Album Reviews

Review: Less than Jake – See the Light

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}Five years removed from their last studio album, Gainesville pezcore kings Less than Jake show no signs of aging. 20 years and some 8 albums in, it is quite the contrary as See the Light is the most energetic and urgent album the band have released since their Losing Streak days. After spending some subdued years trying new sounds (most notably with In With The Out Crowd), the band have continued what they rekindled in 2008’s GNV FLA; third wave ska’s finest amalgamation with punk.

From the get go, tracks like “Good Enough” and the terrific “Jump” continue a legacy they first cemented with songs like “My Very Own Flag” and “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts”. The energy through See the Light is one of the most impressive aspects of the record; “Sunstroke” sets the melodic punk bar high, while songs like “Bless the Cracks” give Hello Rockview songs a run for their money.

The band ventured into more pop oriented territory with In With the Out Crowd, and while results were decidedly mixed, songs like “American Idle” prove that the band can still be accessible without losing their trademark vitality. LTJ’s horn section is as prevalent as ever, something that became sorely lacking during their second run through the majors.

Less than Jake are bastions of a generation now more than a decade removed. When the youth landscape was filled with third rate, third wave ska bands, there was always the select few that carried their craft with distinction. It was the Mustard Plugs, the Buck-O-Nines, the Mu330s and of course, the Less than Jakes that always gave ska/punk an underlying credibility as it progressed into the mainstream of the late 90s. Truth is, it never went away, it just lost all the excess baggage. See the Light is the nostalgia, the present, and the tomorrow of a generation still holding its own.

[rating=4]

 

Less than Jake’s See the Light is out now via Fat Wreck.

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Album Reviews, Headlines

Review: Various Artists – The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute

tonslyIt’s difficult to separate Tony Sly the solo artist from No Use For a Name the band. Through the years the band were at their most popular, Sly was synonymous with the name and their craft. Yet it often forgotten the band were around for several years without Sly at the helm. But the truth is, while much of their earliest New Red Archives material exhibits a far “rawer” quality to it, it was with Sly that No Use For a Name became a household name in punk around the globe. Bridging the gap between melody and aggression, Sly’s songs were crafted with the backbone established in albums like Incognito, but embraced the kinds of harmonies that defined that generation’s brand of punk. And with it, No Use For a Name along with helped punk become a more visible form of musical expression.

His death was, and still is, an immensely sad and tragic occurrence whose ripple effect continues on in the community in which he was such an important part of. Now over a year since, some of his closest friends and contemporaries have put together The Songs Of Tony Sly: A Tribute, a stellar compilation that is both a homage, and a sombre remembering of Sly and his work over the years.

It would have been easy to have limited the tribute to up-tempo, melodic punk the band was synonymous with. And while the best track on here, Strung Out’s blistering cover of “Soulmate”, is just that, the work on show here goes to prove that Sly was more than just power chords and great melodies. From the opening subtle touch of Karina Danike’s cover of “Biggest Lie” (from NUFAN’s final studio album) to the ska-flavored rocksteady of Mad Caddies’ “AM” and Snuff’s almost-calypso like rendition of “On The Outside”, the diverse reconfigurations of the songs here are a great barometer of how far reaching Sly and his bandmates were in terms of the kinds of different artists they connected with.

Songs that were originally done with razor sharp distortion and hard hitting percussions are turned into acoustic-tinged reflections of musical vulnerability. Like Alkaline Trio’s almost macabre toned “Straight From The Jacket” or even Simple Plan’s weirdly bouncy reworking of one of No Use’s best tracks “Justified Black Eye”. In a sense, the latter is the one serious flaw of the album; it is a very off-putting rendition that probably has more to do with the original version being what it is (the long lasting resonance of that song done in its original form) than Simple Plan’s take on it.

The tribute’s most affecting moment is perhaps Rise Against’s cover of “For Fiona”. Tim McIlrath flies solo with a melancholy take of the song, one about Sly’s love for his daughter. In it Sly sings; “So you stay young while I get old / But always know, I’m your best friend”, and when McIlrath sings this in his piercing voice, there is an incredible sadness and finality to Sly’s passing. It’s clear how much he loved his family and when you listen to this song, you’re all but made aware of how real it is.

Purchasing this album digitally means you’re given a few extra tracks that are a nice addition to the mix. The bonus tracks include The Swellers’ version of “Chasing Rainbows” and a fantastic piano-only rendition of “International You Day” by Ryan Hardester which closes out the project in fitting and beautiful fashion.

For fans of Sly and No Use For a Name, this compilation (purchasing it) is perhaps the closest we’ll get to a contribution to his legacy. I’ve written about how Sly and his music affected me on the other side of the globe and feel that, with proceeds going to the Tony Sly Memorial Fund, this compilation is a small, but honest way of saying “thank you” to a man whose music changed people close to him, people who knew him in passing, and of course, people like me he never met.

[rating=4]

 

Listen to Strung Out’s cover of “Soulmate”:

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The Songs Of Tony Sly: A Tribute is available now via Fat Wreck

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Music, Sight & Sound

Esquire streams Alkaline Trio’s Tony Sly cover

Fat Wreck is slated to release the much anticipated tribute to Tony Sly in a few weeks and Esquire(!!) is premiering the first official recording from it. We’ve written about how much Tony Sly influenced us, and we can’t wait to hear this record. There are a slate of great artists involved in the project and proceeds from the release are going to the Tony Sly Memorial Fund for his wife and children.

Check out the official LP track listing below and hit up the link to listen to Alkaline Trio’s cover of No Use For a Name’s “Straight From The Jacket”. The album is out October 29th via Fat Wreck.

A Tribute To Tony Sly

1: Karina Denike Biggest Lie
2: Mad Caddies AM
3: Strung Out Soulmate
4: Rise Against For Fiona
5: Bad Religion Let It Slide
6: NOFX The Shortest Pier
7: Snuff On the Outside
8: The Bouncing Souls Homecoming
9: Old Man Markley Feel Good Song of the Year
10: Lagwagon Discomfort Inn
11: Teenage Bottlerocket Via Munich
12: Frank Turner Keira
13: Get Dead Pre-Medicated Murder
14: Pennywise Devonshire and Crown
15: Alkaline Trio Straight from the Jacket
16: The Gaslight Anthem Capo 4th Fret
17: Yellowcard Already Won
18: Swingin’ Utters Not Your Savior
19: The Flatliners Fireball
20: Simple Plan Justified Black Eye
21: Useless ID Frances Stewart
22: Jon Snodgrass & the Dead Peasants On the Outside
23: American Steel Dark Corner
24: Frenzal Rhomb Flying South
25: Anti-Flag Toaster in the Bathtub
26: Joey Cape with Scorpios International You Day

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Music

Propagandhi: Still Cleaning Everything

It’s hard to believe but Propagandhi debut album, How to Clean Everything, is now 20 years old. If this doesn’t make you feel like an old, jaded punk rocker, then you probably grew up listening to crap music or are too young and are probably listening to crap music now.

Never fear, in conjunction with the album’s 20th anniversary, Fat Wreck have re-mastered and released the album in all its snotty, punk rock glory, and have even tacked on a few bonus tracks to go along with it.

For me, How to Clean Everything was one of the gateway albums to political and social consciousness in punk rock. Propagandhi have always been very loud in their stance against racism, homophobia, sexism, capitalism and religion- and the album was a wake up call during my formative years. The album was raw and had some sillier tracks (like the great “Ska Sucks”), but songs like “Anti-Manifesto” (listen to the remastered version above) and “Showdown” were my introduction to politically charged songs that were urgent, but melodic and accessible.

I’ve always liked their follow-up, Less Talk, More Rock, more than I did this record, but as debut albums go, it’s hard to look past this as anything but stellar. 20 years later, and Propagandhi are still cleaning everything. I may not agree with all their views as I did all those years ago, but listening to the remastered songs here lights a dormant fire, no matter how fleeting its flame.

Propagandhi’s How to Clean Everything (20th Anniversary Edition) is available via Fat Wreck. Buy this record. 

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Featured, Music

Invincible: Rest In Peace Tony Sly

How does one find the right words? For someone who admired and respected Tony Sly from a distance, the day has been part coming to terms of what has happened and part sheer disbelief. Almost two decades since I first came across No Use For A Name, the music Sly and his bandmates wrote still resonate greatly, and a small part of myself just wanted to do what I’m sure he had done for so long; write down and express the many things that brewed beneath the surface.

Leche Con Carne and their spot on Survival Of The Fattest were my introduction to the band and I was immediately taken aback by songs like “Soulmate” and “Justified Black Eye”, music that could be both urgent and accessible. Their music was and is a perfect blend of aggression and unrelenting melody. It’s my kind of tune.

I can’t profess to know much about him, but from his music I know that he had a daughter, liked Irish music and that he made many friends on the tour circuit. The latter easy to see with so many of his contemporaries expressing their sadness today, and it’s a pretty definitive list of bands I grew up with, loved and listened: The Bouncing Souls, Less than Jake, Face to Face, Strung Out, Bad Religion, The Ataris.

I saw No Use For a Name live twice. Once back in 99/00 at Slim’s in San Francisco when they opened for NOFX, and the second at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne on their Keep Them Confused tour. Both shows were energized by Tony’s enthusiasm; no matter how long it seemed he’d been touring. And I for one, am happy I got to see some of my favorite songs performed from the best place possible; from the pit.

No one would ever call me a musician (one of the bands I was in back in the day covered “Straight From The Jacket” if that means anything) so I guess this is just from a fan. I never got to meet Tony, and I can’t imagine what his family and close friends are dealing with at the moment. But for someone who grew up on the other side of the planet, his music traveled across oceans and through borders and changed the life of some kid he never met. I don’t know why he died and I don’t really want to know, but I wanted to say thanks.

“Somebody get me off this lonely sad parade.
The differences a hundred miles, but a couple months away.
I’m saying hello just to say goodbye.”

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Music

New Screeching Weasel album, First World Manifesto, due March

Don’t look now but the latest incarnation of infamous Chicago punk band Screeching Weasel will release its first studio album in ten years next March. Ben Weasel had been keeping fans updated on the progress of the new album through the last few months but it looks like the concrete details have now been revealed!

The new album, titled First World Manifesto, is due out March 15, 2011 via Fat Wreck Chords. It will be the first album since 2000’s Teen Punks In Heat and the first for Fat Wreck since’s 1998’s Television City Dream (which was recently re-released via the label). Here’s the word straight from the Weasel’s mouth;

“So we’re back in the fold. But coming back after a ten year layoff? Believe me, sportsfans, nobody knows better than me what it’s like to try to hop back in the saddle after a, uh, “hiatus” and reclaim your former glory, so we’ve pulled out all the stops on this one. From pure pop-punk ditties like “Baby Talk” and “Frankengirl” to point-and-laugh-at-the-punk-rocker anthems like “Little Big Man” and “Follow Your Leaders,” this is everything you could ask for from the band the humorless twats love to hate and the cultured, refined connoisseurs of quality rock and roll love to love. The album is titled First World Manifesto and will feature 14 songs. Mike Kennerty is producing and Justin Perkins is engineering at his studio, Mystery Room, and at the Blasthouse here in Madison. The album will be out March 15th.

The band’s upcoming touring plans have also been given a bit of a stir, with Weasel saying that no international dates are on the cards just yet, but if anyone wants to make an offer, feel free; “if you want to see us play somewhere, even in some third world country like Ireland or Canada, make an offer, or have the blokes in charge do it. We’ve been having a blast playing shows again for the past year and a half and we’re looking forward to more of the same in 2011 and beyond!

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SOMEONE IN AUSTRALIA (Melbourne) MAKE THEM AN OFFER!

Australia needs this.

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Album Reviews, Music

Review: Screeching Weasel – Television City Dream (Reissue)

One of the most mildly disappointed memories of my punk rock teen years was getting Television City Dream and thinking, “man, this is a great, angry, punk rock album but why does it sound like shit?” Okay so, maybe I didn’t think it sounded like ‘shit’ but I do remember recognizing the difference in audio quality between Bark Like a Dog and Television City Dream. It wasn’t a crucial denouement, being a punk rock kid and all, because you know, back in the day, when you sounded crisp and clean you had sold out. Really.

But don’t tell Ben Weasel that, because more than a decade after its original release, his vision for what the album should have sounded like has come to fruition. Remastered and resequenced to include additional bonus tracks of outtakes/b-sides (along with new artwork), the reissue of Television City Dream does the most important thing it aims to do; maintain the original urgency and anger of the record while giving new buyers an incentive to pick up the release. Originally released tracks like “Your Morality”, “Count to Three” and “Speed of Mutation” all sound even better than they did in 1998- the low-end of the recordings have been given that missing crunch it deserves. The audio quality is now reminiscent of the levels found on Major Label Debut, which I contend is still one of the best sounding Screeching Weasel releases available.

The bonus tracks are a welcome addition to the mix. Four of them were released a year after the album on the Four On the Four split (“Punk Rock Explained” and “Video” are the picks of the bunch) while the fifth, “My Own World”, was released by G7 Welcoming Committee in 1999. So while they aren’t necessarily new or unavailable, they are part of the completing process of Television City Dream.

We’re all waiting for a new Screeching Weasel album, but until that time comes, Television City Dream serves as a stop-gap method of satiating the long wait we’ve had to endure. It is also a quick reminder that when Ben Weasel’s songwriting is on point, its rapier-like success is unmistakable. The best thing I could say about Television City Dream’s reissue is that I’d buy the same album twice. (Fat Wreck)

[xrr rating=3.5/5]

AUDIO STREAM: Screeching Weasel – “Speed of Mutation”
Screeching Weasel – “Speed of Mutation”

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