Category Archives: 90’s

Album Review: Mike Watt – “Ring Spiel” Tour ’95

"ring spiel" tour '95It seems like 1995 was forever ago.  I was fresh out of high school and naive to the world.  There were no smart phones with cameras on them, no Facebook statuses, and people actually talked to one another in the same room.  Times were different that’s for sure, and the music scene back then was amazing.

When I heard that Legacy Recordings and Mike Watt decided to release a live show from 1995, I told myself that I just had to check it out.  Having been a young fan of Watt in Minutemen and fIREHOSE in the 90s, I became a bigger fan of him in ’95 when he released Ball-hog or Tugboat?, his debut solo album full of special guests including J. Mascis, Adam Horovitz, Dave Grohl, and Henry Rollins just to name a few.  Hell, I still have the double LP promo that Mike from Disc Den gave me when he heard how much I loved the album.

In support of that new release, Watt hit the road with Hovercraft and the barely known then Foo Fighters (lead by Grohl who apparently was touring for the first time since Kurt Cobain’s death).  He formed quite the impressive backing band for this tour to accompany him consisting of Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), Dave Grohl (Nirvana / Foo Fighters), Pat Smear (the Germs), and William Goldsmith (Sunny Day Real Estate / Foo Fighters).  This was a once in a lifetime tour and can finally be heard on “ring spiel” tour ’95.

[Side note: I actually caught Watt live in the summer of ’95 when he opened up for Primus at Nautica in Cleveland.  I do not recall him having any of the heavy-hitting musicians as his backup band there, but I still have a scar on my left thumb due to someone’s Dr. Martins making contact to a barrier with my thumb in the way.  Concert war wounds are the best.]

Recorded live at The Metro in Chicago on May 6th, 1995, Watt’s live show was beyond amazing to listen to and brought me back 20 years to my youth.  One could only imagine being at the Metro in person seeing the energy that came from Watt and his special crew taking turns playing behind the legendary bassist.

Having never heard about this live show before, it was insane to hear Watt start the set off with a Daniel Johnston cover of “Walking The Cow”.  As someone who has found appreciation in Johnson material over the last 10 years, I know I probably would have been clueless about this track had I seen it played in front of me at this show.

It only made sense for Watt to play his rendition of Chip and Tony Kinman’s (Rank & File) “Big Train” seeing how it was the first single off of Ball-Hog.  At first, the crowd really did not seem into it, but that soon changed.

“Against the 70s” was a straight up jam with Watt and Vedder singing hard.  Perhaps more toned down on Vedder’s part over the studio version, I actually liked this live version better.

“Drove Up from Pedro” deserves to be heard especially if you were too young too have seen a show in the 90s.  This track alone brought back so many memories and it was all in thanks to the crowd.  They absorbed the sounds when needed, and then just belted out their approval.

After playing fIREHOSE’s “Makin’ the Freeway”, Watt took a moment to ask the crown to chill out on the crowdsurfing by saying: “You like those people rolling all over your heads?  Why don’t we give it a break.”  Classic.

“Forever…One Reporter’s Opinion” had Pat Smear offering vocals alongside Watt.  The song was just nuts and you could feel the venue explode at the end.

The cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s “The Red and The Black” was one of the best songs I heard on this set.  I loved his take on the song , especially the ending.

Another excellent cover was of a Madonna song, “Secret Garden”.  The best part was that just hearing Smear sing.  Was this a joke?  I think only the performers will know.  Regardless of their intentions, it was a fun listen.

fIREHOSE’s “Powerful Hankerin'” ended the show with just Watt on stage doing what he does best.  The solo playing was perfect for closing out an amazing show.  The crowd approved and so did this listener the moment after a humbled Watt said thank you and left the stage.

If you were a kid of the 90s who hit up all the cool underground shows, this album really deserves to be in your collection.  If you are someone who just likes to listen to live rock and roll, it doesn’t get any better than this.  I just with there was a full video to accompany this performance.

At least there is this:

As I was trying to search for more info on Watt’s ’95 tour, I found an online journal called “Clam Blow” Tour.  There was a pretty cool read from Watt and band mates in Cleveland.  They talked about playing Repeat The Beat Records in Brooklyn, OH.  How I missed that back then, I will never know.  Apparently CBS was even there covering the performance.  Read the entries from 7/28 and 7/29.

“ring spiel” tour ‘ 95 is available online on CD and LP as well as at your favorite local music shop.  It’s also on digital music streaming sites like Apple and Spotify.

Album Review: Blink 182 – California

Blink 182 - CaliforniaIt’s pretty crazy to me that Blink 182 still exists.  Don’t get me wrong, I have been a fan since the 90s when they were just some unknown pop-punkers.  After all they have been through, all of the fame, all of the drama, and most of all the departure of one Tom DeLonge, wouldn’t you think the band would just call it quits for good already?

Perhaps in a fit of spite, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker continued on and invited Alkaline Trio‘s Matt Skiba to take on vocal/guitar duties for a reunion show of sorts.  I remember thinking “how bad ass would that be if Skiba just joined them and they put out a new album?”  I know I was not the only one who thought that either.

Shortly after, it was confirmed Skiba had joined Blink and they were recording a new album.  Now here I am about to throw some words and whatnot into a review for it.  Perhaps a little delayed, but here it is.

Time for a story about me.  Feel free to skip over…

The lyrics “nobody likes you when you’re 23” will always have special meaning in my mind for the rest of my life.  Any Blink fan knows what song those lyrics come from.  The year that song came out, an immature me swore the song was about my own experiences in a sense as I worked hard to get through a tough year thanks to an ex-psycho girlfriend and my own bad decision-making.

What I am trying to get at is simple, I was a Blink fan back then.  “Dammit” was one of my go to songs, I loved Dude Ranch and Cheshire Cat.  I remember even seeing Blink live at Blossom with Bad Religion opening for the Enema of the State tour.  That was the show Barker missed as he broke his hand punching some a-hole at the Taco Bell my cousin was working at in Akron.  Good times.

A few years later thanks to an old friend, I scored a front row ticket to see them again at Blossom with No Doubt.  Both shows were amazing.

As the years passed, more Blink albums came out, Angels & Airwaves, Boxcar Racer, Transplants, and other side projects emerged, and Blink slowly moved out of my continual rotation of daily tunes.  It happens folks, you know exactly what I am talking about.  I got bored with them.

Blink-182A certain Blink flame was re-ignited inside of me the day I heard Skiba was going to be on their new album.  I remember hearing the first single off the new album, I was stoked.  I still am stoked.  So pardon my fandom and honestly on this post, these are my favorite reviews to do, the ones that I am legit excited to write on.

California is Blink 182’s seventh full-length release.  Currently consisting of Hoppus, Barker, and the recent addition of Skiba (Alkaline Trio), who replaced Tom DeLonge.  Blink 182 has been around since the early 90s and moved from a silly pop-punk band on underground labels, to a heavy-hitting act selling out stages all over the world.

When I listened to California the first time, my initial thought was that there was a lot of filler songs on the album.  Long gone are the days of bands putting out albums with 16 tracks.  After listening to the album over and over, that thought went away.

Opening track “Cynical” reminded me of past Blink material, at least the start did.  Barker’s over the top drumming helped speed up the song and Skiba’s introductory backup singing proved this was not going to be the same Blink at all and not in a bad way.

“Bored To Death” has already taken over the radio stations.  The beginning had an “Adam’s Song” similarity to it, but not enough to discourage.  When the band jumps in together at the chorus, it pretty much blew me away.  I know in time I am going to get sick of this song in time as it will be played over and over, but until that happens, I am going to enjoy the hell out of it.  The video for the song cracked me up too, but only because I have reached old man status and remember feeling invincible once.

“She’s Out of Her Mind” will probably take responsibility for the younger generation to have a sudden interest in Bauhaus.  Aside from that, this catchy song really planted a positive reminder that you should be yourself and not care about what others think.

“Los Angeles” was more of a rock masterpiece than a pop-punk track.  I would not be shocked if this track alone brings in new fans of all ages.  Hoppus and Skiba trading vocals and howls throughout was just perfect.

A more realistic “Sober” sang a story about substance-abused-rough-times in relationships and carried a level of honesty throughout.  It was easy to compare my own bad decisions from my past in this track and also recall the apologetic resolutions.  This song grew on me the more and more I listened to it.  I loved the lyric “I’m a dandelion, you’re a four-leafed clover.”

The quick “Built This Pool” was about as crass as the band got on this album.  Seeing how raw they used to be, I am glad they have not completely thrown away their comical ideals.  Personally speaking, I really was hoping for a lot more of their humor throughout.

Skiba just killed it on “No Future”.  This track was the song that had me smiling ear to ear knowing that Skiba was the perfect fit for the redesigned Blink.  Hoppus and Skiba compliment the hell out of one another on this track.  This dreary track which seemingly sounded like a humble departure, was one of the more catchier ones on the entire album for me.

“Kings of the Weekend” was one of the tracks I felt was more of a filler track at first, but the more I listened to it, the more I enjoyed it.  This is everything a Blink fan could want in a Blink song.  Not to mention the different singing styles keep things interesting.

I feel like I can say there is a lot I can say about”San Diego” as it really reminded me of the good times, but I won’t.  I will just say it has grown on me a lot and I know the younger generation is going to eat this song up.

“Brohemian Rhapsody” was lame until I saw this:

Then it was hilarious…

All in all, California is an exceptional release.  I can admit that I have not been a fan of Blink’s last few releases, but this one hits all the high marks in my mind.  Initially I told myself and others that I only liked about 70% of the album, but the more and more I listen to it, the more I am digging it.

Perhaps my liking of California is because Skiba is on board now and I’ve been a AK3 fan for as long as I can remember, but I wish nothing but the best for Blink 182 and love seeing them at the top of the music world again.  I seriously hope they continue and can not wait to see what they come up with next.

Album Review: Face To Face – Protection

954_cover_450I am getting to that time in my life where the bands I grew up with and adored are hitting those milestones that make you realize how fast time is moving.

Face To Face have been around for 25 years now.  Seriously?  25 years already???

It certainly does not feel that long, but they did form in 1991, so it makes sense.  This So Cal punk rock band has been a favorite of mine since the mid-nineties and still are to this day.

So, how do you celebrate two and a half decades of being a band?  You release an album with help from an old friend.

Today, Face To Face dropped Protection on Fat Wreck Chords.  Without even breaking down the album yet, I need to tell you that this album is killer and certainly celebrates this band in the best way possible.  Listening to the album in full, it is clear Trever Keith and crew recorded the album for the fun of it for their fans.

“Bent But Not Broken” started off the album with some force.  I loved the quick baseline but loved more hearing Keith sing on what I interpreted as not giving up.  Following was “I Won’t Say I’m Sorry”, a track that has memorable lyrics that got stuck in my mind regarding denying fault.

“Double Crossed” reminded me of a much younger Face To Face complete with hard  bass lines and group vocals.  “See If I Care” to me almost sounded like a statement to those who ever doubted the band.   I’m sure it is about some ex though, still, I like my take on it.

“Fourteen Fifty-Nine” was another track I just dug a ton.  I think the thing I most about this track was how it spoke on the sad current state of affairs when it comes to entitlement.

“Keep Your Chin Up” was an upbeat positive track aimed at those who could use some confidence.  “And So It Goes” closed out the album and was as energetic as the very first track.

To he honest, I have not been this excited by an album for a long time.  Protection is exactly what I was hoping for by a band I have adored for more than half of my life (mind you all, I was about 15 when I first discovered them).  Still full of emotion and plenty of energy, this band certainly does not sound like they have been around for a quarter of a century.

I am not praising this album just because I like what I currently heard.  I am saying this because there are so many bands out there who lose their style that made them great as they mature and go through changes.  Face To Face has certainly seen their fair share of changes over the years.  Hell, I thought they were going to call it quits forever in the early 2000s.

I’ve been listening to Protection almost daily for almost 2 weeks now.  That is saying a lot right there.   In fact, I was not even the biggest fan of their last two releases.  Protection though for me is very up there next to their self-titled and  Big Choice.  I know, bold statement by me, but this album was seriously a great listen.

I am stoked the band dropped Protection.  I hope you are too.

Interview: Trever Keith of Face To Face

FaceToFace45020 years ago, I didn’t care about many things in  life except for punk rock.  I lived and breathed the genre and knew that it was for me.  I fit the role, spoke the language, and enjoyed every single second of it.

I grew up, but refused to leave my love for punk rock behind.  The best times of my life were fueled by the music and filled with other advocates of the genre.  There’s no way I could ever give up something like that.

When I think about the bands in the 90s that meant the the most to me, Face To Face was at the top.  This So-Cal pop punk outfit was the soundtrack to so many episodes of my life.  Their music is timeless and never has grown dull on me.

Fronted by Trever Keith, the band is celebrating 25 years of being a band this year and decided to put out an all new release on a label that is an old friend of theirs – Fat Wreck Chords.

