Tag Archives: Review

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.

Album Review: Broadway Calls – Sad in the City

It’s refreshing as hell to find something to distract you when the world seems like it is on the verge of caving in.  2020 can suck all the butts as far as I am concerned, but then again if this crap year were to somehow disappear, we would all miss out on Broadway Calls dropping the greatest pop punk album I’ve heard this year.

Released on July 10th on Red Scare, I opted to listen to this a few times throughout before tossing my thoughts on this here ol’ blog.  Sometimes you just need to take in something this good to appreciate it even more.  The album made me think, pulled on the old heartstrings, and even invoked a childhood fear of mine.

“If my country collapses, can I crash on your couch” started the album off on “Never Take Us Alive.”  This plaintive reality of a track basically was a full-forced promise of not giving up fighting what’s right.

“You Gotta Know” is easily one of my favorite songs currently.  I adored this track for all it was worth.  Might have to borrow this one to prove to the wife she still drives me crazy in a good way.  I seriously can not get this song out of my head.

Album title track “Sad in the City” was just so likable as it tore into the blatant imbalance causing pain and sorrow.  With talking about bombs and death in the street, this was not intended to be tongue-in-cheek but more so a nod at hope for change.

“Radiophobia” was an 80s nightmare regarding nuclear meltdowns (check out the video below).  Turns out, the track was based on actual events from Ty Vaughn’s childhood as he grew up around reactors.  I actually grew up fearing the Perry Nuclear Powerplant in Ohio, so I get it and sided with this track a ton.  Those smokestacks still freak me the hell out.

“Meet Me on the Moon” was an amorous tune eluding to not wanting to give up the night with a special someone.  Looking deeper into this one, it’s possible no one wants to be alone during a time like this.

Album closer “Went Dyin'” catered to my old punk rock self so much.  I appreciated the suffering in this one as it reminded me where I came from, what I’v been through, and where it has taken me.  My mentality was molded and healed from tunes like this because, as cliche as it might sound, punk rock saved my life.  True story.

It’s been 7 years since these Oregon punkers have dropped something and as far as I’m concerned, Broadway Calls saved this year.  Sad in the City is just perfect from start to finish, full of catchy jams, and just begs to be heard.  That’s not to say this is a happy, joyful collection of anthems.  This album hits at the bullshit reality thats been draining our collective mentality.

Missing out on this album would not be in your best interest, especially if you fancy punk tunes.  Trust me on this.

Album Review: Brain Cave – Stuck In The Mud

I got to see one of my all time favorite bands play Cleveland last year. Worried I would not have a good spot to see said band, I arrived early to claim my area.

I’m glad I showed up early that night because, little did I know, I was about to be introduced to my soon to be favorite local band.

The band I speak of is Brain Cave.  The three-piece noise-rock / post-hardcore locals blew me away that night and turned me into a fan.

Fast-forward 6+ months and I just so happen to see that the band is taking preorders for Stuck In The Mud, the band’s first full-length album released by Tiny God Inc. (the drummer’s label).  They had a couple of songs to check out and after hearing them both, I immediately preordered the release on cassette. I cannot even tell you the last time I did something like that.

So I guess I take this time now to talk about why I’m so enthusiastic about these guys.

“Erosion” started off the album with a self-preservation method many of us could use right about now with “reset” being repeated throughout along with other words of encouragement.

“Night Work” continued with aggression and force.  This tune accompanied with restless thoughts was full of breakdowns, riffs, and just insane drumming.  Technical as hell, as much as I hate to say this, it was almost Mastodon-y sans that wizard shit and whiney vocals.

“Assigned Seat” brought me back to the years when I would see hardcore and post hardcore shows what seemed like daily.  Loved this track a ton musically as well as the message presented about not giving up ever.

“Sideline To Rot” was equally technical as was it just untamed.  This was one of those tracks where I asked myself how the hell a three-piece pulled this out.

“Bar Seat No. 1” are on me a lot since this album dropped.  Maybe it was the hint of punk embedded within the post-hardcore track.  It was most likely because this song filled me up with rage in the best way.

Precise like a Cave In track, “Ahead Thought” sucked me in.  Just when I thought I liked it, things shifted down and I became even more consumed.  The ending of this track was dead-on amazing.

“Moved Obstacle” finished up the album with the bad just not letting up at all.  This was the kind of song introduced to a young me that held the capability to open up my thought process.  I am trying to think of best how to explain this.  Think about the message and hose it was received.  That is the feeling that hit me when this song played.

The sound that Brain Cave delivered brought me back to the 90s in the best way possible.  All I could keep thinking about while listening is how they related to Helmet, Handsome, and Quicksand.  The year is half gone and Stuck In The Mud will be sitting high on my best of list for this pretty screwed up year.

Perhaps once this COVID crap is tame and venues start allowing shows to play Brain Cave will play again.  I honestly would love to check this band out again, especially now.

With that said, if you need a solid distraction due to these current events, check out the Brain Cave debut already.  I cannot get enough of it.  In fact, I listened to it two times earlier today and once more this evening as I wrapped up this review.  It’s that damn good.

Album Review: Sam Russo – Back to the Party

Being cooped up because of some asinine virus has not been my favorite thing as of late.  I really shouldn’t complain though, as I know many pals of mine are hurting severely because of this pandemic.  If I could help everyone, I would.  Trust me on that.

I offer a distraction to anyone who needs it right now via music.  It’s the least I can do.

My pal Toby from that punk label out there called Red Hair Bimbo Trees or something sent me a message today reminding me that the great Sam Russo has new material that just dropped and encouraged me to stop sitting there and do something.

Who is Sam Russo you ask?  He’s a UK punk rocker who honestly could put his back up these days to a young Frank Turner when it comes to musical style and craftsmanship, but that’s being a little lazy for comparison.  Said differently, if you love when punk lead singers do their solo thing and get all Revival Tour on your ass, you’ll love this dude.  I guarantee it based on his storytelling ability.

Russo has actually been around for a while now and Back to the Party is his third release on Red Scare Records.  I was lucky enough to get a good taste of him thanks to 2015’s Greyhound Dreams and have really been waiting for the day he dropped some new tunes.

“I took a lot of risks on this record and I’m so glad I did because it came out sounding really original and totally true to what I was trying to say for so many years.” – Sam Russo

“Purple Snow” started off the album a little personal and a tad incoherent in terms of the story within the song.  I adored this track upon first listen.  Russo honestly has never sounded better.  Perhaps a personal memoir, this track carried enough emotion to have me thinking of some of my past history.  I am curious though, was the snow purple from Mad Dog 20/20?  One can hope…one can hope.

“Good and Gone” I think was taken from my own personal memory of most of 2009.  This song hit the heart hard, as it sung of hurt and triumph.  These are the tunes that make me happy exist because the show me where I’ve been, where I can from, and what I’ve become.

“Darkness” followed and continued to tug on forced-in feelings with an apologetic excuse on interpersonal communication, or the lack thereof.  Wholesome and pure, this track probably will be relating to a lot of folk.

There’s so much that can be said about “Young Heroes” based on how the listener took it in.  Given the current situation, this track speaks volumes to those who are working harder than ever based on some stupid pandemic.  Not trying to sound cliché at all, but there’s a lot of heroes in my book right now.

I can not really talk about a certain track on here in great detail, but if you know me, you know it totally kicked my ass by the title alone.  The past will always sting back when you least expect it.  Maybe I need to appreciate it more than I give myself credit for seeing how it shaped me, but still, that shit hurts.  Nice job Russo, you jerk – I might have had a tear or two let loose…

Just when you think there’d be a slight let up of sorrow on the album, “Tears” kicked in.  This really was a beautiful track overall, but not to be reckoned with if you’re trying to lift them spirits high.  I mean, that chorus alone gave me chills.  Add lap-steel guitar playing that sparked a slight country feel made for my favorite track of the record.

“The Basement” ended the album with symbolism at its finest.  Russo came to terms with life due to rummaging around and only could sit back and reflect on where things went wrong.  Putting a lid to the album with this track just made so much sense.

Russo is a storyteller as much as he is a musician.  Personal tales might make you want to hug your drink a little harder when you listen to this album, but let’s be real – sometimes it is nice to remember you’re human.

Back to the Party is a must listen for any music fan.  Although some songs were full of ache, there really was a  silver lining in terms of hope.  I feel like I am trying to be motivational here, but let’s face it, times are weird as hell right now.  We can all use a distraction.

Hang in there folks.

Album Review: Notches – New Kinda Love

I’ve told myself over and over that I need to try and hammer out more reviews.  I have a million excuses why I choose bed over blog as of late and two of said excuses are the most important things in my life – my kids.  Clearly nothing is more important than them and of course my wife, so please excuse me for not paying attention to this here ol’ blog this year.

Time to change that of course.

With recent events going on to which I need not point out, I can tell you I have been thinking about a lot of things and one of them was how much I enjoy listening to tunes, discovering new bands, and especially sharing the love.  I have been wanting to talk about one particular release by a New Hampshire punk/emo/rad/DIY 3 piece band.  So here we go…

After listening to New Kinda Love by Notches back in early January, I literally stopped what I was doing and ordered the LP off of their Bandcamp page.

This was an album I fell in love with instantly and deemed one of my favorites that I’ve heard of in quite some time.  The album dropped in December 2019 from what I learned, but did not make it onto Bandcamp until this year.

Released by Dead Broke Rekerds/Salina Records, this is the band’s third proper release and sadly the fist time I really got into them.  They’ve been around since 2013 and have made an impact on the New England punk scene, but honestly once you hear them you’d think they have been around for far longer.

Starting off the album was “Room Upstairs”, a catchy track that really carried through different equal moments of catchiness and relaxed.  I really loved how much energy this band held in just on the first track.

It’s hard to believe “Museum of More Dumb Art” hasn’t been around for years and years.  This track just was so tenured sounding that I had to make sure I was still listening to the same band.  In other words, I was impressed as hell with this one.

“Crystall Ball” was emo Dinosaur Jr. on speed thanks to excessive fuzz throughout a memorable riff of a song.  This track just brought me back 25+ years to when all that mattered to me was alternative rock.  I adored it.  Had a music video been made for this one, it would have been all over MTV back when they were tolerable.

I won’t lie, the best part of “Keep My Name” was the brutal aggressiveness layered with memorable bass and guitar playing.  Quick track, but clearly full of angst that never sounded so good.

“Twist The Knife” won me over with the pop-punk edge that snuck into what otherwise could have been a track that amounted to an 80s SST Records artist song.

“Sober Souls” to me was a modern day Hüsker Dü track.  This track was just beautiful.  I really can’t explain why other than I’m over 40 and was brought years just from absorbing myself in this.  Weird, right?

The number of times I told myself how great this band was while listening was almost annoying to me.  Luckily I know i am not the only one who thinks this.  In fact, my soon to be 5-year-old loves these guys.

Need proof?

Once this bullmess of a virus pandemic goes the hell away, Notches should be touring and it looks like they may be making a stop in Cleveland so who knows, maybe I’ll be taking my son to see his first show a littler earlier than I first intended.  If he’s not quite ready, perhaps I’ll bribe the band for a quick high-five and an apple juice or something.

Don’t sleep on these guys.  Notches have dropped an album you aging punks and young ones too will truly appreciate.