Category Archives: Review

Album Review: Heart & Lung – Twistin’ The Knife Away

Heart & Lung were one of Cleveland’s best kept punk rock secrets until that Toby guy over at Red Scare had to sign them and promote the ever-living hell out of them for all to adore.

Rightfully so though, this upbeat band rips on so many levels, is fun, and absolutely deserves the attention.

The foursome has been doing their thing for over 5 years now and just have this ability to put you in a great freaking mood. They are hilarious, but will strike your ass with their snark and style – so try not to make any eye-contact at a show (just kidding, they are super friendly folk).

Unlike any typical non-serious review I have ever done, I think it is important to share my latest dumb idea for a t-shirt for these guys to lean into what I want to say next about them:

HEART, LUNGS, & HARMONY
(This of course is done in the style of the Bone, Thugs, and Harmony logo …)

The balance these dudes carry is unreal. This is not some NOFX-bellyaching where they talk over tunes, Heart & Lung just carry an ability to combine and lead from each other’s verses without disrupting.

Anyways stupid, but rad idea – hint, hint.

The boys dropped their sophomore release titled Twistin’ The Knife Away in mid-October on Red Scare records, and it was an instant classic to my ears. Hell, Brenden Kelly said himself, “What do you kids say these days? It fucks? It slaps? It does all that stuff.” He ain’t wrong.

The album is a quick listen, but is full of tracks that are going to get stuck in your head and played over and over.

“Watch You Suffer” started off the release with a fast-paced banger for all to adore. The band has no problem holding back on this track surrounded by the best intentions for someone who clearly sucks. As much as I adore the breakdown on this one, the guitar licks are where it’s at.

“I’m Fine” is a day-to-day reminder of the things we do living in this repetitious life. Loved that they tossed in their debut album name on this, but the punky bluegrass build up was what won me over on this track. The harmonies kick in hard here to the point I have been singing this one to myself a lot lately when the day is challenging.

“Headache” was slightly toned down with good reason. I loved the emotion in this track while sitting back and realizing how aligned I am with the subject.

Loved the Blazing Saddles quote on “Shit Together”, a song the pretty much defined many of our entry to adulthood lives while stuck trying to figure things out. Damn song almost made me sad listening to it as I recalled too many parts of it in a personal aspect.

Probably one of my favorite tracks was “Never Come Home”. This song did not let up once and carried almost hidden powerful encouragement in regards to moving on when life comes down in the worst way. Maybe skip this one if you just broke up with someone recently.

“Control” was another good one that had some hints of bluegrass masked over clearly by the good stuff. This track was harmonic, yet quick and totally captured my total attention.

With 3 singers who connect on the best level, this band is incredible and entertaining to listen to. Taking queues from their previous bluegrass talent, these boys know how to steal your attention with some of the catchiest music I have heard all year. Do not take my word for it, check out Twistin’ The Knife Away and thank me later after your 20th listen.

Heart & Lung have been touring to the best of their ability lately and are opening for some band called Lagwagon in early December at the Grog Shop. Should be a good time had by all!

Heart & Lung “Watch You Suffer”

Twistin’ The Knife Away is on those streaming services, but if you really want to supposed a rad act, head over to the Red Scare Industries store and pick up a copy or 2. Tis the season to rack up credit!

EP Review: MakeWar – Stay

MakeWar are easily one of the most exciting bands to hit the Fat roster in recent years. I have been a fan of them since they were a one man show called Sad & French and always knew the potential the band had as they grew.

Lucky for us, they dropped a nice surprise on a couple weeks back. No, they did not to a split with NOFX, Frank Turner, Me First or anything (yet), but they did drop an EP that made me equal parts sad and happy.

The Brooklyn, NY punk band has been gaining ground over the past couple of years with their catchy yet emotionally driven punk tracks and Stay is no exception. It may be just 4 songs, 2 unreleased and 2 of which are original takes on songs from their last release Get It Together, but they are all solid tracks and absolutely needed to be released for all to hear.

