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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: Kali Masi – [laughs]

I hope I am not the only one who thinks of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when I hear the name Kali Masi.

Yes, I realize the evil bald guy who ripped out the beating heart was Kali Ma, but honestly, I really do share the same excitement as seen above after hearing the band’s highly anticipated sophomore release [laughs].

Hailing from Chicago, Kali Masi impressed the hell out of me with their debut, Wind Instrument. They carried their own style and added personal elements making their songs more wholesome once you really dug into them. Add to that a non-repetitive melodic punk style, the band became an instant favorite of mine.

Featuring 10 new songs, [laughs] is a poetic journey that pokes at the truth, no matter how brutal, and self-realization that carries ability to just forget the troubles around you and get lost in one’s self-worth. From current events to aging and even failing friendships, the album, released on Take This To Heart Records, keeps your mind rolling.

“Still Life” was everything I have been waiting for in new Kali Masi material. This song was a straight up jam that pushed together emo and punk rock. The lyrical visuals at the start of this song were clever and held magnitude. Clearly the track was not in positive interest with somber lines like “I never said I love you, I guess I thought you knew” were sung reiterating confused communication so many of us have been through.

“Paint Me Jade” was like a lesson learned through too many trials and tribulations. In getting old, but not giving up when things don’t go to plan, this track was pretty much a series of reminders how quick and unexpected life really is. The best part about it is how those who really are true to you somehow stick around.

Music | KALI MASI

The darkened “Hurts To Laugh” wasn’t just a track to blow through. There was a ton going on here with personal battles with oneself. Where solitude seems favorable in this one, other challenges say differently. Just wait for the bass line in this one. It fit perfectly.

“Guilt Like A Gun” was an eulogy of sorts, parting ways with a meaningful someone. The spoken word of “it should be a moment of surreal peace and unity if it weren’t for the don’t-snap-at-me bickering and tension” solidified reason for the ending, welcomed or not. The video the band did for this one was very unique and captured the strain involved.

“Long Term” started with the sound of a flash being charged. From there, the tune just jumped in without letting up. I loved this one with the harmonic intermittent singing and guitar playing holding up high some brutal truth.

“Freer” was provoking but beautiful. I adored this track about essentially cutting ties. I found myself partial to the lyric, “stuck myself in a can, like a man” seeing how I used to live that life. This is a track I know in 10 years I am still going to adore.

“Recurring (I)” was good, like really good. This song seemed tougher, more confident over the rest. I loved the change in style throughout where I wasn’t sure which direction they were going. Things went insane with fury, which I got into, but what really sucked me in the most was when the horn playing started. This was like a Refused song in a sense and I appreciated every second of it.

Closing track, “The Stray” hit heavy on 00s Victory Records bands. I am not sure if this is what they were going for, but this song alone could give Taking Back Sunday a run for their money. I was almost sad that this song ended when it did because I wanted more.

This album is straight up outstanding. I wasn’t sure if they could top their debut, but I was so wrong. [laughs} is full of great material that you know the band put everything they had into. They continue to impress and I only see good things with them moving forward. Kali Masi are not a band to sit on.

Album Review: UB40 – Signing Off [40th Anniversary Edition]

I will preface this review with I never initially appreciated UB40 for all they were worth.

Growing up in the 80s/90s, certain hit songs played over and over on the local airwaves to the point I mistook them for a UK pop band. I basically wrote them off until the day I played Signing Off in the record store I managed years back.

At first, the album was tossed in the mix just to ensure everyone shopping in the store that day was not stuck listening to hip hop, metalcore, or punk rock music. Little did I know, I would soon appreciate and adore the entire album a mere hours later as it shuffled throughout the morning.

It was more post-punk than reggae at times, with strong political lyrics as well as just telling it how it is without holding back. As someone who loves ska and 2 Tone, I was just amazed of the music throughout. I started hearing other bands in them realizing how big of an influence they must have been for bands to mimic their style. I remember calling myself a fool for not getting into them earlier.

