Archive for January, 2019

mom jeans mama

It has been a good while since I did a proper gig review, so, well, here is one. The plan is for this to become more of a regular feature. More basement reviewing, less bedroom reviewing, maybe. This recent one at Mama Roux’s in Birmingham was decent and although I guess it broadly could be classed as an ‘emo’ night, it presented a diverse selection of artists that touch on or have been influenced by ‘emo’. First up was Delaire the Liar, a two-piece emo/rock band from London that I was not previously aware of. They immediately made you pay attention, with the intensity, electric energy and impassioned nature of the music. Apparently, the name is a reference to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, if you were wondering. They play a kind of alternative rock and emo hybrid which sounds as influenced by Biffy Clyro as, say, Sunny Day Real Estate. The drumming is super-fast and intense and the vocals immediately recall those of Cedric from At the Drive In/Mars Volta in the way that they soar and sound like they are from another dimension. Although not totally in my ballpark, Delaire, the Liar’s sound feels from the heart and organic. What I like is that while it comes off in some parts as cerebral and majestic stadium angst-rock, like, say, Muse, the band’s performance also retains the vulnerability and earnestness of ‘90s emo like, say, Mineral. I guess you can put them in the same bracket as contemporaries like Touche Amoré or Basement, but you get the sense that Delaire, the Liar are crafting a sound of their own here.

Up next were Californians Just Friends, an entourage that describe themselves as ‘rap-emo-ska’. I will say straight away that I just did not get this at all. I hadn’t heard of Just Friends before the gig and so had no preconceptions, but, my God, it was kind of a horrible mess. Sucks to say, as they all seem like cool people. There is all sorts going on here- ska, funk, rap, emo and rock- and I enjoy some genre-bending stuff, but instead of coalescing or becoming bigger than the sum of its parts, Just Friends produced something that is messy and wacky, in a kind of bad way. The closest comparisons I can come up with are Zebrahead or MC Lars. In the chanting choruses, I can hear some Beastie Boys, too. It definitely has a ‘party rock’ thing going on, albeit with earnest, ‘emo’ lyrics from the early ‘00s. There are lines like “I’m sorry I couldn’t be a stronger guy” sung as part of a super-upbeat funky chorus that has the potential to be interesting I guess, but just ultimately comes across as boring and played out. Some sensitive lyrics were undercut by some ‘ironic’ (I assume) chants of ‘McDonalds! McDonalds!” at one point, weirdly. The whole set felt like a joke I wasn’t in on. The crowd was generally super into the band though and I can see Just Friends having some kind of mainstream breakthrough, if only for a moment.

So, onto the headliners, Mom Jeans, a band that are building up quite the following. The band play a kind of intricate, ultra-sentimental emo-rock. There are mathy riffs, super earnest and poignant lyrics, and dynamic guitar leads. There is a clear influence from ‘90s emo luminaries, like American Football, Texas is the Reason or The Promise Ring, but Mom Jeans also evoke the feeling of early-00s mainstream, ‘American Pie’-era pop-punk, without fully expressing that. In varying ways, each of these bands sound like they are from that era of music actually. At the same time, Mom Jeans evidently fit neatly into the ‘modern emo revival’, alongside bands such as Tiny Moving Parts and the Hotelier. They are in the same ball park as Tigers Jaw, but perhaps less upbeat and broodier. The band also recall the freeform flow of Algernon Cadwallader. There is a shit ton of teen angst in this set and although at times, it is a little overly whiny, self-deprecating and self-aware (amidst tons of millennial references), Mom Jeans feel like one of the few ‘revival’ bands which are taking the sound in new, interesting directions. Not totally sold, but a super impassioned, heart-on-sleeve and organic set from the band.



Yes- our yearly roundtable chat has arrived. Myself, Paul and Rene had a good chinwag over a bunch of tracks (sensibly, a few less than time…) one evening in late December, most of which came out in 2018.


