Monthly Archives: May 2013

Looking Back at Take This To Your Grave: 10 Years Later

Image

Retrospective Review: Take This To Your Grave

by Vasilis, contributing writer

“Light that smoke, yeah one for giving up on me/ and one just cause they’ll kill you sooner than my expectations” begins the fiery, debut album Take This To Your Grave from pop-punk-turned-pop-rock superstars Fall Out Boy. It’s hard to believe the Illinois-based band burst on to the scene over ten years ago with their powerful and cathartic brand of angst-ridden pop punk. The group came together after playing in several popular Chicago hardcore groups (including Arma Angelus, which also featured Tim McIlrath from Rise Against) and they gelled almost instantly, etching out their very identifiable sound.

 

Though certainly embattled over their career and perceived as “sell outs” by many, the group has nonetheless built an impressive resume with several solid albums and hit radio singles. Songs like “Sugar, We’re Going Down”, “Dance, Dance” and “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race” continue to receive consistent radio play. But by the time they released their underrated, heavily pop-driven fourth studio album, Folie a Deux, the group’s fame was starting to dwindle and it was clear the group needed a break to clear their heads and refocus. Following a show at New York’s Madison Square Garden supporting Blink-182 in which Mark Hoppus shaved off Pete Wentz’s emo haircut, the group announced an indefinite hiatus much to the dismay of diehards and the delight of their detractors.

 

Fast-forward four years: absolutepunk.net and Property Of Zack begin rumbling about a possible reunion, one that after many denials turns out to be true. Not only was the group back, but a new album was already recorded and a marketing plan hatched to get the group back on top. The album scored big on the charts and the singles are everywhere, proving that Fall Out Boy still has as much pop pull as they ever did. The album title, Save Rock and Roll, proved to be just as tongue-and-cheek and playful as their music has been in the past and was just catchy and strong as any of their work, proving to be a logical progression of their music and one of the better pop albums of the year.

 

Despite all that, Take This To Your Grave remains the group’s magnum opus in the eyes of fans. The 40-minute long pop punk masterpiece, which was released ten years ago this month, easily withstands the test of time with its soaring hooks, clever lyrics, and playfully long song titles. Album opener “Tell The Mick He Just Made My Lists of Things To Do Today” explodes out of the gate with fast, aggressive guitars and crashing drums. The lyrics are scathing, with lines like “let’s play this game/ called when you catch fire/ I wouldn’t piss to put you out. Stop burning bridges/ drive off of them/ so I can forget about you.”

 

Debut single “Dead On Arrival” sports a bouncy, catchy chorus that proclaims “This is side one/ flip me over/ I know I’m not your favorite record” that is just impossible not to sing along to. Singles “Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy” and “Saturday” continue the relentless attack with picture perfect execution that thrive off the Pete Wentz’s sarcastic, bitter lyrics. The album mostly deals with girls and hometown feelings, as most pop punk albums do, but it’s the way the group conveys lyrics that truly help them connect, and Patrick Stump’s soaring vocals, which sets Fall Out Boy apart from many other pop punk groups, help deliver the message in a way that Pete Wentz just could not.

 

The remaining eight tracks are just as sharp and relentless as the first four. Drummer Andy Hurley shines on “Homesick at Space Camp” and “Sending Postcards From a Plane Crash (Wish You Were Here)” with splashy cymbals and rumbling drums throughout that add to the infectious choruses. “Chicago is So Two Years Ago” features a well-placed guest vocal spot from Motion City Soundtrack vocalist Justin Pierre that perfectly rolls with the song’s darker guitar tones. “Reinventing the Wheel to Run Myself Over” sees the group paying homage to their hardcore roots with its short running time and lightning quick drums and guitar. The album closes with a bang with “The Patron Saint of Liars and Fakes”, where the group asks “when it all goes to hell/ will you be able to tell/ me sorry with a straight face”. The chorus, as on every other song, is memorable and sticks in your head for days. Even ten years later, the words are still as sharp and relevant as the day they first shouted them to an ever-growing, adoring audience.

