Friday, December 21, 2012


RECORDS (in no order):

TITLE FIGHT, “Floral Green”
Never would I imagine that as a 35 year old man I’d fall head over heels for a band that typically attracts an under 20 year old crowd for the most part…  especially a band that started off as very generic pop punk.  But somehow these young dudes were able to perfectly channel everything rad about 90s punk and alternative rock and play it as if they were there to experience it.  I’m hearing a lot of Superchunk and Seaweed, some Nirvana, a touch of Quicksand, and a couple Hum B-sides all competing for space on this near-perfect record.  “Secret Society” is not only one of the coolest videos I’d seen in ages, but easily my song of the year. 

UNSANE, “Wreck”
Without fail Unsane will always deliver the goods.  By far the most consistently great band to tread the heavy music waters these dudes just get more grizzled and mean with age, and after over 20 years together they still have a lot of anger management issues that are resolved via some of the loudest and dirtiest music to emerge from the NYC gutters.  Some may say all their records sound the same.  That may be true…  but it’s a helluva a great record!  Just listen to the slow, drawn-out tension of “Stuck”, or the wailing thumping of “No Chance”.  Even with the great Vinnie Signorelli sidelined for most of their touring this year they still managed to beat heads silly across the US and abroad.

So if you don’t like this band that’s one thing.  But no one can deny how wild and out of control their live shows get.  Easily one of the best live bands on the planet.  This new record makes you feel that vibe through mostly short, blasting songs.  The cover shows riot cops busting in on some heads and that’s what the record feels like, a riot from start to finish (well, except maybe the more cock-rock-ish “Revival Mode”….  which ended up being one of my favorite songs on the record).  They even threw on some bonus tracks, which if you didn’t get that version than you’re just plain dumb because, again, some of the best songs they’ve done in years.  Wild dudes with brains going crazy.  I love it.

BURNING LOVE, ‘Rotten Thing To Say”
Just like Hannibal from the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together.  That’s the feeling I get when listening to Toronto’s Burning Love on their second proper LP.  Their first record hinted at great things, but didn’t have all the elements properly in place.  Now it feels like they have everything where they want it and they are displaying it in all it’s ass-kicking power on this righteous follow up.  From Ashes Rise meets Turbonegro?  Non-stop hardcore ass-kicking all over the place here, every song a ripper.

GYPSY, “Giants Despair”
More 90’s love going on with this record, though a little more rooted in post-hardcore styles, and a lot of Seaweed.  For a band that rarely plays a show they have a great sense of songwriting, vocal melodies, and togetherness that shines on songs like “Selfish Blues” and “I Know Who You Are”, as well as awesome sing-alongs on “Unconditionally Dependant” and “Count your Blessings”.  The perfect complement to the Tile Fight records mentioned above.

NARROWS, “Painted”
I’ll admit, I do have a soft spot for bands that can take influences that I really enjoyed 15 years ago and insert them into the present.  And with this band that’s no problem, since most of their membership was alive to be a part of those times.  Narrows second LP has been kicking my ass all year and I’m happier for it.  Bold, rocking hardcore giving us thick bottom end like The Jesus Lizard (see  “Face Paint”), spazzy guitar-effected riffing (see, the entire A-side), mammoth sludgy dirges (the incredible “SST”), and even an awesome KARP shout-out (“It’s the Water”) Narrows happily take most everything I really loved about late’90’s noisy hardcore/math rock and apply a fresh gloss over all of it to make a motherfucker of a record.

It’s funny how this name keeps coming up on my list, but when hey were around I was never huge on Seaweed.  I liked them, I just didn’t listen to them much.  They just seem to encompass a highwater mark of great 90’s music that balanced equal parts alternative rock, skate rock, hardcore/punk, and post-hardcore.  I’m also thinking the heavier moments from Farside records as well.  Drug Church do the same thing on the three songs from their debut 7”.  Again, more old dudes who have been around the block, yet continue to make great music.  Of course, front man Pat Kindlon (whom is more known for his vocals in Self Defense Family) shreds his wry wit and cynicism in one of my favorite songs this year “Mohawk” with lines like “Heard you got that job/ Heard you got that truck/ Heard you got off drugs/ Heard I should give a fuck”.