MakeWar

Listening to the opening track “Stay” brought forth some personal trauma of losing my best 4-legged friend about a year ago. The track, a homage to Jose Prieto’s dog (Bruno) is a must hear with with Vinnie Caruana (Movielife/I Am The Avalanche) taking on singing duties on behalf of Bruno. I smiled and teared up while listening to this previously unreleased song that was more or less the last conversation the two had while remembering the great times I had with my beloved Sweet Lou and Zeus. This track will punch you in the heart if you love(d) your pet unconditionally.

“I’m Sure My Little Brother Never Listened to Lagwagon” was the other unreleased track and was a total banger. Loved the bass licks that reminded me of Matt Fremon as well as the recollection of punk life pitfalls.

“American Futbol” and “My Bones” were a little rawer than what showed up on Get It Together but equally as great and served as a reminder how much I adored their Fat debut.

2021 has been yet another shit year, right? I personally thank bands like MakeWar for persevering on with their true passion and providing those distractions we all need to make these days a little better.

MakeWar play The Fest today and then have a few Northeast shows lined up on their way back home in early November. In 2022, they landed some Europe shows with some band called the Descendents.

I have said it before and will say it again, these guys are going places. Do not sit on them.

Also, can we talk about how sick the color pressing of Stay is? I ordered mine the day it dropped and adore the variant that was shipped to me:

Want your own? Head to Fat Wreck Chords and snag one today!

Album Review: The Roots – Do You Want More?!!!??! [Deluxe Edition]

[This is a seriously delayed review. Life caught up with me as well as I struggled with trying to find the right words. It has been a while where I strived with placing my thoughts together.

There’s no time like the present, so here we go. Thanks for taking a few moments to read through!]

I can honestly say when The Roots first started releasing albums, I did not appreciate them for their full worth. I was a suburban, white teen when they began picking up steam.

Perhaps being stuck in specific scenes and favoring punk/hardcore in the 90s could be to blame, but clearly there was more. Don’t get me wrong, I was all about tons of hip-hop acts at that time. Truth is, I was too young, naïve, and just lacked understanding to the genus behind this amazing hip-hop act.

I do not need to get into their history for they’ve gained plenty of ground since their early days. As I eluded to earlier though, I knew of them, but it was years later until I actually listened to them. Man was I missing out…

I have tried to word this out as best as I could, but their lyrical craftmanship was just top notch and add to some amazing musical ability, it was impossible for me not to adore them.

How did this punk rocker become a fan of the Roots? Glad you asked that.

When I managed a record store in my hometown in the 00s, the pompous owners had this rule with playing music on the 5-disc carousal CD changer: 1 hip-hop, 1 jazz, classical, or blues, and 3 anything else. On most days it was a drag because if I was going to be stuck in a small store for 8-14 hours a day, I wanted to pick my own soundtrack to help speed the day along.

Honestly, it made sense to not have a bunch of punk/screamo music clogging the speakers and gave a chance to carry a range of genres for all to hear. This essentially was for the customers who walked through the front door and not the horde of tired workers who helped make their shopping experience a good one.

This rule resulted in many a day where The Roots were rotated into the mix. I could not tell you who or when the band started being played frequently, but I can tell you I always approved anyone who asked to play them. It was poetry layered on jazzy beats that followed its own refined path. Even though the songs were on shuffle I would always know exactly when The Roots were on and adored their music and flowing that carried over.

I remember when “Proceed” first came on and Black Thought dished out the line “and I can Metallica and Guns ‘N Roses crash.” I paused as the two band names caught my ear, but I was not fully paying attention to what they were saying and realized I needed to change that. For someone stuck in their own lane for so long, it was at the time I realized their music and lyrics were far more than just quick wins.

