Category Archives: Pop

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: 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.

Album Review: Heart & Lung – You Wanna Know the Truth?

When a great pal tells me to check out a band that one of his bandmates happens to be in, I stop what I am doing and look for my headphones.

Heart & Lung is the band I speak of and thanks to Jeremy (most call him Rozco), I can not stop listening to these guys.

This four-piece pop-punk act hails from tropical Cleveland and has been doing their thing for a couple of years now.  Featuring current members of Throw Shade and former members of The Fucking Cops, Let em’ Run, and The Public, it is safe to say that this band has plenty of rustbelt punk rock talent.

You Wanna Know the Truth is the band’s debut release and I must say, it is pretty damn impressive.  Released independently, you’d think someone from an independent label would have scooped them up already (hint, hint to you label owners out there).

As far as the sound goes, think the energy of Direct Hit! mixed with the singing style of Say Anything, the memorable lyrics of Iron Chic, and glorious group harmonies of Masked Intruder.

As an avid Cleveland Indians fan, I certainly appreciated the opening sample with Hammy doing this thing on “Telecaster”.  This opening track just has the band jumping right in and giving it their all.

“Hey Man” was kind of like a fun blend of Max Bemis and Masked Intruder, hence my previous comparison.  This happy-go-lucky track is best played with friends.  Nice job incorporating the band name into the lyrics by the way…

I am not sure what “1954” is all about, but I do know that is the year the Cleveland Indians went to the World Series.  I also know that is the year the infamous Sam Sheppard  supposedly murdered his wife.   I appreciated the Cleveland pride and references throughout this jam.

“You Wanna Know the Truth?” was easily my favorite track off the album.  The steady yet furious drumming, the piano playing, and just the honest chorus “you wanna know the truth?  I’m fucking in love with all of you” pretty much did it in for me.  Hearing the band profess enjoyment while on tour as well as their admiration for the great state they all hail from was all too intoxicating.  The ending though…man, that was so perfect (you can check out the song below).

“Recession” was 50 seconds of the ups and downs of corporate America and the broke asses who live there.  “Don’t Need You” was as you guessed it, a song about tacos from someone who is trying to diet furiously.  I love tacos.

“The Sound” ended things in almost Weezer fashion sans the heavy repeating bass line.  Hearing this song build up, explode, and just exhale with piano playing at the end put this album to rest in a good way (no pun intended of course).  With lyrics about ending it all, carrying fear in doing so, and finally seeing someone looking back eliminating said fear, this wasn’t exactly a happy-go-lucky track.

My only complaint about this album?  It clocked in at a whopping 27 minutes.  11 great songs, but I would have gone for a few more.

This Cleveland pop punk act has what it takes to turn heads and snag the attention of many.  Don’t believe me?  Check out what the bassist John’s sixth-grade students had to say about it…

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I feel like I should have just started out the review with their quotes.

This band has been playing like crazy lately here in Cleveland as of late, most recently with Off With Their Heads, and I am excited to see what happens with them next.  If you are looking for something new and fun, check these dudes out.


https://heartandlung.bandcamp.com/album/you-wanna-know-the-truth
https://www.facebook.com/heartandlungcleveland/
https://www.instagram.com/heartandlung/

 

Album Review: Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – Rake It In: The Greatestest Hits

A few weeks back, I found a photo of myself from when I was working in shipping and receiving at some internet company.

I was about 21 years old at the time and looked ever so thrilled in the picture.  The photo showed me working hard while I rocked a backwards hat as well as a Me First and the Gimme Gimmes shirt, a shirt that I basically wore in the late 90s until it fell apart.  That was almost 20 years ago.

Where am I going with this you ask?

Well, clearly I was a fan back then, and I still am today.  Ever since I heard the Gimmes play “Country Roads” on a Fat Wreck comp, I fell in love.  There was just something so appealing about hearing a song my parents listened to in the 70s altered to my standards.

For those of you who live under a rock, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes consist of Joey Cape, Chris Shiflett, Dave Raun, some guy who calls himself Fat Mike, and good ol’ Spike Slawson.  They have been taking overplayed and classic tunes and covering them the only way they know how to.  The result is catchy, likable, and just downright fun.  i should probably add that they have been doing this since 1995.

Over the years, they have tackled adult contemporary, Motown, show tunes, country, and even Japanese pop songs just to name off a few genres.  I guess you could say they are not the gimmicky type.  Hell, they have 7 studio albums under their belts released on Fat Wreck Chords.  Clearly they are pretty damn important in the punk cover band scene.

