All posts by Brian

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.

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.