Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vinyl Vednesday 3/31/10

[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 one. This week’s installment is humor-related in honor of April Fool’s Day… which is actually tomorrow. Whatever. E-mail with your own big finds!]

Records: Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety (1978) on black, Leonard Nimoy’s The Way I Feel (1968) on black, and Steven Wright’s I Have a Pony (1985) on black.

Place of Purchase: I honestly can’t remember where I bought High Anxiety. It doesn’t have a plastic sleeve, so let’s say Disc World. Nimoy and Wright both came from a street vendor at the Montgomery Mall. I’ve seen The Way I Feel go for up to $60 at hipster record stores in Philadelphia, so I was stoked to get it for a buck.

Thoughts: Sometimes I buy albums because I think they’ll be funny. In the case of High Anxiety, I was kind of wrong. I say “kind of” because the album’s funniest parts require previous knowledge of Mel Brooks’ films in order to fully appreciate them. I also say “kind of” because High Anxiety is only kind of a soundtrack to the movie of the same name. It doubles as a greatest hits package for Brooks, as the B-side features some of his best musical bits – “Springtime for Hitler” in The Producers, Madeline Kahn as a very sleepy prostitute in “I’m Tired” from Blazing Saddles, Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle faking normalcy to the tune of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in Young Frankenstein. Spread throughout are classical overtures from the films, and there’s nothing funny about that. I dig the album, but it’s not exactly a gateway to Brooks’ comedic genius, even if “Springtime for Hitler” is still one of the funniest songs ever written.

My interest in Leonard Nimoy’s The Way I Feel is tied to my love of William Shatner’s spoken word albums. Has Been (the one that’s funny on purpose) really is one of my favorite albums, while The Transformed Man is a camp classic. The Way I Feel is… well, let’s just say it’s the sort of album I appreciate in an ironic fashion. It opens with Nimoy singing the lusty “I’d Love Making Love to You.” It ends with him committin’ crimes on “The Hitch-Hiker.” In between are many, many folky songs that I would never have expected Nimoy’s rich voice to have approached, including Pete Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song). Sure, I loved him on Seeing Ear Theatre when I was a kid, but this is just bad. Sadly, the album does not include this choice single:

I Have a Pony is the one album discussed this week that’s funny all the time, and on purpose. I know Steven Wright is a strong influence on a lot of the contemporary comics I know, and Pony still holds up 25 years later. It’s filled with absurd one-liners like “I was arrested for scalping low numbers at the deli” and “I bought some batteries, but they weren’t included, so I had to buy them again.” With such short jokes, the tracklisting on the back cover is meaningless; Pony consists of two sides of the same ridiculous yet hilarious live show.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stegosaur - 'Adventure'

There are worse bands to rip off than Cursive. To that end, Stegosaur’s new Adventure seven-inch gets points for drawing heavily from The Storms of Early Summer: Semantics of Song. To describe the band in terms of Cursive’s discography, they haven’t yet opened up their instrumentation to the highs of Domestica or The Ugly Organ.

Opener “Headache” is pretty straightforward – Saddle Creek-indebted punk with quavering vocals. “Big Breath” shakes the formula by skewing towards mellow indie pop. It’s really catchy, mildly twee.

The flipside’s lone track, “Bloooooood,” (Yes, there are seven Os. Yes, I counted) is less successful. It’s long, mid-tempo, and not particularly dynamic. Oh sure, there are handclaps and organ and gang vox, yet somehow none of that really matters. The song is boring, but at least it’s kept a safe distance away from “Headache” and “Big Breath.”

Adventure presents two possible paths for Stegosaur. Side A is fun and good and not terrible. Side B is the overwrought opposite of that. If the band can avoid indulging moody yet uninteresting pieces like “Bloooooood,” then its full-length might be killer. Hell, they could be the new Cursive.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dillinger Escape Plan - 'Option Paralysis'

With their new self-released album Option Paralysis, the Dillinger Escape Plan continues to refine their mathcore style, resulting in an album that might appeal to more people while still being heavy as all dang heck. Oh sure, tunes like “Good Neighbor” get down with the technical hardcore sound fans expect. But the group also slows things down, like on opener “Farewell, Mona Lisa,” and even toys with more ambient music, to great success.

Option Paralysis also marks yet another line-up shift, as drummer Billy Rhymer finally makes his recorded debut since joining the group last year. He’s a good fit for the band’s music, which switches styles often. Jeff Tuttle (guitar, although he’s only credited with additional vocals here), Benjamin Weinman (guitar/piano) and Liam Wilson (bass) all return. Vocalist Greg Puciato still sounds awesome, adjusting his delivery to the music’s intensity, Mike Patton-like. It’s the quieter moments on the album that make me respect him more as a hardcore/metal singer.

Given that the members have always revealed musical tastes that extend beyond hardcore, be it through their covers or their tour mates, it’s hard to judge how much pianist Mike Garson influenced the group’s sonic shift on “Widower” and “I Wouldn’t If You Didn’t.” Dude’s played with David Bowie, Smashing Pumpkins, No Doubt and Nine Inch Nails. Without him, Aladdin Sane wouldn’t exist. His playing on “Widower,” which accommodates the shifts from rock to mathcore to jazz without warning, is similarly important.

But then, shifting dynamics have always been DEP’s style. They’re just expanding their horizons. Option Paralysis draws in a number of unlikely sources and somehow makes them hardcore. This isn’t smooth jazz; DEP shapes their influences according to their desires. So when I say “Chinese Whispers” has electronic flourishes, there’s no need to fret. The song shreds.

Of course, there are also plenty of tunes that straight up obliterate. Short, aggressive numbers like “Crystal Morning” and “Endless Endings” should go over well in the pit. So while some might be put off by the group’s reach, there are enough “conservative” cuts on Option Paralysis to make it still a worthy purchase for the puritanical. Like Miss Machine and Ire Works before it, Option Paralysis reveals how far technical metal can go.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Versus: '24 Hour Revenge Therapy' v. 'Dear You'

[Versus pits two of an artist’s classic albums against each other even if they’re stylistically different, because that “you can’t compare apples and oranges” bullshit is for people without balls, spines, or all those other things that separate us from the villainous jellyfish.]

While their discography consists of only four albums (plus a live record and rarities compilation), Jawbreaker remains influential in the punk community, perhaps even more so now than when they were taking shit for signing to a major label back in the mid-’90s. Their swan song, Dear You, was lambasted by ’90s punks for being too clean-sounding and, well, un-punk. Now, though, those lines have blurred, and Jawbreaker has become part of a small cache of ’90s punk acts, along with Hot Water Music and Discount, that upcoming bands must contend with at all times. A quick glimpse through Alternative Press’ reviews section reveals dozens of comparisons to this holy trinity, though such labels are rarely deserved (although Banner Pilot might deserve the crown in time). Simply put, nobody combined raw emotion with dynamic musicianship, filtered through a punk lens, like Blake Schwarzenbach, Chris Bauermeister, and Adam Pfahler.

The album Jawbreaker is perhaps most universally loved for (within the subculture anyway) is 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. It’s the closest the group ever came to making a straightforward pop punk record. At 11 songs and 37 minutes, it’s a quick, exhilarating listen. It’s much easier to spin than Unfun (too long) or Bivouac (too dark, dense, and dissonant). Ten of the 11 tracks are of comparable peppy quality and could be played in just about any order, although the placement of the midtempo number “Ache” at track seven feels like a deliberate palate cleanser, a seventh inning stretch if you will. Otherwise, it’s a collection of what Schwarzenbach self-mockingly dubbed “stupid, happy songs.” Sure, you can dance to these tunes, so long as you don’t consider the topics: wasted potential (“Boat on a Hill”), ex-flames (“Ache,” “Do You Still Hate Me?”), and small-minded fucks (“Boxcar”). This one’s the crowd pleaser.

But it’s not my favorite Jawbreaker album.

Perhaps my opinion on the group is different because I grew up independently of puritan punk politics. Plus, I got to hear the band’s albums backwards, not chronologically. I don’t care that Jawbreaker A) signed to a major label or B) changed their sound for Dear You. In fact, I’d argue that Dear You is more like a streamlined version of Bivouac. Sure, Rob Cavallo’s production is a lot cleaner, but the music is more complex and the lyrics get way more depressing. Compared to the group’s overall output, Revenge Therapy is an anomaly, where Dear You is the pinnacle of their style. The topics covered on both albums are similar – scene politics, lady problems, and being really, really sad – but Dear You pushes these things further. Some of the guitar tones Schwarzenbach and Cavallo came up with here are just so obliterating, like on “Basilica” or “Lurker II: Son of Night.” Yet I can’t call Dear You a strictly “guitar record” since Bauermeister’s muscular bass lines and Pfahler’s loose, constantly evolving drum parts are so essential to the sound. Some folks might call that a power trio.

24 Hour Revenge Therapy is a fine record and I listen to it often. But I’ve never put individual tracks on repeat for hours at a time like I have with Dear You cuts such as “Accident Prone” or “Unlisted Track.” Oddly enough, it also features some of the group’s catchiest songs as well, like “Save Your Generation,” “Oyster,” and especially “Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault,” all of which better what Revenge Therapy achieved. Revenge Therapy may remain the crowd favorite, as a recent conversation with my co-workers at revealed, but in my heart, Dear You remains the better choice.

That said, I had a blast listening to both albums on repeat this morning, so I guess I’m the real winner.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

regarding Science Club.

I am in a band called Science Club. We recorded a demo last week, and you can download it here.

The group is the mightiest of power trios, consisting of myself on drums, Left of the Dial scribe Nate Adams on guitar/vox, and Nick Elmer of Nickmongo fame on bass/vox. Sometimes I scream stuff like "Hail Satan!" in the background. Our influences include ice cream, Midwestern punk bands, Star Trek, MxPx, The Mountain Goats, Ted Leo, and the stupid shit our friends do. Half of our current song catalog consists of Mountain Goats covers, one of which, "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton," is included the download above.

Of the originals, "Song in the Sea" is my favorite to play. It's peppy and it's about Ecco the Dolphin for the Sega Genesis. That game features the second most disturbing drowning music, next to Sonic the Hedgehog 2, also for the Genesis. "1897" is fun to play too, even though it's about Jack the Ripper. I feel slightly hypocritical playing that one, since I used to rip on The Misfits and Saves the Day for writing songs about the degradation of women, but my girlfriend is a member of RAINN and she says it's OK.

A few notes of apology: 1) The demo is pretty sloppy. We've slowly but surely been turning "Funky C," our punkiest tune, into a song that does not fall apart in the middle. It's almost there. 2) Some of the lyrics for the songs aren't finished yet. For example, Nate didn't mean it when he sang "Tell me something that you wanna believe / And I can you show all the biggest butts that you've ever seen" on "Doowop Breakdown." That's just a joke between friends. 3) What you're getting here are six first takes recorded on a single microphone without any editing, which is why "Funky C" is 90 seconds of song and 99 seconds of us discussing Star Trek: The Next Generation. That said, I think the levels are good enough to function as reference tracks for us and sneak peaks for all of you hypothetical people out there. Anyway, shit's free.

QUESTION: Should we change the title of "1897" to "1888?"

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gorillaz - 'Plastic Beach'

I’ll start by saying that I respek the heck out of Damon Albarn. Dude’s worked with tons of artists I love – Elastica, The Rentals, and half of The Clash among them. Oh yeah, and he was in Blur. They were awesome. Have you heard “Coffee and TV?” Shit rules. But while I dig Albarn in general, he strikes me as someone that you need to say “no” to every once in a while. As evidence, consider Plastic Beach, the third proper full-length from Albarn’s “fictional” band Gorillaz.

At 57 minutes, Plastic Beach is bit long and boring. Oh sure, there are some stellar electro-world-whatever tunes spread around (more on that later), but man could this album have used some editing. I’d start by cutting the two intro tracks. “Orchestral Intro” is alright enough with its minute or so of fanfare; no one is going to swear by this track, but it’s short enough that it’s not much of a bother. Less middling is intro number two, “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach,” featuring Snoop Dogg. Snoop repeats the title an awful lot of times while Albarn lingers in the background. The rapping is superfluous to an already superfluous track.

But then, that could be said of most of the rappers. Gorillaz was partially conceived as an outlet for Albarn’s interest in hip-hop, but the tunes here don’t lend themselves much to partying. Mos Def gets a nice flow late in the disc on “Sweepstakes,” but otherwise the rappers come off underwhelming.

Albarn himself is rarely the vocal focus here, although he gets in a few sleepy turns like on “Rhinestone Eyes.” Oddly enough, the most successful guest star is Lou Reed. Musically, “Some Kind of Nature” is the same as every other song on Plastic Beach: low key with little electronic flourishes. But somehow Reed’s weathered voice provides a welcome contrast to the song’s bleeps, blips, and bloops.

Plastic Beach could have used a little more work. The songs tend to blur together. Like his other side project, The Good, The Bad, and The Queen, Albarn shows a tendency to lock into a midtempo groove and stay there, which gets dull quickly. For every retro-’80s success – “Some Kind of Nature,” “On Melancholy Hill” – there are plenty of dull picks to kill the fun.

Vinyl Vednesday 3/24/10

[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 one. E-mail with your own big finds!]

Records: Armalite’s Armalite (2006) on white, Fake Problems’ How Far Our Bodies Go (2007) on black, and Peter, Paul and Mary’s The Bet of Peter, Paul and Mary: Ten Years Together (1970) on black.

Place of Purchase: Armalite came from Repo and PPM is from Siren. Bodies, meanwhile, was purchase when I saw the band on tour with Crime in Stereo at the Moose Lodge in Doylestown.

Thoughts: “Super group” gets tossed around a lot. Most bands that get that label might have one or two songs, but can’t top its’ members other works (Them Crooked Vultures < Foo Fighters + Nirvana). One group that actually lives up to the name is Armalite. The band is a who’s who of punk lifers – Dr. Dan Yemin (Lifetime, Paint It Black, Kid Dynamite, my dreams *swoon!*), Atom Goren (Atom and His Package), Mike McKee (Kill the Man Who Questions, Amateur Party), and Jeff Ziga (Affirmative Action Jackson). What you get here is 24 minutes of pop-punky hardcore. Think Kid Dynamite with Atom and His Package’s melodies – toughxcore and insanely catchy. My only complaint about this band is that they don’t play nearly enough shows. OK, time to play “Dan’s Hands Melt” 100 more times…

OK, I’m back. Fake Problems got slagged with the Against Me! tag when they started off – Tom Gabel’s Sabot label released a bunch of their stuff too – but they’re pretty different. If anything, they’ve taken the folk-punk tag in the opposite direction – more indebted to Creedence Clearwater Revival than The Replacements, country-fied ‘n’ bonerfried, and thoroughly silly. How Far Our Bodies Go collects 15 of my favorite FP tunes [NOTE: The album is only 13 tracks long. Two of the tracks combine songs].


I got into Peter, Paul and Mary after I saw footage of them performing at the Newport Folk Festival (I think). Their harmonies grabbed me right away. Like the members themselves, the vocals were warm, even playful at times. I opted for this greatest hits package, which showcases some stellar covers of tunes like Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” “Jet Plane” is given a cascading multi-part vocal that’s just lovely; I prefer it to the original. The group’s originals are a mixed bag – “If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)” is uplifting; the cynical “I Dig Rock and Roll Music” is kinda douchey) – but overall, I’m glad I picked this up.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ted Leo and The Pharmacists - 'The Brutalist Bricks'

In these modern times, the world needs Ted Leo. Both on good days (Congress gave U.S. citizens health care forever!) and bad (My girlfriend’s neighbor lost her dog yesterday!). On The Brutalist Bricks, Leo and his backing band The Pharmacists blend the personal and political yet again on this, their sixth solo album of Celtic punk ‘n’ power pop songs. My Catholic guilt is smacking me something fierce for ever doubting he didn’t have another album in him.

While Leo’s sound has remained consisted throughout his career – Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello, Paul Weller, and Billy Bragg in a musical orgy – there are slight alterations that differentiate his albums. Brutalist Bricks is more concise than the double album-length Living With the Living and less indebted to Thin Lizzy’s guitars than The Tyranny of Distance… which I guess puts it in league with the similarly stripped down punk fervor of Shake the Sheets.

In some ways, the record is unfocused. The songs don’t always segue gracefully. The last two or three tracks could have been excised in favor of a tighter album. The intro to “Bottled Up in Cork” has little to do with the rest of the song, either lyrically or musically. And yeah, Leo has a habit of making pub-ready rock without anthemic choruses – dude loves words.

But these problems are slight. Bricks is yet another stellar record from Leo. Remember when I knocked “Bottled Up in Cork” earlier? It’s also my favorite song on the album. Tons of reviews have quoted the song’s opening line – “There was a resolution pending on the United Nations floor / In reference to the question, ‘What’s a peace keeping force for?’” – but none I’ve read so far bothered to mention that the rest of the song is about traveling through Europe and getting in touch with family. I’m pretty sure Leo is still haunted by the ghost of the Bush years (“Your tribuneral mockeries of justice still dog my steps”), and I relate to that sentiment quite a bit. I also enjoy the guitar solo.

The first 10 tracks of the album are also great. “The Mighty Sparrow” opens the album with Leo’s trademark nervous energy, complemented by drummer Chris Wilson’s appropriately frenetic beats. “Mourning in America” ups the ante with a wall of guitar noise mixed with quietly menacing verses. “Ativan Eyes” and “Even Heroes Have to Die” chase “Mourning” with a poppier chorus. Contrastingly, there are some outright punk jams like “The Stick,” “Woke Up Near Chelsea,” and “Where Was My Brain?”.

The Brutalist Bricks put a spring in my step before Pennsylvania thawed out last week. Now that the weather is clearing up (today’s rain clouds notwithstanding), it’s a logical choice for feel-good jams 24/7. As the years pass, it’s good to know there are rockers like Leo out there, continuously tossing out quality tunes for the downtrodden.

The Soviettes - 'Rarities'

Dearly departed Minnesota pop punk act The Soviettes always had a no-bullshit presentation. The group’s songs were dead-on shots of Ramonsey fire, usually clocking in somewhere between 100 and 200 seconds. They released three records in consecutive years. The titles were sequential numbers. Album covers swapped palettes and logos but remained otherwise similar. So the only real surprise about their new Rarities compilation is that it’s coming out four years after the group’s dissolution.

Of course it would be a solid 35-minute dance-fest in the vein of Tsunami Bomb and Teenage Bottlerocket. Of course the artwork would look the same. Of course they’d give it away for free. Like the band’s name suggests, these songs belong to the people.

Given its thoroughly cheap price tag (FREE!), Rarities should function as an excellent introduction to folks who missed out on The Soviettes last decade, even though it’s also arguably the weakest album in the group’s discography. As members Annie Sparrows and Maren “Sturgeon” Macosko admitted in a recent interview with, some of these tunes are a bit rough. The harmonies that filled LP III are missing here. Sure, most of these songs predate the group’s Adeline material, but there’s still going to be a twang of disappointing for some fans looking for lost classics.

That’s relatively speaking, though. Rarities is still a good album, but given that the group’s three full-lengths were such tight pop punk concoctions, anything less cohesive pales. That’s why a rough track like “Twin Cities Sound” can be disappointing compared the group’s overall output yet still kick the shit out of 99 percent of all other music ever written.

But enough belly-achin’ – Rarities is priced to move and er’rybody should take advantage. These 18 songs run The Soviettes’ pop punk playbook hard and fast. The group doesn’t fuck with their musical formula, but they are willing to experiment with languages (Japanese tune “Mazacon” is mighty catchy, even if I have no idea what Susy Sharp is singing). Songs like “Plus One” and “Matt’s Song” (which was later rerecorded for LP) are bouncy and fun. Thirty-five minutes of free, high quality pop punk is hard to deny. Rarities reaffirms The Soviettes’ excellence. Now if only the band could reunite forever…

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ghost Robot Ninja Bear - 'One Pedal to Another'

It seems like just yesterday I was writing Nakatomi Plaza’s obituary, and now frontman Oscar Albis Rodriguez is back with a pair of releases: Ludlow Lion’s No Stories and single “One Pedal to Another” from Ghost Robot Ninja Bear. Both are/were digitally released for a donation-based price, although No Stories recently saw a physical release. And while Rodriquez is only the bass player for Ludlow Lions – frontman/guitarist Brendan Coon is the star here – my Plaza fandom maintains I celebrate Rodriguez at every turn.

So, uh, hey. I like your music.

But Ludlow Lions doesn’t have much in common with Nakatomi Plaza. Grieving NP fans would be better off checking out Ghost Robot Ninja Bear’s first single. There are plenty of similarities between the two groups – Rodriguez handles the mic with the same gruff delivery. He displays the kind of guitar pyrotechnics heard on Unsettled and Ghosts. Both bands have/had awesome names. But there are slight differences. For example, I’m pretty sure Ghost Robot Ninja Bear is not a Die Hard reference, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen Die Hard Harder Hardest.

“One Pedal to Another” is a hair slower than the average NP tune, with guitar tones that, weirdly enough, recall Smashing Pumpkins. The differences are subtle, though, so fans who liked anything Rodriguez has done in the last decade or so should be on board. “Blood, The Tango” is a little closer to the NP mold – super catchy, kinda punky, totally awesome.

Both tunes are tasty, so click here to contribute to good music. A second single is due out June 15. SPOILER ALERT: It’s good too. A full-length will follow eventually.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Vinyl Vednesday 3/17/10

[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 features three Irish bands in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. I’m half-Irish and all-ignorant of my cultural identity. Have a Smithwick’s and e-mail with your own big finds!]

Records: My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless (1991) on black, The Pogues’ Rum Sodomy & the Lash (1985) on black, and U2’s War (1983) on black.

Place of Purchase: Loveless came from Repo Records while Rum was a Siren find. War was the result of some crate-digging at the dearly departed Disc World in Conshohocken.

