Album Reviews, Music

Review: Fun Size – Since We Last Spoke

Nostalgia can be an intoxicating thing. Like many long gone bands who have once again donned their guitar straps, Richmond, Virginia punks Fun Size have shelved their hiatus and have released their first album since 1998. For some, the nostalgia and another chance to cash in become the determining factor behind their drive, but for Fun Size, whose genesis as a band was formed when being punk was more about the true freedom of musical expression, Since We Last Spoke is an unbelievable breath of fresh, and familiar, air.

If you’ll let me digress a little; the band’s debut, Pop Secret, was a real gem, an album I found while browsing a Tower Records in Singapore some 15 years ago. Its songs, all rough around the edges and raw, exemplified the youthful unkemptness of 90s punk rock; when the actual songs mattered more than the production value and when bands of this nature wrote songs to play them in front of their friends. Songs like “Pickle” still hold up better than what the majority of what their contemporary counterparts produce (and not surprisingly, the line in the song, “we were here before you were / and we’ll be here after you’re gone”, is apropos in describing Generation Now). When the band signed to Fueled by Ramen for the release of their 1998 album Glad To See You’re Not Dead (this was before Fueled by Ramen started releasing junk), it seemed the band was on the up and up. The material on Glad To See… was a distinct change from Pop Secret. They weren’t afraid to add complexity to their music, forgoing the standard punk rock song writing structure for songs like “Pretentious Porch“. At the time perhaps, it went against what punk was “evolving” into, and not long after, the band called it a day.

Fast forward to 2013 and we’re getting a new Fun Size album that is not only the most polished effort they’ve released, but the most energetic and urgent sounding record they’ve done. “Useless, Useless” is the album’s high gear attitude that revs up Since We Last Spoke, a left hook reminder that the band may have been out of the spotlight, but didn’t lose any of their musical potency. Melodic, fast paced songs about the trials and tribulations of life wrapped in frenetic guitar work (“End of the Road”) and skate punk sensibilities (the terrific “Try Not to Care”), Since We Last Spoke is nostalgic yes, but convincingly new. For fans of 90s melodicore like Good Riddance, and for those who rode the wave that brought Unwritten Law and fellow Virginian’s Ann Beretta to the fold, will find much to like about Fun Size’s return.

It’s been a long time between drinks for Fun Size, and while the new album is more straight forward than their previous efforts, it is their ability to evoke sounds from the last generation of punk that gives Since We Last Spoke a distinct stamp of approval. (self released)

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Paramore have released the second track from their upcoming self-titled album; “Still Into You”. The band’s new album, Paramore, is slated for release April 9th and is the follow-up to the band’s smash hit Brand New Eyes.

Man this song is irritating.

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The Farros brand Paramore “manufactured product”

In a statement with little surprise, recently departed ex-members of Paramore have written an exhaustive and damning letter explaining their reasons for departing the band. More importantly, Josh Farro has revealed some of the inner workings of Paramore’s less than earnest creation- a byproduct of major label greed. No surprises there right?

The text continues to say that the band and the facade were manufactured by Atlantic Records and Hayley Williams’ manager as a vehicle to progress Williams’ career as a frontwoman and singer; rendering the rest of the band as nothing more than touring support.

Here is the most pertinent part of the written statement, explaining the motives behind Atlantic Records, Williams and her manager;

“After many meetings between Hayley, her manager and the labels they decided to sign her to Atlantic records. We didn’t understand why Hayley was the only one signing the contract since we were told this was a “band”, but we were too young to grasp all of this.  So far, Zac and I haven’t signed with another label, although I guess our part of Paramore sure could. Next thing we knew we were having a signing party for Hayley.

Our next move was to rerecord her solo demos with our own music rather than studio musicians to make it sound more genuine. Meanwhile, we tossed around band names. I wrote out a list of names, including “Paramore”, a name my old band with Taylor and Jason Clark had thought about using. Obviously, we settled on that name. The label received the rerecorded demos and once again tried to fire the entire band, saying we were terrible. Thankfully Hayley and I had been writing some new songs together (Hallelujah, Here We Go Again) that the label was pleased with so that acted as leverage for the band to stay. The label and management then decided to build our band up the grass-roots route. They put Hayley on Fueled by Ramen not making it known she was signed to Atlantic as well. All the while we still questioned whether or not we were an actual band, but Hayley continued to insist we were, despite our being ignored and pushed around by the label.”

So major label sees talented kid and wants to make money off her, they formulate a plan to make her a superstar and everyone else involved gets kicked to the curb. Just another day at the office for major labels.

To this day we stand by the idea that major labels are at the very core of creative erosion, every one of them. And this is just another pathetic example of who they are and what role they play in this sad industry we call music. You really can’t polish a turd.

On a side note: The statement continues on into Jesus related tangents, and while we certainly don’t blame Josh or Zac Farro for leaving this mess of a situation, we do blame them for thinking they’d be rock n’ roll when they got into this in the first place.  You really can’t be in a rock n’ roll band if you spend a lot of time with Jesus… because let’s face it, you’re only rock n’ roll when you dance with the devil.

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Album Reviews, Music

Review: The Swellers – Ups and Downsizing

Tony Sly’s influence is vastly underrated. Just ask The Swellers, who spend much of Ups and Downsizing (as they did with 2007’s My Everest), doing their post-melodicore take on mid-to-late 90s punk which was primarily dominated by Fat Wreck’s ever growing roster of similarity. At the time, older punks seemed to deride the overly melodic nature of the new sound as a product of the generation. Funny thing though, in 2009 this sound has in a sense become the throwback, the aging and forbidden. But damn if in a scene on the verge of collapse under the weight of shittyness brought on by the Cobra Starship/Brokencyde/3Oh!3-ness of it all that a band like the Swellers could sound so damn good; like  No Use For a Name, Pulley and Ten Foot Pole all rolled into one glorious band.

Perhaps they sound this great because they’re surrounded by some of the most average music in the business (here’s looking at you Fueled By Ramen!), which really isn’t their fault. They’ve been around since Continue reading

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