Archive for April, 2018

This gang is from Leeds, UK and as far as I know has no relation to the 90s power pop band Jellyfish. Their Facebook page describe them as punk and folk, while their Bandcamp page adds reggae to the mix. I can’t hear any reggae on this album! The album consists of 9 tracks, opening with “Spokesdog”, a folk punk song with an angry punk voice and somewhat similar to early Against Me!, and the lyrics are hard to make out. The album ends with the title track “Long in Winters” and it’s slower and I would almost say it sounds a bit like Bright Eyes and it ends the album on a very good note. “Long in winters, short in years” is a pretty good line.

In between we find plenty of more Against Me! sounding songs like “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peas” (amusing title by the way) and “Reading List”, which has a nice melodic guitar in the background that adds an extra touch and the production is particularly great in that song, as well as the vocal harmonies. There’s also a fiddle, I think! “Graveyard” has a more Celtic sound and lots of whoahs “The Shakes” has an interesting bassline that sounds very steady, for a lack of a better word. My favorite song is probably “Social Smoker”. It’s a good song, and it’s self-deprecating. With lines like “you’re a social smoker, I’m a social waste of space”. It kind of sounds like a Brian Fallon song, but the melody sort of reminds me a bit of Bob Dylan’s “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts”. “Comics” sounds like the usual angry punk with an acoustic guitar and then the bass and kind of cool drums come in. Usually these angry punk folks with acoustic guitars sing about changing the world or getting drunk, but this guy sings about comic books!

It’s pretty clear to me that these people know how to play their instruments. The Against Me! influence is quite obvious to me, so if you like early Against Me! there’s a chance you’ll love this. Sometimes there are elements that remind me of Frank Turner. There are some strong tunes on this album and some really great song titles, too bad no one remembers song titles anyway.

RH

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

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A little over a year ago I went to a show to see friends’ bands play a show. Also on the bill was a touring band I had never heard of. They were The Penske File, from the suburbs of Toronto, and they completely blew me away. The band puts on a damn joyful and energetic live show, and I was impressed, so much so that I purchased their sophomore album, “Burn Into The Earth right then and there.” It’s hard to translate that live energy onto vinyl, but The Penske File do it, and their records are just as exciting as the live show. So imagine my anticipation when I heard a new album and tour were coming! The new album, “Salvation,” is everything I could have hoped for and more. It has the same big anthemic sound I remember, an amazing feat for a three-piece. The performances of the songs are laden with emotion and excitement, and the joy to be playing music that these three young Canucks feel is palpable.

The album begins with what is likely going to end up as one of my favorite songs of the year, “Kamikaze Kids.” It’s a surprising departure in style from typical Penske File songs, in that it’s got tons of jangle in the guitar. The song seems to be an anthem to living in the moment, especially when you’ve maybe forgotten how to do that for awhile and come back to the realization that yesterday is gone, tomorrow isn’t here yet, and now is all we have. “So let’s live while we can / And we’ll die when we do,” declares the chorus. Happiness doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, either. “So let me dance like the fly, around the porch light / The 40-watt thrill, it is ours tonight.” Happiness is something that we create from within.

Another departure from the usual Penske File formula is “Last Chance,” a track that takes inspiration from the early days of rock and roll. It uses the bluesy chord progression typical of early rock music, and it has the same raucous feel of a Chuck Berry or Jerry Lee Lewis tune. “American Basements” is a hymn to the DIY life and basement shows, Travis Miles’ harmonica giving it a bit of the twangy feel of a road song, traveling the back roads, going from place to place, the road urging us on. And though these basements are full of “bent and battered teens and twenty-somethings” and “on the fence guitars and cellphones” it’s OK. “There’s nothing to fix here, it’s the way they want to be, wrapped up in some perfect tragic poetry.” But as bare and dim as these basements may seem to the observer, “There’s more here than you know in these little American basements” the chorus tells us. It’s the closest The Penske File ever gets to a ballad, and it night even be called a sort of love song.

Of the songs that are more standard Penske File fare, I think “Come What May” may be my favorite. It’s got a huge expansive feel, and it’s the song for and about us all, “the booze hounds and hell seekers,” the “heels and tiaras, “ and the “oddballs and the eight balls.” There’s a joker and a prom queen, and a suicide king, and a handful of misfits. And it’s about how we find ourselves in the midst of all of this and sing Hallelujah!

Hallelujah, indeed, for the return of The Penske File on vinyl for the first time in three years! Let’s hope it’s not that long until the next LP.

PS

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

Whoa! This is a debut LP that sounds like it comes from a seasoned band that’s been around for years! The music is incredibly tight and the song writing is top notch. While the overall feel is one that would be right at home on a label like Fat Wreck Chords, I hear more interesting influences than a broad categorization like that would lend itself to. I hear Rocket From the Crypt influences here in the driving guitar sounds. The band seems able to shift from a hard-edged grinding feel to a more melodic poppy feel on a dime, and then back again. Blended into this are vocals that are so full of snot that it would drive an otolaryngologist mad. Listen to “Gift Shop,” for instance. It starts out making you think it’s going to be a typical pop punk track, but after the first 30 seconds, the song shifts from poppy to harder and edgier without skipping a beat. The last 45 seconds of the song slow the tempo toward a grungier feel, while always maintaining a strong sense of melody. The angular changes and slower tempo of “Phantom Limbs” are another example, especially in the descending chords of the short chorus.

A couple of songs that are a little different than the others include “Thoughts and Prayers,” which, after a raucous couple of minutes, closes with a gorgeous acoustic and electric guitar playing together with gruff vocals and harmonizing angelic backing vocals. “Modern Red Scare Blues” which adds in some fun guitar play in the chorus, a bit of a breather from the wall of guitar power. And “Ringer” has all the power, but it’s super fast and has pop hooks for days.

If this is the band’s debut LP, I can’t wait to hear what they do next!

PS

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

Four songs of damn fine poppy hardcore punk from Melbourne, Australia. The title track decries the intolerance of those who are so far to the left of the political spectrum that they wrap around and become fascists themselves – the ones who are intolerant of dissent, the ones who seem to thrive on feigned outrage, the ones who fail to live in the real world. The song makes a point to declare that it’s not that they don’t see a need for change, and indeed, they’re working toward elimination of fascism and inequality – but they have to live in the real world. “Atrophy” is an ode to how shitty things are and how they keep getting worse. “Victim” is a super-fast track that barely gives you time to breath! It speaks to how our progress toward more equality in the world seems to have not just halted, but regressed. The closer on this four-song EP is “Millions of Dead Pacifists,” and it confuses the fuck out of me, given the first track. It decries the “peace and love” liberals as weak, declaring that “I got my baseball bat and a suitcase of Soros cash, I got a pack of friends who aren’t afraid to break some fucking glass.” So violence and intolerance is the answer? It almost sounds like a right-wing parody, especially the reference to billionaire George Soros, who the right-wing conspiracy nut jobs claim is funding the far left. Musically, this record is pretty brilliant. Lyrically it’s a bit schizophrenic.

PS

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

French punks Traverse have released their self-titled LP, a collaboration of some eleven record labels, too many to list here. There are moments on this record that thrill. “Firestarter” opens the album with an expansive pop punk edged indie sound. And I love the jazzy feel to opening of “Situations.” “Future Ghosts” is a pretty ballad, with a lovely meandering guitar line. And I also enjoy “Catch a Glimpse,” an epic sounding track in 12/8 time. At the bridge it suddenly gets quiet, and all we hear is a deep, grumbling bass and harmonized vocals, before the song explodes again toward the finish. But these are just moments. For the most part there’s little unique in the album; it sounds like any one of hundreds of other bands. It’s pretty much alternative rock mixed with pop punk and a touch of skate punk. It’s got the pop sensibilities of pop punk, and the emotional sound of commercial “punk” of the 2000s. Some songs are sung in English, others in French. Don’t get me wrong – the musicianship is great; the band does a fine job performing these songs, and the recording sounds just right. It just doesn’t move me.

PS

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

I have been aware of Midwestern pop-punkers The Raging Nathans for a while, but never properly checked them out. Sounds like I’ve been missing out! Their debut LP Cheap Fame is absolute gold. It combines Lookout! style blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em melodies with a punchier and meatier melodic punk sound. Raging Nathans meet the sweet point between say The Queers and Dillinger Four. There is a snarl and bitterness here that has become prevalent in modern melodic punk. Indeed, the speed, intensity and relentless bitternes on Cheap Fame recalls lead singer Josh Goldman’s other band The Dopamines. The gang vocal choruses, everyman songwriting and crunchy melodies also bring to mind The Copyrights or Rational Anthem, especially on tracks such as “B1505” or “Circling the Drain”.

