You know an album is good when you spend 15 minutes trying to compose an opening sentence for a review.
I’ve been sitting here thinking about how to introduce Anti-Flag and their release, but chances are you’re very well aware of who they are already. I was unsure how to express how surprised at how great this album was from the moment it hit my ears. I finally decided to just write this and move on with talking about the album.
No disrespect to the band at all, but the last couple of albums did not do that much for me. American Fall, however, has completely blown me away from start to finish. Think of the Clash mixed with Rancid and Green Day with a huge spilling of political and social opinion based on current events and tragedies for that matter. I know that was probably a tough sentence to take in, but trust me, it works.
Punk rock, pop punk, ska, and even a smidge of arena rock was all thrown together in American Fall, the band’s 11th studio release. Co-produced by Benji Madden of Good Charlotte, this album has Anti-Flag taking an entirely new approach with their musical abilities all while keeping on with their values.
“American Attraction” started out full-forced with an intro comparable to Green Day’s “American Idiot” but not in an overplayed way at all. Same style, higher energy, much more appealing to my ears. This was not what I was expecting to hear honestly, but I love the sound.
“When the Wall Falls” started off as an acoustic track and quickly jumped ship into a ska track. This track reminded me so much of Rancid at times especially with that organ playing – I almost with Tim Armstrong had guest vocals on this track. The lyrics of the song were almost frightening when you sit back and think about it.
I could not help but think how close-knit the band sounded in”Trouble Follows Me”. I loved the bass line and overall harmony with the group vocals. Very memorable song that got stuck in my head.
“Finish What We Started” carried this huge Clash resemblance which was totally welcomed. In fact, this was one of my favorite tracks on the album.
If you do not know who “Liar” is about, you just don’t get it. There’s really nothing else to say about this track. The same goes with “Throw It Away”.
“Digital Black Out” was just insane. At times, I thought about a politically charged Joe Strummer leading a revolution. I really felt that Anti-Flag leaped boundaries in this track. As much as I hate to say it, a track like this has the potential to take them to Rise Against levels.
“Racists” was a highly prolific punk jam that once again impressed the hell out of me. I loved the energy and the overall lesson to absorb within their lyrics.
It sucks to think the current state of affairs is what is fueling Anti-Flag, but for what it is worth, I am glad they have a way to release it for others to consume.
Overall, this album was amazing. From start to finish I found myself getting sucked into the tracks and memorizing the lyrics. I can not even tell you how many times I have listened to this album. It has turned into a go to album when I just want to get my blood flowing.
My only complaint about American Fall was that it was only 30 minutes long and I was just so hyped up and ready for 30 more. If Madden was the cause of the band turning a little poppier on this album, I am fully on board for him to co-product in the future. This is the best I have heard Anti-Flag sound in years and I am stoked to hear what comes next.
There’s great comfort in knowing how in this crazy ass world, two amazing people met from different timezones back in the mid-90s, fell in love, got married, and eventually had kids …a band.
The history behind The Electric Grandmother pretty much revolves around Pete and Mary Alice’s love for 80s and 90s sitcoms as well as absolute love for one another. It is pretty inspiring where I sit here and think about it.
They are band-mates for life and two of the most genuine people I have gotten to know for over the past twenty-five years. One grew up in Ohio, the other in Hawaii, it is like a living sitcom when you think about it.
Pete and Mary Alice were actually with me the night the Menzingers had to cancel their Kentucky show due to food poisoning and I miraculously got them in touch with Kent, NOFX’s manager. I only mention that as they both thought I was the man that night for getting things right. What can I say? I’m a legend in my spare time.
In the past, I’ve failed to make mention of their releases as I had this moronic thought process where I would not review material from friend’s bands. Clearly that has changed within the past couple of years.
I am not sure why I chose that route, but I can say that I almost would prefer to share the talent of those I know and love rather than keep it all to myself. I am surrounded by some amazing people and it would be unfair not to share what I hear.
Enough about me, let’s talk about The Electric Grandmother some more.
Originally starting in Columbus back in 1999, the duo moved to D.C. and kept on a truckin’. Their live shows are not to the norm and usually come with a slideshow and bubble machine. I’ve never met a person who has not gotten a kick out of their shows. Even the metalheads in Canton at some bizarre house-venue adored them.
The Electric Grandmother is not really for those who carry boundaries on their music genres or lack a humorous imagination. To be a fan means you need to carry appreciation for experimental approaches and a love for sitcoms. After all, this is the band that dubbed themselves “sitcom-core”.
Cancelled is a concept album of sorts about a man whose sanity is compromised by the cancellation of his favorite cop TV drama program by a new one. The album digs far deeper with emotion than previous albums have as duo Pete and Mary Alice take a new approach at their appreciation for television by speaking of a man whose life is affected by change.
In fact, I will just let Pete and Mary Alice explain it a little more:
“Cancelled is this story of a man’s descent into madness following the cancellation of his favorite cop-drama. This is the unfortunate feedback the man received at his office, the mindless reaction to the shallow “Cop Force,” the show that caused “Police Department” to be pushed aside.”
