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

DVD Review: Punk Rock Holocaust

by on October 22, 2004 @ 8:00 am

For lack of a better word already existant in the English language, Punk Rock Holocaust is Troma-licious. It is gory, bloody, disgusting, lowbrow, filled with actors that are either over-the-top hammy or beyonf-the-pale wooden, and looks like it was shot by a college film major. In other words, I fucking loved this movie. Troma films, of course, are the standards by which all “bad” movies are judged. And, to be certain, this is a movie, not a “film.” It’s low-budget, campy, and nobody involved is going to win an Oscar. It even has Troma’s preseidnet, director Lloyd Kaufmann. However, Punk Rock Holocaust is the first film I’ve seen that takes the Troma model, and actually knows what to do with it.

Punk Rock Holocaust is about one goal- killing as many Warped Tour bands as possible within its running time, and making every death as gruesome and over-the-top as possible. From groups turning dead kids into burgers to decapitations to ninja sword massacres to choking a fat man with a burrito, it’s all here. The appeal of Punk Rock Holocaust is pretty damn simple, and boils down to three groups: kids who want to see their favorite bands in a movie, kids who want to see their least favorite bands get offed, and people who enjoy seeing lots and lots of blood. That’s what made me enjoy the movie so much.

Yes, the acting (especially by Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman) was wooden as hell. Sure, the movie’s silly. But there’s a certain kind of enjoyment that can only come from seeing half of Simple Plan stabbed to death with their instruments. as well as seing the bassist for Bowling For Soup choke to death on a burrito. The bands featured cover enough ground to appeal to pretty much anyone who went to the Warped Tour in 2003 (when the movie was filmed), covering the ground from Rancid to Big D & the Kids Table, Suicide Machines, the Phenomenauts, to Andrew WK.

The DVD is packed with extras- movie trailers, a few music videos, a lot of live footage of the bands set to one of their songs, a blooper reel, and three kinds of audio commentary. The video quality is about what you’d expect from a low budget film, but even the night scenes are shot well enough to where you don’t miss anything. There’s even an obvious giddy pleasure running through the entire movie, as if all the people involved were having a great time making it. That energy transfers over to you when you’re watching it, and I sat in front of my tv, gleefully awaiting the each death throughout the ntire movie. I suspect I won’t be the only one.

Springman Records
Punk Rock Holocaust

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

Live Review: Engine Down/These Arms Are Snakes 09.13.04

by on September 15, 2004 @ 1:11 pm

The show the other night at the Jackpot Saloon kinda bored me. Engine Down‘s not bad as background music, but they’re really not something I’d pay to go see live again. Kinda like the Capsules– while I love what they’ve done, recording-wise, I’m none too fond of seeing them live.

These Arms Are Snakes were entertaining as all hell, however, although their set was abismally short. Then again, that may because Veda seemed to go on for fucking ever. I assume they’re local, or semi-local, since the Black Lodge folks (Ed Rose, Ron Hayes) were out to see them. They were also hanging with the band before and after their set. Whether they were local or not, Veda bored me to tears. They were, for lack of a better comparison, like an indie-rock Evanescence. All their songs sounded exactly the fucking same. The first one sounded good, kinda crunchy, and the lead singer vocals were nice and powerful. Then she introduced the next song. Which was not noticably different from the first. And so on, for about 45 minutes. My brother Steve and I nearly fell asleep.

But, as I had said, These Arms Are Snakes were damn fine. They had that same sort of angular, sasscore type sound that the Blood Brothers have. Their singer was all over the damn stage, and it’s not that big at the Jackpot. The man was jumping and moving like the place was full, as opposed the thirty or so people that were near the stage. Great band, too- there was some serious muscle and talent there.

Engine Down, well… I have to be honest. I only saw the first half hour of their set. I was tired, sore, and just generally wanted to go bed. So, I left. However, the thirty minutes I saw were LOUD. Damn. I think my ears are still ringing. Let’s just say Engine Down is fond of taking a page from Lemmy and the Motorhead boys when it comes to stage volume.

It wasn’t all wall-of-noise, though. I mean, the band is good. They are happily not a studio band, which was something I was afraid of. I’ve seen too many fucking bands that have their sound just turn out to be nothing without auto-tuning on their vocals, and twenty takes and a click track for the drums. Speaking of their drummer- DAMN. That is one talented man. He had a pretty simple kit, but he was busting out the most amazing fucking rhythms and sounds out of that thing. The guitars and vocals were fucking awesome… a studio quality performance done live, in essence. I mean, really, if I hadn’t been up since 5am, I’d have been just as enthused as everyone else in the club. As it was, I enjoyed the band an awful lot, I just could physically stay any longer.

Your writer was a bad music fan. Don’t be the same sort of person when the band comes through your town. Go see them, support them after their really amazingly bad luck, and have a good time.

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.


CD Review: the Break – “Handbook for the Hopeless”

by on @ 10:52 am

It’s been a good long while since I’ve heard a band that I can’t categorically qualify. The Break definately hits that description, and I have to say, I find it refreshing. It’s rare that a musical act doesn’t fit neatly into a genre.

The Break, at least on Handbook for the Hopeless, can best be summed up as follows: the Bronx meets CKY in a dark alley and has a fistfight over a bunch of AFI and Cheap Trick records. They’ve got that propulsive rock and roll sound that Ferret labelmates the Bronx possess, but they occasionally hit the stoner-rock via effects processor sound that CKY does so well (especially on “’67 Avenged?”).

The thing is, however, they still manage to hit some poppy moments that sound like nothing but Cheap Trick intros. “Last Night In Manhattan” sounds like Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos were called in to write the intro, then the song was handed back to the band, then passed off to Davey Havok for vocal rewrites.

It sounds like a total mishmash fuckup, but it’s goddamn good. It’s certainly something that grows on you, listen after listen. The more it finds its way into my stereo, the more I want to keep listening. I thought this would be a one-go disc, then off to the used record store, but I’ve gone back to Handbook for the Hopeless more times than I can count.

Ferret Records
the Break

CD Review: Flogging Molly – “Within A Mile of Home”

by on August 27, 2004 @ 4:19 pm

When a band has put out several quality releases, their subsequent musical efforts will unfortunately be judged against those releases, rather than on their own merits. And, as much as I love Flogging Molly, their new cd just isn’t up to par with their previous offerings.

To be honest, Within A Mile of Home is good and it fits into the band’s ouevre quite well. However, when put up alongside Swagger and Drunken Lullabies, the cd suffers a bit. While there are a few standout tracks, such as “Seven Deadly Sins” and “To Youth”, nothing really hits you right between the ears like “Rebels of the Sacred Heart” or “The Likes of You Again.” The only song on Within A Mile of Home that even comes close is “Factory Girls”, and while the harmonies with guest singer Lucinda Williams are fantastic, the song sounds more akin to something off of Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road than it does a Flogging Molly original.

The sad fact of the matter is mostly that the whole cd sounds like outtakes from the two previous Flogging Molly albums- certainly, it hits all the right pennywhistle notes and Pogues-worthy points. This why the material, while passable, never really hits a strong stride- it’s more of a “Celtic-by-numbers” album than something really nifty. It’s definitely worthwhile for new fans of the Irish sound to pick up, but longtime Flogging Molly fans may feel a bit cheated.

SideOne Dummy
Flogging Molly

CD Review: the F-Ups – “Screw You”

by on August 25, 2004 @ 3:40 pm

Y’know, I had high hopes for this band. They cover a Mott the Hoople song, they’ve got a pretty cool promo photo on the back of their disc… then things started to jump out at me. Things like- they’re called the F-Ups, not the Fuck-Ups; the cd is entitled Screw You, not Fuck You… yeah. Then I put it in the cd player.

Yeah, Screw You kinda sucks. It’s not that it’s a complete waste of time to listen to it, really, so much as it’s just really dull. It sounds like the F-Ups would give anything to be Madcap or the Swingin’ Utters. Unfortunately, they sound more like New Found Glory covering the Swingin’ Utters. It’s just kind of weak. They’ve got the look down, but the sound is terribly lacking.

Capitol Records
the F-Ups

CD Review: Engine Down – “self-titled”

by on @ 12:59 pm

My brother Steve loves Engine Down. I’m slowly coming around to see why he does. They play some dense music. While creeping into the “indie-metal/screamo/post-hardcore” genre by the skin of their teeth, Engine Down does not play music that’s easily accesible.

Frankly, I’m all for some dense music. Engine Down layers their music. They start with melodic vocals- and these cats can sing. None of that screaming bullshit for them, no sir. The guitars are fast-moving, but not punk rock fast, or metal show-off fast. It’s a pace similar to that of Helmet, but without the chugging freight train riffage. Drums are kept sparce and inobtrusive. They keep things interesting by throwing in the occasional accent, such as the strings in “In Turn.”

Engine Down’s self-titled is a damn fine record. It’s a step up from the easily understood Poison the Well or Thursday. This is music for the fans of the post-hardcore genre who want to avoid music that doesn’t challenge their ears.

Lookout Records
Engine Down

CD Review: the Lashes – “The Stupid Stupid”

by on August 23, 2004 @ 8:01 am

Hook-filled, poppy, and sunny as a spring afternoon, the Lashes make for a damn fine band to play at parties. Anybody who, upon listening to the Stupid Stupid, doesn’t get a little voice at the back of their demanding that they shake their hips just a little is most likely a robot.

The EP, despite being a short four songs, wonderfully demonstrates from where the Lashes are coming. There are healthy doses of ’80s New Wave, ’60s power-pop, and more than just a little Cheap Trick.

Fine stuff from Seattle… amazing to hear a band so upbeat from that region, after all the Nirvanas, Soundgardens, Murder City Devils, Melvins, etc. that have spread their rain-influenced gloom and doom across the country.

Lookout Records
the Lashes