Monday, May 28, 2012

Jawbox - For Your Own Special Sweetheart

Jawbox - For Your Own Special Sweetheart
Released - 1994

Editor's note: Since this is an album on a major label, there is no download link available.

Story by T.J. Schilling, bassist/guitarst for Carved Up.

Hardcore was never something that jumped up and bit me when I was younger.  I'm still kind of uneasy around it as a whole (the culture, the music, etc..). Too big and too aloof… and I liked weed and beer a lot, so all that aggression kinda didn't make sense to me.  Why not just chill the fuck out and kill a couch or something?  Besides, most of the bands friends had shown me could hardly even play their instruments.  This was not appealing to me.  I wouldn't call myself a purist, but if you're going to make music that's life affirming, you could at least connect on the accents in your own songs, for fuck's sake.

Anyways.. I was 21 and I needed some records to bridge the gap for me.  This might have been the biggest one.

The first Jawbox record I owned was actually Novelty.  A pretty decent record, albeit a little monotonous.  Most of the songs were strong, but the production was super slick and it felt weird.  Even the most killer song on that album, "Send Down", felt a little croon-y, but it roared real good.  I was on the fence with this band, but I decided I'd take a chance on the next one.

I picked up For Your Own Special Sweetheart and I was floored.  The entire rhythm section pounds harder on this album than any other recording I'd ever heard.  Adam Wade was no slouch on Novelty, but Zach Barocas puts him completely to shame.  The songs vary in tempo, style, and rhythm set, but all feel cohesive.  I got through half this record and was pretty stoked.

The first time I heard "LS/MFT" it was over.  Up until that point, I had never heard a band execute something like it.  It's got almost a 2-step cowboy swing through the verse.  The chorus drops in with big harmonies, sawtooth-twang guitars and high-hat flams that make you want to throw every single piece of furniture in the room.  It's the first song on the album where you start to realize just what this rhythm section was capable of.

Moreover, for every track with an off-kilter rhythm, there's one that's straight ahead to match it, usually anchored by Kim Coletta's excellent bass playing.  She's got this fresh-string 'clank' throughout the record that just totally rules.  It's kind of like she sits in a class of bass players (Dave Curran of Unsane comes to mind) that just sort of 'got' how to make a J Bass always sound fucking awesome.  Kudos to her.  I still don't get it.

Growing up playing guitar, I always had this sort of code of ethics on how one should approach the instrument.  Obviously I was young and completely full of shit.  Everyone approaches things differently and that's what gives music it's individual quality.  However, as far as rock music goes, I felt that if you were going to play it, you should be exerting some physicality with your instrument.  Every song on this record is a testament to that. The line between punishing distortion and clean guitar tone comes straight from J Robbins and Bill Barbot's hands.  It completely reaffirmed all of my ideas on what I considered to be real and honest guitar playing.  To this day, I still try and attack the instrument in the same manner.  Jawbox (among other bands… Fugazi, etc..) are a good foundation if you find yourself getting away from it.

I'm not sure that any of the lyrics on this album make sense; and I'm fine with that.  It allows you to make your own imagery.  The delivery is there on all other fronts and as far as any of the projects I've been involved with or any that I plan to begin, this record always serves as a huge reminder on how to do things right.  Plug it in, get loud, play hard, get to the point.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Changes - Lost At Sea

New Jersey's best riffers, Changes, just released their newest album Lost At Sea online. In the coming months they will be releasing Lost At Sea on CD, Tape and Vinyl.  This is the heaviest and most concise Changes album to date.  If you have not heard of Changes before now you can download their entire back catalog by using the new search engine on the top right corner of the page.

Location:  Asbury Park, NJ
Genre:  Hardcore/Punk
For Fans Of:  Down, EyeHateGod, 108 and Black Sabbath
Year Released:  2012

Track List:
01.  Lost At Sea/Castaways
02.  Black Blood
03.  Like Northern Swells
04.  High On Cult

Crazy Town covering Refused

This video is another oldie, but a goodie.  What we have here is the god awful band Crazy Town covering the Swedish hardcore band Refused.  I honesty do not even know how a band like Crazy Town could be remotely interested in a band like Refused.  The only thing that makes sense to me is that they saw their video on MTV and were like "YO dawg, wez gotta cover dis band yo!"  Anyway, here is the byproduct of this ridiculous cover.

Monday, May 21, 2012

American Nightmare - Background Music

American Nightmare - Background Music
Released - 2001

Editor's note: Since this is an album on a indie label, there is no download link available.

Story by Mike McTernan, singer of Damnation AD.

I had been gone for a couple of years and was really out of touch.  These dudes just got up and destroyed the stage.  20 minutes later the singer walks off stage and it's over.  What the fuck just happened?  What had I been missing out on?  I really thought hardcore was dead.  Or my version of it had died.  I heard all the new bands, but I could not connect.  I hear the name American Nightmare and my immediate thought is a band with political leanings that I would probably not relate to.  But I had not seen kids react like this to a band in years or ever.

A few weeks later Background Music came out.  As I am listening to it I am completely in awe of the raw honesty of the lyrics.  How can someone take their inner most pain and put it on display for everyone to see?  It is easy to share your successes with others, but opening up about your fears and failures takes courage.  So many lines hit so close to home that I kept getting chills.  Then I hear “I want to open these veins and never fucking breathe again” and the tears start.  I cried for the next 6 months.  I listened to the album every day.  When I could not sleep I put it on.  When I felt alone it was on to keep me company.  When I wanted to die, it was there for me.  Someone else felt my despair.  I was not alone. That kept me going.

Silverchair covering Minor Threat

What we have here is a video of the horrible Australian rock band Silverchair covering a song by the legendary Minor Threat at a show in Montreal in 1997. Videos like this mainly upset me because I feel that horrible bands should not have any knowledge of good bands. I hope this video upsets you as much as it upsets me.


Friday, May 18, 2012

The Modrats - Huzzah!

The Modrats play self-described geek rock with a lot of early punk influence and passion.  Huzzah! is the third self-released album by The Modrats.  The vocals are very melodic without being polished or cutesy and are complimented well by the cleaner guitar tones.  I would even go as far as to say this sounds like a slower and less distorted guitar toned Husker Du at times.

Location:  Rock Hill, SC
Genre:  Nerd Rock, Punk, Indie
For Fans Of:  Nerf Herder, Jonathan Coulton and the Pixies
Year Released:  2012

Track List:
01. Cardboard Robot
02. This Sword
03. Onyx Unicorn
04. E minor Battle
05. Daredevil Girl
06. Poybius
07. Loneliest mouse
08. Luigi's Lament
09. I Breathe Fire
10. Henchman
11. Robot Cats
12. Last Taco
13. Adventure Forever
14. This World
15. Princesses and Rupees

Monday, May 14, 2012

Snapcase - Progression Through Unlearning

Snapcase - Progression Through Unlearning
Released:  1997

Story by John Lowe, guitarist for Rock Bottom.

I've liked some terrible music over the years. Growing up, my father had a couple of cool Springstein and Billy Joel records, but they were vastly outnumbered by Garth Brooks and Miami Sound Machine CDs.  My mom and sister were into classical music.  I was never lucky enough to have that cool uncle or family friend to show me hardcore records growing up.

Like many kids without musical direction, I depended on the radio and MTV to show me my options.  My developmental years happened to fall during the musical black hole better known as the late nineties.  Nu-metal was king.  I would cruise around school in my Lee Pipes blasting Sevendust and Taproot records like it was the illest shit.  Eventually I got into a healthy amount of Epitaph type punk bands from skate videos, but the nu-metal bug stayed with me for longer than I'd like to admit (we still listen to Coal Chamber in the van fairly often).

I forget what the heavy music show was on MTV at the time, but I recall it being on Saturday nights.   I would try to hide from my parents and sneak a peak at whatever Jonathan Davis was up to and hear the hottest new jams.  There were a few cool bands I got into this way.  I specifically remember seeing the Deftones "My Own Summer" video and almost banging my head off my shoulders.  Of course for every Deftones there were ten bands like Cold or Godsmack.

Nothing was more exciting at the time than seeing the new video graphic pop up on the tv screen.  It gave me this feeling that maybe I'd see something totally different and new, or perhaps I'd find a new favorite band.  The latter was true when that graphic led into the Snapcase "Typcast Modulator" video. It was the coolest thing I thought I'd ever heard at the time. It hit all the nu-metal notes I wanted to hear, but without the fruity singing parts. I decided it was the coolest thing ever and needed to get their record.

I got my mom to take me to the mall the next day to snag a Snapcase record. I was so excited I couldn't remember what the song I heard was called or what record it was on. It ended up being a fortunate accident, because I ended up picking up Progression Through Unlearning from The Wall instead of the not-so-great Designs for Automation that I was really looking for.

I tried to put it on in the car on the way home, but after about 20 seconds my mom turned it off. Thats how I knew it was going to be good. When I got home I really started to investigate my new purchase. "Caboose" is one of the best opening songs on any record, and it floored me. I probably put "Zombie Prescription" on repeat like eight times in a row to hear that sweet nu-metal flanger riff. It took me a ton of spins to finally realize that the song I heard wasn't on the record, but at that point it didn't matter. I was hooked.

My favorite track on the record is probably the last song, "Breaking and Reaching". The opening buildup and riff are heavy as hell, while being just nu-metal enough to see what attracted me to the band in the first place. The verses and chorus have that ninety's hardcore groove, which is probably my favorite element of that era.

It would be nice to say that my tastes in music completely changed at that point, but there was still a long road of shitty bands ahead. Sure, Progression got me into some other Victory bands of that era like Hatebreed and Deadguy, but I still listened to more System of a Down than hardcore at that point. Eventually I bonded with some friends over bands like Snapcase and Converge in high school and started playing in metalcore bands. Now I'm twenty six, and I still play in a borderline metalcore band… and I still kind of like nu-metal. But if I never stumbled onto that video and bought the wrong cd, who knows how the future would have changed. Maybe I would be a lawyer or something.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Single Mothers - Wild Party

Single Mothers play delay soaked rock/post-hardcore with the intensity of a punk band. My favorite aspect of the record is that the vocals are really up front in the mix.  The last song "Heaven (For The Weekend)" reminds me of an early Taking Back Sunday song vocally.  I am sure this is not something the members of Single Mothers want to hear haha.   They will be in the US on tour in a few months hitting both Sound & Fury as well as The Fest.

Location:  London, Ontario, Canada
Genre:  Punk/Post-Hardcore/Rock
For Fans Of:  The Bronx and Hot Snakes
Year Released:  2012

Track List:
01.  Nice Dresses
02.  Runaways
03.  Heaven (For The Weekend)

This Is Hardcore 2012 full lineup announced

The full lineup for This Is Hardcore Fest in Philadelphia, PA was announced yesterday.  Here is a day to day breakdown of who is playing what day and were.  Tickets will be on sale May 17th at 12:00pm EST

Thursday, August 9th- Terror, Earth Crisis, Ringworm, Maximum Penalty, Mindset, Naysayer, Lifeless, Build & Destroy and The Storm.

Friday, Augusth 10th- headliner TBA, Cro-Mags, Cold World, 100 Demons, Death Threat, Harm's Way, Power Trip, Praise, Wrong Answer and Beware.

Saturday, August 11th- Gorilla Biscuits, Lifetime, H2O, Title Fight, Bane, Grey Area, Vision, Horrow Show, Rival Mob, Rotting Out, Skin Like Iron, Stick Together, No Tolerance, Twitching Tongues, Code Orange Kis, Oblivion and Empire Of Rats.

Sunday, August 12th- Blacklisted, Breakdown, In My Eyes, Floorpunch, Crown of Thornz, Negative Approach, Killing Time, Wisdom in Chains, Nails, Hard Skin, Gehenna, Soul Search, Will To Live, Agitator, Rude Awakening and Born Annoying.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dag Nasty - Field Day

The Worst From The Best
by Greg Polard
Dag Nasty - Field Day
Released - 1988

Editor's note: Since this is an album on a major label, there is no download link available. 

Story by Greg Polard.

Hi everybody!  It's been a while.  Welcome back to the second installment of "The Worst From The Best".  For my first piece I decided to write on a record that I'd never really heard before apart from a few tracks.  This time I'm mixing it up and I'm going to be writing about a record that I know inside and out, as I've been listening to it pretty steadily for the past 14 or so years.  That brings us to:

Dag Nasty's Field Day.  As you the reader may or may not know...I am huge Dag Nasty fan.  I easily can place them in my top ten hardcore bands of all time.  Since I  wrote about Minor Threat Out Of Step for this blog previously this should probably come as no surprise.  Despite getting into a lot of the Dischord stuff in my formative hardcore years around age 12, it wasn't until I was 15 that I first heard Dag Nasty.  I knew that Brian Baker was in the band so that was an added bonus, and finally got a copy of the CD that Dischord used to have in print with both Can I Say and Wig Out At Denko's on it.  I played the hell out of that thing.  So many melodic hardcore classics on there: "Values Here", "Under Your Influence", "Trying"...despite each album having a different vocalist and pretty different sounds I can still listen to all 20 tracks as one long LP and be completely satisfied. 

I had always heard that they had one more record after Wig Out before breaking up but had heard so many people tell me it was horrible so I put it out of my mind and just concentrated on the first two LP's (and the Shawn Brown demos on '85'-'86).  But one day, around 1998 I was at a show at the Church in Philly and Jamie from Double Decker had his distro table there.  As I'm looking over all of the stuff he had for sale I noticed a copy of Field Day on CD and thought to myself "why not?".  

Final rating (3.8 out of 5)
That night I got home and put it on my stereo and immediately I noticed the huge change during the first song, "Trouble Is".  Put this opening track up against "Values Here" from the first LP just two years earlier and it's night and day.  No more chunky power chords or yelled vocals.  Despite this...right away I feel like I "got it".  It was still catchy and still had elements of punk rock, just a lot different than the other hardcore bands I was listening to at the time.  In fact, I'll say the first three tracks on Field Day are perfect. After "Trouble Is" we get the title track, which never fails to make me want Mexican food and hang out on the beach (listen to it, you'll see).  The third song, "Things That Make No Sense" will get stuck in your head for days.  Especially in these three tracks I hear a lot of ALL era Descendents. 

It isn't until the fourth track "The Ambulance Song" that things take a turn.  This song has a straight clean guitar sound and a blues sounding solo that wouldn't be out of place on something my dad would be listening to while hanging outside at his grill in the summer time drinking beer.  To me this song is definitely a low point on the record and although I may not skip it, it's not a highlight.  (Sidenote: a friend and I would often challenge each other not to laugh during the over the top guitar solo.  Most times neither of us would win).

Moving on, after a nice cover of "Staring At The Rude Boys" and a few other tracks comes another album highlight with the song "Dear Mrs. Touma".  One of the more emotional tracks on the album with some really dark, weird lyrics that are actually based on some true events (discussed in this awesome interview on by my good friend Matthew Berlyant : )

The mood then lightens a bit (a lot actually) with the song "Matt" which is super catchy and I always find the "what am I doing here?" hook in my head at random points.  It's the next two tracks where people really seem to get divided (and rightfully so).  The "I've Heard" / "Under Your Influence" medley or whatever you want to call it.  Both of these songs originally appear (in far superior versions) on the first LP.  For some reason they made "I've Heard" a 12 second track where the band is listening to the "Can I Say" version and essentially mocking former vocalist Dave Smalley over top.  While they drastically cut the time down for this track, for "Under Your Influence" they added a full minute to the end where the song goes off into a stoner rock type dirge or something.  While I'm not a huge fan of re-recordings to begin with, the actual music for the most part is not bad.  But the part about "40 ounces of courage and I'm feeling fine"?  C'mon.  But I guess in context of everything that was going on at the time with hardcore and straight edge (it was 1988 after all) I can see how they'd probably want to ruffle a few feathers. 

And just like that, in a few more tracks the album is done, but not without another pretty funny guitar solo on "Here's To You" (see the above linked interview with Peter Cortner for more on that).  After listening for the first time I remember thinking "this IS Dag Nasty but at the same time it ISN'T."  I mean really, when listening to the previous year's Wig Out At Denko's LP  it shouldn't come as THAT much of a surprise that they went in this direction.  On songs like "The Godfather" and "When I Move" you can see the band had the desire to branch out beyond the confines of the hardcore scene at the time, for sure. Sometimes they were successful (first three songs, "Dear Mrs. Touma", etc) but there are definitely points on this album where they are not as successful ("Ambulance Song", "La Penita").  

One of the other things apart from a few of the weirder songs that does detract from this record is the production.  I've often wondered what a different producer or even a remix could have done for the album.  The closest we have is the far superior 12" remix of "Trouble Is" (download it and you'll see) that Ed Stasium (Ramones, Biohazard) remixed.  If the whole record sounded like that who knows, maybe people would talk about it in the same breath as other melodic hardcore/punk touchstones.  We'll never know though, will we?

Final rating is 3.85 out of 5

Friday, May 4, 2012

Psychic Teens - Halo

Psychic Teens recently released their recordings a few Nine Inch Nails covers they did to help test out the newly remodeled Red Planet Recordings studio in Clifton Heights, PA.  All of the songs on this recorded were recorded in one take.

Location:  Philadelphia, PA
Genre:  Noise/Rock/Shoegaze/Post-Punk
For Fans Of:  Nine Inch Nails
Year Released:  2012

Track List:
01.  Self
02.  Pig
03.  Lie
04.  Wish
05.  Last

Late Bloomer - Demo 2012

Late Bloomer's are a power trio from Charlotte, NC who worship at the alter of SST/Dischord/SupPop.  The recording is a little too on the low-fi and on the reverb-y side for my taste, but that does not take away from the overall appeal of the band.   If you are a fan of the Husker's, you will definitely dig what the Late Bloomer's bring to the musical table.

Location:  Charlotte, NC
Genre:  Indie/Punk/Stoner Pop
For Fans Of:  Dinosaur Jr., Husker Du, Jawbox
Year Released:  2012

Track List:
01.  Disappear
02.  Brother
03.  Man In Your Head
04.  Reality

Give Up The Ghost (American Nightmare) Reunion Documentary Trailer

Give Up The Ghost (American Nightmare) were the biggest band on the planet in the early 2000's.  A few months back, they decided to do a bunch of reunion show.  Below is the trailer for the DVD that is coming out in the near future on Bridge Nine Records.  My fondest memory of this band is actually something their roadie or Death Threat's roadie Big E said before the show.  After setting up the AN merch table he went outside for a couple of minutes.  When he came back in he said something to the effect of "Yo, pack up those S, M, L and XL shirts guys.  This is a strictly youth size crowd".