At the same time, fans of ‘90s-era and The Queers or early Green Day lovers are going to be more than satisfied with the huge hooks and ear-worm-y choruses on offer on Cheap Fame (the album artwork is indeed drawn by Insomniac artist Winston Smith). The more traditional pop-punk fans can pogo along to tracks like the early ‘Weasel-esque “Teenage Amnesia” or The Murderburgers-y (How to Ruin Your Life-era, obvs) “Brain is Floating”. “CTRL+ALTRIGHT+DEL” recalls the hooks and pace of early Down by Law. My favourite track is probably “Sucker Punch” though, which is a heart-of-sleeve, chug-a-thon that declares, “life is one long panic attack and series of sucker punches”. It would fit right into place on Dream Homes. As the lyrics on “Sucker Punch” would suggest, the mood on Cheap Fame is somewhat downcast, to contrast with the breezy melodies (as most of the best pop-punk does, amirght?), getting to grips with anxiety, questioning if you are a ‘good man’, feeling like ‘circling the drain’ and ‘lonesome in the ocean’. One of the obvious highlight lyrics is on closer “Holding it in” which kind of brings the whole thing together: “the light at the end of the tunnel is just an oncoming train”. I doubt I’ll find a better line in 2018.

Fans of sadsack pop-punk, come here and get your fix.

Check it out here: https://theragingnathans.bandcamp.com/album/cheap-fame

DB

Harker are an indie-punk band from Brighton that clearly love The ’59 Sound. Probably a bit too much. No Discordance, the band’s first LP, is very much indebted to The Gaslight Anthem, The Menzingers, The Loved Ones and other fans of plaid shirts and big hearty choruses. Every track on this thing can be pictured as the soundtrack for a group sing-a-long in a basement showered by beers and lit up by “300 cigarettes”. No Discordance is oh-so very poignant and bittersweet. All of this is no bad thing in itself, but soon enough, the heart-on-sleeve charm becomes schtick and far too by-the-book. A little like Beach Slang, Harker are trying way too hard to fit into a particular profile. Even the artwork looks like a rip-off of On the Impossible Past. The songwriting is not actually too bad, especially on “Plague Your Heart”, but too often, the age-old tropes of ‘wanting to get out of town’, of ‘sticking with your friends’ and of ‘driving at night’ (oh wait, there is actually a song called “Drive at Night”) rear their ugly head.

I’m not against this sub-genre of punk rock by any means (contrary to what I may have suggested earlier, I enjoy The 59 Sound quite a bit) but it is one of the most difficult to pull off well. There are also difficulties in keeping the listener’s attention. Too often, the songs on No Discordance meld into one another and can be barely distinguished, amidst the guitar solos, gang vocals and lyrics like “we’re going to wreck this car until the wheels fall off with ‘Heartbreaker’ on side two while I fall in and out of love with you”. As I said, there are moments that suggest that Harker have something more original and substantial going on, but for the most part, they fall back on cliched, Fallon-inspired ‘poetry’ and melodies.

Check it out here: https://harker.bandcamp.com/album/no-discordance

DB

Interview: Fraser Murderburger

Posted: April 14, 2018 in Small Talk

Fraser muddabugga

I caught up with Fraser, the frontman of Scottish pop-punk tour-de-force The Murderburgers. They are probably my favourite pop-punk band right now. If their sheer fucking excellence wasn’t already apparent on 2012’s How to Ruin Your Life or 2014’s These Are Only Problems, then the LP they dropped a couple years ago, The 12 Habits of Highly Defective People, absolutely confirmed it. One of my favourite records of the last few years. If you don’t yet know them, the links at the bottom of this thing require your immediate attention!

So, I chatted with Fraser about what’s next for The Murderburgers, his other projects (including FUCK! (It’s Pronounced Shit!),  declining mental health, Scotland’s simultaneous beauty and bleakness and Fraser’s ‘punk rock son’!

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Dave: Hey Fraser! I hear you have been recording for a new Murderburgers release. Can you tell us any details?

