Category Archives: Review

Album Review: Be Well – The Weight and The Cost

I’m sure we can all agree this year can just move on already.  As messed up as it has been for so many of us, there really have been some quality releases.

Where a bunch have caught my attention, not many have been nearly as raw and personal as the debut by Be Well.

Dropped in late August by Equal Vision Records, The Weight and The Cost is a melodic hardcore release filled with so much emotion and energy.  Featuring members of Battery, Bane, Darkest Hour, and Fairweather, it was a no-brainer that I was going to enjoy this.  After multiple listens though, I found myself relating with some of the struggle and mental anguish sung throughout while adoring the tunes that carried it along.

I think something worth mentioning is that the band is fronted by well-known record producer Brian McTernan who stepped away from his current gig to grab the mic and give it his all.  With so many years of experience fabricating other’s music, it really came as no surprise how profound this release was.

“Meaningless Measures” started off the album without holding back musically and mentally.  “I’ve lost track of the days, lost track of the ways that I fucked up everything. I’m not sure that I’ve learned anything I’m afraid” pulled hard on episodic memories of coming to terms with myself.  Solid track that was likable, but extremely intense.

I swear that “Magic” honed in on personal arguments with oneself until the verge of discomforting solace.  Grappling with defeat, I appreciated the slight suggestion of change at the end.  This is the type of track people hear, relate to, and tend to not forget about..

“I hope there’s a chance for me to learn to love myself a way that I don’t” was a tough plea in “Tiny Little Pieces” that once again jolted back some memories of my own past.  As if the music behind the lyrics were not already impressive enough, McTernan tossed in a personal battle seemingly thinned by attention from someone else.  I knew this fight all too well once.

I’m a better person because of heartbreak.  I say this after listening to “The Weight and The Cost” which brought back painful memories, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve let go of some of that hell I was encompassed in over the years.  This track brought me back to some tough times to the verge I found myself cringing.

“Confessional” was so likable yet just brutal.  Easily one of my favorite tracks on the album, it was not happiness at all.  A departure, an apology, and well, the ending lyrics summed it up best with “there’s a storyline that is only in my head.  I’ve spent half of my life wishing I was dead.  If there is part of this that I shouldn’t have said, I’m sorry.  To fix it I have to get back to the place it first started.”

At just over 35 minutes, this album was an impassioned masterpiece.  It’s once you dig into those lyrics that you get hit hard with a once unavoidable reality for so many of us.  I appreciated the hell out of that.

Be Well at first reminded me of a more polished Strike Anywhere, but with plenty of personal, emotional defects and small doses of PMA ultimately fueled with hardcore values.  The more I listened to it though, it was clear how and why these artists came together and dropped this release.  I have to admit, this album beat me up but I was impressed with it once I fought back some of those memories.

Album Review: NOFX / Frank Turner – West Coast vs. Wessex

It’s not the first time a couple of artists decided to drop a split release for shits and giggles, but it’s probably the first time one to this character was done.

When I learned NOFX and Frank Turner were working on a split, I have to admit I was excited as hell because I knew both sides would try their best to emulate each other.

It’s been a long time since NOFX did a split with another band.  I am sure you older punks recall the last NOFX / Rancid split that dropped some 18 years ago.  This time though, it was not really a punk band covering a punk band but rather a punk band covering a punk-turned-folk-singer band.

West Coast vs. Wessex is a 10 song split released by Fat Wreck Chords featuring two of the most important acts out there.  I was not sure how this was going to play out seeing how their styles are a little far-fetched, but I’m a fool for even dismissing the idea of greatness this album could be.

Leave it to Fat Mike to change up the lyrics to become a tad more personable on “Substitute”.  Less proper and more pervy, the track honestly could pass as a classic NOFX song had Turner not penned it so many years back.

“Thatcher Fucked The Kids” was a two-town-jam cover that I could not imagine was even possible until I heard it.  This was a great take on a killer Turner track.  Full of guest vocals, the only way this could have gotten better was if El Hefe busted out some of his impersonations at the end for the hell of it.

“Glory Hallelujah” was an intense, serious cover that probably will continue to upset those who engage in worship and magic bearded man in the sky.  At first I thought it was just exorbitant, but after a few listens I couldn’t agree more with how it was carried out.

Turner covering “Scavenger Type” was just brilliant.  I have to admit it did not fully carry how I was anticipating it, but it worked so well.  I was expecting a more folk take, but not on this track and that was fine by me.

The take on “Bob” was a perfect jaunt complete with some harmonica and just chill vibes.  The rendition did not require an upbeat undertaking, but when Turner belted out at the end, I was singing along just as I did when I first heard the original in the 90s.  The music video for this is pretty freaking hilarious too.