Recently, the band released a deluxe 25th anniversary edition of Do You Want More?, the band’s quintessential release in my opinion. Drawn from original recordings and featuring eighteen bonus tracks curated by Questlove, The Roots are back to remind you of their pure excellence and have tossed in some bonus treats.

Why is this a big deal you ask? Well, some of the tracks included on this edition have never been released and there are others that never were previously available digitally.

The 3LP deluxe vinyl edition features five bonus tracks plus a 24-page booklet featuring images taken by Mpozi Tolbert, essays by Questlove and Black Thought as well as track-by-track commentary which all was well-received by this Roots fan. I especially appreciated what Questlove had to say. It was a great read throughout.

The LPs are pressed on black vinyl and are ever so sharp to look at. The trifold gatefold sleeve houses said albums and the booklet, which I wish was hardbound instead of material slightly stronger than the insert paper we are all so used to. Still, it is a great boxset to hold and dig into.

Not good enough? The 4LP edition, which I in time would prefer to have, features all of the aforementioned plus additional eight bonus tracks. Do not worry if you can not swing either LP edition as it will be available digitally and the new content is outstanding and worth your time.

As I have listed to the original album tons of times, I do not really wish to carry on about it more than saying how awesome it sounded on wax. The slight crackles behind each track just kept it more classic for me. The bonus content though is what I was most excited for.

The remixes of “Proceed” were killer. I am not sure which of the three I enjoyed more, but I can tell you they were not carbon-copied. The AJ Shine mix rejuvenated the song while dipping back to the 80s.

The eight bonus tracks on the digital / 4LP release were the true treat of this release. To think The Roots sat on these gems for this long is almost unbelievable.

“In Your Dreams Kid (I’m Every MC)” won me over fully thanks to Black Thought’s masquerading personal influences including ODB, Busta Rhymes, and even Ice Cube. To say this feat was impressive is an understatement.

The original draft of “Swept Away” was better than the original with a raw take that easily could have been recorded from a small club set. I liked how you could hear Black Thought ruminate while spilling out verses to the point of excitement.

I found Do You Want More?!!!??! even a more powerful, poignant listen after taking it in over the past few weeks. These are tunes that certainly have not aged and are as important as ever.

Listening to this album on repeat for the past few months never once went stale. I honestly was reminded on how exceptional and definitive this release was.

As I made mention before, The Roots are not new to the game and chances are anyone who read this knows them one way or another. This celebration of a masterpiece of an album was re-released the right way with the bonus tracks tailored to the fan, both old and new, to cherish equally.

Album Review: Shitty Neighbors – People I Know

Shitty Neighbors is without a doubt one of my favorite band names. Admit it, you smirked when you heard the name the first time.

Luckily they are pretty damn talented too.

I first got into these guys years ago when a few of my pals told me to check out their EP Better Now. To say I was not disappointed back then is an understatement. That EP is still played to this day.

The four-piece hails from Toledo, OH and just released their first LP in 7 years titled People I Know on Little Elephant a few weeks back. If anyone knows about this label you’ll know it’s a big deal that they are pressing albums and not just sessions now.

Sure, it might have taken them a bit longer to drop it with all of the bullshit preventing a “normal” life, but they did things right, took their time, and released easily one of my favorite albums this year.

Album opener “Lost In Google Translation” really had the band just jumping all in. This track hit hard in terms of life alterations for one’s best self-interest. Shitty Neighbors impressed the shit out of me with this one. It was raw, emotional, and ever so personal.

With heavy nods towards a certain Gainesville punk warm liquid band, “The Creation Of Adam” wasn’t very long, but was poignant as all hell. Then there was “Lock #6” that followed. Man, this track was full of some pent up angst.

“Whole Life Policy” actually was released over a year ago when we were all hermits. This was the track that just got me so excited knowing that they were working on a full-length. The song itself was a total banger about coming to terms with demons. I loved the lyric “I’ve got a way with only concerning myself with the shit that don’t matter at all.”