To showcase their accomplishments (and squeeze you out of your hard earned cheddar), they are about to drop a greatest hits album on April 7th full of renditions of songs cleverly titled Rake It In: The Greatestest Hits.

Featuring 17 memorable covers, the Gimmes threw together the best of the best for all to hear in one collective listen.  I am sure it was tough for the Gimmes to pick the right songs for this “greatestest” hits album, but I think they did a pretty good job.

Starting with Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'”, the album spans the Gimme’s eclectic taste in covers.  It was great to hear “Straight Up” and “Jolene” and of course “I Believe I Can Fly”.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t stoked to hear “Desperado” as well as “End of the Road”.  I adore the Gimme’s take on these two originally over-played-as-hell songs.

As an added bonus, a few non-album tracks that I have not heard in a long time appeared.  “City of New Orleans” off of Willie, a Fat Mail Order limited edition EP, was an excellent surprise to hear.  The Del Shannon classic “Hats Off to Larry”, originally on the Live Fat, Die Young: Fat Music Vol. V, was the other.

The one track missing that I felt should have been on this greatest hits was the Gimme’s version of “Rocket Man” by Sir Elton John.  Luckily, I have Have A Ball in my collection and can listen to it whenever I please, but for those out there that are just discovering this punk rock cover band, that is one song I know they would enjoy.

To be honest, I was really hoping for the band to have a new album full of covers, but I will take this “greatestest” hits release over nothing.  I hope one day they decide to cover 90s hip hop songs in the key of punk rock, I seriously think that would be amazing and I know they could pull it off.

What I’m trying to say is simple:  Long live the Gimmes.  They are the best cover band of my time.

In support of this release, Me First are touring and have been since February.  I can not even tell you the last time I have seen these guys tour, so make sure you go see them live.  It is going to be an all out blast.  Give them your money.  All of it.  Being in a cover band can’t pay that much, can it?

Tour Dates:

04/11/17 Pittsburgh, PA at The Rex *
04/12/17 Cleveland, OH at House of Blues *
04/13/17 Chicago, IL at Concord *
04/14/17 Detroit, MI at Majestic *
04/15/17 Toronto, ON Canada at Phoenix Theatre *
04/16/17 Montreal, QC Canada at Club Soda *
04/19/17 Boston, MA at Royale *
04/20/17 Philadelphia, PA at Union Transfer *
04/21/17 Baltimore, MD at Baltimore Soundstage *
04/22/17 Asbury Park, NJ at Stone Pony *
04/23/17 New York City, NY at Webster Hall *
05/02/17 Portland, OR at Wonder Ballroom ^
05/03/17 Vancouver, BC Canada at Commodore ^
05/04/17 Seattle, WA at Showbox ^
05/05/17 Boise, ID at The Olympic ^
05/06/17 Salt Lake City, UT at The Depot ^
05/07/17 Denver, CO at Summit Music Hall ^
05/10/17 Scottsdale, AZ at Pub Rock ^
05/11/17 San Diego, CA at House of Blues ^
05/12/17 Santa Ana, CA at The Observatory ^
05/13/17 Los Angeles, CA at The Fonda ^
05/14/17 Berkeley, CA at The UC Theatre ^
05/27/17 Las Vegas, NV at Punk Rock Bowling
06/09/17 Interlaken, Switzerland at Greenfield Festival
06/11/17 Milano, Italy at Carroponte w/ Descendents *
06/14/17 Attnang-Puchheim, Austria at EQUALITY Festival
06/15/17 Nickelsdorf , Austria at Nova Rock Festival
06/16/17 Bischofsmais, Germany at Rock The Hill
06/17/17 Bischofsmais, Germany at Rock The Hill
06/23/17 Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany at Southside Festival
06/23/17 Scheessel, Germany at Hurricane Festival
06/24/17 Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany at Southside Festival
06/24/17 Scheessel, Germany at Hurricane Festival
06/25/17 Scheessel, Germany at Hurricane Festival
06/25/17 Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany at Southside Festival
07/01/17 Würzburg/Giebelstadt , Germany at Flugplatz Mission Ready Festival

* = w/ PEARS & MASKED INTRUDER
^ = w/ Together Pangea

BHP Best of 2016

It’s that time of the year again folks.  Time to sit here and type out a list of bands that have impressed me one way or another.  I am not keeping to a set number as it would take me forever to narrow it down.

A sincere thanks to everyone who’s ever visited this site – seriously.  I know I tend to say that around the time I do my best of lists, but I really mean it.  I almost called it quits  earlier this year and reconsidered at the last minute.

This blog is very personal to me and even if more people find it while Googling how to fix their headphones, it is still fun to do.  If I can turn someone on to a new band just by one post, then my job is done.

With that said, I plan on sticking around for a while.

I am sure I will add a few more as they come to me in the next couple of weeks (as I always do [up to 3 edits now]), but for now, here’s the list of the albums that really caught my attention in 2016:

[EDIT:  The year is not over yet and I needed to throw in just a couple more…]


Chandeli’ers – Breaker
-This was the album that hit me in the right way.  It was fun across the board and sounded like the Clash meets Elvis Costello.  What more could you ask for?


Run The Jewels – RTJ3
-This album was not supposed to drop until 3 weeks into the new year, but El-P and Killer Mike decided to drop it on Christmas day for all to enjoy.  I can not stop listening to it.  I know I am not the only one either.

MakeWar "Developing A Theory Of Integrity"
MakeWar – Developing a Theory of Integrity
-Hands down one of my favorite surprise releases of the year.  This punk rock band has thrown together an album I will be listening to over and over for years to come.

joe-mcmahon
Joe McMahon – Another Life
-This is another one of my favorite albums this year.  McMahon shared with the world an outstanding collection of tunes that everyone needs to check out.  His solo material is a lot different from his Smoke or Fire days and that is not a bad thing at all.

Bob Mould
Bob Mould – Patch the Sky
-Mould recorded a masterpiece with Patch the Sky.  If you have not had the chance to listen to this album, you are missing out.  This album is perfect to listen to any day.

Jonathan Richman
Jonathan Richman – Ishkode! Ishkode!
-I am kicking myself for not putting this on my list initially.  Richman is one of the most prolific songwriters out there and put out quite the release.  I loved how song his songs were fun at times while others were just complex and reached across borders.  He really showcased his musical abilities on this release.  This guy has been writing music for longer than I have been alive and still is able to put out quality albums.

Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr. – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not
-I have been a fan of this band for over 25 years now, so it only makes sense that this release made my list.  Oh, it also kicks so much ass.  Lou Barlow singing on it made it that much better.

All Dinosaurs
All Dinosaurs – Total Dissatisfaction
-Where do I even start with this one?  It’s like listening to the Bronx, but better, and from Cleveland.  I love this album so much that I literally just bought the LP from their bandcamp page.  No lie.

Useless ID
Useless ID – State is Burning
-This band will always be one of my favorites and this release continued to keep me a fan.  With a much more harder approach, they really killed it on this one.  I also adored the nod to the late Brandon Carlisle of Teenage Bottlerocket.

pulley
Pulley – No Change in the Weather 
This band was a huge favorite of mine in the late 90s and I thought they were done in the mid-2000s, but low and behold, they came back with an album that seemingly continued where they left off without missing a beat.  “Sometimes” is such a great track.

Beach Slang
Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
-James Alex (and former crew) have created a timeless album for music fans of all ages.  Catchy yet poignant, the album has been on a weekly rotation to my ears since the album dropped.  It may clock in at around 30 minutes, but it is a hell of a ride from start to finish.

Worship This! - Mint
Worship This! – Mint
-So what if these guys are my pals, their sophomore release blew me away.  I can not say enough good things about this album.  It is poppy, punky, and addictive.  More people need to check this album out as these Akron/Cleveland boys really know how to make sweet jams.  They are the next big thing in my mind and I love them all dearly.


Descendents – Hypercaffium Spazzinate 
-Having one of my all time favorite bands release something new in 2016 was pretty rad.  Having one of my all time favorite bands stick to their sound from start to finish and have no indication of slowing down made it that much better.

Nothing
Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow
-I never thought I would like shoegazing.  To be honest, I really never knew what shoegaze was until I heard this album and I am still not quite sure.  Indie rock and neo-psychadelica mixed with plenty of distortion and emotion made for an album that I could not get out of my head for weeks.  That’s a good thing.

Mean Jeans
Mean Jeans – Tight New Dimension 
-Mean Jeans are probably one of the most underrated bands out there right now.  This album further proved that.  A modern-day Ramones-like banger.  I loved it.


