Album Review: Jonathan Richman – Ishkode! Ishkode!

Jonathan RichmanI recall the very day when I was first introduced to Jonathan Richman.

Sometimes I wish I could say it was because I came across a Modern Lovers album at a young age, but the truth is, I learned of him in the mid-90s thanks to Repo Man on VHS.  As many of you know, there was a Modern Lovers song on the soundtrack and I fell in love with it instantly.

That was a long time ago and I have never stopped being a fan.  So I am sure you can imagine how stoked I am to have been given the opportunity to review Richman’s latest release titled Ishkode! Ishkode!.

I have to admit though, I have been sitting on this review for a few weeks now as I wanted to make sure I said the right words as this artist is so important to me.

So here I am pondering and making a big deal about an album by a guy who has inspired me to be myself.  After listening to this album probably for the 100th time, I felt today was the day to share.

Ishkode! Ishkode! dropped last month on Cleveland’s very own Blue Arrow Records.  This is Richman’s first release in over six years and was well worth the wait.  Assisting Richman on this release was Tommy Larkins, Lisa Marie, Kelly Brown, and a handful of other friends.

Starting off the album was “Woah! How Different We All Are!”, a more underground, beatnik sounding track that had Richman and crew taking a darker approach.  Not goofy by any means but certainly something Warhol would have been a fan of.

“Ishkode! Ishkode!” carried the style Richman has presented over and over I have grown to appreciate.  I loved when Richman, once warmed up, just went on a mini tangent with some amped up guitar playing.

I heard “Wait! Wait!” last year when Richman dropped a pair of 45s via Blue Arrow Records.  This track is so fun it is ridiculous.  I hate to repeat myself, so go check out what I said about it previously.  I also talk about “O’Sun!” too.

“‘a Nnammurata Mia” which translates to My Beloved, was easily my favorite track off the entire album.  I felt like I was on vacation listening to it as Richman swooned me away in Italian and English.  Seriously though, Richman displayed himself to me in a new level on this song while blending the two languages so perfectly.  It was beautiful.

The love fueled “Let Me Do This Right!” should be the soundtrack for all mantra.  Even though it was the quickest song on the album, it was gentle, repetitious, and honest.

“Outside Oduffy’s” just had me smirking the entire time the song played.  This was a comical track that just had me visualizing Richman talking to a girl outside of a pub, falling head over heels in 10 minutes.  This was Richman storytelling at it’s finest.  Having the ladies sing along made it that much better.

“Longtemps” returned back to that vacation feeling I had earlier with the versatile Richman showing his true talent in a different tongue – French to be exact.  Originally written by Charles Trenet in 1955, Richman covered it quite well.

Closing the album was “Mother I Give You My Soul Call”, a chant written by Paramahansa Yogananda.  It is beyond why Richman chose this song to cover, but it was absolutely captivating to listen to.  The sitar playing over the low toned instrument that escapes me at this time (please feel free to help me out here) was calm and relaxing to listen to while Richman recited the chant.  This was an incredibly unique listen.

For anyone who is a fan of Richman, listening to this album was an experience of its own.  At first, I could not place my finger on some of the tracks and felt Richman was just doing something different because he can, but as I listened more and more, it made sense to me.  This album was Richman continuing his legacy as a musician and merely enhanced his talents.  It’s a fantastic release.

Head over to Blue Arrow Records to order a copy of Richman’s new album.  If you are lucky enough to live in Cleveland, just take some time and visit their brick and mortar store.  You will not be disappointed.  I always enjoy my visits there and you can just pick up a copy of the LP yourself.

Concert Review: The Falcon / Worriers / The Lippies @ The Grog Shop – Cleveland, OH – 04/06/2016

[Passing the mic/keyboard/whatever over to my pal Jason Utes who covered the recent Falcon show that filled up the Grog Shop on Wednesday night.  Thanks Utes for the killer review!  It appears that I missed one hell of a show]

“I wanna die and I don’t care who knows.”

If you’re reading this, you are probably already a fan of The Falcon. Otherwise, if I told you I was going to see a band with such lyrical presentation, you would imagine something far different from what I experienced Wednesday night.

Ostensibly, The Falcon is a band that exists primarily for the sake of the band members to get together and have fun playing music, free from the expectations of their higher-profile projects which include The Lawrence Arms, Alkaline Trio, The Loved Ones, and the Smoking Popes, to name just a few.  Seriously, Neil could add probably a dozen more credits on his own, and this band is now one degree of separation from Blink-182 (more on that later).