Fraser: Hello! Yeah, we’ve just finished recording 4 songs for a new EP. It’s called Shitty People & Toothache and is all about when I lived with a couple of maniacs in Edinburgh that ripped me off, lied about me to the police and got me arrested in 2016. I ended up homeless and jobless because of it, and got dragged through court as well. It was a right laugh. It all worked out in the end though, and at least I got some new songs out of it. We’ll be announcing the details of it soon. The songs have just been sent off for mixing.

Dave: What has the recording process been like? What is the current Murderburgers line-up?

Fraser: Recording has been really easy going this time, and a lot quicker than I expected. We pretty much did everything over a couple of weekends with James from Elk Gang/Paper Rifles and it’s been great. Kev from Elk Gang/Paper Rifles and Jon from Paper Rifles have been doing backing vocals on the new stuff as well. They are the Scottish harmony dream team.

The current line-up is me, Alex from Bike Notes on bass and Alex from Alien8 on drums. I only have people called Alex in the band these days. Actually, that’s not strictly true. Noelle from Rational Anthem has also been playing bass for us on tour and will again a couple of times this year, and so will Kieron from Don Blake.

Dave: Following The 12 Habits of Highly Defective People, where are the Murderburgers going next?

Fraser: As well as the new EP, I’m booked in to demo our new album at the end of April with a view to us recording it properly at some point during the summer. I’m just piecing together the last of the songs now. The past couple of years have been pretty brutal, with the later part of last year almost doing me in completely, so now that I’ve spent a lot of time getting my shit together and have been actively trying not to be a sad sack of shit, I’ve been writing like crazy. Whenever I get out of a mental slump of sorts it feels like my brain has been rewired in a totally different way, and this time it’s been rewired to go ridiculously fast for most of the day, and writing new stuff helps calm it down. It makes me feel pretty terrible and exhausted at times, but at least I’m getting a lot more new stuff done at the same time as finding ways to control it and use it to my advantage. I’m really happy with the new songs anyway. After doing the last album with Matt Allison in Chicago, I’m way more confident when it comes to writing songs and also when it comes to singing, so I’m pretty much just writing whatever I want now without thinking too much about what people will think or sticking to a template or whatever. Thankfully playing in a band with such a dumb name stops me from getting too far up my own arse or taking myself too seriously, so it’ll still be a bleak sounding pop punk record, just not the exact same as the last one.

Oh yeah, as well as our new album, I’m genuinely going to do a country album under the name MacDaddy Mudderbang & The Goddamn Sex Cowards. Tim Loud and Freddy Fudd Pucker are going to be my sex cowards. I at least want to do the one album and play live a few times for the fun of it. You only live once, may as well make a country album called He’s First Mudderbang Baby.

Dave: Are there any plans to record again with Yellow and Red from Masked Intruder?

Fraser: No, not really. That was one of those awesome things where everything just lined up really well with everyone’s schedules, and I’m still amazed and really thankful that it actually happened. I stood in on guitar for MI in the UK on tour last year when Green couldn’t make it, and Red played drums for us at Fest in Gainesville last year too, so it’s been cool playing together since recording 12 Habits.

Dave: You recently released the Fuck! (It’s Pronounced Shit!) EP collection. What line-up did you record with?

Fraser: On the first couple of EPs Tom from The Kimberly Steaks/Lemonaids played bass and did backing vocals, and I did lead vocals, guitar and drums. On the latest EP I just did everything myself, mainly because I couldn’t be bothered having to teach the songs to anyone else.

Dave: How did the Against Me! song title puns begin?

Fraser: I can’t actually remember. I think I just thought “You Look Like I Need A Wank” would look funny on a t-shirt, then decided to use it as a song title. Just for the record, Against Me! are one of my favourite bands and have been since I was a teenager. I just find putting the word “wank” in their song titles really funny for some reason.

Dave: How do you approach writing the FIPS songs differently to the Murderburgers?

Fraser: I spend a lot less time on FIPS songs, which probably/definitely shows. These days I like to write Murderburgers albums like one big long mental breakdown where hopefully no one dies at the end, whereas FIPS stuff is more like horrible little anxiety attacks where you black out and come to again to find that you’ve trashed all of your stuff, and then you die.

Dave: Are there plans to continue with the FIPS stuff? Any further releases in the pipeline? How often have you played live as FIPS?

Fraser: I wasn’t going to bother, but I really enjoyed doing the latest EP, so I want to do more. Also, Scott at Brassneck Records putting it out on vinyl and doing an insert with all the lyrics and loads of photos made it feel like a real thing for the first time ever. Massive thanks to Scott for doing that. When he sent me the insert I didn’t expect it at all and it blew my tiny mind.

James recorded the last FIPS EP as well and had the idea to record, mix and release the next one in the same day, so that’s the plan. I want to do FUCK! (It’s Pronounced FULL LENGTH!), so maybe we’ll do that next. We’ve only played live a few times in Scotland, once at Fest in Gainesville, once at Bloated Saturday Festival in Iowa City, and once at Summer In October Fest in Belgium. I only really do it when I can be bothered. We’re playing at the Hamburg Booze Cruise Festival in June, but apart from that I don’t see that band suddenly starting to play live regularly. It’s hard to take a band called FUCK! (It’s Pronounced SHIT!) that seriously. I still get people asking why I don’t change that band name and also change Murderburgers to something less awful so that more people check them out, but I really don’t care. Every band just needs a name, and as I said before, it stops me from taking myself too seriously. Everything I do seems to be a slow burner anyway, so I’m pretty happy continuing to limp along like I have been for years. Having dumb band names has also taught me not to instantly dismiss other bands with dumb names, too. You ever listened to Fartbarf or Diarrhea Planet? Awful band names, but that shit rules.

Dave: What happened to Rat Toilet? The song you put on Bandcamp a while ago “Bohemian Rhapsody Part 2” is a song you previously wrote for Rat Toilet. Are there any other Rat Toilet songs you plan to release as a Murderburgers track? Did the band ever release anything except the 3 song ‘water closet rammy sessions’ you put on bandcamp?

Fraser: Rat Toilet was just for fun, really. My brother used to call me that because his pet rat used to piss and shit on me all the time, and Brad thought it was really funny and said we should do something under that name. After hearing the mixes Brad and I talked about putting the songs out under a less awful name since they actually turned out sounding really good, but then we just put them out under the name Rat Toilet anyway, and that’s all we really did. Murderburgers actually just properly re-recorded “Bohemian Rhapsody Part 2” for a 4-way split, but there are no plans to re-record any of the other songs at the moment.

Dave: You also play drums for a band from Edinburgh called Bike Notes- how did that come about?

Fraser: Max and Alex both used to play in a band from Edinburgh called The Walking Targets who were fucking amazing, and were also the first release on Round Dog Records. I became good friends with them after we took them on tour a couple of times, but the band broke up a couple of years ago and then their drummer moved away. I started playing drums for Turtle Lamone & The Prohibitions not long after that and Alex and Max both played in that band too, so the three of us started practicing the new songs they had been writing as well as playing in together in TLATP. That’s pretty much it. We only have that Sun Dances EP out at the moment, but we’ve been talking about getting an album done this year when we can all find the time to do it.

Dave: How are things going with Round Dog?

Fraser: Going good! Getting back on track again after a bit of a shitter of a year last year thanks to losing a bunch of money. We put out a 45 song benefit compilation at the start of the year called Round Dog’s Choice Nugs Vol.1, then we put out Paper Rifles from Edinburgh’s debut album The State Of It All and my acoustic Trash Sessions EP last month. We’ve got a couple more things coming out in May and June that I’m really excited about. We’ll be announcing the details of those soon.

Dave: Going back to The Murderburgers, how do you think your songwriting has evolved over the years and what have been your main sources of lyrical inspiration?

Fraser: I like writing more weird structures, a lot more lyrics and a lot less choruses these days. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good chorus, but there’s definitely a talent to writing one that doesn’t get boring or incredibly annoying when repeated a few times, and I think I lack that, so I try to write a strong melody for the whole song instead. I also have a short attention span, so I guess the weird song structures come from having a short attention span but writing longer songs. I just like seeing where the songs end up instead of sticking to the whole verse-chorus-verse chorus thing. Plus, writing songs like that drives the other members of the band insane when they have to learn them, which is pretty entertaining for me.

My ever decaying mental health, general lack of understanding of how anything works and my terrible luck have been the main sources of lyrical inspiration over the past few years, and were sources that I was occasionally tapping into even back in the really early years of the band. That’s when I was taking time out from unsuccessfully trying to re-write Screeching Weasel and Queers songs. As I mentioned earlier, mental health problems like depression and anxiety can be so fucking exhausting and confusing at times. I find that whenever I get a grip on one thing that’s causing problems, another one comes out of nowhere and I have to try and find ways to figure that out as well. It can be relentless. Writing and recording songs about all of that shit then having fun playing them live is a good way to get something positive and productive out of all the exhaustion and confusion. I remember watching an interview with Legs McNeil where he talks about how Joey Ramone always took the shitty things about life and celebrated them and turned them into something good. That’s something I always try to keep in mind.

Dave: A bit of a deeper one here. As a Scottish punk band, to what extent do you think that a sense of Scotland is evoked in your lyrics?

Fraser: Scotland is a beautiful place, but I find I always get a lot more writing done during the winter which tends to be more depressing and crushing than anything else, so I guess there’s a sense of the not so finer points of Scotland evoked. It seems to be a common theme in a lot of Scottish band’s songs. We definitely have more grey days than sunny ones. I lived in Edinburgh for 5 years which is hands down my favourite place on earth. I wrote both These Are Only Problems and 12 Habits when I lived there, hence all the references to parts of the city on both albums. I actually decided to change things up a bit and moved to Manchester when I got back from tour last September, but don’t worry. It turns out moving a couple hundred miles south doesn’t mean that it’s not still bleak as shit most of the time, so the songs will keep coming.

Dave: I love the video for “December Ruined Everything”. Where did the idea for that come from?

Fraser: Jim from Pizzatramp became my punk rock son like a year ago. Every now and then I’d send him things in the mail like cards or little presents. Admittedly, the whole thing was and still is kind of weird, and I don’t think his actual dad is that big a fan of it. We joked around about going for a father/son day out, then figured shooting a father/son day out video would really up the weirdness. The depressing ending was shot right at the last minute on the day and wasn’t originally intended, but it definitely ties the whole thing together, otherwise it would make even less sense

Dave: So, finally, what are The Murderburgers’ tour plans for the rest of the year?

Fraser: We’re touring Europe in May with Wonk Unit around some festivals, then we fly straight to Canada after that to tour with City Mouse leading up to Pouzza Fest. After that we’re touring the UK in July leading up to Wonkfest, then in August we’re playing Rebellion Festival and Punk Rock Holiday, both for the first time. Then we’re touring the UK and Europe in September/October with City Mouse for like 33 days or something. So much for a quieter year this year. All fun stuff though!

 

Check out the Murderburgers here: https://themurderburgers.bandcamp.com/

Check out FUCK! (It’s Pronounced Shit!) here: https://itspronouncedshityouidiot.bandcamp.com/

Check out Fraser’s acoustic EP and the rest of the Round Dog catalogue here: https://rounddogrecords.bandcamp.com/album/fraser-murderburger-trash-sessions-ep


 

Capturing the zeitgeist, or the current concerns and contemplations of the day in a punk album in a way that feels organic and not corny or fudged is not an easy task. So, I’m pleased to say, after getting around to finally properly listening to it, POST- is definitely successful in this regard. In many ways, it is a record that builds on WORRY and Jeff’s previous songwriting nous, culminating to generate a more expansive and more ‘now’ record. POST- is an album that concerns itself with the state of the US in 2018 and the socio-political milieu that could allow Trump to be elected. As with his other work, Jeff contemplates these concerns through his own anxious and insecure perspective. I mean, his whole career (from the Bomb the Music Industry! through to his solo stuff) seems to have been building towards the dreamy chant on “USA”: “We’re tired and bored/we’re tired, we’re bored!”

Sonically, POST- largely picks up where WORRY left off, with Jeff pulling out his career-best scrappy, rough-around-the-edges and sing-a-long pop-punk. If anything, this record is even scrappier and more rough-around-the-edges. Nevertheless, it is more expansive, too, with Jeff writing two super-long efforts that book-end the record, with one working a lot better than the other, for me. Opener “USA” is 7 minutes-plus and is all-over-the-place, but in a good way; it aptly sets the tone for what is to come and acts as his address to the nation: “Dumbfounded, downtrodden and dejected/ Crestfallen, grief-stricken and exhausted/ Trapped in my room while the house was burin’ to the motherfuckin’ ground”. With the first lyrics of the record, the central themes of the album are already on display: the ennui, anxiety and exhaustion felt following last year’s elections. POST- is as much about ‘worrying’ (about the US, about your community, about your mental state) as the previous record.

“Let Them Win”, on the other hand, doesn’t really work half as well as the opener. I mean, doing longer, more expansive tracks like “USA” is cool, but I feel the 11-minute plus “Let Them Win” is overkill, especially when it’s primary lyrical take-away is simply “lets gather as a community and be stronger than ‘them’ (i.e. those that voted for Trump)”. It all builds up to a similar choral chant as found on “USA” (“we’re not gonna let them win!”) and then goes all synth-y and weird. The sentiment is fine, I guess, but you don’t get the sense that it deserves 11 minutes of your time; what’s more, it ensures that the album ends a little too cleanly and on an uncharacteristically and uncritically positive note: like, yeah, you know all that whining I just did about how fucked up the country is and how anxious I am about the whole thing, forgot about that, because we’re gonna win in the end anyway!!

Elsewhere though, I basically enjoy everything. “TV Stars” is a masterclass in how to sneak an ‘80s piano ballad into a punk album: it’s like a frayed-edged Billy Joel with visceral social community. Jeff has not been unknown to do somewhat theatrical, super poppy stuff like this before, but this definitely stands out on the album. Its chorus is at once simple and gripping: “TV stars don’t care about who you are”. Meanwhile, “Yr. Throat” is an intense, fast-paced and exuberant melodic punk banger, with a chorus that sticks in the head like nothing else on the album (“what’s the point of having a voice? When it gets stuck inside your throat”). This one is about Jeff’s simple desire to escape all the bullshit he is surrounded with and the difficulties that come with that. “Powerlessness” is also the kind of tune that Jeff excels at, a pop-punk earworm with anxiety-riddled lyrics: “Meet me at the Polish bar/ I’ll be the one staring at my phone,
/shaking like a nervous kid/ absolutely terrified of being alone”.

POST- sounds like the record that Jeff has been trying to make for a while. I don’t know if I prefer it to WORRY but it certainly feels like a culmination of his previous two records that has emerged at a time of ‘peak-anxiety’ for Americans. He offers something quite unique in the current punk scene: a voice. Even if it does get stuck inside his throat.

DB

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

I become aware of Yr Poetry last year with the release of the ‘One Night Alive’ EP and pretty instantly dug it. I mean, that is not surprising considering that I am fairly big fan of Alexei (guitar) and Junior’s (drums) ‘other’ band, Johnny Foreigner. The ‘Lost Boys’ EP is part 2 of a 3-part EP collection, a “are-we-good-enough-to-get-paid-for-this?” experiment, according to their bandcamp. Instantly, you get those JoFo feels, when the fuzzy, math-y and crunchy guitars kick in on opener “Sons”, probably the highlight of the EP. You’ve got wooh-oohs, driving melodies and a fist-raised-in-the-air chorus; this is pop-punk magic. The lyrics are among the most memorable I’ve heard in recent times, with Alexei reflexively getting to grips with the gender make-up of the band’s audience and then relating that to music politics more broadly:

“And I know what yr thinking: Hark the hypocrites are singing
Saying “there’s too many boys in our bands” whilst adding two
If I can’t be the change then I’ll be the klaxon”

It’s a biting, critical and much needed take-down of the male dominated indie scene. “Sons” is probably enough to already make me name this my favourite EP of the year but the other songs are also not half bad. “I Swear I Swear I Swear (It’s All Bullshit)” is an exhilarating, fast-paced tune with an addictive chorus of sheer simplicity: It’s all bullshit, bullshit, bullshit…” (repeat ad infinitum). There is a sense of frustration and itchiness to change things, of the need for that “klaxon”. On “The Whole Tooth”, the cynicism and ennui in Brexit Britain is brought to the forefront, calling for people to rise above that, to “Be a gap in the crowds/Be a plot in the ground/Be a break in the clouds/Be lost and get found”.

The vibe changes quite considerably on the space-y, slowed-down indie on closer “Dads” though, a song about Dads dying and looking back at your youth, thinking how you were with your Dad then, revolving around an ‘electricity-based’ narrative. It’s an emotional, raw and super interesting track that makes you feel simultaneously sad, uncomfortable and also want to laugh. The lyrics hit quite hard, but have sharp wit to them, as JoFo always have. It’s the classic tragedy/comedy thing. Seriously, one of the most fascinating and exciting new-ish indie bands out there today. I’m waiting for the “mums” follow-up on the next EP.

DB

Check it out here: https://ibelieveinyrpoetry.bandcamp.com/album/lost-boys