Category Archives: Review

The Faint – Fasciinatiion – CD Review

The Faint bring yet another installment of their new wave/dance/indie tunes to your ears with Fasciinatiion.  Once a solid staple to Saddle Creek Records, the band parted ways in spring of 2008 stating they would be releasing material on their own label blank.wav.  This is their first album in four years and is also the first to be entirely fashioned by The Faint.  Fasciinatiion proves that this five-some has no problem doing things all by themselves.

Formed in Omaha, Nebraska around 1995 the band lured me in thanks to the release of 1999’s Blank Wave-Arcade.  Their unique sound that had similarities to 80’s dance but with indie rock and even a little punk rock flair; something I had not found myself getting into before.  Soon thereafter, I was listening to them on almost a daily basis.   They were one of the original bands that introduced me to Saddle Creek records and helped get the indie label some well deserved recognition.

The Faint
The Faint

I was excited to check out their latest release seeing how I really have not listened to The Faint in quite some time.  Fasciinatiion started out strong with “Get Seduced” refreshing me on their dance rock style.  Their electronic rock music was not missed by my ears.  It would appear even after four years the band still has it.

“The Geeks Were Right”, the band’s first single off the album, was my favorite track.  The more indie pressed song reminded me of She Wants Revenge and Interpol, but heavy on the electronic side.  The music video for the song is extremely interesting too almost visualizing what a Max Headroom acid flashback might look like.  Even better there are remixes of this track floating around on the internet; my favorite was “The Geeks Were Right (Does It Offend You? Yeah Remix).

The album seemed to stray away from the Faint’s unique sound I had grown accustomed to with more experimental tracks like “Machine In The Ghost” and “Fulcrum And Lever”.  The vocals were a tad too robotic for me and the sounds were too experimental and unhurried.

The funky “Psycho” saved the album for me as it took direction back away from the slow, unusual songs previously mentioned.  Deep blimps and bleeps at the beginning of the song  kind of exceeded it’s welcome, but soon it mellowed out building for an good listen.  “I Treat You Wrong”, with poor lyrics, really was a good track but was nothing to dance about.

I really feel that The Faint created a roller coaster effect on Fasciinatiion.  The album does not seem nearly as constant and up-tempo as prior releases nor was there any of that punk rock flair that could be heard on Wet From Birth.  It is one of their more unique albums, but certainly not their best effort.  I am not saying this album is bad, but it does not compare to their more recent efforts.


 

Horrorpops – Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill – CD Review

Horrorpops
Horrorpops

One of the more unique acts out there in the music world, The Horrorpops, released their third studio album Kiss Kiss Kill Kill earlier this year.  The Danish act with original members (who are also married to one another) Patricia Day on stand up bass and Kim Nekroman on lead guitar have been rocking out since 1996, thanks to their unique mixture of rockabilly, surf, psychobilly, and punk rock music.  They were a huge success overseas but it was not until around 2003 that the band got their US break thanks to Tim Armstrong’s (Rancid) label Hellcat Records.

Recently finishing up their mini-set tour on the 2008 Van’s Warped Tour, the band just announced their headlining fall tour in support of Kiss Kiss Kill Kill.  With bombshell Patricia Day’s giant stand-up bass and smoky singing, layered with Kim Neckroman assaulting his guitar, and Niedermeier’s drumming, the band should have no problem entertaining the masses.

The CD seemed to have a rebel theme with the song titles and lyrics, with many in reference to many female films. The CD cover mimics a poster for a B-Movie.  The sound on their third release seems to keep the same as previous without going over any boundaries to make a significant change.

Opening track “Thelma & Louise” of course makes suggestion of driving just like Susan Sarandon and Gina Davis did in their girls gone wild of a film.  Patricia Day sings strongly in this track and the music backing her up is very catchy.   “Heading For The Disco?” already is played a lot over the airwaves, especially on Sirius Radio’s Faction.  The song is a bit poppy but still delivers the pop-rockabilly feel with bass plucking and drumming making you want to boogie down.

“Kiss Kiss Kill Kill” really sounded like the Cure at the beginning, that is until the harmonies began.  The song holds Patricia Day’s cries “Kiss kiss kiss me dantly, kill kill me quietly…” with a “whoa oh oh oh” in the wake.  The song is a little gloomy, but I really dig the guitar playing.  It is a simple riff but is the type that sticks out.

Starting with what sounded like a repeat of a bass line from another Horrorpops release was “Everything’s Everything”.  The track about not wanted to let go of a complicated relationship was a reminder that this band is not about sunshine and rainbows.  Nekroman strums away during “Private Hall Of Shame” with almost a southern rock feel to his playing.

By no means is this a traditional rockabilly/psychobilly band.  They stray away from the rest and incorporate their own style to make for a more unique feel.  On their third release, I say the Horrorpops still have it and I really enjoyed what I heard.  If you want real rockabilly this band may bestow you mixed feelings but if you are looking for something fun to listen to and have a good time, then this is the perfect release for you.

Street Dogs – State Of Grace – CD Review

One of my favorite Irish infused, punk rock bands the Street Dogs dropped yet another release over the summer titled State of Grace.  Fronted by the one time lead vocalist of the infamous Dropkick Murphys, this CD delivers powerful punk rock anthems fueled with a traditional Irish feel to it.  This is the band’s fourth release and their first under Hellcat Records.

Street Dogs
Street Dogs

Lead singer Mike McColgan is one of the most American punk rockers you will ever meet.  Before fronting the Dropkick Murphys, he served time overseas during the Gulf War to help pay for school.  When he returned, he helped start the Dropkick Murphys in 1996 and released Do or Die; it was the only album he released with the band.  In 1998 he left the Dropkick Murphys to pursue his dream of becoming a fireman.  Fast forward a couple of years later to 2002 and McColgan got the music fever again and started the Street Dogs.

On their fourth full length release the five-some sounds stronger than ever.  Album opener “Mean Fist” is impressive with a full on punk rock approach start to finish.  “Into The Valley” sounded like an anti-war group marching song insuring escalating spirits for all soldiers involved in this senseless war.

Other stand out songs are “Rebel Song” with McColgan signing his heart out about standing up in a poor nation to rise above.  The song reassures the underprivileged that they should continue to do what they do and unite.  “The General’s Boombox” continued the high spirit lyrics about staying true to yourself.

“Elizabeth” reminds me of an Irish pub song that everyone in the house could sing-a-long to.  Another sing-a-long track “Two Angry Kids” would be best listened to away from the bar as the song makes you want to dance wildly around and pump your fists in the air.

“San Patricios” is by far my favorite track.  The Irish meets Mexican song is insane.  I loved the Spanish singing and guitar riffs layered with punk rock.  The Irish/Mexican unity track recalls back to the times when the Irish teamed with the Mexicans for their fight against the US to save Mexico.

If you are looking for a band that has similarities of the Dropkick Murphys keep in mind that even though McColgan was the original lead vocalist that the Street Dogs take a different approach at Irish punk rock with less bagpipe playing and alcohol inspired tracks.  From political views to the love of family and friends this CD was amazing especially the third time I listened to it.

The first listen was an introduction but by the third listen I was hooked.  This is one of the better punk rock albums that has been released in 2008.  Street Dogs exist because of the love of music for an Irish gent straight out of Boston.  If you are looking for punk rock at its finest go out and grab a copy of State of Grace.

Check out the Street Dogs live this fall.  For more info visit their website or check out their MySpace.

Hawthorne Heights – Fragile Future – CD Review

Hawthorne Heights
Hawthorne Heights

A lot has been going on for Ohio’s screamo act Hawthorne Heights since their last release.  Having said goodbye to a friend and band mate as well as dropping a lawsuit with Victory Records, the band continues to cope and mature throughout.  Not letting the past affect them in a downward way, the band proves they refuse to stop with Fragile Future, their third release on Victory Records.

On November 27, 2007 Hawthorne Heights guitarist/screamer Casey Calvert was found dead on the band’s tour bus just prior to their sound check at a Washington D.C. music club.  The cause of death was determined to be a possible drug interaction but according to the band’s drummer Eron Bucciarelli it was not a result of hardcore partying but an accident as Casey Calvert was taking other medicines from a recent root canal.

With the death of a loved one the band stated they would continue to go on and never add another guitarist/screamer to their band.  After taking some time to themselves and writing new material the band hopes to once again achieve success with Fragile Future even though this time they are one man down.

