think I can Breathe Now) went on to be re-recorded for the S/T LP, for good reason. “All Bets Are Off” is a great example of this. It is probably the best song on the Democracy LP (alongside the songs from the Dear Landlord split), with its mid-tempo melodies and heart-aching chorus: “Just think about the tomorrow, it’s just another day to waste away”. However, it’s clearly hampered by the poor production quality, which I suppose highlights Chinese Telephones songwriting levels: it is a great song, but it could be so much more. I am not one to talk about ‘production quality’ much and I acknowledge that it’s part of their garage-punk aesthetic on their S/T LP, but their older stuff is a step too far in this direction. However, as an aside, there is a brilliant, spiky, gritty cover of “I Don’t Wanna Get Involved With You” that totally needs to be heard.

Grade: C+

IAR 49: Stoned at Heart- Party Tracks Vol. 1 LP (December, 2010)

Stoned at Heart! Formed by members of Toys That Kill and Underground Railroad to Candyland, this is their only release, I believe. This is essentially a power-pop album churned through the punk grinder. It is grit and melody working alongside each towards a common goal. This LP is so front heavy, kicking off the ‘hit’ of the record, the wondrously melodic “Question Mark”, before delving into the teasing, slow-paced “Turn and Run Away” and “Steppin’ on Shells”, with that lead guitar. The second half of the LP is a bit more forgettable, but still decent. Such a shame that Party Tracks Vol. 1 was obviously a one-off side project, when it offers, in many ways, more than the main projects these band members have. Good stuff.

Grade: B

IAR 50: The Copyrights- Shit’s Fucked LP (May, 2013)

IAR saved release number 50 for what they consider their ‘house band’: The Copyrights. This brought the label back to where it started in 2004, with the release of that early Copyrights 7”. Shit’s Fucked was IAR’s first double album release and it is fitting that it is The Copyrights that have this honour. It compiles all of The Copyrights non-album tracks (i.e. singles, splits and compilation tracks) from 2004 to 2010. It is a total mixed bag, in regards to both style and success. It includes the tracks from their split LP from The Methadones (which I have already hyped enough on this IAR report), so bonus points already enough for that one. It also includes a bunch of other 7”s that already came out on IAR, including their splits with Dopamines and Zatopeks. There is an awesome cover of The Apers’ “Lillian” on here, which was recorded for The Apers tribute album (The Punkrock Don’t Stop), for which The Ergs! also submitted their cover of “It’s Okay to Hate Me”. They also do a really random cover of a Rolling Stones track (“Dead Flowers”), which is actually surprisingly very, very good. Also included is their latest 7” (with The Brokedowns) before this collection came out: one track of which is amongst their best (“I’d Probably Rather Die or Something), and one of which is so meh (“Get Got”). It is worth a listen and buying for big Copyrights fans to have everything in one place, but it is not what I would consider an essential buy.

Grade: B-

Find all these releases here: http://www.itsaliverecords.com/releases.htm

This pick shouldn’t really need an introduction, and it for the most part reminds me of how long I’ve been writing this column. …And out Come the Wolves turned twenty last year and I figured it’d be a good idea to celebrate that anniversary, but now I’m half a year late. I don’t know if there is much to say about the band, Rancid, except that they were started in Berkeley, California in 1991, by Operation Ivy (who will get their own pick in the future), Generator, Downfall and Dance Hall Crashers members Matt Freeman and Tim Armstrong. Lars Frederiksen joined the band in 1994. They’ve had two drummers; Brett Reed and Brenden Steineckert, the latter being their current drummer. I remember as a kid seeing their albums in record shops, but I had no idea how they sounded like. I knew Tim from his other side project the Transplants and for doing guest vocals on Box Car Racer’s “Cat Like Thief”. When I heard “Fall Back Down” on television, I remember thinking, “Oh, it’s that guy”. This was about the same time I started getting into NOFX and I would always compare the two bands, but I figured out NOFX’s “Olympia, WA” was the best song from either. Little did I know that it was a Rancid cover. The first Rancid album I bought was Life Won’t Wait in the record shop Avalanche in Edinburgh in my super punk grand tour in 2004. The second album I bought was actually Wolves, at a record store in Palma, Spain on holiday in the summer of 05. I remember playing it for my parents and I remember being excited about the album in the heat. The following fall I started to get more and more into Rancid and bought Let’s Go and Indestructible at the record store in Stavanger and bought the self-titled from 2000 in Malmö, Sweden.  It actually took me four years before buying more Rancid albums, I got Let the Dominos Fall around the time it was released  in 2009 and the self-titled from 1993 on vinyl in October the same year. I’ve always had an endless debate with myself (and others) whether their best album is Let’s Go or …And out Come the Wolves, I’m still a bit undecided, but Wolves definitely fits more for the column.

