Franz Ferdinand-Always Ascending

Franz Ferdinand’s latest album Always Ascending has a great recipe to become a fan favorite. Franz Ferdinand has been on the scene for over 15 years since their creation back in 2002 and their first self-titled album in 2004. In classic Franz Ferdinand fashion, they made fans wait for this album. It’s been a long five years (sans a Sparks collaboration), but it was well worth the wait. Continue reading

The Wombats-Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life

I’m standing in the Subway station waiting for the uptown train and racing to connect to the free WiFi before my train comes so I can download the first single off of the new Wombats album. It downloads as the train is pulling in and I find my seat. I always take a moment right before listening to new music from a favorite band or artist; I want to remember where I first heard a particular song or album in case it becomes of great importance to my life. I take in the blue seats and the fairly empty train car and press play. Continue reading

Justin Timberlake-Man of the Woods

 

              This is not the folktronica reinvention we were promised.  Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods was hyped to sound like it was his 22, A Million.  To be fair, this was all speculation; all we had confirmed was that this was going to be a return to Timberlake’s Tennessee roots.  In a sense, it succeeds. JT has gone bro-country; save for some of the extra synth’s thrown in.  Man of the Woods is an earnest attempt at artistry, but it sees Timberlake slouching into his iconic status. Continue reading

A Futile and Stupid Gesture (dir. David Wain)

It’s not surprising that a biopic about National Lampoon founder Doug Kenney (played by Will Forte) would come out right now.  With Netflix’s dedication to weekly comedy specials, the importance of SNL, and the evolution of social-media to share comedy, of course, it’s timely to release a movie about one of the most influential forces in comedy.  A Futile and Stupid Gesture is both hilarious and dramatic, bringing to life both the excitement and burden of living in the comedy world.  While easily watchable and very entertaining, there are certain aspects that leave the audience a little confused and unsure of how they’re supposed to feel.

Spoilers[i]: Continue reading

Imperfect Attempt: The Killers-Barclays Center, NY-1/9/18

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After the first two songs of The Killers’ set on their Wonderful Wonderful tour, frontman Brandon Flowers quotes Evil Knievel: “People don’t pay for the perfect landing; they pay for the attempt.”  Unlike Knievel, The Killers don’t land as much as they attempt, and their performance at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center left me wondering if I’d pay for another attempt. Continue reading

Happy Death Day (Dir. Christopher B. Landon)

I can’t say Happy Death Day is particularly frightening, nor is it particularly funny. The plot twist is pretty contrived, it gets frustratingly repetitive and there are moments that just don’t make sense even within its own fantasy universe. So why did I enjoy this so much? This is a case in which so many of the moving parts are messy and dysfunctional but they inexplicably come together as a cohesive whole. It’s like being on one of those giant carnival slides over and over again, or watching a fidget spinner. Continue reading

Jetty Bones-Old Women

I hate to make the easy comparison, but this sounds like early Paramore in the best possible way.  The band’s sole consistent member and frontwoman Kelc Galluzzo commands a stage and has a voice that rivals Hayley Williams’.  While 2017 has been a great year for female-fronted bands, most tend to lean towards a punkier or more emo sound, and Jetty Bones are unafraid to embrace a sense of mid-2000’s pop-punk.  The pop embrace is in full effect on the band’s second EP, Old Women. Continue reading

Diet Cig-Swear I’m Good at This

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I want to tell you about my friend Josh.  Josh is the sweetest person you’ll ever meet.  He can brighten anyone’s day by simply entering the room.  Josh is hilarious and can take his energy level from 0-100 in seconds.  I feel like most people who know Josh just tend to latch onto the chaotic energy he brings, but Josh can also be one of the kindest, most caring people when he needs to be.  That being said, he can bounce back from those serious moments in a heartbeat.  It’s for this reason that Diet Cig reminds me of Josh. 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.