Tag Archives: Rock

Album Review: Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds – Keep Walkin’ Pal

I am not going to blow smoke up Brendan Kelly‘s ass, so I’ll just say it: This guy is fascinating in a  weird as hell way.

He is more clever than you’ll ever aspire to be and he’s much more of a musician than I think he is credited for.

I feel like the smoke is blowing even though I said I wouldn’t.

I do not know him personally and he sure as hell does not know me, but I can tell you I admire him for his comedic approach to life as well as standing his ground for his beliefs.  Then there’s the countless Tweets from @Nihilist_Arbys that he finally fessed up to being behind.

Normally he fronts Chicago’s The Lawrence Arms as well as toys with The Falcon like once every 10 years.  He also has a solo project called Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds and let me tell you, it’s different in a good way kind of like putting A-1 sauce on over-easy eggs.

Recently Kelly dropped Keep Walkin’ Pal on the ever awesome Red Scare Records and it’s not really a solo album, but a collective release featuring Kelly and a bunch of his pals including Alkaline Trio’s Derek Grant and Atlas Studio’s Dan Tinkler making for a sporadic listen with no agenda.

Album title track “Keep Walkin’ Pal” had Kelly and his signature raspy voice just spilling brutal truth with lines like “I blacked out 17 of my best years.”

“Shitty Margarita” was this poppy punk jam complete with synthesizer that was all about what extreme amounts of sugar and tequila can do to you good and bad.  Not going to lie, I dug this track a lot mostly due to the music.  It was fun even though the lyrics might have brought back 1 or 7 bad memories at Chi-Chi’s.

“Huggz” should be a theme song for Kelly.  The 80s-ish heavy track was all about simple affections, at least I think it was.  Kelly was pretty damn stern about getting them to function and how music he likes them – even from Sergio.  (Remember I said he was clever?)

“Black Cat Boy” was one of my favorite tracks on the album.  With Kelly’s signature singing over the electronic keyboard and beats, this song was just one that stuck in my head quickly.

Best track on the album by far was “The Ballad of Buffalo Bill”.  From singing about putting the lotion on the skin again to having a dog barking, this song was beyond entertaining.  Clearly you need to know what Kelly is referencing to fully appreciate.  I’m glad he tucked it in here.  (I’m clever too you know)

As much as I wished “I’m the Man” was an Anthrax cover, it was not.  This closing track was pretty much all the drunk and high thoughts packed into 3 minutes and 22 seconds.  It was a bizarre track with shoutouts to Mr. Clean and excellent backup vocals with a digital beat Daft Punk would be jealous of.  I’m not quite sure what the hell was going on there, but I like to think I enjoyed it.

Overall, Keep Walkin’ Pal was a solid listen.  Kelly and pals once again have managed to entertain and confuse me at the same time.  If that was the intent, awesome, but if not, maybe I am getting too old for this shit.  Anyways, check out the album, it was pretty great.

Album Review: Restorations – LP5000

I might as well disclose that Philadelphia’s Restorations are easily one of my favorite bands out there.  So if this review sounds biased, well…it is.

Keeping along the lines of a pre-famed Gaslight Anthem and The Menzingers, I have always been attracted to what Restorations produce album after album.  I owe it all to the band’s former and current label Tiny Engines actually, as they were the ones to introduce me to them many years back by just tossing me an EP my way to review.  The rest is history for me as a fan.

LP5000 is the band’s 4th release and to be perfectly honest, this might be their best one yet.  It’s a quick one which sucks because you know, I wanted more, but it’s full of some memorable tracks with equal impacting lyrics and music.

“St.” started off the album with a powerful jam with Jon Loudon and his all too welcoming raspy vocals.  This was kind of a triumphant introduction with haste and honesty thrown hard.  This song’s best moments where when the band came together with force.  It was a perfect indication that this album was going to rule.

“Nonbeliever” followed with more of a political approach about personal current affairs and life in general.  With lines like, “if you burn all the fires, they’re going to make you the king” and the all too close to home “got a partner for starters and a kid on the way/can’t be doing this dumb shit no more.”  The song manages to hit the head on so many points as it progressed onward.

“Remains” was a rocker touching on past memories that probably would have best been buried rather than unearthed due to such disdainful change.  The track carried a great 90s alt-rock feel to it even if it make me want to hang my head low.

Loudon repeating ” no I don’t want to hear that name again” on “Melt” just added to an emo track of sorts clearly about someone once held in a higher regard.  This track was beautiful and dreary at the same time with electronic sounding beats layered behind simple guitar picking.

“The Red Door” was incredibly athematic and contained a guitar solo that easily could suck in some well-deserved attention.  Add to the catchy drumming and bass-line, and you have yourself a quality track that really showcased the talent this band carries.

“Eye” was more Postal Service sounding at first with the electronic noise but was not at all discouraging.  This song was not like the others and was well-received by this listener.  I loved the more experimental approach and word has it that there is a locked grove that permits this song to loop infinitely.  I can not wait for my copy to get here so I can see if there is truth to that.

I have listened to LP5000 over and over (easily 20+ times now) since it’s release and have not gotten tired of it once.  I will tell you it is a lot different from their earlier stuff and is just the cause of maturity and experimentation.  Personally, I adore this new sound.

Of course LP5000 is hitting my best of list for 2018.  Albums like this are the ones I hold onto for the rest of my life and sporadically will spin when I just can’t seem to find anything else to listen to.

I lucked out and caught them on tour a few weeks back when they played the Grog Shop in Cleveland with my pals Signals Midwest and let me tell you, they are even better live.

Anyways, I feel like I do that whole “do yourself a favor and check this band/album out” shtick of a closing sentence, but I am dead serious this time: This band is far more talented than I feel they are credited for and I’m fairly sure you will agree with me upon listening.

EP Review: Face To Face – Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions)

It seems like every punk band out there is dropping acoustic albums as of late.  This facade may come off as lazy or desperate to some, but when stripped down right, it makes so much sense.  Still, it is easy to just dismiss them because of how many are out there.

I have to give it to Unwritten Law though who first captured my fascination with the whole punk rock bands doing acoustic renditions of their songs years back.  I remember hearing Music in High Places and becoming obsessed instantly.  Then Rancid busted out an acoustic set in front of me live once at one of their shows and I adored it.  Perhaps this aging punker just enjoys slowing down things a little bit.

When I heard Face To Face was releasing an EP of acoustic versions of their songs over the years, I was nervous.  Mind you Face To Face is easily one of my all time favorite bands from my 90s, I was worried that it would not go well, but I couldn’t have been so wrong.

Hold Fast simply is songs from Face To Face’s 30+ years (with a slight hiatus) career put into an acoustic style.  Perhaps sparked from their “Econo-Live Tour”, the band decided it was their turn to try.  Actually, Face To Face did acoustic sets years back as I remember a friend’s band opening for them and quickly having to learn how to relearn their songs so they could stay on the bill with them – Back to this EP though.

Hold Fast is listed as an EP, but at 33 minutes, it could easily be an album.  I was impressed to see 10 songs tracked on the Fat Wreck Chords release and was more impressed with where they call came from on their discography.

“All For Nothing” started off the EP with an alt-country twangy version of the catchy Laugh Now, Laugh Later track that I am sure Lucero fans would totally appreciate.  I quickly realized after this song alone the amount of time put in by Face To Face to transformed them into a completely different style.

“Disconnected” was the song I was most worried to hear.  This radio-friendly track that caught the most attention on Big Choice was part of the soundtrack to my life in the late 90s and I’m still quite fond of it to this day.  I held off listening to this song at first and waited until the album came out to take it in.  I had nothing to worry about.  This song was perfected transformed from a pop punk jam to an acoustic masterpiece.  I loved everything about this song from Keith’s slowed down singing to the backing vocals and even the guitar playing.

I was kind of shocked to hear “Keep Your Chin Up” the EP as it was a new song, but as soon as the chorus started I immediately understood.  It fit perfectly.

“Don’t Turn Away” was completely dissected and put together as one hell of a track.  The lyrics remain the same, but everything else about it screams alt-country with even some rockabilly qualities to it.  This was such an enjoyable track to rediscover though a different genre.  Just wait for that guitar solo.

“Aok” was another version I just absorbed and adored instantly.  This is one of those other songs that was part of the soundtrack of my life and hearing it on a different caliber was just so appreciated.

I can not say every track on the EP blew me away as some were at status quo like “Ordinary” and even “Velocity”, but I did not skip past a single song.  Nothing was completely unbearable which led me to believe the band truly gave it their all.

I truly feel Face To Face did this for the sake of trying something new and not looking for a quick paycheck (leave that to Me First and the Gimme Gimmes).  These So. Cal. punks have matured so much since back in the day and clearly have moved past their punk rock roots musically.  I really think people who never were into Face To Face are going to hear this and become fans of these renderings.  I am also hoping they just decided to make new music in this style.  I have the feeling it would be amazing.