 

The sky is truly the limit for Fall Out Boy, and always has been. With a renewed sense of purpose and a keen eye for where they want to be with their music, the group can stay around for as long as they’d like and continue to notch big hits. The hiatus was just what they needed to recharge their batteries. But even though Save Rock and Roll sees the group further distancing themselves from their pop punk roots and sounds, the comfort of their debut album’s 12 down-to-earth tracks will continue to make it the album that most Fall Out Boy fans keep returning to. And though the band decided against simply trying to cash in on the album’s fame and legacy with a ten-year anniversary tour, the group continues to show appreciation for the album that started it all with many choice cuts placed throughout their setlists.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under editorial, retrospective

Random Access Memories – Album Review

Image

By Ryan, contributing writer

Random Access Memories is the fourth studio album by electronic music legends Daft Punk. I wouldn’t call this a return because they did the soundtrack to the movie “Tron: Legacy”, but I wouldn’t call it a follow-up to anything either. Their last studio album was Human After All released in 2005. In Random Access Memories, thirteen tracks pick you up and envelop you in their funkadelic goodness. 

Funky. That’s the word I’d use to describe this album. Not in a “How long have these socks been in my duffel bag?” kind of way, mind you. It’s a good kind of funk. Imagine that you’re having a party in your backyard in the middle of the summer. The sun’s starting to trail down toward the horizon, you and your friends are having a few frosty beers, you’re all shooting the shit, and you’re having a good time before you hop in the car (a sober friend driving, of course, because drinking and driving is bad). You head to a bar, you happen to meet a nice person, and you both go back to your place. Things get steamy but not too quickly. It’s that kind of album. (If you couldn’t tell, I’m a very visual person. Another thing that this album reminds me of is a pure blackness with bright technicolor paint splashes and dots appearing and disappearing on its surface. But, that’s another conversation entirely.)

The first few tracks are very mellow, but play around with some catchy little synth melodies. However, once you hit Giorgio by Moroder things start to pick up a little more. Giorgio by Moroder teases you with what you know Daft Punk is capable of. The vocoder altered vocals in the following tracks tell stories of heartache and losing the one you love. It adds a personal touch to the music. It’s a shade of melancholy that makes me think that they’re writing about the reality and aftermath of what happens in Digital Love (a track on their album Discovery).

The one thing that sets this album apart from their other work is that there’s a heavy use of guitars. It’s not something that is unknown to the Daft Punk boys, but they feature it in this album in a way that they haven’t done previously. Nile Rodgers is the guitarist on Give Life Back to Music, Lose Yourself to Dance, and Get Lucky. He really shows off his style of play in this album. It’s the major binding factor. His guitar work is the funky glue that brings the tracks together as a collection of similar, but very different pieces of music. In addition to Rodgers’ contributions, Pharrell Williams adds his vocal stylings to the mix. His voice was made for this album. His higher pitched R&B style gives this album an extra energetic nudge. It’s not an overwhelming sensation, but his voice is the vocal equivalent of your friends taking you by the shoulders and moving you to the music to try and coax a smile out of you. 

Touch is a track that reminds you that the men that make up Daft Punk are men behind masks and gloves. They regularly sing about love and being attracted to people, but they are inside robot bodies. I wouldn’t say that they’re stuck, but they are definitely not elated about being in those bodies. This is where we get into some tricky stuff. On one hand, it could be that these guys are just making music and having a good time while they make music. On the other hand, there could be a deeper meaning behind their flashing masks. Maybe they want to tell us that we’re all robots seeking some human interaction. Maybe they’re just talking about themselves and their personal experiences. Maybe they’re talking about people with social issues and problems opening up to people. Maybe they’re talking about people like me who haven’t even kissed someone in over a year (yes, a very sad glimpse into the life of the writer). Maybe (and, this is the most plausible explanation) I’m looking way too far into this song.

I’m not even going to go too much into the single from this album, Get Lucky. It’s a great tune with vocals by Pharrell. It’s about having a good time and gettin’ it on. It’s catchy. If you really want an in depth look into this track, look at any other review of this album.

In Motherboard, you get some classic Daft Punk action with the long, flowy synth lines played, but the difference is that they’re being played over gentle cuts instead of a drum track. Fragment in Time sounds like a theme song of a 1970s tv show, but a little less poppy and energetic than you’d probably hear. It flirts with the feeling of being completely happy. That track is more content than outright joyous. Contact is the closing credit track (if this was a soundtrack). The protagonist is walking home from a night at the disco and, oddly, feeling good about themselves. It’s a much more energetic track than many featured on this album. You can attribute that to the much quicker and hectic drum lines and cuts. Tagged onto the end of this album is Love Won’t Let Me Wait by Onderwish. It’s a nice little track that’s so muffled you’d think it was recorded outside of the club that our protagonist just left.

All said and done, this album’s got a major disco thing going on which can be tracked back to the influence of Giorgio Moroder (a major disco producer). That disco feel is brought alive in this 2013 album by modern artists, the most well-known of which is probably Pharrell. Even though it’s an album tied very well together with the common thread of disco, it’s still got enough variety in it to keep you listening. From the Frenchmen, another wonderful album is brought into the world and thrust into our earholes. These tracks will provide the perfect accompaniment to your afternoon party in the backyard, a car-ride to a club, or a private dance party between you and your significant other (my former sous-chef would call a lot of these tracks “baby makers”). But, I think this album would be most appropriately used as a personal soundtrack for someone who spends lot of time walking around the darker parts of Tokyo or Paris, just outside of the splashes of neon. Daft Punk have done the same in relation to their previous work with this album. They’re not in the exact same exhilarating places, but they’re very close and content with where they are. They’re opening up (maybe even discovering) new things about their musical identities and that makes me a happy boy.

1 Comment

Filed under album review

Such Hot Blood album Review

Image

by Cherie, contributing writer and editor

Most bands do one thing and they do it well. That’s certainly not the case for the Airborne Toxic Event. Each of the five band members is multitalented and those eclectic talents and passions help make the bands sound unique.  Lead singer Mikel Jollett first made a career for himself not out of music, but out of writing. One of his short stories, The Crack, was published alongside a novella by Stephen King in McSweeney’s Quarterly Issue #27. Anna Bulbrook is a classically trained violinist who has also played shows with hip hop legend Kanye West. Noah Harmon has played in both rock and jazz bands and can also play the upright bass. Steven Chen also made his start as a writer and was asked to join the band as their keyboardist before he revealed that he played the guitar as well. The band plays frequently with orchestras and symphonies, most often with the classically trained Calder Quartet. When they aren’t playing rock shows with TATE, the Calder Quartet can be found preforming with the National, another prominent indie rock band, as well as playing sold out shows featuring the works of Beethoven and Mozart.

Such Hot Blood is the band’s third album and with it comes a sense of maturity. The bands first self-titled album was mostly about losing the girl, case in point the band’s biggest single “Sometime Around Midnight.” The band’s second album All At Once was also about losing the girl and other failed relationships. Such Hot Blood deals with a lot of failed relationships but it also deals with the deeper concepts of love and loss. One common thread throughout the album is the idea of looking back on past relationships and realizing that despite how right them might have seemed at the time, they weren’t right in the end. Even a song that seems at first glance to be about a happy relationship, “True Love”, reflects on this idea, showing once more that maybe the relationships we think we need aren’t always the best ones for us in the end. “But they don’t know a goddamn thing about us / or a think about holding on / cuz we were wrong,” Jolett states.

The album’s opening track, “The Secret” comes in with driving synths and violins and immediately packs a punch. The song ebs and flows like the tide, building the listener up then easing them back down; its a classic Airborne track. The chorus loudly proclaims that “the secret’s out now” but the idea is embraced triumphantly as a relief instead of a disappointment. Group background vocals add an extra layer to the song and help build the swelling sound of the chorus. Its not my favorite song on the album, but it is a brilliant opening track in that the listener is once more swept up by the band and instantly connected to the music.

The album’s second track, and the band’s first single, Timeless, is a pounding anthem about losing someone very close to you. It’s raw and honest; there’s no fancy prose, no deep metaphors for death. There’s something painfully honest about the simplicity of the lyrics. “Just help me through this moment after everything I told you / how the weight of their loss was like the weight of the sun” Jollett pleads in the bridge. Anyone who has ever lost someone close to them can instantly relate to the song. The song was, of course, inspired by Jollett’s personal life, and losing three of his grandparents in a short period of time. “My whole perspective changed, and [death] went from being this whole idea of brokenness and poetry to just…it became much more simple. And I just didn’t want it to have happened. And suddenly all the metaphors didn’t matter any more and I just wanted them to still be here,” he reveals in the track by track commentary featured on Spotify. Death and loss are not new concepts that Jollett has wrestled with in the past but Timeless is a new answer to those questions, and one that is a lot more real and honest.

“The Storm”, the fourth track on the album, presents us with the first lull of the album. The tempo starts off slow with just a simple acoustic guitar and some ambient noise. The change of pace is a welcome relief from the constant energy of the previous song, “What’s in a Name?”. The song slowly builds to the chorus where the drums come in along with the rest of the band. The violin is used sparingly on the track but comes in for a rocking solo towards the end of the song.

In the spotify commentary for the album, Jollett reveals that the song “The Fifth Day” was almost the last song on the album. “I thought about ending the record with Fifth Day …its kind of the apex of the record, the climax as it were…but I wanted to have an epilogue.” The last track of the album “Elizabeth” indeed plays the role of an epilogue perfectly. It’s less heavy than the rest of the record, and upon listening to it one can sense the band stepping back from the rest of the album a little. Jollett states the song came out of a conversation he had had with a friend, and it starts with Elizabeth asking Jollet to write her a love song. Her request is almost childlike and naïve in nature, “could you write me just one love song / and put my name somewhere in the middle of it / and if you call the song Elizabeth / then all my friends will know that its about me.” Finally at the end of the song Jollett comes right out and tells her that “all these songs are love songs / just love at times can make you feel like shit / so you write a string of words down / it’s better if there’s some truth in it.” The song ends with the parting admission that “ the truth is hard to admit / I’ve never known love this is just my best guess.” It’s like the ending to a really good book. That one line will leave the listener questioning what they know, both it terms of the songs they just listened to as well as in their own life.

When it comes to the sound of the album, there are some familiar sounds as well as a lot of new ones. The song “True Love” is reminiscent of their hit “Changing” with a plucky guitar base line but the band continues to experiment with some new sounds as well, utilizing the synthesizer versus a traditional piano on many tracks. The mandolin also makes an appearance once more for the catchy “True Love.” Ana’s vocal performance continues to be highlighted in many tracks, most notably the duet layered vocals on “The Fifth Day.” Looking back at their previous albums, we can clearly see a progression from the simple parts and melodies on The Airborne Toxic Event and the lush layers that weave themselves into the newer tracks and make for a much fuller sound.

But the band is equally able to strip away the excess and preform the same tracks acoustically to great effect. We are able to see this thanks to the bands commitment to producing what has been termed the Bombastic series. The Bombastic videos are a series of videos that have been produced for each album. Each song on the album is preformed by the band, live, acoustic, and the performance is filmed in one take. The resulting video is posted by the band on their website for fans to enjoy. The tradition stretches back to their first album, with each video being shot in a different locations. Some memorable locations from previous videos include a car, a moving merry-go-round, and a church. Its a way for the band to showcase the songs in a completely different light and each video only reaffirms the bands tremendous talent and creativity. So far three videos have been released for Such Hot Blood, “Timeless”, “The Storm,” and “True Love.”

You can watch the videos over on the bands website: http://www.theairbornetoxicevent.com/

Standout tracks: True Love, The Storm, Bride & Groom, This is London, Elizabeth

Image

Leave a comment

Filed under album review

Musical Sharing, Parental Edition

Image

by Cherie, contributing writer and editor

Music is my passion; I live and breath it. In fact, I listen to it almost constantly. It makes the forty minute commute to work bearable, and there are very few things I love more than rocking out in the shower. When you love music as much as I do, its only natural that you want to share it with the people you love. And when you are a twenty-three year old who, for better or worse, lives at home while working full time and going to school, your closest audience is your probably going to be your parents. Now, my parents are fairly young but I understand that there’s something of a generational gap. So I try to pick and choose my battles, introducing only bands I think that they will like and not wasting time with others. Even with a careful screening process I find that my luck has been 1/4 when it comes to introducing my parents to new music. As a rule I’ve found that mother despises the banjo, so any band that uses banjos heavily is out (alas, this means she doesn’t like Mumford and Sons, something I still can’t quite comprehend). She also isn’t a fan of mellow music, and that kind of music can be a hit or miss with my dad as well.

My mom tends to be more accepting of younger indie rock bands than my dad. Years ago I discovered that she liked My Chemical Romance and we spent one memorable car ride blasting The Black Parade together. She has recently started listening to fun and The Format (though Steel Train she doesn’t seem to care for). One year I found out that fun was playing a free show in Boston but I had no one to go with so I invited my mom to go with me. I don’t think she even listened to the band atthat point, but like a good sport she tagged along anyways. I think that night probably converted her into a fan if she wasn’t already. I don’t think it hurts that she probably has a crush on the lead singer either (in her defense, he is pretty adorable). The next time the band rolled through town she bought tickets with a friend and saw them again. I recently introduced her to the Lumineers, who, despite their Mumford & Son’s -esque sound, do not have a banjo and thus seem to have passed her approved listening test. Actually, she told me the other day that she is “obsessed with them” (her words, not mine). She actually hijacked my CD of them for the longest time and only gave it back recently. When I was growing up she literally could not stand to have music being played in the same room with her, so she’s come a long way since them. I’m so proud of her (sniffles).

As for my dad, he has more of an eclectic taste like my own. I remember when I was middle school de had a Linkin Park CD that my brother and I were forbidden from listening to because we were too young. Linkin Park went on to be one of my favorite bands of all time, thanks to him. Most of the music I’ve gotten him to listen to is very, very different from Linkin Park though. Unlike my mother, he doesn’t seem to mind banjos and he loves Mumford and Sons. He loved Sigh No More, but I have to admit I haven’t heard any feedback on Babel yet. For his birthday I burned him Daughter’s first album which was just released and he seems to have liked it so far, though only time will tell. I also got him to listen to Tegan and Sara, though the only album he cares for is The Con. And I can kind of understand that, because each T&S album has a completely different sound and they aren’t for everyone. My mother, for example, can’t stand them (in case you haven’t notice my mother tends to have extreme reactions to music; she either loves it or hates it and you can’t really fault her for that).

Despite all the small minor victories, there are two bands that have appealed to both my mother and my father and hence are counted as major victories. The first band that all three of us love is The Airborne Toxic Event. I think my parents fell in love with the band when they did their live CD/DVD. My dad loved the live DVD so much we actually bought him a copy as a present one year, and my mom bought the CD of it and that used to be her go-to album to listen to in the car. The second artist we all love is Laura Marling. I mean, what’s not to love? She’s an incredibly gifted musician and I have yet to meet someone who isn’t won over by her music. I’ve been lucky enough to see her in concert a few times the last few years, and hopefully when she swings back around for the new album I can get my parents to see her live. She is absolutely incredible live. I count the Airborne Toxic Event and Laura Marling as major victories because they are something all three of us can enjoy together. And there’s nothing I like more than to have my favorite people sharing the things that make me happy.

1 Comment

Filed under editorial

The Front Bottoms – Talon of the Hawk Review

A talon is the claw of an animal, usually on a bird of prey. I start my review with this definition because the name of the new LP from The Front Bottoms is The Talon of the Hawk and the choice is odd. The group is so non-threatening and their sound so appealing that likening it to a bird of prey’s claw is baffling. But while digging deeper into the album, the listener cannot help but fall victim to the catchy hooks and quirky lyrics that has gained the New Jersey duo a devout following over the past year, so it seems that they may have planned it just right.

When I first caught them live opening for Kevin Devine and An Horse at CMJ in 2011, the group had maybe five admirers in the crowd, most notably Kevin himself who sprinkles the group’s lyrics throughout his own songs and tweets has tweeted about them vigorously. By June 2012 when the group supported Motion City Soundtrack on tour, you would’ve sworn they were the headliners, playing to a raucous crowd during an energetic set. In addition, the group has found themselves on the big stage with Say Anything and Bad Books, further building their base.

Following up their popular 2011 self-titled effort is no small feat. The album featured lyrics that have cemented themselves into their fans’ minds and hooks and melodies that are impossible to forget, especially on the hits like “Maps”, “Rhode Island”, and “The Beers”. Luckily, they were equal to the daunting task, churning out 12 songs that are fun to sit back and listen to when you have some time to kill and just feel like enjoying your day.

A tambourine greets us on the album’s short, punchy opener “Au Revoir (Adios)” as vocalist and acoustic guitarist Brian Sella taunts in his generally playful tone “Au revoir, au revoir, you probably don’t even know what that means.” The song was debuted by the group on their headlining tour last fall but sounds stronger and fuller in-studio with an additional electric guitar and drums section that compliments the more hushed intro quite nicely and prepares the listener for the album’s equal attack of softer acoustic indie-pop and raucous dance-rock pop-punk.

“Skeleton” shines with its thick bass line that acts as a bed underneath Mathew Uychich crashing drum licks and a punk-influenced guitar riff as Brian laments “I walk around like a skeleton last night/ confused and alone/ who was I kidding? I can’t get past you/ You are the cops/ you are my student loans.” “Twin Size Mattress”, the album’ first single, brings back that familiar indie-pop sound the band utilized so well on their self-titled album and is reminiscent of fan-favorite “Swimming Pool.” Santa Monica is a hook-filled 4-minute track whose chorus soars with toe-tapping and head-bobbing delight. The Feud is acoustic punk at its finest and sees Mathew’s drumming stealing the show. “Back Flip” is one of the band’s best songs, a fast-paced indie-punk track that starts with a thumping drum roll that leads to the crunchy acoustic guitars that will have you dancing in no time flat

Brian Sella is equal parts funny, sad, goofy, adorable, but mostly relatable throughout with his lyrics that give the listener access to his life like a personal diary. “Peach” is one of the album’s gems; a quiet, cute love song that hits emotional highs with simple lines like “you are the reason I am smiling/ when there is nothing to smile about.” Even on the corniest lines, like “You were my girl, you were my baby/ you were my homemade mashed potatoes biscuits and gravy” off the track “The Feud,” Brian’s sincerity sells the words and makes them resonate.

Despite the playful nature of the band, there is still the need to grow up as Brian address on “Funny You Should Ask” when he says “When I was younger I thought I didn’t have to care about anyone/ but I’m older know and know that I should.” He looks ahead to an uncertain future on the album’s stellar closing track “Everything I Own”, wondering “who’s gonna push my wheelchair around when I get sick/ god forbid I ever stop feeling sorry for myself for being selfish. This is not the way I plan on living for the rest of my life/ but for right now it gets me by.” Brian makes it clear that he’s happy where he is and that’s what he needs.

The new album works because it’s so true to the sound that won them such a cult following. It’s catchy, fun, and enjoyable yet still refreshing and new. There are not a lot of bands that can go out there with an acoustic guitar and a drum set and command the sort of devotion and attention this band does. This is not the album that’s going to gain the band any new fans, so for people who weren’t fond of their earlier work, this probably won’t win them over, and if this album is any indication, The Front Bottoms are just fine with that. It’s gotten them this far, and they’re only soaring higher.

Songs of Interest: Skeleton, Twin Sized Mattress, Santa Monica, Back Flip

 

Leave a comment

Filed under album review

Haunted House EP Review

Image

By Ryan, Contributing Writer

Yes. I’m very well aware that Halloween isn’t for another five months, but don’t tell that to Australian electronic duo Knife Party (both of Pendulum fame). Venturing out of their usual drum and bass groove, they’re experimenting with electro house with positive outcomes. Their latest EP, Haunted House, is a nasty, heavy-hitting set of four tracks. Like any other EP, it’s not too long, but it’s long enough to make you want more (heads out of the gutter now, children).

The first track, Power Glove, is named after the Nintendo peripheral for the NES. Sadly, I’m too young to have ever owned one myself or know anyone who had older siblings who had one (I was a pretty lonely kid), but I hear stories about how people love(d) it. Anyway, the song is interspersed with the tagline for the Powerglove’s marketing campaign “Now you’re playing with power!” in a voice that reminds me of an early ’90s horror movie trailer announcer played through fuzzy speakers. It adds the perfect amount of creepiness to the track. It kicks off with a slow build-up that gets you warmed up and ready for the rest of the track and the rest of the EP. There’s not much messing around on this track, to be honest. It’s a straight forward track that gives you a few crests and falls before it really punches you in the face with the synths on top of the driving bass. Once it kicks in, it’s a track you’d want in an action movie. Just imagine a spy chasing a bad-guy through a night club. Then, imagine that the bad-guy finds a place to hide and arms a bomb, getting it ready to blow up the spy. But, before he can set it off, the spy jumps into the room, kicks the shit out of the bad-guy (while the bomb timer flashes on the screen as it counts down). Naturally, the spy wins and sits down and takes a few deep breaths after disarming the bomb. That’s what Powerglove is like after the first few crests and dips.

The next track, LRAD, is named after a Long Range Acoustic Device. These are gnarly acoustic weapons that blast tones/sounds over long distances to disperse crowds and incapacitate people. It’s not a fun time. But, you know what is? Listening to LRAD. This track is very unassuming in the lead-in. It’s got a catchy little groove that makes you feel all safe and cozy, but it builds and builds without you even realizing. Soon enough, it drops out and you’ve a few moments of calm before the synths come in. It’s like being in a European club (without the bass). There’s a little drumbeat going on in the backtrack to keep you in time, but that ends up building in addition to everything else and it all comes together in a nice moment of acoustic headiness which drops out from under you and you’re left with a nice bass-dominant section. If you listen to this part in the dark, with your eyes closed, you get one of those drug-less highs. It’s something I’d throw on during an after party. People are crashed on the couch, you’re all a little drunk, and you just want to watch the laserlights and blacklights play on the wall. It’s a good track to bring you down off of a dance-heavy night. But, it picks back up! There’s another moment of calm before it comes back in with the synth line and drags you up off of your high-but-really-not-high ass and makes you want to dance out the last of your drunk energy before you collapse in a heap. It builds and builds until, BOOM. It drops out again and you’ve got that bass-heavy section again. It took me a while to figure it out, but I think the effects they’re using are distorted tones from banging on PVC pipe (like Blue Man Group). Soon enough, it’s done. And, all you want to do is pass out.

EDM Death Machine is my favorite track on this EP. This track comes out and tells you how it is. “In the future, nobody will drop the bass. No one will do the Harlem Shake. No one will know bitches love cake. There will be no Internet Friends. There will be no antidote. The human race will be extinct.” The references to “Internet Friends” and the “Antidote” refer to other tracks that Knife Party have put out. I think this is the most consistent track. It’s fairly steady with only a few points where it drops out. The first drop and build consists of light bass, machine noises, and some synth before you’re told “Say hello to the robots.” That’s when all hell breaks loose. Nasty, fast-paced electro comes out of the speakers and engulfs you. It’s like a fever and all you can do it sit and ride it out. You feel like you’re in the best sci-fi movie ever, flying around in a starship and fighting aliens. It drops down again and they say “Now check this out” a few times before they give you a little somethin’-somethin’ to check out. It’s like you’re transported back to the ’90s with the synths they use. And, again, they want you to greet our future mechanical overlords. If they drop bombs like this on me, then I’m more than happy to serve the robot taskmasters.

Internet Friends (VIP) is a remix of their track Internet Friends off of their debut EP 100% No Modern Talking released in 2011. It’s NSFW. I’m just throwing that out there. A story unfolds between yourself and a lady (presumably a robot) that you meet online. What happens is that you stop talking to her (it?) and she comes and finds you. There’s a short interlude where they play an iPhone’s default xylophone ringtone, some knocking, a window being smashed, and then the robot lady’s voice saying “You blocked me on Facebook. And, now, you are going to get fucked up.” The lesson here is that you shouldn’t talk to strangers on the internet (unless you want to listen to awesome tunes). This is a great remix of the original track. I actually prefer this to the original. It’s a little faster and more frenetic, but it layers the original synth tracks and melodies a little more to give it some urgency. And, I liked the subtle change to “And, now, you are going to get fucked up.” from the original “And, now, you are going to die.” It’s a little more hopeful.

Check out this EP. It’ll make you wish Halloween was right around the corner. Or, if you’re planning on shooting a horror movie, throw some of these tracks on the soundtrack. You won’t be disappointed.

Leave a comment

Filed under album review

The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation Review

Image

By Vasilis, contributing writer

When The Wonder Years, the sextet from suburban Lansdale Pennsylvania, released their widely beloved sophomore album The Upsides in 2010, the group went from a bunch of guys cracking jokes and making happy-go-lucky comedic synth-fueled pop punk to the voice of a new generation of anxious, awkward and misplaced teens/young adults looking for their place in the world. The album tackled every touchy subject from life on the road to growing up to battling depression and was also considered by many as the new bar of what pop punk could be and what it should aim to be.

That same bar was then broken in 2011 when they released their acclaimed album Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing. The conceptual follow-up album recounted life in suburbia told loosely through Allen Ginsburg’s poem America, equipped with several references and call-backs to their prior album. It was grittier, rawer, and dripping with as much passion and emotion as its predecessor, but with even more refined instrumentals and an improved vocal performance from vocalist and lyricist Dan “Soupy” Campbell. So understandably, expectations could not be higher for their new album The Greatest Generation.

And I just want to say this album did not set the bar. Rather, it grabbed the bar and snapped it in half, shattering even the highest of expectations with the 13 strongest songs the group has put out to date. The result is the final part of a three part trilogy that followed the evolution of The Wonder Years both as people and as musicians, and additionally the growth of the fans who have been listening to the group. The band has never confined itself to a specific genre. Each track is not strictly pop punk and each song builds off the last, culminating in the final two tracks which perfectly capture the feelings of maturing and taking what the world gives you and finding your own path to success and happiness.

The album kicks off with Soupy’s subdued vocals on “There, There” as he laments, “You’re just trying to read/ but I’m always standing in your light/ you’re just trying to sleep/ but I always wake you up to apologize/ I’m sorry I don’t laugh at the right times” before building into a furiously unapologetic cacophony reminiscent of late 90’s emo, serving as a bridge to the album’s first single “Passing Through a Screen Door”. Soupy contemplates not wanting his kids to grow up like him before realizing he’s 26 and is still single while so many of his friends have a family already.

What attracts so many to Soupy’s lyrics is his uncanny ability to write about his life in a way that elicits the thought of your own. We see this in “We Could Die Like This”, where he contemplates the fate of dying in the suburbs while shoveling snow by evoking the smell of Coppertone and the cigarettes his grandmother smokes and watching the ‘92 Philadelphia Eagles. The song’s pulsing drums, delivered by the consistently strong Mike Kennedy, lay the foundation for the track under crunchy punk guitars. “Dismantling Summer” addresses Soupy’s difficult time dealing with his grandfather in the hospital while on tour, lamenting “If I’m in an airport/ and you’re in a hospital bed/ well, then, what kind of man does that make me?” The track revisits the sound of late 90’s alternative groups like Weezer and Lit.

Never wanting to adhere strictly to a pop punk structure, the group introduces an emotional piano ballad with “The Devil In My Bloodstream”, a hushed track featuring vocals from Laura Stevenson of Bomb The Music Industry that builds into an eruption of angst as Soupy shouts “I bet I’d be a fucking coward. I bet I’d never have the guts for war.” The fully acoustic “Madelyn” sees Soupy tackling religion once again, proclaiming “I don’t think there’s a god. I don’t think that there’s/ someone coming to save us and I don’t think that’s the worst news of the day.” “Teenage Parents”, “Chaser”, and “An American Religion (FSF)” represent a trilogy of fast, heart-pounding punk tracks that displays the group in their natural element and exhibits the album’s tight production (courtesy of Steve Evetts) and the group’s improvement as musicians.

But the real reward of the album comes in the last two tracks, “Cul-De-Sac” and “I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral”. It seems each of their albums features the two best songs closing the album, and that is very much done by design, as both tracks create a nostalgic for the emotions and topics of the album and the trilogy. “Cul-De-Sac” again paints the lonely picture of suburban life equipped with empty homes, the cold suburban concrete, and the gas station where Soupy and his friends used to shoplift. The track is a relentless rush of memories told by a person who is not afraid to air it all out in song and let us in to his world.

The album and trilogy culminate with “I Just Want to Sell Out My Funeral” a nearly 8-minute long track that could have its own review. Like the final chapter of a good book, this song makes you want to immediately reflect on everything you heard in the past 48 minute and how you’ve grown from having experienced it. In typical Soupy fashion, he perfectly captures an idea we’ve all had: the thought of living a life that would make our family and friends feel proud, and how we do every single thing we do for that sense of pride and validation, portrayed as selling out our own funeral. The song features lines from past songs like “I was kind of hoping you’d stay” and “I’m sorry I didn’t laugh at the right times,” strategically placed throughout. The song is just as heartbreaking as it is optimistic. Instead of just admitting defeat, Soupy encourages the listener to fight, as he does throughout the entire album, pleading that instead of making excuses for not being great, we go out and try to change the world like the greatest generation did in the 40’s. It is this theme that sticks with the listener and makes the album so strong.

Like a good novel, The Greatest Generation holds a very specific narrative that you can follow from start to finish. As a result, it is necessary to listen to each track in the context of the album. Imagine reading the chapters of a book out of order and that’s the feeling you get listening to each of these tracks out of the album’s context. Each track is made more meaningful by the preceding track. The conflicts and themes of the album are perfectly represented by the immediacy of every note the group has recorded and every word Soupy has penned. Combined with their two prior albums, this makes a wonderful trilogy that will leave you feeling nostalgic and make you remember the times you had listening to this band and of your life in general.

With The Greatest Generation, The Wonder Years have completed the trilogy in a grand fashion, begging the question, “What’s next?” It’s a scary question, but what’s scarier is the fact that they’ve improved as musicians and storytellers with each album. The Greatest Generation shows a band that has a keen awareness for their place in today’s scene and it’s that knowledge that helps them flourish. A change of pace could be in order with their next album, but for now it’s time to put their newest album in the car stereo and crank it up with all the windows open and to enjoy where you are.

Songs of Interest: I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral, Cul-De-Sac, We Could Die Like This, Chaser

Image

Leave a comment

Filed under album review