So, if the band exists in the name of a good time, how is that going to translate to the stage when they are touring in support of the mostly bleak and harrowing (but excellent) Gather Up the Chaps?

The FalconGranted the album cover, which features a despondent leather daddy in the same vein as certain Minor Threat and Rancid album covers, achieves a humorous yet somber sexuality that Third Eye Blind only achieves on accident, this record is still a serious undertaking even with song titles such as “Hasselhoff Cheeseburger” and “You Dumb Dildos” boldly printed on the sleeve. (Enough about the album itself, you can check out the review of the album).  Rest assured, the answer is that the show was a great time for band and crowd alike.

The Lippies, from Grand Rapids, kicked things off for me (Note: I did not make it in time for Blacklister to kick things off). The band took the stage led by Tonia Broucek who addressed the crowd with a politeness that bordered on timid that simply didn’t last. Once the band kicked into their brand of 1990’s Lookout Records reminiscent punk rock, she became an authoritative force that demanded (and received) control of the entire Grog Shop.

At one point, she entered the crowd to lay on the ground in a mock temper tantrum and her sheer aggression parted the crowd like riot police.  Broucek easily had the most confident and effortless stage command of the entire night. The real pleasant surprise of the set came when the band receded for a haunting solo rendition of “It Boils” off of their eponymous full-length that left everyone rattled. Standout songs to check out: “302” and “It Boils” which you can find on their BandCamp page.

Next up were Worriers, touring in support of the incredible Imaginary Life. This band became one of the highlights of the night for me [as] every song sounded fundamentally different but clearly had the same fingerprints. For fans of thoughtful and melodic rock, hopefully they won’t mind that I mentally catalogued them in the company of The Weakerthans. This was definitely a more highbrow compliment to what the Falcon had in store next (again, hopefully taken as praise by both parties). Check out “Glutton for Distance” and “Plans” on their BandCamp page.

By the time the PA started blaring Bad Lip Reading’s “The Bushes of Love” (I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Lovegun played just before), The Falcon took the stage. From the opening riff of “The Angry Cry of the Angry Pie” the show was the usual onslaught of humor and spastic punk rock.

The Falcon

Having only two full length albums and an EP, all of their material was represented, but decidedly centered around songs from Gather Up the Chaps.  “Skeleton Dance” prefaced by a sarcastic “this will be great, wait till you get a load of this” and “War of Colossus” being high points for me.

Between songs, the band took playful jabs at one another and Cleveland itself. There were at least three instances of pointing out that Cleveland is indefensible to a touring band’s gravity toward Cleveland Steamer jokes.  They quipped that the crowd “Cleveland steamed the wrinkles out of [the song] ‘Sailor’s Grave’.”

Brendan Kelly reveled in pointing out how much Dave Hause hates ska and that he is now sentenced to playing the Falcon’s own ska anthem “The Unicorn Odyssey” on a nightly basis.

Dan Andriano stood helpless as Kelly mused on Dan’s Alkaline Trio bandmate Matt Skiba’s undead persona as well as a few taunts such as, “you BLINK and you’re out of a job!”

Dave Hause is a welcome addition and it’s great to see him playing punk rock again (The Loved Ones will soon be in the midst of a 10th anniversary tour for Keep Your Heart that I’m selfishly hoping will lead to the band being more active. I also don’t mean this to discount Dave Hause’s fantastic solo efforts)

The intended purpose of the Falcon is still front and center, a group of friends having a great time and not taking things too seriously. Still, the Falcon’s set still had its heartfelt moments.  On the day of this show, Merle Haggard passed away and Kelly, who has a prominent “Mama Tried” tattoo, was audibly choked up when he memorialized his hero with a story of Merle and Johnny Cash’s first meeting.

Sadly, due to the nature of this being a “side project” for everyone involved, it may be a while until we hear from the Falcon again.  This was their first proper tour since 2007.  Still, as the show ended with the band leading a conga line around the Grog Shop to Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” (yes, really) everyone in the club could only hope that this would be the first annual Gathering of the Chaps in Cleveland.

Special thanks to Toby Jeg of Red Scare Industries for inviting us to cover the show, and thanks to Brian for letting me stink up the joint on his behalf.

