Category Archives: New Release

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.

Check It Out: Throw Shade

I say it a million times, I know it…I have some talented ass friends here in Cleveland.  Some of them are in bands and some of them form bands from other friends in other bands to make killer cool bands.

Throw Shade is one of those bands.

Throw Shade

My god their EP is fantastic.  Just stop now and listen:

That first track though…wow.  Loving the poppy punk sounds with harmony and emo for all to sulk to.  Featuring a dude from Worship This! and a dude who used to kill it in Annabel, I already knew it was going to be awesome.

I expect exciting things to come from these guys soon.

Until then, check out their EP release party next week at The Grog Shop.  It’s going to be a good time for sure!

Throw Shade EP Release Show

Album Review: MakeWar – Developing a Theory of Integrity

MakeWar "Developing A Theory Of Integrity"I admit, I do not get to crank out reviews like I used to.  If I had it my way, I would quit my paying gig and do this full time, but the truth of the matter is that I do this for fun and not profit and I have bills to pay.  20-year-old me would kick my ass right now for even mentioning that.  I sound like grandpa punk again…

I’ve been trying to find some time to write about one of my favorite albums of 2016 for the past month now.  I am seriously stoked to have found some time tonight to do so.  With that said, here we go.

Developing a Theory of Integrity by Brooklyn’s MakeWar immediately jumped to the top of my favorite albums the moment I heard the first song.  I cannot get enough of this album and have been listening to it almost daily since it dropped on Red Scare Industries in September.

Side note: Not even two days after I heard the album, I learned that they were playing the final Dag House show in Cleveland (RIP DAG).  As luck would have it, I had a free night and I booked it over to that historical home to see MakeWar do their thing in the basement and got to act like a fanboy afterwards who was short $1 when trying to buy their debut self-titled LP out of their van while they were literally trying to back out of the driveway to make a long ass drive to Omaha.  Thanks Jose, I will pay you back that $1 next time you roll through town.

Originally an acoustic act called Sad and French, MakeWar took their songs to a new dynamic and turned themselves into a full fletched punk rock band that carries so many likable qualities from catchy hooks to relatable lyrical content.  Don’t get me wrong, Sad and French were absolutely amazing, but plugging in the guitars and turning up those amps have MakeWar way more exciting to listen to.

As previously mentioned, opening track “Matador Pool Party” blew me away.  There was so much going on with this track from the group singing to the Rancid/Face To Face reminiscing bass playing, brutal drumming, and lyrical content that just brought it all together perfectly.

“Ode” was just that, an ode to living life with booze in hand in NYC.  I loved the line “fuck not drinking for a week” as I’ve said that in my heyday when having a rough week of celebrating but refused to give it up.  I also loved the random thought process throughout the song that really could pertain to any city.  This is about as real as a song gets with spirits raised high.

“DTFH” was another standout track that begged to be sung along to.  Ironically this track reminded me in a sense of more upbeat Iron Chic who used to be on DTFH records.  “Don’t Panic” resembled Taking Back Sunday’s earlier years in a good way.

“On Feelings” might have been the most emotional track on the album but not in a cowering sense.  This track just make me happy for some reason and brought back some memories of great hangouts with great pals.  “Sallie” was another amazing song on this album.  I feel like I keep saying that, but it is true.  There were a lot of songs of this album that caught my attention including this one that referenced the paying back of those stupid ass student loans.

“Distractions” was more technical like Strung Out.  I really loved the change up of musical style on this track which clearly was the heaviest.  “Dust” ended the album in a completely different style full of dismay and sorrow, but damn it was beautiful.

I can not say enough good things about MakeWar.  If you are reading this, you need to at least check out the video for “Ode” below so you can see what got me so excited.  If you dig like I do, snag the album.  You will not be disappointed.

Visit MakeWar on Facebook and check them out live if you can.

Album Review: NOFX – First Ditch Effort

NOFX - First Ditch EffortI can sit here and blow a bunch of smoke up all the buttholes of NOFX, but for the sake of time and whatnot, I will skip a few paragraphs of introduction and get to the point.

Chances are if you are reading this, you already know of NOFX and do not need to read any type of introduction, but just in case you have no idea who I am speaking of, I will put in a small, small intro.

So here’s my review:

NOFX have a new album.  It’s called First Ditch Effort.  It’s freaking good.  After 4 long years, the foursome is back and have taken their 13th release and made it a personal triumph of sorts.  I should mention that the band has been around for 30 years now too.

Impressive.

This album was not like the others.  Where I was used to drug fueled witty pokes at anything and everything, this album was serious and seemingly was written from torn pages of the band’s personal journals.

“Six Years On Dope” started with Fat Mike and Melvin arguing who should scream / sing the song.  This romper of a track was a confessional tale of sorts with both Melvin and Fat Mike disclosing their lower times of hardcore partying.  Not surprising, the track was catchy as hell, but destructive in hearing all these two have been through.

“Happy Father’s Day” continued with heavy riffs and had Fat Mike more or less vanquish his father figure.

“Sid and Nancy” is a punk rock conspirator’s dream track in that Fat Mike and crew suggested Nancy Reagan killed Sid Vicious.  Providing an insight to what happened by the hands of Nancy proved to be quite interesting to listen to and very well could become the start to what would be a killer cult movie.

“California Drought” referenced Fat Mike’s current cleanse he been experiencing after years of recreational drug use.  The positives were null in this track as Fat Mike sung about the struggle on wanting to use when he knows he can’t.  It was cool to hear El Hefe supply a horn solo in the middle of this track.

“Oxy Moronic” was brilliant.  Pointing the fingers at the big pharmaceuticals with plenty of tongue-and-cheek references to the thousands of stupid drug names, this track was all about exposing the doctors who prescribe for profit.  See below for the Funny or Die created music video.

Listening to “I Don’t Like Me Anymore” was like listening to Fat Mike have an intervention with himself.  The content of this song was nothing positive, but man, this song ripped.  If this track is what makes Fat Mike feel better about his actions and future, then I would say this is a win.

Maybe it was because of the NOFX autobiography released earlier this year exposing the truth of the band, or maybe it was just for the hell of it, but “I’m a Transvest-Lite” was all about Fat Mike and his cross-dressing tendencies.  As he is open to his dressing preferences these days, the song talked about his secret over the years and how he’s ok with not going full forced cross-dressing as he is too lazy to apply makeup.  He ended the track perfectly with: “You gotta know it’s not just girls who wanna have fun.”

Listening to “I’m So Sorry Tony” was tough for me and really had me bumming after listening to it for like four times in a row.  For years now, I have been waiting for this song.  Ever since Sly left this world, there have been songs and tributes, but I’ve always wanted to hear Fat Mike’s take.  This song was all heart and took it past band mates to a family level.  Forget that Sly was an amazing musician, Sly was also a voice of reason and an inspiration and Fat Mike really emphasized that in this song.  Listen to this track and you’ll get chills, especially the ending…

“Generation Z” could be the last song Fat Mike and crew ever write and I would be ok with it.  This track was about the foreseen sad future according NOFX as seen by the youth with them being the last.  Not holding back, Fat Mike wished his daughters nothing but the best in this messed up world.  Being a father myself, it was kind of rough to hear the lie: “so we tell our daughters and our sons that they’re not the  final ones to see this planet as a decent place to live.”  As if that did not hit me hard enough, hearing Fat Mike’s kids perform a spoken word, just left this record ending in a whole mess of emotions.

It’s been a couple of weeks since this album dropped and I admit I held off on finishing this review as I just kept telling myself to listen to the album one more time.  With each listen, I am becoming a bigger fan of it.  It’s intense to hear an album full of realizations from a band that used be known for partying their asses off.

Having seen this band at least 15 times live in my life and have called myself a fan of them since I was about 17, I can see that these Peter Pan punk rockers are finally growing up a bit and cherishing all they have accomplished.