“Barrel Of Monkeys” was another track that just seemingly spoke about my past. In times of trapped iteration around certain routines of self-denying love and despair, the song carried that questioning of change without missing a beat. I appreciated the line “maybe next time i’m around we can figure something else out.”

“Friend Ender” was just brutal, but probably one of my favorite tracks on the release. There’s something to be said about a punk rock track dedicated to a lying ex-whatever. Tracks like this are why I love the bands I surround myself in.

The breakdowns on “Tonight, My Name Is Trouble” was enough for me on this track to love. Upbeat and even precise to a point, this track proved these boys are not just screwing around.

“Her Name Is Marie” closed down the album with a punk rock grand finale of sorts. The band refused to let up on this one with everyone just giving it their all even if it was tugging at some imperfect heart strings.

The one thing about this album that was a bummer is that it didn’t even clock in at 30 minutes, but I will admit, listening to this album was the best half hour spent. Perhaps I am just being an old, greedy punk, but I wasn’t ready for People I Know to come to an end. Luckily I can just listen to it over and over.

If you are a cool kid who likes young Menzingers, Iron Chic, Lawrence Arms, AK3 (before someone got hair implants), Hot Water Music and so on, make sure you check this band out.

I can only hope to see Shitty Neighbors play some small bar or basement here soon in good ol’ Cleveland. Good, good things are going to happen to these dudes. I know it.

Album Review: Joystick! – I Can’t Take It Anymore

I do not even know how to contain my excitement with this one. An 8-piece New Orleans ska-core collective has won me over almost instantly and easily has dropped one of my favorite releases this year.

The band I speak of is Joystick! and the album is called I Can’t Take It Anymore, released on Bad Time Records.

Being someone who fell in love with punk as a teen in the mid-90s, this band spoke to me the moment the first track kicked in. It was like a blend of ska punk bands like Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish met with 90s heroes like Good Riddance and the Descendents. The energy was ridiculous to say the least and nothing let up at all.

I think the thing that beats me up the most is how I’ve missed out on Joystick! for so many years now. In fact, their last album dropped in 2017 so it’s not like these guys came from nowhere. From what I have gathered, the band has matured a lot since then with members overcoming addiction, taking vows, and even having children.

“Retcon” was just a fun, brutal jam. I cannot say I’ve ever heard a song with group vocals and ska-riffs quite like this. The song pumped me up immediately and honestly, that is rare these days for something like that to happen.

“Rinse and Repeat” clearly talks about self-battles of alcoholism and the outcome of it. A personal track that needs to be heard by all to ensure that life can get better with change in time. Hell, this song hit some personal nerves knowing how I used to be and where I stand now.

The upbeat-sounding, yet somber, “Parallelograms” easily could have been taken from a 90s comp handed out at a Warped Tour back when they were meaningful. This wasn’t the first Joystick song I’d heard, but certainly is one of the more memorable ones as it was about the demise of someone who just couldn’t give up that dangerous lifestyle.

“No Sleep After Brooklyn” easily was one of my favorites off the album. I appreciated the more of a jazzy, 2-Tone sound on this one making for a nice song to get into.

Then there was “Semicolon”, a old-timey saloon sounding track that morphed into a barroom jam was actually the introduction to “Past Tense”. I adored this song to no end. It was like a ska musical in a sense.

“Worm Food” got stuck in my head a lot. I find myself whistling the opening to this track often. I loved the tempo change halfway through this one as it make even it more entertaining.

I Can’t Take It Anymore is a powerful album full of tracks essentially admitting to change for good and realizing age is only a number. If I told you I listened to this album weekly, I am lying. I have listed to this daily for a week now. I cannot get enough of it.

Bad Time Records has a hell of an act on their roster. Seriously, I am not sure how a bigger label has not caught wind of these guys yet and snatched them up. This wasn’t something just tossed together, this is personal material that is meaningful and will stick to you for years to come. Trust me on this – unless you hate ska punk and in that case, I feel sorry for you as you are missing out on something special.