Category Archives: Review

Album Review: Bad Luck Jonathan – Bad Luck Jonathan

Bad Luck Jonathan is the band your father probably told you about that never actually existed.

Sounding like they are straight out of the 70s, this Jon Langford project carries the fuzz, the soul, and plenty of the mean deviation of a progressive space rock act that could fool any naive music listener into thinking that this band is an obscure band from the past.

For those who have not heard of the name Langford, you should probably stop what you are doing and go check out a few songs from  his first band, The Meckons, a punk band that took root 40 years ago.  The dude is a fricking legend, but be forewarned, Bad Luck Johnathan is a lot more astray from what Langford once started with and mind you, the Meckons were all over the place.

I should probably mention that Bad Luck Jonathan is not just Langford though.  Former Whiskeytown guitarist, Phil Wandscher and Martin Billheimer joined forces with Langford along with the Waco Brother’s very own Joe Camarillo and Alan Doughty (who also happened to be in Jesus Jones).  It’s been said they came together on an island off the coast of the Pacific Northwest in very specific circumstances.

Realizing they were on to something good, the band, with help from Cleveland’s very own Blue Arrow Records, dropped a spacey, sludge rock self-titled album.  That descriptor alone right there just sounds bad ass.  Well, so is the album.

Album opener “3 Eyed Piranaha” was a space rock blues jam that pretty much opened the gates of what was to come on this album.  It was like listening to Mike Watt, Suicidal Tendencies, Beck, and Stevie Ray Vaughn all smashed together.  It was beautiful.

“Bad Luck Jonathan” carried a very Doors-y feel at the beginning, but went the path of Bowie and beyond.  “Strong Engine” was a mysterious sounding track with some catchy guitar lines backed by smooth bass playing that erupted halfway into a full-fetched jam.

“Clowntown Collapse” closed the album down with a distortion-driven almost cowpunk sounding track that I really got a kick out of.  I could only imagine this song being played live in a dark, small venue, especially by the end when Langford commented into the mic, “that was great” as the song ended.

Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, I can tell you this is not just some quickly thrown together album.  Personally, by the end, I was hoping for more as it was a hell of a listen.  There is a lot of talent thrown into these six tracks and I’ve personally listened to it over a few times now as it carries a unique sound I am really digging.

The LP version of this album was pressed by Gotta Grove Records and looks killer thanks to the red opaque color of the wax.

If you want to snag a copy, head over to Blue Arrow Records.

I got a kick while reading an interview with Lone Star Music Magazine and felt the need to share.  Langford joked about working with Blue Arrow by saying, “we made an album that’s coming out on Blue Arrow Records in Cleveland; their only other artist is Jonathan Richman, so they only work with artists with Jonathan in their name.”

Langford is a trip, and judging by the video below, so are his live performances.  I really need to check these guys out live next time they roll through Cleveland.

 

Album Review: Western Addiction – Tremulous

After 12 years since their debut dropped, I have to admit I was shocked and overly stoked when Western Addiction announced that they were dropping a sophomore album on Fat Wreck Chords.

What got me even more stoked was to hear that Joey Cape was producing it and Dead To Me’s Chicken was back offering bass duties.

Once I heard all of this news, I was like a giddy little kid impatiently waiting to hear it.  I loved Western Addiction’s debut album, it ruled on so many levels.  Finally today,  I was able to check out Tremulous and it does not disappoint at all.

“Clatter and Hiss” started things off well.  The energetic track really proved to me that this album was going to be sick.  “Masscult, Vulgarians and Entitlement” was just a rager of a song to listen to.  I dug the vocal ranges throughout as it just added an enjoyable edge to it.

The tough “Taedium” was just perfect to listen to tonight after having a stagnate day at the paying gig.  I could not help but to think about Mötorhead on this track, and that is not a bad thing at all.  Add the fact that Propagandhi’s Todd Kowalski dropped some vocals in it make it even that much better for me.  This was a hell of a track.

“Red Emeralds” was a short track, but one that left a mark.  This hardcore track was full-forced from start to end.

The guitar playing on “Humming Bars of White Light” reminded me one again of Mötorhead, again, not a bad thing at all.  This track ruled.

Then there was “The Rockery”.  This track was all over the place with a hardcore feel that morphed into a punk rock jam  that eventually all ended by a guitar solo like no other.

Album ender “Your Life Is Precious” was written in tribute to the band’s friend, and Enemy You frontman, David Jones.  This track was not like the others and easily was my favorite cut off the album.  I loved the different approach taken and really was reminded of something Danzig might have done in this prime.  Not saying there are “woahs’ and “yeahs” being screamed, but I am saying a damn fine song took you on a ride.

Western Addiction really have dropped a killer release.  This punk/hardcore act has delivered after a 12 year wait and did not cut any corners in doing so.  If you are looking for something to listen to without smooth edges and loud, check out Tremulous.

Album Review: Remainders – Remainders

My mind is out there sometimes.

I forget things and I am quick to admit it.

I have legit reasons though.  With old age and a future punk rocker running around the house causing chaos daily, it is bound to happen.

I bet though if Remainders were called “Reminders”, I would have remembered to have reviewed their debut album months ago.

Still, it’s never too late to talk about bands and their tunes, especially ones that I enjoy.

The boys in Pittsburgh’s Remainders caught my attention back in 2014 with their EP Fine Exits.  If you happened across my blog mentioning their EP, you’ll notice how much I enjoyed what I heard.  They are a punk rock foursome who happen to write those catchy, easy to absorb jams about real things like getting old and just life in particular.

Featuring members of other Pittsburgh talent such as World’s Scariest Police Chases, Playoff Beard, and Incommunicado, their debut full-length, released on A-F Records, easily could have been their 4th or 5th album in that their sound is so defined and structured.  You’d think this band has been around for 10 years.

“Serenity Now, Insanity Later” started off the 10-track album.  This song was catchy and just pertained to modern life, drowning sorrows, and paying the price later.

I loved the energy in “Trying Too Hard” and especially how together the band sounded throughout.  “Still a Fool” had so many singable lines throughout and just kept my attention.  This has got to be one of those tracks that everyone just loses their shit to at a live show.

I especially loved the song “Smile, You Son of a Bitch” alone due to the Jaws reference, but the track itself was pretty bad ass too.

“You’re Living A Lie?  I’m Living Like Twenty!” easily was my favorite track on the album.  I dug the intermittent breakdowns and how it just exploded into a rager of a tune.  Add to the fact how this track spoke on growing up by moving on, it became more of a personable jam for this listener.

“Onward, Upward” reminded me of the days where I thought I was had control of my vices, but was only kidding myself and others. I loved how this track sang about denial and self-realization, but without a typical happy ending.

With so many bands out there these days, it is easy to pass up something good.  In this case, I was pretty much delivered by hand a copy of this album by Chris Stowe himself, and my old ass forgot about it.  I place the blame on myself for overlooking it.

Hopefully Stowe and the band can understand why this is so delayed.  I know at least Karim can – congrats on the newest addition to your family btw!!!.

If you are looking for a punk rock jam of an album but full of heart, then this debut release by these Steel City dudes is worth checking out.  Fans of Banner Pilot, Dear Landlord, and Iron Chic will dig the hell out of this release, at least I think they will.

Who am I kidding?  I’ll probably forget I even wrote this when I wake up tomorrow…  Just kidding, guys, this album has been on regular rotation since I got it.

Book Review: Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Famous Anarchist Sellout – Laura Jane Grace with Dan Ozzi

I wasn’t always a fan of Against Me!  In fact, I was turned off by the idea of that band in the early 2000s.  I refused to listen to them.

This was due in part to a group of obsessed punk kids I sparingly partied with at Kent State who played them over and over nightly, declaring they were the greatest band of all time.  I never gave them a true chance.  I was just annoyed I guess.

It was not until I caught Against Me! live at a small club that I started to appreciate them and realized those little punk kids were actually on to something.  Soon after that show, I declared myself a fan.  I have been ever since.

For years, I would catch them live any chance I could and even was lucky enough to shoot some of their shows at Warped Tours and also at the House of Blues in Cleveland.  Being up close and personal while they played was always a treat for me as not only was I taking photos of a band I dug, but also really got to take in their stage presence.

Hell, Warren Oakes (Against Me!’s former drummer) used to smile directly at me every time I pointed my camera at him.  That right there was just great.

I thought Tom Gabel was the coolest and not only loved the band he started, but enjoyed his style and swagger.  I once tried to emulate him of sorts by buying shoes and black jeans like what he rocked. I still have the shoes today, but me in those black jeans are not anything anyone needs to see.

I had always hoped to catch him before or after a show where I could strike up a conversation with him and we would become fast friends.  It was a typical fan expectation that never happened and I’m not mad about it.   I am just grateful for the experiences I had being able to shoot Against Me! as they played songs I adored.

The last time I saw Tom Gabel play live, he had grown his hair long.  Never in a million years would I have guessed his reasoning behind that.  Soon after that show, Tom Gabel was gone, and Laura Jane Grace emerged.

Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Famous Anarchist Sellout is an memoir by Laura Jane Grace, with help from Dan Ozzi, that tells the whole story.

Props to Grace for spilling her heart out to anyone curious to know about her life and all the shit she went thought to get there.  The book takes it all the way back to a young boy with a broken family, a kept away secret, years of rebellion, and of course the start of a band.  Throughout, Grace fought with coming to terms with a feeling embedded in her mind and made it a reality no matter how difficult the outcome would be for herself and others.  She also talked about how the anarchist DIY punk band sold out and the hell endured trying to make it big.

Reading about the life and times of Against Me! from Grace’s first person point of view was fascinating enough, but learning about her coming to terms with her gender dysphoria was even more interesting, especially while building up a band and touring the world.

I cannot imagine how tough it has to have been for her to hide all of the feelings and essentially have an affair with herself, secluding the truth from everyone she loved including her wife and bandmates.  With great detail, Grace shared memories of when she realized she felt she was a she and not a he.  This wasn’t something that just happened overnight.

I do not wish to ruin anything for anyone who has not had the chance to read this book by going into great detail, but will say this:  Some of the stories are funny, some are haunting, and all are honest.

Memories with the Rancid, Blink 182, Har Mar Superstar, and even Marilyn Manson really kept the pages turning for me.  I smiled and even laughed out loud while reading some chapters while during others re-read sentences just to make sure I fully understood what had just happened.

It can’t be easy for a band who’s trying to make it big with the major labels while knowingly losing their fan base because of it.  Add on top of that a member who is struggling with their gender identification and at the brink of giving it all up,  I’m shocked the band didn’t just implode.

Fueled with drugs, depression, anger, and also love, Grace’s road to accepting herself was nothing short of futile.

It killed me to read how miserable she and the band were at times when they played in front of their fans, including me.  It never occurred to me the facade all of the band members put on for the sake of their fans.

The triumphant moment within this biography, when Gabel turned into Grace and started telling others the hidden secret, was built up so well thanks to Grace’s recollections and Ozzi’s sorting out the years worth of journal entries.

The epilogue might have been my favorite part of the book as all of my previous questions I had while reading finally were answered.  It was amazing to read that James Bowman was still happily around.   I learned what really happened to Oakes, where Andrew Seward went, and what they all really thought of Jay Weinberg.  I also found out what happened with the marriage and more importantly, what happened with their daughter.    The last few sentences in the memoir put the biggest smile on my face.

I learned a lot about Grace in the book.  I truly have a great about of respect for her in how brave she was to release this chronicle of her life.  I am sure this was not an easy thing to do, but sharing her story is inspiring to me and I am sure tons of other readers.

Everyone owes it to themselves to read Tranny.  It won’t hurt you, I promise.  In fact, it’s probably one of the most interesting stories I have ever read about someone.

Book Review: NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories

NOFXI distinctively remember the first time I heard NOFX in the 90s.

I was a friend’s house who told me there was a band I had to hear and before asking who, he immediately played NOFX for me.  The very second that music hit my ears, I turned into a fan.

I loved their crass style and catchy songs to the point I went out that same day and bought a handful of NOFX cassettes where I proceeded to memorize all of the songs.  I would listen to I Heard They Suck Live daily and even unsuccessfully looked for a pair of NOFX shorts as seen on White Trash, Two Heebs, and Bean album cover.

In 1996, I got to see NOFX for the first time live at a Warped Tour that was held on a gravel parking lot.  There is so much to this story I do not care to get into, but it was pretty much the day that I knew I would be a fan forever.

Last Spring, NOFX released a tell all (and  mean tell all) autobiography titled NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories.  With help from Jeff Alulis, the band all took turns telling stories of how they all came to be without holding back anything.

Chapter one started with a confession of the drinking of urine.  From there, the autobiography was everything  expected from to hear from the boys, but there was so much more that I was not ready for including the personal hardships, the suicides, and especially the murders that were revealed.

I loved how the book was split into various chapters by previous and current members.  Sometimes the chapters complimented one another’s recollections, while others were random for a moment and then touched back on something else said.  Where they were not exactly in chronological order, they followed suit enough where I never was trying to connect the dots.  It was almost like I was just hanging out with everyone in a room listening to random stories.

The content was funny, serious, and scary as hell at times.  Where a lot of the band spoke on the good times being in NOFX and touring the world, a lot was spent talking about severe drug abuse and the insane adventures they were involved in.  Reading various memories from original members and current members really encompassed all angles on the story of NOFX.

I loved reading about the bands they saw as kids and the bands they toured with.  Hearing them talk about Rancid and the Offspring signing to major labels while they held their own was interesting.  I was shocked to even learn that NOFX almost signed to a major label but collectively changed their minds and did things their way.

Of course the part where they all talked about playing at Eric Melvin’s aunt and uncle’s house in Aurora, OH stuck with me.  I grew up next to that city and wished to hell I could have seen them play outside in a suburban neighborhood.  Truth is, I was probably a bit too young then, but the best part about this story is that I actually became friend’s with Melvin’s cousin.  She introduced me to his parents once (if you’re reading this, hi Suzanne!)

Reading about Smelly’s heroin addiction and how he eventually overcame it was just intense.  At first, his stories were humorous and chaotic, but soon became almost uncomfortable to read, especially the ones he told as a full blown junkie who hit rock bottom.  One of his stores that had me laughing out loud though was about a stolen van and a kid who turned out to be Billie Joe Armstrong.  When the pieces came together a few chapters later, I lost it.

Fat Mike kept things unfiltered and entertaining.  I know more about his sex life now than I ever cared to, but I made sure I read all of it.  I was mostly surprised to read that he was not the biggest embarrassment early on (sans his singing).  It is crazy to have finished this book knowing that shortly after its release, he decided to chill out on things and go for treatment all because of his pal Tony Sly.  Fat Mike say seem like an a-hole on stage, but he is a family man and a loyal friend.  I really enjoyed reading his story from start to finish.

El Hefe had me cracking up many times with his stories, mostly when he first started the band, but the one thing in the book that I will never forget was the photo he shared with himself and Tori Amos.  If you read the book, I am hoping you know exactly what I am talking about.  I also appreciated learning how he grew up and became the man he is today.

The fact that the band members dropped their own moments of truth to one another in print for the first time just made this book so much more real to me.  Kept promises were broken and made public because they needed to heard and the autobiography was the perfect place to release.  The admissions clearly would open up healed wounds, but were probably never meant to be hidden forever.

Reading how they went from learning about punk rock at an adolescent age to becoming one of the most prolific bands in the punk rock community and beyond was just perfect.  Sadly, the road they traveled for 30 years to get there was not a smooth ride and not easy to read at times.  I especially appreciated not only learning about NOFX, but also other avenues by the band including Smelly’s motocross company, Melvin’s coffee shop, and El Hefe’s hot mess of a nightclub.

You really don’t need to be a fan of NOFX or punk rock for that matter to enjoy this book.  Their stories in this book will suck you in and Jeff Alulis did a great job putting it into print.

Granted it took me a little longer to finish this book than I wanted to, I will tell you that I read almost half of it in just two nights as I could not put it down.  I can honestly say I finished the last chapter with a smile on my face and even a bigger appreciation for the band who I’ve been a fan of now for over 20 years.

If you are just looking for a group of dudes telling you true stories from a punk rock, drug fueled life, NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories is a must read.  For the record, you will learn about the bathtub and it is a little nastier than you might think.