Bouncing Souls – Simplicity 
-The Souls are like a fine cheese or wine to me.  With age, this band seems to just get better.  Their latest release was just full of punk rock fun.  When I started singing along to the first song during my first listen, I knew I was going to love this album and play it over and over.

Blink 182 - California
Blink 182 – California
-I can’t help it, I got sucked in to the new Blink and I know why…  Matt Skiba.  He was the perfect addition to reinvent this band.

The Avalanches
The Avalanches – Wildflower
-16 years after their debut, The Avalanches came back with an all new release that very well probably took all 16 years to create.  I know some of my pals were not digging this release fully, but I adored it.  It probably helps that the likes of Danny Brown and Biz Marke helped make this album what it is.

Arms Aloft
Arms Aloft – What a Time to be Barely Alive
This is the one album I really need to do a proper review on, but I keep getting sidetracked.  I listen to it all of the time and it is freaking amazing.  Punk rock from the 80s perfectly blended with punk rock from the mid 2000s is one way I can describe these fellows.  The music is infections, the lyrics are fun, and from what I hear the band is pretty cool too.  This kind of sounds like a review, but it is not.  This is just me telling y’all that this album was impressive.

Signals Midwest
Signals Midwest – At This Age
-This is their third release and probably their most tied together, mature material I have heard them create.  They have pushed their limits from a one time local band and are more or less prepping themselves for what’s next to come.  I am proud of these dudes.

Arilss Nancy
Arliss Nancy – Greater Divides
-This band really should be at Lucero levels by now.  They are exceptional at what they do and it can be heard throughout their latest release.

har-mar-superstar
Har Mar Superstar – Best Summer Ever
-Har Mar continues to put out incredible material with each release.  This man is so talented that he drops albums that cover various genres and avoids any and all gimmicky sounds.

NOFX
NOFX – First Ditch Effort
-After all this band has been though, it only makes sense that they dropped a more personal album.  It took me a couple of listens to truly appreciate.  Don’t worry, it’s still crass at times as well as hilarious, but man, that Tony Sly tribute song will put tears in your eyes.

Harvey Pekar
Harvey Pekar – The Astral We
-This Cleveland hardcore band is just that…  This album was insane yet intelligent, and I loved every moment of it.

the-falcon-gather-up-the-chaps
The Falcon – Gather Up the Chaps
-I love that Dave Hause was on this album.  I love that he had to play ska riffs knowing how much he hates ska because Brendan Kelly decided it was a good idea.  This album was far from serious and a good time all around.

NOTE: I promise you, Red Scare did not pay me for putting so many albums on this list.  They just had a hell of a year with releases…  Toby, I take plastic btw.

I wanted to throw a couple of EPs on here as well:

Jonathan Richman
Jonathan Richman & Tommy Larkins – That’s All We Need at Our Party
Blue Arrow Records and the creative vinyl masters Wax Merge teamed up to put out an insane variant of this 7″.  I was lucky enough to score #100 out of 100.  It’s a thing of beauty plus the tunes on it kick ass.  I love me some Jonathan Richman.  I am sure there are a few left, so snag one if you can.

Throw Shade
Throw Shade – Self-Titled
-I have talented friends who make beautiful music.  This EP is absolute proof.


Nine Inch Nails – Not the Actual Events
-I really did not know what to expect from Reznor and crew with this EP seeing how I just lost interest in their material for the last 10 years.  Man, was I pleasantly surprised.  This EP brought me back to 90s NIN and I can not wait for their full-length to drop in 2017.

bracket
Bracket – The Last Page
-At just over 70 minutes, this is one long-ass song and it’s amazing.  The track keeps it together for the listener and takes them on a punk rock voyage.  My first listed was distracted thanks to my paying gig, but my second listen with headphones on was incredible.

Finally, I know this is a best of list, but it would not be right if I did not make mention of this:

RIP Dag House…
Dag HouseIt goes without saying, sometimes you find yourself in the right situations by chance.  Thanks to an amazing batch of pals who kept Dag House going for years.  Not everyone gets to experience basement shows, and some of that could be by choice, but goddamn, if you are a music fan, basement shows are the best shows.  Dag House threw together a hell of a rager for their last show, and I was happy to be a part of it.  Thanks for the memories Dag.

2016 was a crazy year.  If you’ve made it this far in my post, thanks for sticking around and being so rad.  It is people like you and the bands above that keep me doing what I do.  Be well.