Single Reviews

Review: Arliss Nancy / Those Crosstown Rivals – Split 7″

tcrMuch has been said for American rock n’ rollers Arliss Nancy around these parts. Their new album Wild American Runners is easily one of the most stellar releases of 2013. This new 7” split from Shitstarter Records is both a great way to acquire some short run Arliss Nancy vinyl and a great way to discover this split’s other recording artist Those Crosstown Rivals. The latter, taking a page from the same Americana-drenched rock n’ roll book as Arliss Nancy, are a little less polished and more cow-punked, but still boast the same kind of urgency and guitar-fueled reflection as their split counterparts.

The 7” version of this release features a track each, the Wild American Runners featuring “Both Got Old” from Arliss Nancy and “Look At Me” by Those Crosstown Rivals. While the AN cut is from an album, the TCR song is something we haven’t heard yet, and it’s a rollicking train of Southern-flavored rock that’s got a little bit of classic Against Me! in it too.

For those who purchase this release digitally, you get two bonus tracks for your troubles; “Can’t Go Back” and “Kentucky Woman” from the artists respectively. Both are added reasons to sink your teeth into either band as they are both crafting songs of their genre with great success. You can’t go wrong with either band so why not get both?

[rating=4]

 

The Arliss Nancy / Those Crosstown Rivals Split 7″ is available now via Shitstarter Records. You can listen to Those Crosstown Rivals’ “Look At Me” below:

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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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Single Reviews

Review: Distance – “No Funeral”

distanceNewcastle, Australia’s Distance are a relatively new entity under the post-hardcore umbrella. And while they may still be a burgeoning act, these two new songs presented as No Funeral, prove they are way beyond their collective age as a band. Their sound, perhaps, isn’t best labelled under the genre we tend to associate bands boasting crunchy post-punk guitars, strong percussion work and vocals fueled by what sounds like rage and anger. For Australian listeners, Distance will probably remind them of lauded acts like A Death in the Family, but for North American ears, you’ll find that their brand of songs could slip off the back of the Avail truck.

There are two songs here, “Temporary” and “Winter Solstice”, and both acquit themselves really well. “Temporary” has a tinge of Samiam to it as the opening percussion/guitar combo crescendos to near perfect melodies. What can be noted from these two songs is the band’s vocal work that at times come across as similar to Chris Fields’ work in Jon Cougar Concentration Camp; rough and tumble-dried in a vat of whiskey and a thousand cigarettes. The second song however, “Winter Solstice”, is really where the band shines. Its mid-tempo reflections and melancholia is draped in soaring choral harmonies, while the band’s adept blend of punk and hardcore comes through in spades. It’s really a terrific song and if it is any indication of where this band will go, then Distance will certainly be one to keep your ears and eyes on.

[rating=4]

 

Distance’s No Funeral is now available digitally and on cassette tape(!) via Hindsight Records. You can listen to “Winter Solstice” below:

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Album Reviews

Review: Five Iron Frenzy – Engine of a Million Plots

EngineofaMillionPlotsIn my review for Less than Jake’s See The Light, I made mention of several bands who always held the third wave ska flag high with their craft. For some reason, I forgot to mention Five Iron Frenzy, who after a ten-year hiatus are back with a kindling of new songs, tied together with a deft ribbon titled Engine of a Million Plots. In hindsight, this oversight is made ever more glaring upon repeated listens of the new album, a wonderfully nostalgic but incredibly refreshing repaving of an old road.

That old road, third wave, has seen a remarkable rekindling over the last few weeks, most notably from their “old guard” of established acts still breathing the fire they did when they first burst on to their respective musical landscapes. Five Iron Frenzy, perhaps slightly less on the forefront than say Less than Jake or the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were during their height of popularity, had been one of the more consistent acts. Their albums were always good, in many ways. My most compelling recollection was their album Our Newest Album Ever!, a sprightly, homely at times, wind in your hair ska/punk album that dug deep into the core of what it was growing up during these times.

Now a decade removed from their last output, Five Iron Frenzy continue their remarkable track record with songs still entrenched in their love of ska, rock and punk, while being in tune with the contemporary world around them. The album’s musical output is as strong as ever; with tracks like the up-tempo “We Own The Skies” and “Against a Sea of Troubles” showcasing their impeccable blending of ska and punk while “So Far” (candidate for best song they’ve ever written?) is your uplifting anthem driving home the band’s trademark tone and message.

