Archive for August, 2019

31st of July this year marked seven years since Tony Sly passed away. Just today, the day I’m writing this (the 9th of August), I saw the signed copy of Keep ‘Em Confused at the record store at the mall. I think of buying it every time I’m there, but I feel like it’s a bit weird for me to have an album signed by Tony Sly, like there is something sacred about it that shouldn’t belong to me, maybe it’s not even for sale. No Use or a Name is a band that I don’t write much about nor is it a band I think that much about, but it actually is a band that means a lot to me in many ways, that I will get back to later. No use for a Name was started in 1986, Chris Dodge, Steve Papoutsis and Rory Koff started the band in Sunnyvale in the Bay Area. In ‘87 Dodge left, only to return again in 1988. Tony Sly joined the band on guitar in ‘87. Ramon Gras also sang a little while with the band, but was replaced by Dodge. In 1989, Dodge left again, and Sly took over as the lead singer. Their debut album Incognito was released on the punk label New Red Archive in 1990. It was produced by Brett Gurewitz. The next album Don’t Miss the Train was released on the same label. For this album, Chris Dodge returned. Dodge described the experience of returning (http://tonysly.org/index.php/early-no-use-for-a-name-the-beginning): “After I quit, NUFAN wised up and made Tony the lead vocalist. The new formula was Tony as the front person, accented by a second guitarist. Still, I tended to be the default guy they’d call when someone else quit, so in 1991 I was asked to join the band yet again. This was my third time with the outfit, and this time back on guitar. Tony was rightfully the lead vocalist at this point, and he was starting to tap into what would eventually become the true NUFAN sound. It wasn’t fully there, but it was starting to formulate, especially in comparison with the earlier releases.”

In 1993, NUFAN would be the third band to sign to Fat Wreck Chords after Lagwagon and Propagandhi. This was right after Dodge left for the third time and he would later get a job at Fat Wreck himself. Their first Fat release would become the‘Daily Grind’ EP. The first Fat album was released in 1995 at the height of punk’s popularity. The album was called ¡Leche con Carne! , which included a cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”, a staple at their shows, and “Soulmate” a song about substance abuse and insecurity that would get rotation on MTV, something that ended when Fat Mike supposedly refused to give in to blackmail from the TV network. Chris Shiflett joined the band for their next release Making Friends in 1997; possibly their best album. What’s your name? fuck you, that’s my name! In 1999, they took a poppier turn with More Betterness. Shiflett would then leave to play with the Foo Fighters as well as Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. The next releases would be Hard Rock Bottom, Keep ‘em Confused and Feel Good Record of the Year. They also released an album in the Live in a Dive series. The band ended with Tony Sly dying in his sleep in 2012 at 41. Fat Mike, one of his best friends, wrote: “One of my dearest friends and favorite songwriters has gone way too soon. Tony, you will be greatly missed.”

Like I said, NUFAN has been a band that’s been with me a while. In 2003, I heard them for the first time on TV in Norway, which I will get back to later. In that year we had a music video show called Svisj show, where you could vote music videos up on the list and they’d play. One day No Use for a Name ended up on the list, along with Busted’s “Year 3000”; it’s a terrible thing to say, but for months I would mistake the two bands because of this. Hard Rock Bottom was one of the first NUFAN albums I bought, I think, back in 2005 or 2006. In 2004, I would listen to it on a local record store and decide that I wasn’t gonna buy it before I had bought the War on Errorism, which I had listened to a couple of months before, but not decided to buy yet. When I bought WOE in 2005, I could buy HRB a couple months later. When I discovered the Fat Wreck website in 2004, I would download “Sitting Duck” from there. Making Friends would also become an album I would love a lot of songs from like “On the Outside”, “Invincible” and “Secret” became some of my favorite NUFAN songs. I bought Making Friends and Hard Rock Bottom around the same time. If I’m not mistaken, I think it was in London 2006. This was also the time I discovered that NUFAN was gonna play in London, at the club Mean Fiddler. The show was No Use for a Name, Lawrence Arms and another band which I wasn’t familiar with, April 13th 2006. Prior to that I had mostly seen local punk bands and the biggest punk show I had seen was when I snuck into a Turbonegro show, so seeing NUFAN and Lawrence Arms was a big deal for me. It was my first real, somewhat big punk show and it was great. So I got Making Friends and Hard Rock Bottom a couple of days before the show. I remember eating at the Hard Rock Café, but I sat at the top floor, it would’ve been nuts if I sat at the Hard Rock Bottom Floor that day. I remember even joining a mosh pit to “Redemption Song”. I got a t-shirt on the way out and I was in complete ecstasy. Like they say in old songs, ‘oooh what a night.’

Hard Rock Bottom was released on June 16th, 2002 on Fat Wreck Chords and was produced by Ryan Greene and the band themselves. The album cover is a guy with dyed blonde hair playing guitar outside of a shop. Let’s get to these songs before it’s too late, and you decide to click away, if you haven’t already.

1. “Feels Like Home”: The album starts with a beautiful clean electric intro track. The lyrics are vulnerable, pretty and sad. When I first heard the album I thought it was the perfect opener and lead-up to “International You Day”, it took me six years before the song gained a meaning on its own. I didn’t even notice the lyrics until 2012. I have no idea what Tony Sly actually meant with the lyrics, but it seems to be about losing someone, either a relationship being over, friends falling out or what seems the most likely; death. NUFAN was for years a pretty cool Fat band that I enjoyed listening to and I also started discovering how great Tony Sly’s acoustic versions were on his album with Joey Cape. When Tony Sly died, it occurred to me the important role that the band actually played in my life. The first band in that particular genre that wasn’t on a major label that I heard, and the first somewhat big punk band I went to see. His death made me think of all the memories this band had created for me and I felt worried actually listening to the music again. I decided to put on Hard Rock Bottom though and that’s when I felt in a lump in my throat when I heard these words; “It’s never easy to understand/why memories hold our hand/ When people let go”. I never knew Tony Sly personally, but in that moment I felt like I had lost someone close.

2. “International You Day”: When I first “International You Day” in 2004, it was the first song I had heard that had the traditional Fat Wreck “Forbidden beat” (maybe with the exception of NOFX’s “Decom-Posuer”), and I didn’t like it. I thought the song was great, but the drums ruined the songs for me. When I got into Pump up the Valuum some months later, I felt the same way. I sometimes think that some really good pop-punk songs could’ve been better without the forbidden beat. Of course, the drums don’t ruin the song, but in fact the drum intro before it turns into the forbidden beat are some of the coolest aspects of the song, and such a good song could never be ruined by anything and it really shows Tony Sly’s talent as a songwriter. The song is a love song done correctly. It’s also meta in the sense that it’s a song about writing a long overdue love song for the person that means the most to you. The words that go “I should have told you from the start/That I’m closer than you think when we’re apart/Nothing that I’ve tried is as simple as this line” are beautiful. The title says it all: it’s about having an entire day to celebrate the person you love the most and showing them that everything is bleak without them.

3. “Pre-Medicated Murder”: Starts with a string intro and then turns back to the NUFAN that we know. Another beautiful and poetic lyric with imagery of a bed of roses that thorns replaced. The song is rather uncanny and the pun in the title gives away that the song is about someone abusing and eventually OD’ing on prescription drugs. I feel like this is a common theme on this album. The melody is also incredibly beautiful. Again, the forbidden Fat wreck beat is present, but it also has a pretty awesome bass riff that’s sort of hidden in the end.

4. “Dumb Reminders”: Again, let’s take it back to 2003, when I first saw this video on Svisj Show. I have no idea why it came into their rotation, and so long after it was released. The video was out before the summer of 2002 and it ended up on the Svisj show as a new video in spring 2003 along with Busted’s “Year 3000”. “Dumb Reminders” was a song and video I was really excited for and the video where the band was accused of lip-syncing and selling out (which many fans claimed at the time) was pretty funny. To be fair, I think I liked the Busted song too, but let’s not talk about that. It still is and will probably always be my favorite NUFAN song. The song itself describes a long distance relationship and how everything in town reminds you of your lover that is so far away. It’s probably one of the pop punk songs that gets me in the best mood even if the lyrics aren’t really that optimistic.

