Archive for March, 2018

I’ve heard the Shell Corporation and seen them live before. Hell, they played my birthday show a few years back. And I’ve always thought they were good, but goddamn! This is one hell of a record! It is unrelenting in its power and energy, expanding beyond the band’s well-known and well-tread territory of melodic punk. The opening track, “Kumbaya,” is harder, darker, and edgier than anything I’ve ever heard from The Shell Corporation before, and is a scathing commentary on the current state of American society and politics, the massive divide tearing the country apart, and those who are calling for those on the left to just be quiet and accept the “new normal.” This indeed is not the time for Kumbaya, as the song’s last line cries out. This whole album is an angry clarion call to us all. Songs reference climate change, the economic divide between those who own everything and the rest of us, the seeming hopelessness of the situation, and the way we purposely blind ourselves to the evils in the world that we’re contributing to. While a good portion of the album does reflect the style of music-making The Shell Corporation has perfected, with multi-part harmonies over tough melodic punk, they go outside these boundaries on some tracks. I love “Fighting For,” a song with a thinner arrangement, just vocalist Jan Drees’ vocals without the harmonies, and more of a hard indie rock feel than punk. The song is about how people go about their lives without ever questioning what they’re doing or why, or who really reaps the benefits of their work. “Poor Devils” follows right after, and owes its debt to 70s hard rock. It’s got that angry yet psychedelic feel to it, like some of the great protest songs from that era.

Of the more traditional Shell Corporation tracks, “Not Funny” stands out for its lyrical content, warning people to wake the fuck up and stop “taking selfies” and “posting memes as we drown and our lips turn blue.” People are likened to Charlie Brown, forever trying to kick the football and ending up flat on our backs, and eating the same old shit every day and coming back for me. “Waters” stands out for its amazing melodic lines, sounding bright and angry at the same time. “They Live” speaks to the revival of open hatred and bigotry in the country in the era of Trump, and how the traditional liberal sentiment of “when they go low we go high” doesn’t cut it, because “a razor wit doesn’t win knife fights.”

The closing track, “One Last Thing,” is amazing, but feels out of place here. It shares more in common with the grunge greats than anything from the punk scene, and it’s an angry anti-love song to an ex who fucked things up, rather than a political commentary. Yet it’s still a great track.

Four years after their last release, The Shell Corporation is back, stronger than ever, and pissed off as hell. This album will surely find a place on many year-end “best of” lists.

PS

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

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Now this is what I’m talking about! Dressed Like Wolves play some great indie pop with arrangements that range from smooth and easy to buzzy and edgy. Rick Dobbing’s unique and passionate vocals sound sort of like a cross between the blasé of David Sedaris and the cloyingness of Carol Channing. “Outerlimits” is a bouncy number that sounds like a cross between the best of 90s indie pop and a song from an off-Broadway musical. It’s short, and a perfect intro to the album. “Country Walking” has influence from early rock and roll, but the super-distorted, buzzy bass adds a modern texture to it. “Likewise, ”Dying in Space” has that 50s rock and roll doo-wop sound, but this time in a quiet, pensive, and heart-wrenching song, up to the midpoint when all hell breaks loose, and the buzzy bass plays beneath a soaring guitar solo, if but for mere moments. When Dobbing’s vocals return, there’s a fuzzy edge to them, as if we’re hearing him on a poor connection from far away. “Ship song” is so lovely with acoustic guitars playing a minimalist line, and Dobbing’s vocals practically whispered with tentativeness. The song flows directly into “Tendons,” a polar opposite with its pounding, tribal sounding drums and insistent feel. But it’s “Death of Girls” and “Slate” that win me over the most. I love the glorious sound of the guitar lines harmonizing and playing off each other, and the arrhythmic beat in the former, and the quiet intensity of the latter. The north of England seems to be a great breeding ground for great indie music.