There’s an energy and vibrancy to this album that you’d think would dissipate after all these years, but it seems the ten-year gap has not only re-energized the band, but has armed them with a bounty of material. There is a greater injection of alternative rock than we’ve seen in the past, but the amalgamation of the band’s past with its present and future comes together in an incredibly rewarding manner.

As songs like “I’ve Seen The Sun” and “Blizzards & Bygones” close out proceedings, you are left with a certain blessing of musical enlightenment and artistic satisfaction. There is depth in the album but there is also a great feeling of warmth through it all. With the Engine of a Million Plots, we’re taken on the ups and downs of life and music with poise and grace. An enriching and rewarding listen.

[rating=4]

 

Five Iron Frenzy’s new album Engine Of a Million Plots is available from the Five Iron Frenzy store. Check out their video for “Zen and the Art of Xenophobia” below:

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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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Sight & Sound

VIDEO: Arliss Nancy – “Both Got Old”

Without doubt, one of my favorite records this year was Arliss Nancy’s Wild American Runners, a record I said “put the American in American Rock Music“. It’s the truth, and in support of the record the band have just unveiled the video for the track “Both Got Old”.

Simple, straight forward, a little rustic, but as American as can be without it becoming a John Mellencamp video. There’s a lot of beard action going in the video but don’t let that be a deterrent of any kind.

The song is from Wild American Runners but is also a cut from a split 7″ the band released with Those Crosstown Rivals which features a track from the band each, but if you purchase the record digitally, you get two bonus tracks to go along with it. The 7″ is available physically and digitally via Shit Starter Records.

Check out the video below:

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Culture, Music

The Bitter Reality: “Black Flag” is dead

In a strange but not entirely unexpected turn of events, Ron Reyes has quit/been fired from “Black Flag” once again. In a bizarre on-stage firing at the tail end of their recent Australian sojourn, Reyes was unceremoniously booted with two songs left on the set list. The band of course, was one half of the two “reunited” renditions of the once legendary punk band. In a long and revealing statement, Reyes has stated that the band “fell very short indeed and the diminishing ticket sales and crowds are a testament to that.” But more telling than anything, it seems that Reyes had an inkling this entire project was doomed to fail. In the statement, Reyes says;

[quote]“The writing was on the wall since before we played our first show. So many things went wrong from the start. I was into things like having a good drummer, rehearsing and spending time on things like beginnings and endings of songs, being a little less distracted with tour life and a little more on the ball. You know things that would make our efforts worthy of the name Black Flag”[/quote]

It’s funny and painfully sad to think of course, the once great legacy of a band that influenced so many has fallen into such disgrace. Like Reyes, we expected as much. Back in July of this year, we wrote a piece titled ‘Black Flags and Idol Suicides‘ and in it, Brad Abraham asks the simple question that plagued the formations of both these bands; “why?”. Why did we need “Black Flag” and “Flag”? The truth is, we didn’t, and we still don’t. The farce in which this has descended down to is testament to this notion.

If you’ve had a listen to the new “Black Flag” album (that may be thrown into doubt now with Reyes’ departure), you can hear the sound of a tired, aged, decrepit band struggling to find relevance where it didn’t need to. Abraham goes on in the piece to ask a few more pertinent questions and with the recent turn of events, they are more relevant than ever:

Why subject your fans to this tired display?

Why ruin something that was perfect?

Why bring middle-aged dissatisfaction to youth rebellion?”

Why indeed, for this mess. Speculation is that Greg Ginn will continue the band with someone else on vocals, but it would seem that such action would do little to change the situation. There is nothing wrong with remembering the past, especially one that is so gloriously influential and historically significant to an entire youth movement. But to let it break and burn like this? It’s just sad. Could it be that a small part of this debacle is due to the current climate of monetary possibilities these bands did not once have? Are we all partly to blame? Our culture of famous-now, money-now music industry means one-time cash-starved beacons of struggle and revolution can embark on a new monetized rehashing of their once lauded legacy. There is no stopping that, but don’t expect us not to comment when it disintegrates.

How did Brad Abraham get it so right? How did he nail the whole situation right on its head in one sentence? It is in this case of Ron Reyes, Greg Ginn, Keith Morris and the rest of the parties involved masquerading as the corpse of Black Flag, a statement that bears repeating;

For the aging punk rockers who have carried out this charade, one lesson will be imprinted on them- you can’t repeat the past.

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