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Top Shelf Lickers – “Step Away”

Top Shelf Lickers

Last January, Chicago’s Top Shelf Lickers released a new EP entitled Heart Beats Brain! It was recorded by Justin Yates at Atlas Studios and contains a total of six songs. It’s the band’s sophomore release and by all accounts displays significant growth and detailed songwriting. This Friday, they play Bottom Lounge with The Architects and Guttermouth. Doors open at 8:00 PM and the show is 17+. Check out the first song from their EP below, called “Step Away.”

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Sweet Cobra / Get Rad – Split 7″

Sweet Cobra : Get Rad

This month, Sweet Cobra and Get Rad will release a split 7” on Underground Communiqué, LifeLine Records and Hawthorne Street Records. The record pays tribute to Mat Arluck, the late guitarist of Sweet Cobra, who conceived of a collaboration between the two bands before his passing in 2009. Sweet Cobra contributes two songs that come from ideas that Mat had worked on with the band prior to his death, while the final entry on their side is an instrumental track of Mat’s last piece of recorded music. Get Rad offers up two new hardcore songs that undoubtedly represent some of their strongest material to date. The record is available on clear, red and blue vinyl, with artwork by Matt Putrid and layout courtesy of Ryan Patterson. Preorder the record here and take a listen to Sweet Cobra’s song “Complaints” below.

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Interviews

Dave Hause

Devour Cover

Last year, Dave Hause released his second solo album and first for Rise Records, entitled Devour. By any measure, it’s a comprehensive record that combines various themes with accomplished songwriting, resulting in a new benchmark for Hause. We caught up with him before his recent show at Schubas and discussed Devour in detail. We talked about the meaning of some of its songs, what the recording process was like and the inspiration behind the album’s title. We also spoke about his previous band, The Loved Ones, as well as his recent experiences touring Europe, future plans and more. Click here to view…

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Reviews

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Total Treble Music – Release Date: 1/21/14

Since frontwoman/guitarist Laura Jane Grace (formerly Tom Gabel) started Against Me! in 1997, they have transcended their DIY anarcho-punk roots. After leaving Sire Records in late 2010, they started Total Treble Music, home of their sixth album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Grace has undergone much change since coming out as a transgender woman in May 2012, and this album captures much of it. The opening title track, the first of several anthemic battle cries, begins with a shuffling drum intro, reminiscent of the drums that usher in “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong.” With brazen urgency, Grace sings, “You want them to notice/The ragged ends of your summer dress/You want them to see you like they see every other girl/They just see a faggot/They hold their breath not to catch the sick.” It’s difficult to not empathize with Grace as she sings with such anxiousness and ferocity, such as on “Drinking with the Jocks” and the album’s heaviest jam, “Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ.” Fat Mike of NOFX plays bass on “FuckMyLife666,” a surprisingly celebratory anthem. “Two Coffins” is the only acoustic song on the album, which Grace said she wrote for her daughter about mortality “and realizing that all the things in your life are temporary.” While morbid on its surface, that deeper meaning resonates and offers up a loving perspective of timelessness. “Black Me Out” is the proverbial nail in the coffin, closing the album. Emerging from its stripped-down guitar and vocals, Grace channels pure honesty sung with a stinging conviction. “Black me out/I wanna piss on the walls of your house/I wanna chop those brass rings off your fat fuckin’ fingers/As if you were a kingmaker.” Given its subject matter and placement on the album, I’m inferring this song is about Against Me!’s ‘liberation’ from its former major label. While the theme of the album is set to Grace’s transition and adoption of her new openly-transgender life, the album isn’t redundant. These are some of the most melodic, hopeful songs Against Me! has ever produced, with deep-running themes of acceptance, frustration, anger and the gratification of release.

