Category Archives: Music

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.

Check It Out: Don’t Fall in Love with Yourself: A documentary about Justin Pearson, Three One G and the San Diego Punk Scene.

My pals at the talented TurnStyle Films never cease to amaze me.

They are a collective group of hardworking music lovers who always manage to drop things equally interesting as unique.

I wish I could remember what show I was at when I saw Jon Nix last year, but he was full of excitement as he told me he was working on something he knew I was going to like.  As he started telling me about it, I immediately smiled ear to ear.  I knew this was going to be something awesome.

Months later, an announcement was made to the world that TurnStyle Films was working on a Justin Pearson documentary.  As a fellow punk lover, it is clear why I shared so much excitement when I first learned of the project.

The documentary is in the final rounds of finishing and TurnStyle is asking for help via a great Kickstarter campaign with plenty of great rewards including autographed books, vinyl, and enamel pins.

I think Jon and crew said it best on Kickstarter what this documentary is all about:

Don’t Fall in Love With Yourself is a documentary that explores the life of enigmatic musician and artist, Justin Pearson. From childhood tragedy and his roots in the San Diego punk scene, to his appearance on Jerry Springer and rise to cult celebrity status. An in-depth look at a career made out of blood, sweat and spit.

Much of the B-roll has been sourced from dozens of VHS & Mini-DV tapes recorded over the past three decades. Controversial and never-before-seen footage of one of the most interesting and unique musical movements is recent memory.

The film’s interviews include Justin Pearson, Dave Lombardo, Eric Paul, Gabe Serbian, Bobby Bray, Travis Ryan, Jeremy Bolm, Alexis Marshall, Jon Syverson, Molly Neuman & Becky DiGiglio and more.

I took a few moments to toss my support they way in hopes this campaign is fully funded.  This looks to be one of the best things TurnStyle has done to date.

Check it out:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jonnixfilm/dont-fall-in-love-with-yourself-finishing-funds?ref=project_build

BHP Best of 2019

I swear to whatever you worship, time is just flying as of late and I just realized I probably should be posting this best of list already.

I feel like I repeat myself annually by saying “there were some really good releases during the current year” as I build said list, but honestly, it is true.  Bands new and old just keep me entertained and that is why I guess I keep doing this little blog here.

In the interest of time, I am keeping this year’s best of list extremely short and sweet.  No links or photos this time.  Just a quick list of the albums/EPs/whatever that impressed me to no end and were spun often.  If you are wondering who a particular someone is, Google the hell out of them and listen.

BEST ALBUMS

  • Big Nothing – Chris
  • MakeWar – Get it Together
  • Cave In – Final Transmission
  • Strange Magic – Unfortunately
  • Orville Peck – Pony
  • Aggrolites – Dirty Reggae
  • Ramona – Deals, Deals, Deals!
  • Bad Religion – Age of Unreason
  • Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury
  • Pup – Morbid Stuff
  • Heart Attack Man – Fake Blood
  • Subhumans – Crisis Point
  • More Kicks – More Kicks
  • Good Riddance – Thoughts and Prayers
  • Lagwagon – Railer
  • Harvey Pekar – Paris Green
  • Moderator – The Mosaics
  • Off With Their Heads – Be Good
  • Warp Lines – Human Fresh
  • Teenage Bottlerocket – Stay Rad!
  • Tool – Fear Inoculum 

BEST EPS / 7″s

  • Signals Midwest –  Pin
  • Charger – Charger
  • Twin Temple – Satan’s A Woman

BEST COMPS

  • Red Scare Industries – 15 Years of Tears and Beers

As always, thanks for checking out my site.  I do this for my love of music and anyone who has the slightest interest in what I have to say.

I hate that I was not able to review every release I listed.  I had every intention to, but life gets in the way more and more so I did what I could.  If one person checked out a band because of what I was able to talk about, then my job is done.

Bands and labels, thanks for always considering me.

 

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.