Saturday, July 17, 2010


I've been slacking in the reviews department! I have a mess of stuff to get some scribbling done about, but I've been so busy pimping the big ass sale I still have going on that I plum forgot about review stuff. So bear with me while I catch up. Below are some goods. Check 'em out. Or don't. I just like to write about them.

Being a big Al Burian fan I was immediately excited to see this in the mail stack, very unexpectedly at that. All is the author behind the infrequently published Burn Collector zine, quite possibly my favorite (semi) regular zine out there. This particular one-off is a comic book done in his simplistic, yet fitting, style based around “Dantes Inferno” and comparing it to Al’s regular and mundane activities of being a shiftless shoplifting bum at a dead-end job and the ever-encroaching feeling that he isn’t going to amount to jack shit in this meaningless life. Sounds depressing right? Thankfully, Al’s cynical and somewhat endearing sense of humor shines through to make this a fun read overall. At times you really want to hate him for taking the world for granted, complaining about it, and generally being a bum. On the other hand, it’s just a comic and ought to read with a degree of levity, which I tend to do with all of Al’s material that I have checked out over the years. (Migrane/Microcosm)


Each band drops four new jams making for basically a full length of material. Balance and Composure are a lot better on this split than on their debut LP and I’m glad to hear that they’ve become a bit more rough around the edges while still maintaining a strong melodic backbone. Elements of Small Brown Bike and Polar Bear Club are evident, the vocals have that gruff melodicism that teeters very close to being too clean and annoying at times. Yet overall, it moves relatively slow, with some nice ebbs and flows and breaks into some great swells of loud guitar and crashing drums. I dig. Tigers Jaw wrap up the record with their four songs of poppy, synth/organ-accentuated rock. They seem to be kind of the hype band right now and I can see why a lot of people like them. From what I understand they have a female vocalist, but she only seems to do back-up’s on this recording, which is kind of shame as I feel the music would stand out more if she were to be more up front, or at least alternate with the male lead (who has that sort of low register like Alex from Lemuria). Musically, these quick songs could be a poor man’s Paramore with more heart, I’m not really sure. I’m not trying to be insulting with that either. It’s just that this is indie rock that could easily blow up mainstream style. It’s a nice listen regardless and I’m picking up what they’re laying down, so to speak. (No Sleep/Run For Cover)


I dig the writing in this zine. As far as content it is truly your local zine featuring local bands, tour diaries, and the like. But it’s the comical and quick-witted way in which it is written that makes me look forward to each issue... even if it only takes me all of 15 minutes to read it cover to cover. The boys in Mayflower are interviewed, as is the now-defunct Syracuse/Florida connection of Eating Machine. Plus, you get a hilarious tour diary from White Guilt’s East Coast jaunt. It’s well worth a couple bucks for some cheap yucks. Plus, now that Josh has a newfound interest in all things Jim Goad I can only see this thing getting more ridiculous. (Barbarossa Records)

COLISEUM, “House With a Curse”

So I hear the first song off this record a good month before it is released and am confused by it’s very ‘rock’ vibe. I kind of dismiss it and yet somehow find myself humming it over and over for the next few weeks. Then I get the whole album and again, am confused by this change in direction for the Louisville trio. Gone are the full-speed ahead ragers fans are used to, and in their place is an overall slower affair. I wasn’t upset in the least, but I certainly was taken aback by some of the musical avenues they chose to explore here. Plus, I knew long time fans who were expecting a certain sound would be sorely disappointed. They haven’t all out abandoned their sound, of course. These are passionate and raging songs. Ryan Patterson has a very distinct voice that continues to shine through, and the catchy anthemic choruses are still present. That sense of melody amongst all the chaos is amplified and you can tell that many of these songs are much more thought through in their creation. Bassist Mike Pascal delivers not only a sweet tone but some very nice complementary lines to Patterson’s riffs on tracks such as “Crime and the City”, “Lost In Gronigen” and “Statuary” (my current favorite track on the record with it’s absolutely wall-shattering stop-start thick slabs of riff meat closing the track out). I think the only thing that feels a bit odd to me is I caught a small Young Widows vibe off of a couple tracks- that thick and catchy bass under a flurry of unique guitar effects present especially on “Perimeter Man”. While it shouldn’t surprise some, seeing as the Patterson brothers have been in more than one band together and have similar musical backgrounds and influences I don’t want to make it seem as if they are aping one another since their respective bands are typically considered quite different. But I can’t help but notice this small similarity here and there. Regardless, the more I listen to this the more it gets under my skin and I could really care less what they are ‘supposed to do’ in terms of fan expectations. This will do just fine. (Temporary Residence)

END OF A YEAR, “You Are Beneath Me”

This is easily one of my favorite bands going today, and part of that is because they are simply an unclassifiable group that strides the line somewhere between indie rock, old school ‘emo’, and all out punk. Musically, it takes an odd turn down loose and melodic indie rock with a penchant for the occasional odd time signature, near constant catchy riffs, and an often driving push that keeps one listening intently. Then you throw vocalist Pat Kindlon in the mix and you get this added weirdness of a guy with a raspy and bizarre inflection to his voice spouting off some of the best lyrics around about divorce, being broke, and one of the best closing lines of any album ever (“Your arms wouldn’t reach around my balls”). The words lie somewhere between intellectual asshole, outright hilarity, and quirky anthemic sing-along. So, yes, it’s a mixed bag that will confuse many, but I like a challenge. And, in all honesty, the hardest part about getting into this band really, is trying to come up with some quick subgenre categorization to describe them. And it’s not going to happen. It boils down to just good and melodic rock with an oddball vocalist. That’s as simple as I can make it. And on, “You Are Beneath Me” they come up with some of the best material they’ve written yet. They try some new sounds on songs like “Eric Hall” and the instrumental “Sara Hayden”, as well as the hilarious sound-check style rock and spoken word on opener “Composite Character”. Of course, they also stick to what is a bit more familiar territory on tracks like “Bo Diaz” and “Charles Ewert”. My advice is just check this out regardless of what you like because it is just a damn good record and you need to hear it. (Deathwish Inc.)

“FIREBRANDS”, by the Just Seeds Collective
Just Seeds is an art group that I found out about at the height of my interest in stenciling. While that interest in making them has waned considerably in the last couple years I still thoroughly enjoy looking at them. Regardless, Just Seeds had a website showcasing a lot of politically-oriented stencils. But they have branched out quite a bit to include other artists who work in a number of mediums, but tend to consolidate things under a unifying theme of screenprinting their art which is always motivated around radical politics and social issues. This book not only showcases much of their art, but also discusses their subject matter. In this case, every page has a portrait of an important figure in social justice causes with an accompanying short biography of them on the next page. While this is hardly an original idea it should be noted that many of the people they choose to discuss are lesser known, though equally important, figures from various struggles. Big Bill Haywood, Emma Goldman, Angela Davis, and Sitting Bull may sound familiar. But try looking up Grace Lee Boggs, or Justin Dart Jr., or even even Yuri Kochiyama (I actually met her once!). While a little more history about each of these people would be nice I also know how to look people up and get a bigger picture of their impact and this book introduced me to some of these folks whom I will be checking into. Oh, and the art isn’t half bad either. (Microcosm)


Oh good lord, a documentary about Plan-It-X Records and their big annual fest thing. OK, for starters, my dislike for Plan-It-X has been quite vocal for some time now, but I must plead ignorance in making broad, sweeping generalizations regarding their bands and fanbase. Well, maybe I’m not too far off because watching this thing you get a pretty good idea of what sort of kids are into this stuff. Musically, I really just don’t like folk punk one iota. I simply don’t like it. At all. That music does nothing but annoy me. Yet, it is true that not every band under the Plan-It-X banner plays this way. Take Halo Fauna for example. They’re a pretty bad ass band that certainly sounds more akin to upbeat, mid-90’s emo like Braid. Or Latterman, who were a rowdy punk band (loosely associated with the label). But by and large, the dopey, off-key acoustic Woody Guthrie wannabe, cum-bay-ya feel-good sappiness simply turns me off. And yet, I see how they operate this label, which is VERY admirable. I see how this fest is one big fundraiser for a number of wonderful charities, which is also admirable. I can certainly appreciate the way that giving workshops on just about every topic there is, in addition to the music is a great thing to do that is sadly missing from big music events (and used to be fixture at big events such as this years ago). So in some ways Plan-It-X definitely knows what’s up and does their thing in a truly righteous way. But if I showed up there I’d probably want to punch out every train-hopping, panhandling, drunk-as-a-skunk suburbanite dropout who tried to play me a shitty song in exchange for a free sandwich or money for their beer/ elixir of life. On the other end of the spectrum, I’d also like to tar and feather the hordes of pseudo tough guy mesh short, sideways hat wearing poseurs who think they’re hard-as-nails because they can spin kick higher than anyone else when Madball shows up to town. Simply said, there’s lots of people I don’t like. So I’m sure Plan-It-X also has a fan base of well-rounded and intelligent people amongst their ranks as well. But I still don’t like the music. (Cantankerous Titles)

LEATHERFACE, “The Stormy Petrel”
I saw Leatherface about 10 years ago and that was also about the last time I listened to one of their records so you’ll forgive me if I can’t remember jack shit about what they sounded like then. All I remember was that I wasn’t terribly impressed and I’ll try and chalk that up to a bit of youthful naiveté. Now, having a been a band for a bazillion years and releasing a thousand records Leatherface strike back with “The Stormy Petrel”. They’ve often been known as the band that Hot Water Music got their sound from and I can see that in a small way (but I’ve always thought HWM was a direct rip of Mike Hirsch’s excellent late 80’s/early 90’s band Fuel- look them up), but to me, Leatherface have a lot more in common with the likes of The Replacements and Husker Du. It’s that sort of punk that young kids hear and say, ‘this ain’t punk! This is indie rock!’ or some shit. But old dudes state, ‘Hey! It’s the best we could do back then!’ and some other ridiculous bull. Either way, this is something I appreciate moreso than something I’m going to listen to a lot. There certainly are some catchy riffing, and a careful, delicate approach to the way these songs are crafted. Frankie Stubbs raspy whisper of a voice and oddball rhyming sets of lyrics may be my favorite part since a lot of it sort of comes out of left field. So if that sounds like the Leatherface you know and love, by all means check it out. I know my memory doesn’t serve me a better comparative description. (No Idea)

MAYFLOWER, “Second Best Sunsets” LP

Hell fuckin’ yeah. I know these dudes worked long and hard to make this full length and it pays off in spades. “Second Best Sunsets” is the debut from these Syracuse area (Oswego if you want to get exact) punk rockers and it’s pretty much a non-stop blast of catchy and anthemic punk rock from start to finish. Sure, they sound quite a lot like Dillinger 4 and Off With Their Heads, but so what. They’ve done it really well and I’ve been spinning this consistently since I first heard it. With a nice combination of subject matter ranging from being down in the dumps and working dead end shit jobs, to strong political and environmental convictions Mayflower do so in a way that is extremely catchy and often lyrically inventive. And while it switches week to week, I think my current favorite tune is “The World Needs Ditch Diggers”, with it’s chorus of “I’m a hack of all trades, master of none!” Ah, truer words in my life have never been spoken. Easily one of my favorite records this year. (Kiss Of Death)

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