5. “Any Number Can Play”: Like NOFX’s “Medio-Core”, “Any Number Can Play” is criticizing the popular music of the day, where emotion is gone in favor of idolization and fame. In many ways, these kinds of attitudes seem more like idealizing a bygone era and not realizing that music has always had aspects of soullessness and exploitive capitalism about it. The song is particularly about radio when the radio DJ’s decide what gets played. I believe the title is a reference to casinos or a movie from 1949. The melody is kind of similar to the Scorpions’ “Wind of Change”. This song starts with an organ, which I don’t think any other NUFAN song does.

6. “Friends of the Enemy”: One of the best songs on the album. A great vocal melody and it could also fit right in on 1999’s More Betterness and also has a nice bass intro. I am quite unsure what the lyrics are about, but I like the use of war metaphors to describe internal struggles. I’ve always liked the line “No one is safe inside your safety zone”. I’m not sure if the “You” in the song is referring to another person, or if the narrator is talking to themselves. People are disagreeing on Songmeanings.com about its meaning as well. Some are suggesting it’s about going into a relationship, while others think it’s about drunk driving and both seem likely looking at the lyrics. The line about “taking the wheel” seems to mean very different things between the two meanings. One is quite literal and very dangerous; the other is more metaphorical and describing bravery to entire a new stage of your life.

7. “Angela”: The best line on the album for me is “Remember when we danced together and I promised you the world? Well I’ll have to take that back”. In many ways, it reminds me of “Deep Deep Down” by MTX. At first glance, they sound like a pretty love songs, but looking at it again, really it’s a song about murder. It took me a long time to realize that. In the case of “Angela”, there’s a chance that the murder in the song is metaphorical and that he is really talking about murdering a relationship, but ‘not believing authorities’ has always been a strange line to me that makes more sense now. I really like that “Angela believe in me” in the first chorus rhymes with “Angela you’re leavin’ me” in the second.

8. “Let Me Down”: Probably the closest to my favorite after “Dumb Reminders”.  Not only is it a fantastic song, but it also holds together some of the themes on the album. “Let Me Down” starts with another string intro the same way that “Pre-Medicated Murder” does, and it also has some of the same lyrical themes of dealing with prescription medication. The line “to you what is dangerous, the safe and sound” also relates to “No one is safe inside your safety sound” in “Friends of the Enemy”. The song is clearly about depression, but it’s also about someone being a shadow of themselves when they are medicated. Like with “Pre-Medicated Murder”, I think this song also reflects on being close to someone with these problems, and this time it could be about being in a relationship with someone and watching them turn into someone else because of prescription drugs. I’m not sure if the song is anti-medication or just about what depression does to people, but it’s some great lyrics regardless. Again, Tony Sly showed that he was one hell of a great lyricist. When they played it live in London 2006, it was rather unexpected and it was probably the best moment of the show. There’s also a great version of it on the Live in the Fat Lane comp.

9. “This Is a Rebel Song”: NUFAN always had good covers on their albums, mostly songs of Irish or Celtic origin. Incognito had a cover of the Police (“Truth Hits Everybody”), ¡Leche con Carne! Had the classic “Redemption Song” cover, which was the song they finished with in London and made me join a mosh pit, as well as a hidden track with a cover medley with anything from “Basket Case” to “Hey Mickey”. Making Friends had a cover of the Irish folk ballad “Fields of Athenry” about the great famine of the 1840s, followed by a hidden track with Kiss’s “Beth” and the Beverly Hills 90210 theme. More Betterness got all Christmassy in the middle and they did their classic cover of “Fairytale of New York”. The cover on Hard Rock Bottom is “This Is a Rebel Song”, a cover of Sinéad o’ Connor. At first this cover was very off putting to me, but I’ve grown to appreciate it. Tony also splits vocals with Karina Denike from Dance Hall Crashers on the track. The lyrics describe being a woman in an abusive relationship with an English man. In context of the conflict between England and Ireland, the two people in the song are also metonymies for their countries.

10. “Solitaire”: The war and military metaphors continue with solitaire. The way I understand the lyrics they are about trying to save the one that can’t be saved, that everyone else have given up on, a common thread on this album. The last chorus is great: “I’m starting to think that all the buoys we sink/Are cutting our chances of being saved/I see that the end is all we have to let us know/I’d like to believe in something more than a dream/For when the will to be one has faded/I guess the truth will soon be deceived/My friend that isn’t there/My solitaire”. The musicianship in the song is also great, I love the cool opening guitar riff and an interesting bass line going through the verses. It’s also a bit more downbeat than the rest of the songs.

11. “Undefeated”: I’ve always felt like the last songs on the album were hard to tell apart, even if they are all good tunes. “Undefeated” continues in the same way as many of the other songs with war-metaphors (“victory claims, this is your song”), although I suppose it could also be a sports metaphor, but the song is about trying to win something you can’t win. Their victory is not getting close to someone else, which could also be seen as a loss. The line can also be likened to the “loneliness parade” on “Friends of the Enemy”. Musically it sounds a bit more metal-inspired than the other songs on the album.

12. “Insecurity Alert”: Guess what? There are even more military metaphors! This time, it’s not really that much of a metaphor, but about actual war and it’s possibly the most political song they ever did. It followed the terrorist attacks on 9/11 2001 and is about the war in Afghanistan and the propaganda and fear that the U.S government spread in the time following the terrorist attack. In a scary way, it also predicts the execution of Saddam Hussein (“televise the execution”). It also has the great line “You can’t spell believe without “lie’”, that is probably the most memorable lyric on the album. It’s strange to me that NUFAN made such a direct and literal song, but I still think it’s possible that the situation is used as a metaphor for a relationship or a friendship which would give an ambiguity to it (There’s no redemption in this war/So please don’t forget what this is for”). The reverbed drums in the second verse are a pretty cool thing that makes that verse stand out.

13. “Nailed Shut”: The album ends with one of the strongest melodies on there. I also like the cool effects that are on the vocals and on the drums in this song. The clean guitar intro with the skillful bass played along with it is pretty rad. The song is about regret and realizing that you made mistakes in the past, but the song seems really vindictive and calling out the hypocrisy of the people that want you dead. It also gives an echo of “Dumb Reminders” in the back-up vocals that go “Please let me know”. All in all, it’s a great song to finish the album with.

Check out the album here: https://nouseforaname.bandcamp.com/album/hard-rock-bottom

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Well, that was 2002; next time we’re gonna move back to 1977 and hope we’ll go to heaven. Because I’m gonna talk about the first Clash album, but will it be the American or the original U.K version, or could it be both? Stay out of tune, punks!

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MEGA are an Italian punk rock band formed in Monza in 2011 and, apparently, Narcissistic Punk Rock Disorder is their fourth full-length release! I must admit that I had never heard of MEGA previously; it seems like I come across a new Italian pop-punk band every week. From the Italian punk bands that I’ve heard, MEGA stand out, for sure. There is much less of an overt Ramonescore sound to MEGA; although the Ramones have undoubtedly influenced the band, MEGA’s sound comes from a broader sonic church, taking elements of ‘90s pop-punk, Fat Wreck melodic punk and classic power-pop. The LP whizzes by, with most of the tracks clocking in at 2 minutes or less.  The whole thing has a ‘90s feel- crunchy guitars, earworm hooks- and I’m reminded of bands like The Methadones, Riverdales or Teen Idols a lot. MEGA uses that same kind of echoe-y production values that the Methadones often do. At the same time, the melodic punk sound has the speed and energy of Bracket or Millencolin.

Upon first listen, Narcissistic Punk Rock Disorder seems a little same-y and doesn’t immediately leap out to you, but there is a lot more going on here than is immediately clear. Alongside the speedy guitars, catchy hooks and crunchy guitars, there is a darker undercurrent to the record; a kind of overall ‘spooky’ feeling without ever going into full-on horror-punk. Nevertheless, I am reminded at times of bands like The Creeps or The Lillingtons on the verses of tracks like “Electric Dreams” or “The Cat O’ Nine Tails”. The former particular recalls the last Lillingtons album somewhat. It helps to differentiate the band and fits contrastingly with the bouncy melodies and ultra-poppy choruses. There is not really a bad song on Narcissistic Punk Rock Disorder, but special mentions must go to “Losers Will Never Win”, a long-lost ‘90s pop-punk track, inspired by Teen Idols, and with great back-up harmonies and a cute punk solo, and closer “Lazers and Ventolin”, a track that is more mid-tempo and slightly longer than the others; the melodies are just delightful and the tune is a toe-tapper if I ever heard one. MEGA’s fourth record is not revolutionary, of course- and which record is in 2019?- but does nevertheless feel exciting while it is burrowing its way into your head, taking as it does inspiration from a refreshing variety of sources.

Check it out here: https://momsbasementrecords.bandcamp.com/album/mega-narcissitic-punk-rock-disorder

DB

Oldies and pop punk have always gone hand in hand, at least since the Ramones. With Donatella Guida on vocals and guitar, Francesco Dell’Antico on drums and Leonardo Serrini on bass The Beatersband from Rosignano Solvay, Italy play oldies songs (from the 50s and 60s) pop-punk style, describing themselves as ‘vintage punk rock ‘n’ roll’. The album VOL UNO includes covers of some of what I consider the best pop songs ever written and that’s a huge responsibility to take on, and I think the Beatersband does it well! I think the Ritchie Valens covers are the best ones, the opener “Come on Let’s Go” is quite similar to the original, but still feels new and is just an extremely well-done cover. The Phil Spector songs “Then He Kissed Me” (the Crystals) and “Baby I Love You” (the Ronettes) are both highlights of the album.

I think the overall style reminds me a bit of Beatnik Termites, one of the bands that have combined pop punk with oldies the best. Most of the musical aspects are wonderful and I like what I hear! The faster punk in the bridge of Paul Anka’s “Diana” is really great. Many of these songs have also been done by other bands, about half of them by the Ramones, and almost the entire other half has been bands covering Ramones album (Boris the Sprinkler did “Baby I Love You”, The Queers did “Do You Wanna Dance?” and “Surfin’ Bird”.) MxPx did a pretty good cover of “Donna”, so The Beatersband are filling some big shoes and I think they do it well. I suppose if you want to hear entirely new songs don’t come here, but if you enjoy these old tunes you should check out these covers!

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

RH

Discovering a band that named itself after a Banner Pilot song sure made me feel old. I came across Modern Shakes at the recent Dopamines show at the New Cross Inn in London and was pretty impressed. Modern Shakes are a London-based melodic punk band whose first proper release, the ‘Murmurs’ EP, certainly demonstrates a lot of those typical Banner Pilot traits: mid-tempo melodic punk with bittersweet guitar melodies, those melancholic yet uplifting choruses, aching vocals and romantic lyrics. The song titles even evoke Banner Pilot, “Red Lines”, “Ivana” or “Sundials”. On “Redlines”, I am pretty sure there is an intentional reference to Banner Pilot too, with the line: “we’re miles from where we wanna be” (“Letterbox”, FYI).

Despite the clear influence though, Modern Shakes do plenty with this Midwest-inspired form of pop-punk. There is much to enjoy here amid the earworm hooks and gang vocals. The guitar leads on “Freefall” and “Sundials” are beautiful, evoking that fine line between hope and regret. The mid-tempo melodies, introspective lyrics and the well-produced yet gritty punk feel brings to mind fellow London punks Burnt Tapes and Triple Sundae. If they haven’t played on a bill together yet, you imagine that they will do in the near future. By far my favourite track on the EP is “Ivana”, a bouncy Fest punk sing-a-long if I ever heard one; it recalls the anthemic qualities of bands like Elway or the Lawrence Arms songs written by Chris, with more than a hint of mid-career Alkaline Trio, too. The chorus is pretty memorable: “Don’t you miss the crowded bars and hangovers? Are you tired of basement shows and all-dayers?” and I love that the track ends somewhat suddenly with a pained wail of “I got a lot of things to saaaaay”. Meanwhile, “Redlines” is the most Midwestern-y, with the verses reminding me a touch of The Manix and the singalong part at the end of the song suggesting The Copyrights: “Can we make mistakes along the way?”

On first listen, Modern Shakes sound a little generic and a little too Banner Pilot influenced, but, while uneven, the ‘Murmurs’ EP is promising and has a lot of positive qualities. If nothing else, “Ivana” is going down as one of my favourite punk tracks so far from 2019.

Check the EP out here: https://modernshakesband.bandcamp.com/releases

DB

The Hippaes are a bunch of fun, as the title of their first LP would suggest. I mean that many exclamation marks can only plenty of dancing, surely. But there is substance and solid-as-fuck songwriting to complement the toe-tapping. Hippaes are made up of some DIY punk stalwarts with Roo Pescod from Bangers, Kelly Kemp from Dear Everyone and No Comply and Ben Pescod from Attack Wipers. This feels like a proper band effort, and Roo and Kelly’s trading vocals work together a treat. Roo’s distinctive rasp fits perfectly alongside Kelly’s high-pitched, meandering vocals that are not dissimilar from Lande Hekt’s (aka Muncie Girls lead singer). While pretty into Bangers’ previous stuff, I am glad that this is not just Bangers mk. 2 (despite some of the album apparently being originally purposed for a Bangers EP). Hippaes are more mid-tempo, poppy and less shout-y than Bangers ever were. Following on from 2016’s EP ‘I Just Want to Float in the Void’, Hip! Hip!! Hippaes!!! fits into that whole ‘indie-pop-punk’ sound that bands like Martha, Doe or Muncie Girls have been so prolific with; melodic punk meets indie-rock and power-pop essentially. It’s all distorted guitars and grunginess alongside the catchiness and vocal melodies.

There is a definite ‘90s indie-rock inspiration on some of these tracks but without ever crossing that line into ‘retro’. “You Lay Down” has a Superchunk feel to it, with its wonderful vocal melodies and semi-noodle-y guitar leads, as well as also coming across like a weird cross between Fest-punk and The Eagles. Roo’s vocals, with Kelly’s back-ups, work well here as the song fades out. “Space” recalls the stop-start dynamics and grooves of Sugar or Pavement, albeit a more playful version of these that sings about drinking wine and not being mistaken for a prude. In terms of playfulness, “The Back Seat” comes in first with its super silly bass riff and lyrics about being useless in the backseat of a car (“in the backseat/keep your mouth shut”). I like to think that this is a response to the ultra-seriousness of “The Backseat” by The Gaslight Anthem. Highlights, though: well, in terms of trading vocals, “I Once Felt Alive” feels like the peak and ending the track with an “oh, oh, oh!” is a missed opportunity for an album closer; “The Ghost” gets those bittersweet hooks spot on amid the grunge-y, bass-heavy distortion; “Heartbeats and Sand” sounds like Muncie Girls or Doe at their best, with its power pop melodies and melancholic, reflective lyrics, “you have all the things I’d dreamed I’d have when I was young”; “Set The Agenda” is the most pop-punk track on the LP and I’m sure is one of those that was initially written for the Bangers EP.

The Hippaes is the sound of a band full of ideas, taking influences from the contemporary punk scene and the mid-‘90s indie rock scene but always having something new to add into the equation. This! Is!! Ace!!!

Check it out: https://thehippaes.bandcamp.com/album/hip-hip-hippaes

DB

Lesser Known Character, a four-piece from Bristol, play what can be best described as melodic skate-punk, a well-worn genre that grew up in the 1990s. As a DIY band, though, rather than one with the backing of a big “punk” label with big recording budgets, Lesser Known Character have a sound that’s more raw, and therefore, more honest. There’s no sense that they’re playing this music because they think it will sell; they’re playing it because they love it. There’s harmonized backing vocals, tons of melodic punk hooks, and more whoa-ohs than you can shake a stick at. But lest you think Lesser Known Character is a one-trick band, some of the songs have a metallic edge, particularly “A More Pallid Palate,” the fifth track of the six-song EP. And the closer, “Fake News” has less melody and more metallic thrash. The middle track, “Be A Man,” is a little different from the others, too, sounding to my ears more like the melodic post-pop-punk that bands like The Brigade (formerly Youth Brigade) were doing in the mid-eighties post-hardcore period. Nineties skate-punk isn’t one of my favored genres, but by mixing things up and playing from their hearts, I think Lesser Known Character are on to something here.

