REVIEW: Castaway – “Space To Run”

castawayspacetorunPunk rock is a very versatile genre. No matter what the “ugh, it’s just three chords blah blah blah” assholes says. It is a genre that has evolved, adapted, and become more and more interesting over time. A lot of things have grown out of the bare bones roots the genre has grown around. Hardcore, grunge, and emo are especially interesting. Having themselves spawned a million subgenres. This is an important fact when talking about a band like Castaway.

See, Castaway is a punk rock band that is very heavily built on those subgenres. They make music that is forceful, but still has an underlying melody. It is heavy, but not in a particularly metal kind of way. It is hardcore, but combined with some elements of grunge and alternative. There is a fair amount of heavy distortion and effects that brings out a bit of a shoegaze influence. It’s a mixture of things that work together perfectly, but it isn’t really any one of those things.

If nothing else, Castaway are probably more hurt by the constant need to genre label everything than helped. Space To Run is not a record that is going to be easily boiled down. That isn’t a big deal though. The only thing that matters is if it’s good or bad, right? Rest assured, Space To Run is fucking good. It is a solid 24 minutes of great riffs, great vocals, and overall great songwriting. Think somewhere between Lifetime and Daylight.

Space To Run is also a deceivingly adult record. The music has a certain youthful exuberance to it, but the lyrics are more mature than the sound would lead a listener to believe. It is a personal record that doesn’t necessarily play like one. You can put this on and treat as a melodic hardcore record. Just get hyped up on the music of it. You can also play it as a emo record, and focus on the stories told in the lyrics. It’s a great example of how your mood going in can change how you hear things.

Don’t let all the genre name dropping get confusing. Space To Run is a record that anyone who likes punk rock, or any of the various offshoots, can get behind. Castaway is a band who knows how to make a fucking record. You don’t have to take my word for it though. Just give it a listen, You’ll love it.

BandCamp / Buy It

REVIEW: Svalbard / Pariso – “Split”

SvalbardParisoI love when a record has a gimmick. Svalbard and Pariso definitely have a great one going on this split release. It’s not some cheesy bullshit either. It’s that, aside from their individual songs, they recorded two songs together. Those collaborations bookend this record in a really interesting way. There are two bands with pretty different styles of playing. Hearing them mix those styles together is an interesting thing that, on paper, shouldn’t work as well as it did. But, we’ll get to that later.

Pariso is a band that leans pretty heavily on metal and hardcore. They have interesting guitar lines that play more to the former, but the heart and passion of the latter. They stay fairly true to hardcore, but aren’t afraid to totally own their metal influence. This is especially evident on “Helios, The Demise.” While tearing through as a hardcore song, they build up to a really great lead about a minute into the song. In general, Pariso plays a dissonant style of hardcore and metal. It avoids being crossover bullshit, it sure as fuck isn’t metalcore. It is delivered with anger. The vocals are guttural and growling. They are cathartic and deliberate. The four songs they have on here don’t mess around.

Svalbard, on the other hand, is a much different beast. While sharing certain things in common, they are, generally, a much faster and melodic band. They are making music that feels more rooted in punk and post-hardcore. Where Pariso went for it right out of the gates, Svalbard allows more room for the songs to grow. “Allure” is the embodiment of this. It is a song that has a 5:15 run time. It starts off quietly, with clean guitar, light drums, and vocals low in the mix. It explodes come the two minute mark. It’s that divergence in style that helps them stand out. The three songs they have on this split are really the ones I was more initially drawn to.

But, like I said earlier, my favorite part of this split would be the two songs the bands recorded together. These are two solid songs, not some jam session bullshit. The opener is a song called “Floating Anchors,” the closer is called “Faceless.” The former is more of the style of Pariso. It is more blunt and deliberate. The tempo doesn’t get too fast, and the music doesn’t get too melodic. The latter has more of a Svalbard feel, but definitely feels like more of an amalgamation. It opens with the speed of Svalbard, with the immediate zeal of Pariso. It also feature more metal inspired leads, and a hardcore breakdown. Both songs mix the sensibilities of both bands together in a very encompassing way. The next best example of this would have been that My Fictions/The Saddest Landscape collaboration on the split those bands put out last year.

Overall, this is a split that could have just been another split. It could have been a co-release of seven songs and nothing else. Those two collaborations put it over the top. It’s a hell of a record.

Holy Ground (US)
Tangled Talk (UK)
Swarm Of Nails (FR)
Through Love (DE)
Smithsfoodgroup (NL)

REVIEW: Bad Daddies – “Negative Fun 2014 Singles Club”

baddaddiesBad Daddies is a fucking punk rock band. They embody everything that I loved about punk when I first started to get into it. They’re loud, fast, and full of piss and vinegar. They are a band who fits in perfectly with the tradition of hardcore and punk. And, really, that’s what it is. A tradition.

The band tears through four songs in about six and a half minutes. The songs are heavy on feedback and aggressive as hell. It’s not some slick bullshit in any way. It’s just raw and forceful. The whole thing is held together by the deceivingly melodic vocals of Camylle Reynolds. She has the force to really belt it out, but shows a fair amount of restraint. She helps keep the overall sound from getting too abrasive.

That isn’t to say it’s some pop punk record or anything. Far from it. The music fires on all cylinders. It reminds me of those classic Bay Area punk bands. The ones who never crossed over, but understood melody. That makes sense though, considering they’re from there.

They’re familiar without being nostalgic bullshit. As far as contemporary bands go, think somewhere in there with White Lung and Perfect Pussy. It’s a raucous record that is a fucking blast from front to back.

It’s snotty, it’s loud, and it’s noisy. It’s also one of the best things you’ll hear this year.

Bad Daddies
Negative Fun Records
Buy It

**This particular EP is part of Negative Fun’s subscription series. So, check that out for more information.**

REVIEW: Shitty Weekend – “Shit Week”

shittyweekendI love a little levity in punk rock. Bands who have a “message” or whatever tend to fall into some pattern of bullshit sloganeering. It’s totally fine to be on some serious shit, but it’s also fine to have fun with it. You can be political without being up your own ass. You can write a personal song without being schmaltzy. It’s the sarcastic, dry humor in the face of serious topics that made me enjoy Shitty Weekend.

Shit Week is a snotty, sarcastic record. It runs the gamut in song topics. There’s politics, job dissatisfaction, religion, and even a bit of punk rock navel gazing. It’s all about the delivery, and the band does it well. Yeah, it may come across a bit immature, but there is a lot of heart. Underneath it all is a very universal idea. To me that message is simple: you don’t have to kowtow to anyone else’s ideas or beliefs. You know what works best, and goddamnit, make it count. It’s as pure of a punk rock record as I’ve heard in a while. Yeah, it gets a bit goofy. Yeah, some songs aren’t “message” songs or whatever. And, yeah,  I may be reading too much into it. But that’s kind of my gimmick.

While it is a punk rock record, it does vary a bit stylistically. Being made up of members of The Taxpayers and Transient, the music hits quite a few stylistic points. It tends to stay more hardcore inspired and quick paced. It never loses the melody, but it definitely plays on the loud and fast idea. There is some influence of more folk punk in some places, and a bit of a old rock n roll vibe as well. The flourishes from the horn section add a lot of flavor to it as well.

Overall, it’s a damn fine record. It’s a bit out of my wheelhouse, and certainly not an all the time record. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good. If nothing else, it makes me nostalgic about why I got into punk rock to begin with. However long ago that was. Check it out.

Shitty Weekend
Secret Pennies Records
Buy It

REVIEW: Lord Snow – “Solitude”

solitudeThe term “emoviolence” rarely gets used anymore. It was obviously a genre tag that started as a facetious thing, but goodamn. If it was created to describe bands that mix powerviolence with screamo, then we need to bring it into the discussion here. Lord Snow don’t fuck around. Made up of members of Chicago area bands (Suffix, The New Yorker, Lautrec, and Raw Nerve), this is a band that knows exactly what they’re doing.

Solitude is not a record that you put on as background music. It’s 11 songs that demand your attention for the record’s 19 minute run time. It’s jagged, it’s raw, it’s loud and it’s one of the best things to come out in 2013. If you miss the days of emo music being hardcore, this should be your new favorite record. But, genre discussions don’t really matter in the end. It’s the music that counts.

Solitude is an abrasive record. It may not be for everyone, but even people who don’t like this kind of stuff have to appreciate the heart. The band leaves everything it has on these songs. There is one thing I think about every time I listen to this record, and it’s about how Steph Maldonado even has a voice after recording it. Her scream is raw and it sounds like her voice could give out at any moment.

The rhythm section of Steph Maldonado (bass) and Erik Anderson (drums) lay down a great foundation. Anderson is especially great. He’s able to go from full blast to reigned in at the drop of a hat. Niko Zaglaras (guitar) is able to shift between fast and chaotic to calm and melodic just as quickly. There are some great dimensions to this record that a lot of people are going to overlook.

This is a blood and guts record. The lyrics are great, the music is fantastic, and everything about it works.

Lord Snow
Lord Snow (Tumblr)
Adagio 830

*Note: this seems to only be available in the US from the band directly (and is currently sold out). So, if you really want a physical copy, you’ll probably have to get it on import from Adagio 830. Bummer.

REVIEW: Young Turks – “Where I Rise”

ytwirHardcore, sans prefix, is a genre I’m at odds with a lot of the time. It’s a genre that tends to navel gaze and dwell on the same old bullshit. It’s a scene full of bands trying to be toughest guys in the room. There is a whole lot of chest beating and talking about “the scene.” Young Turks are a band that, despite the muscle behind the music, avoid that kind of thing. They are a band who is only getting better, and is doing so without circling the wagons and catering to the base. That’s a refreshing change. Especially in hardcore.

Where I Rise is a record that fires on all cylinders from start to finish. It’s a four EP that clocks in at around seven minutes. Musically it is loud, fast, and everything you could want from the genre. There is a lot going on here. It boasts well written songs on the theme of endurance and strength of will. It is a different feel from their similarly titled LP, Where I Lie. If that full length was the pit of frustration, Where I Rise is the soaring victory. It’s right there in the record titles, man.

Young Turks has a lot of influence from early 2000 hardcore. They have enough outside influences to make it their own. This thing rips through it’s run and is over in a flash. It has the energy of live hardcore that rarely translates well to recording. This record comes on like gangbusters and doesn’t let up.

Young Turks
Animal Style Records
Buy It

September 20, 2003 – Thursday/Death By Stereo/Murder By Death

thursdayticketOn September 20, 2003, I got on the train to Chicago to go see Thursday. I don’t really remember the show very much. I’ve been to a whole lot of shows in the intervening 10 years. I do remember certain things about it though. Some things are more superficial than others. I was just a few months out of high school, and had really only gone to locals shows. The shows I went to were either at the venue I volunteered at, garages, backyards, or basements. Going to see a post-hardcore band in Chicago at a major venue was a huge adjustment, especially when you’re used to seeing crusty ska/punk bands in a garage in Wheaton. But, if nothing else, it kind of affirmed my belief in the music I listened to. None of my friend’s gave a shit about that kind of music. Even the punks were too busy being “punks” to even attempt to listen to something more involved than power/barre chords and vague sloganeering lyrics (Bush administration era punks were TERRIBLE [myself included]).

My friend Lamarr and I got to the House Of Blues late. We actually ended up missing most of Murder By Death’s set. This was a month before Who Will Survive, and What Will Be Left of Them? came out. I ended up buying a copy of Like The Exorcist, But More Breakdancing. That record was fantastic. Murder By Death kind of lost me when they more or less became a country band. Not as a slight against them, but it just hasn’t done much for me.

Death By Stereo were the other opener. I always thought that was weird. I was never really stoked on them. Not even as a shitty punk teenager. They did put on a great show though. I remember Efrem jumping from the stage to the floor, and doing a song in the middle of the pit that had formed. It was a great thing to see, even for a non-fan.

As far as Thursday went, I was bummed that their set was heavy on songs from War All The Time. It made sense, seeing as that record had just been released less than a week prior. I guess I was kind of bummed because I hadn’t had time to really listen to the album. It hadn’t connected to me quite the way Waiting and Full Collapse had. Shit, it still hasn’t. That aside, they played a great set.

What I remember most was the overall atmosphere. The House Of Blues has a shitty layout. The floor is boxed in, and there’s limited access to the it. Those access points are hard to get to on a half full show, never mind a sold out one. But, I was still straight edge at the time, so having to stand around by the bar wasn’t my idea of a great night. Eventually, through force of will (and being generally larger than most people at the show), I worked my way down to the main floor. The crowd was moving as one singular being. It was remarkable because no one was trying to mosh. If there is one thing Chicago fans love doing, it’s moshing at inappropriate times to things that don’t need it. I had worked my way up to the front left of the floor, but ended up at the rear right by the end of the show. The main hall is on the second floor of the building, so you could feel the floor shift under your feet as the crown moved. It constantly felt like the floor could have buckled at any time.

So, you know, that was pretty great.

(Originally posted on Tumblr)

REVIEW: American Thunder Band – "Neither Here Nor Thayer"

It’s easy to get jaded. It’s especially easy to get jaded about music. When you listen to a lot of one kind of thing, you will eventually start to notice the same little tropes being used all the time. This isn’t a bad thing. It just makes it more fun when you find a thing that doesn’t hit the same notes every time.

That is what is great to me about American Thunder Band (formerly Texas Instruments). Neither Here Nor Thayer is a really solid 23 minutes of post-hardcore and emo. Unlike some other bands, they keep the punk roots of those genres in the front. While they play very close to those genres’ base, it makes it’s own name. I hear a lot of these types of records, but this one does not get lost in the shuffle. It’s pretty great is what I’m trying to say.
There isn’t a filler song anywhere near this thing. Making a full length with a relatively short run time only seemed to make American Thunder Band even more focused. Everything is precise and focused. When you hear the opener, “Spring Break 08 II,” you know what to expect. The tone was set, and every following song follows suit. “Good Hank,” especially vocally, has a sort of controlled chaos to it. Multiple voices all trading off and working together. “Eazy-E Can Eat A Big Fat Dick” is also fantastic. It has really nice guitar lead running through it, and gets really aggressive during the chorus. And, on the other side of the more post-hardcore instrumentation, “Butt World” is the most straight forward punk song on here.
This record is a fucking beast from front to back. Lyrically it’s introspective and moving. Musically, it’s agressive and cathartic. People will pigeonhole this as an “angry” record. That’s true to a point. People mistake yelling vocals for anger. There is a lot of emotion behind these songs, and you owe it to yourself to give it a go. Don’t fucking sleep on this.
Buy It (CYLS) (TIF)

REVIEW: Adobe Homes / Innards – "Split"

Adobe Homes and Innards are both great examples of this whole “emo revival” thing that people keep talking about. Falling in with the more aggressive/screamy side of things, both bands are very adept at creating very cathartic music.

Adobe Homes hits really hard on the A-side with “You’re More Like A Sunflower Than A Rose.” This song exists in a nice middle ground between melodic and hardcore. I guess it plays to the post-hardcore side of things more than it does straight up riffing hardcore. At three and a half minutes, it plays just long enough to be enjoyable. This kind of music, especially given the lyrical content, can start to get a little self indulgent if it carries on for too long. Adobe Homes hits it square on the head.

On the flipside, Innards rip through 2 songs at just under two minutes combined. “College House” and “Construction” hit more on the straight up hardcore side. At 50 seconds and 56 seconds respectively, these songs are there and gone in a flash. While the short runtime leaves a little to be desired, that is just kind of how this bands rolls. The songs both stay melodic, but never lose their aggression. The songs are short and fast, but never quite hit the thrashy Assfactor Four / Ampere level of things. In short, they are solid enough, and hit just right.

This is pretty solid split. At just five and a half minutes, it is a little on the short side. That’s not really a problem though. It is a solid five and half minutes of loud, cathartic emotional hardcore. Hardcore, emo, you can call it whatever you want (just not skramz, because that word is dumb). It is really worth checking out.

Adobe Homes
Flannel Gurl Records
Buy It

REVIEW: Orphans – "Pack Mentality"

I don’t fuck with hardcore too often. I mean, I really only partake of it when filtered through something else (or with the “post-” prefix). I know this sounds kind of dumb. Especially given my affinity for music that is, by it’s very nature, rooted in hardcore. What does any of this have to do with Orphans?

Well, Orphans play screamo/hardcore with a bit of metal in there too. Think somewhere in the middle of Circle Takes The Square and Botch. Leaning more towards the former than the latter, this band employs a similar vocal and music style. While it can get a bit by the books, it is still rather enjoyable.

Musically, this band is tight as hell. They can play towards the chaotic, angular style, and then merge right back in to the straight up hardcore/metal stuff. Through this ability, they are able to meld a number of genres together in a short span of time. This is really noticible on “Dark Satanic Mills” and “White Guilt.” The latter being the total standout on here.

This kind of stuff is hard to peg down, as it has been done to death over the years. Orphans are certainly very adept at making it their own. It’s not anything new, but it is still enjoyable.

Never Lost Records

(crosspost from my music blog)