Album Reviews, Headlines

Review: Bodyjar – Role Model

BodyjarI’m not sure if it’s the old age or that things do actually get better over time, but after an 8-year hiatus, Melbourne punks Bodyjar may have just released the defining album of their career with Role Model. Some 20 years into it, the band has written both a consistent and consistently good record built on the kind of melodic punk that filled the airwaves through the mid-90s.

For those who lived outside of Australia during punk’s seminal burst into the mainstream, Bodyjar’s introduction was their Nitro Records release How It Works. Polished and composed, singles like “Not The Same” were a nice first look, but the album lacked the depth their contemporaries had. Perhaps the biggest differences between the career trajectories of Bodyjar and their North American counterparts was the sheer number of similar bands that flooded the market in the US and Canada while in Australia, Bodyjar were clear and above the best of their kind.

Rode Model, their first release since 2005’s Bodyjar, rips to shreds these preconceived notions the band aren’t as good as their US friends. In fact, one can argue that Role Model is the best melodic punk album we’ve seen in a very long time. Tracks like “Petty Problems” and the terrific “Fairy Tales” is proof that this band not only has the chops, but probably had them all along.

Hope Was Leaving”, brings back sweet memories of mid 90s skate punk doused with a hearty helping of soaring melodies and the kind of bite associated with the Strung Outs and Good Riddances of the world, while slower fare like “Break This Feeling” give the album some room to stretch.

Bands from that era have tried and failed to branch out from power chords and whoa-ohs, but Bodyjar are unashamedly comfortable with who they are. Melodic punk has fallen by the wayside with the younger generation of bands, but that’s where Bodyjar come in, and Role Model should serve as educational material on how to do this genre right.

Old punks die hard, for that, we are thankful.

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Bodyjar’s Role Model is available now via UNFD. You can pick up a copy via iTunes.

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Sight & Sound, Trailers

Trailer watch: A Band Called Death

Before there was punk, there was a band called Death. In 1971, three brothers (Bobby, David, and Dennis Hackney) formed protopunk outfit Death amongst the popularity of the Motown scene. The band, a precursor to what became punk rock, was instrumental in breaking the stereotypical African-American contribution to the rock scene; beating out future punk/hardcore heavyweights Bad Brains by nearly a decade.

A Band Called Death, a new documentary by Drafthouse Films, sheds lights on the all too brief time the band spent together- recording a total of only 7 songs- before disbanding in 1977.

The documentary is available now on demand and is hitting US cinemas June 28th in limited release.

 

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Album Reviews, Music

Review: Face to Face – Three Chords And a Half Truth

It’s been a pretty fascinating ride for Victorville punk rockers Face to Face. The band’s trademark melodic punk rock took them from the small California town to the then heights of endless KROQ rotation and MTV’s Jon Stewart Show. They rode their ability to turn melodic punk into a near art form, and unlike their predecessors Bad Religion and their kind, Trever Keith’s song writing leaned more on his emotive lyricism than say political anarchy. His heart was firmly on his sleeve and through songs like “I Want”, “Don’t Turn Away” and “Disconnected”, Face to Face became the preeminent force behind emotionally charged melodic punk that managed to sway clear of the trappings of what eventuated into “emo”. Yet, while they remained on the forefront of this genre, they’ve never really had the stability that comes with finding a long term recording home. Face to Face has been through more record labels than the number of albums they’ve released. They’ve had the goods to break into the mainstream (1996’s Face to Face was as big of a rock album as you were ever going to get without them sounding like Green Day) but have never really quite reached the levels they seemingly wanted to achieve. But through it all, the one thing that has remained consistent is the band’s ability to write great songs in whatever variation of punk/rock they’ve conceived.

Their latest, Three Chords and a Half Truth, finds the band on Rise Records (their 9th), deviating away from the breakneck melodic punk rock their pedigree was built on for a more rockabilly, rock n’ roll twist. And while their post-hiatus album (2011’s Laugh Now, Laugh Later) was a more by-the-numbers affair, Three Chords… breaks away from them into Social Distortion territory with touches of The Clash. It’s clear then, that Keith and company aren’t interested in writing another Don’t Turn Away and instead, ease into an album that could have easily been the follow up to How To Ruin Everything. There are more mid tempo pieces, more blues influences, and more foot-tapping melodies than anything they’ve written before. From the stomping opening of “123 Drop” to the horn-section (yes) infused “Welcome Back to Nothing”, Three Chords… will surely polarize fans expecting something familiar.

They have of course, done something like this before. After releasing their A&M Records debut in 1996, they went and released Ignorance is Bliss, a polarizing record if there were ever one. Three Chords probably isn’t as divisive as Ignorance, but songs like the 50’s swing influenced “Marked Man” and the rockabilly tinged “First Step, Misstep” are actually more contrasting (musically) to “Disconnected” than, say, “Burden” or “Everyone Hates a Know-it-all”. They do delve back into the old playbook once or twice, “Smokestacks and Skyscrapers  is a fantastic melody-driven song that could easily fit next to anything on Big Choice. While singles “Right As Rain” and “Bright Lights Go Down” owe more to their earlier material or at the very least, music from their Vagrant-era.

The most telling aspect of Three Chords is how comfortable they sound with their new material. There was a certain awkwardness to Ignorance Is Bliss (for the record, I do really like that album), and their please-the-fans follow-up Reactionary was even worse. But here, they sound complete; like natural progression. So perhaps the band, having long mastered the style in which they became synonymous for, have found the next logical evolution of their craft. It isn’t as raw as a Social Distortion record, not so whiskey-soaked and down trodden, but there is a real belief here. And while older fans will probably be a little disappointed by its lack of pace, the album is a definite step forward. (Rise Records)

 

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The second song from California punk rockers Face to Face’s new album has been revealed. “Bright Lights Go Down” is the second song from the album, following the release of “Right As Rain“. Again, the song is less veered towards the band’s earlier breakneck speed punk and leans more rock n’ roll.

Looks like the album will be a little more How To Ruin Everything and less Don’t Turn Away. Three Chords And A Half Truth is out via Rise Apil 9th.

 

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Album Reviews, Music

Review: The Wonder Years – Suburbia: I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing

It’s hard to quantify the connection a listener gets to a record as deeply specific as Suburbia: I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing; a record about growing up and away from suburban Philadelphia life. But the best thing about the suburbs is that their stories are almost interchangeable with just about any American suburb. And so Suburbia is buoyed by these terrific pop punk odes to life on the road away from the basements (“Came Out Swinging”), great summers (“Summers in PA”), conservative fanaticism (“I Won’t Say The Lord’s Prayer”) and everything in between that a listener can, for the most part, easily relate to (getting older, getting a job, moving out of your parents house, responsibility).

Unlike the band’s previous work however, there is a new sense of focus, a bite to Suburbia that The Upsides and Get Stoked On It! lacked (maybe all the rough nights on the road and in airports have given them a bit of grit?). Add some wry humor and some quick wit, and you’ve got a pop punk record with the kind of urgency we haven’t seen since those old Lookout bands. Perhaps having spent my suburban American life just a few postcodes away brings a closer connection, but while Simple Plan and their kind may have bastardized pop punk with their overly sugary coating, The Wonder Years still maintain the idea of punk first, pop second.

Suburbia is a terrific record about growing up while never really wanting to on the inside. (Hopeless)

[xrr rating=3.5/5]

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Videos

Video: The Lawrence Arms – “Them Angels Been Talkin”

Chicago punk rockers The Lawrence Arms have debuted their new video for the track “Them Angels Been Talkin”. The track comes from their 2009 EP Buttsweat And Tears.

The group have also been announced as performers for Asian Man Records’ upcoming 15th Anniversary extravaganza where Mike Park is attempting to reunite every single Asian Man band to perform for the festival.

On a side note, Brendan Kelly still has the best alcohol-fueled voice in punk rock.

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Uncategorized

Video: Pulley – “Mandarin”

Pulley’s Time-Insensitive Material was one of my favorite EPs of last year; short, melodic, and every bit as urgent as SoCal punk gets. The release was, as expected, aptly titled as Pulley’s release schedule has been erratic of the course of their career. Most probably because front man Scott Radinsky spent a great deal of his professional working career as a major league pitcher.  He most recently split singing duties in Pulley with being the bullpen coach for the Cleveland Indians, so I think we can all forgive him if he doesn’t have time to keep slugging it out in a touring van 10 months a year.

So perhaps it’s fitting that the video for one of the EP’s best tracks come more than a year after its release. Nonetheless, fans of SoCal melodicore will love it. Here’s to hoping a new full length is on the horizon.

You can check out the video above.

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