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

PS

The greater Toronto area, including Hamilton, has produced many good bands in recent years. The Flatliners and The Dirty Nil immediately spring to mind. Good Grief is new to me, but that makes sense since they only formed in the waning months of 2018 and this is their recording debut. The music on this four-song EP is chaotic and manic, loud and hard. The vocals sound vaguely inebriated, with a faux English accent, but the crunchy instrumentals are tight. The deep bass growls and the guitars snarl with metallic licks. Gang vocal shouts are mob-like. The opening track, “Good Grief (The Song),” is a perfect introduction, with a great old mid-tempo punk sound. The call and response between lead and backing vocals in places is cool, and there’s a feeling of a chant of encouragement in places. The chord progression is angular and unsettling. “Pave The Way” opens with a very punk-like “call to action,” then the instrumentals jump in with that same angry angular attack, the noise almost overwhelming the vocals. “Off License” almost has a rawer NOMEANSNO feel to it, harder and punker, with less funk. The guitars bouncing around in the speakers are cool. And the closer, “Blood In Britain,” is perhaps the most manic of all, with a frenetic feel. Yes, Hamilton has produced soon good bands in recent years. Add Good Grief to those ranks.

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

PS

Review: Nutshell- Demo

Posted: August 11, 2019 in Reviews

Belgian pop punk from suburban Brussels. The two songs on this demo are pretty simple, as modern pop punk goes, sounding fairly repetitive. “Jams” sounds more old school, punkier, and less finished; well, it is a demo after all. It reminds me of 80s punk that had a poppier feel than contemporaries. The chord progression is very simple, and lyrics are mostly shouted, rather than sung. “Other Awareness,” on the other hand, feels more like “Fest” pop punk. I refer here to the sound of bands that regularly play that punk festival that happens every Halloween in Florida. I like this song better than the first, and it feels more finished, with a more mature sound, filled with melancholy and regret. It’s still simple, but more complex than “Jams.” With a little work and experience, Nutshell shows promise.

PS

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

For those eagerly waiting on any new material from former members of the underground NYC pop-punk band The Steinways, you’re in luck: one half of that band, Azeem Sajid and Chris Grivet have come together to form Weird Skin (along with Patrick Mangan of The Safes and recently recruited guitarist Venu Konda), a wonderful mid-point between basement pop-punk and garage-punk. Fresh from his one-man band project with Skinny Genes, Azeem excels here as a lead-singer in a pop-punk band. For those who wanted an album full of Azeem’s songs off the Steinways or Houseboat records, like “My Guts Have Shit For Brains” or “Oh My Fucking Gosh”, you’re in the right place. Well, kinda. I mean, as I said, there is a definite garage-punk vibe on this Weird Skin LP, coming off like a Dirtnap band with a ton more self-deprecation. This is still fundamentally pop-punk, of course, but it’s fuzzier and faster-paced than Houseboat or Steinways tended to be. It’s like if Marked Men had babies with The Mr. T Experience; it’s like if Mean Jeans weren’t so dull. Indeed, Jeff Burke from Marked Men/Radioactivity did some ace back-up vocals on a couple of tracks on this LP, as well as recording and mixing the whole thing.

The LP is full of 2 minutes-ish blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em pop-punk hits, full of fast-paced riffs and mini-solos. As soon as the opener “Weirder Days” bursts through my eardrums, with its unrelenting hooks, Dirtnap fuzz and self-deprecation, I know this is going to be my bag. There are backing vocals on this album from Kate Eldridge (Big Eyes), which really help to bring out those big-ass melodies. “Lousy Heart” recalls the buzzpop and toe-tapping melodies of Sonic Avenues, while “Extra Noise” comes off like White Wires at their best. Meanwhile, “Out of My Orbit” suggests Lipstick Homicide or The Murderburgers, especially the earworm line and melody of “I wonder if you are ever gonna call”, while “Big Sigh” is all speedy riffs and frustration. There is more going on here than immediately meets the ears. I love the opening ultra-melodic lead guitars on “Not On Your Mind”, the Jeff Burke back-up vocals on “Just Go” and the total bummer ending to the LP (“we were wrong/we’re not getting better”), complete with a sweet, mid-tempo guitar solo that recalls more than a little of “Anthem for a New Tomorrow”. By far my favourite thing on this LP though is “2 Weird 4 Luv” which is a melodic punk sing-a-long and a half. I don’t like I can listen to that song and not tap my toes. Kate Eldridge’s back-up vocals really elevate the song to the next level, too (as well as her wonderful guitar solo). It is so much more than the Mean Jeans song that the title may suggest.

It is sugary. It is lovesick. It is hook-filled. You know you want to.

Check it out here: https://weirdskin.bandcamp.com/album/weird-skin-2

DB