All posts by Brian

Album Review: Shuffle and Bang – Island Bop

Full disclosure: My review I worked so hard on for this release last week seemingly was lost and never saved.

Usually when this happens, I become annoyed to no end, but in this case, I was not phased at all because that meant I had more reason to listen to Shuffle and Bang over and over again

This isn’t your typical Pirates Press Records release, but the moment my eyes caught the album art, I knew this was going to be something special. The second it hit my ears though, and I was in love. Jamaican jazz fused with two-tone is the best way I can explain these guys.

Shuffle and Bang is a father and son (Pops and Korey Horn) idea that combined their love for dub, reggae, and jazz. Eventually they joined forces with a slew of amazing musicians who have lent their talents to The Aggrolites, Brian Setzer Orchestra, The Original Wailers, and some guy named Stevie Wonder. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the pianist plays organ for the San Diego Padres baseball team. Case and point, this band is full to the brim of talent.

In a span of two years over plenty of recording sessions, Pirates Press Records buddied up with band’s own Jetsetter Records to release this unique album titled Island Bop.

Starting off the album was “Don’t Go To Strangers”, a intro of sorts. A cappella and full of soul. It really just built up my anticipation of what was to come.

The ever-appropriate “Song for My Father” had things kicking into full gear. This track was not only an ode to “The Man”, but also just showcased the intense amount of talent brought forth.

“Daahoud Ska” immediately put me in the best mood upon heading it. I loved everything about this upbeat track from the horns, stand up bass, and piano playing. This song’s purpose is to entertain as much as possible.

“Blow Mr. Low” carried tons of swing jazz love. The horns on this song were not only the subject of the lyrics, but the glue that kept it all together.

“When I Take My Sugar to Tea” was a romantic romp as much as a brag to the boys about being in good company. This track was built on feelings and a certain boost in moral when feeling like you’re on top of the world. This track might be new, but sounded like it’s been around for decades.

One of my favorite cuts on this release was “Let The Good Times Roll.” I loved the personalized feeling that was inclusive to everyone and anyone. I couldn’t help but imagine I was in some speakeasy while listening to this. What a fun one this was.

Closing track “Drum Song” was more like a cosmic dub jam session amongst friends. Memorable lyrics taken from the Gorillaz just made it that much more entertaining for me. I enjoyed the slow departure to wind down the release.

With as shitty as this year has been, Island Bop seemingly is a beacon of light that just makes everything better once you begin to listen. A surprise release for me and I’m sure others, it’s certainly at the top of my best of list and will be in regular rotation for years to come.

Like a modern day Mongo Sanataria, Shuffle and Bang are guaranteed to supply the soundtrack for a good time. Fans of Hepcat, Coltrane, ska, two-tone, and just anyone who appreciates honest to god good musicianship are going to enjoy the everlasting hell out of this release. I know I did.

Book Review: F.T.W. Rise of the Anarchy March by Russ Lippitt

Imagine standing up for what you believe in to the point where you’re ready to risk life and limb to start a revolution. Due to corrupt dictators controlling the way of life in a dystopic future in favor of conformance, a definite change is evident. This path to righteousness isn’t easy as told in F.T.W. Rise of the Anarchy March, a story about group of punks who refuse to let their hellish wasteland continue to ruin lives.

We all know what F.T.W. means, and author Russ Lippitt took this literally in his post-apocalyptical sci-fi read that was like Tank Girl and Suburbia mixed with 1984.

This was one book I was glued to and just could not put down. I loved the punk ethos throughout and applauded the embedded references throughout, be it chapter names or mention of classic punk rock bands.

Let’s not forget some of the unexpected developments that just made things that much more interesting. There really was no time for dull moments in this.

The story itself was original, hinting at an obtainable sad future Mad Max-style where three punks, who refused to conform take on an unforgiving government by any means possible, put themselves on the ultimate mission. Full of memorable characters, side stories, and explicit detail, I must admit, this was one unique piece of work.

Without going into great detail, I can tell you I was not sure what to expect when I dug into this book after starting, but I was soon sucked in quickly and along for the ride. It had me angry at times, reminded me of my past in a sense, and most importantly, had me thinking at the very end. You loved some characters and wished demise for others.

My only complaint? I am not going to ruin things for anyone with a spoiler, but I am sure at some point you will share the same thought I had. Well, there was actually another part that became almost anticlimactic, but not to the point where I lost interest and I needed to remind myself this was just part one of a trilogy. With that said, I was fully captured in this story and cannot wait to see the follow-up to this down the road. I know there is just so much more story to be told.

The one thing that got to me most is what Lippitt wrote on literally could happen one day. Anything is possible when you look at the progression of human nature and Lippitt painted a sad prediction of what could come. Clearly, current events had slight input into this incredible story and when amplified just become plausible.

It would only make sense to see F.T.W. be made into a movie. Lippitt’s writing style surely painted clear images in my mind to the point that I wanted to see this taken to the screen. The story was original and full of action, violence, and even straight up comedy. Honestly, Hollywood might do themselves a favor by picking this up one day. Trust me on that.

Until then, if you are looking for a different type of adventure when reading that will more or less piss you off while still rooting for the good guys, check out F.T.W. I promise you that you have not read a piece like this one if you have a love for punk rock and are looking for one hell of an adventure.

The book drops at the end of this month an you can preorder it by clicking HERE.

EP Review: Eighty-sixed, Kid – s/t

Cleveland’s Endnote Records made their introduction during the start of this stupid pandemic this past Spring and the first act they signed was Akron native Daniel Palmentera’s Eighty-sixed, Kid.

Perhaps this means absolutely nothing to you and that’s cool, but if you know the history of Palmentera and the man behind Endnote, Andrew Wells, you’d be like me and understand how much sense it makes for these two to be working together.  These two have a history together that includes friendship as well as creative avenues and seeing them form this partnership was one of the better things to happen in 2020.

Eighty-sixed, Kid started as a needed progression once Palmentera’s previous punk band, My Mouth Is The Speaker, seemingly put things in park for a while.  The stage name came about after constant solo-touring all over Northeast Ohio for a few years.  With the routine performances came fine-tuning and maturity forming a sound that contains plenty of unselfish demeanor.

The debut self-titled EP by Eighty-sixed, Kid will be released on October 30th, and let me tell you, it far surpassed my expectations.  Palmentera put it all out there without holding back whatsoever.

“I Like Their Old Stuff Better” relates to anyone who truly holds passion to being engulfed in music.  I loved how personal this pop punk song was and even more so appreciated the chorus.  It’s a catchy, heartfelt track that’s extremely relatable, especially to me.

That’s not to say the EP was all cheerful material.  “Gut Punch” pushed back to the 2000s emo days and brought forth gutted feelings about moving forward on an uneasy path.  The track wasn’t too complex and held itself together even with it being heavy on the sorrow.

Another track to mention was “When You Came Home You Never Really Came Home”.  This song hit me because I’ve lived this a couple of times and I would never wish this feeling upon anyone.  People tend to say how a certain song pulled on their heartstrings, but this song punched a hole in my heart and left me numb for a moment.

There was no reprieve in emotion by Palmentera on this EP.  He literally put himself out there for all to hear and you can feel the pain.  As mentioned before, the self-titled EP resonated with me perhaps in an uneasy way, but I appreciated the hell out of it.  I look forward to what Eighty-sixed, Kid creates moving on.  This is not an act to sit on at all.

You can preorder the EP by visiting Endnote Records.

Album Review: Be Well – The Weight and The Cost

I’m sure we can all agree this year can just move on already.  As messed up as it has been for so many of us, there really have been some quality releases.

Where a bunch have caught my attention, not many have been nearly as raw and personal as the debut by Be Well.

Dropped in late August by Equal Vision Records, The Weight and The Cost is a melodic hardcore release filled with so much emotion and energy.  Featuring members of Battery, Bane, Darkest Hour, and Fairweather, it was a no-brainer that I was going to enjoy this.  After multiple listens though, I found myself relating with some of the struggle and mental anguish sung throughout while adoring the tunes that carried it along.

I think something worth mentioning is that the band is fronted by well-known record producer Brian McTernan who stepped away from his current gig to grab the mic and give it his all.  With so many years of experience fabricating other’s music, it really came as no surprise how profound this release was.

“Meaningless Measures” started off the album without holding back musically and mentally.  “I’ve lost track of the days, lost track of the ways that I fucked up everything. I’m not sure that I’ve learned anything I’m afraid” pulled hard on episodic memories of coming to terms with myself.  Solid track that was likable, but extremely intense.

I swear that “Magic” honed in on personal arguments with oneself until the verge of discomforting solace.  Grappling with defeat, I appreciated the slight suggestion of change at the end.  This is the type of track people hear, relate to, and tend to not forget about..

