Tag 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: 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: