Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vinyl Vednesday 4/28/2010


[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. This is the first installment in like a month that isn’t themed. E-mail pelonej1@gmail.com with your own big finds!]

Records: Band of Horses’ Everything All the Time (2006) on black, The Ergs!’ The Ben Kweller EP (2002) on black, and Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here (1975) on black.


Place of Purchase: BoH came from Repo Records (I think). Ergs! was an eBay find, although it was the first album that got me into the band circa 2006. Wish You Were Here was purchased at defunct comics/records/collectibles shop Legends in Plymouth Meeting.


Thoughts: Band of Horses may go down as the very last band MTV introduced me to. Well, actually it was MTV2’s Subterranean, but that’s close enough. The group went on the show to discuss their album and introduce their new video, a grainy black and white piece set to their extremely awesome song “Funeral.” “Funeral” remains one of the group’s best songs, all rocking and melancholic and what-not. Luckily, the rest of the album holds up too. “The First Song” never fails to pick me up, as does follow-up single “The Great Salt Lake.” Also this one of my favorite albums of the ’00s.


Oh man a theme is slightly emerging: The Ergs!’ The Ben Kweller EP was one of my favorite EPs of the previous decade. Tunes about girls and BK are two things I can get behind. I find it funny that the band broke up two years ago and is still putting out records. It’s even funnier because all of these songs were recorded before their send-off That’s It…Bye. We could be dining on Ergs! tunes for years to come and they’ll all still be older than an EP that dropped in 2008. This paragraph doesn’t have much to do with the EP, but what else can I say at this point?


I’ve been debating about launching a new column for this blog, tentatively titled “Asshole.” It’ll contain semi-ignorant generalizations about bands I don’t care about in the hopes of soliciting a discussion via the comments section. One of the subjects I’m mulling over is Pink Floyd. I tried to get into Floyd in high school, basically because that’s the kind of music my stoner friends gravitated towards. I picked up two of the group’s albums: Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. Dark Side was shit. But Wish You Were Here actually grabbed me. I find this odd since one of my biggest criticisms against the band is that their songs are really repetitive and sound the same, and Wish You Were Here’s songs are literally so, since most of the album consists of the nine movements that make up song “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” Yet I find myself drawn to all of the synths and cynicism. I’m generally turned off by songs about how evil the recording industry is, but I’m down with tunes like “Welcome to the Machine” and “Have a Cigar.” Despite my criteria for what music I like, Wish You Were Here is the amazing exception. Any suggestions on where to go next?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

regarding Hole's 'Nobody's Daughter.'

I promised my girlfriend I wouldn't knock the new Hole album, because she's the sexy boss of my heart. So here's a link to stream Nobody's Daughter, which dropped today. If you have a Facebook profile, click the "like" button to access the stream.

I'll say a few things, though:

1. It's not as bad as Courtney Love's acoustic AOL session led me to believe.

2. There are too many ballads.

3. She's still clearly writing about Kurt Cobain.

4. A small handful of the tracks are the best songs she's written in 12+ years. If Love had written a few more tracks like "Samantha" and "Skinny Little Bitch," I would have been very, very stoked on this album.

5. Oddly enough, she's starting to sound like Bob Dylan. How the hell did that happen?

Now go make your own decision.

Monday, April 26, 2010

regarding the first two Science Club shows.

The mid-20s fail brigade that is Science Club made its live debut last night at Temple University - for charity! We played five songs, three of which were covers. We made mistakes, but the 50+ kids in attendance didn't seem to care much. They laughed at our jokes, except when Nate talked about Star Trek and the devil. We wore Power Ranger shirts and played enthusiastically. This set was 20 minutes long. Afterward we crammed ourselves into Nick's car and listened to Fang Island to celebrate our not-failure (is that... victory?).

Then we played an acoustic basement show for a victory lap. We (or at least I) drank cheap beer and played for about an hour. Drunk and/or stoned kids stopped by, but for the most part we were just playing for Liz (Nate's girlfriend), Angelina (Nick's girlfriend), and Erin (who had homework to do but stayed anyway because she is twee and twee people are polite). I stood with a snare drum and cymbal - Violent Femmes style! - and danced, although it made me lose the beat a few times. It was a silly, stupid night. We decided that for acoustic shows we will be known as Study Hall.

Also we ate delicious pastries. Here are the things that define Science Club:
1. Unprofessionalism.
2. Desserts.
3. Star Trek.

My goals for Science Club:
1. Open for The Next Big Thing. Steal at least half of their songs.
2. Charm the pants off of hipster teens, then take their money.
3. Eat more ice cream.

I like this band a lot.

Mean Jeans - 'Tears in My Beers'

Fresh from their super catchy, super fun Ramones tribute Are You Serious, pop-punkers Mean Jeans return with a two-song seven-inch for Trouble in Mind. “Tears in My Beers” and “Cool to Drive” are probably as close to a concept album as the band is ever going to make. When I say the songs show little artistic growth, I really mean the group succeeds in yet again whipping out spitfire surf punk for pogo enthusiasts.


“Tears in My Bears” is exactly what the title suggests: Dude gets bummed, cries into his beer, then drinks his beer. I suppose there are worse bodily fluids to put in your drinks.


“Cool to Drive” is the better song, even if it does kind of endorse drunk driving, but the hook that propels the chorus “I don’t care if it takes a hundred years / I’m gonna drink a million beers” is undeniable. My drankin’ buddies have a slogan: “Beers for years.” I like to think “Cool to Drive” could be our unofficial anthem, but I’m not sure how well sloppy hands and vinyl grooves will work together.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Caspian - 'You Are the Conductor'

I still don’t know what post-rock means. I just think of Mogwai and go from there. In that sense, I suppose Caspian counts as a post-rock group. You Are the Conductor, the group’s 2005 debut EP, was recently reissued by current label The Mylene Sheath. While it consists of six tracks, it could arguably be viewed as a single, 28-minute piece of epic, rocking, fluid post-rock music.


“Quovis” is a brief introductory track, a trailer of sorts for what the listener can expect, as sparse notes increase in loudness until drummer Joe Vickers crashes through the atmosphere. In a way, Vickers sounds like he’s calling all the shots. His shimmering crashes wash out “Quovis” and announce track two, “Further Up.” The guitars can noodle or thunder as much as they please, but it’s ultimately the drums that decide when rockin’ is goin’ down.


“Further Up” expands on the ideas expressed in “Quovis” – more spacey jams, otherworldly rocking and so on in the vein of Envy (minus the screaming) or Mogwai (minus the humor). Interestingly, each of the songs doesn’t really end. Things usually associated with closing out a song – an outro, feedback – always bleed into the next track. The track listing is somewhat meaningless, then. Just put on the record and let it go.


At only 28 minutes in length, Conductor is able to accomplish all of its ideas before overstaying its welcome. Post-rock can get lengthy, yes, but Caspian drops its payload and wings on home before getting too self-indulgent. Which is probably why Mylene decided to re-release this EP. The new CD packaging recreates the feel of a vinyl record with its thick cardboard stock. The ink job looks good. That the packaging contains good music is a nice touch as well.

Dum Dum Girls - 'I Will Be'

The Internet is destroying words. Sure, there are still some fine institutions where a guy can get well-reasoned arguments about records, but for the most part, it’s one just s/f fest where anonymous commenters hurl feces at each other. Depending on who you read, for example, Dum Dum Girls are either a major buzz band thanks to their use of retro, lo-fi, pseudo-gothic pop songs (like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart of 2010!), or a really, really shitty band who writes stupid, useless songs for stupid, useless hipsters (like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart of 2010…?). Me, I fall somewhere in between.


I generally like I Will Be, the group’s full-length debut on Sub Pop Records. I finally picked the album up over the weekend. It dropped almost a month ago, which in Internet time makes it an artifact from another era. I was hesitant on account of all the over- and underrating going on, and to be honest my record collection is still too big despite several attempts to sell it off. But I’m glad I committed.


