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Album Review: Blink 182 – California

Blink 182 - CaliforniaIt’s pretty crazy to me that Blink 182 still exists.  Don’t get me wrong, I have been a fan since the 90s when they were just some unknown pop-punkers.  After all they have been through, all of the fame, all of the drama, and most of all the departure of one Tom DeLonge, wouldn’t you think the band would just call it quits for good already?

Perhaps in a fit of spite, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker continued on and invited Alkaline Trio‘s Matt Skiba to take on vocal/guitar duties for a reunion show of sorts.  I remember thinking “how bad ass would that be if Skiba just joined them and they put out a new album?”  I know I was not the only one who thought that either.

Shortly after, it was confirmed Skiba had joined Blink and they were recording a new album.  Now here I am about to throw some words and whatnot into a review for it.  Perhaps a little delayed, but here it is.

Time for a story about me.  Feel free to skip over…

The lyrics “nobody likes you when you’re 23” will always have special meaning in my mind for the rest of my life.  Any Blink fan knows what song those lyrics come from.  The year that song came out, an immature me swore the song was about my own experiences in a sense as I worked hard to get through a tough year thanks to an ex-psycho girlfriend and my own bad decision-making.

What I am trying to get at is simple, I was a Blink fan back then.  “Dammit” was one of my go to songs, I loved Dude Ranch and Cheshire Cat.  I remember even seeing Blink live at Blossom with Bad Religion opening for the Enema of the State tour.  That was the show Barker missed as he broke his hand punching some a-hole at the Taco Bell my cousin was working at in Akron.  Good times.

A few years later thanks to an old friend, I scored a front row ticket to see them again at Blossom with No Doubt.  Both shows were amazing.

As the years passed, more Blink albums came out, Angels & Airwaves, Boxcar Racer, Transplants, and other side projects emerged, and Blink slowly moved out of my continual rotation of daily tunes.  It happens folks, you know exactly what I am talking about.  I got bored with them.

Blink-182A certain Blink flame was re-ignited inside of me the day I heard Skiba was going to be on their new album.  I remember hearing the first single off the new album, I was stoked.  I still am stoked.  So pardon my fandom and honestly on this post, these are my favorite reviews to do, the ones that I am legit excited to write on.

California is Blink 182’s seventh full-length release.  Currently consisting of Hoppus, Barker, and the recent addition of Skiba (Alkaline Trio), who replaced Tom DeLonge.  Blink 182 has been around since the early 90s and moved from a silly pop-punk band on underground labels, to a heavy-hitting act selling out stages all over the world.

When I listened to California the first time, my initial thought was that there was a lot of filler songs on the album.  Long gone are the days of bands putting out albums with 16 tracks.  After listening to the album over and over, that thought went away.

Opening track “Cynical” reminded me of past Blink material, at least the start did.  Barker’s over the top drumming helped speed up the song and Skiba’s introductory backup singing proved this was not going to be the same Blink at all and not in a bad way.

“Bored To Death” has already taken over the radio stations.  The beginning had an “Adam’s Song” similarity to it, but not enough to discourage.  When the band jumps in together at the chorus, it pretty much blew me away.  I know in time I am going to get sick of this song in time as it will be played over and over, but until that happens, I am going to enjoy the hell out of it.  The video for the song cracked me up too, but only because I have reached old man status and remember feeling invincible once.

“She’s Out of Her Mind” will probably take responsibility for the younger generation to have a sudden interest in Bauhaus.  Aside from that, this catchy song really planted a positive reminder that you should be yourself and not care about what others think.

“Los Angeles” was more of a rock masterpiece than a pop-punk track.  I would not be shocked if this track alone brings in new fans of all ages.  Hoppus and Skiba trading vocals and howls throughout was just perfect.

A more realistic “Sober” sang a story about substance-abused-rough-times in relationships and carried a level of honesty throughout.  It was easy to compare my own bad decisions from my past in this track and also recall the apologetic resolutions.  This song grew on me the more and more I listened to it.  I loved the lyric “I’m a dandelion, you’re a four-leafed clover.”

The quick “Built This Pool” was about as crass as the band got on this album.  Seeing how raw they used to be, I am glad they have not completely thrown away their comical ideals.  Personally speaking, I really was hoping for a lot more of their humor throughout.

Skiba just killed it on “No Future”.  This track was the song that had me smiling ear to ear knowing that Skiba was the perfect fit for the redesigned Blink.  Hoppus and Skiba compliment the hell out of one another on this track.  This dreary track which seemingly sounded like a humble departure, was one of the more catchier ones on the entire album for me.

“Kings of the Weekend” was one of the tracks I felt was more of a filler track at first, but the more I listened to it, the more I enjoyed it.  This is everything a Blink fan could want in a Blink song.  Not to mention the different singing styles keep things interesting.

I feel like I can say there is a lot I can say about”San Diego” as it really reminded me of the good times, but I won’t.  I will just say it has grown on me a lot and I know the younger generation is going to eat this song up.

“Brohemian Rhapsody” was lame until I saw this:

Then it was hilarious…

All in all, California is an exceptional release.  I can admit that I have not been a fan of Blink’s last few releases, but this one hits all the high marks in my mind.  Initially I told myself and others that I only liked about 70% of the album, but the more and more I listen to it, the more I am digging it.

Perhaps my liking of California is because Skiba is on board now and I’ve been a AK3 fan for as long as I can remember, but I wish nothing but the best for Blink 182 and love seeing them at the top of the music world again.  I seriously hope they continue and can not wait to see what they come up with next.

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.

Album Review: Face To Face – Protection

954_cover_450I am getting to that time in my life where the bands I grew up with and adored are hitting those milestones that make you realize how fast time is moving.

Face To Face have been around for 25 years now.  Seriously?  25 years already???

It certainly does not feel that long, but they did form in 1991, so it makes sense.  This So Cal punk rock band has been a favorite of mine since the mid-nineties and still are to this day.

So, how do you celebrate two and a half decades of being a band?  You release an album with help from an old friend.

Today, Face To Face dropped Protection on Fat Wreck Chords.  Without even breaking down the album yet, I need to tell you that this album is killer and certainly celebrates this band in the best way possible.  Listening to the album in full, it is clear Trever Keith and crew recorded the album for the fun of it for their fans.

“Bent But Not Broken” started off the album with some force.  I loved the quick baseline but loved more hearing Keith sing on what I interpreted as not giving up.  Following was “I Won’t Say I’m Sorry”, a track that has memorable lyrics that got stuck in my mind regarding denying fault.

“Double Crossed” reminded me of a much younger Face To Face complete with hard  bass lines and group vocals.  “See If I Care” to me almost sounded like a statement to those who ever doubted the band.   I’m sure it is about some ex though, still, I like my take on it.

“Fourteen Fifty-Nine” was another track I just dug a ton.  I think the thing I most about this track was how it spoke on the sad current state of affairs when it comes to entitlement.

“Keep Your Chin Up” was an upbeat positive track aimed at those who could use some confidence.  “And So It Goes” closed out the album and was as energetic as the very first track.

To he honest, I have not been this excited by an album for a long time.  Protection is exactly what I was hoping for by a band I have adored for more than half of my life (mind you all, I was about 15 when I first discovered them).  Still full of emotion and plenty of energy, this band certainly does not sound like they have been around for a quarter of a century.

I am not praising this album just because I like what I currently heard.  I am saying this because there are so many bands out there who lose their style that made them great as they mature and go through changes.  Face To Face has certainly seen their fair share of changes over the years.  Hell, I thought they were going to call it quits forever in the early 2000s.

I’ve been listening to Protection almost daily for almost 2 weeks now.  That is saying a lot right there.   In fact, I was not even the biggest fan of their last two releases.  Protection though for me is very up there next to their self-titled and  Big Choice.  I know, bold statement by me, but this album was seriously a great listen.

I am stoked the band dropped Protection.  I hope you are too.

Album Review: Sam Russo – Greyhound Dreams

Sam Russo - Greyhound DreamsThere’s something to be said about storytelling and incorporating it into music.  Sam Russo does that without skipping a thought or a beat.

(Speaking of beat, I should be clear and note that I am talking about the musician Sam Russo, not the button pushing DJ.  I just wanted to make myself clear there.  Thanks.)

Hailing from Haverhill, England, Russo has been playing his own style of a punk-ish Americana folk-rock for years now.  Having released his debut over 3 years ago, Greyhound Dreams (Red Scare Industries) is an impressive follow up.

Russo is not just another punker with a guitar and some pent up anger.  When I listen to him, I think of a hybrid mix of Tim Barry, Dave Hause, and Frank Turner.  The beauty of Russo is that his music does not sound like a rip off of any of the previously mentioned and  is genuine and at times flooding with anguished, heartfelt memories.

Opening track “Sometimes”, a blatant blast at a harsh personal outcry, was simple yet whole, especially when others jumped in to sing along in the chorus.  The song was depressing as hell when you realize why Russo admits being unruly.

Sam Russo“Dream All You Want” contained so many visuals in the lyrics that I had to listen to it over a couple of times to my mind could settle down.  Russo singing “you either chase your dreams, or you chase your dreams away” made it clear to me, this was not a happy song.  This song wasn’t just about dreams, it also was the unspoken reality of those dreams never coming true.

“Crayfish Tales” was one of the better tracks on this album in my opinion.  I swear to god, this guy and I have lived in the same shoes at one point in our past.  I almost predicted that he was going to sing a couple of times.  “Runaways” was also a great tune and a little more upbeat and personable.

I loved that “Forever West” spoke on Russo’s journey that he experienced in the states.  While listening to it, I could not help but think of my own past experiences from the time I stayed in a ghetto Motel 6 in the hood of Baltimore to when, years later, my fiancé and I drove 2800 miles to New Mexico almost non-stop.  It really hit home, especially when he sung about the sun coming over the mountains as I experienced that and it was amazing.  It was like a musical observation, but different.

Russo sang his heart out on “Nobody’s Fool”.  I feel that this was a more important track for him as reminisced on his past pain caused from heartbreak.  “I would give you everything and just disappear” was sung towards the end making for a true statement of love.

“Western Union” closed the album down strong.  Things picked up in the middle with some extra help on vocals, but mostly Russo held this song down solo.  Not the happiest of stories, but incredibly impactful on those lonely memories.

Russo touched on something often on Greyhound Dreams that I think we all need to consider:  Life is short and full of difficulties.  We’ve all been through a personal hell at some point, but Russo really leads by example in his songs (and even song titles) by singing about moving on and never stopping.  No one ever said being a human being was an easy thing.

I will be honest and say I never gave Russo the chance I should have.  I missed out, that is a fact.  Hell, the dude even supported The Falcon overseas and I still was lame and did not buy everything he ever recorded.  (Disclosure:  I would have been privy to Russo years ago had I made it to that Tim Barry show at the Grog Shop…)

If you are a fan of early Frank Turner music, you will adore this album.  I am not sitting here trying to compare the two, I just know what I like, and Greyhound Dreams is pretty outstanding.  Russo has won himself a new fan and probably a whole lot more once they give him a well-deserved chance.

With the year coming to an end, I just found myself another album that needs to be penned onto my best of 2015 post.  Nicely done Russo.  I look forward to hearing more from you.

Album Review: Seafair – The Querencia

SeafairCleveland’s Seafair is about to turn some heads this year.

I know I have talked about a lot of Cleveland acts on my site, but this is the first time I have spoken on a band that is this incredibly multi-genred.

Seafair has been doing their thing since 2012 and is comprised of six amazing musicians whose roots  dip into an impressive and diverse dynamic of musical styles including everything from classical to punk rock.  The Querencia is the band’s debut release and is dropping next month.

Lead vocalist Chayla Hope has a voice that demands to be heard by anyone willing to open their ears.  Its deeper, powerful style is more Juliana Hatfield over Adele/Lorde (from what I have heard via mainstream radio, honestly I can’t stand either of those two).  Seriously, it is a bit fierce and a whole ton of passionate.

SeafairSide note: Having been good pals with Seafair’s drummer Ryan Kelly for at least 10 years now, there was no way I was not going to talk about this new band.  On another side note, I used to work with Andrea Bleding Elson’s husband at an EB Games back in the day.  Small world…

A classical intro to the album set me back for a moment as I became enthralled in the peaceful composure that morphed into “Vultures”.  I am not going to lie, I was not terribly impressed with this track and although Chayla Hope had a forceful and beautiful singing voice, the track itself did nothing for me.

“DIM”, however, was the complete opposite.  I adored this track on so many levels.  From the string playing to the infectious drumming of Sir Kelly, everything about this track was likable.  Perhaps it was the Björk-like melodies and singing towards the end that grasped me.  I almost hate myself for admitting I did not like the prior track, but then again, I am one one of millions of opinions out there.  This track though was a solid jam and everyone needs to check it out.

“Inferno” followed with a bellowing Hope singing her heart out.  This was one of the tracks I could image sounds so much better live on a hot summer night.

Hearing the “The Score” was like hearing an orchestrated indie rock track like none other.  This song built up so nicely and once the guitar playing picked up at the peak of the track, I was quietly rocking out here to it.  It was like one of those songs that is a story that builds with excitement.  My only quarrel with this track, is I wish the story lasted a little longer.

I am fairly certain “Ohio” was written about me and my return back to my favorite state in the world.  I am also positive that is not the case at all, but I’m ok with thinking that.  Honestly, this track about love growing distant was amazing to listen to.  I loved the breakdown at the end that changed things up.  This was one of the best tracks on the album in my opinion.

“Discovery” was another fantastic track.  I am sure this may be misconstrued in a sense, but this track was like listening to Foxy Shazam with a female singer.  Hope’s range on this track was just all over the place and perfect throughout.  I also got a kick out of the back up vocals that interjected throughout.  The more and more I listened to it, the more I loved it.

Quick props need to be given to the Ween-like guitar solo in “Not A Cure”.  The track overall was intense to listen to and it just erupted at the end.

Seafair to me is festival music, you know, the kind is best heard live during warm summer nights.  I know they were trying to play Bonnaroo but sadly did not win a voting competition.  That’s the voters loss, I think this band would kill it at the ‘Roo.  Regardless, they will play shows and they will turn heads.  I know it.

The Querencia is a beautifully put together album that is not over produced and spans over so many genres that I feel it will be difficult for anyone to not enjoy some part of it.  The album really grasps your attention throughout and treats it to a fine listen.

I was not expecting Seafair to sound the way they did, and that’s ok.  Surprises in music are one of my favorite things in life and I really hope others experience that feeling too.