Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Vinyl Vednesday 12/30/2009


[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it kinda is. This week, VV takes a look at three of the top albums of 2009. You can find my best of ’09 list over at punknews.org; an expanded edition will run sometime around New Year’s. E-mail pelonej1@gmail.com with your own big finds!]


Records: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (2009) on black, Silversun Pickups’ Swoon (2009) on black, and Thursday’s Common Existence (2009) on black with the Thursday dove logo etched into the D-side.


Place of Purchase: Pains and Swoon came from my favorite record store, Repo Records in Philadelphia. Common Existence came from Hot Topic.


Thoughts: Got-damn do I enjoy me some Pains o’ Being Pure of Something Something Something. Super catchy, kinda fuzzy, twee/Ramones hybrid. Good stuff. Every so often, I pick up an album based purely on hype, and Pains was one such purchase. I bought it on CD without knowing any of the songs, fell in love, and then went back to Repo for the vinyl version. This album was pretty much perfect for every season – haunting hooks in the winter and fall; lo-fi romance for the spring and summer. Gosh I hope they stick around.


I was introduced to Silversun Pickups when Wonka Vision Magazine slapped ’em on the cover around the time of my internship. I bought their record Carnavas on the strength of breakout single “Lazy Eye,” fell in love, and then proceeded to soak up as many SSPU tunes as I could. It was quite the happy day when sophomore full-length Swoon dropped. It’s not as good as Carnavas, but damn is it a close second. The band served up another helping of androgynous shoegaze-leaning alt-rock. Sometimes the album rocks out with its genitals out (“There’s No Secrets This Year”) and sometimes it kicks back a bit (“Getting Old is Getting Old”), but it’s always entertaining.


Common Existence made me giddy in 2009. First I got stoked on the fact that Thursday overcame the major label grinder. There was an awkward lil period where I feared it would be a Full Collapse retread – lead single “Resuscitation of Dead Man” seemed too 2001 – but that quickly ended once I heard the album’s 45 minutes of tunes. Common Existence gives me the feeling that Thursday could pretty much do whatever they want. “Last Call” shows how much they dominate the post-hardcore game, but “Circuits of Fever” and “Love Has Led Us Astray” reveal a band that knows how to write more ethereal jams. Punk bands tend to have short, fiery lifespans, but, thankfully, Thursday has been going strong for over a decade.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Playlist: Christmas


[Playlist is an attempt to distill my favorite artists to 80-minute compilations. If someone asked me to burn them a mix of one of the bands featured here, I would give them this collection. Today, we celebrate Christmas 2009, which means listening to New Found Glory... FOREVER!]

Welp, it's Christmas Eve. My parent blog Saturday Night Crap-O-Rama has been reviewing awful/cult Christmas movies all week. The clientele at my grocery store has gotten noticeably more crotchety/confused. Christmas songs have started to grind my (g)ears. Grind them!

But I'm not one of those people who just hates Christmas tunes across the board. Sure, I'm a terrible Catholic, and my last few Christmases have been a little... shall we say... traumatic. But dang it, I'm still trying to find the goodness in it. The love. The wonder. The free hooch. This year, my girlfriend and I made an effort to take back Christmas.

In retrospect, we didn't do a whole lot. We watched a couple Christmas movies. We decorated our own tree. And we thought about the people we love. Oh, and we shoveled snow. Curse you, snow! Once I finished school, you turned into an awful layabout, reeking of inconvenience! But, in spite of how stressful our jobs got, I still had a good time. And I listened to a some good tunes. You can see a few of them below. For the record, I like enough Christmas songs that I actually had to cut some of them from this playlist. Noticeably absent: Sting's "Soul Cake," but that's because that song sucks, blow, and is not good. My girlfriend wasn't too into the first half of the mix - something about how Third Eye Blind is bad or some other stupid bunk she was making up - but I super-dig it. Merry Happy, er'rybody.

