REVIEW: Bong Mountain – “You’re Doin’ Great!”


I find it really interesting to see how regional influences affect musical genres. This is especially in genres that have very established sounds and tropes. Pop punk, even more than emo, is one of the best examples. Every region has it’s own flavor, and bands tend to wear that influence on their sleeves. In that regard, Bong Mountain is Midwestern as fuck.

You’re Doin’ Great! is an EP that embodies the gritty and gruff pop punk that this region is known for. It’s got jagged edges to it, but it maintains a strong sense of melody. It reminds me a lot of bands like Signals Midwest, without some of the emo influence. Maybe some Mixtapes in there too?

All in all, this is a great introduction to this band. The onus is now on Bong Mountain to differentiate themselves from the crowd of bands playing this style. They definitely seem to be up to the task. If you’re into this kind of gruff pop punk, this will most certainly be a band you should watch out for.

Bong Mountain

REVIEW: Feature – “Feature”


featureA band that plays music that is fuzzed out and poppy is most certainly a band that I want to check out. Feature is a great example of that aesthetic working incredibly well. They are a band that mixes some solid influences together into a great package. Pop punk, indie pop, and garage influences pop up throughout. All working well together, and all a little fuzzed out.

This self titled cassette is actually a compilation release. It is made up of the band’s Culture Of The Copy EP and their songs from the Tourists split EP with Slowcoaches. This results in there being a sonic difference between the first four songs and the last three. This makes sense, as the band went from a duo to a trio in that time. The songs from the Culture Of The Copy EP sound a little quieter, and more on the indie pop side of the fence. The remainder play more like more muscular and riffy pop punk. Sonically, Feature remind me a lot of bands like Grass Widow or Vivian Girls. Especially in the vocal department. Their harmonies are unbeatable.

Feature are a band that is really easy to enjoy. This compilation of their work shows a good amount of growth in a short period of time. They are definitely worth a listen.

Ruined Smile Records
Buy It

REVIEW: Lemuria – “Turnstile Comix #3”

lemuriaturnstileMay 24, 2008 was the first time I had the chance to see Lemuria. It was the Asian Man Records tour with Bomb The Music Industry, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Kepi Ghoulie, and The Queers. It was, by all accounts, a hell of a show. Lemuria was, at the time, a band I was on the fence about. Get Better had just come out a few month before the show. I wasn’t cold on the band by any means, but I was definitely being reactionary to the hype that was surrounding them at the time. Lemuria, according to people on sites like Punknews, were the greatest thing since sliced bread. Lemuria was, by all accounts, a band I should have loved. I just kept fighting it. It wasn’t until after seeing them live that I got it. This was a great band. I felt absolutely ridiculous for not giving them a shot earlier. I’m sitting here six and a half years later, having seen them live twice this year, and one thing springs to mind. Though my view on the band was shaky to start, Lemuria have become one of my favorite bands.

It’s always impressive to see a band continually put out high quality releases for as long as they have. Everything release has been pretty fucking fantastic from their start in 2005 through now. Their latest 7”, the latest installment of the Turnstile Comix series, is no different. The two songs featured on the 7” are exactly what anyone could expect from the band. Stylistically it mixes and matches elements from their prior releases. “Christine Perfect” feels like the missing link between Get Better and The Distance Is So Big. It is a great indie/punk song. Fuck that, it’s a great pop song. “Foggy Smoke,” on the other hand, has a similar vibe to that of “Varoom Allure” or “Paint The Youth.” Both are strong songs, and a great addition to the band’s discography. There is a third song not on the 7” itself, but as a digital bonus. It’s called “Courtesy Mercedes,” and it is a pop punk/indie song that is driving and full of energy. These are three songs that could fall almost anywhere in the discography as a whole, and would work swimmingly no matter what.

The next part of the release is the 40 page comic that comes with it. The comic tells the story of Lemuria’s 2011 Russian tour. There are stories of nazis (repeatedly) fucking with the shows. There is a shakedown from a slimy club promoter/mafia guy. It definitely makes that tour seem like a fucking adventure. In both a positive and negative light.

As is the case with this series, the artwork is done by Mitch Clem and Nation Of Amanda. Both do an excellent job of bringing things to life. Clem’s art has only continued to improve since the end of Nothing Nice To Say. His comic drawing is made all the better by the inkwash/watercolor work of Nation Of Amanda.

From the comic to the music, this record is the total package. Make sure you grab a copy.

Silver Sprocket
Mitch Clem / Nation Of Amanda
Band Camp
Buy It

REVIEW: Electrets – “Misfit”

electretsmisfitThe heart of a pop punk fan lurks deep inside me. I absolutely love anything that makes me think of the old Lookout Records glory days. Even the post-Donnas version of the label. You know, when everything got more garage than pop punk. Electrets absolutely appeal to that version of me. Listening to Misfit is like listening to collection of songs that would have fit well on one of the old Lookout Freakout compilations.

It’s not as simple as saying “oh, look. Another Ramones aping band.” While that type of punk rock is very strongly represented on Misfit, Electrets add some other elements that really make the overall record stand out. It’s the mixture of garage, pop punk, new wave, and indie rock that makes it special to me. It’s like the band is building a Pretenders house on a Ramones foundation, and they brought in some new wave kids to decorate.

The band, as a whole, is on top of their shit. Singer/guitarist Tiff Schirz is perfect for this kind of music. There is a small Chrissie Hynde tone to her voice. Her guitar just buzzes along, and keeps everything moving. In perfect garage/pop punk style, she doesn’t let this get too out there. Everything is precise. Everything is right on the money.

One of the band’s strongest ability if the fantastic utilization of backing vocals. Stephanie Rose (bass) and Mindy Ihrke (keyboards/percussion) do great in the supporting vocal role. Adding great harmonies, and absolutely killing anything they’re on. Check that choruses on “Be Someone” and “I Can Do Better” as an example. Also, have fun having them stuck in your head all day.

Ihrke’s keyboards are one of my favorite parts of the record. They add great texture to the songs. Especially on the song “Misfit.” Without her accents, it would be a very straight forward punk rock song. The rhythm section of Rose and Andrea Cline (drums) is also a great asset to the band. Punk rock needs a strong backbone, and they fucking nail it.

Misfit is a fun record that has a throwback/retro charm to it. No wheels are being reinvented, no epiphanies are being had. But, fuck it, it’s a fun listen. Sometimes that’s all you need.

BandCamp / Buy It

REVIEW: Save Ends – “Warm Hearts, Cold Hands”

REVIEW: Save Ends – "Warm Hearts, Cold Hands"

Finally, a Save Ends full length! This band impressed me from the first time I heard them back in 2010 or 2011. I’ve been anxiously waiting for this record for some time. That said, is the LP everything I’ve been hoping for? Was it worth the wait? The answer to both questions is yes. Save Ends have done a lot in a short time via two self released EPs. Ten Or Better showed a band with a lot of promise. Strength vs. Will showed a band right on the cusp. Now, on their debut LP, they are a band who made good.

Warm Hearts, Cold Hands is a great record from the start. “PunkORama 30” may be one of the best album openers. It builds up for about a minute into a great pay off. It exemplifies the band’s best trait. Namely, their ability to make poppy, melodic punk rock songs that are more than they seem. They write songs that can go from calm to driving at the drop of a hat. There are obvious indie rock influences that add a great texture. With guitars that shine through, and drums that drive home the point, they show that they aren’t fucking around from the get-go. They continue to prove it throughout the next half hour.

The dual vocals are another great part of this band’s arsenal. Christine Atturio and Brendan Cahill have an excellent give and take. They are able to split and share a song, but are also able to carry a song on their own. It’s easy to use dual vocals as a crutch, but that’s not the case here. “Always Knew” and “Kurzweil” are great example of songs primarily carried by one vocalist. “Skeptical Sons / Curious Daughters” and “Same Old Dice” are great examples of the shared vocals. Both work so well.

It’s easy to be jaded about punk rock. Sometime it feels like a lot of bands are just going through the motions. Save Ends show that there is still so much life left. I say that with absolutely no hyperbole. There is a lot of heart and depth to these songs. This type of music has been missing that lately, so it’s great to see. Warm Hearts, Cold Hands is a testament to what can be made when a band loves what they do. It’s been nice seeing this band grow. If anything, I’m even more excited about them now.

REVIEW: The Slow Death – "No Heaven"

The Slow Death look like a super-group (or whatever) on paper. While they certainly have the pedigree of such, it’s not quite the case. Coming out of the death of Pretty Boy Thorson, this band has always seemed like more of an extension than a new project. As such, the line up on the bands new (and second) LP varies slightly from what appeared on their first. No Heaven is exactly what you’d expect from a band featuring members of Pretty Boy Thorson, Dillinger Four, The Soviettes, and The Turkletons. It’s gruff, Midwestern pop punk.

As far as specifics, it’s a pretty solid mix of Pretty Boy Thorson and Dillinger Four. While not having the country influences, it’s heavy on the former. Jesse Thorson really knocks this stuff out of the park. His vocals, while not anything uncommon for the genre, are solid. Yeah, he sounds like a singer in a Midwestern punk band. But, you know, of course he does. Either way, here it is. No Heaven stays pretty on point with what the band did on Born Ugly, Got Worse. The songs are forceful and catchy. The riffs are simple enough for the general pop punk fan, but not total Ramones aping. All the bases are covered, including the genre standard booze song (“I Need A Drink”).

Long story short, this is a great record. It’s not reinventing the wheel. You’re not going to be blown away by it’s ambition. Nothing is getting revolutionized. It’s a quality pop punk record for people who like that kind of thing. It is what it is, and what it is is a great example of pop punk done Midwestern style. This is such a no-brainer. You won’t be disappointed.

The Slow Death
Rad Girlfriend Records (Facebook)
Buy It

REVIEW: Bike Tuff – "Into Shore"

Mixing the gruffness of Midwest pop punk with a liberal helping of Samiam-esque sense of melody and structure, Bike Tuff have produced a really solid LP. Into Shores is a record that fires on all cylinders from the get go. “Each Purling Note” opens the record with a pretty straight forward punk rock song. While it is pretty by the books, it still serves as a great introduction.

The band stays really solid through the next song “Oak St. Market.” This song shows the more melodic part of what the band is working with. In fact, that is the interesting part of the record from the start. It jumps around between straight ahead punk rock songs and more melodic, slower passages. Like, “This Canada House Is Not A Home” is very straight forward punk riffing. It sticks pretty close to the Epi-Fat melodic hardcore of days past. Then, on the other hand, we have songs like “Baby, You’re An Anarchist” and “Sweet Berry Wine.” They are less piss and vinegar type punk songs, and more spacious and melodic. This isn’t to say they are emo songs or whatever, though the guitars DO twinkle a bit. They are much more pop influenced songs.
Basically, there is a little bit here for everyone. While the band draws from various influences, it never makes the record too disjointed. I can see this record appealing to The Fest crowd as much as the Warped Tour crowd. This is both positive and negative, I guess. While it has mass appeal, it doesn’t really stick out as anything great. As a punk rock record, Into Shores gets the job done. As a band, Bike Tuff show a lot of promise. I don’t know, I just feel like something is missing here.

Bike Tuff

REVIEW: Best Practices – "Sore Subjects"

Goddamn. I was waiting for more music from Best Practices. Sore Subjects is a follow up to The EP LP from last year. Everything that worked on that record is back in force here. Basically, this EP knocks is out of the park again.

With Will Killingsworth at the production helm again, the band has put together another solid record. Best Practices still play a hodge podge of pop punk, hardcore, and whatever else they feel like throwing in. What is notable about these new songs is how the band is giving them room to play out. Where every song on The EP LP was around two minutes or under, two of the four songs on this are actually longer than three minutes. I mean, it is still four quick songs, clocking in at about 11 minutes, but there is a little breathing room.

This is really a pretty natural progression for the band. It still has that low-fi production that made their previous effort sound so good. It is still the weird post-hardcore guitar lines thrown in with a poppy veneer. The vocals are still rough, but fantastic. There is just a few more colors added to the palette. Like the acoustic guitar intro bit on “Home For Halloween.”

Honestly, everything I said about this band when I reviewed The EP LP still holds true. Fuck whatever else your doing right now. Go listen to this.

Best Practices
Tor Johnson Records
Buy It

(updated 5/12/13 with label/buy it information)

REVIEW: Candy Hearts – "The Best Ways To Disappear"

Candy Hearts, man. They are a band I have been following since their first record back in 2010, and I have been impressed by how their records just keep getting better. As such, their new EP is following that trend.

If there was a record that is going to make this band huge, The Best Ways To Disappear is it. It is the best they have ever sounded, they have the Bridge Nine promotional machine behind them (via Chad Gilbert’s Violently Happy imprint), and a batch of really great songs. This record is the logical extension of Everything’s Amazing And Nobody’s Happy. By that, I mean that they have further honed their songwriting. Like that record, these songs are quick shots of energy. The main difference being that this EP feels more focused and is helped by damn near perfect production.

There isn’t much else I can say about this band that I haven’t covered in the other two reviews I have done of their records. The songs sound punchy as usual. The best part is that they have finally come out of the shadow of their influences. While the record treads very common subjects, namely the classic indie/pop punk love songs, it does it in a fun way. Bad Idea, the album opener, sets a hell of a tone.

It is amazing how great production can make a record. New Found Glory’s Chad Gilbert fucking nailed it. If his production on Nothing To Prove by H2O revitalized that band, it did a hell of a lot to finally have Candy Hearts sound as great as they should.

Everyone who is stoked on indie/pop punk should get this. It is a no brainer.

Candy Hearts
Violently Happy / Bridge Nine
Buy It

REVIEW: The Eeries – "Home Alone"

Holy shit, I thought I was going to hate this record. No fucking way. Surprise of the year, you guys. The Eeries have a name, description, RIYL list, and genre tag that screamed “punk band playing garage pop ironically” or something. I guess there is a lesson in knee jerk reactions here.

Home Alone is a hell of a record. It is rooted in old garage pop from the 50s and 60s, but avoids the stumbling that often comes with that genre by expanding their net. There is some serious Beatles shit going on here. Not the experimental stuff, but their old pop stuff. This is especially notable in the vocal harmonies and general song structure. There is some pretty sweet surf parts too. This feels like a love letter to a genre, instead of some revival cash-in thing.
This kind of reminds me of The Hi-Fives (if you removed the Lookout! Records, pop punk affectation). There is some sweet shit happening here. Vocal harmonies that done quit, whoa-ohs all over the place, and an underlying sense of fun. Home Alone is 23 minutes of awesome. Check it out.

The Eeries
Stream It (Bandcamp)
Evil Weevil Records (Buy 7″)
Burger Records (Buy Cassette)