NOFX is touring with Pears and Useless ID and I am hoping I can check them all out:

10/22/16 Waterfront Park – San Diego, CA
11/02/16 Crystal Ballroom – Portland, OR
11/03/16 Showbox SoDo – Seattle, WA
11/04/16 Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver, BC Canada
11/05/16 Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver, BC Canada
11/07/16 Union Hall – Edmonton, AB Canada
11/08/16 Union Hall – Edmonton, AB Canada
11/09/16 MacEwan Hall – Calgary, AB Canada
11/11/16 Burton Cummings Theatre – Winnipeg, MB Canada
11/12/16 Cabooze on the West Bank – Minneapolis, MN
11/13/16 The Rave – Milwaukee, WI
11/14/16 House of Blues – Cleveland, OH
11/16/16 Sokol Auditorium – Omaha, NE
11/17/16 Liberty Hall – Lawrence, KS
11/18/16 Gas Monkey Live! – Dallas, TX
03/10/17 On A Cruise Ship – Miami, FL
03/18/17 Pot of Gold Music Festival – Chandler, AZ

 

Album Review: Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings

Beach SlangJames Alex as been through a lot of shit in a short amount of time with his band Beach Slang, both good and bad.

The pressure of being 1/4 of Beach Slang (now 1/3) almost had him call it quits earlier this year, but thanks to a fan who caught him after a show that night before he disappeared, he reconsidered.

Let’s face it, being in your 40s and having your band blow up the way Beach Slang did in such a short amount of time can not be easy.  For what it is worth, I am glad Alex did not throw the towel in yet.

With that said, Beach Slang just released their followup to 2015’s The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us.  The band actually wrote most of this sophomore release while touring.  That right there is dedication if you ask me.

A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, on Polyvinyl Records, is incredible.  It’s an encompass of Jawbreaker and The Replacements with plentyof held back angst and passion to produce an album worthy of multiple listens.

“Play it loud, play it fast.  Play me something that will always last” starts off on “Future Mixtape for the Arts Kids.”  This track is a perpetual anthem for anyone who uses music as a crutch to get through life.

“Atom Bomb” followed with plenty of fuzz and rock to keep anyone who listens entertained.  This fast-paced track may have clocked in at less than 2 minutes long, but its effects lasted much longer.  “Spin the Dial” was full of hooks and solos with Alex laying out some lyrics that sounded more personal.

“Punks In a Disco Bar” was perfectly contained in that the band sounded so together yet not overly produced.  This was one of the first singles off the new release and it’s no wonder why they chose it, the song rules.

“You’re my favorite weirdo” is sang during “Wasted Daze of Youth”, a love track of sorts that seemingly repeated many phrases I have said out loud when I felt smitten.  The hopeless swooning and the confessions combined lyrically was the best thing about this song.

The complementing “The Perfect High” focused on the best correlation between two individuals while carrying a 90s musical feel.  I really enjoyed this track a lot, especially the bass line throughout.  I almost felt like a teen again listening to this track.

Album closer “Warpaint” was an inciting jam that slowly built up a credence with Alex ending the track “don’t be afraid to want to be alive.”  These are the kinds of songs I clung on to as a lost juvenile – songs that made me feel better about my situation  Hell, there are some days I can still use the encouragement.

I’ve heard some banter recently from folk based on the album’s title alone that maybe Alex has been writing music that he is a little too old for, but I have to disagree.  He is writing for the all-ages fan who is looking for a release with a comparable ideal.  Alex is the voice for many and Beach Slang certainly carries the talent to do so.  The band has proven this on A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings and I’m positive the fans will confirm this.

My only complaint with this album is that it is only 29 minutes long and the selfish me wanted to hear double that.  I won’t lie, this is the best album I have listened to so far this year.

Beach Slang is playing the Grog Shop next month in Cleveland with Bleached.  This is a show to NOT miss.

Bleached Slang Tour 2016