Reviews

Rebel Spies – Rise!

Underground Communiqué Records – Release Date: 9/29/17

Detroit’s Rebel Spies recently released their debut full-length on Underground Communiqué, called Rise! Featuring members of The Suicide Machines, Hellmouth and Telegraph, Rebel Spies’ sound isn’t especially reminiscent of those bands, but rather suggestive of old school punk like 7 Seconds and Dag Nasty. What’s unique is how they manage to capture the spirit of the genre’s forefathers, while remaining unpredictable and infusing contemporary influences to create something particularly distinct. Album opener “That Mask” is a rousing call to arms with a stirring chorus that quickly sets the tone for the rest of the record. It’s followed by “Sorry About the Mess,” a concise burst of energy that rallies against complacency and evokes memories of melodic hardcore greats Avail. “We Must Be Cautious” changes things up with an expansive chorus and a blazing guitar solo, while “Domain of Evil” is reminiscent of The Clash, complete with an offbeat rhythm and call and response vocals. “What Have I Done” is influenced by East Coast hardcore and encourages making a change for the better, and the album’s final track, “Not Dead Not Yet,” arguably saves the best for last. It begins with a catchy guitar lead that segues to ska-influenced upstrokes, paving the way for a soaring chorus that delivers a resilient message and reinforces the importance of not giving up. With Rise!, Rebel Spies have made a record that draws from the past as much as it incorporates modern styles. It’s well-written, skillfully performed and filled with promise.

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Reviews

Hard Girls – Floating Now

Asian Man Records – Release Date: 10/06/17

San Jose’s Hard Girls recently released their latest album on Asian Man Records, called Floating Now. Having spent a majority of the last several years touring with the likes of Say Anything, Modern Baseball and AJJ, it’s apparent that the time on the road has assisted in Hard Girls advancing their sound. With influences ranging from post-punk to ‘90s alternative, Floating Now is a distinctive record and one that’s further reinforced by the versatile production of Jack Shirley, (Joyce Manor, Jeff Rosenstock). Album opener “Field ‘99” uses a substantial amount of fuzz and a marching rhythm to build intensity before segueing to “Puddle of Blood,” arguably the record’s catchiest track. Sounding as though Weezer was to play a beer-soaked basement party with significantly more brawn and without all the hang-ups, “Puddle…” is a straightforward banger that improves with every listen. “Guadalupe on the Banks of the Styx” is one of the most detailed and layered songs that Hard Girls has ever written, with lyrics that address the ongoing class-divide in their hometown. It’s perhaps the best example of the band’s progression and hopefully an indication of where their music is headed in the future. “Dizzy Wizard” is a speedy, shimmering indie rock song that underscores the guitar prowess of frontman Mike Huguenor, while album closer “Running” highlights the unpredictable yet surefooted rhythm section of singer/bassist Morgan Herrell and drummer Max Feshbach. It’s really an ideal ending, complete with contemplative lyrics, unique vocal harmonies and boundless energy. Floating Now is unquestionably Hard Girls’ finest effort to date, combining first-rate songwriting with outstanding performances. It would likely appeal to any fan of melodic rock, as well as those in search of genre-defying music.

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Interviews

Sincere Engineer

Last month, Sincere Engineer released its debut full-length on Red Scare Industries, titled Rhombithian. We recently met up with singer/songwriter Deanna Belos to discuss the album, including what its recording process was like, how the band’s other musicians came together and the story behind its title. We also spoke about Sincere Engineer’s pairing with Red Scare and how that partnership came to be, as well as what some of the record’s songs are about, future touring plans and more. Rhombithian blends elements of Chicago punk with a subtle emo undercurrent, providing a distinctive backdrop for the introspective lyrics and dynamic vocals. By any measure, it’s a noteworthy debut and one that’s likely to leave listeners eager to find out where Sincere Engineer goes from here. Also, be sure to get tickets for Sincere Engineer’s record release show this Friday at Township, with the Brokedowns, Two Houses and The Usuals. Click here to view…

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News

League of Nations Tour

This Sunday, Red Scare Industries’ League of Nations Tour will descend upon Cobra Lounge. The show features headliner Brendan Kelly, (The Lawrence Arms/The Falcon) along with Red Scare labelmates MakeWar and Good Friend. Hailing from Newcastle, England by way of Northern Ireland, this tour marks the first stateside jaunt for Good Friend, who’s playing in support of their 2016 debut full-length, Ride the Storm. Brooklyn-based MakeWar also released an album for Red Scare last year, Developing a Theory of Integrity, and their performance is likely to include many of the notable tracks from what is an impressively varied, genre-defying record. Lastly, Kelly’s set promises to please hometown fans with hits from his best-known bands, as well as songs from his solo career and perhaps even a new tune or two. The event is all ages and gets underway at 4:00 PM, and tickets can be purchased here.

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Reviews

The Lillingtons – Stella Sapiente

Fat Wreck Chords – Release Date: 10/13/1

Earlier this month, The Lillingtons made their Fat Wreck Chords debut by releasing their first full-length in over a decade, Stella Sapiente. Given the amount of time between albums, it’s understandable that this release incorporates new influences, and thankfully the band’s use of heavy and dark styles is a welcomed change. Their traditional pop punk tendencies have taken a backseat to metallic riffs and songs about paranormal knowledge and covert agencies. In some ways Stella Sapiente is a natural progression for The Lillingtons, but in others it’s a sizeable shift that finds the band experimenting with a new sound and ascending to previously unachieved heights.

The record opens with “Golden Dawn/Knights Templar,” an ominous song the references secret societies and employs undistorted guitar leads, really setting the mood for the rest of album. “Insect Nightmares” is one of the record’s catchiest tracks, complete with dueling guitars and a relentless pace that spotlights the rhythm section’s skills. “K6” and “Zodiac” both evoke memories of the band’s third full-length, Backchannel Broadcast, while “London Fog” features a serious guitar solo near its end that’s sure to please any fan of Iron Maiden. As the album draws to a close three of its strongest entries can be found, beginning with “The Walker.” The song starts with a pensive rhythm and haunting vocal melodies before the rest of the band comes in with blistering energy. “They Live” is the record’s fastest track and also boasts its most impressive guitar solos, (and that’s saying something). “Drawing Down the Stars” wraps up the album, bringing to mind hints of Judas Priest and effectively paying homage to thrash metal.

With Stella Sapiente, The Lillingtons have not only written the next successful chapter in their history, but more importantly laid the framework for what appears to be an exciting future. After an extended break they’ve returned and managed to reinvent themselves by creating a record that would appeal equally to fans of old school pop punk, metal or horror. Whether you haven’t listened in years or you’re completely new to the band, don’t delay in checking out this album.

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News

The Lawrence Arms’ 3rd Annual War on Xmas

This December, The Lawrence Arms will once again host three consecutive evenings of rousing, booze-filled festivities. This year, the revelry starts on Thursday, 12/14 at Cobra Lounge, with support from The Ridgelands and Fuck You, Idiot. On Friday, 12/15 the party moves to Bottom Lounge and features openers Teenage Bottlerocket and Blood People. The event concludes on Sunday, 12/16 again at Bottom Lounge, this time with Nothington and Sass Dragons joining the fun. Tickets go on sale this Friday at 10:00 AM and the Cobra Lounge show can be purchased here, while the Bottom Lounge shows can be obtained here and here.

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Interviews

Worriers

Several weeks ago, Worriers released their latest album and first for Side One Dummy, called Survival Pop. We caught up with singer/guitarist Lauren Denitzio before the band’s recent show at Township and discussed the record in detail. We talked about its writing process, what inspired some of the songs and about their experience in the studio. Survival Pop is very much a comprehensive work, filled with cathartic songs that address topics like intolerance, homophobia and even heart surgery. Its lyrics are decidedly personal, written from a reflective, experienced perspective and often wrapped inside crafty melodies and huge hooks. In short, it’s an album that’s especially uplifting and one that finds Worriers further refining their sound and doing much more than merely surviving. Click here to view…

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Reviews

Propagandhi – Victory Lap

Epitaph – Release Date: 9/29/17

Last week, Propagandhi released their latest full-length and seventh overall, entitled Victory Lap. The album finds the band refining the thrash-metal tendencies that have been a signature part of their sound dating back to 2005’s Potemkin City Limits, while simultaneously incorporating a hint of the melodic punk from their first two records. However, Victory Lap is not a retread in any shape or form. Instead, this album embraces sonic diversity and allows for the elevated level of musicianship to really shine through. Also, the addition of guitarist Sulynn Hago cannot be understated, as prior to her involvement Propagandhi never enjoyed such an amount of exceptional shredding.

The record begins with the title track, featuring an aggressive yet catchy riff and the thunderous drumming of Jord Samolesky. The song’s pace is unrelenting, as are its lyrics that describe a crumbling America, with its citizens attempting escape only to be trapped by the proposed border wall. As topical as this track is, so too is the next highlight, “Cop Just out of Frame,” which addresses police shootings, peaceful protests and looks inward, questioning the perspective of someone with a privileged background. The song employs galloping drums and several unique chord progressions before it segues to a metallic breakdown. It also spotlights the enhanced vocal skills of singer/guitarist Chris Hannah and bassist/singer Todd Kowalski, an aspect that’s evident throughout the album. “Failed Imagineer” seamlessly alternates between melody and aggression in a manner that most bands can only dream of achieving, while “Call Before You Dig” just might be the record’s strongest song. It uses a multitude of intricate guitar leads and rhythmic chugging to tell a tale of humans discovering the bones of an extinct species and then flashes forward, envisioning a future where ancient human bones are discovered by an alternate ruling species. The song builds to a point where the entire band is singing in unison, “That’s our universe in a nutshell,” and it’s almost impossible not to scream along with them.

Victory Lap concludes with “Adventures in Zoochosis,” a song with a quiet instrumental intro that’s interlaced with recordings of some of Trump’s most deplorable quotes from the campaign trail. This lasts for just over a minute before the band comes in, blasting like a defiant wall of sound with hard-charging riffs. The lyrics find hope for a better world in the next generation, while conceding that it might already be too late for some of us, (“You grab your little brother’s hand, run like the wind. And if I’m not there, don’t look back. Just go.”) What’s remarkable is that nearly 25 years after the release of their debut album, Propagandhi sounds just as relevant and energized as ever. Victory Lap is easily one of their best records and also one that doesn’t claim to have all the answers, so much as it aims to encourage the listener to take action in a positive manner.

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Interviews

Radar State

Kansas City’s Radar State formed earlier this year, featuring The Get Up Kids frontmen Matt Pryor and Jim Suptic, The Anniversary frontman Josh Berwanger and drummer Adam Phillips of The Gadjits. We caught up with Jim and Josh after Radar State’s recent performance at Riot Fest and talked about how the band got together. We also discussed their debut EP that they released last month, including where it was recorded and what some of its songs are about. In addition, we spoke about their upcoming tour in December and where they’re at with the writing of their first full-length. Lastly, be sure to check out a video for the song “Spinning Wheel” after the interview. Click here to view…

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Interviews

Hot Water Music

Earlier this month, Hot Water Music released their eighth full-length and second for Rise Records, entitled Light It Up. We spoke with singer/guitarist Chuck Ragan after the band’s recent set at Riot Fest and talked about the album in detail. We discussed its writing process, the band’s decision to produce the record themselves and its overall theme. We also conversed about the album’s lyrics, some of which are extremely personal to Ragan and address rather difficult times. Additionally, we touched on the band’s experience at Riot Fest, their plans for the remainder of the year and their outlook on the future. Light It Up finds Hot Water Music evoking some of their long-established traits, while concurrently welcoming new ideas, resulting in one of their most cohesive albums to date. Click here to view…

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Interviews

Able Baker Fox

Able Baker Fox recently released their latest album, Visions, via No Sleep Records. We caught up with the band in late August before they played a show at the Metro and spoke with guitarist/singer Nathan Ellis. We talked about how the album was written, what it was like recording with J. Robbins, the band’s pairing with a new record label and more. Able Baker Fox features members of the Casket Lottery and Small Brown Bike, and while Visions is rooted in the melodic post-hardcore that fans of those bands have come to anticipate, there are also plenty of new and unexpected influences found here as well. Be sure to check out a video for the album’s first song, “Purple Mountains,” after the interview. Click here to view…

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News

Wurst Music & Beer Fest

The Wurst Music & Beer Fest will take place September 8th – 10th in the West Loop, featuring three days of music, beer and bratwurst. In addition to offerings from Guinness and a selection of Chicago’s best bratwurst, a varied music lineup will also be on display, consisting of both national and local acts. The headliners include Murder By Death, The Anniversary and Diarrhea Planet, with support from Masked Intruder, Shiner, Pkew Pkew Pkew, The Crombies, Post Child, Sincere Engineer and many others. The festival costs $25 for a three-day pass and tickets can be purchased here.

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