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Book Review: I Wanna Be Well: How a Punk Found Peace and You Can Too by Miguel Chen

It’s so easy to get caught up in everyday life.  You wake up daily, live your day on repeat, and eventually go back to sleep.

It’s a routine so many of us are caught up in that sometimes we forget about one very important thing: ourselves.

My life is busier than ever thanks to having my wonderful family.  I carry my own routine that more or less has me in a solid state of mind worrying about everyone else and not myself.  I fail to give myself personal time frequently and in turn become stressed out and know I am just not myself.

When I heard that Miguel Chen, bassist for famed Teenage Bottlerocket, wrote a book about being well, I was instantly intrigued.  When I heard the title of his book was a Ramones song, I knew I had to check out I Wanna Be Well: How a Punk Found Peace and You Can Too.

Never mind the fact that I adore Teenage Bottlerocket, my curiosity came purely from the subject of the book as I agreed with it knowing that I needed to better myself for myself and not the sake of others.  For the record, I feel a do a pretty good job daily being the best I can be for others, but when it comes to myself, I always find excuses.

Focusing on internal thought and meditation, I Wanna Be Well is a a quick read that anyone can get into.  Along with meditation practices and an intro to yoga poses, the reader also gets insight into Chen’s life and how this punk rocker found inner peace among quite a few tragedies in life including the loss of band mate Brandon Carlisle.

Just by changing his ways and seeing the world differently, Chen found the happiness he never knew existed.  His story, explanations, and novice practices were all well received by this reader and I took them all to heart and promised myself to try and practice them daily.

The one thing I loved the most about this book is how candid Chen was throughout.  It was as if Chen was just sitting there in a room chatting with me and telling me his insights with no filter.  He also was just so honest and did not set expectations knowing that not everyone is the same.

Of course I loved the punk references throughout including the chapter titles and hidden banter, but I also appreciated the recap at the end of each chapter that serve as a refresh of a meditation or practice Chen spoke on.

I hate that even though this book could be read in a short amount of time, it took me a couple of months to finish (two small kids = not a lot of personal alone time).  I did like that each time I did open up to a chapter, I wasn’t lost, everything stayed on point, and Chen did not repeat himself sans a couple of reminders of meditations to help set up new ones.

The one part of the book that really stuck on me had to do with forgiveness of myself and of course others.  I can think about my actions and work on how to change them should a situation occur again.  I can be mindful more than ever just by starting my day off right.  There were so many hints and tips in this book that seriously can have a positive effect on anyone if they just attempt them.

Did this book save me?  No, but  I am going to be more mindful than ever with what Chen spoke on.  I’m even putting some deep thought into giving yoga a shot now that I realize it is not all about bending yourself into a pretzel in some hipster studio with nice finished floors.  When Chen said in the book that I was doing yoga while just performing a simple stretch, I realized there is no reason for me to not try.

Wellness is defined by my own terms according to Chen and I really should not worry about others when it comes to myself.  If I want to listen to some Murder City Devils while having some alone time, I can and there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so.

You do not need to be a punk rocker to enjoy this book.  Granted a lot of the content revolves around someone who is in a punk rock band, the book is for anyone looking for new ways to find inner peace.  Trust me, take in a few chapters, and you are going to find something that is going to change you.

Released by Wisdom Publications, the book is available in paperback or digital both at a very reasonable price.

 

Album Review: Red City Radio – SkyTigers EP

Y’all want to hear something amazing?

Check out the new EP by Oklahoma City’s Red City Radio.  My god, this is the best thing to hit my ears so far this year.

In case you have no idea who I am even talking about, Red City Radio is a punk rock foursome that seemingly can do no wrong with their music style.  They’ve been around since 2007 and have a whole slew of releases full of catchy punk rock tunes for all to adore.

Recently, they dropped SkyTigers with help from Red Scare Industries.  This 21 minute EP is from start to finish is outstanding.  There really is no other way for me to tell you all how impressed I was with this EP.  I can not stop listening to it as of late.

“If You Want Blood (Be My Guest)” exploded into a memorable sing along jam.  The second the drums fully kick in, the energy went through the roof.  Talking about hometown values and not giving up, the band showed major signs of maturing with not only their great lyrics but also their collective sound.