Thoughts: I tend to overrate Loveless when I talk about it, which some big dumb jerks don’t appreciate (SCREW YOU FOREVER WITH A BRICK, NATE ADAMS*), but it’s hard to talk about the album without hyperbole. It belongs to that rare lexicon of records that is often imitated, never improved upon. I love plenty of bands that capture elements of My Bloody Valentine’s sound – M83, Jesu, Pains of Being Pure at Heart – but ultimately it’s MBV’s Loveless that I turn to most frequently. It sounds great cranked up or turned down low, as wave after wave of synesthesia hits me. There is nothing like it. Loveless is an experimental record that somehow forges guitar noise into a dream pop setting. Some folks sneer at the band’s dependence on effects pedals over dexterity, but the truth is no one else has been able to balance so fine a blend of catchy chaos. Most groups end up either too formless or too mild.

The Pogues’ sound is a lot easier to copy. In fact, there’s a whole subgenre of punk dedicated to recreating their style. While I prefer Flogging Molly, I must pay Shane MacGowan and company their due for updating Irish folk for the punk rock set. I must also confess I was ignorant of the band’s catalog until after college, when I picked up Rum Sodomy & the Lash. I didn’t buy it because it was one of the band’s better reviewed albums, or because Elvis Costello produced it. Rather, I bought it because of Side Two, Track One: “Dirty Old Town.” I’ve loved this song since Ted Leo covered it back in 2003. I’ve seduced my girlfriend many a time by singing the lyrics softly to her in bars and bedrooms (thus creating the impression that I am much more cultured than I really am). For me, covering this standard is the ultimate test of one’s Irish roots. The Pogues came through, though, and their originals were up to snuff as well. It’s funny; on record at least, I don’t think the band strays that far from folk music. They just play it a little bit more enthusiastically, is all.

In true Irish fashion, two-thirds of this post is about bands people love to hate. In My Bloody Valentine’s case, that hate stems from hipsters who think they’re too cool for school. In U2’s case, well… shit. I’m going to say Paul Tsikitas and my dad are the only other people I know who like U2, and we all agree that Bono is kind of, every so slightly, maybe just a little wee bit of a douche bag. But hey, he’s done a ton to fight AIDS and world hunger. War has been my favorite U2 album since I purchased it in high school. Opener “Sunday Bloody Sunday” gets my adrenaline pumping thanks to intense vocals and Larry Mullen’s military drum beat. “Like a Song…” touches on the divide in Ireland. Bono once famously said “Fuck the revolution,” and “Like a Song…” distills rage over the pointlessness of the Protestant/Catholic conflict – aren’t they all Christian? War is passionate throughout, bitter and hopeful in alternate breaths, which is probably why it dominated my entry on U2 for Playlist.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, drunk white people!

*I’m sorry, Nate. It’s the Orangina talking. I loves you, baby girl.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Smoke or Fire - 'Prehistoric Knife Fight'

Three years after dropping the excellent This Sinking Ship, Smoke or Fire is finally serving up new tunes for the masses. This week alone sees two new releases: Wasted Potential, an acoustic split between frontman Joe McMahon and the Lawrence Arms’ Brendan Kelly, and Prehistoric Knife Fight, a two-song seven-inch and hopefully a preview of what to expect when the band’s third full-length finally drops.

There is one thing wrong with Knife Fight: It’s not nearly long enough to satiate any fan’s appetite. Which is probably the point; while the band has toured pretty consistently since This Sinking Ship dropped, three years is a long-ass time in punk rock to wait for a follow-up. Knife Fight should remind plenty of listeners that SoF dishes out high quality punk rock that meets somewhere between Lawrence Arms’ drunk-punk anthems and Avail’s Southern political awareness.

It almost doesn’t matter which side of the record one chooses to put on first. Both tunes are good. As the opener, “Speak Easy” explodes right away with twin guitars and pounding drums. The production is slightly less glossy than on Ship – not that the band’s sophomore album was overproduced or anything – while still maintaining a clarity lacking from full-length debut Above the City.

“Modesty” could be called the more introspective of the two songs, but only because it slowly builds into a rocker. Lyrically, it’s in keeping with a lot of Smoke or Fire’s songs about getting stuck in a rut – “So the days turn into years / Quick fix has become a career” goes one memorable bit. Speaking of quick fixes, Prehistoric Knife Fight is only four-and-a-half minutes long, but I’m gonna have to find a way to make it last until LP #3 comes out. Welcome back, guys.