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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Album Reviews

Review: The Bennies – Rainbows In Space

benniesMelbourne’s The Bennies are an eclectic collective of musicians who seem to have cut their teeth on everything from party rock anthems, metal and ska to reggae and pop. The group’s debut album, Rainbows In Space, is a rather apt description for this 14-track LSD trip down the road of every15-year-old kid’s schizophrenic music collection.

You get party-themed rock (the opening “Party Smashers”), ska-tinged anthemic punk (the pretty great “Anywhere You Want To Go”), stoner reggae rock (“Let’s Get Stoned”) and rock steady (“Hold On”, which is another good entry). It’s an easy indication that Rainbows in Space is really a smorgasbord of genres that are glued together by the band’s frenetic energy. Much of the album sounds like it was written under a heavy haze of drugs and alcohol, and while some of the songs are a bizarre mixture of tripping something fantastic with an ultra laid back attitude, some songs seem to be lacking in solid direction.

The album’s biggest problem is that the band have an affinity for so many different genres of music that they’re having a hard time picking one (or even two) to give the album a singular aesthetic. The band completely lose their marbles in “Frankston Girls”, a candidate for one of least productive songs you’ll hear all year. It’s part metal, part ska, part rock, all kinds of terrible. It’s real shame because they follow it up with the more traditional third-wave ska sounding “Westgate Wednesday” which is a terrific tune, akin to what Against All Authority, Voodoo Glow Skulls and Assorted Jellybeans did during their time.

It’s early days for The Bennies as they’ve got a lot of positive elements going for them. They know how to party, but lack direction when it comes to writing a solid album from start to finish. Some of their terrific songs are weighed down heavily by their awful ones. An album full of “Westgate Wednesdays” and “Anywhere You Want To Gos” would have made Rainbows In Space worthy of repeated listens. Unfortunately, for now, your best bet is to pick and choose a few tracks until they’re able to do the good more often than the bad.

[rating=2]

 

Rainbows In Space is available now via Poison City Records.

Listen to “Anywhere You Wanna Go”:

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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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Headlines, Music

My Money is Still on Less Than Jake

It feels good to be this old, that’s the initial reaction I got when I first listened to Less Than Jake’s new single (listen below), the first from their forthcoming eighth studio album. See The Light as it’s called, is rather apropos.

Truth is, I can’t tolerate 96% of music that flies under the “punk” or “hardcore” or “extreme” flag these days. But when I heard “My Money Is Still On The Long Shot”, I took a moment to reflect back to about 1996/1997 where I’m sure I spent a great deal of time in the pit with some of you older lot. But favourite memories of those days weren’t the times I got kicked in the face by Doc Martens, but rather the times I… wait for it… skanked to the glorious sounds of third-wave ska, punctuated by pop punk melodies and a grand ol’ horn section.

You see, the upbeat music in the late 1990s for us “rebellious punks” didn’t have the constant draining melancholy of The Wonder Years, Man Overboard et al, it instead reflected a certain optimism skating alongside realism.

Less than Jake of course, were the (pez)kings of this brief but populace era and this new song is both a remarkable throwback and evolution of a sound thought long gone.

Is it as simple as saying that when we were kids and our “shit music” (ska and pop punk- the real kind- for me) was infinitely better than the kids today and their brand of “shit music”? To me it does, and I believe I’m not the only one who feels that way either.

Looking back at one my favourite Less than Jake songs from their debut album and comparing it to this new track, I’m bound not by their similarities (they are not), but how they both make me feel, almost 20 years apart.

“9th & Pine” (1996)

 

“My Money Is On The Long Shot” (2013)

 

Out with the new, in with the old crowd.

[hr]

Less than Jake’s new album, See the Light, is out November 12th on Fat Wreck.

 

 

 

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Uncategorized

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones get festive with “2000 Miles”

Ska punk outfit The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are ringing in the holiday season the best way they can; with a Hometown Throwdown and a cover of a classic holiday song.

The band are celebrating their 13th annual Hometown Throwdown this year with Less than Jake, H20, The Flatliners and more and will release their version of the 1983 Pretenders song “2000 Miles”  digitally and on pink vinyl (with cover art illustration by ABC late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel).

You can view the video for the track below while dates and artists for this year’s throwdown can be seen below. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones last released Pin Points and Gin Joints in 2009.

The 13th Annual Hometown Throwdown
The House of Blues, Boston, MA
December 26: w/ F.U’s and We Are The Union
December 27: w/ H2O and The Flatliners
December 28: w/ Less Than Jake and DYS

VIDEO:
http://content.bitsontherun.com/players/ncyqcJnl-YkfiC1Yv.swf

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Music, Videos

Video: The Suicide Machines live at The Fest 9

The kids at Punknews.org look like they had an absolute blast at The Fest 9. The massive festival featured a reunited Suicide Machines and a video of the group performing their songs “Break the Glass” (from their stupendously terrific 1996 album Destruction by Definition) and “DDT” have made its way online.

Check out the video courtesy of Punknews.org. The Suicide Machines were a big part of this writer’s adolescence- and their music was a source of both a rollickin’ good time and youthful inspiration.

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Music

Less than Jake announce 2011 North American tour

Ska-punkers Less than Jake are doing what they’ve continued to do for almost 20 years- tour, tour, tour!

Fresh from the release of their TV/EP (a record covering TV themes and jingles), the band have now announced their itinerary for the early parts of next year. The busy schedule will see them trek across the United States through the months of January and February before heading down to Australia in March for the Soundwave Festival. This hectic schedule is on top of their already busy end of year that currently sees them in the Far East and Europe.

Less than Jake are also working on the follow-up to 2008’s GNV FLA. Their extensive tour schedule can be seen below. This song is still our favorite LTJ song.

Tour dates:
JANUARY
19 Sebastian, FL – Captain Hiram’s – Grand Sand Backstage
20 Jacksonville, FL – Freebird Live
21 Durham, NC – Motorco Music Hall
22 Asheville, NC – The Orange Peel
23 Norfolk, VA – The Norva
25 Stroudsburg, PA – Sherman Theater
26 Poughkeepsie, NY – The Chance
27 Baltimore, MD – Sonar
28 Hartford, CT – Webster Theatre
29 Sayreville, NJ – Starland Ballroom
30 Philadelphia, PA – Trocadero
31 Rochester, NY – Water Street Music Hall

FEBRUARY
1 Millvale, PA – Mr. Small’s Theatre
2 Cleveland, OH – House of Blues – Cleveland
3 Chicago, IL – The Bottom Lounge
4 Des Moines, IA – Peoples Court
5 Milwaukee, WI – The Rave
7 Grand Rapids, MI – The Intersection
8 Lexington, KY – Buster’s
9 Covington, KY – The Mad Hatter?
10 Nashville, TN – Exit In
11 Sauget, IL – Pop’s
12 Lawrence, KS – Granada Theater
13 Tulsa, OK – The Marquee
14 Houston, TX – Warehouse Live
15 San Antonio, TX – Backstage Live
17 Colorado Springs, CO – The Black Sheep
18 Denver, CO – The Summit Music Hall
19 Salt Lake City, UT – The Complex
21 Anaheim, CA – House of Blues – Anaheim
22 Santa Cruz, CA – The Catalyst
26 Brisbane – RNA Showgrounds (Soundwave Festival)
27 Sydney – Eastern Creek Raceway (Soundwave Festival)

MARCH
04 Melbourne – Melbourne Showgrounds (Soundwave Festival)
05 Adelaide – Bonython Park (Soundwave Festival)
07 Perth – Steel Blue Oval (Soundwave Festival)

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