I Will Be is a solid collection of retro-leaning pop tunes. They’re noisy enough to defy mainstream conventions, not nearly noisy enough to deserve the phrase “noise pop” though. The songs are a little more tightly wound than the Pains or The Raveonettes, but fans of either group should be down with Dum Dum Girls. These are lo-fi love songs. They’re hazy and romantic and ever so slightly macabre, even kitschy in the case of “Jail La La.


That said, I had to check my CD player twice to make sure it wasn’t set to shuffle. The songs get a little repetitive, which is bad for a 29 minute album. So while the songs are cohesive, they’re also too restricted by the group’s artistic limitations. The Girls recycle the same drum machine parts a few times, which doesn’t help.


Dum Dum Girls produced a record that’s decent throughout. Maybe I Will Be will round out the bottom 20 of my top albums for the year. Maybe I’ll sell my copy three to five years from now. Maybe their next album will tell me everything I ever wanted to know and feel and make me cry for days but in the sort of way that gives me comfort, because it will remind me that life is worth experiencing. Shit man, I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to make any over-the-top statements.

Vinyl Vednesday 4/21/2010


[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. This week’s installment is part two of a two-part series on Record Store Day. Here are three vinyl finds from RSD 2010. Viva la vinyl and, as always, e-mail pelonej1@gmail.com with your own big finds!]


Records: Against Me!’s “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” seven-inch (2010) on black, Deftones’ “Rocket Skates” seven-inch (2010) on white, and Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band’s “Wrecking Ball” ten-inch (2010) on black.


Place of Purchase: You best believe AM! was pre-ordered from Repo Records, while Deftones was an impulse buy. I found out about the Springsteen exclusive too late to reserve a copy at Repo, so my girlfriend and I jetted over to a.k.a. music on 2nd street when she overheard someone saying they had a huge stack of “Wrecking Ball” records. Good thing too, since it’s going for up to $70 on eBay.


Thoughts: While I’m not too keen on Against Me!’s video for “Rapid Decompression,” I’ve been coming round on “I Was a Teenage Anarchist.” Sonically, it’s very much in keeping with New Wave’s rock leanings. I relate to the lyrics in a somewhat backwards way. The song is about frontman Tom Gabel’s attempts to reconcile his anarchist political leanings with how his life is turning out (like on “Beginning in an Ending!”), and realizing that the people he thought he was aligned with politically were actually fascists. I’ve never believed in anarchy, but I do agree with the song’s general message: If you get too consumed by your ideology of how freedom should work, you might end up becoming more oppressive and unforgiving than any of the political stances you claim to oppose. Anyway, the song is catchy and the acoustic version on the B-side is good too. I just wish the digital EP of the same name was the one getting a physical release – two tracks from upcoming album White Crosses and two non-LP B-sides sound mighty fine to me.


In a way, the Deftones single was my favorite RSD purchase. “Rocket Skates” hearkens back to the group’s White Pony heyday, combining metal with more ethereal elements as is their trademark. M83’s remix of the song on the B-side took some time to grow on me, though. At first it sounds like Anthony Gonzalez couldn’t figure out what to do with the song, so he gives it this awkward stuttering rhythm that threatens to derail the track until he finally goes, “Fuck it; I’m just going to transform this into an M83 song.” The song’s closing section shifts towards M83’s strengths – shoegaze, synths, loud drums – which happen to overlap with Deftone’s style nicely. These guys should work together again.


I was pretty devastated by Working on a Dream last year, to the point that I questioned if Springsteen would ever make another good album. While he hasn’t dropped a new full-length to assuage my doubts, I have three mediators to talk me down from my position:


  1. The record was forced out to coincide with Barack Obama’s inauguration.

  2. The record was also forced out because organ player Danny Federici was dying of cancer and the whole band wanted to play with him one last time.

  3. Later in the year, Springsteen debuted a live number called “Wrecking Ball” to commemorate the demolition of Giants Stadium. It’s pretty freaking awesome.


While I’m still wary of the Boss’ future artistic endeavors, I can’t deny the catchiness and intensity of “Wrecking Ball.” It’s a fitting tribute, a stellar sports anthem, and just a plain great song in the E Street tradition. Also of note is the B-side, “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” with Tom Morrello (who’s also covered the tune with Rage Against the Machine) doing a duet with Bruce. This version is pretty long at nearly nine minutes, but there’s no denying the song’s ghost story sobriety. Morrello pulls some weird sounds out of his bag of guitar tricks later on, and it gels better with The E Street Band than I would have thought.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Arranged Marriage - 'Dearly Beloved'

My dad and I connect on a musical level, in that we both enjoy Bruce Springsteen and U2. He always wanted to play drums; I know how to do play drums. But our musical relationship pales compared to the one father and son duo Brad and Scott Allen possess. Under the moniker Arranged Marriage, they’ve recorded a full-length, Dearly Beloved, which bridges the years between their generations. The album at times recalls both Harry Nilsson and Wilco, or George Harrison and Matt Sharp.


That the two have common musical ground shouldn’t be too surprising. Contemporary indie has drawn quite a bit from ’70s singer/songwriters, folkies and country balladeers in the last decade. But this familial combination sure puts a fine point on the connection. It’s clear that the name reflects just how well the two musicians’ tastes converge.

But then, the influences they draw from approach near-universal levels. Take “Brand New,” a track that would fit in perfectly with the Beatles’ druggy period. It’s hazy and the vocals take on an alien quality at times, but it’s still poppy and disciplined, just like the Beatles, a band that has succeeded in being completely over- and underrated by everyone on the planet.


Dearly Beloved might grab people’s attention with its backstory, but it’s the tunes that make the record worthwhile. Tracks like “Not a Waste of Time,” “Is All Mine” and opener “Sit Alone” are catchy, self-contained indie pop pleasures. The record’s only real drawback is the slight sameness of the songs. After “Brand New,” things might blur together for some listeners, but the songcraft is still fairly solid throughout. These guys knew what sound they were pursuing, and approached it with discipline, filling songs’ margins with handclaps, auxiliary percussion and backing vocals galore. This stuff should go over well with folks regardless of whether or not they’re invited to the next Allen family reunion.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Mountain Goats - 'The Life of the World to Come' DVD

Considering how prolific he is with his studio albums, it’s surprising how many quality rarities John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats drops. Recent releases like Black Pear Tree and Moon Colony Bloodbath saw some of his best songs of the decade, yet were relegated to limited edition, tour-only, vinyl-only releases. Obtaining these items is a rush – it’s like being in on a wonderful, beautiful, secret truth – but losing out can be maddening.


I’m glad I reserved a copy of The Life of the World to Come on DVD. Originally screened on a brief press tour, it finally saw a physical release for Record Store Day April 17. Limited to 1,500 copies, the film features Darnielle playing songs from last year’s album of the same name on piano or guitar, with the occasional supporting vocal from former TMG bassist/vocalist Rachel Ware. I already own the album on CD and limited edition purple vinyl (74 of 777). I declared it the best album of 2009. I fall under the designation “super fan” and am quite stoked on watching TMG Classic perform in such an intimate setting.


But you don’t need to know the significance of the venue (Pomona College, where Darnielle had his first piano recital as a wee lad). Nor do you need to know the significance of Ware’s return. Heck, you don’t even need to know the tracks or the Bible passages they reference or that the first song, “Enoch 18:14,” isn’t even on the album. Sure, it helps, but it’s not completely necessary.


Like the best concert films, The Life of the World to Come succeeds by avoiding the genre’s pitfalls (delusions of grandeur, bad audio). Credit for that goes to director Rian Johnson (Brick) and his crew. They filmed two takes for each song using a simple set-up – single portable camera with a dolly for quick movements when needed. Yet the crew captures numerous special moments – that grin when Darnielle starts getting into “Enoch 18:14,” or the way his voice quavers only on his ode to his deceased mother-in-law, “Matthew 25:21.” There are mistakes, but none of them derail the songs. If anything, they enhance the performances.


Supplementing the film is footage of a Q-and-A from Darnielle and Johnson’s press tour, as well as extensive liner notes. Both get funny and/or cryptic at times, as Darnielle is wont to do, but they’re appreciated. My only complaints against the film are minimal – I wish the DVD’s release was wider, and I wish it lasted longer than is probably reasonable on my part. Ninety minutes is a decent running time. Originally used for promotional purposes, Life affirms that the Mountain Goats’ songs work even when stripped to their barest bits, and in doing so stands up as a companion to and independent entity from last year’s album.

Nada Surf - 'If I Had a Hi-Fi'

If Record Store Day is the best holiday ever (and it totally is), then 2010 marked the best celebration of the day so far. Aside from the douches who put the Hold Steady exclusives up on eBay the day before (Dicks! Dicks for days!), April 17 was a day for picking up seven-inches and giggling like the school-girliest school girl. One RSD exclusive that I’ve been rocking all weekend is Nada Surf’s covers album, If I Had a Hi-Fi. While the album has been available at Nada Surf’s shows for a little while now, RSD marked the first time it was available in stores.


Which is somewhat of a shame since Hi-Fi is another reliably friendly mid-tempo indie rock success for the group. Sure, they’re still running the Let Go playbook, but the band’s style is so dang agreeable that this album deserves a wider release. And while these are all covers, Nada Surf truly makes them their own.


Granted, part of the album’s success has to do with the song selection. Between Hi-Fi and Tori Amos’ take on Strange Little Girls, I suspect that Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” is one of those songs that cannot be ruined. Just like on Girls, “Silence” is a highlight, as frontman Matthew Caws reworks the song’s hook for maximum catchiness. Put this one on a mix tape, stat.


I need to admit, though, that part of my love of this collection might stem from a place of ignorance. While I know of acts like the Moody Blues and Kate Bush, I don’t know their discography. Does it mean I enjoy covers of “Question” and “Love and Anger” less than is possible? Not necessarily – Nada Surf rocks “Question” like their still touring behind High/Low (featuring popular pop tune “Popular!”), and that’s something I feel qualified to enjoy quite a bit.


Much like Let Go, The Weight is a Gift and Lucky, If I Had a Hi-Fi is light, catchy and expertly sequenced. With covers ranging from the Soft Pack to Coralie Clement, it offers a look inside Nada Surf’s musical tastes. Turns out dudes know some good tunes.


If I Had a Hi-Fi will see a wide release June 8.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Kaki King - 'Junior'

Five albums into her career, guitar virtuoso Kaki King is starting to show signs of fatigue. Having made the most technically accomplished (Everybody Loves You), epically spacey (…Until We Felt Red), and straight up catchy (Dreaming of Revenge) albums of her career, perhaps she was about due. While her new release Junior is by no means a bad album, it does fall short of the quality standard she has established for herself.


Part of this comes from King’s shift away from her strengths – namely, less guitar. Everybody Loves You showcased her knack for a percussive style, one that emphasized slapping and fret tapping over power chords, but since then, she’s downplayed that style in favor of more indie rock fare, even fronting an actual band on guitar and vocals. But King’s talents as a singer and lyricist aren’t quite on par with her guitar skills, which sink Junior a little.


Admittedly, the record starts out fine. The first four tracks sound like Dreaming leftovers – kind of ambient yet catchy and self-contained. But then “The Hoopers of Hudspeth” goes for a slower acoustic style, but it’s mostly filler. Follow-up “My Nerves That Committed Suicide” bites Red’s style a little too much.


The album’s second half features two strong, pissed off tracks, though. The post-punk-y “Death Head” sounds like early Bloc Party, while closer “Sunnyside” finds King getting painfully, earnestly, angrily direct about getting rejected by an ungrateful lover. It’s not quite as nuanced as the work she did with The Mountain Goats for Black Pear Tree, but man does it hit hard.


Ultimately, there are enough good songs on Junior to warrant a stellar EP. As is, though, this 11 track collection will disappoint fans. While it’s not the worst place for newcomers to enter King’s discography (that would be Legs to Make Us Longer), I’ve already named three others that outpace Junior in every essential way. This one strikes a decent holding pattern, but it’s still just a holding pattern.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Vinyl Vednesday 4/14/2010


[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. This week’s installment celebrates my favorite holiday, Record Store Day. This year it’s going to be held Sat., April 17. I’ll be discussing three items I picked up on previous RSDs, and next week I’m gonna give big-ups to my haul from the weekend. As always, e-mail pelonej1@gmail.com with your own big finds!]


Records: Camera Obscura’s “French Navy” single (2009) on black, Flight of the Conchords’ “Pencils in the Wind” single (2009) on black, and The Strokes’ “Juicebox” single (2005) on black.


Place of Purchase: I celebrated the first annual Record Store Day at Siren Records in Doylestown, Pa., where the owner gave me a stack of seven-inches for free. My girlfriend and I hit up Repo Records in Philadelphia for the second celebration. I had to pre-order Flight of the Conchords and Camera Obscura, and it was totally worth it. Less worth it: Cursive’s picture disc EP that tied in with the shit-fest that was Mama, I’m Swollen.


Thoughts: I have never been an elitist. Sure, I prefer smaller venues for shows and hate it when assholes like the bands I like, but generally speaking, I want the art I love to endure and be appreciated by as many people as possible. To that end, I have always been OK with paying for art, even though the rise of Napster (remember Napster?) and its various clones made it easier to get music for free. My opposition to illegal downloading is simple:


  1. If good music is to survive, artists need to be compensated so they can focus on their craft.

  2. I believe in capitalism.

  3. The idea that one day music will become divorced from its physical form frightens me.


It is because of these reasons that I still love going to record stores. Now, I am not necessarily opposed to Target, Wal-Mart, or even Best Buy anymore. I own a membership card to FYE. I am willing to shop wherever I can get deals on the records I want. It just so happens that most of the time, the records I want are located at independent record stores.


Check out the Vinyl Vednesday archives, and you’ll notice that most of the albums discussed so far were purchased at either Siren or Repo. These places give me the best service, the best prices, and best of all, the records I need to hear. Yeah, it’s great that a kid stuck in East Nowhere can download The Mountain Goats’ complete discography with a few clicks, but the thrill of hunting down TMG’s output – and knowing that I’m helping the group put out more of the music I love – will always appeal to me. Plus, whenever people tell me they pirated an album, I tend to assume they’re butt-munchers who know fuck-all about music.


OK, so I’m a little bit of an elitist. On to the records!


Not much to say about Camera Obscura’s “French Navy” single. It’s one of the peppier numbers from the group’s pretty great twee effort My Maudlin Career. Frontwoman Tracyanne Campbell coos about a sailor she’s fallen for – the rest of the album deals with her romantic ups and down, but “French Navy” is pure first kiss bliss. B-side “The World is Full of Strangers” can’t quite hit the same ecstasy, but what could? It still sounds like adorable Scottish people making lovely music together, which is something I like very much, thank you.


One thing about Record Store Day which is quite thoroughly awesome is all of the exclusives. I didn’t reserve too much last year – three seven-inches if I recall correctly – but this year I’ve got like $70 worth of stuff waiting for me. The second season of Flight of the Conchords was a dud, but I was stoked to score a physical copy of “Albi the Racist Dragon.” Every child should hear this story. “Pencils in the Wind” is actually solid for a late period Conchords song. At their best, the duo wrote songs that were musically entertaining while still delivering witty jokes. They eventually lost control of the formula, but for a little while there, they were one of the best indie bands out there.


Another thing that’s great about Record Store Day is scoring free shit. I was pretty much over The Strokes by the time their third album came out, but I’m not going to deny the awesome rockitude of single “Juicebox.” The muscular bassline and dissonant guitar reveals a band that could actually kick ass when it felt like it. The flipside overdoes it with a live version of the song, but at least I get B-side “Hawaii.”