PS

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

Bogans are the first punk band I’ve heard from North Wales. And I have mixed feelings about this six-song EP. First, it’s hard to listen to because it’s very poorly recorded, sounding like it was recorded in a public loo at a train station. It’s lo-fi and it has an ambience that makes it seem like the sound was bouncing around on ceramic tile walls. Second, the lead vocals are more than gruff – they sound like the vocalist is being strangled while he tries to sing. On the other hand, though, the song writing is pretty good and the musicianship is top notch. The music ranges from melodic metal-tinged punk rock to melodic high-speed skate punk, with gang vocals that are sung rather than shouted. The entire record is an instant mosh-pit – just add punks! I really like the feel on the chorus of “U.S. of Murdoch,” because it’s a real song, not just a fast punk tune. It has a dark feel to it, too. And “[redacted]” has some effective backing vocals with harmonization and great guitar hooks. “To What End” may be my favorite, though, as it races through its two minutes and eight seconds, with great harmonized backing vocals and a definite melodic skate punk sound. It’s hard to get past the mess of a mix and the lead vocals though.

PS

Check it out here: https://bogans.bandcamp.com/releases

Yeah, if you weren’t aware, this is Fraser Murderburger’s side project band, recently resurrected, following a 5 year hiatus. From what I’ve seen, The Murderburgers do a ridiculous amount of touring, so the dormancy of the side project is understandable. I hate to be the reviewer that complains about a ‘band name’. I mean, most band names are terrible, but this one is memorably awful: FUCK! (It’s Pronounced SHIT!). Like, it sounds like it was created by a petulant teenager in a ‘90s sitcom. To be fair, I missed out on The Murderburgers for years because of the band name. What an idiot. I pretend like I’m above all that, but I’m not. The Murderburgers are now probably my favourite current pop-punk band, so of course I was pretty excited to check out Fraser’s ‘bit on the side’.

So, what does it sound like? Is it just another outlet for The Murderburgers material? Well, no, not really. I mean, it’s still fuelled by pop-punk and self-loathing, but FIPS material is more intense, faster-paced and much shorter. I mean, much shorter. There is barely anything over a minute. I know it’s been called skate-punk, but I dunno about that. The fast drums, maybe, but it kind of sounds like shortened, aggressive and super-fast versions of Murderburgers’ stuff, as if Fraser needed an outlet for the proper angry material.

Having said that, there is a definite shift in tone from The Murderburgers’ stuff. The tracks on these three Eps are sillier, more ‘free-form’ and playful. Conceptually, it is not unlike what a bunch of underground pop-punk band members did with Short Attention a few years back. I mean, there is one song that is literally 9 seconds. The song titles are more Dillinger Four than Dear Landlord, too: “A Complete Re-write of ‘All Star’ by Smashmouth” or “Deliberately Stepping in Dog Shit is My New Favourite Hobby”. Then there are the re-writes of the Against Me! song titles in the theme of masturbation: “Wank, Florida Wank” or “You Look Like I Need a Wank”.

So, yeah, there is a tonal shift of sorts, but Fraser’s top-notch songwriting remains. Beneath the humour, there is self-deprecation and tales of mental breakdowns. “Avoiding Mirrors Used to be My Favourite Hobby” recalls feelings of body dysmorphia, while on “It’s Not the Size of Your Penis That Matters, It’s How Big it is” Fraser claims tongue-in-cheek “my body is a temple”. On the most recent EP, “Oh hi, it’s me- The Bleeding, Flatlining Human Blob” is a melodic punk tale of despair (“just need the sharpest tool to smash my skull”), but on the closer “Wank Florida Wank”, things end on a more optimistic note: “I’m through with feeling hopeless, lost and lonely and I’m done with looking for another way out” (a link back to the Murderburgers “Another Way Out”.

So, FIPS offer enough different from the Murderburgers to keep interest while maintain their high-quality songwriting. While you are waiting for that new Murderburgers 7”, here is something to keep you going…

Listen here: https://brassneckrecords.bandcamp.com/album/its-pronounced-the-first-three-eps

DB

London’s Happy Accidents play a kind of fuzzed-out, self-reflective DIY indie-punk that forms part of an increasing burgeoning scene, alongside fellow UK bands, such as Martha, Great Cynics or Muncie Girls. Following 2016’s You Might Be Right, Happy Accidents’ sophomore effort Everything But the Here and Now feels more confident and sure of itself as well as a somewhat more experimental. Compared to the debut, this one feels fuller and more expansive (having been produced by MJ of Hookworms). This time around, two notable things have emerged: some synth action to go alongside the jangly guitars and sweet vocals, and boy-girl vocal harmonies, with drummer Phoebe Cross sharing greater vocal duties with guitarist Rich Mandell.

Nevertheless, while Happy Accidents’ sound does feel fuller, crunchier and ‘bigger’, they have retained their intimate, DIY aesthetics and lyrics that reflect everyday anxieties and concerns. “Wait It Out” stands out for me on the record, a wonderfully catchy slice of soft-loud indie punk that sounds like a cross between Slotface and Idlewild. It has a hell of chorus: “All I seem to think about is everything but the here and now/ Losing sight of the sights and sounds of everything that I care about”. These kinds of lyrics sum up the band well: introspective musings on the everyday and relatable.

Some of the tracks on Everything But the Here and Now feel somewhat melancholic and ethereal in a similar way to Colour Me Wednesday; the fantastic “A Better Plan” could well be a CMW song if I didn’t know otherwise! But Happy Accidents go beyond that to contemplate the complexities of ‘getting better’ and reducing the detailed anxieties, notably on “Act Naturally” and the Delay-esque “Free Time”. I particularly like these lyrics from the latter:

“I need more free time/ Someone stop me thinking like a protagonist/This is not my story /I need cause to see/ It’s about more than me”.

I don’t want to further compare Happy Accidents to other bands too much because they clearly have their own thing going on, but I do get a similar feeling as to when I first listened to Slotface: exciting, smart and eloquent indie-punk with memorable vocals. I’m on board!

Listen here: https://happyaccidentsuk.bandcamp.com/

DB

What baffles me the most about this album is that is really shows the Barracudas as a coin with two sides. With the Beach Boys there were always some songs that were a bit sad and a lot of surfing, hot rod and love songs, or lots of super dark songs and a couple of light numbers in the mix. What Drop Out with the Barracudas has, however, is really special as it seems to be half-and-half songs that are downright depressing and songs about summer, love and surfing. The Barracudas managed lots of different genres. From Garage and Surf to Punk and Folk and Psychedelia, and let’s not forget Power Pop. They formed in 1979 in London with members from England, Canada and America. Singer Jeremy Gluck and guitarist Robin Wills have been the consistent members of the band. Their first single “I Want My Woody Back” b/w “Subway Surfin’”, was a throwback to the surf era of the 60s in the punk age and maybe more inspired by The Trashmen more than the Beach Boys or Jan and Dean, but I also think the Ramones influence is quite clear. The second single was “Summer Fun” from DOWtB and it became their biggest hit and was backed with “Chevy Baby”. Disbanding for the first time in 1984, they put out a surprisingly huge amount of music. Outside of their other albums Mean Time (1983), Endavour to Persevere (1984) (these were only released in France for some reason) and several reunion albums, they also made a lot of live albums and B-sides and rarities albums. The first time I heard them was actually on LastFM radio of all things. I was kind of hooked instantly. I remember being super stoked when I found their rarities collection Two Sides of the Coin in Berlin in 2010 because I never thought I would ever own a Barracudas album.

In the UK, Drop Out with the Barracudas was released in February 1981 on Zonophone Records. According to Discogs it was released in 1980 in Australia (on EMI) and not until 1982 in the US (on Voxx Records). These are at least three versions that was released of the album and they all have different track lists. The Australian release have the same songs as the UK one, but in an entirely different order (more precisely: the A-side and B-side are switched), The American has the same order as the UK, but “Campus Tramp” has been replaced with “Surfers Are Back” (both these songs appear on the Australian version). The Australian and American versions also have the same album cover, whereas the UK one has an entirely different one. The two contrasting covers show the different sides of the album and it might give you an entirely different listening experience based on what version you listen to. The Australian/American versions have a Beach Boys-esque cover with the band carrying a big gun surfboard with smiles on their faces. The UK cover is the band looking super depressed in a staircase. The album title seems like it’s supposed have a double meaning. Both “dropping out”, as in dropping out of school and a mixture of the two surf expressions “drop in” and “wipe out”. The album was produced by John David, Kenny Laguna and Pat Moran. David Buckley played bass and Nick Turner played drums on the album.

