Thursday, March 22, 2012

Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired - Joyce Manor (Review)

The first time everyone really got a chance to know the band, Joyce Manor, was last year when they released their debut self titled album. That album was praised by everyone. Aside from Reinventing Axl  Rose by Against Me!, this was one of the best debut full lengths in a VERY long time. It was at the top of all kinds of lists, it was given close to perfect reviews on everything, and it was just, overall, embraced by the punk community. It was fresh. It was a ten track album of straight forward punk rock with only a few songs breaking the two minute mark. With a debut like that, It is hard to keep things together and reach the expectations of the listeners. Considering how good that album was, I don't find it possible to reach those expectations. This one is no exception. It is not bad, it is just not what I had in mind.

As you start "These Kind Of Ice Skates", it sounds similar to the sound they have become known for since their previous album. That is all soon going to change. The second half of this song is where you realize how much they have experimented on this album. And I don't mean that in a bad way. It is still good stuff, it is just not what anyone expected (me at least).  The second half of this song is just really odd (in a good way, I guess).

"Comfortable Clothes" is one of the best tracks on the album. It sounds like their signature sound, in your face straight forward punk rock. This is one of the tracks which they had previously played live many times, which led us to believe that the whole album would be the same. That was not the case. There is only a few songs on here that have that kind of sound. Those ones being the best of the album.

After that comes "See How Tame I Can Be". This is another really different one. It is one that has an 80's type sound. It sounds like something I can imagine The Strokes releasing. "Joyce Manor releasing Strokes-esqu music, what?" Yea I know, that was my reaction. You really can't just imagine this. You have to hear it for yourself. For what it is, they pull it off pretty well, I must admit.

Next is "Drainage". It is a static filled lo fi acoustic song. It is pretty slow for a Joyce Manor track. It is also pretty dark and emotional. Especially when the piano comes in. Very weird track, but still okay.

"Video Killed The Radio Star" is a cover of the Buggles song of the same name. It sounds really weird, Joyce Manor covering an 80s new wave song, but it really sounds nothing like the original. They really made it their own. It has so much energy. It is actually a very good version of the song. If this was not a cover, it would probably be the overall highlight of the album.

"If I Needed You There" is another one of those classic Joyce-sounding songs. It is these songs that hold this album up and help it from completely tumbling over. This song is the fastest song on the album. It is one of those songs that make you feel like breaking something. Besides some minor production changes, I could easily imagine this being on the Self Titled LP.

Then comes "Bride Of Usher" which is another weird one coming from Joyce Manor. It sounds happier than their usual stuff. It sounds "beachy" for the lack of a better word. I guess what I am trying to say is that I could picture this being on Fake Problems' latest album Real Ghosts Caught On Tape. I am not so sure how I feel about this one. It is cool and all, but it is just not what I want to listen to when I hear a Joyce Manor record.

"Violent Inside" is another pretty good track. It is a tad too "pop-punky" for my liking, but it still is very good. It took me a few listens to appreciate it, but I eventually did. What this song is about is very relatable for me, also. It is about growing up as a punk kid and little things pissing you off that don't piss of normal people. That is something I deal with a lot. So that is another reason I really like this song,

The last song, "I'm Always Tired", is another acoustic track, except this sounds more like traditional Joyce Manor than "Drainage". It is a high tempo pop punk song with just an acoustic guitar. If this had electric guitars, drums, bass, and about 30 more seconds, this song would not be "odd" at all.

Maybe not what we expected, but it is still a pretty good album. I am heavily enjoying this album regardless of how it holds up against their previous album. Some of the weird songs throw you off a course a bit while listening, but you get over it quick. The first time listening, you will probably be confused (I sure was), but you get used to it after a few listens. One thing I loved about the first album was the length of the songs and the length of the album overall. It was all very short and very easy to listen to. This album takes that to the extreme, with only nine songs, making it only a thirteen minute album. I am all for short albums, but I am not so sure about this. It may be a little too short. Either way, it is still a fun album and I still look forward to what they do in the future.

Highlights : Comfortable Clothes, If I Needed You There, Violent Inside

Music : 8 (different, but still very good)
Lyrics : 7 (I actually like them a lot)
Artwork : 6 (Nothing special)

Overall : 7.5

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Women And Work - Lucero (Review)

I always used to believe that this band could do absolutely no wrong.  I was happy with every album released by this band. While some were disappointed and busy complaining over the brass section in 1372 Overton Park, I was enjoying it. I just love the chemistry of this band. It is all so new and unique. It is really rare to find a band like that. That raw edgy country, punk and rock n' roll made it hard for me not to like this band. Well...all those thoughts were stacked on a shelf with the release of this record.

"Downtown (Into)" gives you the first taste of disappointment from Lucero (or at least my first taste). Although it is only an intro, and it is only a minute long, it gives you a glimpse on what the rest of the album has in store for you. The first time you realize that Ben's voice is completely polished and loses the whole raw sloppy thing you began loving Lucero for...That is a painful feeling."

After that is "On My Way Downtown". It sounds similar to the first song. Except this is where you officially except that THIS is what the band has turned into, a good band that has resorted to the sound of mainstream country artists such as Toby Keith. It is a shame. It really is.

"Women & Work" adds more of a "boogie woogie" element to the album, but still has the core style of the first two songs. The piano seems a tad more present. And the brass section parts really seem to get under my skin. They seem really cheesy and predictable. This song is one of the low points on the album, partially because I really don't think this "boogie woogie" style is necessary. I personally think their sad songs are better and I miss those songs.

Next is "It May Be Too Late". I am not going to lie. This song is actually pretty catchy. I actually like it. The lyrics continue that corny type that this album seems to be full of, but its actually a pretty sad song musically. This one may be one of the bests on it. I get the chorus stuck in my head whenever I listen to it. That should be a sign of something.

And now comes "Juniper". This is the "Sixes and Sevens" of this album ("Sixes and Sevens was the bummer of the last album). It honestly sounds like a failed attempt to make a Lucinda Williams song. It is tremendously   awful. It is garbage. It carries the same Toby Keith and Keith Urban type sound. Which is not something I want to hear on a Lucero album!

"Who You Waiting On?" sounds like a full on pop song. Besides his southern accent, there is not many traces of any country music, and the punk rock element to their music is totally absent in this song. I can't figure out what they are going for in this song. It is really out of place. I don't understand the significance of this song at all.

"I Can't Stand To Leave You" is the next track. Now this song I can get behind. Their older music definitely holds a stronger influence in this song than the rest of the album. Besides Ben's voice (just like the rest of the album), and some production changes, this could of fit on some of their older albums perfectly. The whole song is a giant build. I personally think this should have opened the album. That would have gave a better first impression.

Next comes "When I Was Young". This song is the least memorably on the entire album. Not to say it is the worst, but just so easily forgotten. I actually legitimately forgot about this song after my first listen to the album. It brings nothing new to the album at all. From the start of the song, you expect something more to come out of it, but no. You are left waiting for something that isn't coming. And that really is how I felt for the whole album.

"Sometimes" is enjoyable compared to the low points on the album. It is nothing special, but on such a bland album like this, "ok songs" are required. This is one of those required songs. It is a tad boring and mellow, but that is SO much better than the lame attempts to "rock" on this album.

"Like Lightning" is another "rock" song, which, in my opinion, is just stupid this close to the end of the album, but this song would be bad regardless where it was placed. It is such a generic rock song. It starts with a little ragtime saloon style piano riff, which is actually pretty cool and refreshing. It sounds like something you would  hear in an Old West film. If the song stayed with that kind of style, I would actually like probably like it. The piano still plays throughout the entire song, but it is covered by an unneeded brass section and obnoxious guitar solos. Oh well.

"Go Easy" sounds like the song "Mom" from their previous album, except not as emotional of course. There are some back up soul singers in this song which add a new element to the music. I am not sure I heard these type of singers on a Lucero song before which is cool for a change, I guess. This is another song that makes you a tad disappointed though because you expect more to come out of it. It is not an awful song though. Still, it is not on par with other Lucero music.

Overall, I guess the key word is "disappointed". This is not that terrible of an album. It is just the fact that you expect more from a band with such potential. And it honestly makes me sad that it has reached a point where I am writing a bad review for their albums, but I have to. So many things factor into the disappointment. Number one being Ben's voice being over rehearsed and losing all of the passion it had originally. Others being over production, cheesy lyrics, and abandoning all sense of emotion. They seem to be taking the same path as Social Distortion with Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, except far worse than that album. The album artwork is also terrible. That being my first impression, I still didn't think the music would be this bad. I still have hope for the future of the band, but for now, I guess I will have to deal with what I have.

Highlights : It May Be Too Late, I Can't Stand To Leave You, Sometimes

Music : 6.5 (Not even close to any other Lucero album)
Lyrics : 6 (Very cheesy and corny)
Artwork : 3 (Absolutely dreadful and a very bad first impression)

Overall : 5.5

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On The Impossible Past - The Menzingers (Review)

The Menzingers have been creating quite the name for themselves recently. They are known for writing truthful and honest "in your face" punk rock tunes. They have been starting to get noticed with their previous effort, Chamberlain Waits, which topped all kinds of lists and such. This will be The Menzingers first release on "mega-indie" label, Epitaph Records. Anyone expecting this to drastically change the bands sound will soon be proved very wrong. They are the same great punk band no matter who they are working with. Hopefully this transition only means it will just be exposed to more people and help people understand the power of the band. Although you see a wider range of influences on this record, they still have that raw pop-punk feel that their fans have grown to love.

On The Impossible Past begins with "Good Things". It is a quick song about how good things usually don't last. You can hear the emotion in his voice very well throughout this song. The verse's muddy guitar and the massive sounding chorus definitely ensure that the listener will continue to listen. It certainly got me hooked and forced me to listen to the rest of the album.

"Burn After Writing" has some really really nice harmonies through the verses. The song almost falls into the Blink-182 territory with it's pop-punk melodies and guitar parts (except not with pretentiousness of Tom Delonge). The constant harmony is definitely the highlight of the song. Also, the chorus WILL be in your head for a while.

The next song is "The Obituaries". This is one of the highlights on the album, although it was very hard to pick highlights on such a constantly great album. The chorus is just so huge. Another chorus stuck in my head for a pretty long time. And the lyrics are also awesome and descriptive. This was one of the songs I had heard before I had heard the whole album, and it is one of the primary reasons I had to go back and listen to this album immediately after the choice was given to me.

Another song I heard a while before giving the whole album a listen is the song titled "Gates". This song is probably the slowest song on this entire record. That is not a bad thing, by the way. This song kicks just as much ass as the rest of the album, just in a different manner. It just sounds more like a 90's alternative song than a modern punk rock song though. This song may take a few listens to actually "get it". But as I was saying, I had heard this well before the whole album, so I had some time to get familiar with this song. Even so, It still feels fresh with every listen.

"Ava House" begins with only drums and vocals with, sort of, a chant vibe. That "chant" vibe continues through the majority of the song, mostly due to the drumming in the song. It is pretty cool. It manages to build pretty high throughout the song, though. The vocals in this song seem to feel very emotional and dark at times, especially in the choruses.

"Sun Hotel" has a very poppy and catchy melody, but the music is, honestly, just as punk as the rest of the album. This song relies heavily on the melody. This song also has some pretty strong lyrics. I thought the line "From the shame, the fear, the guilt that's tough to mention / The kind that always pry your eyelids open" was a quality lyric. Some of the melodies in this song, and especially the outro, have a poppy, almost Beach Boys vibe.

After that comes "Sculptors and Vandals". If this song stayed sounding like what the beginning of the song sounds like, It would probably be rated softer than "Gates". It starts off very slow and soft, but it doesn't stay like that very long. About a minute through the song it picks up to, ironically, probably the fastest portion of the album.

"Mexican Guitars"  is one of the best songs on the whole record lyrically. With lines like "I'm so sick of living in this ditch / with the only memory in the back of my head". It does an amazing job of painting an incredible picture in your head. And the picture is quite beautiful.

The next song, "On The Impossible Past", is the title track, but acts more like an interlude. It is very short and very emotional. They lyrics are very emotional, talking about regrets. It seems to talk about one regret in particular. It seems that it talks about a drunk driving incident he was involved with. It is one of the coolest songs on the album considering how much gets said in a minute in a half.

The previous song leads straight in "Nice Things" The transition between "On The Impossible Past" and this song could quite possibly the best part of the record.. I'm not sure if it was supposed to have a closely related title to the opening song, "Good Things", or not, but either way they don't share much in common that I can see. They are both very good songs though. This song has a certain drive to it that you don't hear very often in punk music. It is one of my personal favorite songs off of the album.

The next song is "Casey". This is another lyrically heavy song....very lyrically heavy. It is most likely the best lyrics on the album. This song creates such a detailed and descriptive illustration in your mind. It talks about a past relationship, which seems like a reoccurring theme on this album. The lyrics for this song are so perfect, it is hard to focus on anything else. 

"I Can't Seem To Tell" seems to have the same sort of kick as "Nice Things". You can almost see different influences such as The Pixies in this song, with the steady bass leading the verses. And the second verse's lyrics have some Pixie-esqu lines in it also. It is really the final drive of the album, with the next song being a slower, more epic type song. 

The final song is "Freedom Bridge". Although these lyrics are too deep for my understanding, it all seems to hit just as hard as the songs where I actually do know what is going on. The last verse seems to be talking about suicide of some sort, most likely containing a deeper meaning than "just suicide". My lack of depth aside, this is still a great song.

I will be honest and admit, this is the first release I have actually listened to by this band. Not because I had something against them, just because I didn't get around to it. But after this release, I promise you, I will order their entire back catalog and buy any future releases. This record was very nice. It is nothing revolutionary or really different, It is just fun. It is a whole album full of catchy pop punk songs that I crave way too often. I haven't heard an album released full of this youthful pop punk sound in way too long. You can only listen to Dookie so many times before a new breed of pop punk is necessary.

Highlights : The Obituaries, Mexican Guitars, Nice Things, Casey

Music : 8 (good simple new pop punk music...what we all needed!)
Lyrics : 8 (nostalgic themes about regrets and past times for the most part)
Artwork : 4 (The worst part of the album is easily the awful cover art)

Overall : 8

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Classics Of Love - Classics Of Love (Review)

All I must say is "how refreshing". I have gone way too long without hearing something new within this style. This album is something you haven't gotten a whiff of since the late 80s/early 90s. As a matter of fact, If I didn't know better, I would think this is an 80's hardcore record. This is Jesse Michaels', the brilliance behind the legendary Operation Ivy, newest project. It also includes various members of the California band, Hard Girls. It has such politically charged lyrics and fast hardcore punk tunes track after track. It is twenty-three minutes of minute and a half long tunes that are more socially aware than most of the music I hear being released today. You can't go wrong with that.

The rapid snare drum starting "What Of Shame" begins an album full of fast, shouty, hardcore punk tunes. And this song is no different. This song starts a thirteen track run of constant energy. This song seems to be about the different forms of corruption in modern life, and Michaels seems to summarize it very well.

"Castle In The Sky" is the first, out of very very few, ska songs on this record. And I must say, this sounds almost identical to some of Operation Ivy's music. This is not a bad thing. It is actually a blast from the past. It dabbed a smile immediately on my face. I forgot how much of a legend Michaels was until I spun this record for the first time.

The song "World Of The Known" returns to the hardcore punk aspect which the song "What A Shame" introduced to you, except this song takes it even further.It is faster, louder, and makes you want to fight even more! The song manages to state the complaints of a modern routine lifestyle perfectly in under two minutes...Well done, Michaels.

The next song, "Gun Show", is definitely one of the high-points on the album. It is a tad less heavy than some of the extremely heavy stuff, but it still has that same vibe that gets you pumped up. It has some very cool lines in it also. The best being "We stood at the very last edge of everything that had ever been said. Took a look at the people's archive. Nodded politely and chose the swan dive" This could actually be one of the best lines on the album because it does a great job showing his frustration.

"Stronghold" has another one of the best lines on the album. It explains "Life is a game where you see who can make the most money. Life is a game where you see who can get the most power.Who fucking cares?". That line pretty much sums up the whole song (it actually sums up the whole album pretty accurately). They're are a few awesome lines like that in this song. This is a very lyric heavy song.

"Moving Pictures" takes on more of old school hard rock style. Not my favorite track on the album, but it is still good. The lyrics hold up against the rest of the album, but it's just the fact that this song, for some reason, doesn't really seem like it fits in with the rest of the tracks. Still a pretty good song though.

"It Will Not Be Moved" successfully hops right back on track with the other hardcore songs.For a song with a duration only slightly over a minute, this song contains a lot of substance. This song carries the same descriptions as the previous hardcore songs on the album, which is a very good thing.

The next song is "Bandstand". It is the second and last ska song on the album. This song doesn't really sound like Operation Ivy as much as "Castle in The Sky" though. It sounds like a fresh new ska song. This expresses Michaels' dissatisfaction with the music industry in modern day. Which is so easily relate-able to me (and probably most people who are reading this). When I say that, you may be thinking "oh, another cliche band complaining about major labels", but it really doesn't come out like that at all. It strikes me as more a sophisticated look at the whole situation. When it's all said and done, "Kick The Bandstand Down!"

After that, comes "Would Be Kings". This is another song that carries over the same themes that run through the entire album. Mostly dealing with issues such as money,  power, and dissatisfaction with modern society. Overall, it is a pretty good song.

"Last Strike"'s main vocals are not sung by Michaels, which is the only song that way on the album. I am not positive, but it seems like each verse is sung by someone else in the band. If this is so, that is pretty cool.

"Light Rail" takes a more melodic approach to the style of this album. It has some nice lyrics packed within it. One that caught my attention immediately is "which came first, the animal or the zoo?". It is no brilliant line or anything, but it definitely makes you think, and that is what makes quality lyrics.

The next song is "Dissolve". It is the heaviest song on the album. I had heard this song prior to the album release, and absolutely loved it. Nothing has changed since then. This probably the best song on the record. I put on this track and I feel the need to instantly break something. Good punk rock songs can do that to you, I guess!

The last song is "We Need A Change". This song is a good way to sum up the album. It talks about continued topics such as corruption, the issues of corporations, and what seems as the longing for revolution. This song pretty much closes up the album by summarizing the issues addressed throughout the previous songs.

This may seem far fetched until you listen to the album, but I strongly believe that this is Jesse Michaels' strongest effort since Operation Ivy's Energy. He has made a lot of music since then, but nothing quite catches the energy (no pun intended) of this album. It, literally, sends you back to the old days of punk's beginning, which I did not have the satisfaction of living through. This album feels so perfectly jointed together with constant politically based two minute hardcore songs. For any fan of hardcore music, this album will be one of the best things to be released in a very long time!

Highlights : Gun Show, Bandstand, Dissolve

Music: 8 (Some of the best pure punk songs I've heard in a while)
Lyrics: 10 (politically charged heartfelt songs)
Artwork: 8 (most done by Michael's himself)

Overall : 8.5

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