CD Review: the Outline – “You Smash it, We’ll Build Around It”

by on July 28, 2006 @ 10:27 am

The Outline‘s debut release on Fearless Records, You Smash It, We’ll Build Around It, is this pleasant little combination of influences. The Outline sounds a lot like Depeche Mode, although not nearly as much as She Wants Revenge (the only band sounding more like Depeche Mode than She Wants Revenge is Depeche Mode, and only then by a small margin).

There’s also some serious Incubus worship going on, at least in the album’s production. This album sounds HUGE. As in, the Outline sounds more tailored to playing big stadium shows, as opposed to the club tour they’ve got going on later this summer. The album’s third track, “Death to Our Enemies (We’ll Make ‘Em Sorry)” features a Propellerheads-style bassline, and wickedly cool theremin to sound like a sci-fi action thriller’s theme music. You wanna dance and run away from the monsters all at the same time.

You Smash It, We’ll Build Around It manages to throw in diverse influences like the theremin on “Death To Our Enemies”, as well as salsa piano on “Perfect For the Plain” without sounding like it’s this tosspot of confused sounds. There’s a taste of the Streets on the closing track, “Broadway and Hurst”, but it’s funnier, more profane, and cooler than anything Mike Skinner has ever done.

The Outline is one of the few bands in recent memory to mix diverse elements with rock and not sound like they’re trying for flavor of the week. Sadly, this means they’ll probably get looked over in the grand scheme of things. Let’s hope you don’t make that mistake, and take the time to become familiar with ’em.

Check out tracks on their MySpace page.

CD Review: Kaddisfly – “Buy Our Intention; We’ll Buy You A Unicorn”

by on February 28, 2005 @ 11:08 am

When a press release says you’ll like a band if you like a laundry list of styles, that says to me one of two things: either the group is in fact quite ecelectic, or they just threw everything at the wall and hoped it would stick.

Kaddisfly falls somewhere in the middle. They seem to be grasping at straws at the opening of Buy Our Intention; We’ll Buy You A Unicorn, but slowly and surely, the album’s diverse mixture of styles begin to come together. The opening five tracks or so come awfully close to aping A Perfect Circle, but by the time “Let Weight Be Measured By Merit” kicks in, Kaddisfly is standing strong on both feet.

I never thought a group could actually pull together jazz and hardcore, but this works. Sure, bands have worked in jazz drumming (Refused, anyone?) by the score. But never has jazz guitar noodling and hardcore riffs flowed into one another. And this fucking works. I’ll admit, it took me about ten listens before the album clicked with me. Once it took hold, tho’… man… this works.

To be honest, this is NOT for everyone. Someone expecting something like Thrice (this is Hopeless, after all) is going to be sorely disappointed. But if you put Buy Our Intention into your cd player with an open mind and open ears, you’re going to be in for a treat. It’s punk, but it’s not three chords and a sneer. More like bebop with a smile.

Hopeless Records

CD Review: Armor For Sleep – “What To Do When You Are Dead”

by on February 25, 2005 @ 3:48 pm

Armor For Sleep’s sophomore album, What To Do When You Are Dead, picks up right where their debut ended. It’s a really warm-sounding record, as was Dream to Make Believe.

Armor For Sleep has this amazing ability to take what is by now average and somehow manage to turn it into gold. A lot of this has to do with that aforementioned warmth. The band makes records that are the musical equivalent of laying underneath a blanket while on your couch. It’s a very cozy, relaxed sort of feeling.

There are screams, to be sure, but they come off as more cathartic, rather than angry. Armor For Sleep may play a variation on post-hardcore screamy rock, but it’s a variation that’s all their own. There’s some serious melody in their songs, but they seem to be comfortable with it, rather than struggling to “stay hard” like so many other groups in their genre.

I’m also impressed with the little booklet that came with the cd. It’s not much bigger than a credit card, but is this nifty little booklet about preparing for the afterlife that is a nice takeoff of that manual from Beetlejuice. It fits perfectly with What To Do When You Are Dead‘s themes of life, death, and what lies beyond. It’s a minor thing, but shows a commitment to a totality of vision that so many other bands lack.

Equal Vision Records
Armor For Sleep

CD Review: Various Artists – “Atticus… dragging the lake III”

by on February 7, 2005 @ 5:34 pm

Well, another year, another Atticus compilation. The clothing company owned by members of blink-182 is noted for not doing much more than putting out this annual comp and a bunch of t-shirts with the word “Atticus” on them. There’s usually a picture of a bird, too (ooh- Atticus Finch. How clever).

Anyhow, the comps usually collect an unreleased blink-182 track, some of the current bands on the SideOne Dummy roster, a selection of what the trend of the moment is (pop-punk on the first, screamo/hardcore for the second, and indie/emo for this new one) and a smattering of straight punk bands for cred.

They’re not neccesarily the best way to get new music you’ve never heard before. A lot of the tracks on …dragging the lake III are either off of already-released or soon-to-be-released records. The Street Dogs song is off their upcoming Back to the World, the Death Cab For Cutie track is from last year’s Transatlaticism, and the MxPx song is from their recently released dvd B-Movie, among others.