BLACK THROAT WIND, “Between White Worlds”
Why wouldn’t I put a record I released on here?  If I didn’t like it this much I wouldn’t have released it.  People who are too cool to put their own releases on their year end lists can suck it.  Be proud of what you helped create, damnit!  Nevertheless, I can’t think of a local band doing anything near to what these cats are making here.  I can’t even describe it.  Probably because I usually don’t listen to stuff like this.  Either way, beautiful and psychedelic, heavy and roaring, melodic and clever… all things they bring to the table.  I can’t describe it, and I listen to this and wonder what they were thinking when writing this….  aside from ‘let’s smoke some more pot’.

THE EVENS, “The Odds”
A late addition to the list.  Ian McKaye can do no wrong.  Together with his partner Amy Farina (one of the most inventive drummers I’ve ever heard) The Evens can do no wrong.  Both people involved in creating groundbreaking music for over 25 years take a few years off and come back with this album whose songs instantly get lodged in your brain whether it’s from how clever they are, or how catchy…  but often both.

BEST SHOWS OF 2012 (in no order):

Harkonen/ Zozobra/ Whores/ The Atlas Moth- Boston, The Middle East, 6.14.12- Basically this was my bachelor party and each band more awesome and louder than the next.

Kill Yourself Fest/ final Oak & Bone and White Guilt show, Syracuse, Badlands, 6.9.12-  A space that comfortably holds 50 people packed with 100 people, smoke bombs, fireworks, blood (lots of it), sweat, broken walls, broken heads, and complete chaos.  And end to something violent and ugly.

Black God/ Like Wolves/ Oak & Bone, Rochester, Pussy Barrel, 5.24.12-   Three of my favorite bands rocking out in an apartment to about 20 people on a weeknight.  All of them rocking the shit out of the room.  Black God ended up driving back to Louisville the next day.

Rorschach/ Converge/ Indecision, NYC, Le Poisson Rouge, 5.26.12-   In all honesty, I didn’t care about who was playing with them, I was just happy to see Rorschach one last time.  And man, were they good.  While most everyone watched in curiosity, a handful of people (myself included) were raging to their impossibly surreal and thrashing music.

Black Throat Wind record release show, Syracuse, The Lost Horizon, 6.29.12-  It’s awesome when everything comes together the way it ought to.  The band had been getting more and more people to their shows, most everyone had heard the record at this point, and here a shit ton of people showed up, everyone sang along, and I’d never heard them sound bigger than this.

Sick Of It All, Rev showcase, NYC, Webster Hall, 10.13.12-  I wasn’t going to go to this based on the cost.  But I hadn’t seen Sick Of It All in nearly 10 years and I was already in NYC.  I could do without the Chain Of Strength reunion, I only wanted to see SOIA.  And holy shit, do SOIA still deliver.  Their whole set was pre- ’92 material (with some classics from “Scratch the Surface” and “Built To Last” thrown in) and I felt like a little kid again going nuts with the rest of the people in the room.  Never a let down.

Into Another, St. Vitus Bar, NYC 10.13.12/10.14.12-  I put two dates on there because they were supposed to play at 11 PM on the 13th, but didn’t start until 12:30 AM on the 14th.  That was the only bad part.  But otherwise, the first time seeing one of the more interesting bands from the 90’s in over 17 years was nothing short of amazing for me.  The energy of the packed-to-the-gills crowd of 200 people in the small room as they sang along to every word of every song was invigorating.  And these guys played as if they never stopped playing, and sounding way better than a lot of bands who never did stop playing for the last 20 years. 

Restorations, Ithaca, Greenstar Space, 3.5.12
Restorations put out a hell of a record last year and I’d seen them once while it was out and was really hoping they would come upstate and spread the word to people here.  So they did, and everyone was blown away by how powerful and soulful their performance was in this tiny little spot in Ithaca.  Big sounds, powerful voices, energetic performance…  I was left wishing they’d played two sets in row.

BEST STUFF OF 2012 (in order):

1.     Getting married

2.     Moving into a killer new house with way less people

3.     Going full time at my job and actually having some money for a change

4.     Starting up an awesome face-shredding new band and having fun

Monday, December 10, 2012


Yo!  So this will probably be my last batch of reviews for the year, aside from an end-of-year favorites list type thing.  Going into the new year I'm not sure if I'll continue to do reviews like this.  I'm frankly getting a bit tired of it...  even though I greatly enjoy listening to new music all the time.  I'm thinking of doing a bit more reflective stuff, like old show flyers and write up's on fun, old wild shit, as well as current travels/shows (which I have been doing).  We shall see.
In the meantime I'd like to think there was some pretty excellent music released this year, especially in the last month or two.  So here ya go.

BASEMENT, “Colormekindness”
There’s been this group of bands that have released post-hardcore/90’s rock styled records this year and have totally nailed it.  A lot of bands go for that vibe, but don’t quite get it.  But records from Title Fight, Gypsy, and Basement sound as if they all were yanked out of the time stream where they all were about to open for Seaweed in 1994 and ended up here.  And for a guy in his mid-30’s, and lived through that time (and that era consequently producing some of the most influential music upon my young, impressionable mind), this stuff is pretty great.  It’s been a good year for music for me.  Basement hail from the UK, put out a record before this that didn’t quite sound like “Colomekindness”, and this is also their swansong as I believe they split up upon it’s release.  Well, it’s a heckuva way to go out.  Many of these song focus heavily on layered melodies, some pop-punk leanings, as well as a taste of classic Sunny Day Real Estate (as shown most clearly on my favorite song of the record, “Covet”).  It’s a nice surprise to hear another band that is culling their influences from an era of music most groups can’t get an adequate grasp on, and showing them all how it’s done.  (Run For Cover)

This book takes many, many, many (that’s a lot of ‘manys’) interviews with all sorts of people who have grown up punk and taken what they’ve learned from being interested in that term and applied it to things they do currently.  For instance, the owners/operators of 1984 Printing Press, or the founder of AK Press publishing- they took things they picked up on being involved in punk and applied to how they run their business now.  There’s a guy who got into vegan straight edge through the hardcore scene and now runs a company that installs biofuel systems in cars.  Then you have Will Meek, who runs his own psychology practice; Brea Grant, a television actress who grew up going to punk shows.  I’d say there are way too many people interviewed here who reside within the writing/publishing spectrum of things and it’s a bit unnecessary to get a number of similar stories out of them.  Also, some of these interviews tend to go on quite long (Richard the roadie more or less details every nuance of his punk upbringing down to what he had for dinner two days ago) and could use some serious editing.  Like, why do separate interviews for both owners of a printing press, or interview AK Press twice?  I get the intention of this book:  people get into punk, they take those ideas beyond mere spectator of a show, or fanzine writer, or dude in a band and make an impact upon society with something interesting.  It’s a good premise and a number of these interviews certainly are interesting to read through, but some of it goes on a bit long and gets a bit redundant.  (Cantankerous Titles)

I’m pretty stoked on what this band is bringing because they bring it in such as ferocious manner.  Between lots of amps and cabs they blast through several songs in a few minutes.  Fast, pissed as anything with snotty/screechy vocals and done in a way that makes this very young band deliver their craft in a way that suggests a much more seasoned band.  Immediate comparisons could be made to Punch (really fast, two-step breakdown, screeched/screamed female vocals) but Cerce has their foot ever-so-slightly in a metallic realm, or to Code Orange Kids (same level of off-the-wall pissed/vicious rage), but Cerce actually writes a song with parts that reasonably go into one another.  So that might give some idea of where they are at.  I’m a little bummed there was no lyric sheet with this record, and that the recording doesn’t quite do justice to how massive they sound live.  But other than that this is a quality release and I hope to see more rage from them in the near future.  (Solidarity/It’s a Trap)

CONVERGE, “All That We Love We Leave Behind”
I’m pretty late to the game on this one because who, this year, has not actually heard this record?  Converge is sort of a no-brainer because most everyone interested in  heavy/punk music knows who they are and knows what they’re getting, even though the band is pretty good at making a killer record every single time.  But I’m not one of those people who worship at the alter, or freak out over what weird vinyl variant (or how many) I can pre-order.  Though I certainly do like Converge and respect the fact that they always release something respectable, put a lot of time and effort into every detail, put on a really good show, and run their band on a great DIY model and still play to sold out rooms all over the world.  Kudos to them for being a band that consistently makes music the majority of people would cower in fear from, yet by all accounts would be considered quite successful.  That all being said, I enjoy this record. I still have no idea how people actually sing along to Jacob’s unhinged yelping, but that’s besides the point.  I’m particularly swayed by the ultra-heavy steamroller of “Shame In the Way” (which could have been an out take from Cave-In’s, “Until your Heart Stops”), equally as I am by the blasting speed of “Tresspasses”, or the ass-kicking death rock vibe of “Vicious Muse”.  There are plenty more songs on here, all with their own vibe.  Some are wilder, faster, or moodier, but those three are my favorites I think.  I think my only real gripe with this release is that it seems most of their records will have one song that, in the span of less than 2 minutes, will have an incredibly fast first half followed by some insanely heavy breakdown, a la “Axe To Fall” or “Concubine”, or even “Forsaken”.  Not quite present here.  But hey, who am I to complain?  This is a great release for them.  I dig it.  (Epitaph/Deathwish)

EVENS, THE, “The Odds”
It has been quite a long time since Ian McKaye and Amy Farina have churned out a record from their collective project known as the Evens.  Part of that may have had to do with starting a family and raising a youngster, but that’s just a guess.  Still, the wait has been worth it as the duo once again presents an albums worth of stripped down songs that, while only employing a baritone guitar, drums, and both their voices, gives the listener so much to proverbially chew on.  The time has been put into their craft in such an interesting manner that I just want to dissect each song, lyric, and sound on this record.  When two people have such an extraordinary (and quality) catalog of music under both their belts the minutia of how they create new things together is fascinating to behold.  Amy not only has a soulful, and slightly sinister, voice, but is one of the more creative drummers I’ve witnessed.  Her off-time patterns that fall out of place and then lock into step once the vocals kick in to find the rhythm is incredibly clever, just as much as the straightforward thump that drives “This Other Thing” is direct and driving in it’s approach.  McKaye once again employs the range of his baritone guitar to get low bass tones, as well as the melody of guitar and uses both to find wonderful harmonies that work well with both their voices.  His lyrical ponderings on such songs as “Let’s Get Well” are wonderfully written (actually, I’m not sure who writes the lyrics- I imagine it’s collaborative- but since he sings this one I’ll attribute it to him), and put together well.  While many might feel some skepticism when listening to The Evens simply because it does not ‘rock’ as hard as the members previous outfits they are sadly mistaken.  This has just as much weight and depth as anything they have done in the past.  And it certainly makes me think, and inspires me to be just as creative in my own endeavors.  Any creative type should hope to have this many ideas and inspiration after 30 years of making music.  (Dischord)

PIG DESTROYER, “Book Burner”
Man, you wait five years and then Pig Destroyer fucks your shit up with another LP aiming to ruin your day.  Relentless is an apt term for their delivery, like all their material.  Most songs come at you so fast and then rip you apart in the space of under two minutes.  I love it.  Some friends had critiques of this record saying it doesn’t rage as much as their previous records.  So after getting my face replaced with lava once I got through this record I put on a couple of the old ones for comparisons.  Indeed, there are subtle differences.  New drummer Adam Jarvis (of Misery Index) has a tighter and more technical style than previous blast beat magician Brian Harvey, whose style was still technical, but a little more loose- adding to the unhinged grindcore/violence that Pig Destroyer were so awesome at.  Jarvis still lays down some great stuff and this record still does slay.  The opening track, “The American’s Head”, the title track, and “The Diplomat” all do a fine job of opening with salvos of blasting grind, followed by sharp attacks of surprise breakdowns and JR Hayes wretched screams amongst it all.  Another quality record from a heckuva band.  (Relapse)

WHY THE WIRES, “All These Dead Astronauts”
Ithaca’s Why the Wires unleash their third LP in about as many years.  For a bunch of dads who make this band a very part time thing they sure are prolific.  This record only continues what they have been doing and improves upon the quality.  They are clearly a somewhat less technical Sweep the Leg Johnny, though I fear that description does not help most hoping for an easy description.  Well, think guys who really like stuff like Hot Snakes and other rocking garage punk, but can’t help themselves to putting in some gnarly math rock parts, and various additional instrumentation such as saxophone and accordion to many of the songs.  This comes in a nice gatefold cover and heavy vinyl.  How do they afford to do stuff like this when they rarely play out?  The passion is in the project I suppose, and if you ever get a chance to see them play it’s definitely in the performance as well.  (Rorschach Records)