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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