Tag Archives: Album

Album Review: Bad Luck Jonathan – Bad Luck Jonathan

Bad Luck Jonathan is the band your father probably told you about that never actually existed.

Sounding like they are straight out of the 70s, this Jon Langford project carries the fuzz, the soul, and plenty of the mean deviation of a progressive space rock act that could fool any naive music listener into thinking that this band is an obscure band from the past.

For those who have not heard of the name Langford, you should probably stop what you are doing and go check out a few songs from  his first band, The Meckons, a punk band that took root 40 years ago.  The dude is a fricking legend, but be forewarned, Bad Luck Johnathan is a lot more astray from what Langford once started with and mind you, the Meckons were all over the place.

I should probably mention that Bad Luck Jonathan is not just Langford though.  Former Whiskeytown guitarist, Phil Wandscher and Martin Billheimer joined forces with Langford along with the Waco Brother’s very own Joe Camarillo and Alan Doughty (who also happened to be in Jesus Jones).  It’s been said they came together on an island off the coast of the Pacific Northwest in very specific circumstances.

Realizing they were on to something good, the band, with help from Cleveland’s very own Blue Arrow Records, dropped a spacey, sludge rock self-titled album.  That descriptor alone right there just sounds bad ass.  Well, so is the album.

Album opener “3 Eyed Piranaha” was a space rock blues jam that pretty much opened the gates of what was to come on this album.  It was like listening to Mike Watt, Suicidal Tendencies, Beck, and Stevie Ray Vaughn all smashed together.  It was beautiful.

“Bad Luck Jonathan” carried a very Doors-y feel at the beginning, but went the path of Bowie and beyond.  “Strong Engine” was a mysterious sounding track with some catchy guitar lines backed by smooth bass playing that erupted halfway into a full-fetched jam.

“Clowntown Collapse” closed the album down with a distortion-driven almost cowpunk sounding track that I really got a kick out of.  I could only imagine this song being played live in a dark, small venue, especially by the end when Langford commented into the mic, “that was great” as the song ended.

Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, I can tell you this is not just some quickly thrown together album.  Personally, by the end, I was hoping for more as it was a hell of a listen.  There is a lot of talent thrown into these six tracks and I’ve personally listened to it over a few times now as it carries a unique sound I am really digging.

The LP version of this album was pressed by Gotta Grove Records and looks killer thanks to the red opaque color of the wax.

If you want to snag a copy, head over to Blue Arrow Records.

I got a kick while reading an interview with Lone Star Music Magazine and felt the need to share.  Langford joked about working with Blue Arrow by saying, “we made an album that’s coming out on Blue Arrow Records in Cleveland; their only other artist is Jonathan Richman, so they only work with artists with Jonathan in their name.”

Langford is a trip, and judging by the video below, so are his live performances.  I really need to check these guys out live next time they roll through Cleveland.

 

Album Review: Heart Attack Man – The Manson Family

True story: I almost crashed my car this morning because the streets were a sheet of ice.

I was probably driving too fast, but that is not the point.

As I applied the brakes, my car just kept sliding right towards Brookpark Rd. with speed as oncoming traffic continued moving.  I lucked out at the last possible moment and was able to drift my car sideways to avoid crashing into anyone or anything.

So what the hell does this have to do with this album review you ask?

Well, as I sat there sideways at the edge of the intersection, I felt grateful that I was going to be able to get to work on time and listen to the new Heart Attack Man.  I’m quite serious about this – I planned on checking it out as soon as I got to my paying gig.

Cleveland’s Heart Attack Man originally was a solo project of guitarist/vocalist Eric Egan that soon turned into a band once Adam Paduch of Two Hand Fools took on drumming duties.  The duo specializes in creating catchy ass jams that carries equal amounts of alternative rock and indie rock.

Released on Triple Crown RecordsThe Manson Family is Heart Attack Man’s debut full-length.   Full of modern day struggles, the album refuses to hold back.

I knew I was in for something good the moment I heard opening track “Burn Down The Mall”.  Even though the tune was catchy like something Brand New might dish out, the song itself was just dark and melancholy.

“Sitting On the Fringe” was an anthem of just being fed up with everyone and everything while “Life Sucks” was an emo downward spiral, but damn it sounded so good.  “Cut Off At The Knees” also had this defeated sense of humbleness throughout.

“Surrounded By Morons” really reminded me of a long forgotten 90s band, King Missile, due to the singing style alone.  The song  was a literal opinion about living in over-populated cities.  The music that backed it was overly impressive with plenty of fuzz and riffs for all to enjoy.

“Taking Sides” easily was one of my favorite songs on the album.  A personable jam that I really can say I  could relate to over and over.  “Funhouse Mirrors” was another track I found myself getting into.

“Cool Kids Table” closed things down with a Weezer-like similarity, but far less sweet and innocent.  This song made me want to drown my sorrows in the cheapest beer possible.  The best part of this track was the sarcastic screams where you clearly can hear the frustration.  The more I think about it, this was probably my favorite cut off the album.

Heart Attack Man are one of the most exciting up and coming Cleveland bands out there right now in my opinion.  Sure, you’ve probably heard this statement so many times from everyone and their mother about every band out there, but have a listen of The Manson Family and I’m sure you’ll understand why I hold such high regard.

It’s not a happy album, but it is catchy and begs to be replayed over and over.

Album Review: Western Addiction – Tremulous

After 12 years since their debut dropped, I have to admit I was shocked and overly stoked when Western Addiction announced that they were dropping a sophomore album on Fat Wreck Chords.

What got me even more stoked was to hear that Joey Cape was producing it and Dead To Me’s Chicken was back offering bass duties.

Once I heard all of this news, I was like a giddy little kid impatiently waiting to hear it.  I loved Western Addiction’s debut album, it ruled on so many levels.  Finally today,  I was able to check out Tremulous and it does not disappoint at all.

“Clatter and Hiss” started things off well.  The energetic track really proved to me that this album was going to be sick.  “Masscult, Vulgarians and Entitlement” was just a rager of a song to listen to.  I dug the vocal ranges throughout as it just added an enjoyable edge to it.

The tough “Taedium” was just perfect to listen to tonight after having a stagnate day at the paying gig.  I could not help but to think about Mötorhead on this track, and that is not a bad thing at all.  Add the fact that Propagandhi’s Todd Kowalski dropped some vocals in it make it even that much better for me.  This was a hell of a track.

“Red Emeralds” was a short track, but one that left a mark.  This hardcore track was full-forced from start to end.

The guitar playing on “Humming Bars of White Light” reminded me one again of Mötorhead, again, not a bad thing at all.  This track ruled.

Then there was “The Rockery”.  This track was all over the place with a hardcore feel that morphed into a punk rock jam  that eventually all ended by a guitar solo like no other.

Album ender “Your Life Is Precious” was written in tribute to the band’s friend, and Enemy You frontman, David Jones.  This track was not like the others and easily was my favorite cut off the album.  I loved the different approach taken and really was reminded of something Danzig might have done in this prime.  Not saying there are “woahs’ and “yeahs” being screamed, but I am saying a damn fine song took you on a ride.

Western Addiction really have dropped a killer release.  This punk/hardcore act has delivered after a 12 year wait and did not cut any corners in doing so.  If you are looking for something to listen to without smooth edges and loud, check out Tremulous.

Album Review: Remainders – Remainders

My mind is out there sometimes.

I forget things and I am quick to admit it.

I have legit reasons though.  With old age and a future punk rocker running around the house causing chaos daily, it is bound to happen.

I bet though if Remainders were called “Reminders”, I would have remembered to have reviewed their debut album months ago.

Still, it’s never too late to talk about bands and their tunes, especially ones that I enjoy.

The boys in Pittsburgh’s Remainders caught my attention back in 2014 with their EP Fine Exits.  If you happened across my blog mentioning their EP, you’ll notice how much I enjoyed what I heard.  They are a punk rock foursome who happen to write those catchy, easy to absorb jams about real things like getting old and just life in particular.

Featuring members of other Pittsburgh talent such as World’s Scariest Police Chases, Playoff Beard, and Incommunicado, their debut full-length, released on A-F Records, easily could have been their 4th or 5th album in that their sound is so defined and structured.  You’d think this band has been around for 10 years.

“Serenity Now, Insanity Later” started off the 10-track album.  This song was catchy and just pertained to modern life, drowning sorrows, and paying the price later.

I loved the energy in “Trying Too Hard” and especially how together the band sounded throughout.  “Still a Fool” had so many singable lines throughout and just kept my attention.  This has got to be one of those tracks that everyone just loses their shit to at a live show.

I especially loved the song “Smile, You Son of a Bitch” alone due to the Jaws reference, but the track itself was pretty bad ass too.

“You’re Living A Lie?  I’m Living Like Twenty!” easily was my favorite track on the album.  I dug the intermittent breakdowns and how it just exploded into a rager of a tune.  Add to the fact how this track spoke on growing up by moving on, it became more of a personable jam for this listener.

“Onward, Upward” reminded me of the days where I thought I was had control of my vices, but was only kidding myself and others. I loved how this track sang about denial and self-realization, but without a typical happy ending.

With so many bands out there these days, it is easy to pass up something good.  In this case, I was pretty much delivered by hand a copy of this album by Chris Stowe himself, and my old ass forgot about it.  I place the blame on myself for overlooking it.

Hopefully Stowe and the band can understand why this is so delayed.  I know at least Karim can – congrats on the newest addition to your family btw!!!.

If you are looking for a punk rock jam of an album but full of heart, then this debut release by these Steel City dudes is worth checking out.  Fans of Banner Pilot, Dear Landlord, and Iron Chic will dig the hell out of this release, at least I think they will.

Who am I kidding?  I’ll probably forget I even wrote this when I wake up tomorrow…  Just kidding, guys, this album has been on regular rotation since I got it.

Album Review: Mike Watt – “Ring Spiel” Tour ’95

"ring spiel" tour '95It seems like 1995 was forever ago.  I was fresh out of high school and naive to the world.  There were no smart phones with cameras on them, no Facebook statuses, and people actually talked to one another in the same room.  Times were different that’s for sure, and the music scene back then was amazing.

When I heard that Legacy Recordings and Mike Watt decided to release a live show from 1995, I told myself that I just had to check it out.  Having been a young fan of Watt in Minutemen and fIREHOSE in the 90s, I became a bigger fan of him in ’95 when he released Ball-hog or Tugboat?, his debut solo album full of special guests including J. Mascis, Adam Horovitz, Dave Grohl, and Henry Rollins just to name a few.  Hell, I still have the double LP promo that Mike from Disc Den gave me when he heard how much I loved the album.

In support of that new release, Watt hit the road with Hovercraft and the barely known then Foo Fighters (lead by Grohl who apparently was touring for the first time since Kurt Cobain’s death).  He formed quite the impressive backing band for this tour to accompany him consisting of Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), Dave Grohl (Nirvana / Foo Fighters), Pat Smear (the Germs), and William Goldsmith (Sunny Day Real Estate / Foo Fighters).  This was a once in a lifetime tour and can finally be heard on “ring spiel” tour ’95.

[Side note: I actually caught Watt live in the summer of ’95 when he opened up for Primus at Nautica in Cleveland.  I do not recall him having any of the heavy-hitting musicians as his backup band there, but I still have a scar on my left thumb due to someone’s Dr. Martins making contact to a barrier with my thumb in the way.  Concert war wounds are the best.]

Recorded live at The Metro in Chicago on May 6th, 1995, Watt’s live show was beyond amazing to listen to and brought me back 20 years to my youth.  One could only imagine being at the Metro in person seeing the energy that came from Watt and his special crew taking turns playing behind the legendary bassist.

Having never heard about this live show before, it was insane to hear Watt start the set off with a Daniel Johnston cover of “Walking The Cow”.  As someone who has found appreciation in Johnson material over the last 10 years, I know I probably would have been clueless about this track had I seen it played in front of me at this show.

It only made sense for Watt to play his rendition of Chip and Tony Kinman’s (Rank & File) “Big Train” seeing how it was the first single off of Ball-Hog.  At first, the crowd really did not seem into it, but that soon changed.

“Against the 70s” was a straight up jam with Watt and Vedder singing hard.  Perhaps more toned down on Vedder’s part over the studio version, I actually liked this live version better.

“Drove Up from Pedro” deserves to be heard especially if you were too young too have seen a show in the 90s.  This track alone brought back so many memories and it was all in thanks to the crowd.  They absorbed the sounds when needed, and then just belted out their approval.

After playing fIREHOSE’s “Makin’ the Freeway”, Watt took a moment to ask the crown to chill out on the crowdsurfing by saying: “You like those people rolling all over your heads?  Why don’t we give it a break.”  Classic.

“Forever…One Reporter’s Opinion” had Pat Smear offering vocals alongside Watt.  The song was just nuts and you could feel the venue explode at the end.

The cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s “The Red and The Black” was one of the best songs I heard on this set.  I loved his take on the song , especially the ending.

Another excellent cover was of a Madonna song, “Secret Garden”.  The best part was that just hearing Smear sing.  Was this a joke?  I think only the performers will know.  Regardless of their intentions, it was a fun listen.

fIREHOSE’s “Powerful Hankerin'” ended the show with just Watt on stage doing what he does best.  The solo playing was perfect for closing out an amazing show.  The crowd approved and so did this listener the moment after a humbled Watt said thank you and left the stage.

If you were a kid of the 90s who hit up all the cool underground shows, this album really deserves to be in your collection.  If you are someone who just likes to listen to live rock and roll, it doesn’t get any better than this.  I just with there was a full video to accompany this performance.

At least there is this:

As I was trying to search for more info on Watt’s ’95 tour, I found an online journal called “Clam Blow” Tour.  There was a pretty cool read from Watt and band mates in Cleveland.  They talked about playing Repeat The Beat Records in Brooklyn, OH.  How I missed that back then, I will never know.  Apparently CBS was even there covering the performance.  Read the entries from 7/28 and 7/29.

“ring spiel” tour ‘ 95 is available online on CD and LP as well as at your favorite local music shop.  It’s also on digital music streaming sites like Apple and Spotify.