REVIEW: Ogikubo Station – “We Can Pretend Like”

The best thing about punk rock music is that the artists you love get older with you. And the artists who maybe grew up before you are going to be there when you finally catch up. Ogikubo Station is a mix of two different periods in my life coming together. Mike Park represents the stuff that got me into the music to begin with. All those Asian Man Records bands that were so vital to me getting into underground music as a teenager. Maura Weaver is that punk rock I listened to in my mid/late-20s when I was still fucking up a lot, but finally getting around to being an adult. Ogikubo Station, as a whole, feels like I finally caught up.

All things being what they are, We Can Pretend Like is an amazingly solid indie rock record that still has punk rock in it’s blood. I know it’s a weirdly specific phrase, but the singer/songwriter side of the band really shines through. The songs, though simple, have a lot of heart behind them. They are enjoyable, even if the subject matter is a bit heavy. If I had to spotlight some specific songs, I would definitely have to talk about “Drowning At The Watering Hole” and “Strong As You.” The former because it’s just a really great song. Honestly, there is a really sad song hiding behind the new wave synth line and the poppy guitars. You’ve got a tale of loneliness, dependency, and co-dependency. The latter stands out to me for more personal reasons. Hearing a song about a parent dying snuck the hell up on me at the laundromat. That is such a specific feeling. It’s one that you forget is still raw, even after time has passed. Other standouts are “I’ve Been Thinking Of St. Louis” and “The Prettiest One.” Both have a kind of twang to them. It really adds a dimension to the whole record.

I kind of question the need to write up this record. All the big sites already covered it back in August. I’m two months behind as usual. I just really like it. But, of course I do. My love of Asian Man Records has been well documented here. Bias aside, I think this is a record that has something for everyone. If you like indie rock, you’ll like it. If you like punk rock, you’ll like it. If you like Mike Park and Maura Weaver in their previous projects, you’ll like it. Just give it a listen if you haven’t already.

Ogikubo Station
Asian Man Records
Buy It

Digging Through the Compilation Shelf.

compgridCompilations were a fucking way of life. They were the best route to find new bands. They were around long before the internet was THE INTERNET. They were around long before Spotify, BandCamp, SoundCloud, and other services made it easy to “try before you buy.” They’re things that don’t really happen anymore. One part is because of the internet. Another is the overall decline of brick and mortar record stores. They’re not financially viable to manufacture and distribute anymore, and it’s kind of bummer.

Without pulling the shitty “back in my day” card, the decline of record stores and readily available physical products has been the biggest change in music that I’ve seen. I’m old enough to remember a time before file sharing, iTunes, and web commerce as a viable option for music existed. Small record labels, if they had websites at all, still lived on mailorder. You printed out a form, mailed them a money order or some shit, and waited. Oh, how you waited. It wasn’t the most conducive way to discover music. You could read liner notes, but if bands didn’t thank any other bands it was a no-go. So you turned to local record store, and their “compilation” section.

I’ve always been broke. That definitely made it hard for me to discover new bands in my teenage years. I couldn’t afford to buy albums all the time, and it had to be worth it if I was going to drop the $16 at Tower Records. So I always dug through the compilations. At around $2 a pop, they were the best things in the world. If i was curious about some new band on Lookout! Records or something, just go grab their most recent one. Same with Asian Man, Epitaph, Fat Wreck, Go Kart, Matador, Hopeless, BYO, Vagrant, Deep Elm, and so on et cetera. You’d get to hear that new band you were wondering about, and probably some unreleased song from a band you liked already. How could you go wrong?

The first compilation cd I ever bought was probably Mailorder Is Still Fun. As I touched on in another thing, Asian Man Records was my jam. I was mail ordering a bunch of records, and decided to get this compilation. As a teenage ska fan, it was the best I could have hoped for. Slow Gherkin, Less Than Jake, The Chinkees, and MU330 were all on it. Through that compilation I got introduced to Korea Girl, who I still believe to be one of the most criminally underrated indie rock bands in the world. I heard Alkaline Trio and The Broadways for the first time. 16 year old me was stoked. And that compilation was already 2 years old by the time I bought it.

It all spiraled from there. The first time I heard Camber, Planes Mistaken For Stars, and Brandtson was on Deep Elm Sampler #3 (Sound Spirit Fury Fire). The first time I heard The Mr. T Experience, Bratmobile, and Common Rider was on Lookout! Freakout Episode 2. And Hopelessly Devoted To You Vol. 3 was where I first heard Dillinger Four, The Queers, and The Weakerthans (it also sparked me into buying one of my all time favorite records, Left And Leaving). Marc’s A Dick And Gar’s A Drunk: The Johann’s Face Story is where I first heard the Traitors and No Empathy. What I’m saying is that compilations were always important to me. In that spirit, I wanted to make a quick list of my favorite compilations. I’ve linked them to their respective page on Discogs. In no particular order.

Honorable mentions go to Short Music For Short People and Fat Music Volume 5: Live Fat, Die Young (both Fat Wreck Chords). The former for absolutely fucking nailing the gimmick. The latter for having one of my favorite Propagandhi songs.

If this kind of stuff had a resurgence, I’d be right there ready to go.

Misfits Of Ska

Sorry I missed a review this last week. I have one coming up in the next few days. To make up for that, here is a thing I wrote about Skankin’ Pickle over on my Tumblr:

One year in high school I ended up having two art classes and a math class with this cute girl who listened to great music. I tried so hard to be cool in front of her. Which was difficult for a fat dude in a Rancid t-shirt. We’d talk about The Brady Bunch, starting a cult, how creepy Patrick Duffy (not the actor) was. Obviously we would also talk about music. Like how great Operation Ivy was, or how Pinkerton was the best Weezer album. I was still a little shit, but I knew about enough punk and ska bands to hold my own.

I think we were talking about the Suicide Machines or something. Somehow we got on the topic of Skankin’ Pickle. She asked if I’d heard of them. I totally hadn’t. But, not wanting to look like a total dummy, I said “oh yeah of course.” I totally lied, but had gotten away with it.

A few weeks later I was on my way to school. My car wasn’t working, I missed the bus, it was winter, and I was running late. It was a classic four alarm clusterfuck. About 10 minutes into a half hour walk to school a car pulls over. It was the girl from my classes. I get in the car and “Skatanic” by Reel Big Fish had just finished playing. Then I hear a guy talking briefly about whether they got “Degrassi Junior High” in Petaluma. The band then goes into the beginning “O Canada,” and then it then tore into this quick ska-punk song.

It’s so damn catchy. I ask who it was. She just kind of looks at me and said “Skankin’ Pickle,” like I had just asked the dumbest question ever. Here I was, after saying I knew who that band was (and how much I liked them), asking who sings one of their MOST WELL KNOW SONGS. What a dummy. The song was “I’m In Love With A Girl Named Spike.” The record was Misfits Of Ska.

That day I learned to never pretend to know about bands that you really don’t. You just end up looking like a dummy. This situation also birthed my undying love of all things Asian Man Records and bands featuring Mike Park.

REVIEW: Classics Of Love – "Classics Of Love"

Holy shit. This record was not at all what I expected it. And this is even after seeing the band live. I mean, there isn’t much difference between the first Classics Of Love EP and any Common Rider record. Save for the lack of ska, they were pretty similar. This is why this LP is such a shock to the system. Jesse Michaels (backed by The Hard Girls) put out a full length that sounds like Operation Ivy filtered through DC hardcore. While it never quite gets to be so overbearingly throwback hardcore, it definitely has the influence.

We have a full length full of political, pissed off punk rock. Jesse’s voice sounds more like it did in the old Op Ivy songs than it did while he was doing Common Rider. We do get some ska/punk songs in “Castle In The Sky” and “Bandstand,” but they are really the exception.  While there are some melodic moments, the best songs are the straight up hardcore songs. Nine of these 13 songs clock in under two minutes. “Dissolve” being a blistering 1:10.
This record is fantastic. The production fits it perfectly. It is gritty and rough, just like Jesse’s voice. There is just one issue I have with it. It is with the sequencing. “Moving Pictures” sits smack in the middle of the record. It is the slowest and longest song. It saps the momentum. The song before it and after it are fucking quick numbers (1:31 and 1:16 respectively). But, that is a minor issue. Pick this up. It is a classic.

REVIEW: Spraynard – "Funtitled"

Yes. Fuck yes. This is a strong contender for punk record of the year. It is a blast of melodic punk, in the Latterman (lazy comparison) type style. But, this a review. No one cares how stoked I am. So, down to business.

Spraynard is one of those bands that you are either going to like, or you are going to hate. While they are great at what they do, what they do is not super original. Ever since Latterman got huge in the scene, and then broke up, there are no shortage of this type of punk. No one is reinventing the wheel. In the end, some bands just do it better than others.

I was very on the fence about checking this band out from the get go. You have them taking there name from a Tim And Eric sketch, which rarely bodes well. You have the fact that this style of punk is saturating the market. It just seemed like another band on the bandwagon. Finally, I decided to listen to their first full length, and was impressed. They seemed like one of the bands doing this whole thing for the right reasons. Something about it was earnest, and so fucking positive. Their split with Paramedic was also great. The fact that Asian Man Records picked this band up speaks volumes about them. Asian Man is a label that has been more hit than miss (by a wide margin) for as long as I can remember.

This record continues that trend. This is, technically, a split release by Asian Man (physical) and If You Make It (digital). In the same way Bomb The Music Industry does their releases (also with Asian Man). Generally, this record is great. The stand out track for me is “O.R. They?,” which is just one of those song to raise your spirits when you need to posi up a little. Also, “We’re Pretty Nice Guys” and “Spooky, Scary” deserve mention as well.

Yeah, I know this was not much of a review. It is just hard to say anything bad about this record. It is a fun release that is perfect for summer. Great energy, great songs, great vibes. And, they posted it online for free. Go get it, and if you disagree with me, make sure to tell me how much I suck. Get stoked.

Official site
Buy it @ Asian Man Records
Official download @ If You Make It