UB40’s debut release, Signing Off, was released 4 decades ago in the summer of 1980. To celebrate, the band has released a 40th anniversary edition double LP for fans old and new to adore. Featuring the singles “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today,” “Food For Thought,” and “King”, the release also includes three bonus tracks.

With the pandemic of 2020 causing a world of pain to so many, the politically-concerned lyrics throughout the album are more relevant today than ever. Case and point, “Tyler” easily could have been a modern day release based on the current events that seemingly remain unchanged.

“King” is as powerful as it was the first time I heard it. With this listen, I was reminded how poignant this track pertaining to Martin Luther King Jr. was. Last year’s actions by so many hateful people really proved nothing has changed as “they’re not ready to accept that dream situation, yet.”

Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” remained an incredible cover. This was one of the tracks that helped UB40 get noticed as it hit number 6 in the UK.

I still adore “Food For Thought.” This hypocritical song about Christmas carried a chipper sound but the lyrics of suffering and poverty called out so many who fake their way towards the end of the year.

Title track “Signing Off”, still gets stuck in my head hours after I listen to it. That saxophone playing just is so likable that I find myself humming it randomly. There are plenty of ska moments in this track. I think the best part is how the lyrics pertain to today probably more so than they did 40 years ago when so of us just have reached our limits and need to log out of social media.

The translucent red 2LP release is just stunning to look at. The original album artwork remains the same. My only hope was that perhaps the band could have included more than three unreleased songs that honestly have already been released. I would be interested hearing some demos and alternative takes on some of these classic songs, plus a unused side of a record is always a sad thing to see.

Regardless, this is a great release that I feel more people need to give a chance and include in their collection.

Get past your feelings about their hit songs you may not agree with and dig deep into the UB40 catalog for their debut is monumental when it comes to music in more ways than one.

TRACKLIST

A1. Tyler 
A2. King 
A3. 12 Bar 
A4. Burden of Shame 
B1. Adella 
B2. I Think It’s Going To Rain Today 
B3. 25% 
B4. Food For Thought 
B5. Little By Little 
B6. Signing Off 
C1. Madam Medusa 
D1. Strange Fruit 
D2. Reefer Madness

You can purchase your own copy by clicking on the following link:

Album Review: Haunt – Beautiful Distraction

I learned of Haunt about a year ago thanks to Bandcamp and absolutely adore the galvanizing 80s metal style. They are without a doubt one of the more exciting bands to emerge in recent years all thanks to catchy as hell songs that are full of riffs and guitar solos a plenty.

Formed by Trevor William Church, Haunt is more or less a solo project that started back in 2017. Hearing his rigorous anthems could fool anyone easily into thinking he’s been around for decades. With a style similar to bands like Helloween, Iron Maiden, and even early Anthrax, Haunt isn’t a modern day cookie-cutter rock band or gimmicky at all. Honestly, Haunt could easily be mistaken for being part of the original NWOBHM era and Church’s dedication and style is a proper resurgence to be taken seriously.

With that said, there is some history behind the creator of Haunt. Church is the man behind Beastmaker and once played in An Angle, a 2000s indie/pop band on Drive-Thru Records. If you can recall either band’s sound, boy are you in for a treat because Haunt sounds nothing like them.

Church himself is a busy man. Not only does he rock the title husband and father, but he currently plays in two other bands aside from Haunt. When not recording new tunes, he is revisiting old ones and perfecting his style for the sake of the art.

Fun fact, his father is renowned bassist Bill Church who played in Montrose and with Sammy Hagar.

Beautiful Distraction is the band’s sixth full-length album and is slated to drop April 2nd under Church’s own label Church Recordings. With just one guest guitarist who supplied some solos, Church wrote and performed all of the songs, recorded, mixed, and mastered it and also had every involvement of manufacturing and marketing. This is beyond a one man show.

As much as I have loved the last couple Haunt albums, this one is an absolute ripper. There is so much energy packed into just over 38 minutes that it is almost unfair it did not last longer.

Staring things off was album title track “Beautiful Distraction” and all I could think about was how the singing style complimented a young Claudio Sanchez from Coheed & Cambria. I totally got sucked into this song and it made for a strong ass opening track. The solos at the end were to die for. Loved this song a ton.

When Church started to tear it up in “In Our Dreams,” all I could do was sit back and enjoy the ride. “Fortune’s Wheel” again had this progressive metal feel to it that was all too enjoyable.

The reworked “Fool’s Paradise” was a hell of a journey to listen to. The keys at the start key things feeling a tad retro, but then Church did what he does best and tore it up on a few occasions. This was a fun one with riffs galore.

“Hearts On Fire” was another re-recorded full-forced rager that never held up once. I adored the keys buried behind the brutal guitar playing and furious drumming and favor this way more than the original.

Church has some serious talent when it comes to creating tunes from start to finish and this album continued to prove it. There was not one dull moment in Beautiful Distraction and nothing sounded recycled, repeated, or cheesy for that matter.

As someone who usually finds themselves hanging out in the punk rock genre, Haunt has dropped one of my favorite albums of the year easily. This band is not to be overlooked at all and is guaranteed to entertain.

Listen below, to some of Haunt’s older tunes, snag your copy though Bandcamp and enjoy.

Preorders for Beautiful Distraction go live this Friday.

Album Review: NOFX – Single Album

NOFX have been around for almost 40 years now. Why even bother talking about their accomplishments anymore?

If you know them, you know where they are from and what they’ve been through. Hell, if you read their bibliography, you probably know far too much now.

With that said, they probably don’t really care how their wit or charisma rubs off on others. You pretty much either love them or hate them and that’s just how it is.

Today, the band dropped their 14th full-length simply titled Single Album. Why was it called this? Well, the band had every intention of releasing a double album, but that goddamn nightmare of a pandemic got in the way and the bad decided it was best just to release a single album. Get it?

The post-hardcore opener, “The Big Drag”, seemed to be caught in a stupor at first, but after a few listens of it, I still didn’t love it, but appreciated it for all it was worth.

“I Love You More Than I Hate Me” clearly was all about Fat Mike. A personal ode to an unsteady interconnection of love and lust. “Fuck Euphemism” followed suit, although catchier, but more guided toward a certain frontman’s identity labels.

Although not a new track, “Fish In A Gun Barrel” ruffled about as many feathers as the comments made by the band against a certain shooting in a desert city that caused a lot of hell and consquences. Personally, I adored this ska punk track due to the catchiness as well as the hard truth presented.

“Linewleum” was a tongue-in-cheek cover and shoutout to all of the bands out there that ever covered the track that started off Punk In Drublic. I still prefer the original, but appreciated this modern day take.

“Grieve Soto” clearly was dedicated to Steve Soto, the founding member of Agent Orange and The Adolescents. There was plenty of eulogy to other punk rockers over the years that the band was surrounded by. There was even a part where Eric Melvin shouted “Mike Burkett!” to which the music stopped for a moment with Fat Mike responded: “Don’t put me in this song, I’m not dead yet.”

The country twang within “Doors and Fours” really carried a new style I was digging. It did not overtake the song by any means, but I enjoyed it tremendously as it supplied the soundtrack to nostalgic, haunting memories of a young band caught up in early LA punk scene. As sad as some of this was, this was probably the best NOFX track I have heard in years.

The piano was a nice touch to the closing track “Your Last Resort.” Fat Mike slurred though the beginning of this almost Dear John letter of a song. Shit picked up quickly though making for the fasted track on the album. There was a lot of pent up anger in this one where limits were finally broken.

If I can be honest, Fat Mike just sounded bored at times, however the band held up well with their talents. The album is far from being full of bangers and anthems for all to adore. In other words, NOFX fans will appreciate, but this is not the first album I would tell someone who has never heard of them to listen to.

This time around things got darker and, after being goofy bastards for 40 years, I can not blame them for doing what they felt worked. This time it was in Fat Mike’s best interest.