“I’ll Still Be Around” started off very Tim Barry but not in a bad way at all.  Things soon picked up for a pretty great track that one could only wonder is about the band and not as told by the lyrics, “not every pretty girl can sing, not ever ugly guy is funny”.

Garrett Dale’s bellowing voice goes outlaw on “In the Shadows”, a track complete with horns and a healthy 80s-ish guitar solo sans any cheese at all.  This is a powerful punk spaghetti-western track when you actually jump into it and listen for what it’s worth.  The more and more I listened to it, the more I appreciated it, especially that subtle sigh at the end.

“Rebels” was a foot-stomping jam that seemingly defended actions based on other’s behaviors and apologetically called them out on it.

“SkyTigers” was a fantastic song and turned into something so memorable the moment the sample from The Dictator began.  Perhaps more meaningful and truer than ever, Chaplin’s infamous closing speech from classic film was extremely relevant on this song hearing it today based on today’s current affairs.

For an EP, I feel slightly cheated as I wanted more of what Red City Radio was offering.  This is by far some of the best material I have ever heard these guys do, and this comes from a fan of theirs since almost day one.  I love how they have slowed down a little but haven’t given up on their edge one bit.  Fans are going to love the shit out of this.

Don’t skip out on this EP if you can help yourself.  Chances are you are going to be just as blown away as I was upon hearing it.  Red City Radio continues to dominate and SkyTigers is 21 minutes of proof.

Pre-order the EP if you dare: http://redscare.storenvy.com/

 

 

Album Review: Kali Masi – Wind Instrument

It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten this excited by a new band.

You know that feeling, music that once it hits your ears, it’s pure gold.  It catches you off guard in a good, good way and all you can do is just enjoy it over and over and be thankful you were introduced to them.

Kali Masi, hailing from Chicago, dropped an album on Take This To Heart Records that so good that I’ve been listening to it non-stop for about two weeks now.  I found myself instantly a fan of them and each time I listened to their release, I appreciated it more and more.  I hate that it took me this long to learn about them.

Wind Instrument is the foursome’s debut release, but from the sound of it, you’d think this band has been around forever.  Full of energy and hard-knocked feelings meshed with catchy as hell punk rock tunes is probably the best way to describe these guys.  Think Luther meets Smoke or Fire and Restorations.

“Some Friends” opened up the album not holding back one bit with  “you’ve got a funny way of coming clean” immediately targeting someone who needed to be called out for who they are.  This track blew me away and I immediately knew that I was going to love this album.

“Her Palms Were Read” continued with intense, honest recollections of relationship truth.  The chorus proved that with a stern “If I could count the ways I need you, am I just wasting all my time?”  Everything was likable on this track, especially the guitar playing at the end.  I always appreciate a good rock out.

“Powerline Days” ruled.  The music and lyrics were so damn catchy and perfect all revolving around love.  My favorite part was the harmonies added with the hooks in the middle followed by a simple guitar solo.  The video was top-notch too (check it out below).

“Love is unconditional but I’m in no condition to love” as heard on “Jejune” was such a brutally honest lyric on this self-destructing track.  Once I heard it, it just stuck with me and all I could think of was how I once identified with that statement.  Heartbreak of any type hurts and you can hear it in this track.

“Recurring (II)” was full of hooks and catchy singing that anyone would find themselves getting into.  “Ghost (The Pottery Scene)” carried the same likable qualities after but slowed things down some with a ton of reminiscing, slight regret, and brutal self-actualization.

Listening “Your Other Left” brought back a lot of buried memories from past relationships.  I have got to hand it to Kali Masi, these guys really know how put their lyrics together providing for explicit visualizations.  I can not say the memories were ones I wanted to recall, but I can tell you, I appreciated hearing them as told from someone else.  Musically, this track was amazing to listen to with a slight eruption towards the end.