The Atticus series has a good bunch of tunes, which are great for the Hot Topic crowd, but may be a bit boring for those already “in the scene.” Still, they’re a great deal, as you can usually pick them up for as cheap as five bucks at places like the aforementioned Hot Topic, as well as Best Buy. Maybe not something you’d be itching to buy if you’ve already “discovered” the bands involved, but it makes a nice ready-made mix cd for road trips.

SideOne Dummy Records
Atticus Clothing

CD Review: A Change of Pace – “An Offer You Can’t Refuse”

by on January 31, 2005 @ 11:20 am

I’m awfully happy that A Change of Pace is still in high school. I’m also happy that they’re from a small town like Peoria, AZ. This means that they have the potential to expand their musical borders, which are pretty small and confining at the moment.

This isn’t to say that A Change of Pace doesn’t have something to offer, as they do. The band is signed and is still in high school, which is pretty impressive considering they can actually play their instruments and write their own songs. Getting signed to a record deal while still in high school seemed to be the exclusive realm of jailbait girls for a good long while there.

Yes, the band has talent. Sadly, it’s talent that is both stuck in a rut and unfocused. I’m not sure how a band can manage to constrain themselves and yet be scattershot about the whole thing. The way it breaks down is this: A Change of Pace can’t decide whether they want to be a Further Seems Forever / Jimmy Eat World kind of poppy emo band or whether they want to be a Thrice / Thursday kind of screamy emo band. So they combine elements of both, without really commiting to one style or another.

Now, while they skew to the pop side (for the sake of radio play, one would assume), the forays into screamo seem a bit forced. Then, when one gets used to the screaming, the pop side seems pretty forced and out of place. They haven’t reached a combinant level that’s to their abilities yet. A Change of Pace needs to decide whether they want to be screamy and a bit pop, or poppy and a little bit screamy. Once they have that small decision out of the way, the band’s going to be set, and ready to go places.

You can download the leadoff single, “Loose Lips Sink Ships” from the band’s website and see what I mean. It’s a musically strong tune and is only lacking focus. A Change of Pace has the potential to break big in the next year, if they can figure out who they want their audience to be.

Immortal Records
A Change of Pace

CD Review: KIll Your Idols – “From Companionship to Competition”

by on January 6, 2005 @ 7:58 am

Lots of hardcore coming across my desk here at the MoFo. I suppose I should be happy I’m getting the heavy shit I complain about never receiving, rather than the pop-punk with screams they call hardcore nowadays.

Yeah… well… Kill Your Idols’ new release isn’t really all that spectacular, either. It’s the other side of the coin from the samey-sounding screamo acts. Of course, it has a great Pist cover (“Still Pist”). Plus, the last track, “Looking Back,” grabbed me by the ears and finally made me pay some real attention to From Companionship to Competition. “Still Pist” is pretty true to the original, and “Looking Back” has the sort of hardcore hook I haven’t experienced since Kid Dynamite broke up.

Those two songs, however, were the last two tracks. The preceeding thirteen weren’t enough to drag my attention away from whatever I was doing the times I listened to the disc. And that’s a damn shame, too. Seriously- when I listen to cds for review, I play them at work, while I’m making dinner, while I’m reading, in my headphones… I give every album a nice, well-rounded test.

With Kill Your Idols, they couldn’t grab me until the very end. Unfortunately, by that point, it was too little, too late.

SideOne Dummy
Kill Your Idols

CD Review: 7 Seconds – “Take It Back, Take It On, Take It Over”

by on @ 7:39 am

Ah, 7 Seconds. You know- they’ve been around for 25 years. Yep… 25 years. That’s the same age as me. They started at roughly the same time as I did. No lie. And you want to know another little bit of information about me and 7 Seconds?

Every album since The Crew has bored me to death.

This one is no exception. It’s not that the album sucks, it’s just that Kevin Seconds and Steve Youth seem to have a formula that worked so well for them back in ’84 that they just can’t seem to let it go. Which is a shame, because their live album, Scream Real Loud is a fantastic piece of work that shows that even though a punk band’s been together for 20 years plus, they can still rock out with the youngest of them.

However, just because you can rock like you did when you were 20 doesn’t necessarily mean you have to follow the same exact song structure you did when you were 20. If the band could branch out a little… just a little, they’d have something would would maintain my attention past the duration of the disc.

Take It Back, Take It On, Take It Over isn’t a bad album, it just isn’t anything 7 Seconds hasn’t done over and over again. They do it well, it just doesn’t grab me the same way it did the first time.

SideOne Dummy
7 Seconds

CD Review: the Dollyrots – “Eat My Heart Out”

by on November 1, 2004 @ 5:20 pm

The Dollyrots describe themselves as “bubblegum punk.” I love it when a band manages to actually describe themselves in an accurate manner. Those two words sum up all that is the Dollyrots. They’ve got an edge to them, instrumentally, but vocally, singer/bassist Kelly Ogden resembles nothing so much as Kay Hanley crossed with that chick who sings for Melt Banana. Not so much in the speedy delivery, but the fact that you think she might be a little bit crazy- in a good way, of course.

If there wasn’t that nice encapsulation of “bubblegum punk” to describe the Dollyrots, then “coquettish” would work just as well. They strike me as a much more fun Tsunami Bomb, the sort of band you’d like to invite to sleep on your floor and play Scrabble.

But enough about their personality. Let’s talk music. “Jackie Chan” would make a great song to play back-to-back with Ash’s “Kung Fu.” It has that song’s same bouncy spirit. “Goodnight Tonight” hits the same sort of punk rock prom ballad territory as Tilt’s “Berkley Pier.” And Eat My Heart Out‘s single, “Kick Me to the Curb”, is the best “dump me before I dump you” song I’ve ever heard. The only complaint to be had is that, just once, it’d be nice to hear a punk song called “Dance With Me” that you could actually dance to.

Overall, though, the Dollyrots are set aside from most pop-punk bands in that they actually embrace their pop side, and acknowledge the fact that catchy songs aren’t necessarily a bad thing. The vocals are pure bubblegum, but the fact that the guitar and drum work of Luis Cabezas and Joshua Valenti is rougher and more rock than your average pop-punkers.

Panic Button Records
the Dollyrots

CD Review: Last of the Famous – “The Music or the Misery”

by on October 4, 2004 @ 4:05 pm

So, this is Last of the Famous, the newest band from John Porcelly, also known as Porcell. He’s most famous for playing guitar in the seminal New York hardcore acts Youth of Today and Shelter. These groups were most famous for being among the first acts to kick off the straight-edge movement in the early ’80s, alongside acts like Minor Threat.

Last of the Famous also features Alex García-Rivera, who’s played in Piebald and Give Up the Ghost (formerly American Nightmare), as well as Saves the Day. Porcell has also lent his talents to the Gorilla Biscuits. So, you’d think The Music or the Misery would be a nice old-school hardcore record, sort of a throwback to the ’80s, sounding like all the previously mentioned bands.

Nope. Not a fucking chance, kids. Actually, it sounds an awful lot like something that would come out on Fat Wreck or Epitaph, namely a No Use For A Name record, or maybe some of the mellower Pennywise material.

It’s pretty surprising, really. When I found out Last of the Famous’ pedigree, this was about the last thing I was expecting. It’s got some heavy to it, but it’s pretty speedy, poppy music, with not a breakdown to be found. Now, the lyrics do reflect the message that Shelter and Youth of Today espoused so much back in the day, such as veganism, being drug free, and so on, so they’ve got that link. Musically, however, you’d never be able to guess that this band had so many hardcore veterans in its midst.

Despite the disparity between the past bands and the current sound, this is a good album. I wouldn’t go so far as to say great, but it’s good. Nothing particularly memorable, especially the vocals, which- while capable- do nothing to really grab your ear. The guitars have plenty of hooks, and the drums and bassline work to keep the songs going, but there’s never really any solid meat for them to dig into. The Music or the Misery falls strictly in the middle of the road, but I imagine that there will be plenty of kids curious to hear it, just to see what the members have been up to after all these years.

456 Entertainment
Last of the Famous

CD Review: O’Phil – “Love Songs For Soccer Moms”

by on September 5, 2004 @ 11:10 am

O’Phil is, quite simply stated, one of the veteran bands of the MidWest music scene. They’ve been playing music for ten years now, putting out three albums (two full-lengths and a live record), and incessantly playing shows throughout the region.

Love Songs For Soccer Moms, their fourth release, has been 8 years in the making. There’s a goodly amount of fans in the MidWest who’ve been waiting expectantly for this during the two years it to record.

And, thank fucking God, it sounds like two years’ worth of work went into it. The album starts off a little bit mellow with “Brink”, a song that sounds like typical ska as it starts but builds to some serious rock muscle. This makes for the perfect lead-in to “Sad Song”, which, despite its title, is probably one of the two heaviest hitting tracks on the whole record.

Really, I could go track-by-track on this thing and discuss the merits of each song, but the fact of the matter is that Love Songs For Soccer Moms succeeds perfectly at what O’Phil wanted to do. They state in the liner notes that they wanted to make a record that contains music they enjoy making.

And there’s nothing that sounds better than a band that enjoys what they’re doing. The horns are tight, but jazzy enough to break away from the typical ska band “high school marching band” approach. The guitar work of Shane Marler has plenty of fuzz and crunch, and the Gretsch sound gives the band another little bit that sets them aside from the run-of-the-mill. Rhythmically, Rob Miller and Jason Stockebrand take drum and bass work to a level that just evokes the band’s inherent, slightly evil sound.

There’s just something in O’Phil’s music that makes them sound evil. It could have something to do with the big dude Alex Thomas on stage waggling his tongue and flashing devil signs while he sings. That might be it. Whatever it is, it works. And well.