Don’t dismiss this EP at all folks.  Face To Face is far more talented than you think, especially if you just assume they are just some aging punk rock band looking for a quick payday.

Album Review: Curtail – All Your Luck

I’ve known Jesse Sloan for a while now thanks to places like The Gurley House and It’s a Kling Thing.

I was a big fan of his two-piece Cherry Cola Champions and remember when he pulled me aside at some local show telling me he had something new he was working on and could not wait to share it with me.

Mind you that was a year or two ago, but I was intrigued the moment he told me of what he was working on.  My curiosity was finally satisfied when he told me about Curtail, a new band featuring some other familiar names in acts I adore including Eric Sandt (The Ground is Lava), Dan Corby (Bethesda), and Ben Hendricks (Annabel).

Cleveland’s Curtail dropped their debut All Your Luck at the end of May on Skeletal Lightning Records.  A supergroup of sorts with all angles of talent combined resulted in a hell of a listen.  I hate that I am just getting around to talking about it when it has been on regular rotation since it dropped over a month ago.  Still, it needs to be noted.

“Rush Hour” started the album off a bit reserved but with good measure.  Half way in, the song kicked it up a notch and made for a great listen overall.  “Smile” continued with the trend and the group vocals mad it so much more fun to nod my head to.  I especially loved Sloan’s erupted singing style throughout.

“The Lesson” is the track that completely won me over.  Taking queues from 90s alt- rock past, this song ruled in so many ways. This  is what New Radicals would have sounded like if they were an emo band.  Please note that I adore the 90s one hit wonder Gregg Alexander band so this is not a diss at all.  This song was catchy, emotional and perfect for summer listening.

I loved hearing “Good Year” as I felt I really related pertaining to the ups and downs throughout life.  This emo jam intermittently erupted into a grudge track  this former flannel wearing teenager approved of.

“Come Around” was an uppity, fuzzy jam that reminded me some of The Promise Ring.  Clearly the content was about overcoming, but brought forth in a positive way – at least musically.  This was one of my other favorite tracks on the album.

“Sleight of Hand” was another favorable song for me.  You could just head the fun Sloan was having singing this song.  I loved the many references only Northeast Ohioans would appreciate.

“Glow” completely moved into more of a chilled out that probably would have faired well to a crowd in a smoky, cramped venue in the 90s full of thrift store cardigans and Doc Martins.

“Skyscraper” easily could have been a Sense Field track that never was released.  This post-hardcore closing track was good on so many levels from the singing, the drumming, and of course the guitar playing that eventually faded out in a fuzzy departure.

For someone like me who grew up in the 90s and was obsessed with indie and alternative rock, All Your Luck really brought me back some.  Sloan and crew really dropped something special that deserves all of the attention of music fans.  Give it a listen, I highly doubt you will be disappointed if you still think music from the 90s was the best.

Check Curtail out on BandCamp and support the living daylights out of them by downloading All Your Luck.  I hope I can check them out live so I can give them all hi-fives for dropping one of my favorite releases of 2018.

 

 

EP Review: The Stable – Difficult People

Hey Cleveland, how ya doing?

Lebron (more like L.A. Bron) is gone, but who cares?

Well if you do care, just know local punkers The Stable recently dropped an energetic, gritty album on BandCamp that’ll help you forget all about that sports nonsense in mere minutes.

Featuring members of Seafair (R. Kelly), RAM ONES ( J. Voland), Above This Fire (C. Wright), and Varsity Pinball (I. Bowers), it’s no surprise at all how impressive The Stable’s debut EP is.

4 songs, all quality, are contained in Difficult People. These may be quick bangers, but they certainly are impacting and leave a mark.

“Clothesline From Hell” is proof of my previous statement.  Full-force, no corners cut track full of insane drumming, vocal chord destroying singing, and of course some good ol’ group vocals.

“We Belong In Hell” might just be my favorite cut off the EP given how catchy it is.   There’s something to be said about a song that embeds in your mind as a track you won’t soon forget, this is one of them.

“Shyamalan Twist” seemed to carry this 90s punk/hardcore ethos in the background that I totally adored.  I loved the breakdown towards the end as it just made it that more enjoyable.

I warn you, this EP is quick, but if you are like me, you’ll jump back to the beginning for another round.

The Stable remind me of The Shaking Hands and The Holy Mess a ton in a good, good way.  Given the gents who are in this band, I expect big things to come in the near future.  I can not wait to check them out live soon.

Check them out: