Monday, October 24, 2016

Currently Listening

1.  "I Wanna Die in Los Angeles" by Dead To Me (from I Wanna Die in Los Angeles)
2.  "Goin' Down" by Dinosaur Jr. (from Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not)
3.  "Here It Comes Again" by Gumball (from Super Tasty)
4.  "Smash It Up Parts 1 & 2" by The Damned (from Machine Gun Etiquette)
5.  "What's Good is Good" by Ben Lee (from Freedom, Love and the Recuperation of the Human Mind)
6.  "Gods" by John Moreland & The Dust Bowl Souls (from Everything the Hard Way)
7.  "Wasted Daze Of Youth" by Beach Slang (from A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings)
8.  "I'm in Love" by Teenage Fanclub (from Here)
9.  "Losing Time" by Bob Mould (from Patch The Sky)
10.  "Space" by Mary Lynn (from My Animal)
11.  "The Perfect Match" by Jon Snodgrass (from The Carpet Thief)
12.  "Brand New Flag" by Two Cow Garage (from Brand New Flag)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Album Review: 'Hypercaffium Spazzinate [Deluxe Edition]' by Descendents

Title:  Hypercaffium Spazzinate [Deluxe Edition] (Kings Road Merch, Epitaph Records, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk, Wikipedia)
Artist:  Descendents (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Kings Road MerchAllMusic, Wikipedia)

The Descendents have been a band in various forms for nearly 40 years.  They have gone from misfit teenager kids in southern California playing songs about girls and food to middle-aged adults living in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Delaware playing songs about girls and food.  At least that's the story on the surface.  Yes the band members are all in their 50s and yes Hypercaffium Spazzinate is an album of buzz-saw pop songs played through the lens of early '80s punk including the obligatory silly song about food, but if that is all you are getting from this record, then you are truly missing the point.  So here's the part where I could get real pretentious and talk about how true, die-hard fans appreciate the ALL catalog as much (if not more) than the Descendents catalog (or that they see them as two parts of one whole), or I could pontificate about the fact that Stephen Egerton, Karl Alvarez, Milo Aukerman, and Bill Stevenson are incredible and complex musicians that are grossly underappreciated for their nuanced and clever take of pop music, or I could question how someone could be a fan of this band without owning copies of New Girl, Old Story and The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton, or I could state that it is an objective fact that Chad Price is the best vocalist the band has ever seen and anyone who disagrees is just plain wrong, but what would be the point of that?  When I first started writing this review I really wanted to go all high and mighty with my superior love of the Descendents.  Looking at the coverage of the record, I was irked that the same things were talked about and that the only song from the record to be added to the rotation of a local alternative radio station was "No Fat Burger" (a fun but silly song that is quite possibly the worst song on the record but fits into what casual fans would think of as a typical Descendents song).  Why weren't people talking about songs like "Without Love" or "Beyond the Music"?  Or what about those brilliant bonus tracks from the Spazzhazard EP?  Those extra songs add an entire extra layer to this already excellent record.  And make no mistake about it, Hypercaffium Spazzinate is an excellent record.  And how could it not be?  As previously mentioned, this band is made up of four of the greatest songwriters alive today; songwriters that deserve to be known for more than short, silly, fast songs about coffee, food, and girls.  And those that dare to look beneath that outer layer, those that pull back the shell of preconceived notions about this band and really listen to this album will find a record of incredible pop hooks with deep emotional connections that tackle serious topics like growing up (and older), parenthood, adulthood, friendship, and family, while still holding on to the energy and attitude of bring a teenage misfit.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

EP Review: 'Only When I'm Breathing' by Textbook

Title:  Only When I'm Breathing (BandCamp, Amazon, iTunes)
Artist:  Textbook (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTubeBandCamp)

Chicago, IL's Textbook return with another excellent outing, the four song EP Only When I'm Breathing.  Following up this year's On The B-Side (Best of 2000-2015) collection and 2014's outstanding All Messed Up full-length, Textbook has once again shown why they are the masters on pop indie punk college rock.  From start to finish Only When I'm Breathing rips with catchy hooks, great melodies, and that timeless feel that makes you question whether this record came out in 1986, 1996, or 2016.  This EP is a must for fans of Naked Raygun, Sugar, and/or Noise By Numbers and a good place to start for those new to the band (as is On The B-Side).  

Friday, October 14, 2016

Album Review: 'Brand New Flag' by Two Cow Garage

Title:  Brand New Flag (Last Chance Records)
Artists:  Two Cow Garage (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BandCamp, Big Cartel, Wikipedia)

Two Cow Garage's seventh album Brand New Flag is a tour de force and a testament to the power and possibility of rock 'n' roll.  The 12 song record is personal and poignant, angry yet hopeful, existential and insightful, driven and thoughtful, purposeful and powerful.  This album grabs you by the heart and smashes your soul with songs that should be seen as psalms that will lead you to salvation.  People often talk about how rock 'n' roll can save souls, tell stories about how specific records or songs saved their lives; make no mistake, Brand New Flag is one of those records.  This is a battle-cry for the disenfranchised, disaffected, and those that feel like they have no voice.  Two Cow Garage have always written powerful songs filled with social commentary but this time around there is a newfound urgency to the music, lyrics, and performance.  The record opens and closes with sparse and haunting ballads ("Movies" and "Stars") and in-between is filled with rockers ("Terror Ride"), rousing anthems (the title track, "History Now!," and "Let the Boys Be Girls"), a tango ("Shakespeare & Walk Disney"), and a spoken-word track ("I Promise") resulting in an album that is far more than just a collection of great songs.  For those that pray on the alters of greats like Springsteen and Westerberg, find solace in modern prophets like John Moreland and Beach Slang, appreciate troubadours like Frank Turner and Dave Hause, or rock out to the likes of Lucero, Dramarama, and Nothington, then Two Cow Garage is the band for your and Brand New Flag is your scripture.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

10 Questions with Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves

Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves released their excellent sophomore full-length album The Cross and The Switchblade last month on Wiretap Records (US) and Gunner Records (UK).  The band hails from Winston-Salem, NC and plays the perfect blend "of melodic and post hardcore, classic rock, alt country, and straight up punk with undeniable heart, driving energy, honesty, and purposefully poignant lyrics."  The Cross and The Switchblade is easily one of the best records of 2016 and Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves is one of the best bands out there today.

This interview was conducted via email with singer/guitarist Brian Woodall September 12-28, 2016.

For more information on Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves check out their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTubeBandCamp pages. 

Dave:  How did the band get together?

Brian Woodall:  It started with just some song ideas I (Brian) had. Me and Kyle (my brother, wx4 drummer) had tried getting something together before this and we could never find a singer, so my frustration sparked 3 or 4 songs. The 2 of us got together and finished 3 of the songs, trashed the other and decided to try to put a band together. We found Derek(the original bassist) via my wife who is a hair stylist and had been doing his hair for a while. His band was breaking up so we asked him if he would be interested in coming to try out and he said sure. So we had a three piece, but I really wanted 2 guitars so we asked Sean a friend in another Winston Salem band The Essex if he'd be into playing with us and he said yes. I wrote a few more songs, we practiced a good bit and had our first show Halloween 2009 in my basement. Sean moved away, Josh joined, Josh left and we had Sean(different one) and Max play with us until we met Ryan through a mutual friend and he joined the band. Derek left and Mike, Sean(the second one), Bodie, and Jonny filled in on bass until our old friend Jake from On My Honor messaged us about wanting to know if we'd found a full time bassist yet, so he hopped on board. And now it's, Me, Kyle, Ryan, and Jake.

Dave:  What’s the story behind the name Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves?