My two great loves are my girlfriend and my music collection. Both require an unselfish attitude.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Menzingers - 'Chamberlain Waits'

The Menzingers have steadily built a fan base since the release of their debut, A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology. Occupying space somewhere between the Clash and Billy Bragg, the group’s live shows are frequently filled with anthems, humor and positive vibes. Sophomore album Chamberlain Waits shows the group’s knack for penning passionate political missives is still burning. During the 30 minutes the record occupies, everything in the universe is A-OK.


Chamberlain Waits is the logical follow-up to Lesson, in that A) the tunes are still folk-tinged punk gems, B) the production got better and C) this stuff makes me choose life. The group still knows when to toss out a Bragg-style solo number (“Male Call,” in this case). Dudes could drop their own Talking With the Taxman About Poetry and I don’t think anyone would object. And they still capture the Clash’s spirit. Not so much the sound – there’s not enough bile or Jamaican influences to directly capture that group’s various sounds – but the furious playing and vocals that alternate from barking to harmony at every turn certainly recall Joe Strummer and Mick Jones.


There are differences, of course, but they’re subtle. The recording quality shot up a bit thanks to Matt Allison (Alkaline Trio, Lawrence Arms). The lyrics sound wearier (especially on “Home Outgrown,” with its realization of “My heroes / I have forgotten them”). The hooks take slightly longer to bury themselves…by which I mean it might take two spins instead of one to realize that this is the punk album to beat in 2010.


Most listeners will probably get on board during that first listen, though. “Who’s Your Partner” opens with chugging guitars and a hypnotic 4/4 bass drum ‘n’ toms beat. By the time the group sprinkles on a pinch of feedback, heads will be bobbing. Some fans might even vow to let “these simple songs get caught in our heads” before the band says the same thing. “Who’s Your Partner” is just the opening salvo in a long line of triumphant jams. “I Was Born” should be familiar to those who picked up the group’s digital single last month. “Home Outgrown” is a sad song that’s really, really catchy, so it evens out.


The album keeps dishing out the hits after that. From the dance-punk-y “Deep Sleep” to the closing title track, Chamberlain Waits is a fat-free throat-scraper, and yet another reminder to catch the group’s live shows.

The Flatliners - 'Cavalcade'

“Live through, live strong / Carry on and on and on / No more false-start life at traffic lights.” The Flatliners – “Carry the Banner”


On their third full-length, Cavalcade, the Flatliners deliver more energetic punk rock in the vein of Smoke or Fire, Dead to Me and Lost City Angels. The vocals are gruff, the tempos are quick and the tunes are all about drinkin’ and failin’. The difference lies in the tone, though. Flatliners never wallow in pity, making Cavalcade an awfully hopeful record, even if it deals with topics like economic disparity and familial strife.


Like 2007’s The Great Awake, the group’s ska influences are severely turned down, with only “He Was a Jazzman” and one section in “Shithawks” showing any semblance of reggae rhythms. Nowadays, the group’s punk is a little more pure. Drunk Midwestern punks are gonna love this stuff, as they should. These songs are rapid fire rabble-rousers.


The opening two-hit combo of “The Calming Collection” and “Carry the Banner” is so effective that the band would be wise to maintain that order live. The two songs combine to form five minutes of really awesome, “up with people” punk. “Bleed” keeps the good vibes going, while “Here Comes Treble” pauses to apologize to alienated relatives. Chris Cresswell’s gravelly vocals sell every line.


Admittedly, Cavalcade drops off a little in its second half. There’s nothing wrong with more Lawrence Arms-ish rockin’, but with tunes as fine as “The Calming Collection” and “Here Comes Treble” waiting in the front, it’s tempting to skip back to the beginning over and over. Maybe it’s the record’s running time. Forty minutes is slightly too long for this style, but the 12 tracks presented here are all so fine that any editing would just start fights among listeners (Although I would’ve cut “Sleep Your Life Away.” Discuss). Cavalcade should make fans want to choose life, make love to the moon and kiss a grizzly right in front of his mama. Or at least drive slightly faster than normal. It’s that kind of a feel-good album.