…And out Come the Wolves was released August 22 1995 on Epitaph records. It was produced by Jerry Finn and Rancid. It’s one of the first big albums that Finn produced. The album cover is a dude with a Mohawk sitting in a staircase with his head in his lap, similar to the classic Minor Threat picture (used on several releases like the self-titled compilation and the Complete Discography). It went platinum in 2004. While Green Day’s Dookie took Punk Rock to the mainstream, Rancid definitely took the “punk rock” look to the mainstream, at least in the US. Mohawks and studded jackets on MTV? Wow. The album is also quite dominated by Lars Frederiksen, and there are no songs on the album with Matt Freeman on lead vocals.

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  1. “Maxwell Murder”: I have mixed feelings about this opening track. It’s a fast and aggressive opener, and honestly a pretty good song. I definitely think it’s the weakest track on the album, and it annoys me to pieces when some technical music lover talks about how that bass solo is great. In spite of this, the lyrics are kind of weird. It seems to be about a drug dealer, and it’s using the UK emergency number rather than the American. Maybe the meaning of the song is that drug dealers may not be “Jack the Ripper”’s, but are also murderers? It could also be a reference to the Beatles’ “Maxwell Silver Hammer”. I checked songmeanings.com, people seemed to say the same thing.
  1. “The 11th Hour”: The second song, “The 11th Hour” is when the album really begins for me. The expression “the 11th hour” is describing the time right before a deadline or an important event. The song starts out like a Clash song and then there comes a little guitar lead that reminds me of the Replacements song “Nowhere Is My Home”. The lyrics, to me, are about depression and the narrator is talking to a girl, who is dealing with depression, and telling her that she is the one who can do something about her state of mind. It ends with the narrator talking about their own depression and there are references to the Specials (“Concrete Jungle”) and Elvis Costello (“My Aim Is True”). It’s also possible that the last verse is seen from the girl’s point of view. The song was co-written with Eric Dinn from the Uptones. He also co-wrote “Outta My Mind” from the first Self-titled and “Name” from Let’s Go.
  2. “Roots Radicals”: The third song, “Roots Radicals” was the first single from the album. The fantastic thing about the song is that it’s basically about riding the bus, like much of Rancid’s catalog. The song tells the story of how Lars’ life changed on this bus ride. Maybe this ride was his trip to Edinburgh, who knows? The song has lots of references to punk rock and reggae music. The chorus “Give ‘em the boot” (a pun on actual boots, and getting the boot) is also a compilation Tim’s record label Hellcat put out. The other references are to Desmond Dekker and the title is a reference to Jimmy Cliff, as well as Bunny Wailer. Ben Zanatto is a friend of Lars, who died of an overdose in 1999, he was also part of the “Skunx” movement (a mix of Skinheads and Punx). Moon stomping is a reference to Symarip great reggae song (“Skinhead Moonstomp”) about stomping to let the man on the moon hear it and it has become a popular dance for skinheads. Even with all the reggae references, the song is pretty much straight up Punk Rock. They played it live on Saturday Night Live 18th of November 1995. The single version was a different recording, as they re-recorded it for the album.
  3. “Time Bomb”: The second single was “Time Bomb”, that same as “Roots Radicals” also references reggae and Ska culture is also a Ska song. It’s probably become their most famous song. I remember it being played on motherfucking Gilmore Girls. Like “Maxwell Murder” it’s a song that has become a catchy, singalong track, but the meaning is actually quite sad. “Time Bomb” tells the tale of a kid who fits the typical stereotype of the rude boy, but he has gone through trouble all his life and he doesn’t know how to deal with the world and in the end he gets shot. The song also became a hit on the modern rock charts. It reached number 8.
  4. “Olympia, WA”: As I’ve said I used to really like the NOFX cover of  “Olympia WA” and I don’t know if I actually heard the Rancid version before I bought Wolves. I remember listening to it and thinking it sounded like a football song or a sport’s anthem. The singalong chorus always brings a smile on my face. At the time I was 15 and I remember wanting to start smoking cigarettes or other bad habits, I could hide from my parents. As much as the song might remind me a bit of hooligans starting fights with supporters from other teams (like the Business or Cockney Rejects or something), it’s actually a love song. Tim is singing about hanging out with Lars, and I interpret it as him having is heart broken or missing someone and feeling like the devil and him and Lars hang out with Puerto Rican girls at the funhouse in New York playing a lonely pinball machine. I feel like the imagery of the pinball machine shows Tim’s feelings, being in a house full of fun, but still feeling lonely. The chorus is about how he is in New York, but longing to be in Olympia, Washington. The loneliness he feels is even more present in the last two verses. The second verse ends with him watching the thousands come home from work, in the third he just concludes; “I don’t wanna be alone again”.
  1. “Lock, Step and Gone”: I would say that the five first songs of the album are all quite iconic and important in punk rock history. Then it feels alright when the sixth song isn’t that iconic, but is still quite a great song. The song has kind of a rock n’ roll feeling to it. The lyrics are also quite simple, describing a place that once had lots of stuff happening, but has no become dead.
  2. “Junkie Man”: When debating whether or not Wolves is a perfect album, everyone usually have a few songs they can’t stand on the album, “Junkie Man” is one of them, but I’ve always loved the song actually, I appreciate it more than I appreciate the bass doodlings of “Maxwell Murder”. I guess I can understand why people are annoyed with it. The song lyrics are mostly quite simple and about a junkie man and how substance abuse is ruining his life. Maybe the part that rubs a lot of people the wrong way, is the spoken word part spoken and written by poet and author Jim Caroll. I actually think it’s a pretty cool addition to the song and I love the “transistor” and “transparency” puns. I found an MTV article on Caroll’s contribution and I learned from it that they actually recorded forty songs for the album, as if nineteen wasn’t enough!
  3. “Listed M.I.A”: A catchy as hell song, that is about running away from everyone and everything and become missing in action. Not only is it catchy and groovy, it also happens to rhyme “had it”, not only with “maggots” and “faggot”, but “habit”, as well. It also namedrops Oakland, well done!
  4. “Ruby Soho”: The third single from the album was “Ruby Soho”, also quite a hit on the modern rock charts, charting at #13. According to Wikipedia it was released only two days after “Time Bomb” (on November 3). Billboard says “Time Bomb” charted in October, and “Ruby Soho” charted in January, I wonder what Wikipedia have to say in their defense! Like the two other singles, we won’t escape the reggae references in this song either. The opening line is “Echoes of reggae coming through my bedroom wall”. When I first heard the song, I thought it was kind of catchy, but silly, especially the chorus, but it’s actually a really great song. I think the lyrics are way more sophisticated than one would expect from the song title. I think the lyrics are beautiful, fragile, descriptive and even poetic. It also tells a good story from an interesting narrative and embraces two levels of loneliness. The narrator is sitting alone in their room, feeling alone listening to a break up going on at a party next door, realizing they aren’t able to do anything about it. We get to know the name of the girl (Ruby Soho), but not the dude who is leaving her. I always feel a lump in my throat every time I hear the third verse, “Her lover’s in the distance/ As she wipes a tear from her eye/ Ruby’s fading out, she disappears, it’s time,/ Time to say goodbye”. Jimmy Cliff did a cover of the song, and he won a Grammy! And Tim produced it. It’s also on both Guitar Hero and Rock Band.
  5. “Daly City Train”: Tim spent seven years battling an alcohol problem (Let’s Go’s “7 Years Down” deals with this), Lars used to have heavy drug problems as well. It seems a lot of their friends have gone in similar paths, and a lot of Rancid’s songs are used to tell the stories of these friends. “Daly City Train” is another reggae song and it also has an awesome surf-guitar. The song is about someone named Jackyl, that I’ve had trouble finding actual information on, except that he was a friend of the band (he is also mentioned in “Rats in the Hallway”). Tim describes him as an angel, and a free bird and someone who happens to be himself even in this awful world, especially in the situation he found himself in. “Some men are in prison even though they walk the streets at night/ Other men who got the lockdown are free as a bird in flight” These lyrics makes you think, huh?
  6. “Journey to the End of the East Bay”: I have no idea if the title is a reference to Ted Nugent, but if it is, I’ll have to ask, why? Why the fuck would anyone reference Ted Nugent? Anyways, this song is a tribute to the East Bay and Matt and Tim’s old band Operation Ivy (“Started in ’87, ended in ’89”). Like Green Day’s “Welcome to Paradise”, FIY also about the East Bay, it talks about both sides of the coin when it comes to the area. It also shows the dangers of romanticizing an area, as a fellow named Mattie is coming to the place from New Orleans and expects it to be a Mecca, after three months he can’t handle it anymore and goes back to the big easy.