Finishing up the album was “C.A.”, a punk rock balled of sorts.  The whole band really came together on this one making for an incredible listen.  Right when I thought it was over, the band dug deeper into their pocketful of feelings and belted out “what kid of fool would fall in love with someone who gave up on themselves?  What it takes to be happy, I don’t know.”  This was the moment I knew this band was destined for greatness.

Wind Instrument was the surprise release I have been looking to hear for a long time now.  Kali Masi pretty much has gotten me just as excited as when a young Menzingers released Chamberlain Waits.  Just by one album I knew they were striving for greatness and I hope to hell Kali Masi does the exact same, these dudes have serious potential.

I hate that I missed these guys last year when the album dropped as they would have shot to the top of my Best Of List, but honestly, these guys are going to be in my regular rotation for some time to come.  Do yourself a favor and check them out.  I hope you will appreciate them as much as I do.

Album Review: Mean Jeans – Jingles Collection

I don’t even know how to start out this review other than the creativity idea of Mean Jeans is off the charts with their recently released Jingles Collection.

Starting off as a joke, the punk rock band has released something unheard of – punk rock advertisement.

You’ve heard punk rock bands covering other artist’s songs for years, but when is the last time you heard a punk rock band writing a song, rather jingle, about a product?  Be it food, cigarettes, a store, or even shampoo, Mean Jeans have taken their novel idea to the extremes in hopes of grabbing the attention of multi-million dollar companies, or just getting a rise out of them.

The best part about this album is how catchy and fun the songs are.  From start to finish, there wasn’t one song on here that I did not like or pretty much memorize immediately.  Fat Wreck should really be proud of this one.

The good folk at Coors really should compensate Mean Jeans heavily for their song, “Coors Light”.  This catchy song about the light, refreshing beer is catchy as hell and all so honest.  I could really see this track being used in a commercial.  Make it happen Coors.

“Give me Totinos, a party pizza” started off the pizza and partying pairing track “Totinos”.  Stoners are going to love this song and probably run straight to the freezer upon hearing it.

Making cancer fun again was “Camel Lights”.  Should big tobacco ever be allowed to broadcast their product, this fun tune should be first in line to consider.  The kids are going to love it.

Mean Jeans singing about the caffeine citrus drink in “Mountain Dew” almost made me want to go get one and shake for the rest of my evening.

“The Footlong Song” paid tribute to the sandwich artist studios that slap meat and cheese on bread and call it a sub.

The honky-tonk, garage rocking “Skoal” was brilliant.  Loved the fact they referred to chew as a “tobacco treat” and  also declared “the heart of rock-n-roll is dipped in Skoal”.

The Misfits sound in “Polly-O String Cheese” was just amazing.  So amazing that I had to listed to it a couple of times over to fully appreciate it.

Taco Bell is stupid if they do not use “Taco Bell” in their next commercial.  That is all I have to say about that.  The same goes to the mad scientist laboratory behind the dandruff shampoo as “Selsen Blue” actually made the product sound more marketable.

Should the kangaroo cookies and chocolate dip ever make a comeback, “Dunkaroos” could really be aimed at the adults who used to munch on those snacks hardcore in the 90s.

I chuckled often while listening to the  Jingles Collection today, but also was kind of impressed at the songs.  They clearly were done in the key of humor, but some of these unsolicited songs really could be used in commercials.  Mean Jeans have single-handedly delivered the most unique album of 2018.

Here’s to hoping they release a VHS full of videos like the following:

Check out the whole album if you want.  It’s probably going to be the best 30 minutes you wasted all day:

The Most Underrated Rock ‘n Roll Artist in the Past 5 Years – The White Buffalo

[It’s been a while since one of my pals has guest blogged on this here ol’ site, but when Frank reached out to me recently with something he wrote asking me to check it out, I just had to share it.  Great read by a great dude. – Brian]

As we gingerly step into 2018, our world has become consumed by politics.  Our news are politics, our “Funny-Shows” are politics, our comedians are politics, and with all of this, our world has become a house divided.  Before all this though, there was an even greater divide happening in a much more important arena, the music arena.

Over the past five years, rock ‘n roll has been the passenger on a downward trend, taking it further and further from the main-stream, and closer to obscurity. Some would debate that the greatest reason for this is the general malaise and declining quality of the rock ‘n roll form, while others place their bets behind the “Only Big Enough for One of Us” philosophy regarding the rap vs. rock debate.  Despite all the bluster and hot air one thing is quite factual, that as of last year, it is documented that hip hop has taken over the head of the pack in the music world.

With this seismic change in the musical landscape, artists that should have been on the fast track to super-stardom and all that entails have been pushed down into what was characteristically deemed the “independent” group.  Artists that should get the elusive radio play and playing to thousands of people at a time are lucky to get on college radio and play the back rooms of the established venues.  Those that should be in the limelight, have transitioned into unknown or the tombstone title of “niche”.

One artist that doesn’t belong in any of these secondary groups, one artists who stands on musical talent rather than glitz and bling, the most underrated artist in recent memory is The White Buffalo.

The White Buffalo, aka Jake Smith, can undoubtedly be placed at the top of the list of underrated artists in the shrinking rock genre of today’s musical society.  With vocals that range from haunting, as heard in “The Whistler” and “Come Join the Murder”, and travel up the spectrum to romantic, spotlighted in “Love Song #1”  and “Come On Love Come On In”, all the way to a tone that could be called soulful and introspective, divinely illustrated in “Oh Darlin’ What Have I Done”, or upbeat, like “Avalon”.

Smith’s music cannot be classified and gently placed into a nice tight fitting box.  It can go from straight rock ‘n roll to a little bit of twang, from bordering country to in your face melodic yelling.  And maybe there’s the rub – because with the push he’s gotten, it doesn’t make sense that he’s being pushed down into the lands of obscurity.

Case in point, ask the average, run of the mill, rock ‘n roll fan, what is the most popular show that they have watched in the last 10 years, that they still watch on Netflix, the show that had one of the best soundtracks ever, that they owned the t-shirts, the hoodies, the hats, and the merch, that they watched or recorded or DVRed EVERY TIME IT WAS ON TELEVISION, and most of them will say the same thing: Sons of Anarchy.  And this juggernaut of a show, Sons of Anarchy, was the first introduction for the White Buffalo to the masses.

Smith’s music accompanied some of the most disturbing, some of the most poignant, some of the most influential, and some of the most powerful scenes of the entire show.  When Clay gets his back tattoo blacked out in shame, enter “The Whistler”, or when Tara, Jax’s wife realizes her negative transformation and pulls a gun on Jax and then leaves him, scored by “Oh Darlin’ What Have I Done”, or arguably the most powerful moment of the show, when Jax rides his bike to certain doom in the series finale, there was only one song that could properly usher this show out and push the main character off of this mortal coil properly, and it was “Come Join the Murder” by the White Buffalo.

Smith had a spotlight shone on him from one of the most heavily watched shows of the decade, his music led in scenes that there was no going back from, and his music was the prototype for the entire soundtrack, and yet for some reason he is not shining his Grammys or counting his movie credits.  And there is no reason for that.  Other than the fact that he has been criminally underrated by the powers that be in the music industry, and this fact is in fact, a crime.

Since his contributions to SOA, he has not rested on his laurels, nor has he let the show define him.  He has put together three stellar albums: Shadows, Greys, and Evil WaysLove and the Death of Damnation, and most recently Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights, which illustrates his stunning mix of the rock ‘n roll, deep, deep blues, and outlaw country.

Smith continues to prove that he is actually the preeminent musical story-teller in music today.  The White Buffalo’s music gives listeners a constant reminder that although one might look brash and gruff on the outside, the inside can be a cauldron of emotions and feelings and thoughts and ideas.  Every album is a different trip to a different place, exploring different roads to get to the destination.

The masses are missing some of the greatest rock ‘n roll that has ever been produced, and what is ever more disappointing than that fact, is that they don’t even know it.  The White Buffalo entrusts personal stories to the listener, that many people could relate to and enjoy.  The White Buffalo is the everyman, with a badass growl, a tender soul.  He’s someone you’d have a beer with anytime and the most underrated rock ‘n roll musician in recent history.

Seek him out, watch him, listen to him, go to his concerts – just do yourself a favor and enjoy his work.

-FS