Archive for October, 2017

Interview: Jon Lewis, The Dopamines

Posted: October 26, 2017 in Small Talk

No introduction to the band really required here. The Dopamines are a fucking ace Midwest punk band. Listen to the new one ‘Tales of Interest’ if you haven’t already. Here’s me having a chat guitarist/vocalist Jon Lewis about the new record, Futurama and ‘Cold Duck’….

Image result for jon lewis dopamines

Dave: So, the new Dopamines album, ‘Tales of Interest’, did it turn out as you imagined? I heard recently (on the Angry and Anxious podcast) that it is the album you always wanted to make- what do you mean by that specifically?

Jon: I think what I mean by the “record I’ve always wanted to make” is that this was the first time I didn’t really hold back on ideas I had, no matter how far-fetched they seemed at the time. I mean, the record doesn’t have anything wacky on it. There’s nothing too far outside the box we’ve created based on our previous records. But we didn’t hold any ideas or criticism back. And the reception from Michael, Jon and Josh on everything I had to bring to the table was awesome. Everyone was honest about what worked and what didn’t. Everyone understood the vibe of the material. Everyone made it their own. And that’s how all our records were made for the most part, but this one was different in that nothing felt like, “this song might have been better if…”. At least not to me. Everything from the inception of each song to the finished recording felt natural. It was a blast to make. 

D: How do you think that ‘Tales of Interest’ differs from the other Dopamines releases? How has the band’s sound/songwriting evolved over the years?

J: It doesn’t stray too far from the reservation in terms of how it sits in our catalog, but it’s definitely darker. The songwriting hasn’t changed much at all. We just write what we want. If it doesn’t fit whatever standards we set for ourselves at that point in time, we tweak it to see if we can reign it in. If we can, great, use it. If not, well then lets write something else. We don’t set very high standards, we just kind of process what’s brought to the table, and see if it comes out a ripper. As far as lyrically? I had a blast. I’m much happier these days, so it was fun to kinda dig around and see what’s been bothering me that I forgot about. 

D: How does the songwriting process work in the band?

J: For this one it was very different. We usually write as a team. and by write, I mean music. Lyrics are just Jon or I taking it home and coming back with some shit. Anyway for this record I did a lot of demoing alone. I would write 3 or 4 songs, do some demos at home, and then bring them in to practice for everyone to hear and tear apart. about 1/2 of the record was written that way. Which isn’t really normal for us. From 2012-2015, we didn’t get together much to work on new shit. We used to always write together. Someone would come in with like a hook or half a song, and we’d piece it together, together. It was a foreign concept to write shit the way we did for this record, and I didn’t like it at all at first. But eventually we got into a groove of getting together consistently and all this shit I felt like I was writing alone started to feel more like a joint effort, like it used to. I mean the end result couldn’t have happened without an equal effort from everyone, so ultimately it ended up feeling like I thought it should in the end, a team effort. 

D: I heard that ‘Tales of Interest’ was recorded in like four and half (booze-fuelled) days. How does that compare to other Dopamines LPs?

J: Pretty much par for the course. I think the first LP was mostly whiskey and beer, Expect the Worst was a lot of five star pizza and Weird Al DVDs, Vices was a lot of Andre Brut Champagne and Tales of Interest was Space Bags and Cold Duck. You gotta prioritize these things.

D: What is the album cover about?

J: That photo is of a junkyard I frequent in Cincinnati, when I need parts for my car. I’ve always hated spending money on cars, so if it’s feasible I try to work on shit myself. Anyway this particular junkyard is a “pull-n-pay”. You literally check to see if a car that matches yours is “in stock”, and you go pull parts from it. All the cars are setup in aisles, like in the photo. I don’t know, I mean it looks pretty ominous in the photo, which was the intent. But in reality, that place kinda puts me at ease. Plus there’s all walks of life there, it can get pretty hilarious. I took that particular shot years ago when I was there looking for a turn signal lever. I was giving a friend a ride home and he was fucking really wasted, and we were listening to metal and he kind of got out of control and kicked my steering wheel while i was driving, and completely snapped the turn signal lever off. The photo actually wasn’t hi res enough to use for the cover, so I just went back and took the same shot with a slightly better camera. I dunno, just thought it looked kinda neat. 

D: What was the thinking behind the decision to re-record “Douglas Bubbletrousers” (and re-name it) and “Business Papers”?

J: “Douglas Bubbletrousers” (Hot Rod reference. Go watch it) was re-recorded because we love that song and wanted it to get proper exposure. It fit the vibe of the record and I always wanted the bridge to be more outer space-y. So we threw it on and renamed it “Expect the Worst”. Michael thought that was a good name for it because it made it seem more mysterious, naming it the title of a previous record. Like when NOFX did “Pump up the Valuum” and didn’t put the title track on the record. I mean, it looks better on the back of the jacket than “Douglas Bubbletrousers”. we didn’t want to write this serious as fuck record and then you’re taken out by a WTF song name.  

“Business Papers” was the first song written after Vices was done. It is by far my favorite Dopamines song. I so badly wanted to hold on to it for a full length, but when Larry Livermore calls you and asks if you want to put a song on a comp that he is curating, you fucking give Larry the best you got. I thought we would have had a new record out way sooner than 2017, so when it came time to start putting Tales of Interest together we were like fuck it. Put it in there. Honestly, Business Papers is the song that kicked the door in for every song I wrote after that. That’s why I wrote a reprise of it for the end of the record. I would have written a 30 minute version of that song and put it out as a record if someone asked for it. Love that song. Everyone fucking killed it on Business Papers. Hopefully Adeline doesn’t get miffed that we re-recorded it. The Thing that Ate Larry Livermore was an incredible comp to be a part of. Maybe that song should have lived and died there. Oh well. Also, we stole that song title from our friend Jonathan Pool (Brickfight, F.Y.I.). Sorry dude. 

D: Titling the record ‘Tales of Interest’ is the second Futurama reference I’ve found The Dopamines have made along with the clip that was played at the end of “Dick Simmons” on Expect the Worst. Are there any other Futurama references that I am missing?

J: There’s the song “Try This Kids at Home.” On the copyrights split. Bender says it during the episode “Bender Should not be Allowed on TV”. It was the pain in the ass to get that as the song title; everyone thought I meant “Try This at Home, Kids.” and I kept having to correct everybody. I think that’s it. I wanted to do something Futurama-y on every record, but I get vetoed constantly with all my stupid ideas. I actually wanted to put the sound clip from “Anthology of Interest” on the new record, to close out side A, and right before the last song on the record. But it was too goofy.   

D: What do ‘Kalte Ente’ and ‘Kaltes Ende’ refer to?