  7. “She’s Automatic”: Is a song sung by Lars, it’s a simple little love song about new found romance. I think it’s a great little track, among all the other classic, it might seem like a filler, but I think it’s quite a good song on its own.
  8. “Old Friend”: My favorite Rancid is probably “Old Friend”, I’ve always found the song to be catchy and I’ve always loved the instrumentation in it. The song is a straight up Ska song with a rad organ. The song’s chord progression is the classic “Pop punk progression” used in Toto’s “Africa”, The Beatles’ “Let It Be”, Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” and like every Blink-182 song. And like many of the songs I’ve talked about in this article, there is a sore and sad meaning to an otherwise catchy song. The song also uses the trope of prosopopoeia, and personifies heartache as an old friend. The protagonist is going through a break up and is lost in Cleveland full of regret and in the loss of all hope. I always get chills down my spine in the “somewhere in America” verse, because sometimes when things seem the worst, a memory from when things worked out is your only hope. In the end of the song, the protagonist also fears being robbed by people preying on someone who is already down, and almost broke, the protagonist figures that someone can rob them and take their money or their time, but their heart is already robbed and gone away.
  9. “Disorder and Disarray”: Another catchy song that don’t really stand out in the line of great songs is “Disorder and Disarray”, I have no idea what the song is about, but I often feel like it’s a reference to the Beatles’ “The Ballad of John and Yoko” because of the crucifixion. Maybe it’s another song about drugs. And it’s another song about the bus too. Public transport, yay!
  10. “The War’s End”: Another song that is mentioned as “the bad song on the album” along with “Junkie Man” is “The War’s End”, something I don’t get at all. I think it’s a fantastic song and I especially love the live version where Lars tries to make it sound like a Billy Bragg song, they also namedrop Bragg in the song. In fact, I remember Lauren from the Measure SA talked about the song on the classic Rocket to Russia show back in 2009 and also talked about “Ideology” and it made me become a huge Billy Bragg fan. Lars also covered another Bragg song “To Have and Not to Have” with his side project Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards. “The War’s End” is about a young boy named Sammy who is a punk rocker and is always in a “war” with his mother, and then decides to run away.
  1. “You Don’t Care Nothin’”: The Pop Punk progression madness doesn’t stop, and neither does the Pop Punk! The lyrics to this double negative heartache fest, sound like they could be straight out of a 90’s Mutant Pop record. The song is about a lady named Jenny deMilo who doesn’t seem to care about the protagonist in the song.
  2. “As Wicked”: A song that I always found great and that also scared me at the same time is “As Wicked”, like so many songs on the record there is sadness and melancholia hidden inside the singalong punk music. The lyrics remind me of old folk lyrics like Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain Is A-Gonna Come” and Tom Paxton’s “A Rumblin’ in the Land”. The narrator is observing different people of all ages, and he hears stories of loneliness, death and poverty, and all these stories adds up to the idea that something scary is about to come.
  3. “Avenues and Alleyways”: This is totally punk so there had to be an Oi! Song on the record. Oi! Is a genre that has gotten a bad rap, and is closely related to RAC and racism. Therefore, it might be important to have bands like the Oppressed and make anti-fascist Oi! Music to get away that stigma from the genre. “Avenues and Alleyways” is an Oi! Song about standing together against racism. Lars sings “He’s a different color, but we’re the same kid/ I treatedd him like my brother, he treats me like his”.
  4. “The Way I feel”: I wrote a song called “The Way I Feel” once, so I was always excited for this song, and it’s definitely one of the greatest closers in punk history. I’ve always felt there was something Irish and Pogues-esque about the song. The song is about someone moving up the social ladder and the way it affects their former friends. The best part of the song is definitely the chorus that just goes “nananananananananananananana”, sometimes the simples words are the best ones! I feel like they tried to re-write the song for Indestructible (Wolves II?) in “Otherside”.

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The album still stands as one of the strongest Punk Rock classics, probably ever and continues to inspire and I also think a lot of the PunX have somehow forgotten how neglected that it was a somewhat mainstream MTV album like they’ve done with the Sex Pistols and all those bands. Another classic we’ll be revising next time is Death by Television by The Lillingtons.

Tell You cover art

On their fourth EP (in a fairly short space of time), Radiohearts show no sign of slowing down their power-pop juggernaut. Hailing from Long-Beach, California, Radiohearts take clear influence from the late 1970s and early 1980s: half a dose from the power-pop of Cheap Trick and Elvis Costello, half a dose from the first wave of melodic punk of Buzzcocks, The Boys and Generation X. They probably remind me the most of the latter on that list: Radiohearts certainly strut like Gen X did, no more so than on EP highlight “So Low”. The opening chords of that track are worth the ‘admission fee’ alone of the EP. They kind of remind me of ‘90s pop-punk (MXPX?) before RH leap into your standard power-pop melodies. The opening title track is also so great. It is just relentless hook after hook, in the same way that Exploding Hearts did. It is pulsating stuff, if a little exhausting after a while. I love the snottier side of Radiohearts, where the Buzzcocks-esque punk sits nicely alongside the breezy, summertime hooks, and “Tell You” certainly ticks both of those boxes. That is Side A. Now, Side B is decent, but it’s no Side A. It misses some of that intensity I mentioned, and the hooks just aren’t as memorable. “Who are you?” has got a glam rock swagger to it and I feel like it has all the real elements to be a hit, but somewhere, somehow, they don’t come together to form something cohesive. Meanwhile, “So My Heart has an Obituary” is a great song title, but is probably the weakest track on the EP: it’s a ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll effort that promises a lot, but never quite goes to where it should. This is not to discredit Side B, mind, it just pales in comparison to the hit-fest on Side A. To sum up: summer; Radiohearts; dance, please.

Check it out: http://radiohearts.bandcamp.com/

DB

Smash Hits cover art

A somewhat hidden treasure in the music world is the Welsh bubblegum sensation Helen Love. They have been covered by The Queers (“The Girl about Town”) and Ash (“Punk Boy”), but maybe they haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve. The new album is called Smash Hits. Both the title and the album cover are referencing the British pop magazine with the same name. The band still has their signature sound, a mix of Pop Punk, bubblegum and new wave. The opening track “The First Welsh Girl in New York City” is infectiously catchy, and with its synthesizers and timeless melody, makes you want to sing along. The female and male vocals makes me think of the Rezillos or even the Buggles. The album, like most of their catalog, is packed with cultural references, both lyrically and musically. Most of the references are to the Ramones. The straight up Pop Punk track “We’ve Got a Formula One Thing” takes the “Hey ho! Let’s go!” chant from “Blitzkrieg Bop” and mixes in Blondie references and alludes to “In the Sun” and their cover of “Denis(e)”. This is not the first time the band has shown their love for these two New York groups, one of their most known songs is “Debbie Loves Joey”. The Ramonesmania doesn’t stop with that song, there is also a song called “You Can’t Beat a Boy Who Loves the Ramones”, a New wave track that includes samples from the movie Ghostbusters. This might be the first time I’ve heard Ghostbusters and Ramones referenced in the same song. One of the album’s strongest tunes is the tribute to X-Ray Spex’ Poly Styrene who died in 2011. The intro sounds just like Van Halen’s “Jump” and the chorus reminds me of something as well. There are also, obviously, plenty of X-Ray-Spex references in the song as well. The chorus goes “We were germ free adolescents/Cleanliness was our obsession” and there is also a reference to “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo”

The most punk song on the album is “Mario Kart Grand Prix”, while “Spaceboy” sounds like it’s straight out of the 80’s and while it’s maybe my least favourite song on the album, I still enjoy it. “Sheila B Devotion” almost sounds like an A-ha song, and Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers also got their tribute song “Long Live the Modern Lovers” with a Surf beat and horns. They also reference themselves a lot, like in “We’re in a Band That We love”. They also do a great cover of Sheila E’s “The Belle of St. Marks”. The auto tuned synth pop song “Stardust and Glitter” is a great closing track and might be the best song on the album. It has such a nice melody and it sort of reminds me of the Poly Styrene tribute a bit. The great thing about the album is that the catchiness never stops and there are so many references, both in the music and in the lyrics that it eliminates the boundaries of plagiarism and originality. The whole album bases itself on post-modernism and intertextuality. It’s the best album I’ve heard from this year. It grabbed me from the start and hooked me. I’m not sure if it’s a grower or if it will always stay this catchy, but it’s definitely a good time!

Check it out: https://alcopop.bandcamp.com/album/smash-hits

RH