With that said, I’m hoping you can understand the originality of this band and can appreciate the story that surrounds this album. I know I did.
“TV” was the first track on the album with Pete singing and Mary Alice providing background vocals. This track was pretty intense to listen to all due to distorted ambient sounds that supplied the introduction to the story of a lonely man and his beloved TV show.
I actually heard “Police Department Theme Song” a few weeks back on and adored it. This track shed light on how someone could be so obsessed with a show. It was the intro music for the show that the man more or less worshipped.
“Radial Sunrise” was a happy-go-lucky song showcasing the man in positive spirits thanks to said TV show. Pete’s quick singing on this track was just great. Pay attention though, or you might miss something.
“Feedback Lives” is the absolute change in the story where things start going south. Even the music sounded concerning as well as the signing about two new dudes who change everything.
This change continued with the downward spiral of “Cancelled”. This track had Pete and Mary Alice taking turns telling the story from the man’s angle as well as the network’s. I really loved the music on this one too, it was all over the place.
I am not going to sit here and tell the entire story, you will have to hear it for yourself. I will say though by the time “The End?” came on, I could gauge a level of uncomfortable restlessness by a man who could not adapt to change.
This songs on album are so much more in-depth than from what I recall their previous albums containing. It’s like Beck, Cibo Mato, Kraftwerk, Daft Punk, Postal Service, Mike Patton, and Bran Van 3000 all got in a huge ass fistfight. That’s probably a complete crap shoot there, but at least I got to say crap shoot here on this good ol’ blog.
Seriously though, I was super intrigued throughout the album and loved the variety as well as the overall story. I was impressed with the music Pete and Mary Alice created as well as their vocals. They both really have matured into some pretty amazing musicians.
On top of a great idea of an album, there are also music videos for a couple of the songs to give you even more of a visual. Check them out below and enjoy.
If you have the slightest curiosity about this album, just click play below already. The Electric Grandmother have hopped boundaries and borders this time. It only makes sense considering the adventure they have been on from the day they caught each other’s attention.
It’s with great sadness I share news of the passing of Jessi Zazu (aka Jessi Darlin) of Those Darlins. The 28 year old lost her battle with cancer yesterday.
For those of you who have checked out this blog for many years, you’ll know I was a fan of Those Darlins from the start. Having seen them not only in Cleveland multiple times but also at Bonnaroo, I got to interact with her more than once and she was always as nice as could be.
She never hid the fact that she had cancer and was very open about her fight with it. This news came as a complete shock to me.
I’m lucky enough to say I saw her play in a band that she loved and was even able to capture some photos of her doing so.
Forget the filler in this review. Garrett Dale is the lead singer of Red City Radio and just released three songs as a solo project.
You’d never know that Dale even fronted a punk rock band if you listened to any of these tracks.
Three songs of brutal honesty have been slammed into folkish alt-country music on Two T’s EP and I will tell ya, it’s fantastic. This gem of an EP was released by the good folk at Red Scare.
“2016 Was…Horseshit” is like Tom Waits meets Slobberbone. What more can I say about this track other than it is blunt as hell. Check the video below and add the song to your next porch drinking mix already.
Then there was “House Full Of Dogs”, a track that clearly was fueled by a drunken recollection of personal exchanges. The saxophone in the middle of the song made it that much more incredible. This track is like the bastard child of a miserable Brendan Kelly and Bruce Springsteen fling.
“Down The Rabbit Hole” was the last track on this EP. For someone like myself who is obsessed with Lucero and John Moreland, this song just fit in perfectly. Not that I ever did not respect Dale, but this song alone has me looking at him and his talent forever differently.
Given this small taste of tunes, I really hope Dale has more of this up his sleeves because I seriously think people are going be just as floored as I was when they hear it. This is music not to sit on.
If I am not mistaken, the last time the Gimmes even played Cleveland was back in 2003 at the Warped Tour, so this was a pretty big deal to all of the Gimmes fans out there. Needless to say, I was pretty stoked myself to see they were coming back to my hometown with special guests Pears and Masked Intruder.
The Gimmes roster consists of Spike Slawson (Uke Hunt / Swingin Utters), Joey Cape (Lagwagon), Fat Mike (NOFX), Chris Shiflett (No Use For A Name / Foo Fighters), and Dave Raun (Lagwagon). They have been covering various tunes for over 20 years now and do not take themselves very seriously at all. The result is an overdose of fun covers of songs with a punk edge that in incredibly addicting They have 8 covers albums out now featuring all sorts of genres of music and were bold enough to just release a “Greatestest Hits” album.
The one ever so slight downfall with this leg of the tour was that Fat Mike was not playing due to scheduling conflicts, but Jay Bentley from Bad Religion was filling in on bass duties, so there were no complaints from me. Chris Shiflett also was not playing this stretch of shows, but his brother and Face To Face guitarist, Scott Shiflett was filling in. If you notice the photo of the flier above, you’ll see that they even took the liberty of photoshopping Jay and Scott in appropriately.
