Tyler, the Creator-Flower Boy

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Brian Posehn has this joke that he tells about comedians having kids.  He mentions that he hates his favorite comics had kids, because they lost their edge and stopped being funny.  Now, Posehn’s joke is easy to transpose to other artistic mediums, especially music. Metallica changed their style when they cut their hair.  Eminem softened up when he stopped doing drugs.  It’s notable that both artists newfound maturity showed detrimental to their music.  Tyler, the Creator’s fourth full-length Flower Boy is his most mature work to date, and unlike Slim Shady and Metallica, it’s his best album to date. Continue reading

30 Years of Appetite for Destruction

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I’ve never known a time when Guns N’ Roses weren’t one of the biggest, most important rock bands of all time.  I was born in 1994, right before the band dissolved into the Axl and company show that they were for most of my life.  The first time I ever heard GN’R was about 12 years ago, at my cousin’s baptism.  An older cousin lip-synced and air-guitared to “Welcome to the Jungle,” a song that I’ve always had a shifting perspective on.  Living in a post-Guns-Reunion world makes the 30th anniversary of Appetite for Destruction that much more bizarre. Continue reading

Waxahatchee-Out In The Storm

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John Darnielle made a name for himself recording simple songs into a boombox, mostly by himself, some people say that the Mountain Goats lost their touch once Darnielle brought in the rest of the band and began recording more polished albums.  Any good Mountain Goats fan knows that the band has only improved as they’ve gotten older, then why did I apply the former philosophy to Waxahatchee?  Katie Crutchfield’s debut album American Weekend was such a masterpiece that I ignored the following two albums, until Out In The Storm, which captures the lyrical essence of Waxahatchee, with wider, warmer production.

What makes Out In The Storm so great is that Crutchfield is a master of merging folk’s storytelling and punk’s posture into the depth and style of Fleetwood Mac-style classic rock.  Album opener, “Never Been Wrong,” is the perfect mission statement.  Crutchfield sings with the same passion as Lindsey Buckingham on “Go Your Own Way,” as she belts

            Am I Happy or Manic?

            Does it make you feel good

            to just blend in with the wall?

As self-reflective as she is here, the song ends with the fury of Rumours with:

You walk around like

            it’s your god-given right,

            and you love being right.

            You’ve never been wrong.

It’s snarky and sarcastic, and Crutchfield’s vocals just match the instrumentation so perfectly.  What also makes Storm work so well is Crutchfield’s ability to capture the same lonely feeling as she had on her debut.  “8-Ball” and “Recite Remorse” do an excellent job of capturing this feeling, while also narrating her exit from a relationship.  The American Weekend essence continues onto “Sparks Fly,” a slightly more upbeat number, where acoustic guitar is featured in the production, resembling the first album’s sound, as Crutchfield sings, “Or I’ll go back South/see myself clearly for the first time.”

The second half of the album is a much more upbeat tick, seeing Crutchfield exploring her old relationship and the reasons she left:

            I put it out like a cigarette

            I’d never be a girl

            you’d like or trust or you’d respect

These are rousing-powerhouse tunes, which could incite moshing with the right crowd.  Crutchfield is often like Joan Jett in “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” where she’s pissed off about the habits of her old fling.  “No Question” is the perfect example.  A rhythm-churning romp, reminiscent of AC/DC, where Crutchfield sings about her old interest sleeping with her friends, playing the victim, and embarrassing her.  She’s not fucking around, even as the song slows to the refrain of “It sets you free.”

Crutchfield does take time to quietly look back on the back-half of the album too.  “A Little More” shows some sparks of regret as are often the case at the end of anything.  The final song is a simple, little song.  It seems fond of the time spent together at times, but towards the end Crutchfield declares:

            I always knew it was wrong.

            I poured everything out.

            It never would be enough.

            I kissed you good-bye,

            and hid for the rest of your life.

As it fades out, it shows what, in my opinion, Waxahatchee represents: sometimes, you’re going to be alone, and that’s fine.  More important than that, sometimes you’re going to be alone, and that’s a good thing.

 

James Crowley

Captain, We’re Sinking-The King of No Man

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There are plenty of pop-punk bands.  Had I been maybe 10 years younger, I’d probably adore Knuckle Puck, Real Friends, or Neck Deep, but I’m a cynical 23 year old.  My pop-punk requires a little more substance.  Bands like The Menzingers, The Wonder Years, or Modern Baseball are all able to provide this to me.  There are unique aspects to the brands of pop-punk that each of these bands provide, where the first three all sort of blend together.  Maybe it’s just the Barnett connection to the Menzingers, but my better senses tell me that Captain, We’re Sinking’s The King of No Man really shouldn’t be a record that I love as much as I do.

On Captain, We’re Sinking’s third full-length, they continue some of the storytelling of their past records, most notably 2013’s The Future is Cancelled, although, plenty of seemingly autobiographical pieces seem to get worked in.  This is what really sets Captain apart from their contemporaries: the ability to meld fiction and nonfiction like the Mountain Goats or The Hold Steady.  “Trying Year” is perhaps the best opening for a midyear release this year in that it has been a really trying year.  “Smash 2” is an example of the type of pop-punk that someone like Jarrod Alonge would make fun of, but Barnett’s conviction makes this an incredibly enjoyable song.  Like Craig Finn and John Darnielle, Barnett likes to get clever and wordy with his hyper-emotional lyrics.  On “Crow (Little Wounds),” he sings,

You said that the only thing that’s stable in your life
Is the shaking drink in your hand
As always, I have nothing to say
I’ll exchange your words for an awkward glance
And you demand
Heal your little wounds
I’ll heal mine too

Songs like “Dance of Joy” or “Hunting Trip” also see lyrics that search for other perspectives or focus more on telling stories, much like their previous record.  Even though this isn’t as much as a concept album, there are themes of death, aging, and memory.

This also sees CWS experimenting more with sound. While many songs don’t stray terribly far from the band’s past sounds, there’s certainly more math rock and intricate picking. “The Future is Cancelled Pt. II” borrows heavily from arena metal. The closing title-track certainly has some brighter tones.  Nothing holds a candle to “Dance of Joy,” though.  It’s easily the most unique sounding CWS yet.  It has country-tinged folk elements before exploding into a chorus of U2-sized arena rock, and Barnett shows his massive chops as a vocalist.

 

James Crowley

Coffee Date:Tigers Jaw-Spin (Reanimator-No More Coffee For Tigers Jaw)

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Coffee Date is a new column that features discussions of beverages stemming from leaves and beans.  Whether you brew your own or need a hip barista pouring it in front of you, we’ve got you covered for brands to try at home, coffee shops with some personality, and what you should try or avoid from your regular coffee chains. Today, we also cross over into a review of Tigers Jaw’s latest album, and the coffee that came with the presale.

Tigers Jaw’s decision to pair with Reanimator Coffee for the release of their fifth full-length isn’t anything new.  Modern Baseball and The Menzingers have also previously paired with Reanimator, but Tigers Jaw seems like the best pairing.  They’re the musical equivalent to a nice cup of coffee on a rainy day.  Spin sees the band at their most fully-realized, and Reanimator made a nice brew to compliment it. Continue reading

Baywatch (dir. Seth Gordon, 2017)

David Hasselhoff has now somehow appeared in two separate movies as himself as the main character’s spirit guardian and compared to The Spongebob Squarepants Movie this cameo was pretty lackluster. When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson rides on David Hasselhoff’s back like a jet ski, then we’ll talk.

To keep with the exhausting trend of reviving mediocre 90s fare that nobody asked for, a cinematic reboot of early 90s relic Baywatch hit theatres on Friday and, true to the source material, it was not very good. It manages to be everything you expected a Baywatch movie to be and somehow worse. And the reason for this is: that it isn’t fun. Without the many (many) phallic jokes that don’t land or the fact that the premise alone is pretty goofy, this is a very long action drama about lifeguards who solve crimes. That self-aware humor (“That just sounds like a corny TV show!” or “Why does it always look like she’s running in slow-motion?”) doesn’t work because this movie takes itself very seriously. In the opening title sequence, The Rock rescues a drowning victim and walks onto the shore with the victim in his arms and computer-generated dolphins leaping in the background…THAT is the movie I wanted. So why is the rest of the movie so serious? Why not keep that CG-dolphin tone throughout? It would have been a lot more enjoyable and I would have tolerated the poorly written dialogue, the nonsensical drug smuggling plot, the mild to moderate sexism, the flat characters, the fact that lifeguarding alone can’t make enough money to live in a beach house or even Zac Efron’s frosted tips if this movie wasn’t so tedious.

