Category Archives: Rock

EP Review: Face To Face – Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions)

It seems like every punk band out there is dropping acoustic albums as of late.  This facade may come off as lazy or desperate to some, but when stripped down right, it makes so much sense.  Still, it is easy to just dismiss them because of how many are out there.

I have to give it to Unwritten Law though who first captured my fascination with the whole punk rock bands doing acoustic renditions of their songs years back.  I remember hearing Music in High Places and becoming obsessed instantly.  Then Rancid busted out an acoustic set in front of me live once at one of their shows and I adored it.  Perhaps this aging punker just enjoys slowing down things a little bit.

When I heard Face To Face was releasing an EP of acoustic versions of their songs over the years, I was nervous.  Mind you Face To Face is easily one of my all time favorite bands from my 90s, I was worried that it would not go well, but I couldn’t have been so wrong.

Hold Fast simply is songs from Face To Face’s 30+ years (with a slight hiatus) career put into an acoustic style.  Perhaps sparked from their “Econo-Live Tour”, the band decided it was their turn to try.  Actually, Face To Face did acoustic sets years back as I remember a friend’s band opening for them and quickly having to learn how to relearn their songs so they could stay on the bill with them – Back to this EP though.

Hold Fast is listed as an EP, but at 33 minutes, it could easily be an album.  I was impressed to see 10 songs tracked on the Fat Wreck Chords release and was more impressed with where they call came from on their discography.

“All For Nothing” started off the EP with an alt-country twangy version of the catchy Laugh Now, Laugh Later track that I am sure Lucero fans would totally appreciate.  I quickly realized after this song alone the amount of time put in by Face To Face to transformed them into a completely different style.

“Disconnected” was the song I was most worried to hear.  This radio-friendly track that caught the most attention on Big Choice was part of the soundtrack to my life in the late 90s and I’m still quite fond of it to this day.  I held off listening to this song at first and waited until the album came out to take it in.  I had nothing to worry about.  This song was perfected transformed from a pop punk jam to an acoustic masterpiece.  I loved everything about this song from Keith’s slowed down singing to the backing vocals and even the guitar playing.

I was kind of shocked to hear “Keep Your Chin Up” the EP as it was a new song, but as soon as the chorus started I immediately understood.  It fit perfectly.

“Don’t Turn Away” was completely dissected and put together as one hell of a track.  The lyrics remain the same, but everything else about it screams alt-country with even some rockabilly qualities to it.  This was such an enjoyable track to rediscover though a different genre.  Just wait for that guitar solo.

“Aok” was another version I just absorbed and adored instantly.  This is one of those other songs that was part of the soundtrack of my life and hearing it on a different caliber was just so appreciated.

I can not say every track on the EP blew me away as some were at status quo like “Ordinary” and even “Velocity”, but I did not skip past a single song.  Nothing was completely unbearable which led me to believe the band truly gave it their all.

I truly feel Face To Face did this for the sake of trying something new and not looking for a quick paycheck (leave that to Me First and the Gimme Gimmes).  These So. Cal. punks have matured so much since back in the day and clearly have moved past their punk rock roots musically.  I really think people who never were into Face To Face are going to hear this and become fans of these renderings.  I am also hoping they just decided to make new music in this style.  I have the feeling it would be amazing.

Don’t dismiss this EP at all folks.  Face To Face is far more talented than you think, especially if you just assume they are just some aging punk rock band looking for a quick payday.

Album Review: Curtail – All Your Luck

I’ve known Jesse Sloan for a while now thanks to places like The Gurley House and It’s a Kling Thing.

I was a big fan of his two-piece Cherry Cola Champions and remember when he pulled me aside at some local show telling me he had something new he was working on and could not wait to share it with me.

Mind you that was a year or two ago, but I was intrigued the moment he told me of what he was working on.  My curiosity was finally satisfied when he told me about Curtail, a new band featuring some other familiar names in acts I adore including Eric Sandt (The Ground is Lava), Dan Corby (Bethesda), and Ben Hendricks (Annabel).

Cleveland’s Curtail dropped their debut All Your Luck at the end of May on Skeletal Lightning Records.  A supergroup of sorts with all angles of talent combined resulted in a hell of a listen.  I hate that I am just getting around to talking about it when it has been on regular rotation since it dropped over a month ago.  Still, it needs to be noted.

“Rush Hour” started the album off a bit reserved but with good measure.  Half way in, the song kicked it up a notch and made for a great listen overall.  “Smile” continued with the trend and the group vocals mad it so much more fun to nod my head to.  I especially loved Sloan’s erupted singing style throughout.

“The Lesson” is the track that completely won me over.  Taking queues from 90s alt- rock past, this song ruled in so many ways. This  is what New Radicals would have sounded like if they were an emo band.  Please note that I adore the 90s one hit wonder Gregg Alexander band so this is not a diss at all.  This song was catchy, emotional and perfect for summer listening.

I loved hearing “Good Year” as I felt I really related pertaining to the ups and downs throughout life.  This emo jam intermittently erupted into a grudge track  this former flannel wearing teenager approved of.

“Come Around” was an uppity, fuzzy jam that reminded me some of The Promise Ring.  Clearly the content was about overcoming, but brought forth in a positive way – at least musically.  This was one of my other favorite tracks on the album.

“Sleight of Hand” was another favorable song for me.  You could just head the fun Sloan was having singing this song.  I loved the many references only Northeast Ohioans would appreciate.

“Glow” completely moved into more of a chilled out that probably would have faired well to a crowd in a smoky, cramped venue in the 90s full of thrift store cardigans and Doc Martins.

“Skyscraper” easily could have been a Sense Field track that never was released.  This post-hardcore closing track was good on so many levels from the singing, the drumming, and of course the guitar playing that eventually faded out in a fuzzy departure.

For someone like me who grew up in the 90s and was obsessed with indie and alternative rock, All Your Luck really brought me back some.  Sloan and crew really dropped something special that deserves all of the attention of music fans.  Give it a listen, I highly doubt you will be disappointed if you still think music from the 90s was the best.

Check Curtail out on BandCamp and support the living daylights out of them by downloading All Your Luck.  I hope I can check them out live so I can give them all hi-fives for dropping one of my favorite releases of 2018.

 

 

EP Review: The Stable – Difficult People

Hey Cleveland, how ya doing?

Lebron (more like L.A. Bron) is gone, but who cares?

Well if you do care, just know local punkers The Stable recently dropped an energetic, gritty album on BandCamp that’ll help you forget all about that sports nonsense in mere minutes.

Featuring members of Seafair (R. Kelly), RAM ONES ( J. Voland), Above This Fire (C. Wright), and Varsity Pinball (I. Bowers), it’s no surprise at all how impressive The Stable’s debut EP is.

4 songs, all quality, are contained in Difficult People. These may be quick bangers, but they certainly are impacting and leave a mark.

“Clothesline From Hell” is proof of my previous statement.  Full-force, no corners cut track full of insane drumming, vocal chord destroying singing, and of course some good ol’ group vocals.

“We Belong In Hell” might just be my favorite cut off the EP given how catchy it is.   There’s something to be said about a song that embeds in your mind as a track you won’t soon forget, this is one of them.

“Shyamalan Twist” seemed to carry this 90s punk/hardcore ethos in the background that I totally adored.  I loved the breakdown towards the end as it just made it that more enjoyable.

I warn you, this EP is quick, but if you are like me, you’ll jump back to the beginning for another round.

The Stable remind me of The Shaking Hands and The Holy Mess a ton in a good, good way.  Given the gents who are in this band, I expect big things to come in the near future.  I can not wait to check them out live soon.

Check them out:

 

Album Review: Red City Radio – SkyTigers EP

Y’all want to hear something amazing?

Check out the new EP by Oklahoma City’s Red City Radio.  My god, this is the best thing to hit my ears so far this year.

In case you have no idea who I am even talking about, Red City Radio is a punk rock foursome that seemingly can do no wrong with their music style.  They’ve been around since 2007 and have a whole slew of releases full of catchy punk rock tunes for all to adore.

Recently, they dropped SkyTigers with help from Red Scare Industries.  This 21 minute EP is from start to finish is outstanding.  There really is no other way for me to tell you all how impressed I was with this EP.  I can not stop listening to it as of late.

“If You Want Blood (Be My Guest)” exploded into a memorable sing along jam.  The second the drums fully kick in, the energy went through the roof.  Talking about hometown values and not giving up, the band showed major signs of maturing with not only their great lyrics but also their collective sound.

“I’ll Still Be Around” started off very Tim Barry but not in a bad way at all.  Things soon picked up for a pretty great track that one could only wonder is about the band and not as told by the lyrics, “not every pretty girl can sing, not ever ugly guy is funny”.

Garrett Dale’s bellowing voice goes outlaw on “In the Shadows”, a track complete with horns and a healthy 80s-ish guitar solo sans any cheese at all.  This is a powerful punk spaghetti-western track when you actually jump into it and listen for what it’s worth.  The more and more I listened to it, the more I appreciated it, especially that subtle sigh at the end.

“Rebels” was a foot-stomping jam that seemingly defended actions based on other’s behaviors and apologetically called them out on it.

“SkyTigers” was a fantastic song and turned into something so memorable the moment the sample from The Dictator began.  Perhaps more meaningful and truer than ever, Chaplin’s infamous closing speech from classic film was extremely relevant on this song hearing it today based on today’s current affairs.

For an EP, I feel slightly cheated as I wanted more of what Red City Radio was offering.  This is by far some of the best material I have ever heard these guys do, and this comes from a fan of theirs since almost day one.  I love how they have slowed down a little but haven’t given up on their edge one bit.  Fans are going to love the shit out of this.

Don’t skip out on this EP if you can help yourself.  Chances are you are going to be just as blown away as I was upon hearing it.  Red City Radio continues to dominate and SkyTigers is 21 minutes of proof.

Pre-order the EP if you dare: http://redscare.storenvy.com/

 

 

Album Review: Kali Masi – Wind Instrument

It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten this excited by a new band.

You know that feeling, music that once it hits your ears, it’s pure gold.  It catches you off guard in a good, good way and all you can do is just enjoy it over and over and be thankful you were introduced to them.

Kali Masi, hailing from Chicago, dropped an album on Take This To Heart Records that so good that I’ve been listening to it non-stop for about two weeks now.  I found myself instantly a fan of them and each time I listened to their release, I appreciated it more and more.  I hate that it took me this long to learn about them.

Wind Instrument is the foursome’s debut release, but from the sound of it, you’d think this band has been around forever.  Full of energy and hard-knocked feelings meshed with catchy as hell punk rock tunes is probably the best way to describe these guys.  Think Luther meets Smoke or Fire and Restorations.

“Some Friends” opened up the album not holding back one bit with  “you’ve got a funny way of coming clean” immediately targeting someone who needed to be called out for who they are.  This track blew me away and I immediately knew that I was going to love this album.

“Her Palms Were Read” continued with intense, honest recollections of relationship truth.  The chorus proved that with a stern “If I could count the ways I need you, am I just wasting all my time?”  Everything was likable on this track, especially the guitar playing at the end.  I always appreciate a good rock out.

“Powerline Days” ruled.  The music and lyrics were so damn catchy and perfect all revolving around love.  My favorite part was the harmonies added with the hooks in the middle followed by a simple guitar solo.  The video was top-notch too (check it out below).

“Love is unconditional but I’m in no condition to love” as heard on “Jejune” was such a brutally honest lyric on this self-destructing track.  Once I heard it, it just stuck with me and all I could think of was how I once identified with that statement.  Heartbreak of any type hurts and you can hear it in this track.

“Recurring (II)” was full of hooks and catchy singing that anyone would find themselves getting into.  “Ghost (The Pottery Scene)” carried the same likable qualities after but slowed things down some with a ton of reminiscing, slight regret, and brutal self-actualization.

Listening “Your Other Left” brought back a lot of buried memories from past relationships.  I have got to hand it to Kali Masi, these guys really know how put their lyrics together providing for explicit visualizations.  I can not say the memories were ones I wanted to recall, but I can tell you, I appreciated hearing them as told from someone else.  Musically, this track was amazing to listen to with a slight eruption towards the end.

Finishing up the album was “C.A.”, a punk rock balled of sorts.  The whole band really came together on this one making for an incredible listen.  Right when I thought it was over, the band dug deeper into their pocketful of feelings and belted out “what kid of fool would fall in love with someone who gave up on themselves?  What it takes to be happy, I don’t know.”  This was the moment I knew this band was destined for greatness.

Wind Instrument was the surprise release I have been looking to hear for a long time now.  Kali Masi pretty much has gotten me just as excited as when a young Menzingers released Chamberlain Waits.  Just by one album I knew they were striving for greatness and I hope to hell Kali Masi does the exact same, these dudes have serious potential.

I hate that I missed these guys last year when the album dropped as they would have shot to the top of my Best Of List, but honestly, these guys are going to be in my regular rotation for some time to come.  Do yourself a favor and check them out.  I hope you will appreciate them as much as I do.