- Jason Duarte

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Interviews

The Lawrence Arms

Photo by Katie Hovland

Photo by Katie Hovland

The Lawrence Arms recently released their first album in nearly eight years, entitled Metropole. It marks their debut for Epitaph Records and maintains the standard that they’ve set with previous full-lengths in that it’s considerably different from its predecessor. Longtime fans can rest assured though, as this record delivers an abundance of memorable moments, along with meticulous songwriting from start to finish. We spoke with singer/bassist Brendan Kelly and talked about how the album came together, as well as what inspired some of its central themes. We also discussed how it was recorded, the band’s upcoming tour and more. Click here to view…

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An Unfortunate Woman

AUW

Chicago’s An Unfortunate Woman is a relatively new band that features former members of Suns, Big Science and North Atlantic. The band’s debut album was recorded and mixed in their home studio and will be released digitally on February 11th, which you can download here. The record is called In a Buckle Black March, I Saw Past the City, and we’re streaming one of its songs below, “Act Five: Upon the Descent Our Charms/Saints Go Moot. Discovery of Body.” Be sure to check out An Unfortunate Woman when they play Township this Wednesday, February 12th. The show starts at 9:00 PM, is 21+ and Electric Hawk opens.

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Interviews

Elway

LeavetakingElway recently embarked on a pair of tours and we spoke with singer/guitarist Tim Browne just before the band hit the road. Besides their scheduled shows, we also discussed their second album Leavetaking, which was released last year on Red Scare Industries. We talked about how it was recorded, the meaning behind its title and the record’s overall theme. In addition, we conversed about how most of the band recently moved to Chicago, their relationship with Red Scare and more. Click here to view…

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Reviews

Canadian Rifle – Deep Ends

Dirt Cult Records – Release Date: 11/26/13

Drop the needle of your record player into the grooves of Canadian Rifle’s newest LP and imagine for a moment that you’re banging two stones together over a pile of kindling, trying desperately to spark a flame. You’re tired, hungry, cold and maybe a little dirty. You want the warmth of the fire, but more importantly you need the light of the blaze to ward off the vicious creatures potentially encircling you in the surrounding darkness. The sparks of feedback in the opening seconds of Deep Ends suddenly burst into the inferno of “Withdraw.” It’s loud, bright and blown out, musically and lyrically setting a tone of frantic desperation that carries throughout the record. The hoarse, smoky vocals voice failures and inadequacies while remaining unequivocally unapologetic, and are accompanied by a fuzzed out guitar, buzzing like a chainsaw through tree limbs. Rhythmic cracks and pops of the drums burst like firewood, jettisoning embers in the air, and the guttural rumble of bass lines act like distant thunder. These elements careen through the nine tracks on Deep Ends, volleying between bouncy and upbeat as in the bass intro of “Pleasant Relief,” to the somber guitar intro of “Looking Back At It,” all the while retaining the rawness and personality the band cultivated over the last ten years and about  a half dozen lineup changes. The album is not just sonically raw; Deep Ends is so lyrically unabashed it will make you blush, articulating volatile relationships in “Ditches,” panic attacks in “Lock Yourself in the Bathroom” or facing the death of a loved one in “Going to Get Fucked Up When You Die.” Canadian Rifle’s gruff exterior and bleak soundscape is tempered with a heart that still beats even though it’s been smashed to pieces in the gutter and run over a couple of times. Pick it up. Dust it off. Get on with it.

- Vito Nusret

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Reviews

Iron Chic – The Constant One

Bridge Nine Records – Release Date: 11/05/13

If you think starting an album with an instrumental song entitled “The End” is a bit presumptuous and full of chutzpah, then you’ve come to the right place with Iron Chic’s second full-length album, The Constant One. We could talk about how Bridge Nine Records, (a reputable hardcore label) is an odd fit for what would be presumed to be a straightforward pop punk record, but I think most reviewers covered that with the recent Lemuria LP released earlier this year. The truth is that although Iron Chic is the same arm-around-the-sweaty-stranger-next-to-you anthemic punk rock outfit you’ve come to know and love over the course of their last 4 EPs, (Demo ’08, Shitty Rambo, Split N’ Shit and Spooky Action) and debut LP, (Not Like This) there’s a bit more going on musically and thematically in the grooves of The Constant One. With more rock style riffage evident in “Bogus Journey” and “True Miserable Experience,” the 8-bit videogame styled intro/outro of “Spooky Action at a Distance” and the guest vocals of RVIVR’s Erica Freas on “(Castle) Numbskull” and “Don’t Drive Angry,” you can hear them paint their very own picture of discontent, heartbreak, isolation and friendship with a few new colors added to their musical pallet. That being said, you won’t need to retrain your ears for this one. Iron Chic does what they do best on The Constant One; play heartfelt, emotive punk rock, dripping with gang vocals and springing hope eternally. It is this hope that is the crux of the album. In the face of constant defeats we could easily be compelled to just let our fears and anxieties bury us alive, but we all need to unlock the thing inside us that drives us to persevere.