The Discussants:

Dave, Keep Track of the Time

Paul, Jersey Beat, Razorcake, New Noise, Keep Track of the Time

René, Keep Track of the Time


The Songs Discussed

The Beths- “You Wouldn’t Like Me” (Future Me Hates Me)

Werecats- “Julian” (Destined for the Outside)

Jeff Rosenstock- “Yr Throat” (POST-)

Vacation- “Like Snow” (Non-Person)

Rumspringer- “Hindsight is 20/20, Foresight is $200 an hour” (Stay Afloat)

Muncie Girls- “Bubble Bath” (Fixed Ideals)


Song #1: The Beths- “You Wouldn’t Like Me” (Future Me Hates Me)

Dave: Cool, so the first song up for discussion today is The Beths- “You Wouldn’t Like Me”. I really enjoy the whole record by this band and this song is definitely in the top 3 off it. Wonderful melodies and I love the New Zealand vocals.

René: I think I listened to this song on a daily basis a few days ago. It’s rare to hear a song that I love everything about. From the handclaps to the vocal harmonies to the leading vocals to the lyrics. I’ve started to really like the entire album, but in the beginning I was so focused on listening to this song that I forgot the rest of the album.

Paul: I sort of relate to the lyrics – I see this being a song about having low self-esteem, so you don’t put yourself out there, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Also maybe I’m reading too much into it, but the simple melody and lyrics that are repeated over and over are sort of like the things that we tell ourselves in our own minds repeatedly, whether accurate or not. I do really like the melody and especially the harmonized backing vocals

Dave: I thought something similar actually, Paul, in regards to the repeated  line and I sort of interpreted the back-up vocals in the chorus as how things may repeat in our heads and how we can’t escape the idea of ‘you wouldn’t like me’. There is a deep vulnerability on this song for sure.

Paul: Yeah, it’s like, “I know nobody will like me, so I’m not even going to try”

René: I also really like the rhyming scheme in the verses.

Dave: Yeah and I love the way that the verses are delivered as well.

Paul: Right now, I’m also wondering if the happy sounding melody isn’t sort of like when we pretend to be happy and well-adjusted when the opposite is really true.

René: The melody in the chorus reminds me a bit of “Back on the Chain Gang” by the Pretenders. That’s that first thing I thought when I heard it.

Dave: It absolutely has that contrast. One of the first things I noticed about the song actually. I feel like the content of the song is actually similar to what is in a bunch of Off with their heads lyrics (about being scared to open up to others and feel that they wouldn’t like you if they could see the true ‘you’ or see inside you), but delivered in a totally different way.

Paul: Yes.

Dave: The bridge is great as well and the mini guitar solo that follows. Was this your first listen to the band Paul?

Paul: Yes, it was.

René: “I’ve been had before (I’ve been had)/ But I’ve never gotten back/ And it feels so much like being in love/ That I thought you should know”. How do you interpret this part? These lines makes me think that the song is about someone who is entering a relationship and is having doubts about it.

Paul: I agree – but I also think it’s the person thinking that no one else could possible like or love them and setting themselves up for the disappointment that’s sure to come.

Dave: Yeah, this is a really interesting line actually. What is it that ‘feels like being in love’? I interpreted that as their internal struggles. Based on that, I kind of understood that line as suggesting that their struggles are as all encompassing as being in love and that their judgement/way of thinking has been somewhat clouded. I dunno, though, the relationship interpretation makes sense too…I did roughly understand the lyrics as a whole as being about talking to someone that you are about to enter a relationship with.

René: I have two possible meanings. 1) It’s about unrequited love and the protagonist is worried that it’s not actual love or infatuation, but obsession and worries if they tell the “you” person how they feel and that it’d creep them out. 2) They are entering a relationship with the person, but they are afraid to show what they are really like because they don’t think the other person would like them anymore or afraid to show that they aren’t sure if it’s “real love”

Dave: Rene- how do you think the lyrics in this song fit in with the rest of the record?

René: Well, I find the entire album to be very self-deprecating, I mean it’s called Future Me Hates Me.

Dave: Yes, I haven’t delved enough into the lyrics yet but that was my initial impression. As well as self-deprecating, a sense of anxiety and worry about the future and if they are doing the right thing, too…


Song #2: Werecats- “Julian” (Destined for the Outside)

Paul: OK – so my impressions – the simplistic pop punk, slightly loose feel, and female vocals remind me of Jabber, a band from the Oakland, CA area. The lo-fi recording made it hard for me to make out the lyrics, too, but from what I can gather it’s a downbeat topic?

René: I really like the low-fi sound of it. I really get the Jabber-vibe too!

Dave: It is a very infectious song that definitely recalls the vocals and hooks of Jabber, but also I get some hints of British ’77 punk.

Paul: The looseness makes it feel more like a group of friends jamming together, rather than a professional band – and that makes it more fun I think.

Dave: For sure, it has a certain charm about it.

René: That it was a downbeat topic was my initial thought as well and wrote in my review, but the band corrected me.

Paul: What are the lyrics about, Rene?

René: From their facebook page “It’s the second time we’ve been told that ‘Julian’ is a sad gritty and deeply depressing song. It’s not supposed to be. In fact, I wrote it when I worked in a building next door to where Julian Assange was living and as it was his 3rd year anniversary there I thought a cheery upbeat song about his incarceration in a plush embassy instead of her maj’s hotel would be nice. ”

Paul: Interesting – I didn’t know it was about Julian Assange. I wonder how they feel about him now, knowing that he was working with the Russians and the Trump campaign to manipulate the US presidential election.

Dave: Yeah, that came as somewhat of a surprise….

René: I’m not certain whether I love this song/album so much because it is low-fi or if I would love it even more if it sounded more professional. I think the melody is really good, maybe it wouldn’t make a difference. I kind of wish they’d put the lyrics on their bandcamp page though.

Paul: Yeah, for sure. I do think the lo-fi is part of the charm, though.

Dave: Yeah, I think the lo-fi really makes the song in many ways and I’m not sure how I would feel if it was better recorded or less ‘garage band’ sounding. I like how it sounds a tad ’70s/retro, but without being too ‘on the nose’.

René: My first thought that it was about a dead pet. I still think the actual topic is a bit weird hearing the lyrics.

Song #3: Jeff Rosenstock- “Yr Throat” (POST-)

Paul: You’re both going to find this hard to believe, but this was the first Jeff Rosenstock I’ve ever listened to!

Dave: Oh wow- really?

Paul: Yeah, I know….

Dave: I found it hard to pick a clear standout from the record with their being a few clear hits and with it being such a strong body of work. I could have easily picked “9/10” or “tv stars”

René: I have really mixed feelings. Sometimes I hear it and think it’s brilliant other times I don’t like it much, but I also find it more interesting when I feel like this. Like it’s supposed to grow on me.

Paul: Well, I like this one – it’s very anthemic sounding. It seems to be a very political song, about the need to take action to fix the shit going on in the USA (Trump), or in the world at large with Brexit and the rise of authoritarianism across Europe, and how too many people find lots to say about insignificant things but won’t take a stand when it comes to important things like the state of the government

Dave: I love the urgency of the song and the way it suddenly drops into the chorus. It’s gritty and heart on sleeve but with such strong melodies. The back-up vocals in the chorus are great, too. Yes, that is more or less what the song is about, I guess, and the album as a whole really. It’s a critique of people posturing over politics but without actually doing anything/saying anything/taking a stand when it matters.

Paul: I also like the use of the organ on this – and it seems more and more punk bands are adding keyboards over the past couple years.

René: My favourite part is the “after the contest” part.

Dave: Yeah, it’s great. The record takes many weird twists and turns and I think that is what has maintained my interest since being released in Jan.

Paul: I like the reference to talking about the sound quality differences between vinyl and mp3s like it’s so important, but saying there’s nothing we can do about the more important stuff in the world.

René: I also feel like it’s about his doubts as a songwriter.

Paul: I’m not sure about doubts as a songwriter, Rene – where do you get that?

Dave: Although it’s a critique of all that stuff, about people not doing enough about the important stuff, what is super interesting is that Jeff critiques his own failings in these lyrics.

René: Do you think the tape is about the Trump/Billy Bush or a cassette tape Jeff has made or something else? I’m also not sure about what ‘contest’ he refers to.

Paul: I assumed it was the Trump/Billy Bush tape, but I can see if maybe it was his own tape that leaked it could change things.

Dave: I read that somewhere in an interview with Jeff that he wrote this record pretty much straight after Trump election, and he went to a cabin somewhere and analysed/critiqued the whole situation, incl. his own missteps. I think that the contest is the election?

Paul: That was what I thought too.

René: Yeah, that makes sense.

Dave: I’m not sure about the line, “it’s not like any other job I know? if you’re a piece of shit they don’t let you go”

Paul: The presidency is not like any other job – and many pieces of shit have remained in office.