The House of Blues slowly filled up before the show started with big thanks to the Cavs and Indians games both going on at the same time making for parking to be a pricey nightmare. People of all ages even including some kids with their punk rock folks were hanging about. I really liked seeing such a variety of fans.
New Orleans hardcore punkers Pears started the night off with a pretty insane set. Sadly, I think less than 10 people were really into them and the rest were just trying to get their place in the pit for the other bands on the bill. Those Pears fans did sing along to every single song and had a hell of a time. Vocalist Zach Quinn noticed this and at one time jumped out into the crowd to hang out with his fans.
I am not sure the crowd really was digging what Pears were playing as many seemed to just observe and take in their set, but when the band played a cover of “Judy is a Punk”, the place erupted. Playing a few songs off last year’s Green Star as well as some from their debut Go To Prison, I really dug what I heard and was reminded that I really need to listen to them more.
Masked Intruder took stage with Officer Bradford, but there was a noticeable inconsistency. Red was missing. Apparently Red was serving time for picking pockets, but Big Luke Ferguson from Lipstick Homicide was filling in on drumming duties. Jarret Nathen from Pears actually filled in for one song too.
Blowing through songs like “I Fought the Law”, “I Don’t Wanna Be Alone Tonight”, and “Saturday Night Alone”, the crowd was robbed of all of their attention by the masked musicians and were perfectly ok with it.
Blue at one point instructed the crowd put their hands up in the air and then the band proceeded to played “Stick Em Up”. There is nothing quite like a sing along with plenty of profanity.
Officer Bradford did his thing throughout the set and at the end pulled a Har Mar Superstar and shed his uniform to reveal a singlet that showed off all of his manly curves. His stage charisma is like Ben Carr from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones in a sense, but far crazier.
Between the dance party going on in the pit with fans and Green, Officer Bradford dancing with the kids who were lucky enough to stand on the backside of the crowd barriers, and even a “literal” gracious mention by Blue to some “Grilled Cheese Sandwiches” place, the band kept the Cleveland crowd wanting much, much more once they finished off their final song of the night, “I Don’t Want to Say Goodbye to You Tonight”.
As this was my first time seeing Masked Intruder after missing countless opportunities before, I was impressed. The Daft Punk of pop punk were hilarious throughout and sounded pretty great live.
The Gimmes took the stage just around 10pm to a packed house and started playing “Summertime” with Spike running onto the stage dressed to impress. From there, it was an all out party with the band dipping into their huge catalog of covers.
I was so stoked to hear “Jolene” and “Rocket Man” as well as “End of the Road” all in one night. The band looked comfortable playing on stage and were just having as much fun as possible.
The Gimmies rocked out their version of the Beach Boy’s “Sloop John B” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” with the crowd singing along loudly. They also gave Barry Manilow props for announcing to the world the truth before playing “Mandy”.
Cape and Shiflett basically manned the sides of the stage throughout the show. Cape at times would just vanish leaving Spike to ask if anyone had seen him while Shiflett was just rocking out and having a good ol’ time with Bentley.
At one point during the set, Spike started rambling off a story about another venue in Cleveland he played at with another one of his bands where a awfully friendly man offered to pleasure him out front. He was quick to admit it was Now That’s Class.
Bentley had me cracking up tons during the set. When it was not his turn to play, he would pretend to start playing, hesitate, make faces, and then jump into action. You could tell he really was enjoying the night. At one point when Spike was shamelessly putting in a plug for Rake It In: The Greatestest Hits album that just came out, a fan in the front row held up the LP and Bentley took it from him. The fan thought he was just going to hold it up for all to see, which he did, but then put it on the drum stage and left it there until after the set. He eventually gave it back, but not before Bentley told the fan he would have to buy another copy.
As a special treat, Spike performed a couple of times with a plugged-in ukulele including a song from his other band Uke-Hunt as well as an amazing, intimate cover of Madonna’s “Crazy For You” and also “I Believe I can Fly” with Shiflett playing a Hawaiian riff with eventually the rest of the band kicking in.
With plenty of comedic banter between the bunch, they interacted with the crowd frequently, cracked jokes, and bashed current events just making for just a fun set. It was like NOFX, but far less wasted.
After leaving the stage only to come back for a four song encore, the band called it a night, but not before thanking the crowd and handing off picks, drumsticks, and setlists to a few lucky fans.
I have to admit, I was kind of worried before the show after hearing that their Pittsburgh show had a shorter set the night before, but the Gimmes played for almost 2 hours. The full setlist is listed below.
It was a solid night for punk rock tunes with friends and fans alike thanks to a trio of Fat Wreck Chords bands. It was my first time seeing all three bands, and I was thoroughly entertained.
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes Set List:
“Who Put the Bomp”
“Sloop John B”
“Crazy For You”
“I Believe I Can Fly”
“Isn’t She Lovely”
“Over the Rainbow”
Spike playing the Uke
“All My Lovin'”
“I Will Survive”
“End of the Road”