The Killers-Wonderful Wonderful

“Run For Cover” could have been the song of the summer.  It’s upbeat, fun and has a great chorus.  In fact, a number of songs from The Killers’ new Wonderful Wonderful scream summer.  Whether it’s adrenaline-thrusting power-pop (see above) or the beachy, U2 doppelgangers (“Life to Come”), it baffles me why this album would be released on the first day of fall, but as fate would have it, the first weekend of fall were the dog-days of summer’s last gasp in New York.  It was a fluke, only Brandon Flowers could attain to maybe make some final gasps for this Killers album. Continue reading

Jen Gloeckner on Her Third Album, Vine

Jen Gloeckner’s debut and sophomore album were both very faithful folk albums, making her recent Vine a major departure from her previous sound.  We got to talk to Gloeckner about what the recording process was like, touring, and her next album.

BurgerADay:Your sound on Vine is drastically different from Mouth of Mars. It’s a very Bon Iver-like switch to go from a very organic folk sound to something much more ambient and electronic. Why did you make the sudden shift for this album? 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

Japandroids: Terminal 5, New York, NY 2/23/17

In 2012, I was still a baby in the world of indie-rock.  I still listened to Marilyn Manson pretty religiously.  Eminem’s Slim Shady LP was still relatively prominent on my iPod Classic, and I mostly listened to Green Day above all else.  I was a senior in high school.  The world at my fingertips, I was pretty picky about what I deemed fine for my ears.  Still, that was the year I began listening to Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie, and Lou Reed: gateway bands.  It was also the year Celebration Rock was released.  It seemed every major music publication discussed this breakthrough Japandroids record.  Armed with one of the best band names in rock, I figured these guys couldn’t be bad.  Celebration Rock was an absolute gamechanger.  I was fascinated by how two people could make such full sounds with great lyrics.  It became a staple of my first semester of college.  Even though my friends weren’t as enthused with lines like “Give me that night you were already in bed/said ‘fuck it’ stayed up to drink with me instead,” I was enthralled.  Celebration Rock is the type of record you believe you’re living when you’re just starting college. Continue reading

The Menzingers-After the Party

menzingers-after-the-party1It’s been about 9 months since I graduated from college.  It may sound cynical, but I already feel old.  I can’t run on four hours of sleep or drink excessively without an unbearable hangover, and I tend to spend a little extra money on quality products instead of just getting the cheapest version.  I’ve also grown an appreciation for a bunch of dad rock records that I hadn’t previously enjoyed.  There’s certainly a give and take to my old man feelings.  The Menzingers’ After the Party has been released at the perfect time now with the band’s new found maturity and nostalgia.

The Menzingers are part of a long tradition of punk bands that keep their heartland rock influence on their sleeves.  On the Impossible Past was a record that occupied a Venn Diagram space reserved for the likes of The Gaslight Anthem.  It is an essential modern pop-punk record that draws equally from the canons of Springsteen and Against Me!  Still, the band stepped more in a straightforward pop-punk direction for 2014’s Rented World, but on After the Party, the Scranton quartet show a revitalized interest in classic rock.

Despite The Menzingers taking a step toward their roots, it isn’t always an obvious regression.   The Springsteen-isms aren’t always prevalent, and takes such as “Lookers” or “Thick as Thieves” seem to look more towards different flavors of rock.  “Thieves” feels more like heartland rock, but the intro screams AC/DC.  “Lookers” looks back to the likes of the Four Seasons and Elvis complete with it’s “Sha-La-La-La” chorus.  Vocalist, Greg Barnett even referenced Meat Loaf when describing the title track.   Still, for those that are dying to hear some heartland rock, “Your Wild Years” and “Tellin’ Lies” both capture the essence of Springsteen or The Gaslight Anthem. Barnett even adopts a bit of a country twang in his voice in bluesier numbers like “The Bars” and “Black Mass.”  Still, there’s plenty of straightforward punk, if A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology was more your speed.  “Bad Catholics” and “Charlie’s Army” are ripping punk tunes with similar themes.  Even the songs that sound more like classic rock, like “Midwestern States” or “Lookers,” have the same pedal-to-the-metal, American muscle car pacing as earlier Menzingers tunes.
Above all, After the Party is a record about coming to terms with growing up.  This is perhaps best illustrated in “Midwestern States,” which illustrates a young couple through financial problems and dreams of escapism.  Even as things get bad, and they’re asking friends for a place to stay (“I hope this isn’t a burden/Thanks for having us over”), there is some hope during the chorus as Barnett sings “You said LA’s only two days if we drive straight.”  Even the opening chorus of “Where are we gonna go now that our twenties are over,” is sung with such gusto and enthusiasm that it sounds more like a celebration rather than a death sentence.  The closing track echoes the same sort of sentiment with a chorus of “Only a fool would think that living could be easy,” where Barnett sounds pleased with the final line “The life I’ve painted, I’ve sold for a quick twenty.”
Both positive and negative nostalgia run throughout the album.  There’s always a fondness for the past perhaps best described during “Lookers:”  “I was such a looker in the old days.”  Songs like “Bad Catholics” recall the sweetness of being a problematic kid: drunk driving and skipping mass, and the feeling of seeing your old fling from the church picnic years later: you realize that you really miss those stupid, old times.  Even “Charlie’s Army” sounds like he’s triumphantly recalling a past sexual romp over beers with some new friends.  “Your Wild Years” is probably the closes the Menzingers have come to writing a true love song, and Barnett thinks back to driving home after shows and family vacations with his girlfriend, but there’s still a tinge of guilt:
You’re the kind of girl that deserves the world
I’m just the kind of guy that promises the world
So I fix a drink nice and strong in the kitchen
Something quick that’ll cure my conscience
Creep back to bed and I kiss your forehead
Maybe everything is fine and it’s all in my head
Even a song like “The Bars” is framed like the kind of bar song to throw your arm around a buddy singing about the old times even though it’s a much sadder song.
The sad nostalgia certainly ought to be familiar for any Menzingers fan: booze soaked heartbreak and regret.  “The Bars” shows this well with lines like
No good’ll come from stumbling home with the sun.
I used to care.
Now I stare into the sunken eyes and strangers’ faces.
I fall asleep in the strangest places.
What the hell am I doing?
Where have my friends gone?
Even though the Menzingers are still “Drinking like they do in novels,” it now comes with a bit more pain than before.  The pain peeks its head into the bangers like “Tellin’ Lies” or “Bad Catholics,” but After the Party is never depressing for long.  You’re going to get old, and you’ll wish for simpler times.  Living might not be easy, but you just gotta enjoy the ride.

‘Our First 100 Days’ Recap: 1/20-1/27

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Well, it’s been a week.  During his first week in office, President Trump has reinstated the Global Gag Rule, argued about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, confirmed that he plans to build the wall, and silenced various government agencies from making official statements.  While there’s already been a number of cons, there have been some good things to come out of it: the Women’s March, the punch heard ’round the world, and our first week of songs from Our First 100 Days.

Our First 100 Days is a compilation in a similar vein as the 30 Days, 30 Songs campaign.  Every day for Trump’s first 100 days in office, a new song will be added the the campaign’s bandcamp page.  The whole comp can be pre-ordered for $30 with all funds going towards organizations that Trump’s policies will affect.  It already boasts some artists that have released some of the best albums of last year, and it promises more big named artists.
As is often the case with large scale comps, Our First 100 Days is something of a mixed bag ranging in quality.  During the first week, just about everything is tolerable, at the very least.  The only real clunky song is Avey Tare’s demo of “Visit the Dojo,” which is mind-numbingly annoying.  The only other real complaints that could be made are about Women’s “Group Transport Hall,” which is too atmospheric for my taste, and Jason Molina’s “Royko.”  Molina’s song isn’t my cup of tea, but it also seems somewhat difficult to put a man who’s been dead for four years on a political compilation.  That being said, I never knew Molina’s politics, so who am I to judge?  Meat Wave’s “Dogs at Night” is another that is fine as a song, but there’s not much special about it.
Angel Olsen’s introductory song is a great little song.  Production wise, it bears a strong resemblance to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”  The song is surprisingly apolitical for the first song on an actively political compilation.  That being said, Olsen’s delivery and instrumentation at the beginning of the song sounds militant.  It is a sweet little number that would have easily fit on My Woman though.
PWR BTTM’s “Vacation” is easily the best.  The song begins like a sad, lazy song, but it ends with passionate shrieking.  Although this seems to be simply another unrequited love song, the sentiment of “it’s going to be a long day,” certainly echoes the feelings of the past week.
Suuns and Tilman Robinson & Luke Howard’s songs are the most interesting sonically.  Robinson & Howard’s “Requiem for 2016” is a dreary classical composition that certainly reflects some of the feelings of disassociation and numbness.  Suuns’ “Native Tongues” captures a similar emotion, but the distorted screeches in the background along with the processed vocals certainly seem more accurate to what we’re living in now.

Japandroids-Near to the Wild Heart of Life

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In Dylan Thomas’s 1952 poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” he writes:

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 While Thomas would die the following year, his poem has endured from the way it captures the endurance of an eternal youth.  It’s been referenced by emo bands, Oscar nominees, and Rodney Dangerfield.  Japandroids’ Near to the Wild Heart of Life is the perfect adaptation of Thomas’s “Rage Against the Dying of the Light” poem.

The press surrounding the third Japandroids album has been calling this the Canadian duo’s most mature album yet, and it is.  Therefore, it must be more fitting that Celebration Rock was their “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” and this must be something more akin to Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, right?  Wrong.  Celebration Rock was exactly that, a celebration of youth.  While Wild Heart has elements of coming-of-age, it also holds onto youth through tunes that are sure to incite nothing but rocking.  Songs such as the “North East South West” or are reminiscent of Japandroid songs on Celebration Rock and Post-Nothing, but the bad grows their sound to include acoustic guitars and electronic songs such as on “Arc of Bar” and “Midnight to Morning.”
Even though songs like “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” and “North East South West” are more than welcome, the most memorable songs are the ones where Brian King and David Prowse experiment or scale back ever so slightly.  This is least effective on “Arc of Bar,” where most of the song is overwhelmed by electronic sounds throughout the track’s 7-minutes, but it works best on “True Love and a Free Life of Free Will,” which is a Springsteen-like arena rocker about being in love and figuring out where you want the relationship to take you.  Still, some of the best songs sound like Japandroids songs just with a toe taken off the gas.  “No Known Drink or Drug” and “In A Body Like A Grave” could have easily appeared on Celebration Rock, but they don’t sound like a step backward.  “No Known Drink or Drug” helps keep the pacing from going stale on the album.  “In a Body Like A Grave” is a good mixture of the new sounds and old, while summing up the album in a perfect conclusion.
The largest part of Japandroid’s appeal are the joyous slogans that everyone loves to shout along to.  The chorus of the opening title track is perhaps the best example that the band are just as great as ever:
It got me all fired up
to go far away
and make some ears ring with the sound of my singing baby
so I left my home
and all I had
I used to be good, but now I’m bad. 
Also, love and commitment are now major themes of Wild Heart.  Where Celebration Rock sounded like the soundtrack to nights of liver pulverizing in search of one night stands and romance, Wild Heart has songs that glorify “plans to settle down” and reaffirm that
no known drink
and no one drug
could ever hold a candle to your love
It’s not love compared to drug use as much as it sees romance as necessary in lieu of drug abuse.  Still, none of these are restrained ballads.  Each song is still high energy, and even if you can’t mosh to it, you can’t fall asleep to it either.
Near to the Wild Heart of Life isn’t the same rip-roaring classic that Celebration Rock is.  Similarly, it’s not an album that’s for everyone.  The band ventures into territory that gives subpar performances like on “Arc of bar” or “I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner),” but this is still a loud, raucous collection that defies growing up as much as it embraces it.  Japandroids won’t go gently into any good nights any time soon.
James Crowley is near to the wild heart of Twitter.

Thomas Jefferson Aeroplane-Nailbiter EP

a2548718981_10           So many artists do an excellent job of hiding their influences down in their work.  Some of the obvious ones shine through, but there are some influences that require some digging.  Of course, John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats was influenced by Bob Dylan, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that this was the type of guy that regularly listened to the likes of Mayhem and Church of Misery (save for the references of “The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton”).  Despite this, there’s certainly something admirable in artists early works, where their influences are sewn firmly to their sleeve.

Thomas Jefferson Aeroplane are still in this early stage, and it’s certainly endearing.  In case the name hasn’t given it away, these guys are clearly fans of AJJ (formerly Andrew Jackson Jihad, catch my drift?) and Neutral Milk Hotel, and upon first listen, this trio clearly loves The Front Bottoms.  From the simple acoustic, folk punk format to the wordy, heart on their sleeves lyrics, it’d be easy to just call these guys a bunch of ripoff-artists, but their songs are really great.  Even the Atom Bomb Shelter Salesman, which was written and recorded in a day has solid songwriting (see: “Nuclear Winter”) that shows them evolving quickly.  The Nailbiter EP is 11 minutes of catchy lo-fi promise from an incredibly emotive trio.

Once listened to attentively, you start to realize that Nailbiter has something of an arc with the first and last songs ending with the lines:

But it’s all for you

I’ll do what you do.

Cause you told me to.

The seeds I grew

Flowers could have been blue”

The first closes with the line “It’s a noose or excuse, and I can’t choose,” but the last is more resignedly “and they never do.”  Where “Bitchin’ Nightmares” sounds hopeful with its jangling guitars and middle-paced tempo, the last verse sounds determined.  “Bitchin’ 2: The Bitchining” is much more frantic throughout until the refrain sounds much more defeated.  While there’s something of a story, the album’s shift I pretty quick making the back half much more bleak where it opened up with a pretty fun sounding release.