René: I first thought it was about being a musician, but the president angle works as well.

Dave: Aha, yeah, that makes sense and fits in well after following the tape line.

Paul: Yeah, if you’re a shitty musician, people will let you go pretty quickly.

René: The more I read the lyrics, the more that I feel like he’s trying to be vague on purpose.

Paul: Hahaha! No musician has ever done that, have they??

René: I was thinking more that if a musician is a shitty human being, people will turn the other way.

Paul: Yes, but the line is If you’re a piece of shit they don’t let you go.

Dave: Yes. I think the context of the album and the context of the preceding lines suggests that it’s about the president, but there is some vagueness there for sure. There is a big dose of fatalism on this song (and record more generally).

Paul: Well, I think this song is decrying fatalism, and demanding people get off their arses and do something. I mean – the chorus is “What’s the point of having a voice/ When it gets stuck inside your throat?” Sounds to me like he’s saying “Stop being fatalistic and say something! Do something!” Especially with the line about the neighbors saying “there’s nothing we can do right now”.


Song #4: Vacation- “Like Snow” (Non-Person)

Paul: Man, I absolutely love the whole album this came from – Non-Person. It’s from a few years ago. This song is probably my favorite of the album. Musically, I love how they blend psych, punk, and garage, and I love the abrupt changes in the song.

René: I think this is the first time I hear Vacation! I like the contrast between the faster, punkier parts and the slow pretty parts.

Paul: YES! I agree Rene! The hard-edged guitars that punctuate the song, the bright guitars on the bridge. Love it.

Dave: Yep, agreed too! In the punkier part, I really like the urgency of the guitars and the bite of the vocals. I don’t think I’ve properly heard a Vacation album all the way through- just songs here and there, but every time I hear a Vacation song, I feel differently about it. I love the psychedelic feeling in this one though.

Paul: Lyrically, on this, I think it’s about someone who’s never been happy with themselves, and have tried to be different people through their life, and now just wants to be gone or invisible.

Dave: Yes, just ‘melt away’. The line ‘Line them up, all of my faces neatly’ certainly suggests what you say about being different people.

Paul: I also like the purposeful use of feedback in the guitars in this.

Dave: I love the line about his blood being gasoline. I’m not sure what to make of it, but I love it.

Paul: I think that verse is about losing one’s energy and enthusiasm with age, and becoming angry/sad about that.

Dave: Yes, of no longer being able to ‘produce a flame’. Makes sense….

René: I feel like he means that he had enough blood to produce flames before (because his voice was gasoline), but now he has to fake it because it doesn’t hold the same power anymore.

Paul: “I dream about distant memories/ back when my blood was gasoline/ I scream and shout all these obscenities/ because I can’t produce a flame”. The way I take that is that he’s remembering his youth hen his blood was gasoline – his life was like fire. But now he’s angry because he can’t produce a flame – his enthusiasm and vigor are gone.

Dave: I really enjoy the vocals actually and the way that the anger/angst rises up.

Paul: I strongly recommend the whole album – there’s another great short punk blast on a similar topic called “Wish I Could Be Somebody Else.”

Dave: Cool- I will do so. The album title ‘non person’ suggests that topic filters throughout.

René: I like that all that he symbolises his present self with are cold (ice/snow/sunset(?)) while what he symbolizes the past with are warm (flames/fire).

Paul: I think maybe turning to ice represents death? Could tie into the theme of that verse we just talked about. Maybe that he’s also tired and ready for death? “I’m always waiting for the day when like snow I melt away” And “yes I’ve become the setting sun”.

René: Yeah! I guess that makes the song even sadder.

Dave: I don’t know about death, but certainly not having that vigor/enthusiasm anymore- he is decomposing/has become the setting sun. I interpreted the whole thing as rotting away/melting, but not necessarily dying, but could well be…

Paul: Or that life has become unbearably unpleasant to the point where death is the same as the current state: “wipe away all of my histories/cause nothing new catches my eye”.

Dave: Yes, I like that- more of a metaphorical death perhaps?

René: The more I hear, the more I feel like it means literally.


Song #5: Rumspringer- “Hindsight is 20/20, Foresight is $200 an hour” (Stay Afloat)

Paul: Another one from a few years ago. When I first heard this, song I got chills. I love the unexpected rhythmic and melodic changes in the chorus. And the high level of energy and emotion.

Dave: I heard this album years ago, but had totally forgot about it, so thanks for reminding me of it, ha!

Paul: I remember hearing the first song on the record and thinking they had “blown their whole load” so to speak on that one, it was so good – and then this song came on second, I was blown away.

Dave: The verses on this one really stand out- super high energy/level of urgency.

Paul: Wes Korte (guitarist/vocalist) is such a great songwriter.

René: I don’t think I had heard this song before either. The title is pretty funny.

Paul: Yeah, the title is great.

Dave: Has Wes been in any other bands, do you know? I feel like I recognise his vocals from someplace else.

Paul: Yeah he has. His current band is called Black Paw, I believe.

Dave: Ok- I don’t know if it’s specifically the vocals or the melodic shifts, but it really reminds me of something else that I can’t put my finger on.

René: I think the back-up vocals really add to the song. I can’t make out much of the lyrics though.

Paul: I was just going to say that – thats the one thing about this is I can’t make out the lyrics and couldn’t find them online anywhere.

René: The outro is really cool.

Dave: Yeah Rene, I love the outro too actually. I think the urgency and palpable emotion in the whole thing is great.

Paul: This band was also great live. Always a great time.

Dave: They sound like they would be! Where are they from?

Paul: Tempe, Arizona (near Phoenix). But they broke up a couple years ago, sadly.

Dave: That sucks. Was this record their final release?

Paul: Yes. Though they had sort of promised me to give me a couple songs to put out on my record label, but it never happened. Wes was on hiatus from writing (he was in another band after this but before Back Paw where he didn’t write or sing), and Mike (drummer) had back surgery and had to stop playing drums

Dave: Huh. They were fairly short-lived then?

Paul: They were around a number of years, I guess. Maybe 5 years?


Song #6: Muncie Girls- “Bubble Bath” (Fixed Ideals)

Paul: Lande Hekt’s vocals are gorgeous!

Dave: I think so too! And really suits this style, too…

René: I really love this song!

Paul: Me too, it’s really nice indie pop, though the bubble sound effects annoy me….

Dave: This doesn’t really reflect the rest of the album- which is more guitar-based and faster, but it’s really become the standout for me from ‘Fixed Ideals’. Haha- I liked the bubble effects more at first and love the idea of them but they have become a little annoying after repeated listens I guess?

René: This line is great: “I was once good at problem solving, most of the time the solution: dissolving. ” The little piano parts before the chorus are beautiful too.

Dave: That’s a great line, yep. The lyrics in general are great in the way that they link bath/water-based metaphors with fading happiness, etc- “Sucked down the drain with the silt and the slime. Bubbles or not, it’s too hot every time”.

Paul: One thing I get from the lyrics is how, when we’re young, we think we’re going to grow up and change and be a different person, but that never happens – we’re really always the same person as when we are a child.

Dave: Yes, definitely hear that. The line ‘still fill it too high after all these years’ suggests as much.

Paul: And especially the line “now isn’t the now I had in mind. ”

René: I feel that there’s a red thread in the songs we’ve talked about longing for the past and crying over spilt milk.

Dave: There is actually…

Paul: Yes, in some of the songs, for sure.

René: Maybe not longing for the past in this song, but thinking about it. Except “Julian”, I guess.

Dave: And an overall feeling of anxiety/ uncertainty I get, too, across most of these songs.

Paul: I assume you two have seen Muncie Girls live multiple times?

René: I haven’t.

Dave: I have seem them live a couple of times, they are super tight! I haven’t seen any of the new stuff live though which in my opinion is by far their strongest material.

Paul: I was lucky to see them live once – I was in Munich 2 1/2 years ago and they opened for The Dirty Nil there. Great show.

Dave: Ah nice! The two times I have seen them has been as support, too. Would recommend a listen to the new album if you haven’t already.Thanks both of you for participating! It has been fun! A nice collection of songs and discussion again.

René: It’s been a good talk! I feel like the headline we had last year “Sad songs don’t make good lives” also applied to this year.

Dave: Yeah, indeed haha– we need a new title though. Glad it’s not just me picking the miserable tracks this time…