Christmas
1. New Found Glory - "Ex-Miss," Atticus... Dragging the Lake [THIS IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS SONG EVER.]
2. No Doubt - "Oi to the World," Everything in Time
3. The Kinks - "Father Christmas," Come Dancing With the Kinks [OK, this is the second best Christmas song ever.]
4. The Ramones - "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)," Hey! Ho! Let's Go: The Anthology
5. Allister - "Scottie For X-Mas," online [Allister gave this away online one year, circa 2002 or 2003. I can't find it anywhere now, and there are so many variations on the title on Last.fm that I might have it tagged wrong.]
6. Atom and His Package - "What We Do on Christmas," Making Love [For our hypothetical Jewish readers! Also, I think this song is hi-larious.]
7. The Eels - "Christmas is Going to the Dogs," The OC: Mix 3 - Have A Very Merry Chrismukkah
8. John Lennon - "Happy Christmas (War is Over)," Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon
9. Kermit the Frog - "One More Sleep 'Til Christmas," Muppet Show: Music, Mayehm & More!
10. Third Eye Blind - "One of Those Christmas Days," live bootleg
11. The Long Winters - "Christmas With You is the Best," The OC: Mix 3 - Have A Very Merry Chrismukkah [Do I feel lame for copping so many feels off the same soundtrack? Yeah, but it's a good mix, dammit. This same CD also includes a solidBen Kweller track that I sadly had to leave off. It didn't keep me from putting the Raveonettes on, though.]
12. Meneguar - "Christmas isn't Christmas," I Was Born at Night
13. Weezer - "Christmas Celebration," Christmas CD
14. "Weird Al" Yankovic - "The Night Santa Went Crazy," Bad Hair Day [I enjoyed "Weird Al"'s recent performance with the Rifftrax crew, by the by, although I was a little bummed not to hear this song performed.]
15. The Bouncing Souls and Weston - "Do They Know It's Christmas?," split [This version is far superior to the Band Aid version, although it could use more Bono.]
16. Nirvana - "Jesus Doesn't Want Me For a Sunbeam," MTV Unplugged in New York
17. The Premier - "The Island of Misfit Toys," online [Defunct Lansdale emo act that was huge in "the scene;" put on plenty of furiously awesome shows. In a weird way, I feel like the Premier was the Government Issue of Lansdale, in that a ton of people went through those respective line-ups. Nick Steinborn and Dan Campbell split the role of J. Robbins, in that one of them went on to be a fantastic sound engineer and the other quit playing bass to front a more popular band. THE CONNECTIONS ARE CLEAR.]
18. Jimmy Eat World - "12.23.95," Clarity
19. The Raveonettes - "The Christmas Song," The OC: Mix 3 - Have A Very Merry Chrismukkah [Actually, this might be the greatest Christmas song ever.]
20. Counting Crows - "A Long December," Recovering the Satellites
21. Something Corporate - "Forget December," Songs For Silent Movies
22. A Camp - "The Oddness of the Lord," A Camp
23. Julian Casablancas with Jimmy Fallon, Horatio Sanz, and The Roots - "I Wish It Was Christmas Today," live bootleg [I tried finding the original Saturday Night Live version to no avail, but got-damn do I love this song too much to leave it off.]
24. Thursday - "Jet Black New Year," Five Stories Falling [See what I did there? It ends with a New Year's Eve song. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.]

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Vinyl Vednesday 12/23/2009


[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it kinda is. Since this week marks the alleged anniversary of our Lord and Savior Jesus F. Christ’s birth, here are three Christmas seven-inches for your consideration. E-mail pelonej1@gmail.com with your own big finds!]


Records: Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (1984) on black, Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” single (1984) on black, and Bruce Springsteen’s “My Hometown” single (1985) on black.


Place of Purchase: Band Aid and “My Hometown” came from the now defunct comics/used records/CCG/RPG mecca Legends at the Plymouth Meeting Mall. “I Would Die 4 U” came from the also dead Spaceboy Music in Philadelphia. Apparently everything I love dies.


Thoughts: I honestly don’t remember why I bought “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. Maybe it’s because I listened to the Bouncing Souls and Weston’s cover a lot in high school. Maybe I wanted to complement my copy of We Are the World. Maybe I just like the part where Bono screams “Tonight / Thank God it’s them / Instead of you!” The song was written to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia, so I mean there it came from good intentions. I just find it funny that A) Frankie Goes to Hollywood is abbreviated as “Frankie G.T.H.” on the back cover, B) Frankie G.T.H gets billed higher than Paul McCartney, U2, Phil Collins, and Wham, and C) my copy’s previous owner saved a photo of Band Aid from a Dec. 17, 1984 issue of Time. Also, Paul McCartney’s message on the B-side, “Feed the World,” is pretty funny in light of all the more self-righteous missives contained within. Oh man, and it’s so awesome when David Bowie goes, during a breakdown mind you, “This is David Bowie, and it is 1984.”


“I Would Die 4 U” was backed by “Another Lonely Christmas,” which finds Prince in full on “woe is me” mode, as he laments losing his lover to what I can only imagine was the Purple Rain… on Christmas Day! That’s a double whammy right there. It’s a little melodramatic – my girlfriend is laughing right now as I listen to this song/type about it – but let’s be honest, it’s ’80s Prince. Eighties Prince is one of the greatest things of all time. As for the A side, “I Would Die 4 U” is allegedly about Jesus, a rumor Prince encouraged by changing the line “I’m your messiah” to “He’s your messiah.” So that’s double the relevance to this entry.


Listening to Springsteen’s “My Hometown” single is a weird mix of emotions. “My Hometown” is a sad song about a failing area. “Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows / and vacant stores / Seems like there ain’t nobody / wants to come down here no more” goes the third verse. In today’s economy (There’s a phrase I’m getting sick of), “My Hometown” hits a bit close to home. But on the flipside comes holiday cheer! Woo! Yeah! Aight! Presented for your listening pleasure is a live recording of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” from 1975. The E Street Band goes through a skit about the virtues of being good before slowly building the song into a rocker. My favorite part is when saxophonist Clarence “Big Man” Clemens chimes in “You better be good for goodness sake.” That guy’s voice is insanely deep. I also like how at the end, someone dressed as Santa Claus comes out. Or so I assume. Someone starts ho-ho-hoing and breaks Bruce’s concentration. It’s fun listening to audio tracks of people screwing up, because I have no context for understanding those errors.


So hey! Merry fucking Christmas!



Friday, December 18, 2009

regarding Disc World.

Another one of my favorite record stores has shuttered its doors - Disc World in Conshohocken is no more. I drove by there today to give a gander only to find a giant "For Lease" sign. According to Conshie news site More Than the Curve, the place went out of business back in November. So... that sucks.

Disc World was one of the first indie record stores I ever visited. I wasn't too hardcore about visiting indie shops in high school - my employee discount at Sam Goody took 40 percent off of CDs - but Disc World's prices were always ridiculously low. Since they primarily sold used CDs, and later used vinyls, the selection was always varied, which I found appealing. Sam Goody always had to maintain X amount of a given album/artist, but Disc World's inventory shifted from week to week. I can barely remember all of the out-of-print stuff I picked up over the years thanks to this store. The Internet has made obtaining music hella-easy, whether you want to go the illegal piracy route (which I detest) or the legal online shopping route (Amazon, eBay). But the thrill of the hunt is part of the attraction in record collecting.

Besides, Disc World was one of the best places for crate digging, which is something I just can't do online because it's so fucking boring. Their vinyl selection was never as huge as, say, that of the Philadelphia Record Exchange, but it was manageable and almost always yielded a great find or two. I found a sealed copy of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' Let's Face It on clear red vinyl for $5. David Bowie's Low and Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska for $3 each. My entire Simon and Garfunkel collection, as well as plenty of LPs from the Police, Prince, Joni Mitchell. This place was cheap, friendly, and like 15 minutes from my house. With all due respect to Siren Records in Doylestown and Repo Records in Philadelphia (whom I love and cherish more than my future children), Disc World was a rewarding place to shop at and didn't guzzle up my gas money. Oh yeah, and parking was free.

It's funny; here I am celebrating Disc World for its pre-Internet wonders, and the place never had a Web site. I will probably never learn how or why they closed. Maybe it was the economy. Maybe the owner decided to retire and couldn't find anyone worthy of taking over the business. OK, it was probably the crappy economy. And those damn kids twittering rap music from the BookFace or whatever. Regardless, I'm down yet another record store. Oh sure, there are plenty of stores with decent selections in the city, but I'm a big fan of service too. You ever notice how much I don't talk about a.k.a music?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Franz Nicolay - 'St. Sebastian of the Short Stage'

Having opened 2009 with his solo studio debut, Major General, Franz Nicolay, he of Hold Steady, World/Inferno Friendship Society and awesome mustache notoriety is closing the year out with St. Sebastian of the Short Stage. In a lot of ways, the four song 10-inch feels like an extension of Major General. For starters, half of the material could have appeared on that album – “New England” was recorded in 2008; “I Just Want to Love” in 2001. Energy-wise, St. Sebastian is broken up into two uppers (“The Fun Side”) and two downers (“The Depressing Side”), just like General. Stylistically, these tunes are in the same cabaret punk vein.


So in short, St. Sebastian will sound great if you loved Major General, and OK if you didn’t. Personally, I think it’s a keeper, with “the Fun Side” standing out. “New England” should be familiar to Big D and the Kids Table fans as track 11 of The Gipsy Hill EP. Same Jonathan Richman cover; different vibe. It opens with a debate between Nicolay and the Dresden Dolls about the best part of New England. They soon agree that the whole Northeast is pretty great and cut into a snappy cover, as Nicolay, Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione take turns extolling the virtues of New England on the mic. Coupled with the trio’s take on Johnny Cash’s “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” from All Aboard: A Tribute to Johnny Cash, it’s clear Nicolay, Palmer and Viglione have great chemistry together. Please record a split. Or do a Dolls/Inferno tour. That would be cool also too as well.


Viglione returns for “The Ballad of Hollis Wadsworth Mason Jr.”, a song Nicolay wrote in response to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen for the Bushwick Book Club, an ongoing project in which musicians respond creatively to books. He specifically wrote the song about Under the Hood, and the lyrics read as such.


It’s hard to slag “the Depressing Side” when it’s so honestly labeled. In the liner notes, Nicolay almost sounds ashamed of “I Just Want to Love” – “What do you want, I was 23 and not sleeping much,” he writes. It does make one wonder why he bothered releasing it. With such overly earnest humdingers as “I just want to love / Is that so much to ask? / I just want to tear up at the movies / Lie out in the grass,” the song is definitely the weakest of the four. “When the War Came,” by contrast, is a little less overbearing, but it doesn’t compare to “the Fun Side.” C’mon, it’s called “the Fun Side!” Fun is… fun. Did you like “Jeff Penalty?” Are you addicted to bad ideas? Cool; hop on the first side of St. Sebastian. Those who like the taste of their tears mixed with their beers can keep the flipside.

Playlist: Something Corporate


[Playlist is an attempt to distill my favorite artists to 80-minute compilations. If someone asked me to burn them a mix of the bands featured here, I would give them this collection.]

With the recent announcement that Something Corporate would be reuniting for Bamboozle 2010, I figured that now would be a perfect time to reevaluate SoCo's legacy. For a few years, Something Corporate was one of the shining gems in the Drive-Thru Records roster. They played piano-laden power-pop that kids really, really liked. Their tours got bigger and bigger, they got called up to the big leagues (MCA/Geffen), and then they seemingly broke apart. Sure, they called it a hiatus at the time, but I don't think many people thought SoCo would ever reunite. The members simply went off on divergent musical visions.

First guitarist William Tell, unsatisfied with his low level of songwriting input, left to establish a solo career (to uneven success... although "Radio Sounds" is an absurdly catchy song). Then pianist/vocalist Andrew McMahon and guitarist Josh Partington left to form Jack's Mannequin and Firescape, respectively. When JM blew up, it seemed like SoCo essentially no longer had a reason to exist. Jack's Mannequin was more popular, wrote in the same style, and featured the two primary songwriters from Something Corporate. Having worked in a record store, I can say from firsthand experience that more recent waves of teens who swear by Everything in Transit and The Glass Passenger have never heard Leaving Through the Window or North.

Which is a shame. While I don't identify with their sound as much as I did as a teen, SoCo still strikes me as the better band, nostalgia aside. To that end, I've assemble a playlist - a few songs from each of their major full-lengths (not counting Ready... Break) and eight rarities. You have to understand; SoCo's run was kinda brief, but they did manage to leave behind some solid songs, many of which didn't even end up on proper albums. This was one of the first bands to truly thrive on the Internet. By the end of the run, the band didn't even bother officially releasing a lot of songs, since the Web enabled their fans to get them anyway.

I've left off some of their better known tunes - "iF yoU C Jordan" and "Punk Rock Princess" do NOT hold up well, but I think this mix plays through OK.

SoCo
1. "Hurricane," Leaving Through the Window
2. "I Want to Save You," Leaving Through the Window
3. "I Woke Up in a Car," Leaving Through the Window
4. "Straw Dog," Leaving Through the Window
5. "Good News," Leaving Through the Window
6. "As You Sleep," North
7. "Only Ashes," North
8. "Me and the Moon," North
9. "Break Myself," North
10. "21 and Invincible," North
11. "Forget December," It's a Punk Rock Christmas
12. "Watch the Sky," North U.K. bonus track
13. "If I Die," Ready... Break
14. "Letters to Noelle," online
15. "Walking By," Audioboxer
16. "Globes & Maps," Leaving Through the Window
17. "Konstantine," Welcome to the Family [This is generally acknowledged as the best SoCo song, yet it was never widely released.]
18. "I Don't Want a Job," online [Part of me wanted to end with "Konstantine." But part of me wanted to go out with a peppy number after three mellow ones in a row.]

Vinyl Vednesday 12/16

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it kinda is. This week’s entry breaks with tradition to discuss the four seven-inches in the Bouncing Souls 20th anniversary series. E-mail pelonej1@gmail.com with your own big finds!]


Records: The Bouncing Souls’ 20th Anniversary Series: Volume One (2009) on black and red, Volume Two (2009) on blue, Volume Three (2009) on green with black and red swirls, and Volume Four (2009) on black and white.


Place of Purchase: Volume One and Four were ordered straight from Chunksaah, the band’s personal label. Volume Two was purchased at Shore Things from the Ocean City, N.J. boardwalk. I that place and wish it was a lot closer to Pa. Finally, Volume Three was purchased at a Souls anniversary show at the Trocadero.


Thoughts: Man oh man, I love those New Jersey mooks, the Bouncing Souls. How I Spent My Summer Vacation indoctrinated me into the world o’ punk rock, and my love for them grew greater with each full-length I picked up. This year they tried something different: digitally releasing one song a month, then collecting three of those songs on a seven-inch every third month, with an acoustic bonus track slapped onto the backend. Each of the records has their own personality, but I’d say I’m most partial to Volume Three.



Three opens with the haunting “Ghosts on the Boardwalk,” which is a catchy lil tune. The B-side is the best side of any of the seven-inches, though. First up is “Badass,” a joke song about things that are, well, badass, like kung-fu movies and your mom. “Uke Chek Girl” converts Maniacal Laughter’s “Quick Chek Girl” into a chill ukulele tune. The Souls’ tunes are great rabble rousers, but they translate surprisingly well to acoustic campfire tunes. Since I suck at guitar, maybe I can teach myself a bunch of Souls songs on ukulele?


Anyway, all four of the records are pretty good. Plus, their release schedule feels like a document of my own life in 2009. I can remember where I was at around each drop date. The Souls have defined my life for the last eight years, and they continue to do. I’m one of those “true believers” types. My only regret with this series is that I didn’t buy a second set of seven-inches for framing. Still, though, it’s cool to lay out the covers and see how they connect. Also, the vinyl comes in pretty colors. I like pretty colors.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bouncing Souls - '20th Anniversary Series: Volume Four"

This was a good year to be a Bouncing Souls fan. And when I say “year,” I really do mean 365 days – the Souls played some great shows and served up new songs all year long. By now, you should know the drill – the band digitally released a song on the first of each month (or thereabouts) and a seven-inch every three months with an acoustic bonus track for their 20th anniversary series. Sometime next year, a CD collecting the original 12 songs called Ghosts on the Boardwalk will be released. As a fan, I’ve stayed excited for each new seven-inch year-round, so much so that I’m a little sad to see the project end. But hey, at least now I can put the four album covers together to form the Souls’ 20th anniversary logo.


Volume Four of the collection shouldn’t be too surprising to those who have been following the series closely. The songs are mellower than previous Souls releases like How I Spent My Summer Vacation or Maniacal Laughter. A sides “Like the Sun” and “Big Eyes” are kindred spirits – the former finds the narrator (let’s assume it’s frontman Greg Attonito) looking for love in an uncaring world, while the latter finds Attonito older, wiser and happier, imparting a message of hope to a girl stuck in the same seemingly cruel surroundings. These tunes don’t necessarily sound like a typical Souls song – not enough “whoas” – but lyrically, they pretty much sum up the band’s ethos. These guys have struggled with depression and so have their fans, and the two groups find solace in the punk rock middle.


Underground music – and let’s be honest, the Souls might be too big for that phrase save for their avoidance of MTV, radio and commercials – sometimes exhibits an exclusive coolness, a schoolyard superiority complex that takes a wee bit too much pride in its clique status. The Souls have never been that kind of a band, as these songs illustrate. The chorus to “Big Eyes” literally states what essentially every Souls has said to me: “Hey little girl don’t look so sad it’s not the end of the world / I’ve seen this film before, already know the ending / Some of the faces change but the plot it stays the same / So take my hand / Let’s walk away.” It’s going to be OK. Like a certain other Souls song says, “I built this cloud / I can break it / The world can’t change how I feel.”


The record’s flow is similar to series highlight Volume Three, in that the first side is relatively low key, while the flipside boasts one rocker coupled with an acoustic number. “Never Say Die/When You’re Young” rocks like “Badass,” although it’s not nearly as funny/awesome. It’s still a solid track, though, carrying the same positive message as the A side. An acoustic version of “Ghosts on the Boardwalk,” originally from Volume Three, closes out the vinyl. Its energy is about the same. The song translates pretty easily into an acoustic number, perhaps aided by the group’s decision to keep the eerie intro from the full band version.


With the closing measures of “Ghosts on the Boardwalk” concludes the Bouncing Souls’ 20th anniversary series, at least until Ghosts on the Boardwalk drops. It’s been fun, there were pretty colors (my copy of Volume Four is on a black/white swirl. Mail order rules), rock was had. Now to brainstorm for the 25th anniversary…

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Various Artists - 'Wrecktrospective'

Against Me!’s Searching For a Former Clarity. Propagandhi’s Less Talk, More Rock. Lagwagon’s Let’s Talk About Feelings. Face to Face’s Don’t Turn Away. Like a gajillion NOFX releases. What these albums all have in common – in addition to being awesome – is their publisher, Fat Wreck Chords. It’s almost ridiculous how many high quality albums the label has dropped given their business model: No written contracts, one album at a time, leave whenever it works for you. It’s an artist’s ideal set-up, but it shouldn’t be good a company – where’s the cutthroat cash grab? Yet Fat Wreck has endured, possibly through luck, probably because their “music first” approach is appealing to bands and definitely because of the hard work founders Fat Mike and Erin Burkett, along with their staffers, put into it. So it’s fitting that the label is celebrating its 20 years of punk rock with the triple disc set Wrecktrospective.


Long in the making, it features “fattest hits,” demos and, for the first time on CD, the entire Fat seven-inch club. That’s 88 songs for $15. The package has a “something for everyone” appeal. Depending on your perspective, the greatest hits disc is either the best crash course in punk for whippersnappers since the demise of the Punk-O-Rama series, or a shit-starter. It’s 33 tracks long, yet it doesn’t seem to cover the band’s entire history. Where’s Smoke or Fire, the Soviettes, or the Loved Ones? Sure, they show up on the demos disc, but c’mon! Teenage Bottlerocket and Banner Pilot are ignored completely. And if we’re being honest, shouldn’t NOFX’s “The Decline” be on here? Yet the CD hits so many big numbers – Lagwagon’s “Violins,” Less Than Jake’s “Gainseville Rock City,” Me First and the Gimme Gimmes’ “Leaving on a Jet Plane” – that it’s hard to knock it altogether. Besides, the quality of the demos is strong enough to make the second CD feel like an extended best of. These first two CDs will provide a valuable education for younger siblings.


The already converted get something too. The third CD gives longtime fans cuts from the likes of Strike Anywhere, MxPx and of course NOFX. They get cuts from lesser known Fat bands like Tilt, Snuff and Bracket. Better yet is the packaging. The set comes with a poster featuring just about every Fat release ever. The liner notes are dense – the back of the poster features bands’ memories of the label, some good, some not so good. Fat Mike even wrote a short history of the label, and he’s surprisingly frank about Fat’s ups and downs. He defines the label’s best years as being 1996-2006, and is upfront about how much the record industry’s downturn has made it harder for his bands and label to stay self-sufficient. It’s a good read, so I’ll say it now: If Fat Mike wrote an autobiography, I’d read it out.


Admittedly, hardcore followers might not be able to get that much out of Wrecktrospective. Anti-Flag fans probably own “Turncoat,” Lawrence Arms fans probably own “Like a Record Player,” etc. But it should fill in people’s gaps in punk rock knowledge, collects the seven-inch series and offers some neat essays. It doesn’t quite sum up the label’s history, but it does justify Fat Wreck’s existence.

Dashboard Confessional / New Found Glory live at the Trocadero

It was like a scene straight out of Andy Greenwald’s Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo: Bespectacled, awkward emo folks mingle with more frat-ish, sweatshirt ‘n’ backwards baseball cap types while Dashboard Confessional plays an acoustic set alongside a punk band. In front of me, two lovers sway to strains of songs like “Remember to Breathe” and “Carry This Picture For Luck.” She’s wearing a knitted wool scarf and hat; he’s got shaggy black hair and a scraggly beard; they’re both wearing sweaters and glasses. To my right, two friends discuss the setlist and Flyers stats with equal authority. The only difference is that it’s not 2000; it’s 2009.


Following the cancellation of a planned electric/full band tour, Dashboard Confessional – reduced to central figure Chris Carrabba and guitarist/pianist John Lefler – played an acoustic set with Florida pop-punkers A New Found Glory (they claimed the “A” was for “acoustic,” the teases), with a sold out stop Philadelphia’s the Trocadero Sat., Dec. 12. NFG’s flirtations didn’t end there. When a fan requested “The Glory of Love,” off of the awesome From the Screen to Your Stereo, the band obliged with about 10 seconds of a ragtime-y version. They were just messing around, but it actually sounded kinda good. Same goes for the first verse and chorus of Ben Folds Five’s “Brick.” Granted, they were a little too stoked to be playing a song about abortion, but dang it sounded sweet. Their final act of teasing came when they wished the crowd a merry Christmas and then didn’t play “Ex-Miss,” instead opting for a cover of “The Christmas Song.”


While NFG’s songs were never really meant to be played unplugged, the group got by on spirit and jokes. Some of the humor came from a defensive place – guitarist Chad Gilbert, clearly uncomfortable with the set-up, mentioned his band’s own flubs a few times too many. But he also kidded the crowd about “fucking shit up” in “Moshadelphia.” While the set skewed a little too much towards Sticks and Stones for my taste, NFG still put on a funny, entertaining set. Plus, they played “Broken Sound” from Nothing Gold Can Stay. Awesome.


Setlist

  1. Truth of My Youth
  2. Sonny
  3. Something I Call Personality
  4. It’s Not Your Fault
  5. The Story So Far
  6. Forget My Name
  7. 46
  8. I Don’t Wanna Know
  9. My Friends Over You
  10. Brick [partial, Ben Folds Five Cover]
  11. The Glory of Love [partial, Peter Cetera cover]
  12. Too Good to Be
  13. Hit or Miss
  14. Broken Sound
  15. The Christmas Song [Mel Tormé cover]


While concert attendees were fairly responsive to NFG, they lost their shit for Dashboard Confessional. It’s pretty clear why: Carrabba and Lefler brought the hits. Also, they had Troc staff pass out shakers, inviting fans to A) join in the songs and B) visit dcbootlegs.com to download a recording of the show. Audience participation is the best, and DC knows how to maximize it. Carrabba opened with old favorites “The Best Deceptions” and “The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most,” to the crowd’s delight. More oldies/goodies like “The Good Fight” and “Saints and Sailors” followed, with a few newer tunes sprinkled in.


Generally speaking, Carrabba avoided his post-A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar albums, playing only two songs off of 2006’s Dusk and Summer (singles “Don’t Wait” and “Stolen”), one track off of 2007’s The Shade of Poison Trees (“Where There’s Gold”) and three from this year’s Alter the Ending (“Belle of the Boulevard,” “Until Morning” and “Get Me Right”). The crowd didn’t seem too enthralled by Lefler’s own “Up My Sleeve,” perhaps because it rips a bit too much from the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” which is too good a song for anyone to imitate.


I had my own qualms with the set – I would’ve loved to have heard “So Long, So Long,” or So Impossible from start to finish, or “Wearing Thin” as long as I’m dreaming – but the songs Carrabba did select for the show were mighty fine. It’s cool that despite Dashboard Confessional’s latter day rock band sound, he still returns to his acoustic roots on occasion. Rag on the emo icon all ye want; dude still puts on a fun show for his fans. He delivers full-throated renditions of their favorite songs and he engages them on a personal level. I feel bad for the kids in Detroit, which the original canceled tour was supposed to hit Dec. 12. They missed out.


Setlist

  1. The Best Deceptions
  2. The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most
  3. Bend and Not Break
  4. The Good Fight
  5. Belle of the Boulevard
  6. As Lovers Go
  7. Don’t Wait
  8. Carry This Picture For Luck
  9. Saints and Sailors
  10. Until Morning
  11. Where There’s Gold
  12. Screaming Infidelities
  13. Up My Sleeve [John Lefler]
  14. The Swiss Army Romance
  15. Get Me Right
  16. Vindicated
  17. Stolen

-----

  1. Remember to Breathe
  2. Hands Down

Friday, December 11, 2009

Kentucky Knife Fight - 'The Wolf Crept, The Children Slept'

OK, Kentucky Knife Fight, your name is intriguing. I am intrigued. But how does your record hold up?


Hailing from Missouri, Kentucky Knife Fight aspires to Stooges-style rock ‘n’ roll (OK, and the Rolling Stones… and the Black Crowes…) on The Wolf Crept, The Children Slept. Sometimes it pays off – dig that early track “Lil’ Sister” – but the record peters out before the halfway point. It’s just a hair too bar band-y to truly recall Michigan’s greatest proto-punk group. While the record is no means a failure, bummer or stinker, it certainly doesn’t deviate much from its bluesy rock sound during its 42-minute running time, switching it up only to try on the occasional country-leaning tune.


That said, by virtue of its very style, I get the feeling that Kentucky Knife Fight puts on a good live show. The guitar work on tracks like “South Roxanna Wiggle” hints a band that probably knows how to improvise epic jams. “Wiggle” segues nicely into the next freewheeling song, “17.”


But while the band has a handful of solid riffs, there’s nothing particularly revelatory about any of the songs. Babyboomers might be stoked to hear KKF attempts to recall “when rock ‘n’ roll was dangerous” or whatever, but honestly, that’s what the Back From the Grave series is for.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Yours For Mine - 'Dear Children'

Yours for Mine wrote a Christian hardcore record I don’t like called Dear Children. There, I just saved you a lot of time. Now you already know if I’m biased against the genre because of how it sounds (I am) or the way it works God into every song (eh). You know exactly what to expect from the songs – breakdowns (yes), chugging guitars (yeah), lyrics that wouldn’t be totally out of place in the Book of Revelations (although it does need more multi-headed dragons. Just sayin’). Heck, you probably half-expect a special section in the album art dedicated to God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost (Jesus is 33.3 percent responsible for this band’s existence).


Dear Children isn’t a bad album… but it is kind of boring. Ten songs, 41 minutes, whoopty-doo. While the record shows signs of musical depth – electronic flourishes on tracks like “We Need You Here” and “Call Me Distant,” a surprisingly jazzy outro for the screamo-tastic “Absence in Elegance” – the album ultimately falls into a rut. At its best, it sounds like second rate Further Seems Forever. At its worst, well, it features Cookie Monster vocals.


And here’s the thing, I don’t just find the record unappealing because of the Christian element. I loves me some “With You By My Side” something fierce. These songs could be about girls, or boys, or Eli Whitney’s quest to invent the cotton gin. The album could feature covers of my personal top 10 Jawbreaker songs. Hell, it could tell me the day I’m going to die and I’d still felt slightly underwhelmed. The members throw in little flourishes to let the listener know that they know how to play; it’s a shame they’re wasting the talents their Lord and Savior Jesus F. Christ* trying to fit into this stale genre.


*The “F.” stands for “fucking,” kids!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vinyl Vednesday 12/9


[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it kinda is. This week’s entry is on New Found Glory, in honor of their sold out 12/12 acoustic show at the Trocadero with Dashboard Confessional. E-mail pelonej1@gmail.com with your own big finds!]

Records: New Found Glory’s New Found Glory (2000) on picture disc, “Listen to My Friends” single (2009) on clear white, and Not Without a Fight (2009) on tan camo marble something or other.

Place of Purchase: The self-titled album came from eBay. “Listen to My Friends” was an impulse buy from Hot Topic, while Not Without a Fight was an intended HT purchase from the start.

Thoughts: Oh Lordy, how I wish I owned Nothing Gold Can Stay on vinyl, but that ish is too expensive for a humble service worker like me. Of course, now that I say that, I know I’m going to try to buy it again sometime soon. For the time being, though, my best NFG find is their self-titled second record. There are a number of different picture discs floating out there; mine has a skateboard on one side and a joystick on the other. Gold will always be my favorite NFG record, but the s/t is mighty fine as well – big hooks, big breakdowns, even the occasional bass-boom abound on this hardcore-indebted pop-punk ode to girls and their mysterious ways. Side note: The guy I bought this from packaged my copy with Sticks and Stones sleeves, which gave me quite a start when I opened the box. I saved them because… well… maybe I’ll need them for packing material as well?

Less significant to me (now) is the band’s “Listen to Your Friends” single. The B-side is a karaoke (re: instrumental) version of the song, which I don’t have any reason to listen to ever, although it did come with a limited edition poster priced at a whopping $2. This seven-inch was valuable to me at one point, though. After Coming Home, I’d pretty much given up on NFG. But when I saw this single while shopping at Hot Topic, I felt this nagging, Irish Catholic guilt-derived need to give the band one more chance (perhaps the pretty great EP The Tip of the Iceberg contributed to this feeling). Thank goodness for my deeply rooted neuroses, because “Listen to Your Friends” is a classic NFG romper-stomper, which inspired me to pick up…

Not Without a Fight is a nifty return to form. The band’s output got spotty after New Found Glory – I hated Sticks and Stones (although I’m apparently in the minority), loved Catalyst, and just did not dig Coming Home and From the Screen to Your Stereo Part II – but their work since then has been great. Their topics have slightly broadened, in that a lot of these love songs could just as easily be about the band, but it’s still the NFG I fell in love with in high school. They’re pop-punk lifers, and apparently so am I.