Through the years, Less Than Jake’s music has continuously matured and evolved. They’ve flirted with mainstream success, but more importantly remained steadfast in both their songwriting and live performances. Their commitment to integrity and an overall fan-friendly approach has made it easy for many listeners to remain loyal to LTJ for the duration of the band’s already lengthy career. On 2008’s GNV FLA, they’ve continued their proud and storied tradition, showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. This interview was conducted via telephone with drummer/lyricist Vinnie Fiorello. Continue Reading…
Asian Man Records – Release Date: 11/16/10
After nearly ten years of making music together, The Methadones have decided to split up. This 16-track release is the band’s swan song and serves as a sincere “thank you” to all of their fans. It consists of five new tracks, their half of a split with The Copyrights and songs from two out-of-print seven-inches. The five new entries represent some of the most impressive tunes that The Methadones ever composed. They were recorded by Justin Perkins at Mystery Room Studios and sound as sturdy as they do pristine. “Murmurs in the Dark” has an interesting lead and backing vocal interplay during its chorus and “Undecided” is a heartfelt pop punk ballad with especially honest lyrics. “Arial” is a beautiful song and plainly one of the Methadones’ best. “Imperfect World” and “What Do You Believe In” are notable songs from the split with The Copyrights, and “Exit 17” flawlessly concludes the record on a solemn acoustic note. This is undeniably the band’s finest full-length aside from their stellar 2004 effort, Not Economically Viable. Anyone in search of first-rate pop punk should look no further, for The Methadones provide a textbook example of how the genre is supposed to be done. They will surely be missed by many and not forgotten anytime soon.
On Build & Burn, The Loved Ones eagerly explore new musical territory with great success. There’s an emphasis on straightforward rock, sing-along choruses and lyrics written from the heart. It’s a surprisingly solid record from start to finish, and one that simply grows more interesting and enjoyable with every listen. Build & Burn has redefined The Loved Ones as one of the underground’s best kept secrets, though it has also set the bar extremely high for their next album. This interview was conducted with singer/guitarist Dave Hause before the band’s 7/20/08 performance at Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago. Continue Reading…
Paper + Plastic – Release Date: 10/12/10
Having called it a day in 2004, The Gamits laid dormant for nearly five years. Then an unexpected phone call came from Japan with the opportunity to do a reunion tour. They readily accepted and the shows were so successful that the band decided to write and record a new album, the end result christened Parts. Grittier than their previous output, Parts is very much a pop punk album, but not in a gimmicky or unadventurous sort of way. “Falling Apart” opens the record at a frenzied pace and really is the most interesting a punk band has made four chords sound in a long time. It presents a unique rhythm, earnest lyrics and a nifty bass solo at about the midway point. Without a doubt, it’s one of the more superb songs that The Gamits have ever penned. “No One Cares So Why Should I” emphasizes increasingly detailed guitar work, as well as complex tempo and key changes. At over three minutes in length, the song never loses focus or gets boring. It’s got some pretty sweet backing vocals too. “Delusional” critiques a certain aspect of today’s independent music scene, but also looks in the mirror and questions The Gamits’ own intentions. Further highlights include the dissonant tale of self-destruction found on “Love Suicidal” and a guest vocal appearance by Lagwagon’s Joey Cape during “Amplifier”. Despite a lengthy hiatus, The Gamits don’t sound as though they’ve missed a beat and have crafted a remarkably cohesive album. Supporters of thoughtful, mature and well-executed pop punk will likely be enthralled with this record.
Hellcat – Release Date: 8/31/10
On their previous album, 2008’s State of Grace, The Street Dogs fearlessly explored varying genres with great success. Each song differed from the last and the record truly served to reinvent and redefine the band. For better or worse, 2010’s self-titled offering goes back to the basics. Comprised of 18 songs, Street Dogs rarely deviates from the conventional formulas of classic street punk. That’s not to say that positives can’t be found on this album, but by and large, it’s a significant regression from their last record. Entries deserving of mention include a spirited anthem called “Punk Rock and Roll”, a rousing, Celtic-tinged romp dubbed “The Shape of Other Men” and an introspective, heartfelt proclamation named “Oh Father”. Also noteworthy is a reworked version of “Fighter”, a fan-favorite from their 2003 album Savin Hill. The production, courtesy of Rick Barton, leaves something to be desired, as does the predictable, no-frills artwork. Worst of all, though, is the excessive duration, because with nearly 20 similar-sounding tracks, the record just feels bloated and ambiguous. Maybe in a live setting, a place where the Street Dogs excel, these songs could be better received.
Screeching Weasel was hands-down one of the best punk bands of the ‘90s. Their music vividly captured the spirit of teenage angst and boredom. They had songs that were humorous as well as ones that were thought-provoking. They practically invented punk’s one-string guitar lead, thereby incorporating pop sensibilities at a time when that was far from customary. The band played by its own rules, but above all were great songwriters. As a result, they spawned a legion of devoted listeners. Fans weren’t content with one record; they wanted to hear them all. The infamous Screeching Weasel logo became a fixture on t-shirts in high school hallways, as singer Ben Weasel’s lyrics turned into anthems for the disenchanted youth of suburbia. Adding to the band’s mythical status was the fact that their popularity didn’t skyrocket until after they stopped playing shows. Tales of someone’s older brother allegedly seeing Screeching Weasel play a house party only helped to glorify their allure. The band’s cult-like following is yet another example of their importance to American punk rock. For many, Screeching Weasel provided not only a gateway to the realm of punk music, but also a soundtrack for surviving adolescence. Continue Reading…
Photos by Katie Hovland
Last fall, Dead To Me played a show at the now-defunct Ronny’s in Chicago, Illinois. The set was punctuated by two of their finest songs, “Ran That Scam” and “Day Without a War”, off their Little Brother EP and African Elephants album respectively. Special thanks to Jason Thompson from The Sky We Scrape for being kind enough to film this for us. Be sure to check out Dead To Me’s latest seven-inch, Wait For It…Wait For It!, which was released via Brick Gun Records.
Fat Mike has been a household name in the realm of punk rock for more than ten years. His resume includes fronting the legendary NOFX and founding what is arguably the world’s best punk record label, Fat Wreck Chords. Today he can add political activist to his list of credentials. With the formation of his Punk Voter website and the upcoming release of the Rock Against Bush CD compilations, Fat Mike is a man on a mission in ’04. NOFX will also headline the first leg of the Punk Voter tour, as well as play select dates on Warped Tour; all in hopes of sending W back to Crawford, Texas come November. Though he has garnered some flak due to his latest actions, Mike remains undeterred by his critics. He continues to exercise his right as an American citizen to make his voice heard and do what it takes to unite punks in electing a President who’s more deserving of the title. Continue Reading…
Asian Man Records – Release Date: 8/10/10
Demos, as one might plausibly surmise, is not a traditional solo album in that it was self-recorded by Alkaline Trio singer/guitarist Matt Skiba on his own laptop. What this recording lacks in terms of studio polish is more than made up for by the insight it provides fans as to how Skiba’s song ideas originate. At its highest points, Demos sounds like a behind-the-scenes preview of what could someday become future Alkaline Trio hits. “You Didn’t Feel a Thing” opens the disc with a familiar Skiba guitar lead and somber mood, and features sparse keyboard accents. “Haven’t You?” is an acoustic ballad that’s not a unlike “Sorry About That”, the final song on Alkaline Trio’s debut album, Goddamnit. “S.O.S.” is an upbeat rock song that boasts heavily distorted guitar and soaring backing vocals. It might not be the best song on Demos, but it’s certainly the most fun and the one that demands the most repeated listens. The remaining tracks either display somewhat of an electronic influence or exceedingly dark lyrical undertones, and simply aren’t as memorable as the aforementioned songs. Ultimately, the overall appeal and quality of songwriting found on Demos doesn’t match Skiba’s previous solo output, (a 2002 split with Kevin Seconds). Therefore, this is strictly recommended for diehard Alkaline Trio fans in search of a fix before the band’s next studio album is released.