Monday, December 15, 2014

Album Review: ‘Stay Clean Jolene’ by Stay Clean Jolene

Artist:  Stay Clean Jolene (Facebook, Twitter, BandCamp, Last.fm)

Stay Clean Jolene’s self-titled full-length debut is a blast of everything that is good in punk rock right now.  Mixing big hooks with bigger choruses, Stay Clean Jolene finds that perfect spot that is equal parts Leatherface, Dillinger Four, The Bouncing Souls, Iron Chic, and Chris Wollard & the Ship Thieves, making songs that are catchy as hell, full of energy, and a joy to listen to.  In a way I’m not really sure what else to say about this record other than it is fucking brilliant and one of the best of the year.  Seriously, go out and get this right now.    


Friday, December 12, 2014

EP Review: ‘Fire Academy EP’ by Radio Reds

Title:  Fire Academy EP (Death to False Hope Records)
Artist:  Radio Reds (Facebook, Tumblr, BandCamp, ReverbNation, Storenvy, Last.fm)

Radio Reds’ latest, and final, release isn’t some haphazard swansong thrown together with leftover bits and pieces; no, Fire Academy EP is their magnum opus.  From the opening, Billy Bragg-esque jangle guitar of “Sell Out” to the haunting piano driven closer “Plain for You,” Fire Academy works in every way.  These songs are passionate and heartfelt and grab you by the balls with their intensity and hooks (and there’s a killer cover of “I Melt With You” to boot).  Radio Reds formed in 2011 and since then have released four EPs (including this one), one split EP, one full-length album, and one compilation; not a bad output for a band that lasted four years.  The shame of this band calling it a day is that I think they were on the verge of not only hitting their stride musically (which they certainly showcased herein) but finding a wider audience.  Bands like Restorations, Luther, and The Menzingers have found success in punk circles (especially The Fest crowd) with styles that mix and match elements from punk, indie, post hardcore, Americana, and emo and I see no reason why fans of those bands wouldn’t love Fire Academy and Radio Reds in general.  


Sunday, December 07, 2014

Album Review: ‘Red Scare Industries: 10 Years Of Your Dumb Bullshit’ by Various Artists

Title:  Red Scare Industries: 10 Years Of Your Dumb Bullshit (Official, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk)
Artist:  Various

Red Scare Industries is one of the best record labels in punk rock today.  This label has given us the likes of Teenage Bottlerocket, The Copyrights, The Menzingers, Masked Intruder, and The Sidekicks just to name a few.  10 Years Of Your Dumb Bullshit is a collection of new songs from some of this label’s best acts past and present.  Included herein are tracks from Teenage Bottlerocket, The Copyright, The Falcon, Masked Intruder, Elway, Direct Hit!, The Methadones, Druglords of the Avenues, The Sidekicks, and Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds.  One of the record’s standout moments is Nothington’s brilliant “So It Is,” a song that showcases that Red Scare isn’t just a pop punk label.  In a lot of ways I see Red Scare as a modern-day Lookout Records.  Both labels were known for classic pop punk bands and albums but both have put out records from across the punk spectrum and that is what made Lookout so legendary and makes Red Scare such a tour de force.  From top to bottom, this is a stellar collection of songs that showcases how freaking great Red Scare Industries is as a label.   

Friday, December 05, 2014

Album Review: ‘Lost & Rootless’ by Tim Barry

Title:  Lost & Rootless (Official, Chunksaah Records, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk)  
Artist:  Tim Barry (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Last.fm, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

Tim Barry’s sixth album is probably his best.  The stripped down and heartfelt Lost & Rootless is an earnest and humble collection of modern folk perfection.  Recorded in his shed (soundproofed with bits of carpet, blankets, and pallets), Barry describes the album as wooden stating “That's the feel that I was going for when I picked the songs.  There's violin, voice, a wooden resonator guitar...there's a very subtle electric bass on one track, but otherwise I wanted to do a wooden record.”  The minimalist approach to the recording only serves to highlight Barry’s talent as a songwriter.  His unique voice has always shined through his lyrics, going all the way back to his time as the lead singer of Avail, but it is at its brightest when laid bare and accompanied by little to nothing more than his guitar and that is exactly what you get on Lost & Rootless.  Simply put, Tim Barry has perfected his craft as a singer/songwriter and this record is a brilliant example of the power of simplicity and the effectiveness of folk music.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Album Review: ‘LP3’ by Restorations


Artist:  Restorations (Official, Facebook, Twitter, BandCamp, Last.fm, AllMusic)

Restorations’ third album LP3 is a beautiful and brilliant mix of sounds that defies categorization while still sounding familiar and reassuring.  It is like an old friend that you haven’t seen in years--it’s recognizable and safe while feeling refreshing and exciting--and that is what makes it work so incredibly well.  Restorations have been honing their captivating mix of post hardcore, punk, progressive classic rock, indie rock, Americana, and emo with a penchant for big chords and rolling crescendos since their beginnings in 2008.  On LP3 they have perfected it.  After years of listening to punk rock, I’ve become very accustomed to the two to three minute long song; in fact, I am of the opinion that a song needs to have a reason if it is going to be more than four to five minutes long.  Restorations have completely destroyed that preconception with this record.  Many of the songs on LP3 are more than four minutes (the closing track “It’s Not” is over six minutes in length) and not once did I feel that the songs were longer than they needed to be nor was there a moment on this record that didn’t have me completely and utterly compelled.  Simply put LP3 is flawless perfection.  Easily one of 2014’s best releases.     


Album Review: ‘Fistful of Hollow’ by Swingin’ Utters

Title:  Fistful of Hollow (Fat Wreck Chords, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk, AllMusic, Wikipedia)
Artist:  Swingin’ Utters (Official, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Last.fm, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

After 27 years and nine studio records, one would think that the Swingin’ Utters wouldn’t have anything new to bring to the table.  One would be wrong.  The Utters’ latest album, Fistful of Hollow is a testament to the never-ending growth and development of the band.  While still sounding like a Swingin’ Utters’ album, Fistful of Hollow adds another layer to an already complex musical history that has flawlessly mixed elements of punk, oi, folk, country, power pop, and college rock.  With the lineup solidified and bassist Mike Peck and guitarist Jack Darlymple now completely entrenched in the group, the Utters’ have forged a path with a strong and cohesive record that remembers the past while looking towards the future.  Fistful of Hollow proves that the Swingin’ Utters are far from being a nostalgia act and far from being done.  I suspect that the best is yet to come.