Brian:  It started as a song title for a band before WX4 about televangelists, politicians, and anyone who preys on people's insecurities and fears to make a dollar. When it came time to find a name we made a list of our favorite band's song titles, phrases we liked, and other random things, plus WX4. After doing our due diligence searching for existing name usage and crossing off anything taken, we were left with one name. Wolves&wolves&wolves&wolves. So we decided to just go with it. It's a terrible name, I've known it since day one, but it's very hard to find a good name not already being used.

Dave:  For those who have never heard the band, how do you describe your music?

Brian:  Loud angry emotional rock and roll with a lot of punk influence. I have a hard time defining our style with genre labels because they carry preconceived notions about what you're supposed to sound like.

Dave:  You recently released your sophomore full-length The Cross and The Switchblade. What's the story behind the record? How did you get hooked up with Wiretap Records?

Brian:  When we got home from our European tour last year the plan was to start working on a new album. Subtle Serpents had just released in 2015 there but we put it out ourselves in 2013, so we needed something new. I started working up ideas in Europe and had some pieces from songs that didn't make it on either of our 7"s and worked from there. I ended up with 6 brand new songs plus 4 rerecorded versions and a "hidden" acoustic track.

We worked with Wiretap on the Scars EP that came out in 2015, but first met Rob because of Scorched Earth. When we pressed that we also partnered with a tape only label to do a short run of tapes with that release and we think that's how Rob heard of us, we're not quite sure. He contacted us about our future plans and we did Scars together.

Dave:  Do you have plans to tour in support of the new record? What are some of your favorite places to play?

Brian:  At the moment we are in Europe for 30 days for the release over here, and when we get home we have some shows and a couple runs planned for the U.S. release.

Favorite places to play - The Milestone in Charlotte, NC, The Garage in Winston Salem, NC, The Hook Up in Virginia Beach, really anywhere that lets us in the door. Last year we played Barcelona and had a blast so we would like to get back there, and we just finished 4 days in the UK with The Run Up and Mixtape Saints and are already itching to get back. Germany always treats us well, so we love playing there too.

Dave:  Do you have any specific type of songwriting process?

Brian:  It's all starts with me, if I have something I really like I'll get together with Kyle to finalize the structure and flow, if I like how it sounds at that point we'll demo it, if it sounds good after that I'll pass it on to the other guys to work out their parts. There's no telling what comes first, lyrics, melody, chord progression, so I try not to force anything and let it come naturally.

Dave:  What are your thoughts on the music scene in North Carolina?

Brian:  It's more a collection of multiple scenes than one united scene. We've been fortunate to play shows with country bands, rap groups, punk bands, rock bands, and any different genre you could think of and get a positive response from most of them. The few that have been less than friendly or full of themselves never lasted long enough to do much anyways. There's a lot of breakups and implosions, the ones that last are the ones that care about music, and not some misguided grasp at fame.

Dave:  This is a High Fidelity inspired question. What are your top five favorite bands, albums, movies, television programs, books/authors?

Brian:  Bands:  The Clash, The Specials, Rancid, Bouncing Souls, Spice Girls
Albums:  The Clash - London Calling, The Get Up Kids - Something to Write Home About, Rancid - And Out Come The Wolves, Bouncing Souls - Hopeless Romantic, Hot Water Music - A Flight and A Crash
Movies:  The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, That Thing You Do, Apollo 13, The Dark Knight, A Few Good Men
TV:  The West Wing (and anything Aaron Sorkin), Bob's Burgers, The Office(US & UK), Monty Python's Flying Circus, Red Dwarf
Books/Authors - Here's a list of what I've read recently or am currently reading
Hepatitis Bathtub...-NoFX, Inferno-Dante, Thus Spoke Zarathustra-Friedrick Nietzsche, Common Sense & The Age of Reason - Thomas Paine, Anarchy Evolution...-Greg Graffin

Dave:  What’s next for the band?

Brian:  More shows and festivals, another EP next year, maybe a little rest? Just trying to keep the train moving. We've got lots of plans so we just have to figure out order of importance and what we have the time to do.

Dave:  Any final thoughts?

Brian:  Thank you for the positive coverage and reviews, it's much appreciated. And thanks to anyone who has taken the time to check us out. If you see us at a show don't be afraid to come and say hi or talk to us about anything, we may seem like big angry scary guys but we're just passionate about our music. We had a girl who was scared of Ryan last year in Germany because of his stage presence, and her boyfriend had to convince her to walk over and see that he wasn't evil. I wouldn't have but that's me. We love nothing more that sitting around and shooting the shit with people, when you spend all day in a van driving human contact keeps you sane.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Concert Review: Don't Make Ghosts, Black Canyon, Shut Up Matt Jewett at 51st Street Speakeasy

Artists:  Don't Make Ghosts (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BandCamp, SquareUp), Black Canyon (Facebook, BandCamp), Shut Up Matt Jewett (FacebookTwitter, InstagramBandCamp)
Venue:  51st Street Speakeasy (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
Date:  10/1/2016

Last night was the CD release show for Oklahoma City's Don't Make Ghosts and their stellar EP Death Ride at 51st Street Speakeasy with Black Canyon, and Shut Up Matt Jewett, along with an art show of local artists.  This was my first trip to the Speakeasy and I must say that I was very impressed.  The venue was easy to find (which is a big deal for someone that gets lost as easily as I do), had great parking (also an important, but often not thought about, thing in a venue), was clean, had a tremendously cool vibe, and had separate smoking and non-smoking sections (luckily the bands performed in the non-smoking section).  Since it was my first time there, I didn't do any exploring because I had no clue where anything was and was afraid I'd get lost so I sadly missed out on the art show portion of the event.  Overall I loved the place and can't wait to see another concert there in the future.

The show opened up with the folk punk duo Shut Up Matt Jewett.  These guys were fun, super high energy, and knew how to work the crowd.  Singer/guitarist Matt Jewett is a natural rock 'n' roll frontman, dripping with charisma and whit.  The band tore through a blistering set of catchy and biting songs before leaving the stage.  This was a perfect start to the evening.  Shut Up Matt Jewett got on stage, got people excited, and got the hell out of there leaving people wanting more.  Next up was alt country act Black Canyon.  The four-piece knocked out a quick set of whisky soaked tunes that were equal parts classic country, classic punk, and classic rock.  The band was tight, the songs made you tap your feet and sing along (for those who were familiar), and they also got on stage, did their thing, and got out before too long.  To me this is a very important aspect of a successful opening band set; it should be short, to the point, and leave the audience wanting more.  In other words, get the crowd pumped and get the crap out of there and both Shut Up Matt Jewett and Black Canyon succeeded in this endeavor.

Don't Make Ghosts took the stage, opening with "Pine Box" from their debut Death Ride.  This was a great way to start the show with its opening that slowly draws you in before kicking in to high gear.  And from there things never let up as the band ripped through a rousing set that included all tracks from the EP, some unreleased numbers, and a killer cover of The Replacements' "Bastards of Young" with bassist Dirk Matthews taking on lead vocal duties.  The band's performance was something to behold with guitarist/vocalist Nick Waggoner's understated every-man delivery, guitarist Jerod Vance's clean licks and on-point solos, drummer Jesse Smith's awe-inspiring work with the skins, and Matthews' undeniable energy and enthusiasm.  Watching Don't Make Ghosts, you'd think you were seeing a band that has been together for many, many years, not just one.  This band is so good that it is scary.  They are writing and performing at such a high level that there is absolutely no reason why they shouldn't be one of the biggest bands in the indie/punk world.  No scratch that, there is no reason why Don't Make Ghosts shouldn't be one of the biggest bands in all of rock 'n' roll.  Period.  So, if you haven't gotten around to checking out Death Ride or made it out to a Don't Make Ghosts show, please I implore you, do yourself a favor and buy this record and go to a show.  You can thank me later.  Oh and one last thing, if this band being absolutely amazing wasn't enough motivation for you, they are also excellent people, so show them some love, okay?