I am actually in the middle of reviewing their new album Protection, but became so amped while listening to it that I wanted to reach out to Trever Keith and just throw a bunch of questions at him.  Of course he was cool with it.  Check it out…

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BHP: First things first, Face to Face is back with Fat Wreck Chords for an all new release in 2016. How did the band and Fat get hooked up again?

TK: I finally figured out that it would be a good idea and I emailed Erin and asked if she wanted to hear our demos. She did and then told Mike. It was very easy

I have to put this out there… I was stoked Face To Face got back together in the late 2000s. You once told me there was a remote chance the band would regroup, but nothing was certain. Was it the fans that brought the band back?

I would say so. We have such a loyal following. The real appeal for us was getting to play live again as face to face. The fans make the live show what it is. We missed that. There is nothing else like it.

The new album is incredible.  What did you guys do differently this time to capture a younger sounding Face To Face and put it in your new material?

We just went back to a simpler more immediate style of arrangement and song. I think they convey the message more clearly. There was a simplicity and honesty to our earlier records. We tried to key into that.

It seriously sounds like you all had fun recording this. This was not a forced release by any means. Am I correct in stating that?

Absolutely. The whole experience really feels like it zoomed by.

“Bent But Not Broken” sounded like a war cry to me as in Face To Face is still here and not going anywhere soon. Was that the intention?

It’s not about us as a band, although I would agree with your sentiment that we intend to stick around for a while longer. It’s more about the type of person who is unwilling to think outside of their dogma.

What is your favorite track off the album? I dig “Double-Crossed” and “See If I Care” a ton, perhaps because they hit on some of my harder times in life.

“Keep Your Chin Up” is probably my favorite song

So, who all is in the band this time around? Scott is, I know that much. 

Danny, who has been drumming with us since 2008, is on the record and so is Dennis Hill who has had guest guitar spots on both records since we started playing again.

Can we expect a proper US tour for this release?

That depends on what you mean by “proper”. I can at least tell you that we plan on hitting all of the big cities.

So how does it feel to be back in the band doing your thing?

Amazing

The band has been around since 1991, did you ever think that Face To Face would ever be around for this long?

I never doubted it, but I never really thought too much about it. It’s not surprising to me. They know what they’re doing over there.

Now that you all are more seasoned musicians and humans for that matter, how different is touring versus back in the 90s?

We get tired easier. There are naps…

I remember seeing Face To Face at the Warped Tour in 2010 and literally yelling at kids to get off their asses and get closer to the stage. Did it bug you seeing those kids more amped to see new acts over yours, or were you guys too busy playing to your true fans?

Trying to focus more on the people who were there to see us.

Out of all of your albums, which one would you consider was your finest?

Protection.

In 2008, you dropped a solo release called Melancholics Anonymous. Personally speaking, I loved that album and still listen to it once in a while. Do you think you will ever go that route again?

I doubt it. It was a fun record to make and I even did a brief tour supporting it. These days Face To Face is enough for me.

What do you think about the music these days? Are there any newer acts that impress you?

Western Settings, Iron Chic, Radioactivity

Finally, this is more of a personal question… Why was Big Choice never properly released on vinyl? That promotional album is the white elephant of all LPs out there to me and one day I would love to have a copy in my hands one day. Seeing the album passed the 20 year mark, I’m just curious why it never made it to the turntable.

I am reissuing Don’t Turn Away, Big Choice, and Face to Face on 180 gram colored gatefold, limited edition vinyl in 2016 on my Antagonist Records label to celebrate our 25th Anniversary as a band.


Can I tell you how excited that last answer made me?  I did not even get to close the interview down, I immediately looked if those LPs were up for pre-order yet.

Face To Face’s new album Protection drops March 4th on Fat Wreck Chords.  Head on over to pre-order it by clicking HERE.

Check out a new track off the release:

Here’s the music video the band just released for “Bent But Not Broken”:

25 Years of Fat: My Favorite 15 Fat Wreck Chords Releases

It really freaks me out that 20 years ago, I graduated high school.  For the most part, I hated  that school I attended and can not say many nice things about it to this day.  Let me rephrase, the school itself was not the issue, it was the experience I went through growing up there.

I will tell you though that I had a solid core of friends there who all helped me through the bad times and ensured the good times were plentiful.  Lucky for me, one of my good friends introduced me to Fat Wreck Chords.  I am forever grateful for that.

Fat Wreck Chords has been around for 25 years now.  They remain an independent label and continue to pump out amazing releases.

Fat Wreck Chords

I can not imagine Fat not being in my teenage years.  They supplied the soundtrack of my life and have continued to do so.

In an attempt to look like all of the other sites out there posting random things, I thought I would post 15 of my favorite Fat Wreck releases.  Here we go…

Survival Of The Fattest
Fat Music Vol. II: Survival of the Fattest

-This is the one release that I will always hold near and dear to me.  I fairly certain I snagged the cassette version of this back in 1996 at the Warped Tour and was immediately introduced to some of my favorite bands (well, technically it was after the show was rained out and my pals and I were driving home listening to it).  To this day, I will throw this album on the turntable and relive some of my teenage days.  Best comp ever.  That Diesel Boy song still rules…

Useless ID
Useless ID – 
Symptoms

-Hands down, this is my favorite Fat release.  I am still amazed at how good this album is.  To this day, I listen to it quite regularly.  It’s catchy, it’s powerful, it’s just good.  I can not wait for their follow-up.  If you are not familiar with Useless ID, you need to change that.

NOFX
NOFX – I Heard They Sucked Live

-When I think of this live album, I think of when I would listen to it front to back and recite not only the lyrics of the songs, but also the drunken commentary by the band.  I think the best part about this album is that I acquired the original pressing that I used to listen to from my friend a couple of years ago.  Talk about a keepsake.

The Loved Ones
The Loved Ones – Build & Burn
Dave Hause and crew rule on so many levels.  Out of all of their albums, this is the one that I hold dearest to me.  “I Swear” gets me every time.  You swooner Dave…

Flatliners
Flatliners – 
Cavalcade
-This is the perfect Fat release.  Everything about this album is incredible.  If you disagree with me, I could care less.  This is my blog, not yours.

Descendents
Descendants – Cool To Be You

-Sure, their SST Records releases are far superior than this one, but still, this is a great album by one of the best bands out there and I think it is bad ass that Fat was able to release it.

Rise Against
Rise Against – Revolutions Per Minute

-Who’d a thought some little band from Chicago would blow up and turn into rock stars?  Spite how their music has matured into more of a rock sound, this album slays.

No Use For A Name
No Use For A Name – Leche Con Carne

-RIP SLY (I can not believe it’s going on 3 years…).  Thank you for putting together one of the best albums ever.  This one album holds some of my favorite songs ever.  If any of you punkers out there have not listened to this album 400 or more times in your life, you need to reevaluate your status.  This album paved so many paths for future bands.  Respect.

Swingin' Utters
Swingin’ Utters – Here, Under Protest
-This album may hold a different style of what the Utters used to possess in their earlier years, but I love everything about it.  I remember the first time I heard it and how I questioned how it was possible for them to drop such a quality album after 8 years of nothing.

Old Man Markley
Old Man Markley
-Old Man Markley was so different from the rest of the Fat roster and I immediately fell in love with the album the moment I heard it.  The folk-rock-bluegrass sounds are unique and fun, not to mention the band puts on a hell of a performance.  You haven’t lived until you’ve seen someone shred a washboard.  Trust me on this.

Face To Face
Face To Face – Don’t Turn Away
Two staple songs of my life exists on this album, “Disconnected” & “You’ve Done Nothing”.  I someone decided they needed to create a documentary about my pathetic existence, these two songs would need to be on the soundtrack.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – Have a Ball

-I remember the first time young punk rock me heard this album in its entirety.  I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.  Who’d a thought taking lame music my parents listened to and putting a punk rock spin on it would be so amazing?

Banner Pilot
Banner Pilot – Collapser
I could have easily just listed all of Banner Pilot’s albums on this post as I adore them all, but for the sake of variety I chose one.  This album contains so much energy it’s ridiculous.

Strung Out
Strung Out – Exile In Oblivion
This band has definitely matured over the years.  I am sure a lot of you can agree they are almost metal now these days.  The technical punk rockers completely won me over on this album.

Against Me
Against Me! – Searching for a Former Clarity
I always like to remind myself how much I thought I hated this band.  Sad thing is, I never gave them a chance.  Once this album came out, I realized what I was missing out on.  I love seeing how far this band has gone and can not wait to see what they have in store for us fans in the future.

Given the history of Fat Wreck, I think it is safe to say we can expect plenty of releases coming at us moving forward.  As of late, they have been building up their roster.

What are some of your favorite releases?  Comment below if you want.  Someone’s bound to read them.  Enjoy.