“I hope there’s a chance for me to learn to love myself a way that I don’t” was a tough plea in “Tiny Little Pieces” that once again jolted back some memories of my own past.  As if the music behind the lyrics were not already impressive enough, McTernan tossed in a personal battle seemingly thinned by attention from someone else.  I knew this fight all too well once.

I’m a better person because of heartbreak.  I say this after listening to “The Weight and The Cost” which brought back painful memories, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve let go of some of that hell I was encompassed in over the years.  This track brought me back to some tough times to the verge I found myself cringing.

“Confessional” was so likable yet just brutal.  Easily one of my favorite tracks on the album, it was not happiness at all.  A departure, an apology, and well, the ending lyrics summed it up best with “there’s a storyline that is only in my head.  I’ve spent half of my life wishing I was dead.  If there is part of this that I shouldn’t have said, I’m sorry.  To fix it I have to get back to the place it first started.”

At just over 35 minutes, this album was an impassioned masterpiece.  It’s once you dig into those lyrics that you get hit hard with a once unavoidable reality for so many of us.  I appreciated the hell out of that.

Be Well at first reminded me of a more polished Strike Anywhere, but with plenty of personal, emotional defects and small doses of PMA ultimately fueled with hardcore values.  The more I listened to it though, it was clear how and why these artists came together and dropped this release.  I have to admit, this album beat me up but I was impressed with it once I fought back some of those memories.

Album Review: NOFX / Frank Turner – West Coast vs. Wessex

It’s not the first time a couple of artists decided to drop a split release for shits and giggles, but it’s probably the first time one to this character was done.

When I learned NOFX and Frank Turner were working on a split, I have to admit I was excited as hell because I knew both sides would try their best to emulate each other.

It’s been a long time since NOFX did a split with another band.  I am sure you older punks recall the last NOFX / Rancid split that dropped some 18 years ago.  This time though, it was not really a punk band covering a punk band but rather a punk band covering a punk-turned-folk-singer band.

West Coast vs. Wessex is a 10 song split released by Fat Wreck Chords featuring two of the most important acts out there.  I was not sure how this was going to play out seeing how their styles are a little far-fetched, but I’m a fool for even dismissing the idea of greatness this album could be.

Leave it to Fat Mike to change up the lyrics to become a tad more personable on “Substitute”.  Less proper and more pervy, the track honestly could pass as a classic NOFX song had Turner not penned it so many years back.

“Thatcher Fucked The Kids” was a two-town-jam cover that I could not imagine was even possible until I heard it.  This was a great take on a killer Turner track.  Full of guest vocals, the only way this could have gotten better was if El Hefe busted out some of his impersonations at the end for the hell of it.

“Glory Hallelujah” was an intense, serious cover that probably will continue to upset those who engage in worship and magic bearded man in the sky.  At first I thought it was just exorbitant, but after a few listens I couldn’t agree more with how it was carried out.

Turner covering “Scavenger Type” was just brilliant.  I have to admit it did not fully carry how I was anticipating it, but it worked so well.  I was expecting a more folk take, but not on this track and that was fine by me.

The take on “Bob” was a perfect jaunt complete with some harmonica and just chill vibes.  The rendition did not require an upbeat undertaking, but when Turner belted out at the end, I was singing along just as I did when I first heard the original in the 90s.  The music video for this is pretty freaking hilarious too.

“Falling In Love” stole the split if you ask me.  As far as I am concerned, NOFX traveled to the future to steal this song from Turner and tossed it on an album when Turner was just a kid.  It has been a long time since I have heard an interpretation sound better than the original.

The cool thing about West Coast vs. Wessex was how well each band took an idea of covers and put absolute thought into it. Both sides took it seriously, well as much as they could, and took their time perfecting their versions of a handful of each band’s earlier material.

Some of me was hoping for more classic NOFX humor at times, perhaps even a continuation where a hilarious Minor Threat cover left off.  Still, plenty of innuendos were tossed in by Fat Mike as well as a huge Fat entourage of guests.

Frank Turner fans need to hear this even if they do not take NOFX serious at all.  NOFX fans will appreciate the continued creativity in taking other work’s and tossing their own style around it.  This idea just worked well and it had nothing to do with luck.  Fat Mike has had a few good ideas you know…

Visit the Fat Wreck Chords site to snag a copy for yourself.