Setlist:
The Angry Cry of the Angry Pie
Sergio’s Here
Blackout
War of Colossus
Hasselhoff Cheeseburger
Huffing the Proverbial Line Off the Proverbial Dong or The Blood and the Frog
Sailor’s Grave
You Dumb Dildos
The Skeleton Dance
Little Triggers
Dead Rose
Unicorn Odyssey
If Dave Did It
The Fighter, The Rube, The Asshole
Black Teeth
The La-Z Boy 500

[Man, Utes, this was a damn fine review.  I think I just should give you my login info to the site and call it a life.  Thanks for covering a solid evening of tunes!  – Brian]

Album Review: Worship This! – Mint

Worship This! - MintAkron, Ohio’s Worship This! have really served up a killer sophomore release simply titled Mint once again on A-F Records.

This foursome punk rock band consists of some of the best humans I have ever had the privilege of calling friends, so chances are you might think this review is a little biased.

The truth is, even if I did not spend years hanging out on porches and in basements with these guys, I would still adore their music.  They are like a punk 90s DIY hybrid, but different.

Everything this band has dished out so far I have been a fan of.  I just lucked out with the friendship part.  Christ, listen to me.  I need to calm the hell down and just review this album already…

This is the second time I have had the privilege to review a Worship This! full length.  This review comes from the heart, but I’d be doing this even if these guys and I never crossed paths, because I seriously think everyone who likes punk rock needs to hear them.

Starting off the album strong was “Decisions, Decisions”.  The chorus on this track alone was insane.  I think I listened to this song about five times before moving on.  I just loved it.  It made me feel a bit old, but also made me realize how true experiences and decisions have shaped me to who I am today.

Worship This!“Miserable Again” was a quick, catchy intervention of sorts.  The start with everyone just letting loose ruled, especially with the nod to their hometown.  Listening to this track had me thinking of who they might have written this about and I guess that is the genius of it.  The dual singing on the chorus was so bad ass too.

“So Long…Sucker!” proved to me how much this bad has matured over the years.  This track started off with all members bringing their all into the music.  Very melodic to start and quick to transition.  I loved when the group vocals started up followed by simple yet fitting breakdowns.

The tough-to-absorb “19th Street” was a reminder of how life treats us all.  No one ever asks for some of the shit that is thrown at us, but we all get by one way or another.  This track hit me hard in a few ways knowing what I have been through in my life but also had me appreciate how I handled it.

“Everything Wrong” in my opinion is the best track on this album.  Adding a clip of Kenny Shopsin from the documentary I Like Killing Flies was perfect and so fitting.  The amount of angst in this song would have benefited me in my teen years.  This is one of those anthem tracks that you just immediately want to memorize.

“Loving A Wild Thing” was another song on this album I adored.  It was not like the others given the singing styles and I think that is what I liked about it the most.  It was just like a catchy conversation.  I liked everything about this tune.

Closing down the album was “Relapser”, a just brutal track of breaking down and finding new avenues.  There was enough emotion in this one song alone to last a lifetime.

I enjoyed Mint way more than I thought I would.  In fact, this follow up is way better than the debut Tomorrow, I’ll Miss You and I adored that album.  The band sounds more together and has taken that extra approach at defining their own sound but without worrying about taking chances.  Mint is a little harder, more emotional in terms of growing up, and most of all just fun to take in.

It comes as no surprise to me that Worship This! released one of my favorite albums of the year.  I have believed in this band since the first time I heard their demos and always anticipated good things for them.  Mint is definitely a good thing.

The band is headed on tour next week.  If you know what is good for you, you will try and check them out.

Worship This Tour

Album Review: The Falcon – Gather Up The Chaps

the-falcon-gather-up-the-chapsIt’s been 10 years since The Falcon dropped one of my favorite albums, Unicornography, so for me sitting down to write about this release is pretty compelling.

Anyone who fancies themselves a punk rocker has had to have heard of The Falcon unless they were living in a gutter.  They are the enigma of punk rock supergroups and just dropped  Gather Up The Chaps on Red Scare.  I am sure most people who are reading this already have listened to it 100 times and pre-ordered 7 copies of the record.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I was going to like this release at all.  Seriously, I just was not anticipating much of anything to get excited over, I mean it has been 10 years after all.  Maybe it’s also because I am old and snooty and thinking that by bringing on
Hause,  The Falcon’s dynamic might change.

hause
Dave and Me at the Gurley House in 2011 – Photo by Andee Wells

Boy was I wrong.  (Note:  I am a huge fan of Hause and even have a photo of me and him where I am smiling and he is not – I just needed to disclose that.)

The Chicago punk rock supergroup for those of you who have no idea what I am talking about features Brendan Kelly (The Lawrence Arms), Neil Hennessy, Dan Andriano (Alkaline Trio),  and the recently recruited Dave Hause (The Loved Ones).

“The Trash” started things off and immediately proved to me this album was going to be a good one.  Hearing three vocalists from three of my favorite bands all chime in at once was awesome.  Kelly’s rasp, Hause’s howl, and Andriano’s swooning mixed perfectly.

Hearing Andriano chuckle in “Sergio’s Here” made this satire of a track that much more entertaining to the point that I laughed each time I played the song.  Seriously though, this track was just a blast to listen to and you can tell the guys were just having fun throughout.  I loved the change up towards the end that just sent the song to bed.  This reminded me of older Falcon material so much.

I loved Kelly clearing his voice in the middle of “The Skeleton Dance”.  Maybe this was not scripted, but it sure did fit in.  This high-powered passion-seeking tune was super catchy but made me feel all so dirty and almost depressed by the end.

“Hasselhoff Cheeseburger” may sound like it would have been hilarious given the song title, but I think I need therapy after listening to this track.  I feel old AF right now.  Hearing Kelly strain off “I only became a man because this ugly body made me” pretty much had me reflecting past choices in life for a moment.

“If Dave Did It” was probably my favorite track on the album.  Obviously from the title, this song was almost all Hause making excuses and calling everyone out, but that did not stop the others from interjecting over him making it for one engrossing listen.

Andriano added his own touch with “You Dumb Dildos”, a song that spanned all over the place.  At times I felt I was listening to a Westernized AK3, but in the end, everyone just went berzerk and there I was standing wondering what the hell just happened.

Gather Up The Chaps is totally unbroken when it comes to mingling in the punk and the rock with loads of nonsense and hard knocks.  This album was quick and all over the place, but at no point was I ever bored listening to it.  I think it is safe to say this is one of the better albums I have heard this year.

Check It Out: Maidenstone

MaidenstoneThis post goes out to everyone who thinks I only ever talk about punk rock.

You know folks, I do like other genres of music and one of them is hip hop.

So let’s talk about hip hop shall we?

One thing I have always liked about hip hop is the beats that fuel the lyrics.  I am sure many of you can agree with me that a rap song with terrible beats is nothing to talk about.

Akron, OH’s Maidenstone specialize in beats and unique instrumentals.  They are not a rap group, but rather a couple of pals who decided to borrow lyrics from various rappers and supply samples and beats taken from a wide span of musicians and composers.  The result is an outstanding mixtape and does not focus on just one genre.

Here, check it out:

Consisting of pals Cory Maiden and TJ Firestone, Maidenstone dropped their hip hop collaborative in December on BandCamp.  The best part?  It’s free for anyone who wants to hear what they threw together.

I think one thing about Maidenstone is that the samples are well-thought.  “Holy Shit Batman” caught my attention thanks to the eccentric samples of Pulp and The Jesus and Mary Chain while “We Are Groot” had some Pet Shop Boys.

“Dark Arts” was insane and I hope to hell Mos Def hears this.  Who knows, maybe he will be making a request for Maidenstone to create beats for his next release.  That Peer Raben sample was just dark but powerful.

Of course I loved “Son of a Gun”.  If anyone knows me, ODB is one of my favorite rappers out there.  Add some piano and horns playing track from Perez Prado, and you have yourself a crazy ass track.

Another track I have to make mention of is “Vertical Kryptonite” and not just because Big Boi is on it, but because Maidenstone sampled The Greatest Show on Earth and it fits perfectly.

Sometimes tracks can be recreated in a good way.  I am not talking about some shitty Genesis cover by Disturbed.  I am talking about taking great songs and putting a new twist.  It is kind of like a remix, but to me, this is a little more complex.  Seriously, just listen to this.  I guarantee you are going to dig some of it.

I also love their puck rock inspired covers to their mixes.  Dammit, I just can not stay away from punk references, can I?  Oh well.  Download this and enjoy.  I know I did.