J: They both mean “Cold Duck”, which is a flavored champagne we drank a lot during recording, because it’s fucking called “Cold Duck” so why not drink it? We wanted to call a song Cold Duck on the record, but because the record is kind of dark we thought it might take away from the vibe which is weird because we usually don’t care about that shit. So I jumped on Wikipedia to learn more about Cold Duck, because why the fuck not? Turns out the original names for it come off really cryptic and dark when you make them song titles, so in they went! And another happy coincidence, the German name for Cold Duck translates to “cold end”, and the song “Kaltes Ende” on the record is about a family member who died of an overdose. So what started as a joke ended up actually fitting.  

D: What inspired the decision to cover the High Hats song “Heartbeaten by The Police”? How does it fit in with the rest of ‘Tales of Interest’?

J: Well we toured Europe in 2015, and the band Priceduifkes toured with us. It was an amazing tour for many reasons, one of which came in the form of a mix CD. The dudes in Priceduifkes made a couple tour CDs, with a mishmash of different bands, genres, etc. One particular song was “Heartbeaten by the police” By The High Hats. They’re a pop punk band from Sweden and I’m genuinely shocked that they’re relatively unknown in the states. Both records (that I know about) are total rippers.  Anyway we immediately fell in love with the song, and then decided to do a cover of it. I’m not sure we were always committed to putting it on our full-length but as our material began to develop, that song really started to reflect the vibe of the record. So we were like “fuck it, lets cover it for Tales of Interest”. I actually asked permission from them to cover it. Jonk, the guy who put out both High Hats LPs (Alleycat Records) gave me the go ahead, but as I understand it some of the guys in The High Hats don’t really communicate regularly via the internet, so I don’t know if the band is ACTUALLY fine with our cover. 

D: You covered Guided by Voices for a 7” recently too. Are there any future plans to record any more covers?

J: We just kinda record covers at random. We actually did a cover of “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News. We did it for Josh’s wedding, his wedding favor was a real limited 7″. It’s kinda awesome, except I slowly got real drunk while recording it, and by the time I finished my vocals, some of them are REAL bad, but we kept them in because it was kind of funny. It’s floating around the internet, I submitted it as our song for the Fest 16 comp and I think you can hear it on Rad Girlfriend Records’ bandcamp page.

D: So, more broadly, what is going on with the band right now? You had a hiatus of sorts for a while, but you are going back on tour in the summer, is that right?

J: Yeah we’re doing a tour starting on June 18th in Baltimore, and hitting up all the upper east and Canada, dipping back down through the Midwest. Just check our Facebook. It’s been ages since we’ve hit up a lot of these places, and honestly, I don’t think this is the beginning of serious activity for us, so come out!

D: I understand that you recently had to cancel the planned European tour. Are there any plans to come back over here at some point?

J: Oh absolutely. 2018 definitely. We’re really bummed that we had to scrap the tour, but there were some circumstances that got in our way. But rest assured we’re going to get back there! 

Check out the new record here: https://radgirlfriendrecords.bandcamp.com/album/tales-of-interest

Advertisements

So, this thing continues. If you haven’t read it you should probably read (https://keeptrackofthetime.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/read-hards-classic-pop-punk-picks-33-propagandhi-how-to-clean-everything-ess-talk-more-rock/) first. In this one there’s a guest comment from Dave on the public dis-service announcement made by Shell.


Image result for propagandhi how to clean everything

VS

Image result for propagandhi less talk more rock

Shell Sucks

“A Public Dis-service Announcement from Shell” (Less Talk, More Rock)

The lyrics in this interlude song are taken from an excerpt from the Winnipeg Free Press in 1995 (a piece called “Clear Thinking in Troubled Times”), which appears to be more or less PR propaganda for Shell corporation, to protest its innocence over oil extraction activities that had been taking place in developing countries in the early 1990s. This extract is likely to refer to the human rights violations in Nigeria in 1995 that Shell were accused of being involved with. Oil money and corporate influence was said to have enabled a number of human rights violations in Nigeria, including executions and torture. Although Shell never accepted liability for this, they did nevertheless pay $15.5 million in a legal settlement. Human rights campaigners were bringing attention to this issue around the time Less Talk, More Rock was released.

Shell don’t appear to have learnt anything in recent years as their continued involvement in Nigeria has led to further human rights abuses, particularly in regards to gas flaring and oil spills. Amnesty international has published a report into the whole thing. Of course, despite all this, Shell present a humanitarian, ‘sustainable’ image of the brand that tries to cut ties with any previous ‘demeanours’. Shell along with the rest of the fossil fuel industry has similarly been involved in a campaign of misinformation towards climate change, despite the consensus built around it. I think the point of this song is to highlight the sheer disparity between multinational corporations’ PR and the reality of their engagement in the world. Like this part in the extract: But the sound and ethical business practices synonymous with Shell, the environmental investment and the tens of millions of dollars spent on community programs would all be lost. Again, it’s the people of developing nations that you would hurt”. Which, of course, is a load of PR horseshit and says nothing of their oil spills or human rights violations. The last line highlights irony and a sheer lack of self-awareness on behalf of the writer/speaker: “The world where companies use their economic influence to prop up or bring down governments would be a frightening and bleak one indeed.”. Shell’s influence in Nigerian politics highlights the shift towards the very process described in that line happening throughout the world.

“Ska Sucks” (How to Clean Everything)

This seems to be a song that the band hates even if it’s quite a catchy one and a pretty good ska song. It uses a pretty standard ska bassline, but it does it pretty well. It bears similarities to Operation Ivy’s “Yelling in My Ear” and there’s also a reference to “A Message to You Rudy” by Dandy Livingston, made popular by the Specials. The song is just about how ska sucks and it’s a trend that will end and that the bands playing it are only in it for the money. Ska became even bigger after this though.

Connection:

I could find very few connections between these two songs and I guess there really aren’t many. One is a song and the other is spoken political propaganda over music. What they both have in common musically is that they both have a very outstanding bass line that makes up most of the music on the tracks. A very huge difference is that “Ska Sucks” is a piss-take song made with mostly humor while “Public Dis-announcement” is a bit more serious and is about a perhaps more serious issue than Ska music. The similarity is that the tracks both show contempt for something, one for Shell’s violation of human rights and dishonesty and the other for a genre of music. Another difference is that it’s easy to see why Propagandhi would show this dissatisfaction with Shell, but it’s up to imagination what about the wonderful genre of Ska that could get on their nerves. Music genres are, of course, about taste so it becomes hard to argue with someone’s taste. One thing that I took notice of earlier was how good of a ska song “Ska Sucks” really is. It’s a catchy song with a sweet bass line and it just always gets me in a jolly mood. And it’s somewhat hard to grasp how someone who hates the music could make such a cool Ska song. An important thing to note is the origins of Ska. It was a Jamaican music that became popular on Jamaica in the 1960s and became popular with white skinheads in the UK in the late 60s and early 70 and the music bridged the black rudy culture and mostly the white skinhead culture. At that point the performers were still mostly black Jamaicans and popular ska-acts like Symarip (or Pyramids), Toots and the Maytals, Prince Buster and Desmond Decker ruled the record players of both black and white youth. In the first ska-revival that happened in the late 70s with the two-tone label. At this time, we would get all white bands like Madness, but also bands with both black and white members, like the Beat, The Specials and Bad Manners. This racial harmony was often symbolized by the black and white checkered pattern of the Two-tone logo.

So when talking about Ska music, we aren’t just discussing a music genre, we’re also talking about culture and race. With Propagandhi writing songs like “White, Proud and Stupid” it would be ridiculous to accuse Propagandhi of hating Ska for being black music. There is also nothing in the lyrics that would suggest this. Could they possible be stating something else though? If I’m going to stretch this a bit (which I seem to be doing a lot in these articles!), the song is mainly about the third wave and second revival of Ska. This time it happened in America with bands like Operation Ivy and Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The song shows hatred for the trend of ska revival and wanting to monetize it rather than the actual music. With this revival we can see that the music is mostly played by white musicians and we can again see example of white musicians hijacking black culture. A term known as cultural appropriation. We can see endless stories of black music being made as a result of oppression from white people and then again being exploited by white people that would make more money on it. I’m not sure if this is what Propagandhi are attacking in the song, but it seems to be a thing that Propagandhi would have an opinion on. So here we can make more connections between the two tracks as they both to different degrees show how white people can exploit black suffering and make money on it. In one case we see white musicians appropriating black culture and in the other case we see Shell, a European company, being involved in human rights violation in Africa.

Military, War and Indoctrination of Children

“I Was a Pre-teen McCarthyist” (Less Talk, More Rock):

This song is about Chris’s upbringing in a conservative family. He said in an interview with the Charleston City Paper that he grew up in a Royal Canadian Air Force town in Winnipeg, his family weren’t far right wing, but they were living in the military. The song describes going to Harold Edward’s Elementary School, a place where you pay respect to their god, their flag and their military. The song is about indoctrination of children to be afraid of the left. He sings about writing about the dangers of communism in third grade and going to a military base for spring break. 12 years later, he has found out that he had been fed lies and decided not to be a part of this anymore. The end is pretty brilliant: “when you jump ship, you either swim for shore or drown. Don’t let the fuckers drag you down” It’s pessimistic in the sense that when you break out from a shitty political ideology (or a religious cult or whatever), you can end up completely on your own and you have to get by alone. It’s positive in the sense that it’s never too late to get out, and you can always change your mind and become better and wiser. Musically, the song is pretty standard pop punk with very high harmonies and it’s one of the most melodic songs the band has written.

“Rio De San Atlanta, Manitoba” (Less Talk, More Rock):

Quite a short track and it gave us a preview of the sound the band would evolve into. The lyrics are about cities creating ghettos so the rich can forget about poverty and continue to the trickle-down economics. He also sings that the real murderers are the rich people who by PR campaigns and politics wage war against the poor. The conclusion of the song is “this system can’t be reformed”. I’m not sure what the title means, but I feel like he is trying to compare Canada to Brazil.

“Stick the Fucking Flag Up Your Goddam Ass, You Sonofabitch” (How to Clean Everything):

This classic from HtCE starts up with an argument between Chris and his dad. His dad says the “boy scouts chanting war” is the sound of freedom and don’t want to hear his son’s disagreements. In this moment Chris opens his eyes and says “Wait a minute dad, did you actually say freedom? Well if you’re dumb enough to vote, you’re fucking dumb enough to believe ‘em”. He then he claims that if the country was free he could burn the flag and stick it up someone’s ass. This sounds kind of like an Anti-American anthem, but it’s then important to remember that Propagandhi is Canadian and that the song ends with the opening notes of Canada’s National Anthem “O’ Canada”. In the next part, he sings the regrets of his past. He used to carry someone else’s anthem and pretend it was his own, but it wasn’t. He also used to step in line until he discovered that it was false and this was not something he could stand for. Later, the narrative changes, we’re now in second person and it’s the listener who carries the anthem that isn’t theirs and how this phony national romanticism can have fatal consequences like enlisting in the army. The song takes an, if not anti-war, anti-military stand. The last line of the song is “fuck the troops to hell”. There’s also a Bette Midler reference I’m not sure about. It might be a reference to her 1991 movie For the Boys, about a jazz singer entertaining the troops. On the back cover of the album it is noted that the word “bitch” in the title is not supposed to be gender specific.

Connection:

War and militarism is the big link between these three songs. In “Pre-Teen McCarthyist” and “Stick the Flag” there’s also a theme of changing your political views and the difference between parents and kids when it comes to politics. “Pre-Teen McCarthyist” could also be seen as a part two of “Stick the Flag”, as they both have to do with Chris’s childhood, growing up with patriotism and supporting the military and being indoctrinated into anti-communism and boy scouts shouting wars into turning the other way, jumping ship and converting to the left. An interesting thing to consider is the way the word “war” and the symbol of militarism are used in these three songs. In “Pre-teen McCarthyist” the word “war” isn’t used, but militarism and the struggles of the “airforce town” are in the center of the song. In “Rio”, the real war is the war that the rich wage against the poor. The weapons here are pens, desks and policies. In “Stick the Flag”, sticking with patriotism (instead of sticking it up your ass) could lead to being sent to war. Also, the indoctrination of children to support their country and their troops is referred to as “boys scouts chanting war”. This is also a theme we can see in “Pre-teen McCarthyist”, both when it comes to military indoctrination and pledging allegiance

Leaders, A Thousand Slaves

Resisting Tyrannical Government” (Less Talk, More Rock):

The song offers two solutions to end the injustice in the world carried on by the wealthiest and most powerful. The first verse asks rhetorically: “Why don’t we all strap bombs to our chests and ride our bikes to the next G7 picnic?” and the second asks “Why don’t we plant a mechanic virus and erase the memory of the machines that maintain this capitalist dynasty?” in a similar manner.  In the first verse, Chris sings that it’s become way easier to engage in such actions, but ask who would benefit from this, Chris? The listener? The rank and file? Or would it actually benefit the government? In 1996, like now, the G7 consist of the wealthiest nations of the world’s leaders, for years they were, with Russia, known as the G8. Chris asks what bombing such a G7 event would be good for, or if this is something that would only help the government. Chris later goes on to say that he doesn’t want his actions to result in the second Final Solution, a reference to the Holocaust, I believe.

He also says he doesn’t want to be the Steve Smith of the revolution. I tried to find out which of the many Steve Smiths this could refer to and the most rational answer is the Scottish-Canadian hockey player who was responsible for hurting fellow player Pavel Bure’s knee. The reference in the song is probably to his own goal against the Flames, he played for the Oilers.  This own goal resulted in the Oilers losing the series and the Flames went on to win the Stanley Cup. This happened in 1986, ten years before the song. Chris asks if the listeners understand his analogy, and compares the people fighting against the power to the Oilers, while the World Bank is the Flames. This could also be a pun on their names, as oil will set fire to flames. The people who fight the power need to be careful with their actions, because when they have the numbers so much against them, any wrong step could turn the action back on them. This gets emphasized in the following lines: “Yeah, Jesus saves! Gretzky scores!/ The workers slave. The rich get more. / One wrong move, we risk the cup. /Play the man, not the puck.” There’s really not much of a discussion when it comes to the second question, it just asks rhetorically if planting a virus to erase the capitalist dynasty and later he continues by recognizing the irony that this system is also what’s made him privileged compared to many others in the world as a middle-class Canadian is the system he is fighting against, and he encourages every other privileged person to do the same. The title is a reference to the second amendment in the American constitution that the right to bear arms is to resist tyrannical government.

“Head? Chest? Foot?” (How to Clean Everything):

The song starts with three choices and one bullet and there’s one trigger, again there’s a rhetorical question, who will get to pull the trigger? I’m guessing the three choices the leader with the gun has are: the head, the chest or in the foot?  Chris describes a totalitarian leadership with only one leader and the rest of us are slaves, we’re all just sheep that are part of the machine. He doesn’t want to be part of this machine and wants to stand up against it. The following lines describes this bleak situation: “They subsidize your nightclubs and they subsidize your malls/ They herd and brand the masses within painted prison walls/ ‘Til your freedom of assembly becomes the missiles they create/ Or just mass delusion dancing to this music that you fucking hate”. This doesn’t describe a totalitarianism driven by force and fear, it describes a society that is driven by government subsidization and false freedom. The problem isn’t the tyrannical being in total power, but the illusion that we are free. We’re free to shop and dance to music (that Chris fucking hates!) in night clubs, but our freedoms just exist to keep up the system and weaponize them. We’re sheep that are herded in a prison. Chris repeatedly needs to state how much he doesn’t want to be part of the sheep and just lose against the power, the ones who in George Orwell’s novella Animal Farm would be the pigs. 1984 and Animal Farm are works from Orwell that criticize totalitarianism and state power and has given the name to the adjective that describes a society that is controlled by surveillance and misinformation. Chris uses this term in the song and he says he’d rather be imprisoned in such a world than to be pacified and pretend to be free and dance and sing along with the other goons. He wants to know his enemy and who he should attack instead of staying silent and ignorant. In the end of the song, we’re left with two choices instead of three. To oppose the power or be destroyed by it.

Connection:

These songs are pretty similar. Even more similar that I figured when I decided to group them together. They are both about fighting the capitalist powers that treat us like slaves. In “Head? Chest? Foot?” it is clear that we need to fight this power, while in “Resisting Tyrannical Government” this still stands, but we’re met with challenges that such a fight could bring, because the choices we have might come back to us. In “Head”, the choices are simple “to oppose them or let them destroy us”, but in “Tyrannical Government” opposing them could destroy us as well, if we don’t play our cards right.  

A Good Kick in the Ass

“The Only Good Fascist Is a Very Dead Fascist” (Less Talk, More Rock):

Sadly, this is a song that has become relevant lately. The song almost, even eleven years before, perfectly describes the attitudes of the right-wing protesters in Charlottesville recently. The song describes the KKK and Nazis with swastikas and right-wing groups and attitudes. Chris sings they can wear his nuts on their Nazi chins (and later his brown power ass in their white power face). In the second verse, he questions why these white power people are so proud of their race, when all we’ve really produced is capitalism, slavery, genocide and sitcom. In the end, the conclusion is “Kill them all and let a Norse god sort them out” a reference to the Papal Legate Arnaud Amalric who said, “Kill them all and let God sort them out” before a massacre, it was also a slogan used in the Vietnam war.

“Hate, Myth, Muscle, Etiquette” (How to Clean Everything):

This song describes the moment when you realize where you stand politically and understand how the world really works and how unfair the whole thing really is. The song refers a lot to ass-kicking. First in second person; “You need a good kick in the ass” and then in first person, singular; “I need a good kick in the ass” and then lastly, first person, plural; “we all need a kick in the ass”. We all need someone or something to push us toward realizing injustice and fight against it. The song is also in many ways an anarchist manifesto. It concludes that we don’t need rules, we just need common sense. The most important lesson to learn from this song is that the most importing thing is educating yourself. Education derived from discussions trumps the four words in the title: hate, myth, muscle or etiquette. The song ends: “Status symbols yield to respect between sex, species, environment”.

“Who Will Help Us Bake This Bread?” (How to Clean Everything)

Another song from HtCE and it’s about being threatened with violence for your political beliefs. It’s about standing up to violence and show that answering with fists isn’t gonna help and that nothing can touch his mind and his ideals. And that he’d rather die than to join their team. It’s also about standing up for what you think is right and speaking your mind about it, rather than going along with what’s going on. The “I won’t bleed for you, have no need for you” part is probably my favorite part in any Propagandhi song.

Connection:

Out of all the songs I think they were the hardest to find a link between and they were basically just leftovers that I couldn’t find another song to link it to. If I’m gonna stretch a lot I’ll have to look at the theme of physical violence versus figurative violence. I don’t know if I use these terms correctly. But when I use these terms I mean physical violence as violence that happens, while figurative violence is violence that only exists in language and is more symbolic than actual violence is. It’s interesting to think of the motivation for the Amalric quote. During the war in Vietnam, right-wing rednecks seemed to love wearing t-shirt with this quote on it. It seems to me that Amalric meant the quote quite literally, but did the rednecks really think that we should everyone in Vietnam? It’s possible, but it’s also possible that this was just a way of saying America should take no prisoners in their fight in Vietnam. The actual violence and killing in Vietnam, was of course very real. Does Chris mean killing all fascists literally? He very well could! And it could relate to “is it OK to punch Nazis debate?” Woody Guthrie, used to have “this machine kills fascists” on this guitar, this could also be taken figuratively as in the music from the guitar is meant to destroy fascist, but Guthrie was also enlisted in the army to fight against Nazi Germany, so he was also very literal about it. When Chris sings “Kill them all”, he’s making a reference to the rednecks during the Vietnam war, but he could also mean we should kill all Nazis or use any means necessary to destroy fascism.

When Chris sings “you can wear my nuts on your Nazi chins” or “my brown-power ass in your white-power face”, it’s his way of saying “kiss my ass” or “lick my nuts”. Similar insults such as “suck my dick” or “eat my shit” when sexual or non-sexual acts that are not consensual to, in your language, create power over the person you’re trying to insult. It’s possible that Chris is trying to make an anti-homophobic statement like he did in “Less Talk, More Rock” and using it in an opposite way that these are usually made, in the way that “suck my dick” is meant to be a homophobic idiom in itself, because it’s based on people’s aversion to homosexuality. I assume that it’s meant to repulse homophobic Nazis, rather than use it homophobically. Regardless, it’s still a type of language that normalizes figurate sexual violence. In “Hate, Myth, Muscle, Etiquette”, I assume that muscles referred to violence. In the song, physical and figurative violence and much of the basis behind the song. When we need a good kick in the ass to become better people this is not meant to be literally. “Muscle” is not the way to make the world a better place, education is. “A kick in the ass” means that we need to open up our eyes and educate ourselves not that we need the muscle of authority (whether from government or other authorities) to indoctrinate us with their beliefs through violence. We see the same in “Who Will Help Us Bake This Bread?”, “you boycott your brain, you answer with fists”. Education; “getting a kick in the ass” intellectually trumps getting a kick in the ass literally.

Prospects for DemocracyThe State Lottery” (Less Talk, More Rock)

This track starts up with a sample from Noam Chomsky. I believe it is the conclusion of his lecture “Prospects for Democracy” from 1994 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chomsky is a linguist, philosopher and political activist that is probably familiar to most people. His political ideas of Anarcho-Syndicalism and Libertarian Socialism seem very influential to the ideas that Propagandhi convey through song. The lecture is a critique of American democracy and how it doesn’t uphold the prospects for democracy which the founding fathers intended. Corporations have taken over political power and the government serves as the provider for these corporations to be even more powerful. Chomsky also compares the current American democracy (as of 1994) to that of the Soviet Union. According to Chomsky, manipulation and misinformation is being used to control the voters. I watched this lecture on youtube ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsCstfMvS4c) , but it cut before the end. The conclusion that starts the song serves as a rational conclusion to this lecture: “Now, the real prospects for authentic democracy depend on something else. They depend on how the people in the rich and privileged societies learn some other lessons. For example, the lessons that are being taught right now by Mayans in Chiapas, Mexico. They are among the most impoverished and oppressed sectors in the continent. But, unlike us, they retain a vibrant tradition of liberty and democracy. A tradition that we’ve allowed to slip out of our hands or has been stolen from us. And unless people here in the rich and privileged society, unless they can recapture and revitalize that tradition, the prospects for democracy are indeed dim.” The song views this democratized political situation through the reflection of the people who are actually in political power and how they seem more like lottery winners than someone who want to be responsible for real political change. They seem more content with keeping those that are holding this system up pleased than challenging the system. By the end of the song Chris asks a rhetorical question similar to the questions he’s asked before: “Is it not our obligation to confront this tyranny?”

“…And We Thought the Nation States Was a Bad Idea” (Less Talk, More Rock)

This song has been given many titles like “Nation States”, but it’s represented with the full title on the album. The same idea is apparent here. Multinational companies are in power, and this means class war. We’re owned and consumed by these companies.

“A People’s History of the World” (Less Talk, More Rock)

Again the bleak view of modern democracy appears. Those in power fear knowledge and therefore we need to educate ourselves and fight that power, is what this song preaches. Again, manipulation and misinformation is used to control the masses, to let the wealthiest at the top control the rest. It also echoes the message of “Stick the flag” that if you’re dumb enough to vote you’re dumb enough to believe ‘em. The song concludes: “Yeah, you can vote however the fuck you want, but power still calls all the shots. And believe it or not, even if (real) democracy broke loose, power could/would just “make the economy scream” until we vote responsibly”. To me it seems like the title is a reference to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Author Chris Harman also wrote a book with the same name (world not the US), inspired and endorsed by Zinn.

“Middle Finger Response” (How to Clean Everything)

An angry punk song for you to sing “fuck you” to? Or an important political statement against the establishment? The geographical references in the song are from Calgary such as the Waskasoo Creek and the Parkland mall. Chris questions the hegemony of the peaceful democracy known as Canada. These fun-loving Canadians with their “aryan” pride and flag march to the beat of conformity and wealth gained by the wood industry. Lyrically, it’s one of Propagandhi’s most immature lyrics as there is a motivation to provoke and offend rather than to educate and engage. Chris states that he has offended many people now he wants to offend the rest, he’s gonna tell a great deal of the world’s population to fuck off.

Connection:

The connection between all these songs are there due to the co-operation between government and corporation and democratizing of a country’s citizens. These ideas are shown through the ideas of intellectuals of the libertarian left like Chomsky and Zinn. Two figures that are often used as the spokesmen for the left in general. This is something we can see in other punk bands as well. NOFX’s mention the two as reading to wake up from apathy and apolicalism  in the song “Franco Un-American” (from the War on Errorism), while Ben Weasel satirizes the left’s worship of the two in his “Come See the Violence Inherit the System” on Screeching Weasel’s album First World Manifesto. All these albums are on Fat! There exists a will to fight against these powers of multinational corporations and governments’ aid to them, either through saying “fuck you” or direct actions, in these songs.

There’s a Difference Between Sexism and SexualityRefusing to Be a Man” (Less Talk, More Rock)

The last song on LTMR is probably my favorite Propagandhi song. It doesn’t keep politics and personal themes separate. More importantly, there’s a lot of criticisms and “fuck yous” in the Propagandhi’s lyrics, this song is Chris’s “fuck you” and criticism of himself and his own sexism. We can see many of these reflective lyrics on LTMR, and we see them even more on later albums. The song title and song itself are inspired by John Stoltenberg’s essay (and essay collection) with the same name(s). Stoltenberg was married to radical feminist Andrea Dworkin. The essay(s) are often centered around pornography. Both Stoltenberg and Dworkin are known for their anti-pornography views and this is something both fellow feminists and the porn industry (Like Larry Flynt) have criticized them for. Fat Mike doesn’t seem too fond of Dworkin in his disturbing NOFX song “The Black and White”. Stoltenberg is known for the quote “Pornography tells lies about women, but tells the truth about men”. In this song, Chris, as opposed to Fat Mike (who put out the record), shares many of these ideas. It’s not only a song that criticizes the faults of the patriarchy, but it’s an individual male’s realization that he oppresses women and wanting to do something about it.

The song starts up with addressing the fact that he isn’t different from all the rest. He says this to a “you”. This could be addressed to all women or just one woman in particular. He goes on to say that he has the same nurturing as other men and that men are taught from a young age to objectify women and think that they are superior to women and even have the right what to do with their bodies. In italics in the lyric sheet, Chris says that hetero-sexist men are “potential rapists”, I’m not sure why this is written in italics, maybe it’s because it’s a reference or maybe it’s something Chris doesn’t really believe. He claims that from early childhood he has been nurtured into becoming someone who objectifies women, this is not natural and shows the power of the patriarchal indoctrination of children. This song pretty much establishes the core of the beliefs of Propagandhi. That we one day find out something like what “patricentricity” means, and wanting to change it. He has been taught something all his life (that he should be superior to women and that he’s allowed to make women HIS sexual objects), he now realize that these male-centered ideas are wrong and he is ashamed that he is attracted to body types. He calls for a redefinition of eroticism because sex has been distorted. The most outstanding line of the song is “there’s a difference between sexism and sexuality”. The song is not anti-sexuality, it’s anti-sexism. The song also brings in sex and gender, and probably in a different way that we discuss them today. The song ends with Chris refusal to be a man. Here, instead of italics, the word “man” is used in quotation marks. Chris can’t refuse the biological fact that he’s a man. He can’t refuse to be a man, by sex. If Chris identifies as a male (I’d hate to assume someone’s gender!), he can’t really refuse to be a man, by gender. What he does, however, is refuse to take part in the culturally constructed ideals of what it is to be a man. If these ideals are based on male-superiority and sexual objectification of women. I think in 1996, it’s possible that the quotation mark would serve as a way of separating sex and gender, but I think, if I understand correctly, that in modern gender thinking it would rather separate between sex/gender and gender roles and the constructed ideals of how genders should act out.

This Might Be Satire” (How to Clean Everything)

As the title suggests, this song might be satire. The song is kind of a classic pop punk song with super cute and bubble gummy lyrics. It was often played before the song “Fuck Machine” and comes right after it on the record. The songs are supposed to be next to each other as they are about the same theme. I think the song just as much parodies popular music as it parodies society as a whole. The song is a guy serenading a girl at school. He sings that he wants to do everything for her at school, carry her books and chew bubblegum. He also wants to fuck her up the ass. The song shows how men patronize women by socially constructed “chivalry” (“I wanna carry your books to every class”), but also sexually objectify women and want sexual rewards for their behaviors (“I wanna fuck you up the ass”). The girl in the song says she loves the man, the man wants to try to fuck her. The references to school shows that this happens at a young age and the parodic element of the song is that many of the performer of silly songs that echoes this “I wanna carry your books in school” attitude comes from old men. The song shows how girls from a young age are objectified by older men and how this pedophilia or hebephilia is rooted in popular culture. In the end the man exposes his own pedophilia by asking “where the hell are my priorities? Left in the hands of the authorities”.

“Fuck Machine” (How to Clean Everything)

The song “Fuck Machine” also discusses conditioned attraction and reactions. It’s also about beauty-tyranny and the way the media wants women to look like. There’s a bikini film on and the female anchor’s reaction to the movie is “boys will be boys” and by this, according to the song, she condones the movie and agrees that she’s just a toy, a fuck machine. This changes. She now takes charge. The anchor has her fist in a clinch. She no longer wants to be a toy in men’s possession. It’s unclear to me whether the last couple a’ lines are from the point of view of the anchor or Chris himself: “And though I long to embrace, I will not misplace my priorities: Humor, opinion, a sense of compassion, creativity/ And a distaste for fashion”.

Connection:

The link between the song is that Stoltenberg and Dworkin’s ideas could be applied to all of them. “Refusing to Be a Man” reflects on being a male and being taught these sexist attitudes, “This Might Be Satire” parodies these attitude by humorously putting them in action. “Fuck Machine” tries to inspire women to take a stand and not become “fuck machines”. I think out of the songs “Refusing to Be a Man” is the more mature song and probably the most feminist song of the three. I think there’s good intention by the rather crude songs. And “This Might Be Satire” being satire gives it a pass, even if the song might be cringeworthy to some. “Fuck Machine”, however, might be a bit more problematic. It seems undeniable that in this patriarchic society women are the ones that suffer from the structures being as they are. Chris seems to recognize this. There’s very little about males in the song, and faults of males in society at all. The song, on the other hand, shows unnecessary malice toward women who don’t agree with him and a, still, male-centric look into what he thinks women should be. Whereas, “Refusing to Be a Man” blames nurturing and the patriarchy, but also puts the blame on men. It establishes that men oppressing women is men’s fault, and not women.

———————————————————————————————

Hope this wasn’t too long and boring, but if you’re crazy enough that you made it this far, I hope you enjoyed it at least. The next pop punk pick will be the Muffs’ Blonder and Blonder.

 

There’s something in the water in the north and midlands of the UK. There are some excellent bands that are sort of pop punk and sort of indie pop, but not either. Just sort of in between. Count Yr Poetry amongst that group. Their songs are quite bouncy and edgy like pop punk, but they’re more jangly, complex and melodic, more like some of the best indie pop. The quintet of songs is the first release in a three volume set planned for a twelve month period, according to Yr Poetry. This volume focuses on events that happened an hour apart from each other on a single night out. “These Are Not The Days of Our Lives” is the beginning of the evening, out at a club in a group. The club doesn’t quite live up to expectations, though (“Hey Pauly, you said this place was punk, I’ve seen DJs pulled from decks for lesser crimes.”) As the evening wears on, one of the group, Damian, decides he’s not going home along, thus, “Damian and the Shark Metaphor.” It’s good that they recognize their mate is inhuman as he stalks his “prey.” “Headlights! Headlights!” won’t protect you from the night, just illuminate the signs to our one night alive! This song occurs after the group has started to break up, people leave, and there’s just two people left. “Guess we are a couple now.” The melody is a strong one, as certain and sure-footed and opposite of what the couple must feel as they head out together. “What the World Needs Now Is a New Guitar Hero” is a little bit math-like with complex rhythms as the night gets more complex. The night comes to a close with “It’s All There.” It starts quietly, with piano and vocals. Two thirds of the way into the track the full band comes in and the quiet waltz time track gets more raucous for a bit, with feedback and the slower pace seemingly representing the wind down and exhaustion. My understanding of the events described may be a bit fuzzy, but my love of the music is solid. This is a gorgeous release and I can’t wait to hear the other mini-LPs Yr-Poetry plans.

Check it out here: https://ibelieveinyrpoetry.bandcamp.com/album/one-night-alive

PS

“Just four dudes playing fast songs.” That’s the lone description this quartet from Lille, France gives for themselves. And it’s at least partially accurate. It’s four dudes, and three of the four songs on this demo are fast. “The Devil Rides Out,” “Embrace my O-gosh,” and “Stand Out of My Sunlight” are classic hardcore tracks, fast, loud, and crunchy. The third track is a cover of the Ramones classic, “Pet Semetary.” It’s something that others have covered. The version here isn’t really anything to write home about, sounding like a mash-up of Bad Religion and a non-descript metal band. “Stand Out of My Sunlight” starts out well enough, with enough speed and power to satisfy any hardcore fanatic. But about halfway through the track it suddenly changes. It slows considerably and turns into a dirge-like metal track. It’s the first two tracks that are the standouts for those who like hardcore. The fun opening sounds like an old Speak and Spell sped up, saying “Welcome to your doom!” These two openers are a relentless onslaught of guitar, bass, and drums at breakneck speed. If you’re more into pop punk or other types of punk, you may not get into this demo, as there’s not much to make it stand out from other hardcore bands, but if you’re into the metallic crunch of hardcore, check this out.

Check it out here: https://stupidkarate.bandcamp.com/

PS

T

his debut full-length LP from Montreal’s Mansbridge opens the way every album should – with the best song on the record. “Single Lens Reflex” isn’t flashy, fast, or overly exciting. But what it is is a solid song, mid-tempo, with a great melodic line and bangin’ harmonies. Most of the tracks sound like the band would be very at home in the Fat Wreck Chords family, with their 90s melodic pop punk/skate punk sound.  But Mansbridge raise the bar on this genre with a bit more complexity than in your average punk band. Listen to “From Sean, with Love.” It’s equal parts power, beauty, and speed. You just don’t hear these kinds of melodic lines and chord progressions in your average skate punk, and it’s glorious. “Hotel Canmore,” too, is atypical. On the surface it’s a ‘90s style melodic punk tune, but it’s those chord changes, the arrangement, the harmonies – it all works together to create something unique. “Straight for the Knees” has a soaring quality, and uses two separate melodic lines in counterpoint!  And let’s not forget to mention that bass line on  “185 King St!” Punk music can be pretty stagnant, with bands just aping other bands, staying inside the lines of genres and styles, so it’s really awesome when a band takes an established genre and innovates, marking it with their own stamp. Mansbridge do just that.

Check it out here: https://mansbridge.bandcamp.com/album/juxtapose

PS

Great sing-along melodies, gruff vocals, and a dark sense of loss and self-deprecation are key features in the six songs on this London band’s new EP. It’s a sound that’s prevalent in some of the best bands from the West Coast of the USA, from Bastards of Young to Fools Rush, Western Settings, and others. The songs lend themselves well to big sing-alongs, everyone with one arm around another person and the other lifting up a pint, pressing forward toward the stage and singing along at the top of their lungs. It’s a sound uncommon in the UK, from what I know of UK bands, but The Burnt Tapes would be right at home here in California. My absolute favorite track of the half dozen has to be “Things Get Weird.” The calm opening and clear vocals are so beautifully aching and I really want to hear an all acoustic version of this song. Even as the rest of the band explodes with emotion after the intro, I can’t help but think that the sentiments expressed would be perfect in an acoustic track. The opening (and title) track starts with a bright enough sound that belies the lyrical content of unhappy separation. Looking to the past, loss, change, and regret are common themes running through these songs. The music is universally good. I hope The Burnt Tapes come tour the West Coast of the USA so I can lift a pint with them to toast the wreckage we leave behind us.

Check it out here: https://burnttapes.bandcamp.com/

PS

 

IAR 61: The Maxies- Greenland is Melting LP (May 2013)

Yeah, I really, really don’t get this band at all, as I discussed in the last review block. I don’t mind dumb and silly in principle, but The Maxies take it to ridiculous levels and don’t even have the songs to back it up. A pop-punk/ska mash-up of The Aquabats, Masked Intruder and Reel Big Fish, but without any of the abilities to write tunes of these bands. That’s the thing: they have a schtick and little songwriting ability. A lethal combination, for me. This is a re-release of their first LP, but more-or-less aligns with everything else I’ve heard from them: just plain annoying. Anyhow, enough about this, lets get to the good stuff…

Grade: E-

IAR 62: City Mouse- S/T 7” (August 2011)

Good stuff. I feel like City Mouse are generally a bit of a mixed bag, but this 7” has two of their best songs on it: the powerful, emotive “You” and the super-catchy punk-pop tune “Dumb dumb dumb”. City Mouse play a kind of a gritty, melodic punk rock that has its roots in pure rock ‘n’ roll, but not in a Be My Doppelganger kind of way: this is a much tougher, aggressive form of rock ‘n’ roll. Frontwoman Miski’s vocals are powerful and growly in a kind of Gateway District way, also recalling a touch of ‘90s riot grrl. City Mouse’s hooks are enveloped by gritty production values, very much fitting in with the contemporary underground pop-punk zeitgeist. P. good!

Grade: B+

IAR 63: Weekend Dads- S/T 7” (October 2011)

A band that I too-rarely listen to, but always enjoy when I do, Weekend Dads. The band comprises of Corey from Varsity Weirdos and a couple of members from The Hemingways, who I don’t really know. This was their first release and although you can hear a little bit of Varsity Weirdos in here (obviously in the vocals), Weekend Dads generally veer away from Ramones-y, mid-tempo pop-punk towards fast-paced, edgy ‘fest’ pop-punk (for want of a better term). In a similar vein to say The Copyrights or Dillinger Four, Weekend Dads opt for crunchy guitars and anthemic choruses. It’s pop-punk for sure, but with extra doses of intensity and grit. “Erase My Brain” is like a cross between D4 and early Delay, but “Desperation Mart” is my clear favourite on this thing: the intensity on this EP reaches boiling point here and the sing-a-long melodies are relentless.

Grade: B+

IAR 64: Sass Dragons- New Kids on the Bong LP (October 2012)

This was a re-release of Sass Dragons’ second LP, which originally came out in 2010. Chicago’s Sass Dragons have built up a reputation for themselves as an underground ‘party-punk’ outfit. They are a band I have really neglected to properly check out, despite being one of the more interesting and diverse pop-punk bands to crop up in recent years. That’s certainly evident in the New Kids on the Bong album, which makes use of banjos, saxophones and thrash influences at varying points. For instance, they go from the rather bizarre, thrash-y, 1 minute-long “Dear St. Anne, Please Send Me a Man” to the emotional, sing-a-long Delay-esque punk-ballad of “Give it Back” to the pure pop-punk of “8 or 9 on a Bike”. Despite such variety, the LP flows really well together. Reviewing this is a reminder to me to check out these guys more! Good stuff.

Grade: B

IAR 65: The Manix- Neighbourhood Wildlife LP (December 2011)

I love this record! The Manix offer pretty much everything I want from a Minneapolis, ‘gruff-punk’ band: striking melodies, crunchy guitars and sing-a-long choruses. As to be more or less expected, I guess, Nieghbourhood Wildlife is somewhere between Dillinger Four and Banner Pilot, musically. The Manix are led by Corey Ayd who was formerly guitarist in Banner Pilot, so you know, it is natural that this band would have a superior sense of hooks and lyrical prowess. Clearly, the songs off this thing deserve to be screamed along to in basements: “I’m nothing but a heartsick heathen”; “This business is bullshiiiiiit”. By contrast, there is no bullshit here; The Manix go straight for the jugular and provide straight-up, basement-punk hits. I lose track of the amount of times I have played this record. It’s a shame the Manix are no longer around, but, as a sole LP to leave behind, it’s pretty fucking great!

Grade: A

IAR 66: The Dopamines- Vices LP (June 2012)

Well, I’ve already talked enough about The Dopamines recently (see ), so I’ll try to keep this brief. Suffice to say, this is possibly my favourite Dopamines album. I love all their releases basically, but this is the one that I feel is the most consistent, most enlightening and memorable. The short story: following the beer-chugging and shots downed on Expect the Worst, the band found themselves at the morning after the night before; this is the cold, hard look at yourself in the mirror, questioning what you are doing with your life, wondering if you can now control that beer chugging. It’s an intense self-examination and it gets pretty fucking dark and weird at times. Nevertheless, the melodies on Vices are as strong as ever and anthemic tracks like “Paid in Full” and “Don’t Mosh the Organ” are among their best. My favourite It’s Alive release? That’s a tough one, but it’s up there.

Grade: A+

IAR 67: The Brokedowns/ Vacation Bible School split 7” (May 2013)

This split is fine. I mean, I more or less enjoy the gritty and relentless melodic style presented here, but it’s largely nothing special. Both of these bands are from Illinois. I know The Brokedowns from a couple of other splits (including with The Copyrights on this very label); it’s a bit of a lazy comparison, but screw it, the dirty, feedback-laden, driven anthemic punk of The Brokedowns is somewhat reminiscent of Dillinger Four. They would fit in well on a bill with bands like The Slow Death and Vacation. The three songs on this split are decent, particularly “This Future Sucks”, but don’t expect a re-invention of the wheel. Vacation Bible School, who I know very little about, play a kind-of straightforward, snotty and snarly pop-punk that could have come direct from a basement on the East Bay in 1992. Pinhead Gunpowder come to mind, but they’re a little heavier than that, at times. “Middle Son(g)” is a great little, catchy pop-punk number, sounding somewhat like Sass Dragons, but the other two tracks are rather unmemorable. I am much more on board with the style of Vacation Bible School really, but minus that one song, they don’t really pull me in.

Grade: C+

IAR 68: Lipstick Homicide/ The Turkletons “We’re gonna need a bigger coat” 7” (May 2013)

This split is so much fun, pure poppy punk-y goodness, embracing everything that made you fall in love with pop-punk in the first place: the charm, the melodies, the relatable lyrics. It evokes that classic ‘90s Lookout! Sound. Lipstick Homicide are definitely one of my favourite bands to have recently emerged from the pop-punk underground. Energetic, insatiable melodies and songwriting that belies their young years. I loved seeing them live, one of my favourite ever shows. It’s just a shame that the band haven’t done much recently (basically since Out Utero came out in 2014). What is probably stopping this from being a higher grade is the fact that I think these are two of Lipstick Homicide’s weaker songs, but their consistency means that: they are still pretty fucking good and catchy as shit. I just don’t think of putting these two on when I want to listen to some Lipstick Homicide. The Turkletons’ side is great: putting the pop back into pop-punk, refreshing when reviewing It’s Alive’s back catalogue and listening to The Brokedowns and Mall’d to Death. I like both sub-genres to be fair, but I’ll always side with the melodies and The Turkletons have these in abundance. Super sweet, rough around the edges heartsick hooks with boy-girl vocals; it perhaps calls to mind Teen Idols, The Unlovables or The Riverdales, as in: fun, foot-tapping and a joy to listen to.

Grade: B+

IAR 69: Mean Jeans/ Underground Railroad to Candyland split 7” (May 2013)

Decent split, but you get more or less what you’d expect from these two bands: pogo-tastic, ‘party’ pop-punk from Mean Jeans, with a song declaring that the band are ‘possessed to party’, and poppy, garage-y punk rock from Underground Railroad to Candyland, a band formed by Todd Congelliere, to fit alongside his work in Toys that Kill and Stoned at Heart. Getting what you’d expect is not a bad thing in and of itself, and I’m sure the fans of these bands would be more than happy with these songs, but it certainly doesn’t lure new fans in. The Underground Railroad’ songs are more-or-less straightforward, garage punk (with a hint of surf music), that I would definitely have mistaken for Stoned at Heart had I not known otherwise. I do quite enjoy, “I’m Alright”, with its toe-tapping melodies and increasing urgency as the song progresses. Despite this, the two songs from Underground Railroad’ don’t particularly make me want to delve further into their catalogue. Mean Jeans, on the other hand, I have known for years and have probably heard all their releases. Fun band, but a little like Masked Intruder, their schtick has a got a little old for me: yes, you guys party a lot and, yes, you probably drank a million beers by now. Mean Jeans tick all the boxes you would expect, but don’t go anywhere they haven’t gone before or since.

Grade: B-

IAR 70: City Mouse- “Bad Weather” 5×7 Flexi Postcard (October 2012)

Hey, it’s another City Mouse release, a single put out on a super-interesting format: a 5×7 playable flexible postcard that originally came out with an issue of Jerk Store Fanzine (an Australian punk zine that I remember being pretty cool, but that doesn’t appear to be running anymore). The song offered from City Mouse here is a re-recorded version of “Bad Weather”, which is driving, mid-tempo and melodic, with a memorable chorus: “it’s dark and it’s cold, but it’s nothing compared to my heart”. Its urgency, emotion and strong female vocals definitely call to mind Gateway District. Good stuff. This song also features on the newly-released album from City Mouse (Get Right).

Grade: B

Check all these releases out and more here: https://itsaliverecords.bandcamp.com/

image2image3