Category Archives: New Release

Album Review: Sam Russo – Back to the Party

Being cooped up because of some asinine virus has not been my favorite thing as of late.  I really shouldn’t complain though, as I know many pals of mine are hurting severely because of this pandemic.  If I could help everyone, I would.  Trust me on that.

I offer a distraction to anyone who needs it right now via music.  It’s the least I can do.

My pal Toby from that punk label out there called Red Hair Bimbo Trees or something sent me a message today reminding me that the great Sam Russo has new material that just dropped and encouraged me to stop sitting there and do something.

Who is Sam Russo you ask?  He’s a UK punk rocker who honestly could put his back up these days to a young Frank Turner when it comes to musical style and craftsmanship, but that’s being a little lazy for comparison.  Said differently, if you love when punk lead singers do their solo thing and get all Revival Tour on your ass, you’ll love this dude.  I guarantee it based on his storytelling ability.

Russo has actually been around for a while now and Back to the Party is his third release on Red Scare Records.  I was lucky enough to get a good taste of him thanks to 2015’s Greyhound Dreams and have really been waiting for the day he dropped some new tunes.

“I took a lot of risks on this record and I’m so glad I did because it came out sounding really original and totally true to what I was trying to say for so many years.” – Sam Russo

“Purple Snow” started off the album a little personal and a tad incoherent in terms of the story within the song.  I adored this track upon first listen.  Russo honestly has never sounded better.  Perhaps a personal memoir, this track carried enough emotion to have me thinking of some of my past history.  I am curious though, was the snow purple from Mad Dog 20/20?  One can hope…one can hope.

“Good and Gone” I think was taken from my own personal memory of most of 2009.  This song hit the heart hard, as it sung of hurt and triumph.  These are the tunes that make me happy exist because the show me where I’ve been, where I can from, and what I’ve become.

“Darkness” followed and continued to tug on forced-in feelings with an apologetic excuse on interpersonal communication, or the lack thereof.  Wholesome and pure, this track probably will be relating to a lot of folk.

There’s so much that can be said about “Young Heroes” based on how the listener took it in.  Given the current situation, this track speaks volumes to those who are working harder than ever based on some stupid pandemic.  Not trying to sound cliché at all, but there’s a lot of heroes in my book right now.

I can not really talk about a certain track on here in great detail, but if you know me, you know it totally kicked my ass by the title alone.  The past will always sting back when you least expect it.  Maybe I need to appreciate it more than I give myself credit for seeing how it shaped me, but still, that shit hurts.  Nice job Russo, you jerk – I might have had a tear or two let loose…

Just when you think there’d be a slight let up of sorrow on the album, “Tears” kicked in.  This really was a beautiful track overall, but not to be reckoned with if you’re trying to lift them spirits high.  I mean, that chorus alone gave me chills.  Add lap-steel guitar playing that sparked a slight country feel made for my favorite track of the record.

“The Basement” ended the album with symbolism at its finest.  Russo came to terms with life due to rummaging around and only could sit back and reflect on where things went wrong.  Putting a lid to the album with this track just made so much sense.

Russo is a storyteller as much as he is a musician.  Personal tales might make you want to hug your drink a little harder when you listen to this album, but let’s be real – sometimes it is nice to remember you’re human.

Back to the Party is a must listen for any music fan.  Although some songs were full of ache, there really was a  silver lining in terms of hope.  I feel like I am trying to be motivational here, but let’s face it, times are weird as hell right now.  We can all use a distraction.

Hang in there folks.

Album Review: Notches – New Kinda Love

I’ve told myself over and over that I need to try and hammer out more reviews.  I have a million excuses why I choose bed over blog as of late and two of said excuses are the most important things in my life – my kids.  Clearly nothing is more important than them and of course my wife, so please excuse me for not paying attention to this here ol’ blog this year.

Time to change that of course.

With recent events going on to which I need not point out, I can tell you I have been thinking about a lot of things and one of them was how much I enjoy listening to tunes, discovering new bands, and especially sharing the love.  I have been wanting to talk about one particular release by a New Hampshire punk/emo/rad/DIY 3 piece band.  So here we go…

After listening to New Kinda Love by Notches back in early January, I literally stopped what I was doing and ordered the LP off of their Bandcamp page.

This was an album I fell in love with instantly and deemed one of my favorites that I’ve heard of in quite some time.  The album dropped in December 2019 from what I learned, but did not make it onto Bandcamp until this year.

Released by Dead Broke Rekerds/Salina Records, this is the band’s third proper release and sadly the fist time I really got into them.  They’ve been around since 2013 and have made an impact on the New England punk scene, but honestly once you hear them you’d think they have been around for far longer.

Starting off the album was “Room Upstairs”, a catchy track that really carried through different equal moments of catchiness and relaxed.  I really loved how much energy this band held in just on the first track.

It’s hard to believe “Museum of More Dumb Art” hasn’t been around for years and years.  This track just was so tenured sounding that I had to make sure I was still listening to the same band.  In other words, I was impressed as hell with this one.

“Crystall Ball” was emo Dinosaur Jr. on speed thanks to excessive fuzz throughout a memorable riff of a song.  This track just brought me back 25+ years to when all that mattered to me was alternative rock.  I adored it.  Had a music video been made for this one, it would have been all over MTV back when they were tolerable.

I won’t lie, the best part of “Keep My Name” was the brutal aggressiveness layered with memorable bass and guitar playing.  Quick track, but clearly full of angst that never sounded so good.

“Twist The Knife” won me over with the pop-punk edge that snuck into what otherwise could have been a track that amounted to an 80s SST Records artist song.

“Sober Souls” to me was a modern day Hüsker Dü track.  This track was just beautiful.  I really can’t explain why other than I’m over 40 and was brought years just from absorbing myself in this.  Weird, right?

The number of times I told myself how great this band was while listening was almost annoying to me.  Luckily I know i am not the only one who thinks this.  In fact, my soon to be 5-year-old loves these guys.

Need proof?

Once this bullmess of a virus pandemic goes the hell away, Notches should be touring and it looks like they may be making a stop in Cleveland so who knows, maybe I’ll be taking my son to see his first show a littler earlier than I first intended.  If he’s not quite ready, perhaps I’ll bribe the band for a quick high-five and an apple juice or something.

Don’t sleep on these guys.  Notches have dropped an album you aging punks and young ones too will truly appreciate.

Album Review: Various Artists – Red Scare Industries: 15 Years of Tears and Beers

***Punk rock grandpa rant moment warning***

I remember back in my day when the internet was not readily available at your fingertips.  Streaming music was unheard of.  Kids were not sucked into their so-called smart phones looking like a bunch of goddamn zombies.  People actually talked to one another.  Hell, you had to actually leave your house and go to a record store to buy music.

I remember I could buy punk compilations left and right on cassette by tons of labels  for the cheap.  Like 8 bucks cheap.  I had a plethora of said cassettes to play in my ’86 Dodge Shadow.  Because of that, I have always had a soft spot for comp releases most likely because I relied on them to learn about new bands and just have a nice mix of tunes to get lost in.

Why I am I sitting here telling these tales of yesteryear you ask?  I guess my question is why are you still reading this?

Truth is, it’s been a long time since a comp album hooked me in to the point I found myself listening to it on repeat.  That’s exactly what Red Scare Industries: 15 Years of Tears and Beers, a 15 track compilation celebrating the iconic label’s 15 year anniversary, did.

To reach such a milestone as an independent label is just outstanding especially in this day and age.  Most labels however are not credited with dropping so many amazing releases.  Seriously, this label is responsible for so many of my favorite releases over the years.

It is almost as if Toby has a special gift for finding the best talent in the punk world knowing he one day may need to say goodbye in the nicest way possible with limited middle fingers.  Some of the roster I speak of include no-name talent like The Menzingers, Teenage Bottlerocket, The Sidekicks, my fav dudes MakeWar, and even those dicks Masked Intruder.  I could go on, but this is a review about a comp album, right?

The Copyrights, a band who released an excellent album with Kepi Ghoulie earlier this year (check it out!), started the comp off with the fast-paced “Maine or Oregon”.

Ol’ (rather, young) Sincere Engineer held back nothing with “Dragged Across the Finish Line”, a track clearly about putting up with other’s shit in a good way.  Deanna Belos and crew really have a good thing going for them and, to me, are years ahead of their time musically.

Broadway Calls covering “Sunday Morning” by The Menzingers was actually a great idea.  It’s probably the last cover I would have expected on this comp, but here is was and I admired their take.

Punk rock sweethearts The BombPops kept my attention with “East and West”.  I hate to say it, but it won’t be much longer until this band is a mainstream wonder.  They have been getting so much attention as of late and it is well deserved.

“Dead Body” was the track on this comp that totally won me over.  In fact, for the last few days I have been sining this song to myself.  Creepy, I know.  Garrett Dale (Red City Radio) went all Stand By Me with this incredible track that even tossed out a sax-solo that just brought the whole song together.  The best part was Garrett being out “this is the dumbest song” in the middle of it.  Perhaps he is right, but it ruled.

Leave it to Brendan Kelly to do something completely out of the norm – actually no – these days I expect him to.  He took a perfectly good Lillington’s song, “All I Hear Is Static”, and turned in into a synth-heavy cover that just totally worked.  You can not hate this cover because it’s just brilliant.

“TJ” by MakeWar begged to be played over and over.  This band is one of my favorites and seemingly has a way to make songs so catchy and likable but when you actually really listen to the words, the mood shifts to a more somber approach.

I was thrilled to see The Lippies on here.  “Acid Head” was a killer song and a reminder on how much I love this band.  I hope this means there is a new album to follow.  I know they have been touring as of late.

I really could sit here and say something about every single song on the comp, but honestly I would rather you check it out for yourself.  Personally, this is the best comp I have heard since the days of Survival of the Fattest Vol. 2 and Vagrant Records: 5 Years on the Streets.  For those of you who grew up around me, you’ll now how bold of a statement that is.

I don’t know if Toby blackmailed the bands on this comp by threatening to exploit them with their collective photos of them at Staind meet-and-greets, but whatever he did worked.

Hats off to Sir Toby and the Red Scare Industries crew for 15 years of excellent releases.  This comp is a celebration of an impressive accomplishment and deserves to be heard and purchased by all.

Album Review: Subhumans – Crisis Point

I have to hand it to the legendary Subhumans for dropping an absolutely amazing release this year titled Crisis Point.

It’s been over 10 years since the band even dropped a studio release and since the mid-eighties before that.

Was I concerned about this?  Not really, but I would be lying if I told you I thought I would be enjoying it nearly as much as I do.

Honestly, had one of these new songs dropped on a playlist somewhere, I might have took it in and moved on thinking it was just something from their past, but luckily I was made privy to the album thanks to Pirates Press Records and have been listening to it on repeat for months now.

Dick Lucas sounds the same when “Terrorist In Waiting” started, which is a good thing in my book, as honestly did the band.  Sometimes things are best left unchanged and the Subhumans proved this to me just one song in.  It was fast, angry, and exactly what I needed.

Tracks like “Follow The Leader” kept on with the band’s ethos I’ve appreciated for easily 30 years now and seemingly fit so well with today’s clamored current events.

“Strange Land” wasn’t anything I haven’t heard before by the band and was a nice reminder why I even became a fan in the first place.  It reminded me of something that should have been on the Repo Man soundtrack.  This track was just great as was the following track “99%”.

“Poison” wasn’t catchy, calling for attention, or anything of that nature.  It was an anthem of sorts for those who want to listen and take the ideology and make their own judgements.  This is what I have always loved the most about this band.

“Thought Is Free” closed out the album and is honestly about as classic sounding as something that came off of their debut release.  I was amazed listening to this track knowing it’s 2019 and this band that has been around almost all of my life sounds almost exactly same and carries that same energy.  This song alone blew me away.  I loved everything about it.

It’s not a rubber stamped statement toward a seasoned band. There really are not many acts out there that I can say have been able to do this.  What is “this” you ask?  Keep their roots, stick to their sound, and haven’t a care about results.

My hope is that the younger generation will pick up this album and it opens up doors musically enticing them to sit back and get lost in this band’s impressive catalog.

This isn’t meant to say you hanging punkers out there won’t appreciate this.

If you once listened to The Day Country Died and have the slightest hesitation to hear new music by them, don’t be a fool.  Get on it now.  Thank me later.

Album Review: MakeWar – Get It Together

I’ll never forget the first time I heard of Brooklyn residents MakeWar.  Toby from Red Scare told me to check them out about 3 years back, so naturally I did.  I was completed obsessed with what I heard instantly and moments later realized they were on the bill for the last Dag House show happening in just a couple hours.  I dropped everything I was doing that night and made it to the dark basement in Cleveland to see them play.

After their set, they announced they needed to hightail it out of there to drive to, if I am not mistaken, Nebraska.  I panicked and searched the house for one of the band members because I refused to leave without getting some form of merch from them.

I was able to find Jose Preito just before he finished his goodbyes and stupidly asked him if the merch was already packed up.  He stopped what he was doing and led me out to their tour van and with Edwin Santacruz’s help, dug out their 2015 self-titled amped up release and sold it to me.  He then gave me a big hug, thanked me, and jumped into the van they were about to call home for a few days.

It’s something I will not forget.  I knew then they would not be one of those bands that faded away and that bigger things were in store for them in due time.  It was no surprise to me when they announced they signed to Fat Wreck Chords.  It just made sense.

Get It Together is the band’s 3rd or 4th release pending how you take their self-titled releases into consideration.  In past times, the tracks were tough heart-tugging tracks best served with rounds of liquid courage.  This time around, the band really seemingly took a deep breath, said fuck it, and moved forward less reserved.

Kicking off the album was “Hopeless Dreamers”, a track that brought friendships close thanks to mindsetting lines like “the night is drunk and we are all young”.  This track carried me back to the days of heading to certain lounges that no longer have occupancy while surrounded by pals.

Kicking it up a notch was “No Excuses”, a track that really showed a different side to MakeWar I was not prepared for, but loved.  It was sped up and direct.   There was also the ending breakdown on the track.  Damn fine if you ask me.

“Squeeze” dipped back to the days of flannel shirts and Doc Martins in the best way possible.  Once again the band hit a different territory and nailed it.  Full of anxiety and anxiousness, the track was one of my favs on the album.

Then there was “No Más”.  As a middle-aged white boy, I have no clue what Edwin was screaming but it was awesome.  The same applied with “Inmunda Realized”, but in all honesty, that song kicked major ass,

The highly addictive “Sails” was one of the first singles I heard off the album and it was beautifully down.  This was one of those tracks where I couldn’t help but to think to myself how much these boys have matured as musicians.

“Oh, Brother” was another single I heard previous to the release and carried that MakeWar style I grew accustomed to years back.  The song hit me hard as someone who still struggles with growing up.  There was so much good intentions on this track that also reminded me that getting old isn’t the end of the world and even us old punks can still have fun.

Overall Get It Together was an impressive release. In fact, the second listen is when I really found myself getting lost in the music and lyrics.  I am not saying they redefined punk rock, but they certainly made their own footprint.

MakeWar comes from all over the place literally and this album really showcased that.  Jose was originally from Venezuela, Edwin came from Colombia, and Greg came from that state where that naked dude ate the face off of someone once aka Florida but left the band after album was recorded so Matty from The Moms took over.

All jokes aside, these guys are just getting to their prime as a band and it’s the perfect time to get into them.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you about MakeWar.