Tag Archives: Album

Album Review: MakeWar – Developing a Theory of Integrity

MakeWar "Developing A Theory Of Integrity"I admit, I do not get to crank out reviews like I used to.  If I had it my way, I would quit my paying gig and do this full time, but the truth of the matter is that I do this for fun and not profit and I have bills to pay.  20-year-old me would kick my ass right now for even mentioning that.  I sound like grandpa punk again…

I’ve been trying to find some time to write about one of my favorite albums of 2016 for the past month now.  I am seriously stoked to have found some time tonight to do so.  With that said, here we go.

Developing a Theory of Integrity by Brooklyn’s MakeWar immediately jumped to the top of my favorite albums the moment I heard the first song.  I cannot get enough of this album and have been listening to it almost daily since it dropped on Red Scare Industries in September.

Side note: Not even two days after I heard the album, I learned that they were playing the final Dag House show in Cleveland (RIP DAG).  As luck would have it, I had a free night and I booked it over to that historical home to see MakeWar do their thing in the basement and got to act like a fanboy afterwards who was short $1 when trying to buy their debut self-titled LP out of their van while they were literally trying to back out of the driveway to make a long ass drive to Omaha.  Thanks Jose, I will pay you back that $1 next time you roll through town.

Originally an acoustic act called Sad and French, MakeWar took their songs to a new dynamic and turned themselves into a full fletched punk rock band that carries so many likable qualities from catchy hooks to relatable lyrical content.  Don’t get me wrong, Sad and French were absolutely amazing, but plugging in the guitars and turning up those amps have MakeWar way more exciting to listen to.

As previously mentioned, opening track “Matador Pool Party” blew me away.  There was so much going on with this track from the group singing to the Rancid/Face To Face reminiscing bass playing, brutal drumming, and lyrical content that just brought it all together perfectly.

“Ode” was just that, an ode to living life with booze in hand in NYC.  I loved the line “fuck not drinking for a week” as I’ve said that in my heyday when having a rough week of celebrating but refused to give it up.  I also loved the random thought process throughout the song that really could pertain to any city.  This is about as real as a song gets with spirits raised high.

“DTFH” was another standout track that begged to be sung along to.  Ironically this track reminded me in a sense of more upbeat Iron Chic who used to be on DTFH records.  “Don’t Panic” resembled Taking Back Sunday’s earlier years in a good way.

“On Feelings” might have been the most emotional track on the album but not in a cowering sense.  This track just make me happy for some reason and brought back some memories of great hangouts with great pals.  “Sallie” was another amazing song on this album.  I feel like I keep saying that, but it is true.  There were a lot of songs of this album that caught my attention including this one that referenced the paying back of those stupid ass student loans.

“Distractions” was more technical like Strung Out.  I really loved the change up of musical style on this track which clearly was the heaviest.  “Dust” ended the album in a completely different style full of dismay and sorrow, but damn it was beautiful.

I can not say enough good things about MakeWar.  If you are reading this, you need to at least check out the video for “Ode” below so you can see what got me so excited.  If you dig like I do, snag the album.  You will not be disappointed.

Visit MakeWar on Facebook and check them out live if you can.

Album Review: NOFX – First Ditch Effort

NOFX - First Ditch EffortI can sit here and blow a bunch of smoke up all the buttholes of NOFX, but for the sake of time and whatnot, I will skip a few paragraphs of introduction and get to the point.

Chances are if you are reading this, you already know of NOFX and do not need to read any type of introduction, but just in case you have no idea who I am speaking of, I will put in a small, small intro.

So here’s my review:

NOFX have a new album.  It’s called First Ditch Effort.  It’s freaking good.  After 4 long years, the foursome is back and have taken their 13th release and made it a personal triumph of sorts.  I should mention that the band has been around for 30 years now too.

Impressive.

This album was not like the others.  Where I was used to drug fueled witty pokes at anything and everything, this album was serious and seemingly was written from torn pages of the band’s personal journals.

“Six Years On Dope” started with Fat Mike and Melvin arguing who should scream / sing the song.  This romper of a track was a confessional tale of sorts with both Melvin and Fat Mike disclosing their lower times of hardcore partying.  Not surprising, the track was catchy as hell, but destructive in hearing all these two have been through.

“Happy Father’s Day” continued with heavy riffs and had Fat Mike more or less vanquish his father figure.

“Sid and Nancy” is a punk rock conspirator’s dream track in that Fat Mike and crew suggested Nancy Reagan killed Sid Vicious.  Providing an insight to what happened by the hands of Nancy proved to be quite interesting to listen to and very well could become the start to what would be a killer cult movie.

“California Drought” referenced Fat Mike’s current cleanse he been experiencing after years of recreational drug use.  The positives were null in this track as Fat Mike sung about the struggle on wanting to use when he knows he can’t.  It was cool to hear El Hefe supply a horn solo in the middle of this track.

“Oxy Moronic” was brilliant.  Pointing the fingers at the big pharmaceuticals with plenty of tongue-and-cheek references to the thousands of stupid drug names, this track was all about exposing the doctors who prescribe for profit.  See below for the Funny or Die created music video.

Listening to “I Don’t Like Me Anymore” was like listening to Fat Mike have an intervention with himself.  The content of this song was nothing positive, but man, this song ripped.  If this track is what makes Fat Mike feel better about his actions and future, then I would say this is a win.

Maybe it was because of the NOFX autobiography released earlier this year exposing the truth of the band, or maybe it was just for the hell of it, but “I’m a Transvest-Lite” was all about Fat Mike and his cross-dressing tendencies.  As he is open to his dressing preferences these days, the song talked about his secret over the years and how he’s ok with not going full forced cross-dressing as he is too lazy to apply makeup.  He ended the track perfectly with: “You gotta know it’s not just girls who wanna have fun.”

Listening to “I’m So Sorry Tony” was tough for me and really had me bumming after listening to it for like four times in a row.  For years now, I have been waiting for this song.  Ever since Sly left this world, there have been songs and tributes, but I’ve always wanted to hear Fat Mike’s take.  This song was all heart and took it past band mates to a family level.  Forget that Sly was an amazing musician, Sly was also a voice of reason and an inspiration and Fat Mike really emphasized that in this song.  Listen to this track and you’ll get chills, especially the ending…

“Generation Z” could be the last song Fat Mike and crew ever write and I would be ok with it.  This track was about the foreseen sad future according NOFX as seen by the youth with them being the last.  Not holding back, Fat Mike wished his daughters nothing but the best in this messed up world.  Being a father myself, it was kind of rough to hear the lie: “so we tell our daughters and our sons that they’re not the  final ones to see this planet as a decent place to live.”  As if that did not hit me hard enough, hearing Fat Mike’s kids perform a spoken word, just left this record ending in a whole mess of emotions.

It’s been a couple of weeks since this album dropped and I admit I held off on finishing this review as I just kept telling myself to listen to the album one more time.  With each listen, I am becoming a bigger fan of it.  It’s intense to hear an album full of realizations from a band that used be known for partying their asses off.

Having seen this band at least 15 times live in my life and have called myself a fan of them since I was about 17, I can see that these Peter Pan punk rockers are finally growing up a bit and cherishing all they have accomplished.

NOFX is touring with Pears and Useless ID and I am hoping I can check them all out:

10/22/16 Waterfront Park – San Diego, CA
11/02/16 Crystal Ballroom – Portland, OR
11/03/16 Showbox SoDo – Seattle, WA
11/04/16 Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver, BC Canada
11/05/16 Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver, BC Canada
11/07/16 Union Hall – Edmonton, AB Canada
11/08/16 Union Hall – Edmonton, AB Canada
11/09/16 MacEwan Hall – Calgary, AB Canada
11/11/16 Burton Cummings Theatre – Winnipeg, MB Canada
11/12/16 Cabooze on the West Bank – Minneapolis, MN
11/13/16 The Rave – Milwaukee, WI
11/14/16 House of Blues – Cleveland, OH
11/16/16 Sokol Auditorium – Omaha, NE
11/17/16 Liberty Hall – Lawrence, KS
11/18/16 Gas Monkey Live! – Dallas, TX
03/10/17 On A Cruise Ship – Miami, FL
03/18/17 Pot of Gold Music Festival – Chandler, AZ

 

Album Review: Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings

Beach SlangJames Alex as been through a lot of shit in a short amount of time with his band Beach Slang, both good and bad.

The pressure of being 1/4 of Beach Slang (now 1/3) almost had him call it quits earlier this year, but thanks to a fan who caught him after a show that night before he disappeared, he reconsidered.

Let’s face it, being in your 40s and having your band blow up the way Beach Slang did in such a short amount of time can not be easy.  For what it is worth, I am glad Alex did not throw the towel in yet.

With that said, Beach Slang just released their followup to 2015’s The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us.  The band actually wrote most of this sophomore release while touring.  That right there is dedication if you ask me.

A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, on Polyvinyl Records, is incredible.  It’s an encompass of Jawbreaker and The Replacements with plentyof held back angst and passion to produce an album worthy of multiple listens.

“Play it loud, play it fast.  Play me something that will always last” starts off on “Future Mixtape for the Arts Kids.”  This track is a perpetual anthem for anyone who uses music as a crutch to get through life.

“Atom Bomb” followed with plenty of fuzz and rock to keep anyone who listens entertained.  This fast-paced track may have clocked in at less than 2 minutes long, but its effects lasted much longer.  “Spin the Dial” was full of hooks and solos with Alex laying out some lyrics that sounded more personal.

“Punks In a Disco Bar” was perfectly contained in that the band sounded so together yet not overly produced.  This was one of the first singles off the new release and it’s no wonder why they chose it, the song rules.

“You’re my favorite weirdo” is sang during “Wasted Daze of Youth”, a love track of sorts that seemingly repeated many phrases I have said out loud when I felt smitten.  The hopeless swooning and the confessions combined lyrically was the best thing about this song.

The complementing “The Perfect High” focused on the best correlation between two individuals while carrying a 90s musical feel.  I really enjoyed this track a lot, especially the bass line throughout.  I almost felt like a teen again listening to this track.

Album closer “Warpaint” was an inciting jam that slowly built up a credence with Alex ending the track “don’t be afraid to want to be alive.”  These are the kinds of songs I clung on to as a lost juvenile – songs that made me feel better about my situation  Hell, there are some days I can still use the encouragement.

I’ve heard some banter recently from folk based on the album’s title alone that maybe Alex has been writing music that he is a little too old for, but I have to disagree.  He is writing for the all-ages fan who is looking for a release with a comparable ideal.  Alex is the voice for many and Beach Slang certainly carries the talent to do so.  The band has proven this on A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings and I’m positive the fans will confirm this.

My only complaint with this album is that it is only 29 minutes long and the selfish me wanted to hear double that.  I won’t lie, this is the best album I have listened to so far this year.

Beach Slang is playing the Grog Shop next month in Cleveland with Bleached.  This is a show to NOT miss.

Bleached Slang Tour 2016

Album Review: Harvey Pekar – The Astral We

Harvey PekarPoetic.  Poignant.  Hard.

Those three words are what keep reoccurring in my mind as I listen to The Astral We by Cleveland’s Harvey Pekar.

The lyrical content in this album is beyond deep.  It makes you think and react based on how you interpret it.  There is no tongue in cheek rhyming, stolen ideals, or laziness in these songs.

With that said, it’s nice to hear Harvey Pekar once again.  Spite a lineup change since the last album, OG members Elliot Frank (guitar), Nick Krastas (vocals), and Nick Schmitt (bass) joined forces with Nate Kelly (drums) and Tyler Sickels (guitar) to create a more solid band than ever.  Without worrying about reinventing their sound, Harvey Pekar continued full force where they left off on their debut release back in 2013.

“Huff Joules” started off the album strong with the band as a whole not holding back at all.  “The Heritable Self” was a true hardcore romper with plenty of group singalong opportunities as Krastas screamed his thoughts out.  Loved this track.

“Ferrous Kin” was one of the songs where I just felt like Krastas was delivering a spoken-word of sorts backed by heavy riffs and fast-paced drumming.  The lyrics, “frail is the life trivialized by that of artifacts” really stuck to me for some reason.

“Truisms of Infinite Regress” caught my attention in more ways than one.  The track, which seeming talked about conformity and a sense of false logic, sped up midway making for quite a powerful statement and throw down.  This track begged to be heard over and over by this listener.

I should also mention how much I found myself enjoying “Crystal Starlings”.  The breakdown about half way though and change up kept the track interesting, the group vocals towards the end make the song enjoyable.

Everyone has their own definition of hardcore music.  Harvey Pekar’s is more aligned with the genre I recall from the 90s and early 2000s, at least the hardcore I enjoyed the most mixed with a punk feel and beyond intelligent lyrics.  Perhaps a little more melodic than some might like, The Astral We impressed the hell out of me and has been fueling my ears daily since it’s release a few weeks back.

Harvey PekarLooking past the band’s sound, Harvey Pekar consists of some of the most down-to-earth guys I have had the pleasure of knowing over the years.  I’ve seen them play in bars, inside a warehouse, and even on a church stage on a Sunday morning over the years and they always put on the best show and always are down for a hang afterwards.

Here I am sounding biased now.  I am just calling it as I hear it.  Listen for yourself and make your own determination.

Snag a copy of The Astral We over at Little Heart Records.

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.