“Falling In Love” stole the split if you ask me.  As far as I am concerned, NOFX traveled to the future to steal this song from Turner and tossed it on an album when Turner was just a kid.  It has been a long time since I have heard an interpretation sound better than the original.

The cool thing about West Coast vs. Wessex was how well each band took an idea of covers and put absolute thought into it. Both sides took it seriously, well as much as they could, and took their time perfecting their versions of a handful of each band’s earlier material.

Some of me was hoping for more classic NOFX humor at times, perhaps even a continuation where a hilarious Minor Threat cover left off.  Still, plenty of innuendos were tossed in by Fat Mike as well as a huge Fat entourage of guests.

Frank Turner fans need to hear this even if they do not take NOFX serious at all.  NOFX fans will appreciate the continued creativity in taking other work’s and tossing their own style around it.  This idea just worked well and it had nothing to do with luck.  Fat Mike has had a few good ideas you know…

Visit the Fat Wreck Chords site to snag a copy for yourself.

Album Review: Broadway Calls – Sad in the City

It’s refreshing as hell to find something to distract you when the world seems like it is on the verge of caving in.  2020 can suck all the butts as far as I am concerned, but then again if this crap year were to somehow disappear, we would all miss out on Broadway Calls dropping the greatest pop punk album I’ve heard this year.

Released on July 10th on Red Scare, I opted to listen to this a few times throughout before tossing my thoughts on this here ol’ blog.  Sometimes you just need to take in something this good to appreciate it even more.  The album made me think, pulled on the old heartstrings, and even invoked a childhood fear of mine.

“If my country collapses, can I crash on your couch” started the album off on “Never Take Us Alive.”  This plaintive reality of a track basically was a full-forced promise of not giving up fighting what’s right.

“You Gotta Know” is easily one of my favorite songs currently.  I adored this track for all it was worth.  Might have to borrow this one to prove to the wife she still drives me crazy in a good way.  I seriously can not get this song out of my head.

Album title track “Sad in the City” was just so likable as it tore into the blatant imbalance causing pain and sorrow.  With talking about bombs and death in the street, this was not intended to be tongue-in-cheek but more so a nod at hope for change.

“Radiophobia” was an 80s nightmare regarding nuclear meltdowns (check out the video below).  Turns out, the track was based on actual events from Ty Vaughn’s childhood as he grew up around reactors.  I actually grew up fearing the Perry Nuclear Powerplant in Ohio, so I get it and sided with this track a ton.  Those smokestacks still freak me the hell out.

“Meet Me on the Moon” was an amorous tune eluding to not wanting to give up the night with a special someone.  Looking deeper into this one, it’s possible no one wants to be alone during a time like this.

Album closer “Went Dyin'” catered to my old punk rock self so much.  I appreciated the suffering in this one as it reminded me where I came from, what I’v been through, and where it has taken me.  My mentality was molded and healed from tunes like this because, as cliche as it might sound, punk rock saved my life.  True story.

It’s been 7 years since these Oregon punkers have dropped something and as far as I’m concerned, Broadway Calls saved this year.  Sad in the City is just perfect from start to finish, full of catchy jams, and just begs to be heard.  That’s not to say this is a happy, joyful collection of anthems.  This album hits at the bullshit reality thats been draining our collective mentality.

Missing out on this album would not be in your best interest, especially if you fancy punk tunes.  Trust me on this.

Album Review: Brain Cave – Stuck In The Mud

I got to see one of my all time favorite bands play Cleveland last year. Worried I would not have a good spot to see said band, I arrived early to claim my area.

I’m glad I showed up early that night because, little did I know, I was about to be introduced to my soon to be favorite local band.

The band I speak of is Brain Cave.  The three-piece noise-rock / post-hardcore locals blew me away that night and turned me into a fan.

Fast-forward 6+ months and I just so happen to see that the band is taking preorders for Stuck In The Mud, the band’s first full-length album released by Tiny God Inc. (the drummer’s label).  They had a couple of songs to check out and after hearing them both, I immediately preordered the release on cassette. I cannot even tell you the last time I did something like that.

So I guess I take this time now to talk about why I’m so enthusiastic about these guys.

“Erosion” started off the album with a self-preservation method many of us could use right about now with “reset” being repeated throughout along with other words of encouragement.

“Night Work” continued with aggression and force.  This tune accompanied with restless thoughts was full of breakdowns, riffs, and just insane drumming.  Technical as hell, as much as I hate to say this, it was almost Mastodon-y sans that wizard shit and whiney vocals.

“Assigned Seat” brought me back to the years when I would see hardcore and post hardcore shows what seemed like daily.  Loved this track a ton musically as well as the message presented about not giving up ever.

“Sideline To Rot” was equally technical as was it just untamed.  This was one of those tracks where I asked myself how the hell a three-piece pulled this out.

“Bar Seat No. 1” are on me a lot since this album dropped.  Maybe it was the hint of punk embedded within the post-hardcore track.  It was most likely because this song filled me up with rage in the best way.

Precise like a Cave In track, “Ahead Thought” sucked me in.  Just when I thought I liked it, things shifted down and I became even more consumed.  The ending of this track was dead-on amazing.

“Moved Obstacle” finished up the album with the bad just not letting up at all.  This was the kind of song introduced to a young me that held the capability to open up my thought process.  I am trying to think of best how to explain this.  Think about the message and hose it was received.  That is the feeling that hit me when this song played.

The sound that Brain Cave delivered brought me back to the 90s in the best way possible.  All I could keep thinking about while listening is how they related to Helmet, Handsome, and Quicksand.  The year is half gone and Stuck In The Mud will be sitting high on my best of list for this pretty screwed up year.

Perhaps once this COVID crap is tame and venues start allowing shows to play Brain Cave will play again.  I honestly would love to check this band out again, especially now.

With that said, if you need a solid distraction due to these current events, check out the Brain Cave debut already.  I cannot get enough of it.  In fact, I listened to it two times earlier today and once more this evening as I wrapped up this review.  It’s that damn good.

Album Review: The Electric Grandmother – Relaunch

80s synth-pop smashed with experimental sci-fi indie rock is about the best I can explain The Electric Grandmother these days to anyone who asks.

Taking their duo to a conceptional level higher than their last release, Cancelled that literally surrounded a man losing his mind over an axed sitcom, Relaunch is the most unique release I’ve heard these two drop to date.

Residing in Washington DC, and originally staking claim to fame in Columbus, OH, the high-level 411 on The Electric Grandmother is a husband/wife duo who have taken their love for each other and televised entertainment and put their own twist into it musically.  Sitcom Core pretty much was their lovechild, but with time comes maturity and they really are beyond what they once created.

I could sit here and tell you how much Pete and Mary Alice mean to me, but I’ll save that.  Instead, I would like to remind them the time I showed up at their wedding reception first if I am not mistaken and they both ran to me, excited to see someone on their level that wasn’t a family member asking over and over when they were going to start a family and talk about their lost cat or bridge mix.

What am I getting at you ask?

I was there for them then, and I still am today.

I write this review not because they asked me to check it out, but as a fan of a band that really has seemingly taken gimmicks to levels that almost carry on hidden meaning.

Case and point, Relaunch, is about Ronald Regan getting kidnapped, but surrounds the crew that came together to find and hopefully  bring him back to safety.  It’s a silly, serious escapade into another dimension with room for one more to enjoy the trip.

“The Kidnapping of Ronald Reagan” set up the story with Mary Alice’s ever so sweet singing followed up with her main squeeze’s melodica infused singing.  Not going to lie, I just sat here and marveled at how great this track sounded while hanging on for the ride.

Classic, crass sounding “Nancy Reagan” followed with plenty of poo and butt jokes including Mr. T’s lap.  I’d expect nothing less seeing how much these two shouldn’t always be taken seriously.

“Relaunch” could have been mistaken for Chemical Brothers at the start with the instrumentals.  Seriously, this track ruled so much that i had to listen to it a second time once it ended.  Clearly this track fueled the journey to space to find the president.

Even rescue astronauts need a distraction as proved in “Shuttle Dance Night”.  The samples were great, but the singing as provided by Pete and Mary Alice was far more intriguing.  Plenty of 80s references reside on this track all sampled perfectly.

“Stand For The Air Demon” carried beats like none other.  The end dropped with an almost Orson Welles monolog that drifted into silence only to be picked up and amplified in “Nine Miles To The Water”.

The only problem with “Two Mummies” is that someone missed the opportunity to toss a freestyle over it.  I suppose there’s always a chance of the Relaunch Remix.  

This is where I stop talking about the album because really do not want to ruin it for anyone.  If you’ve found yourself interested in this crazy tale, then it is up to you to check out the album to find out the conclusion.

As for The Electric Grandmother, they’ve once again wowed me with originality, but impressed me with how much further they have taken their talents music-wise.  They have not lost their charm, but at the same time are showcasing their true worth.  Never quit you two.

Available on Bandcamp, the band is taking proceeds from this album and donating to their favorite DC hangout spot, Slash Run.

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