Category Archives: Review

Unwritten Law – Live & Lawless – DVD/CD Review

California punk rockers Unwritten Law have recently released their second live DVD for your visual and listening pleasure. This time around the band has teamed up with Suburban Noize Records to release Live & Lawless, a CD/DVD release that is more of a celebration of their success as a modern punk rock band rather then just another live show.

Recorded in March of 2008 at the historic Key Club on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, the band consisting of singer Scott Russo, guitarist Steve Morris, bassist Pat “PK” Kim, and temporary stand-in drummer Dylan Howard, make a point to play their hearts out to their hardcore fans.

Unwritten Law
Unwritten Law

Formed in the early nineties, Unwritten Law first started out as a speedier punk band but throughout the years they took different approaches to making music, and soon matured into more of a hard rock act. 1998’s self titled album had a couple of tracks that were put into heavy rotation on the radio but nothing more than that. In 2002, the band came out with Elva and their song “Seeing Red” became a chart topping hit.

Just one year later, the band was approached accidentally by VH1 (they meant to call Jimmy Eat World) to see if they would play some acoustic tracks. The result was Music In High Places, a part studio part live acoustic album that coincided with a separately released DVD called Live In Yellowstone.

Live & Lawless is the band’s first start-to-finish live DVD. This release also comes with a CD full of the tracks the band played that night in Hollywood. The CD has seventeen tracks plus a bonus track. The DVD covers the twenty-two song set and also contains some bonus footage.

The show starts with the band on stage in full force playing “Underground”. One of the first things I notice is that there are no bouncers in front of the stage and to me that is a nice thing to see. This show is strictly the band facing the fans. Hit songs “Teenage Suicide” and “Calin” were played to approving fans as they sang along as loud as they possibly could

The acoustic version of “Rest Of My Life” featured just Scott Russo and the crowd. His voice was on point throughout and did not crackle or show any signs of being tired even though sweat was dripping off his forehead. The rest of the band slowly snuck on stage where they smoothly depart into “She Says”. The crowd erupted as soon as they sang the refrain to the song.

“Before I Go” is a bonus treat to the crowd as the band starts a mini acoustic session with the entire band playing their acoustic instruments. I love the way this song sounds. They continue with “Elva” and surprisingly “Shallow”, a real old track by the band.

This was the first time I had heard the old school song performed acoustically and Scott Russo even admitted to the crowd that is was a special song they were going to play. I must say the song brought back some memories. Hearing the band slow the track down a bit and play it unplugged just made it that much more enjoyable. The only sad thing about this song is that I would guess two thirds of the crowd may never have heard this before. Arms waving and smiles were among the many but when it came time to sing along there was not as much partaking.

Before engaging in “Save Me” front man Scott Russo took a moment to spread some love to all the sardine packed fans in the front row. He asked everyone for some crowd participation before starting the song and just about everyone complied. With big thank yous it was clear that the concert was coming to an end.

Making this show even more memorable to myself, the very first song the band ever wrote, and one of my personal favorites, “CPH” closed out the show. Nothing like an oldie to wrap things up, especially when it was one of the first songs I heard as a teenager that caused me to become an Unwritten Law fan.

DVD bonus features included the music video for “Shoulda Know Better” as well as a intimate interview session with questions coming from the fans who were actually at the DVD shoot that evening. Hearing the story from Pennywise about Fletcher jumping a van into someone’s backyard was amusing. The band answered questions individually, shared their influences, decisions to change up their style, and even some more personal stories. The answer to how would Pat “PK” Kim look if he were bald had me laughing out loud as the bassist drew up a picture of himself.

There was not a dull moment throughout the entire live show. This DVD is pure evidence what a punk rock show should be. Seems like only yesterday a young punk rock me was in the crowd checking out Unwritten Law singing all of the songs they sang at the top of my lungs. Over ten years later, they still have it and show no signs of tiring out one bit.

Here’s a couple of clips from the DVD just for a small taste:

Clutch – Full Fathom Five: Audio Field Recordings 2007-2008 – CD Review

Rock act Clutch has recently released Full Fathom Five: Audio Field Recordings 2007-2008, a CD including many of the live tracks that appear on their first ever live DVD.  The CD and DVD appear to be aimed towards the Clutch fan base as it is being sold only through Clutch’s official website, Merch.Com, and other Clutch websites. So far both releases are not available in retail chains.

Where Clutch has released live albums before, this is the band’s first live DVD to be released and also is their first release under the band’s own label Weathermaker Music.  Clutch plans on releasing further material on their own label.

Clutch
Clutch

Formed in the early nineties, Clutch was not your typical rise-to-the-top rock band.  Gaining early commercial attention was something the band seemed to never worry about.  Starting off selling out small clubs, they, through hard work and perseverance, soon found themselves selling out larger shows and were later headlining tours.  Their sound is that of metal, stoner rock, and even a little blues mixed up. Their solid sound seems to lure in new fans with every release.

Speaking of fans, famous skater misfit Bam Margera labels himself and hug fan of Clutch and even helped direct the video for “The Crowd Goes Wild” for the band.  As a return perhaps, Clutch played live for Bam Margera and a few lucky attendees on a ski slope on a past episode of Viva La Bam.  That is about as mainstream the band has ever been as they really do not care for the predictable rock band approach.

If you have never seen Clutch live, you need to know that they are here to rock.  They do not have fancy stage setups nor do they pause a lot in between songs.  I can say this from experience as once I heard them through the doors of the House Of Blues in Cleveland. The show was sold out and my only way in fell through (it sounded great).  I also can say that a year later I went back to the same venue with ticket in hand (visually just as amazing).

The CD and DVD capture tracks played by Clutch on four separate occasions in New Jersey, Pittsburgh (Mr. Small’s Theatre, one of the coolest venues I have ever been to), and overseas in Sydney.  For a review of the DVD check out what Charile Doherty, a Blogcritics.Org writer had to say about it.

Starting off the fifteen track CD was “Dragonfly” a rather grungy track with Neil Fallon roaring throughout as the guitar riffs landed heavy and the drumming was stern.  I especially got a kick out of the track originally found on Elephant Riders going into a little jam session and then unexpectedly slammed into From Beale Street to Oblivion’s “Child Of The City” without even missing a beat.  Upon the completion of these two songs, the crowd went spastic.

“Texan Book Of The Dead”, the first single off the CD, showed Nail Fallon’s voice struggling a tad but hardly noticeable to the point where the song was dire sounding.  “Oh Eee Oh Ahh Ahh” was sung during the track reminding of Alvin & The Chipmunks.  The song is currently in heavy rotation on SiriusFaction Radio.

“The Mob Goes Wild” was nowhere even close to sounding like the studio recording with a slowed down chorus but I loved the organ playing and just the energy that could be felt throughout.  Sometimes a change in tempo and pitch is a good thing.  “Cypress Grove” simply rocked out with help from some sick harmonica playing.   Once again there was a mid song jam session making for an incredible listen.  “Ship Of Gold” and “10001110101” were two other favorites of mine that I enjoyed profusely.

The only vice I have with the performance was that the band really only focused on material from 1995 onward.  Many of the songs played were welcome to my ears but I was kind of hoping to hear a rare track from Transnational Speedway League.  We can all dream, can’t we?

This CD is just a sample of the twenty song live DVD that was released showcasing their abilities.  I now have to go out and order the DVD because after hearing this I need to see it.  Hell, any fan of solid rock music should check the DVD out and if for whatever reason you have no DVD player then this CD should at least give you a small fix of what Clutch is capable of doing.  Do yourself a favor and order the CD or the DVD today by heading over to Clutch’s website, you won’t regret it.

For your viewing pleasure “Texan Book Of The Dead”:

Here is the video that Bam Margera directed, “The Mob Goes Wild”:

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.