All posts by Brian

Album Review: Anti-Flag – American Fall

You know an album is good when you spend 15 minutes trying to compose an opening sentence for a review.

I’ve been sitting here thinking about how to introduce Anti-Flag and their release, but chances are you’re very well aware of who they are already.  I was unsure how to express how surprised at how great this album was from the moment it hit my ears.  I finally decided to just write this and move on with talking about the album.

No disrespect to the band at all, but the last couple of albums did not do that much for me.  American Fall, however, has completely blown me away from start to finish.  Think of the Clash mixed with Rancid and Green Day with a huge spilling of political and social opinion based on current events and tragedies for that matter.  I know that was probably a tough sentence to take in, but trust me, it works.

Punk rock, pop punk, ska, and even a smidge of arena rock was all thrown together in American Fall, the band’s 11th studio release.  Co-produced by Benji Madden of Good Charlotte, this album has Anti-Flag taking an entirely new approach with their musical abilities all while keeping on with their values.

“American Attraction” started out full-forced with an intro comparable to Green Day’s “American Idiot” but not in an overplayed way at all.  Same style, higher energy, much more appealing to my ears.  This was not what I was expecting to hear honestly, but I love the sound.

“When the Wall Falls” started off as an acoustic track and quickly jumped ship into a ska track.  This track reminded me so much of Rancid at times especially with that organ playing – I almost with Tim Armstrong had guest vocals on this track.  The lyrics of the song were almost frightening when you sit back and think about it.

I could not help but think how close-knit the band sounded in”Trouble Follows Me”.  I loved the bass line and overall harmony with the group vocals.  Very memorable song that got stuck in my head.

“Finish What We Started” carried this huge Clash resemblance which was totally welcomed.  In fact, this was one of my favorite tracks on the album.

If you do not know who “Liar” is about, you just don’t get it.  There’s really nothing else to say about this track.  The same goes with “Throw It Away”.

“Digital Black Out” was just insane.  At times, I thought about a politically charged Joe Strummer leading a revolution.  I really felt that Anti-Flag leaped boundaries in this track.  As much as I hate to say it, a track like this has the potential to take them to Rise Against levels.

“Racists” was a highly prolific punk jam that once again impressed the hell out of me.  I loved the energy and the overall lesson to absorb within their lyrics.

It sucks to think the current state of affairs is what is fueling Anti-Flag, but for what it is worth, I am glad they have a way to release it for others to consume.

Overall, this album was amazing.  From start to finish I found myself getting sucked into the tracks and memorizing the lyrics.  I can not even tell you how many times I have listened to this album.  It has turned into a go to album when I just want to get my blood flowing.

My only complaint about American Fall was that it was only 30 minutes long and I was just so hyped up and ready for 30 more.  If Madden was the cause of the band turning a little poppier on this album, I am fully on board for him to co-product in the future.  This is the best I have heard Anti-Flag sound in years and I am stoked to hear what comes next.

 

 

Album Review: Two Hand Fools – Falling In / Falling Out

Cleveland’s Two Hand Fools are back and have dropped their most important album to date in my opinion.

I’m sure you’ve heard this statement about various bands over and over by people, but honestly, I am dead serious stating this.

The rust-belt punkers are on top of their game in Falling In / Falling Out, putting out a release that has quickly jumped to the top of my best of 2017 list.

Comprised of quality dudes including Ryan Johns (guitar / vocals), Adam Paduch (drums), Tyler Sickels (guitar) , and Nick Schmitt (bass), it’s been 4 years since the band has dropped something and this specific release has actually been 2 years in the making.

With Paduch and Sickels focusing on Heart Attack Man most of the year, Falling In / Falling Out was put on hold until everyone could come together to support it together once it dropped.  Smart move if you ask me.  Hopefully the album releases soon as the band was not able to tell me an exact release date just yet.

I absolutely should mention that the cover art for this release was created by Cleveland artist John G.This is the band’s second full release.

At less than 30 minutes, this album sucked me in and had me wanting so much more by the end.  “Falling Out” complete with some sexy saxophone really got me excited (not in that way you perv) for the rest of the album and then suddenly “Spinning” started and I was sold.  I knew i would adore the rest of this album just after that song.

“Young Again” I think was written about a 40 year old blogger from Cleveland.  I kid about that, but this track had me reminiscing while listening to the harmonic track full of emotion and realistic thoughts.

I loved the compelling “Geraniums”, a track about self-realization and moving on. It’s not a very long song, but carries a sweet set of riffs, spot-on drumming, and is just fun to jam along with.

Following was “(Transitions)”, an instrumental tune that easily could have been pulled from the 90s.  This is the track that had me thinking to myself how mature this band has become.

The saxophone made a return in “Falling In”, an interlude of sorts and it was equally as sexy-sounding as the beginning.  This track moved into “Raindrops”, another short and sweet track that left a bite mark.

“Cut You Up” once again had the band doing what they do best – play together.  This was so genuine sounding and probably my favorite on the album that was far from being over-produced.  Perhaps a little deranged lyrically, I share that sentiment so naturally I dug this.

“No Tip” wasn’t too technical and because of it, it was an entertaining listen even if the somber track reflected a miserable serving.  Add in the ever important group vocals, and you have a damn fine song.  This was one of those emotional tracks that was just infectious to hear out.

“RGB” had some, you guessed it, sexy saxophone playing.  I clearly am joking about the sexiness and should say effectiveness because this song was 400 times better because of that woodwind playing throughout.  This was a hell of a track to end the album with.

I need to admit, the first time I heard Two Hand Fools years back, I was not sold.  In fact, I remember telling myself that they need to rearrange.  Who the hell am I to judge a hard-working group though?  I kept those comments to myself and kept on checking them out when I could.

I am glad I never dismissed them completely because since then they have become one of my favorite Cleveland bands.  I have watched them grow up and embrace who they are as musicians and to me, that is pretty goddamn amazing.

Falling In / Falling Out should serve as a solid testament of accomplishment to some pals who have been in it for 10 years now.  They really impressed me with this one.



Two Hand Fools play Mahall’s on Friday, Oct. 27 in support of this new release.

Album Review: The Electric Grandmother – Cancelled.

There’s great comfort in knowing how in this crazy ass world, two amazing people met from different timezones back in the mid-90s, fell in love, got married, and eventually had kids …a band.

The history behind The Electric Grandmother pretty much revolves around Pete and Mary Alice’s love for 80s and 90s sitcoms as well as absolute love for one another.  It is pretty inspiring where I sit here and think about it.

They are band-mates for life and two of the most genuine people I have gotten to know for over the past twenty-five years.  One grew up in Ohio, the other in Hawaii, it is like a living sitcom when you think about it.

Pete and Mary Alice were actually with me the night the Menzingers had to cancel their Kentucky show due to food poisoning and I miraculously got them in touch with Kent, NOFX’s manager.  I only mention that as they both thought I was the man that night for getting things right.  What can I say?  I’m a legend in my spare time.

In the past, I’ve failed to make mention of their releases as I had this moronic thought process where I would not review material from friend’s bands.  Clearly that has changed within the past couple of years.

I am not sure why I chose that route, but I can say that I almost would prefer to share the talent of those I know and love rather than keep it all to myself.  I am surrounded by some amazing people and it would be unfair not to share what I hear.

Enough about me, let’s talk about The Electric Grandmother some more.

Originally starting in Columbus back in 1999, the duo moved to D.C. and kept on a truckin’.  Their live shows are not to the norm and usually come with a slideshow and bubble machine.  I’ve never met a person who has not gotten a kick out of their shows.  Even the metalheads in Canton at some bizarre house-venue adored them.

The Electric Grandmother is not really for those who carry boundaries on their music genres or lack a humorous imagination.  To be a fan means you need to carry appreciation for experimental approaches and a love for sitcoms.  After all, this is the band that dubbed themselves “sitcom-core”.

Cancelled is a concept album of sorts about a man whose sanity is compromised by the cancellation of his favorite cop TV drama program by a new one.  The album digs far deeper with emotion than previous albums have as duo Pete and Mary Alice take a new approach at their appreciation for television by speaking of a man whose life is affected by change.

In fact, I will just let Pete and Mary Alice explain it a little more:

“Cancelled is this story of a man’s descent into madness following the cancellation of his favorite cop-drama. This is the unfortunate feedback the man received at his office, the mindless reaction to the shallow “Cop Force,” the show that caused “Police Department” to be pushed aside.”

With that said, I’m hoping you can understand the originality of this band and can appreciate the story that surrounds this album.  I know I did.

“TV” was the first track on the album with Pete singing and Mary Alice providing background vocals.  This track was pretty intense to listen to all due to distorted ambient sounds that supplied the introduction to the story of a lonely man and his beloved TV show.

I actually heard “Police Department Theme Song” a few weeks back on and adored it.  This track shed light on how someone could be so obsessed with a show.  It was the intro music for the show that the man more or less worshipped.

“Radial Sunrise” was a happy-go-lucky song showcasing the man in positive spirits thanks to said TV show.  Pete’s quick singing on this track was just great.  Pay attention though, or you might miss something.

“Feedback Lives” is the absolute change in the story where things start going south.  Even the music sounded concerning as well as the signing about two new dudes who change everything.

This change continued with the downward spiral of “Cancelled”.  This track had Pete and Mary Alice taking turns telling the story from the man’s angle as well as the network’s.  I really loved the music on this one too, it was all over the place.

I am not going to sit here and tell the entire story, you will have to hear it for yourself.  I will say though by the time “The End?” came on,  I could gauge a level of uncomfortable restlessness by a man who could not adapt to change.

This songs on album are so much more in-depth than from what I recall their previous albums containing.  It’s like Beck, Cibo Mato, Kraftwerk, Daft Punk, Postal Service, Mike Patton, and Bran Van 3000 all got in a huge ass fistfight.  That’s probably a complete crap shoot there, but at least I got to say crap shoot here on this good ol’ blog.

Seriously though, I was super intrigued throughout the album and loved the variety as well as the overall story.  I was impressed with the music Pete and Mary Alice created as well as their vocals.  They both really have matured into some pretty amazing musicians.