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1. “I Can’t Pretend”: I’m going to go by the UK track list which starts with “I Can’t Pretend”. I would say this is a pretty straight-up 1980s pop-punk track. The lyrics are pretty sad. It’s about loving someone that just can’t take care of themselves, and you feel like you can no longer be there for them. It seems like the “I” person also has some problems they need to sort out and can’t deal with their lover’s issues. In the end, the song just seems filled with bitterness and it almost sounds heartless: “It doesn’t break my heart to see you cry”. The voice screaming “no” in the background is also pretty iconic. The Riverdales did a pretty cool cover of it on the “Back to You” 7 -inch.

2. “We’re Living in Violent Times”:  I would call this a straight-up pop song. The lyrics are sad and depressing and displays paranoia and fear in a violent age and I would say it’s just as relevant today, maybe even more, especially with the media being so widespread and in your face on a daily basis. The melody is beautiful, and this paranoia trip is accompanied with a wonderful and dreamy guitar riff. There’s a feeling of uncertainty in the song. The protagonist seems to be worried that they’re going insane. They refuse to leave the house, refuse to check the mailbox, refuse to watch the news, refuse to drive their new car and just wait until they can turn the lights off and go to bed. So I would say that there is a dual meaning of the song: it both shows that it is a violent and dangerous, but also that hiding away from it in fear of what may come happen only makes the fear stronger until the point where every everyday action is off the table. In the end, the protagonist comes to two conclusions: they are not insane, they are not imagining this danger, the early 80s really were violent times, but they also realize that they should happy to be alive and the fact that they survived these violent times is a good thing.

3. “Don’t Let Go”: In this Pub-Rock Power Pop track we get kind of a continuation of “I Can’t Pretend” This time the protagonist can’t pretend that they aren’t in love with the other person in the song and they aren’t able to hide their true feelings anymore. The only place they’d want to be is by their side. I feel like this is a reference to an older song, but I can’t figure out what song it is, I guess I just gotta let go.  Correction: The song is “All Day and All of the Night” by the Kinks.

4. “Codeine”: A cover of Canadian Singer-Songwriter Buffy Saint Marie. It’s quite a dark song about drug abuse. It’s about letting your parents down after they told you to be careful with the booze and realizing that you’re way further than that down in the shit. Janis Joplin also did a cover of the song. The Barracudas version reminds me a bit of The Animals’ version of “House of the Risin’ Sun”. Codeine is an opiate that is used to treat pain and diarrhea. In the 60s, there seemed to be a lot of drug problems with it. One of the most interesting aspects of the song is that the drug Codeine is pronounced “codeen”, but Saint Marie named it “Cod’ine” to make it rhyme, The Barracudas changed the spelling, but kept the pronunciation.

5. “This Ain’t My Time”: This garage-y punk song or maybe I should say punk-y garage song is another great one. It’s basically a lesson in what it feels like to go insane. There’s something 60s about it, and in a different way to the other songs that have a 60s feeling. I guess this song has been with me in the darkest of times and I love it for that. 

6. “I Saw My Death in a Dream Last Night”: Well when one expects fun and surf songs, this dark song certainly comes as a surprise. Musically it reminds me of later post-punk like The Smith or The Cure or even the Church. Even if it sound depressing there’s a certain catchiness to it. The song is pretty straightforward. It’s about seeing your death in a dream and waking up shaking and screaming. “I couldn’t remember the place or the time, but the name on the bullet was mine” is quite a disturbing image. Definitely one of the best and most haunting songs on the album. The chorus just repeats the title with a creepy keyboard in the background.

7. “Somewhere Outside”: I think I wrote about this in the After School Special article and related it to their song “Somewhere Inside”. Ben Weasel included Drop out with the Barracudas on his top 27 Pop Punk albums and deservingly so (it made #18). He described the band as Byrds-esque jangle-pop. He also said “there’s nothing else on the planet that sounds like this, and there probably never will be”. When he talks about Byrds influence I believe “Somewhere Outside” is the track he is talking about. There’s something very Byrds about the song. Probably my favorite song on the album. The bridge is fantastic. I love the line “Between today and yesterday”, which could be a reference to Alan Price’s album from 1974, but it also sounds like something the Byrds could’ve written. Some sweet harmonies in this song.

8. “Summer Fun”: The band’s biggest hit! Reaching #37 in the UK charts in 1980. The song starts up with an old ad for the car Plymouth fastback Barracuda from the mid-60s. The commercial shows someone unable to pronounce “barracuda”. The song is the exact opposite of songs like “This Ain’t My Time” and “I Saw My Death in a Dream Last Night”. The song is simply about having fun in the summer and getting a break from school. The Beach Boys influence is clear here and it’s a catchy little number, but it also lacks the substance that a lot of the other songs have. Still…Your Plymouth dealer is a dealin’ man….baba ra ra coo coo da da!

9. “His Last Summer”: This incredibly sad song manages to hold the album together. It’s about a surfer named Ricky dying in the waves. The song is an elegy or maybe a eulogy about his last summer and how his friends stop surfing and start drinking in the aftermath of his death. The song is also very cheery and surf-y, but there’s a very dark undertone to it, which shows both sides of the Barracudas on this album. There’s also a spoken bridge that’s similar to the one in “I Want My Woody Back”.  It was also included on one of my favorite comps Burning Sounds, a power-pop comp. The Barbecuties referenced the song in their song “Daytona Beach”.

10. “Somebody”: A more aggressive song about identity. It starts up “I tried so hard to be somebody I’m not/ First I gotta find out what I wanna be”. Now that I think about it, there’s something very Sham 69 about it. It could definitely have been on one of their first albums, and it probably would be the best song on there. There’s also something very dark in this song: “Trapped inside myself, trying to escape”.

11. “Campus Tramp”: Like “We’re Living in Violent Times”, “Campus Tramp” is pretty much a straight-up pop song or maybe I’d say a pop-punk song without the fuzz. Maybe we could simply say it’s power-pop. It certainly is pop-punk thematically. This guy is Sooooo in love with this girl who sends him letters, but she sleeps with the football players instead so he slut-shames her. Great tune though. My favorite part is probably when he sings about people at his school who “take me for a fool cuz I cry because of the campus tramp”. For some reason the guitar solo sounds a lot like “Sweet Insecurity” by Pansy Division.

11. “Surfers Are Back”: This is the 11th track on some of the issues. The song captures the spirit of surfers in London. They don’t have a scene for surfing, but they think surfing is outta sight, man. The song basically sounds like the Clash going surfin’. It’s really where Punk Rock meets Surf Pop. Thematically it’s very similar to “Subway Surfin’”. There are no oceans to surf, so we’re gonna surf in the middle of the city.

12. “On the Strip”: I believe this is about the Sunset Strip in LA and starts a little trilogy of California worship. There’s of course a reference to “Good Vibrations”. This song is pretty rock ‘n’ roll I might add. If you’re one of those motherfuckers with a driver’s license that keeps on polluting our environment with your fancy American cars from the 1950s and 60s, this is one of the songs you should be blasting from your groovy stereo.

13. “California Lament”: The California worship continues in a song that I might describe as a ballad. It starts like a slow piano song and then works it way up, but there’s still something very beautiful about the melody. It rains a lot in England, it seems. The Beach Boys falsettos also add to this California fantasy. Jeremy Gluck sings “I always wanted to see Californi-a”. The chorus just repeats “California”. What a magic trip!

14. “(I Wish It Could Be) 1965 Again”: “In 65 it was hip to talk about the Sunset Strip”. This nostalgic song shows how popular culture can make you nostalgic about a place and time you never were a part of (not saying the Barracudas weren’t born in 1965, but you get my point). It starts up with a Phil Spector-esque intro and goes pop-punk pretty quick. The bubblegum songs like “Chewy Chewy” and “Yummy Yummy Yummy” were fun; neither were released in 1965, however. “Louie Louie”, which is also referenced in the song did exist at the time though. It also goes up in years from 65 and goes up to 69. A nice Pete Seeger/Byrds reference to in “Turn Turn Turn!”. The going up in numbers is also something the Beach Boys used to do a lot like in “When I Grow Up (to Be a Man). I think there might be a level of irony in the song, maybe it’s criticizing this mindless nostalgia for something you never were a part of. I don’t know. It finishes the album on a catchy note at least.

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A nice nostalgia trip back to the 60s..I mean 80s there! Next time we’re gonna go back to the 90s again, the safe place! With a Lagwagon album! I still haven’t decided which one!

 

 

 

 

Rene’s Picks

I don’t remember much of 1992, but it was the year I turned 3! It was probably the year I discovered the Moomin trolls and they would become my main obsession the next 3-4 years. This is also the year that Bill Clinton gets elected as the president of the United States and Benny Hill and Marlene Dietrich died. These are the albums I’ve chosen from these years, none of which I heard when they came out!

The Mr. T Experience- Milk Milk Lemonade

mml

I originally thought this album was released in 1991 and was about to put it on that list and discovered last minute that it wasn’t. It was produced by Kevin Army and released on Lookout Records. This was the last album with Jon Von in the band and he was also responsible for the art direction, but he doesn’t sing lead vocals on any of the songs like he did on earlier albums. Other than that, the album is pretty similar to Making Things with Light with all the wanky guitar solos, but I think it sounds a lot better and the songwriting is a lot better. The album is great right from the get-go, the opener “Book of Revelation” starts with a baroque-esque melody and it’s played on what sounds like a Renaissance key instrument, but it might just be a Harpsichord, who knows?  The guitar solo sounds like classical music and it’s really soothing to the ears, I might add! The lyrics are all weird, one could go “this is a song about reading the bible”, but also at the same time think “this is a song about a girl”; considering this is MTX, the latter seems reasonable. The last song “See It Now” is one of the most heartbreaking songs I know, it’s the ultimate cry of a lover that has given up: “It must’ve been stranger than fiction/You’re gonna be someone’s wonderful wife someday”. In the middle we find a lot of great songs too, the somewhat creepy “Last Time I Listened to You” and “Make-up” which has assonance that you couldn’t make up, like “rhyming” the word “pointless” with “avoid it”. The obligatory cover on the album is the Smiths’ “What Difference Does It Make?”, apparently Morrissey’s least favorite Smiths song. The album also has my least favorite MTX song: “Christina Bactine”, but I gotta admit that even that is a pretty cool song about a girl. The nursery rhyme title and the lunchbox album cover makes the album feel like a nostalgic trip to 1970s America, just like Making Things with Light. I remember hearing Milk Milk Lemonade for the first time in 2008 and I’ve been loving it ever since. I think I bought the vinyl at the same time as I bought Love Is Dead in 2010.

NOFX- White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean

white trash

Released on November 5, 1992 on Epitaph Records, White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean took NOFX to even bigger heights than Ribbed did. The album was produced by Don Cameron and NOFX. It was the first full length with El Hefe on guitar and it’s also the album that is mostly dominated by Hefe. The jazzy Minor Threat cover “Straight Edge”, the more ska-inspired promiscuous tale “Johnny Appleseed” and Ragtime/ Charleston album closer “Buggley Eyes” are all sung by Hefe, and he also nails the back-up vocals on the album and his vocals are really what makes the album stand out. Fat Mike’s voice is still snotty and El Hefe’s soothing voice is a nice contrast that makes the album sound more poppy and the bridge in “She’s Gone” just makes the saddest song that exists even more heartbreaking, telling the story of a young girl who has lost her mom and stands alone in the schoolyard with no one to turn to.  It’s an interesting album because of all the different styles on it, but also because, even more than Ribbed, it’s the album where NOFX really found their “sound”. Songs like “Stickin’ in My Eye” really was the foundation for the 90s skate punk thing. For some reason I always thought it was on a Tony Hawk game, but seems like it wasn’t, damn. This has got to be some Mandela Effect type thing. Anyways, “Soul Doubt” was on Guitar Hero World Tour. NOFX made music videos for “Stickin’ in My Eye” and “Bob”. I think the most underrated song on the album is “The Bag”, a song about being bored of people’s conversations and the drums are probably my favorite in a NOFX song and once again El Hefe’s vocal harmonizing with Fat Mike is great.