- Vito Nusret

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Interviews

Less Than Jake

Photo by Katie Hovland

Photo by Katie Hovland

Earlier this month, Less Than Jake released their ninth studio album, entitled See the Light. It was recorded by their singer/bassist Roger Lima at his own studio, resulting in a record that retains somewhat of an old school vibe, but also sees the band explore new musical frontiers. To be brief, the album is by no means a rehash, rather it sounds like a reinvigorated version of LTJ’s classic characteristics. We spoke with drummer/lyricist Vinnie Fiorello on the day that See the Light came out. We talked about how the record was written, its lyrics and its style. We also discussed their plans for next year, as well as the long-term future of Less Than Jake. Click here to view…

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V/A – The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute

Fat Wreck Chords – Release Date: 10/29/13

Last year, No Use For A Name singer/guitarist Tony Sly passed away unexpectedly at the age of 41. No Use’s longtime label, Fat Wreck Chords, has responded by releasing this 26-track compilation, with proceeds benefitting Sly’s wife and two daughters. The resulting album features some of the biggest names in punk, with bands covering both NUFAN songs and music from Sly’s solo career. By all accounts, Sly was a truly gifted songwriter and this record does a phenomenal job of not only showcasing his talents, but also celebrating his life. Karina Denike, former Dance Hall Crashers singer, opens the album with a haunting, almost a cappella rendition of “Biggest Lie” that emphasizes Sly’s powerful lyrics. Strung Out provides a fast-paced, metallic version of No Use’s biggest hit, “Soulmate,” and it’s simply one of the best entries on the record. Conversely, Rise Against offers a stripped-down, acoustic take of “For Fiona,” which strikes an emotional chord when singer Tim McIlrath concludes the song by echoing Sly’s words of “I’m always here.” Bad Religion, NOFX and Lagwagon all contribute strong and sturdy covers, with the latter sounding particularly spirited. Snuff adds a reggae-tinged song, while Old Man Markley supplies some bluegrass influence, illustrating that Sly’s songwriting transcends genres. Frank Turner and The Gaslight Anthem also present quality interpretations, as do The Bouncing Souls, Teenage Bottlerocket and many additional artists on this compilation. In short, the album very much succeeds in honoring Sly’s memory. He was respected by an array of musicians and will always be remembered for being an especially talented lyricist. If you ever enjoyed any of Sly’s work, there’s no doubt that you’ll enjoy this as well. Lastly, check out Alkaline Trio’s unique and chilling cover of “Straight from the Jacket” below.

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Dave Hause – Devour

Photo by Katie Hovland

Photo by Katie Hovland

Rise Records – Release Date: 10/08/13

On his second solo album, Devour, Dave Hause forgoes the acoustic influences that dominated his first record in favor of plugged-in, rock-oriented arrangements. This is understandable, as many of these songs were intended for a new Loved Ones album that never materialized. When his previous band stalled, Hause thankfully soldiered on, delivering some of the finest songwriting of his career. At its heart, Devour is a complete album, comprised of songs that work together to tell an overall story. One theme is that of a disintegrated relationship, and the struggle to move forward in a positive direction. That narrative is contrasted with America’s continued decline and the disappearance of its middle class. Also discussed are childhood dreams that go unfulfilled and the challenge of dealing with those realizations as an adult. The songs on Devour definitely follow a linear path, and by the close of the record Hause manages to uncover a light at the end of the tunnel. The final three tracks embrace an optimistic tone and address topics like resiliency, hope and renewal. Musicians from Social Distortion and My Morning Jacket lent a hand in the studio to help shape these songs, and Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba made a guest appearance as well. The end result is a collection of rock songs with accents of folk and punk that match the lyrics in terms of quality. Devour is sure to appeal to a broad audience and a likely candidate for one of the best albums of 2013. Check out the record as soon as possible and take a listen to the song “We Could Be Kings” below.

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