No Idea Records – Release Date: 4/26/11
Having reunited in 2009 after a five-year hiatus, Small Brown Bike is back with Fell & Found, their first new album in nearly eight years. It features the band’s original lineup and was produced by J Robbins at Chicago’s Million Yen Studios. Robbins, best known for his work with Jets to Brazil, The Dismemberment Plan and Promise Ring, did a great job of understanding Small Brown Bike’s vision and really bringing these songs to life. In some ways, Fell & Found differs from their prior work in that there’s less distortion on the guitars and cleaner-sounding vocals, but the music still hits just as hard when it needs to. In other words, the band has mastered its dynamics, recognizing when to play soft and when to play loud, which anchors the songwriting and allows for further experimentation. Above all, this record is a complete work that’s both layered and well-executed. At times it’s reminiscent of some of the finer post-punk that was being made in the mid-‘90s, but it also sounds like they put a contemporary spin on the positive characteristics they were previously known for. One thing that’s apparent upon first listen is the creative and powerful drumming of Dan Jaquint. It truly sets the tone for the entire album and does a good job of complimenting the plodding, burly bass work of Ben Reed. Not to be outdone, guitarists Travis Dopp and Mike Reed provide frequent outstanding guitar leads, while the lyrics are likely to be memorized after only a handful of listens. Small Brown Bike has returned with a vengeance and it sounds as though they never took a break. Fell & Found is thus far one of the best records of 2011 and one of the most memorable that No Idea has put out in some time, and that’s saying something.
For over ten years, The Arrivals have been a mainstay of Chicago’s punk rock community. With each album they evolve and the latest full-length, Volatile Molotov, represents some of their most ambitious work yet. We discussed the new record with singer/guitarists Isaac Thotz and Dave Merriman, along with a variety of additional topics. The guys gave especially detailed responses and we would like to thank them for taking the time to answer our questions. Also, be sure to check out the video below of the band performing “Children’s Crusade” on JBTV.
Chicago’s The Scissors are currently demoing songs for their fourth full-length and plan to begin recording in May. The album is set to be recorded at Catfish Studios in Lombard, Illinois and will be coproduced by the band and Steve Mast, (ex-Plain White T’s). “Answers” is sung by guitarist Yvonne Szumski, who’s now handling a bulk of the lead vocal responsibilities. The song features blazing guitar leads, a driving rhythm and plenty of rock ‘n roll attitude. In some ways it’s similar to certain aspects of their 2010 record You Can Make It Dangerous, but in others it displays a new and exciting portrayal of the band. The version of “Answers” that’s streaming below is in fact a demo and will differ from what ultimately appears on the forthcoming album. The Scissors recently returned from a successful appearance at SXSW and upon completion of their new record intend to tour extensively in 2011. By all accounts they’re a great live band, so be sure to catch one of their upcoming shows and look for a new Scissors CD later this year.
Paper + Plastick – Release Date: 2/22/11
Red City Radio is a relatively new band that’s based out of Oklahoma City. This is their debut full-length and it contains a total of 13 tracks, all of which are very much in the vein of Hot Water Music meets Off With Their Heads. There’s also a definite ‘90s, West Coast punk influence, but what really separates Red City Radio from a lot of its contemporaries is their proficient musicianship. Led by rock-solid, powerhouse drumming and a plethora of intricate and creative guitar riffs, these guys absolutely have the potential to be hugely popular in the coming years. Track two, “The Benefits of Motion”, opens with gravelly, earnestly-delivered vocals that declare, “We’ll take what we can get, we’re not taking it for granted”. It really sets the tone for the rest of the album and can’t help but make the listener want to sing-along each and every time. “You’re Poison, I’m Well” features an undeniably catchy chorus that’s instantly memorable, while “This Day’s Seen Better Bars” has some of the disc’s most sincere and inspiring lyrics. It’s a song about touring and missing home, which isn’t exactly a new topic for songwriters, but what makes it special is the vast amount of conviction and passion that it’s sung with. “Spinning in Circles is a Gateway Drug” and “Too Much Whiskey, Not Enough Blankets” are two additional beer-soaked, emotionally-driven anthems that are sure to become fan favorites. As long as they continue to evolve and find more of their own sound, Red City Radio will definitely have what it takes to be the next big thing.
The Underground Railroad To Candyland is fronted by Todd Congelliere, owner of Recess Records and founder of bands like F.Y.P. and Toys That Kill. URTC is set to release its new LP/CD on April 26th, entitled Know Your Sins, and we’re extremely excited to be streaming the album’s first song, “That I Dunno”. We also spoke at length with Todd regarding the new record, his label, touring and more.
Born & Bred – Release Date: 3/01/11
This is a concept album of sorts, based around a fictional and recently departed character named Cornelius Larkin. It tells the story of Larkin’s life, (Irish immigrant, working-class hero, war veteran) and thematically speaking, works exceptionally well. The record is really a celebration of living life to its fullest, and that sentiment is further bolstered by producer Ted Hutt, who provides Going Out in Style with a lively, energetic recording. Another point of interest is the band’s expanded use of various instruments, (accordion, banjo, mandolin, harmonica, bagpipes) which adds Celtic flair, but also makes for a more diverse and enjoyable listen. It’s tough to say that this is Dropkick Murphys’ best album overall, but it’s certainly up there with some of their finer work, like Blackout or The Warrior’s Code. “Hang ‘Em High” is up first and it’s a rousing, bagpipe-led romp with a huge, melodic chorus and loads of gang vocals. “The Hardest Mile” features a galloping rhythm and spotlights Tim Brennan’s accordion expertise, while “Memorial Day”, the disc’s catchiest song, offers an uplifting message of perseverance and determination. “Peg O’ My Heart” is a sunny-sounding love song that boasts a guest vocal appearance by none other than Bruce Springsteen. It’s a great song in its own right, but the presence of The Boss really makes it unforgettable. Additional highlights include the title track, which has vocal cameos by Fat Mike of NOFX and Chris Cheney of The Living End, as well as a song about old school punk shows, aptly titled “Sunday Hardcore Matinee”. Going Out in Style is recommended for diehard fans and newcomers alike. It’s also suggested for those who lost touch with the group and are looking to become reacquainted. The bottom line is that this is a phenomenal record by a legendary band. There’s no excuse not to give it a spin.
Red Scare – Release Date: 2/15/11
The Heat Tape is Red Scare’s latest signing and features Brett Hunter of Copyrights and Dear Landlord fame on guitar and vocals. Unlike the aforementioned bands, The Heat Tape is a decidedly lo-fi affair that enjoys a definite garage rock vibe. They’re certainly different than a lot of what’s out there today, making them a good fix for those in search of something new. The album begins with “Spend It”, a song that’s fondly reminiscent of The Thermals, and quickly segues into a tune about turning 30 called “21st Century Turd”. “Rich Man” is a fuzzed-out gem with some of the record’s best hooks, while “Ah Ha Ah” ups the tempo and packs some serious punch in two minutes flat. “Feel No Good” and “Crackin’ Up” evoke a ‘90s alternative mood, and “Idle Man” closes the disc with the band rockin’ out and firing on all cylinders. There really isn’t a weak link to be found amongst these 12 tracks, and the fact that they flow together makes it really easy to listen to from start to finish. Beneath the unpolished recording and distorted vocals lies what matters most, which is quality songwriting, and it’s found in abundance on Raccoon Valley Recordings. This is absolutely a solid debut that’s worth checking out promptly.