I bought it in the record store Disco Loco in Palma of all places in 2005 and I also found War on Errorism and a NOFX t-shirt in the same store. I had obviously heard a lot of the songs before, but I think that was one of the holidays I remember for wanting to rebel and I wanted to start smoking or something, but it looked so dangerous so I didn’t dare. I remember reading the lyrics to “Liza and Louise” in a punk magazine in 2003 and it really shocked me and I needed to hear the actual song so I went to the MTV website and heard a preview and I thought Fat Mike’s singing was so god damn snotty. At the end of 2004, I also went to the Epitaph page and downloaded “I Wanna Be Your Baby”, which is a weird-ass song, but it holds up pretty well as a song, I’d say. I also bought their greatest songs compilation at the same time and songs like “Bob”, “Stickin’ in My Eye” and “Soul Doubt” were on there, I bought the Ten Years of Fucking up DVD at the same time too, and most of the songs are on there, so maybe that’s why it took me that long to get the actual album; that and I didn’t really find it in any record stores and I couldn’t bother to order it.

Wax- What Else Can We Do?

wax

I think I’ve already talked about when I heard this album for the first time (in the Weston Got Beat up article: https://keeptrackofthetime.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/read-hards-classic-pop-punk-picks-32-weston-got-beat-up/). I remember getting home that January day in 2009 and put on the CD and it said, “you just put the needle on a very unique record album” and though I didn’t actually do that, at least one of those were true. It was indeed a very special and unique album. I had never really heard anything like it. It was released on Caroline Records and produced by Daniel Rey (who worked with the Ramones a lot on their later stuff). The music video for “Hush” was directed by Spike Jonze. My favorite songs in the beginning were definitely “Hush”, a pop punk song with great indie pop influences, “All Over Again”, a bass driven masterpiece with a beautiful intro that I also think I talked about in the Weston article, the more skate punk number “Never Been Better” and the extremely 90s sounding “Continuation”. Lately my favorite has been “So I Said”, the slow part always gets to me. There’s something quite special about Joe Sib’s singing. I definitely don’t regret buying this album sole-ly because of the shoes on the album cover.

Dave’s Picks

The Mr. T Experience- Milk Milk lemonade

mml

So, finally, I get to include Milk Milk Lemonade in the ‘Years of Our Lives’ review after originally wanting to put it in the 1991 section. There are better MTX albums than this (and I’ll likely be talking about a couple of them, as the years progress), but I have always found MML to be super interesting and an intriguing mixed ol’ bag. This record was the first of what can be considered as MTX’s classic sound; by this point, Dr. Frank was starting to get into his love-sick, sarcastic pomp. The songwriting really went up a few notches on this one, compared to their earlier stuff.

MML pulls you in straight away with a Renaissance-y, baroque tune in “Book of Revelation”, which mixes religious imagery with love-torn yearning, in that cryptic form of songwriting that Dr. Frank does best. Meanwhile, “There’s Something Wrong with Me” typifies Frank’s at-times self-deprecating observations and humour. I really enjoy the sarcastic and satirical humour on “Love American Style”, too, that takes apart the American dream, not unlike what Screeching Weasel would do the following year on Anthem for a New Tomorrow. I know the cover of The Smiths’ “What Difference Does it Make?” is generally not well-liked but I think it’s pretty cool. I liked what they did with it, transferring the melancholy of the original to a pop-punk soundscape. The rest of the record comprises of straight-forward pop-punk- including the somewhat over-rated “I Love You, But You’re Standing on my Foot”, the ‘meh’ “Christine Bactine” and the fantastic album closer “See it Now”, a great bit of ‘heartbreak pop’ (including the gut-punch of a line, “I can’t believe I am saying what I am saying”)- and “Master of the Situation” that sounds more like the indie rock of the era than pop-punk, with its space-y, drawn-out guitar solos (I assume the ‘Master’ shout in the chorus is a play on Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”).

The Mr. T Experience were quite unique in the pop-punk universe, with their abundant references, quirks and sarcasm. It shows how much I value the band that I put this in the top 3 of 1992, even though I’m not sure it’s in the top 3 MTX albums. See you in 1994, MTX!

NOFX- White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean

white trash

For me, White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean is the first properly good NOFX full-length. There are odd decent bits in the band’s previous albums, but they are generally way too thrashy or metal-y for my tastes. On White Trash…, NOFX became a lot more accessible and melodic. It was basically a watershed record for introducing us to the NOFX that we became familiar with over the following 25 years. I guess you can call this LP ‘skate punk’ broadly, but what I’ve always enjoyed about NOFX is their propensity to mix shit up and continually surprise and that is certainly the case on White Trash…Arguably, the band has a bit of schtick that has gone past its sell-by-date now. The release of a new NOFX record now makes me feel numb but there was a time when I found them super exciting and a good part of it was this album. Having only been 4 at the time, I can’t say for sure, but I imagine that White Trash… shook up the punk world somewhat when it was released.

So, the standouts on this thing? “Bob” instantly comes to mind. I think it was the first NOFX I listened to, or at least the first one that I recall. I loved (and still do) that it was basically a simple punk tune, but also had something quite original going on, melodically and lyrically. “Stickin’ in my Eye” is a classic snarly punk track, but the two I love most on White Trash… are probably “Liza and Louise” and “The Bag”; the former for its pop-punk-y catchiness and shocking lyrics (at least to the 14/15 year old me that first heard this) and the latter for its melodic harmonies and smart comments on social awkwardness. NOFX certainly retained their playfulness and sarcastic take on the world on this record. While “Please Play This Song on the Radio” gets its point across in a somewhat obvious/boring way, the most notable of the silly, playful tunes are those that El Hefe (on his first NOFX LP) led vocals on: notably on the ska-ish, toe-tapping “Johnny Appleseed” and on one of the best covers of all time, “Straight Edge”. The likes of how these tunes highlights how cutting edge and intriguing NOFX were at this time compared to now. From this point, El Hefe usually had a ska/reggae-inspired tune on each of NOFX’s releases, as well as providing back-up harmonies, but it was on White Trash… that he took centre stage somewhat. So, I feel El Hefe was a big part of NOFX really ‘kicking on’ and I assume it was his influence that turned them to more melodic shores.

NOFX- The Longest Line EP

longest line

Yeah, more NOFX. I didn’t particularly want to write about another NOFX release that came out in 1992 but the rules of punk rock dictated that I had to, considering that this was the 3rd best punk release of the year. I always think of the early-to-mid ‘90s as halcyon days for pop-punk/punk rock, but 1992 was pretty sparse. Anyway, the ‘Longest Line’ was a great EP: it came out in May 1992 (and their first release on Fat Wreck), about five months before White Trash… came out. In many ways, it acts as an extension of it; or rather White Trash… acts as an extension of it! This was the first release that El Hefe contributed to, so in many ways, this, rather than White Trash, is the beginning of the signature NOFX sound.

Not unpredictable, but the title track on the EP is probably the highlight: an earworm-y bassline that builds up to a simple, but memorable chorus, with Fat Mike’s trademark snarl in tow. I love the lyrics on it; I count it among their best. It’s a bittersweet reflection on one’s continual bad luck that compares life to Chinese food, “sweet and sour/my life is sweet and saccharine”. The two that follow it, “Stranded” and “Remnants” are more intense and fast-paced punk rock that hit plenty of sweet spots. NOFX’s songwriting was at its best in this era and it is perfectly summed up on this EP, which collects some very wry, on-the-spot lyrics that find the right balance between making a point and just plain silly; this is obviously best found with “Kill all the White Man”, El Hefe’s first lead contribution in NOFX if I’m not mistaken. It’s a stone-cold classic reggae-punk tune El Hefe sings with a faux-Rasta accent. It critiques the colonial ‘civilizing’ mission while remaining firmly tongue in cheek. It was written in response to the Nazi punks prevalent in the punk scene at that time, at a similar time to when Screeching Weasel wrote “I Wanna be a Homosexual”. Interestingly, when you google the song, one of the first things that pops up is the Stormfront message board, suggesting that somebody missed the point somewhat…