Wednesday, May 6, 2009


So, I'm off to LA for a few days starting... um... later today. I planned this thing back in January to go see Unbroken and (mostly for me personally) Undertow, and now I've found out the fabled Lebowski Fest is going this week as well, so I'll have to check that out.
I wanted to get some reviews in before I took off though and I'm proud to say that most of the selections here have some local connection, and have been rocking my world lately. So enjoy.
I'll get a report up when I get back about the show and whatever else goes on out West.

AFTER THE FALL, “Fort Orange”

With a name like this I’d imagine this band was some kind of emo metal. I know they’ve been around for awhile, I’ve just never had the opportunity to hear them. Thankfully, their name doesn’t count for much in terms of sound. Instead this has a far more Strike Anywhere sort of vibe with a lot of technical guitar playing, and super intense drumming. It’s certainly a show of talent, but not really something that gets me going. All the members here can play their asses off (and in the case of the vocalist, sing), so basically take that more new school melodic hardcore punk style and up the ante. The lyrics don’t necessarily come off as prose, instead more like a bunch of stuff being said to you in a ‘matter-of-fact’, ‘here’s what I think’ sort of tone... except, ya know, sung. Again, it’s not really my thing but those seeking some Strike Anywhere flavor with a lot of flashiness will probably dig it. (Raise Your Fist Records/ Ass-Card Records, )

BLACK S.S., “Live At the AV Space” DVD
Almost two years ago a wyld shindig went down at the now-defunct AV Space in Rochester, NY where a ton of bands played over two days as a fundraiser for the very same venue that now is just a memory. Essentially it was just an excuse for a bunch of friends from Rochester and Syracuse to hang out for the weekend and go crazy. Syracuse’s own Black Sheep Squadron capped off this event and they’re performance is captured quite well on this DVD where all manner of singing-along, pile-on’s, rafter crawling, moshing in banana suits, and other assorted wackiness ensued. Basically, it was what one would expect in a Black S.S. show. That’s what makes them consistently one of my favorite bands to see each and every time. Of course, the whole set is about 15 minutes long, so a lengthy interview makes up the rest of this DVD where they discuss the finer points of the relation of punk to wrestling, playing to drunk punks in a garage, being old straightedge dudes with mortgages, Moxie cola, and plenty of shit talk on Trustkill Records. If you’ve never heard a Black S.S. record please treat yourself. If you want to see what happens when they play these songs live get this. What’s up with the Atari 2600 style type on the back of this? (They Live We Sleep Records,

DEEP SLEEP, “Three Things At Once”
There aren’t that many bands in the wide spectrum of no-frills hardcore playing anything that really excites me. It’s not just because I’m a bit jaded, it’s just that very few bands are taking things in an interesting direction. Sure, there’s plenty of bands that are fun to see live, and have loads of sincerity. But the majority of them I really don’t need to listen to. I’d just rather watch them and get my kicks that way. Deep Sleep are both fun to see live and a great band to listen to. At this point they’ve released three seven inches in a pretty quick span of time and this CD collects all three. As they’ve grown they’ve also honed their melodic side, creating some real catchy songs that fall somewhere between the ferocious speed of the Descendants and the sharp wit of the Wipers. In some ways they’re recycling the past. Yet they do a great job of bringing it into the present. “Out Of Time” may be my new favorite jam of theirs. (Grave Mistake,

I AND I SURVIVE zine #1.5
So instead of following your basic hardcore zine format Merski opted for asking a ton of people the same 15-20 short questions revolving around United Blood Fest this year. So, essentially, it’s a survey zine of a ton of people who were mostly involved in some way or another (whether they played in one of the bands, ran a label, etc) with the fest. I think I would have found it more entertaining if there was some more variety in the answers, but it seems the large majority of these people (based upon their answers) really like Trapped Under Ice, love their Nikes, believe that Craig Ahead and Mackie are the best bassist and drummer (respectively) of all time, and dislike anything Dischord released aside from the Minor Threat discography. Then again, most of these folks align themselves with one particular niche of hardcore, so I guess that’s what they’re into these days. Throw in an old Eye For An Eye interview and that wraps up the latest I & I Survive. I think the idea for this issue is a really fun one, but could definitely have a bit more variety of responses. (

I may be wrong about this, but I feel like this band did some shows with Polar Bear Club recently. It seems a good fit as Living With Lions sounds quite similar to PBC. This Vancouver group tends to move things along at a bit of a quicker pace though, sticking with mostly slightly-faster-than-mid-tempo for the majority of this EP. Insofar as the present goes you can see where the band’s influence/contemporaries lie, though it feels (at least lyrically) there’s an old school nod to some Lifetime going on. (Adeline Records,

MERIT, “Arson Is For Lovers”
Reading the press release for Merit’s newest record makes it feel as if the publicist is almost at as much of a loss for words as I am writing this review. It’s as if they wish to convey how exceedingly average this band is. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. But I get it too. These cats are from my hometown and I’ve even played C-lo with them before. Each member of this band is an exceptionally talented musician. They sound really good live. Brenna has a great range with her voice that can hit all the right notes and still sound gritty at the same time. But there’s nothing truly outstanding, or incredibly catchy about the songs. There’s also nothing wrong with them. It’s an all around well-written and executed rock record with a good recording. Yet there’s nothing that keeps me coming back. Who knows... they’re a band without a gimmick. That’s a good thing right? Heck, they’re giving this thing away on their website, and if you really dig it the physical copy looks pretty cool too. (

Long, drawn out, and filled with dynamics... just like good sex. This band seems to understand that if you’re going to write songs that typically break the 8-minute mark you gotta keep it interesting and thus many up’s and downs and tinkering with various instruments throughout the four songs on this record do just that. I’d say it works about half the time. When they intro and outro songs with a minute plus of feedback it seems like they’re just cheating to make those long songs count as long songs. But once they hit their stride and fill up the guts of the song with some powerful slabs of indie rock I guess you could say they’re working their Sunny Day Real Estate vibe in slow motion and tossing in a bit of Elliott for good measure. For those with short attention spans it’s not going to be your cup of tea. Yet those who love their Mogwai, and other such loud indie giants will appreciate this. (Caetera Recordings,

PSYCHED TO DIE, “Sterile Walls” 7”
I get the impression that there’s a good deal of hype about this band simply because members of The ergs are in this group. Well, don’t expect any of that here. Just figure on 80’s style fast and simple hardcore punk. Then again, it’s on Grave Mistake so what would you expect quite honestly? On one hand this is instant gratification, “Damaged”-era Black Flag style, punk. On the other hand it’s really nothing new at all to the point where you could stack 500 of the same type of bands together and not tell the difference. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s just been done a thousand times over. Something tells me these kids don’t give a shit and just want to kick out the jams. Bonus for the simple, yet really cool, cover art. (Grave Mistake,

REJOUISSANCE, “Moss On Monuments”
The songwriting for Rejouissance has come a long way since their inception (which essentially started as a one man band, and has since expanded to two set dudes, with a rotating rhythm section that accompanies live whenever possible). The execution is very similar in terms to what the Evens are doing- baritone guitar (both acoustic and plugged in) and drums, except no back up female vocals and extra guitars to accompany it most of the time. So take a couple parts The Evens, one part Credence, and one part gravel-throated vocals and you get an awesome mix that is Rejouissance. Things start off great with “The Grail” and what could almost be thought of as a breakdown at the end. It’s probably the heaviest moment this group has come up with and I really like where they’re going with things. Seeing and listening to Rejouissance has always been a great emotional experience, very inviting, very sincere, always fun, and always giving 100%. And it most certainly shows on this new full length where the members have always done their own recording and you can see how they are getting way better at the process. I fully vouch for this band and this record and I highly recommend you give them a shot as well. (Time To Operate,

So far this year hasn’t been amazing insofar as new music goes. There’s been some good stuff here and there, but nothing that really has gotten me really stoked. So finally, as we enter into May, I’m getting my first real surprise of a record that totally blows me away. Urchins Of the Night are some familiar faces (at least around these parts) doing a different thing. The group consists of the whole We the People lineup (as well as half of the core of Rejouissance as well as The NoJons) minus their singer, but instead of doing a more street punk/Oi oriented thing opts for a mid-80’s punk feel, a la Husker Du. Actually, this really sounds a lot like Husker Du. The method of recording even harkens back to that 80’s vibe with a lot of reverb on everything and could be mistaken for something that came out on SST that not even Greg Ginn knew he released. Each member takes turns on vocals as they pound out melodic punk rock with super catchy hooks layered over it all. These are all anthems through and through, and while I get the feeling people into more modern punk won’t get this the sound and the attitude is 100% there. Each song is full of sing-alongs and a vibe that sends shivers down my arms, and if you hear these songs and don’t feel that way too I feel sorry for you. Try spinning “Teenagers” or “On the Road” and tell me it doesn’t kick your ass. It certainly did for me and I think I’m going to go listen to this about 500 more times. (Time To Operate,

I can only imagine the amount of time that went into making each copy of this zine (of which there are apparently 75 copies). The copy I received has a cover made out of an old Beatles record cover with the title cut of felt and glued on. If this process was done for each copy... well, it puts my endeavors into DIY packaging to shame. The guts of this fun and easy-going read are basically all hand-written/drawn and feature little bits on shows attended, entertainers discussed (International Noise Conspiracy, and David Byrne- bonus points for that), recipes given, music reviewed (mostly older obscure 60’s pop), and opinions stated, all in a fun and carefree manner. While there is nothing groundbreaking going on here reading this will most certainly put a smile on your face and make you feel stoked on life. (,

The Zine Yearbook is assembled once a year by a rotating team of editors who basically cull snippets from hundreds of zines they get each year, compiling the best bits into a book. This year some of the folks at Microcosm were in charge of getting everything together and it’s, for the most part, a pretty entertaining array of material. Since I have no previous editions to base an opinion off of I’ll just say that I’m a bit curious as to how they decide on what to use? I’m under the impression that this is supposed to be a best of the best sort of thing, but in all honesty some of the material they chose is fairly lackluster. Some of it is wildly entertaining. Is it because they only selected material from submissions they received, or did they just pick and choose out of zines they were familiar with and liked? Granted, some of the zine material I wasn’t all that impressed with could be an overall good zine, but you just get a couple reprinted pages from each one, seeing as there are over 100 zines represented here. Some familiar ones like Avow, Invincible Summer, Doris, and Duplex Planet show up, but it’s the niche ones I’d never heard of (like QSL USA, Next Stop Adventure, Papercutter, and There Is a Danger) that piqued my interest . I enjoyed the Tom Gabel (Against Me!... whom I dislike) in Coffeebreath where he talks about living in hotels for a year and the history of anarchist mathematicians in One Way Ticket especially. The zine yearbook, I guess, serves as both a decent introduction to hundreds of zines that people may not have heard of, as well as a celebration of the ones that apparently thrilled the editors to no end. My only suggestion is to perhaps divide the space a little more evenly to other styles of zines rather than focusing mostly on perzines. (Microcosm,

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