Of course, the first thing that stands out on this release is the omitted vicious screaming.  It would appear that Hawthorne Heights did not even wish to replicate their lost friend’s talent and that, to me, is respectable.  Also dropping the lawsuit with Victory Records and patching up past decisions proved the band is on the rise.

When “The Business Of Paper Stars” started I was waiting for the well known screaming backing up lead singer J.T. Woodruff but instead imagined it in my head.  There is plenty of opportunity in the song for screaming but the band strays away from that and is now more emo. 

Their healed sound continues in “Until The Judgment Day” with memorable lyrics of being “battered and broken” as well as “don’t look back, don’t you ever look back until the judgment day”.  Looks as if the band put down the boom box to win the girl attitude and started to see there are more things in life out there.

“Four Became One” was the track I was looking for on this CD, knowing how they lost Casey Calvert.  The song really is about the band’s closure with the difficult situation they were subject to.  It’s an ode to their friend for the entire world to hear.  Having lost friends in my past, I felt their pain in this song.

“321” is the closest song on the CD that shows aggression with a mild screaming dwelling behind the singing.  The guitar playing is likable and heavier than the other tracks making for one of my choice cuts.  “Come Back Home (Reprise)” was another track that held on to the the old style, especially with borrowed lyrics from “This Is Who We Are” off their sophomore album If Only You Were Lonely.

Fans of Hawthorne Heights will be happy the band continued on and with their change of style and I can see some new folk becoming fans.  It is a change, especially if you put this CD in hoping to hear the screamo. This is not their strongest album to date but the fact that they did not let the past hold them back makes them a tough band now.  Hawthorn Heights defines the emo genre now that they have experienced true sorrow.  Mature and structured, I expect much more from this band in years to come.

Check out their lastest video for the song “Rescue Me”:

Beat Union – Disconnected – CD Review

Beat Union
Beat Union

UK pop punkers Beat Union previously released Disconnected at the beginning of the summer, unknown to me. The band first grabbed my attention when I caught their live set at the Vans Warped Tour 2008 and much to my surprise, they are a first-class act.  Their take on punk rock mixed with elements of new wave really was fun to listen to, not to mention their stage presence was outstanding.  Disconnected is the band’s debut CD and was released under Science Records.

CD opener “Disconnected” started with a very catchy style that easily could be the next hit song to hit the airwaves.  The song reminded me of what the Proclaimers or XTC might sound like if they were punkers.  “Pressure Zone” followed with typical lyrics, a great bass line, and added horns making for a great listen.The very Elvis Costello like “My Heart Starts Beating” was likable and seemed to focus on the pop and strayed from the punk.  “Dancing In Our Sleep” seemed to follow the same trend but suddenly erupted with a nice little “whoa” sing-a-long ending.

“Stay On The Line” has lyrics along with great guitar sounds that potentially may get stuck in your head as it stands out as the most likable track on the CD for me.  It’s just one of those songs you start thinking about later after listening to it and suddenly the chorus is repeating in your mind.  “She Is The Bullet” followed and with a monotonous beginning to the song thankfully erupted with energy.

“Can’t Stop The Radio” was my personal favorite track on the album.  It was very suggestive of UK punk and new wave artists from the past and just sounded excellent all the way though.  “Don’t Have Love” was another track I got a kick out of.  There is even a secret dub-style remix of “Can’t Stop The Radio” that in my opinion blew away all of the other tracks.  I almost wish the entire CD was dub inspired, regardless though, it was a good listen from beginning to end.

For a debut release, it sounds like these guys have been recording albums for years.  Perhaps the solid sounds were tweaked out by producer/front man of Goldfinger, John Feldmann.  Regardless, Beat Union has won me over as a fan seeing them live and also thanks to Disconnected.

I am really happy the band decided to travel overseas and introduce themselves to the US by playing here over the summer or I might have overlooked them.  I am even more excited to hear they are going to be touring with Flogging Molly later this year which means a longer live set.This band has plenty of potential and seems to have ignored those who think they are just a fashioned mainstream band that will soon disappear.  Even if they do replicate the English Beat or the Clash in a sense, the band has a great upbeat sound and I am really looking seeing more of them very soon.