The EP is pretty standard folk-punk.  Mostly acoustic and clean guitars are accompanied by simple drums and bass, with a smattering of distortion.  The vocals are shaky and whiney, not unlike Sean Bonnette of AJJ.  When TJA’s lead vocalist really shouts is when he shines through the best.

As is the case with a number of folky punk bands, the lyrics are where this trio shines though.  The EP’s title track is incredibly wordy in just over 2 minutes.  “Nailbiter” has the best image on the EP, where it’s sung “I wanna swim in your black coffee/stir me up and then dissolve me.”  Imagery is really where the lyricism shines best.  The album opens with “Drunk in my room watching Kitchen Nightmares,” and it only gets better from there.  The seemingly timeless familiarity of things like multiple lives in video games mixed with the little time capsules such as Kitchen Nightmares makes it easy to insert one’s self into these narratives.  While these guys haven’t defined their voice just yet, one is definitely there, and for now, we can all sing along and pretend.

 

James Crowley is trying to start bitchin’ friendships on Twitter.

Dropkick Murphys-’11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory’

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Tons of great bands subscribe to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy.  AC/DC is a great example of this.  AC/DC’s most recent two albums sound exactly the way AC/DC albums should sound, and they’re not terrible.  Some would argue that there’s nothing special about them, but “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train” certainly could go toe-to-toe with a number of songs off of Back In Black. Boston’s Dropkick Murphys have always been viewed as a band with an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude.  That doesn’t mean that their formula is unbreakable though, and 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory is certainly broken.

It’s not so much that Pain & Glory is a terrible album, but it is a disappointing one to say the least.  At its best, it sounds like a collection of Dropkicks songs that got left on the cutting room floor.  At its worst, it’s a terrible corny caricature of how the Boston punks should sound.  The best of the album can be heard during the first four songs, but each has its own mountains that it fails to climb.  The album opens with “The Lonesome Boatman,” which sounds like a classic Murphys song, but a minute and fourteen seconds in, it becomes evident that the only lyrics the song has are “oh’s” and “whoa’s,” which on an album that promises eleven short stories, seems like a cop out.  Nonetheless, this will probably sound great live.  “Rebels With A Cause” isn’t terrible, but the premise of the story is two young misfits falling in love, and it doesn’t bring anything new to the table.  Blink-182’s “The Rock Show” works better for the premise, because it at least sounds genuine.  “Blood” sounds fine, but the chugging, mid-paced riff isn’t the mosh-inducing Dropkick anthem that has come to be expected as a first single.   The chorus of “If you want blood, we’ll give you some” is unbearably dull.  “Sandlot” is the album’s best song, but lyrically, it just sounds like your dad reliving his glory days, talking about how much fun he used to have with little money, for the ninth time over Sunday dinner.  Then Papa Ken Casey and the gang just get lazy.

The rest of the album just sounds like lackluster stadium-rock.  Most of the songs just blur together to the point that they’re just unlistenable.   It’s like listening to a sad, tired version of Springsteen.  “I Had A Hat” could be fun, but the premise is, for lack of a better word, dumb.  The verses are composed of verbal diarrhea, and the chorus is lyrically lazy.  Lyrics aren’t necessarily what people tend to remember from the Dropkicks, but it’s downright disgusting how lazy they are here.  “First Class Loser” and “Kicked to the Curb” are both sad excuses.  “Loser” tells the story of “a bully, a jerk…that you just can’t tune him out, cause he’s too loud to ignore,” and once again, it sounds like some corny crap your dad would say after a bad day in the office.  “Kicked to the Curb” is a break up song, with all the clichés of losing money, begging to be brought back, and being wound up over it.  There’s a difference between keeping a winning formula and sounding formulaic.

The album’s penultimate song is a bit of a saving grace.  “4-15-13” is a folk song that references those lost and affected by the Boston Marathon Bombing.  Casey sings about the loss of innocence, but also the unity that a tragedy can bring.  It’s a solemn moment that sounds incredibly vulnerable, and it shows when the Dropkicks fully put their guts in a song, it works well.  That being said, the album closes with “Until the Next Time,” which sounds like a bad showtune, telling how they’ve “had a good time and are sad to see it end.”  Al Barr sounds bored as he howls the notes, and this may be the best moment to sum up the whole album.  If it ain’t broke, you may not need to fix it, but it doesn’t mean you should just repeat it either.

James Crowley is on Twitter.