On top of a great idea of an album, there are also music videos for a couple of the songs to give you even more of a visual.  Check them out below and enjoy.

If you have the slightest curiosity about this album, just click play below already.  The Electric Grandmother have hopped boundaries and borders this time.  It only makes sense considering the adventure they have been on from the day they caught each other’s attention.

RIP Jessi Zazu of Those Darlins

It’s with great sadness I share news of the passing of Jessi Zazu (aka Jessi Darlin) of Those Darlins.  The 28 year old lost her battle with cancer yesterday.

For those of you who have checked out this blog for many years, you’ll know I was a fan of Those Darlins from the start.  Having seen them not only in Cleveland multiple times but also at Bonnaroo, I got to interact with her more than once and she was always as nice as could be.

She never hid the fact that she had cancer and was very open about her fight with it.  This news came as a complete shock to me.

I’m lucky enough to say I saw her play in a band that she loved and was even able to capture some photos of her doing so.

RIP Jessi Darlin.

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Album Review: Tim Barry – High On 95

There is really not much more I can say about Tim Barry these days except that the man is exceptional.

The former Avail frontman has made aging as a punk rocker just so appealing.  Taking each day in stride and being the best father he can be, you might just find inspiration in him just as I have.

His solo material is more of a storytelling process with the soul purpose of letting people hear him out.  Still containing his punk rock roots as well as life-long experiences, Barry just dropped an all new release on Chunksaah Records titled High On 95.

High On 95 is a mixture of acoustic tracks and collective jams with Barry’s family and friends.  Just as he has always done in the past, Barry has no problem combining folk, rock, and punk and  with his own personal touch making for an incredible listen.

The album was recorded once again by Lance Koehler at Minimum Wage Studios in Richmond Virginia.  According to Barry, “it’s just one take” and continued with, “Lance knows the more I do it, the worse it’s gonna get. You lose something when you play it more and more. So get it right.”

One take is all it took to make one hell of an album.

The personal “Slow Down” had Barry and his guitar recollecting life in a busy city and his transition to a small town.  The backing violin playing was so fitting on this track that seemingly aged from the beginning to the end.

The detail in the lyrics on “High On 95” almost seemed like personal memories of my own.  This track was built up with some guitar playing and simple piano playing.  What made this track even better for me was the video that his 4-1/2 year old daughter filmed all on a VHS camcorder.  Life goal right there folks, especially since I have my own little versions of me these days.  Check out the video below.

“O & Dp” was more of a song a close knit of friends would sign around a campfire.  I especially related to this track with lyrics that were personable with life events and self-expectation.

“Riverbank” was a memorable jam that might be one of the more produced songs I have heard by Barry in a while and I loved every second of it.  Friendly and real thoughts put into song while letting dogs run around the river just doesn’t get much more sincere.

The toe-tapping “Gumshoe Andy” brought back train-hopping memories of Barry.  You almost wonder who this gumshoe was and what his intentions were or if it was just an inner-conscious voice taming someone’s wild tendencies.

The observations in “Porter St.” are all to familiar.  This industrialization realization of a small town track has immediately become one of my favorite Barry tracks.  Just listening to it had me thinking and agreeing with what day to day life has turned into.

“Chelsea” was almost a Dear John letter of a track with Barry showing pleasantries followed by dismissal for being deceitful.  Friendly-sounding but stern, this tune was quick to take out the trash.

It was great to hear Barry’s sister Caitlin play violin on “Running Never Tamed Me” along with Barry. Christina Marie Gleixner provided haunting backing vocals on this track about the highs and lows of life and love as told to what I would only assume was Barry’s daughters.  This was one bummer of a track, but beautiful.

At 30 minutes total, High On 95 was an amazing listen that seemed to just fly by.  I have actually listened to it a few times now and some of the tracks became even more poignant once the lyrics were absorbed in my mind.  It’s the kind of album you think with, relate to, and just absorb.

People, including myself, have asked Barry for years if he would ever reunite Avail.  He always responds that he is not interested in doing that.  For a while there, I could not understand, but as the years have progressed with the releases by Barry, I am glad he didn’t.  This man has his priorities set to align with his future on his own accord.  Godspeed sir.

Tour Dates:
9/23 Richmond, Virginia @ Carpenter Theatre
10/05 Washington, DC @ DC9 Nightclub
10/06 Pittsburgh, PA @ Cattivo
10/07 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
10/8 Detroit, MI @ Smalls
10/10 Columbus, OH @ Rumba Cafe
10/11 St Louis, Mo @ Blueberry Hill
10/12 Chicago, Il @ Cobra Lounge
10/13 Indianapolis @ White Rabbit
10/14 Louisville, KY @ Haymarket
10/26 Ybor City, FL @ Pre-FEST
10/27 Gainesville, FL @ FEST
11/09 Garwood, NJ @ Crossroads
11/10 Philadelphia @ Underground Arts
11/11 Cambridge, MA @ Middle East Upstairs.
11/12 Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
12/07 San Diego, CA @ Casbah
12/08 Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory
12/09 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
12/10 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill.