The Flatliners are about as punk as they come and I am not just saying that. The foursome who hail from Toronto, Ontario does not care about the fame and fortune so many bands seek these days. They prefer touring in vans, playing in dive bars, and sleeping on floors over lathering in luxury. Recently releasing their third full length entitled Cavalcade on Fat Wreck Chords, the band continues on with their seven year career with just one thing in mind – play punk rock music because they want to.
Starting off as a ska-punk act, the band has matured into a more melodic punk rock outfit that clearly is represented on Cavalcade. The powerful opening track “The Calming Collection” starts off album and introduces the listener to what is to be expected throughout the twelve song release. “Carry The Banner” continues with a forceful track that was heavy on the rock with gritty group singing throughout. Their sound is more likable than ever and just by hearing one song I knew I was in for something good. I also got a kick out of the opening line sampled from the 80’s metal spoof band Bad News.
Bordering on pop-punk, “Bleed” is exactly what you would expect in a punk anthem sing-a-long with plenty of opportunities for the listeners to get involved. It was the best track on the album i my opinion hands down. “He Was A Jazz Man” reached back to their ska-punk roots and sounded just amazing. “Shithawks” followed fast and furious with great harmony. Then there was “Monumental” which laid off the punk for a moment producing a great rock track I really enjoyed as well.
Proving that they have no solid genre of punk “Filthy Habits” kept a heavier sound with plenty of screaming and authority. “Count Your Bruises” stood out over most tracks with a much more mature style musically and lyrically. I was impressed thoroughly with the whole album that displays how mature this young band has become.
The Flatliners have already been going places and will continue to do so based upon their way of life and ability to rock out. Following their dream one day at a time, the band seems to always be on tour and not to mention continues to release solid punk rock efforts in a timely manner. Fans of the real punk rock, not that fashionable crap, need to have the Flatliners on their playlist. This release holds high as one my favorite punk releases so far this year and once you listen to it you just might agree.
Punk rockers of all shapes, sizes, and age filled up the Madison Theater last Friday night to see the Fermented & Flailing Tour in Covington, KY. The tour, featuring long time independent punkers NOFX with special guests Teenage Bottlerocket as well as Tony Sly of No Use For A Name (NUFAN), did not make it to Northern Ohio during this tour as much as I would have like it to have, but I did the next best thing and drove 4 hours to the tour and do not regret it one bit.
I was highly bummed out when I arrived to Covington in the afternoon as I found out first hand that another band that has been touring with them, The Menzingers, were cancelling their performance that night due to food poisoning. I was actually on the phone with Greg, the guitarist of the band, trying to set up an interview with them before the show when he informed me that they were behind in schedule and considering going to a hospital as their drummer, and friend, was not in good shape. As much as I wished I could have seen this amazing up and coming band I understood the situation and wish them luck. There is always a next time.
The Madison Theater was packed by the time I got there and after scoping out the area and seeing how inconvenient the photo area was I decided to forfeit the idea of getting up close and snapping some shots of the bands. As much as I wanted to it just was not a good idea. The stage overlapped the sectioned off area and there was hardly enough room for the bouncers to stand there and do their thing. Not to mention this venue did not have adequate isles or areas where people could move freely around the sides. I made my choice and was ok with it. I was still able to snap off a couple shots but more importantly I still was going to enjoy the show.
Locals Loudmouth opened the night with their impressive 90’s inspired pop punk / ska sounds. There were a ton of fans in the house that were very aware of who this act was who hail from the Cincinnati / Covington areas. Their lead singer admitted that he had “whiskey hawk” in between songs and pointed at the green mat of hair on his head promising that he tried to get it up over and over. The band clearly was stoked to be sharing the stage with members of the Fat Wreck Chords family and put forth a great set. I am kicking myself still as I missed their merch table after the show but I plan on looking into these guys some more very soon.
Tony Sly, seasoned punk rocker and front man of NUFAN, took the stage with his acoustic guitar in hand and informed the crowd he wanted to play some songs. The response some of the crowd gave him was disrespectful as they booed him. Sly did not let that bother him and played songs off this new album such as “Keira” and “Already Won”. I know I was excited to hear “Toaster In The Bathtub” and “Soulmate”, a NUFAN cover that I could not help but sing along with.
I cannot say that everyone in house was rude to him but there were enough drunk fools around where I was that just went overboard making fun of him to make my blood boil. Perhaps an acoustic set was not what those concert goers were looking for that night but I think what pissed me off the most was that all the folk who were mocking and booing him literally had no idea who he was. This guy helped pave the punk rock road that these kids were standing on and they had no idea who he was – I guess I just wish those coming to early conclusions could have been a little more educated.
The brave Sly continued through his set and thanked everyone for listening to him. An intimate performance down the street at Molly Malone’s may have been more appropriate for his set but honestly I was not complaining and was thrilled to have finally seen him live on his own. Still I could not believe how many so-called punk rockers booed him…
Power pop punks Teenage Bottlerocket (TBR) delivered a killer set opening with “Skate Or Die” and pretty much did not break until their last song. Their punk rock thrash assault on the crowd had the tightly packed venue going insane with tracks like “Bigger Than Kiss”, “I Don’t Wanna Go” and of course brought more calamity when they announced they were going to play “30 Seconds Of Rad” and commanded all to a pogo throw-down. Their set was fun, fast, and just what was needed to get the fans ready for the headliner. Most folk there that night may have solely came to see NOFX but I am positive that they left glad they were there in time to see Teenage Bottlerocket do their thing.
The venue seemed much warmer once TBR left the stage and was filled with smoke from cigarettes and other substances. I decided to head up to the balcony area and I did so just in time as NOFX emerged on stage. The foursome clearly was pre-gaming it a bit before performing that night but did not hesitate to play for all who paid to see them. Greeting the crowd Fat Mike noticed a fan in a wheelchair and asked her to be brought onto stage. After words were exchanged between band and bouncer the girl finally emerged to the left of the stage and had the best seat in the house. The band said they had a song they were going to play her later as she reminded them of someone they once wrote a song for. Fans all over cheered in approval.
The rest of the night was just a blur of NOFX tracks from their lengthy catalog, insults from the band to the crowd, and just overall madness. At one brief moment Fat Mike hinted that the band was thinking about playing “The Decline” but a fan in the crowd told him that he played it last time they were in Covington so not wanting to repeat himself Fat Mike said never mind and then joked that the band was thinking of playing Heavy Petting Zoo in it’s entirety. Sadly that did not happen either and I was rather bummed out as I have always wanted to hear “The Decline” live.
Poking fun at the crowd, they yelled at fans for waving erratically at them and even pointed out a couple ICP Juggalos who apparently were not ashamed to show up in painted faces. The fans took the insults just fine and some chose to throw their drinks on stage soaking Fat Mike more than once.
The band did play tons of tracks including “Bob”, “Linoleum”, “Murder The Government” and even “Cokie The Clown” with Eric Melvin lending his pipes. At one moment El Hefe picked up his trumpet and started playing the opening notes to “Arming The Proletariant With Potato Guns” and I honestly felt privileged as this was the second time I had seen NOFX play the song in less than a year. They may have had a hard time getting through the jokes this time around but it was still hilarious.
Other tracks the band played included “Kill All The White Man”, “Franco Un-American”, the tear jerking “My Orphan Year”, “Bottles To The Ground”, and even “The Brews” which was the perfect sing along for a Friday night punk rock show. After a quick encore which included the highly anticipated “She’s Nubs” dedication to the girl who had been on stage all evening the band slowly left the stage while Eric Melvin serenaded the crowd with his accordion skills. Dodging their stagehand/keyboardist Melvin kept playing songs to everyone for what felt like ten minutes before finally giving up his instrument and calling it a night.
The band may have screwed up on a lot of their songs, were off key more than once, and did not look entirely thrilled to be playing that night but I would never expect anything else. It was NOFX, they can do whatever the hell they want to do during their show and I would leave satisfied. Having seen them tons of times in span of 15+ years I know what to expect from the foursome who just do what they want and don’t care what you think. I can admit that as long as they continue to tour I will be making my best effort to see them live because a NOFX show is just that damn entertaining.
Street punk shows it has a nicer side thanks to Left Alone, a Wilmington, CA act on their latest self-titled album Left Alone released through Hellcat Records. On the band’s third release they continue to play street punk material but incorporate elements of pop punk, reggae, and ska making for a real fun listen.
Opening track “Spiked With Pain” was a full punk rock track with sing along abilities and guitar and bass riffs suggestive of Rancid. There is a reason why this band was signed to Hellcat and perhaps Tim Armstrong enjoyed the similarities of Left Alone and the band he fronts.
“Branded” follows with the same energy as the first track with front man Elvis Cortez’s raspy voice just appealing to my ears. As if that was not good enough, the bass lines were sick throughout and overall the song is just screaming to be released as a single.
Almost sounding like the Madness meets Operation Ivy was the brisk “Sad Story” with a more ska approach that is easily likable and surly makes you want to skank away. The song was easily one of my favorites on the entire CD. See below for the music video of the song. Good stuff.
The catchy “3 Bottles Of Wine” and “Porcelain” both seem more pop punk tracks. They seem to escape the street punk image held by the band but still are enjoyable for what they are worth.
“Bombs Away” sounding a lot like The Clash’s “Police And Thieves” carries on just fine as the song is not a direct rip off but more so a compliment to the UK grandfathers of punk. “Brindle” starts off with a strong bass line that strays right into a fast paced track sure to be a hit at one of their live shows as it makes you want to swing your arms and dance around carelessly.
I loved “Self Made” with the more so 90s punk feel and an organ playing in the background. “Wishing Well” continued that feeling with a simple yet catchy punk track with some group vocals. These are the kinds of songs that turned me into a punk rock fan in the first place.
It’s nice to see a band like Left Alone not label themselves as one specific genre of music and experiment with their talent. This album is full of tracks with sing along qualities that span back to their previous releases but add a more fine tuned effort making for a good listen if you find yourself a fan of punk rock.
Left Alone is far from a commercial pop punk act and thanks to their recent release they should be grabbing some attention. Perhaps it is a good thing they stay away from the mainstream though as they have too much talent to be considered just another pop-punk act out there. Having already been fans of their previous releases Lonely Starts and Broken Hearts and Dead American Radio I can honestly say this CD is just as good of a listen if not better.
Boston’s Westbound Train are back with an all new album following their impressive 2006 debut Transitions. This time the seven man crew completely outdo themselves in every way possible with Come And Get It. The album was once again released on Hellcat Records and proves to be one of my favorite releases to date this year hands down.
Think ska music infused with jazz, reggae, and heavy doses of R&B and you have the perfect blend of what Westbound Train specializes in. Not to be compared with Motown, although close at times, the band remains a ska act throughout this release but keeps a soulful attitude.
I had the pleasure of reviewing the band’s last CD a while back and was impressed with every moment of it. This time I am back to that same level of excitement with Come And Get It. I must say that I am pretty sure that this CD will be my soundtrack for this summer hands down.
As soon as the CD started with “I Don’t Belong Here” lead singer Obi Fernandez’s voice seems to sooth the soul and set the mood. With horns, a groovy rhythm, and even some background harmony the song immediately put me in the most relaxed of states as the song reminisces about the good times. Almost reminding me of a Smokey Robinson song, “Ain’t Gonna Be Easy”, was a full forced R&B track sure to please any listener one way or another.
“Why You Cry” was an amazing ska soul track with ear catching singing thanks to King Django and also amazing tenor saxophone solos. “Come And Get It” featured some sick organ playing throughout the song with even more impressive singing.
“What You Need” was one of the more diverse tracks on the CD thanks to The Sweet Divines adding their classy soulful backup singing. If that was not good enough they return on “So Many Things A Man Can Say”, one of the albums more Motown inspired songs. If there is any track on this CD that proves this band has soul, this is the track.
“Critical Ska” was just that; a fine instrumental ska track from start to finish with an array of guitar, piano, and sax solos perfect for playing in the background of any outdoor party. “Cheers! The World’s Almost Over” ended the CD but not without leaving a good feeling.
Westbound Train is a ska band that has some serious soul playing abilities and Come And Get It proves it. I’m not saying this album is pure Motown but I am saying this comes very close and Westbound Train does it well. Fans of The Slackers, The Pietasters, and just good soulful music will enjoy this CD over and over as did I. Look for the band this summer at the 2009 Van’s Warped Tour.
In the event that you have not heard these guys it is only right for me to post some videos of material from their previous releases: