Sight & Sound

Revisiting Emo: This Afternoon’s If We Gave Up Now

afterSometime in 2002, I received This Afternoon’s third full length, If We Gave Up Now, from now defunct label Emplane. Revisiting this release some 11 years later, it’s interesting to revisit my initial thoughts on the record when I wrote the review of it (back in 2002).

Here’s how I initially described the band; “mid to late 90s almost Midwestern indie rock influenced punk. There are catchy hooks, heartfelt vocalizations with a distinct mid tempo rock feel. You can compare them to the likes of Texas is the Reason, the Enkindels and maybe some early Elliott.”

It’s a pretty accurate description upon re-listening to the release. I do however, have to note that while I originally said that some of the longer song lengths tend to feel like “four hours of driving through Kansas,” their effect today is a little less draining. Almost as if a four hour drive through Kansas really isn’t that bad. Maybe it’s just the decade in between, but I seem to appreciate the slower build up, the more languid song structures, and the less than urgent demeanor in which the music unfolds- much more than I did back in 2002. Texas is the Reason is probably the closest recognized sound This Afternoon emulates, and while the paced approach to songwriting may not appeal to every post-hardcore enthusiast, If We Gave Up Now may just surprise a few.

It just takes a little time. Have a listen:

“Made By Make Believe”
Made By Make Believe

“Stop-Sign Racing”
Stop Sign Racing

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Sight & Sound

LISTEN: Joshua and the Baggage EP

joshjoshJoshua are quite the emo anomaly; once the darlings of the genre, their presence went from the thoroughfares of file sharing’s best days to the unfortunate mumblings of ‘what ever happened to?’ and the occasional joyous find at local Mom and Pop record stores. Capturing much of the attention in their early Doghouse Records days, they reached a pinnacle through, of all things, a self-titled single that still holds their two finest offerings; “Divide Us” and “Your World is Over.” It is quite strange to think that while many of their counterparts (who ply their trade in very much the same scope) have ascended to far greater heights, Joshua have never scaled higher than occasional scene reminiscence and the inquisitive wondering of lost potential…

One wonders if the band had been around today, whether their brand of pop-tinged emo would find its way onto grander settings. Truth be told, their final release, the Baggage EP, doesn’t differ too far from what popular acts like Say Anything did during their heyday. Yet there is a certain air of unpretentiousness that comes with Joshua that is sorely lacking in the music Max Bemis (of Say Anything) generally writes. Perhaps this is due to the relative obscurity that Joshua had in comparison to Say Anything, an aura of undiscovered riches amongst a sea anemone of emo-flavored indie rock. It’s what gives their music replayability years and years after the fact. Have a listen to the very breezy “Perfect Man” and tell me you’re not swayed … and then listen to the track “A Better Place” to see just what could have been.

“Perfect Man”
“Perfect Man”

“A Better Place”
“A Better Place”

Note: We are of course talking about the Joshua formed in 1995, who went on to release material on both Immigrant Sun and Doghouse … not the metal band.

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Sight & Sound

LISTEN: The Wunder Years – Pitstops On The Road Less Travelled

pitstopsThe festive season is an amalgamation of many sentiments. For some, its time is best shared in the comfort of those closest to them- be it friends or family. Others find solace in the seemingly endless road that beckons- solitary journeys that evoke the deepest of personal introspection and wonderment. If the latter is true, than perhaps the overtly bubbly nature of this time can be a little soulless- one too many “feliz navidads” sung by wide-eyed children in busy shopping malls.

In 1999 I discovered an indie/punk band on my travels around Northern California called The Wunder Years. A perfectly monikered band for those who happened to grow up alongside the troubled (but very thoughtful) childhood of one Kevin Arnold dreaming of someday landing their very own Winnie Cooper. Regardless, this particular Wunder Years took their cues more from the likes of Jawbreaker than Joe Cocker- resulting in a near seamless blend of Kerouacan contemplation and road weary rock n’ roll.

They sang about what it is like being lost in youth, finding one’s self on your travels, and growing up along the way. I for one, thought that at the age of 18/19, it was the perfect accompaniment to those years— like the audio version of On The Road. Plus, they threw in a rendition of a Cars classic, which was very well done. Appropriately, the album was called Pitstops On the Road Less Traveled. And at the time, it felt right- another chapter in a book we’re all writing.

In the years since, the band dissolved and the moniker was taken up by Pennsylvania pop punk act The Wonder Years, who felt it wasn’t necessary to avoid copyright issues. This band, while at times seemingly energetic and youthful, is by far the lesser of the two. It’s a shame that they’re the band most people will associate the name to. But as this is a nostalgic trek down the road less travelled, here are three songs from Pit Stops.

Listen: “Go Kid Go”
Go Kid Go

 

Listen: “Vacations/Seperations”
Vacations Seperations

 

Listen: “Just What I Needed”
Just What I Needed

 

 

Supplementary notes: Members of The Wunder Years went on to form The Ghost, and The Velvet Teen. Brian Moss, the band’s primary songwriter and vocalist, does time as Hanelei.

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Sight & Sound

WATCH: Pennywise live in 1993 (Jason Thirsk vocals)

Our friends at Dying Scene have uncovered some rare live footage of Pennywise live from 1993. Live not because it is Pennywise from 1993, but because the footage showcases Jason Thirsk singing vocals in Jim Lindberg’s absence. Thirsk was the band’s bassist until 1996 when he was tragically killed in a freak gun accident.

The footage is from a 1993 Hollywood show which lasted about 16 minutes before cops showed up and shut it down.

Thirsk wrote the song “Bro Hymn” for his friends who were killed in a car accident. After Thirsk’s death, the band re-wrote the song for Thirsk and released it on their 1997 album Full Circle. You can listen to that version of the song here.

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Sight & Sound

Is this the best Rancid cover you’ll ever hear?

The art of the punk rock cover comes with many layers of success and failure. While punk bands covering songs not of the genre has degraded into nothing but a cash-cow of woeful ‘Punk Goes…‘ renditions, punk bands covering other punk bands has been something more of a sign of respect and homage than anything else (mostly). Rancid have been covered on several occasions, probably most notably by NOFX, but few have come across as wonderfully eclectic yet still urgent as Chicago punk rockers The Mizzerables‘ and their cover of “Olympia, WA”.

Who are The Mizzerables? They’re a snotty, melodic punk band from the Windy City, noted for its stellar early-to-mid 90s lineage of Screeching Weasels and Lawrence Armses, good pizza and mediocre football. And now, a rather terrific bluegrassy cover of a Rancid song. Well, at least it should be.

But The Mizzerables’ generosity doesn’t stop here, they’re actually offering up their latest full length album, Every Last Stitch, for FREE! No email required, no nothing… but it would be nice of you to send them a few bucks because having listened to the thing, it’s pretty damn good if you love short, melodic, snotty punk rock songs the city seems to produce like an assembly line.

The cover is part of the band’s series of covers which has seen them tackle Neil Young and Linda Perry’s famous one hit wonder entry “What’s Up?”, but really, this third offering is by far the best. Although, their “What’s Up?” cover really is good too.

But we’re here for their take on Rancid, and it’s much better than NOFX’s take of the same song.

Check it out:

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Sight & Sound

WATCH: The Killers – “Christmas in L.A.” (feat. Owen Wilson)

The Killers continue their long partnership with the AIDS Awareness foundation (RED) by releasing the new Christmas single “Christmas In LA”. Earlier, RollingStone unveiled the song’s pretty grand video.

Featuring Owen Wilson and Harry Dean Stanton, the video features both actors set to the backdrop of student-made animation directed by Kelli Loosli. The video, according to Slant, is about “the existential crisis all actors inevitable face at some point in their careers”. The band Dawes features on the audio portion of the single.

The Killers are really hit or miss, with much of their output being on the miss side, but give credit where its due, this melange of Christmas vibes coupled with the melancholia strewn video and imagery fits rather well.

Check out the video below (hit refresh if the VEVO player isn’t working immediately):

http://videoplayer.vevo.com/embed/Embedded?videoId=USUV71302719&playlist=false&autoplay=0&playerId=null&playerType=embedded&env=0&cultureName=en_us&cultureIsRTL=False

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Sight & Sound

VIDEO: Bad Religion – “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Parody or not, Bad Religion have never been a band to stay clear of polarizing their fans.  From Into the Unknown to their major label days, the band’s output has often wavered from being incredible statements of political and social nature to just plain baffling. Their Christmas album? A little of both. While the content seems rather lame, the actual execution has been quite good.

As part of their freshly minted advent calender in which the band will be gifting fans one new gift a day until Christmas, the band have released the video for the song “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”. The video uses traditional Christmas choir footage edited with the less-traditional rendition of the song. What can be expect from Bad Religion until Christmas? We’ll have to wait and see each day.

For now, check out the video below:

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