The very few people defending Baywatch are those who enjoyed The Rock’s performance, but that isn’t fair because we could watch him eat Doritos for 90 minutes and not feel like it was a waste of time. Try as he might, his lovable presence can’t save bad writing. But I am in no position to complain about the confirmed sequel because I too spent $13.98 to watch it. And since it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen I predict it will become a cult classic in about 10-15 years.

Marisa Winckowski

Adult Mom-Soft Spots

When Soft Spots was announced, I’d just about forgotten about Adult Mom.  Sure, Steph Knipe’s project had some catchy tunes, and they released one of my favorite records of 2015, but looking back on Momentary Lapse of Happily, it’s replay value was limited save for a few songs.  Knipe has not only improved as a songwriter, they’re much more vulnerable and personable on Soft Spots.

The most noticeable change to this Adult Mom album is the warmth of the production.  “J Station” is incredibly homey, while narrating a despondent breakup.  Even the closing track, “First Day of Spring,” despite Knipe discussing their not being ready for warmth, sounds like a friendly record to play under your covers on a cold day.  “Full Screen” has many more fleshed out tones than the barebones of Happily.  The touches of xylophone and synthesizer expand the track in the minutest way to perfectly compliment Knipe’s melancholy acoustic song.  “Drive Me Home” is another example of a song that builds around Knipe’s repetitive, manic vocals.

Besides being a better sounding record, Knipe is much better as a lyricist on Soft Spots.  There are much fewer cheeky, cliché references like “it’s okay to kiss girls!” on Happily, but there’s still a tongue-in-cheek nature to a song like “Full Screen,” which begins with Knipe asking:

“Do you full screen your porn?

Do you think about me

as you watch her crawl across the floor”

A song like “J Station” shows Knipe developing stories through their songs recalling one more go with an old lover, but ends with perhaps the coldest line of the album: “I’ll be sad you were ever in my life in the first place.”  Knipe’s vocal performances on these songs are much more emotive than on their debut or Sometimes Bad Happens, and it really puts Adult Mom ahead as an interesting artist within the punk community.

On their second full-length, Adult Mom really takes the next step into creating remarkably comforting music.  Listening to this record sounds like the way Chris Gethard describes The Smiths during Career Suicide, as the type of music that could only grow and the meaning could expand through the ages, as a constant spot that only grows to take on new meanings as you grow older.

James Crowley

PWR BTTM’s Ben Hopkins Accused of Sexual Assault

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Ben Hopkins of queer-punk duo PWR BTTM has recently come under fire following accusations of sexual assault.  Following the accusations, the band released a statement, a number of shows have been dropped, Salty Artist Management have dropped them, touring members and support have dropped off their upcoming tour, and a woman came forward in an anonymous interview as a victim of Hopkins.  The band’s sophomore album Pageant was released today.

National Sexual Assault Hotline – (800) 656-4673
The Trevor Project – (866) 488-7386
LGBT National Help Center – (888) 843-4564
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs – (212) 714-1141

Casting JonBenet: The Advantages of Bias

Casting JonBenet (Dir. Kitty Green), the highly anticipated meta-documentary released as a Netflix-exclusive film about the 1996 murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was met with mixed reactions- mostly because the idea of making a film about the actual brutal murder of an actual child didn’t sit well with many people. 1996 wasn’t that long ago. Is it exploitative? Probably. But by that logic, every film about or based on a real-life tragedy is exploitative. I am willing to defend this film’s existence despite its tendency to insert some black humor, as it doesn’t set out to minimize the seriousness of the crime. Unlike other crime documentaries, it is less focused on solving the mystery at hand and more focused on reactions to what we know about the murder and the inevitable biases that come with it. Continue reading

Old Menaces: How To Abandon Your Fanbase, While Still Making Millions

 

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The date is October 4, 2009: Blink-182 has recently reunited.  They’re finishing up a massive tour with Fall Out Boy opening for them at New York’s Madison Square Garden.  Before FOB launch into their signature closer, “Saturday,” Pete Wentz declares, “This is the death of the emo haircut,” before handing his bass to a stagehand.  Mark Hoppus enters the stage.  Wentz sits down, and Hoppus shaves his head.  Wentz jumps up at his cue, and screams his parts in “Saturday” like he always does.  You could say this is the moment that everything went wrong.  You could say Blink-182’s original breakup was the moment it all went wrong.  You could also say Green Day’s American Idiot was, or even Dookie, or New Found Glory releasing “It’s Not Your Fault,” but for the sake of argument, Mark Hoppus shaving Pete Wentz’s black locks was the moment that ruined it all. Continue reading