Friday, April 30, 2010

Review #104: J.F.A. - Blatant Localism (EP) (1981)


Year: 1981
Genre: Punk Rock
Label: Placebo Records

7 Minutes (Very Short)
My Rating:

J.F.A. formed in 1981 as a part of the southwestern skate-punk scene. The band's name, J.F.A. stands for "Jodie Foster's Army" -- in reference to John Hinckley Jr.'s attempt to assassinate Ronald Reagan, who believed he would win the love of Jodie Foster by doing so (he was obsessed with the film "Taxi Driver", in which Jodie played a 12-year-old prostitute). But, being in the area and playing hardcore punk, the group quickly found a following and about as much success as a most notable hardcore bands got back in those days. This record is their first one, and the contents can now be found on an in-print CD compilation.

1. Out of School
Fast, good riff, furious vocals... good stuff. This song's about how the real world kinda leaves you cold after high school's finally over... "No more chicks to love, no more classes to ditch, no more jocks to hate, no more teachers that bitch..." -- I can't say I really ever experienced any of that. But I can still see where they're coming from. Good song, anyways.

2. Jodie Foster's Army
Begins with a frantic, abrasive guitar solo, before going into some more skate thrash -- the bass guitar is really awesome n' catchy. The lyrics here are an ode of support to John Hinckley Jr., expressing what he may have been thinking during the assassination attempt as they proclaim themselves as JODIE FOSTER'S ARMY.

3. Do the Hannigan
The lyrics here are a little more stupid and nonsensical. Musically, it's even faster than the two songs before it. Very short... less than even half a minute long.

4. Count
Even shorter and faster than "Do the Hannigan"! Literally only about five seconds long. Well, it's a song about counting. Wow... end o' Side 1.

5. Beach Blanket Bong Out
The verse sections are slow n' laid back, and the chorus is fast n' awesome. This song's about a group of punks hanging out on the beach, avoiding jocks and hippies while not caring about being outnumbered. The riff of the verse section is perfect for the beach, and the riff for the chorus is perfect for the bong-out. Definitely a classic hardcore song. A musical representation of a PARTY!

6. Cokes and Snickers
Well, this song's pretty self-explanatory. It's about only eating Coke (the drink) and Snickers, while yelling "HEALTH SUCKS"... I have to disagree somewhat, there. But those things are pretty good. But health doesn't suck. Uhh, it's fast. Yup.

This is a great EP to put on when you just want to be immature, let loose, and have some fun. It's pretty typical for a suburban Southern California-based hardcore punk band, but it manages to be so without being cliche or corny. It's just a good slice of punk rock fun n' games... JFA is actually still around and playing, also! I DO wonder what Jodie Foster actually thinks of this band, though...

Top 3 Favorites:
1. Beach Blanket Bong Out
2. Jodie Foster's Army
3. Count

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Review #103: Grrrl Friend - The Rag (EP) (2008)


Year: 2008
Genre: Punk Rock
Post-Punk, Hardcore
Label: Wrong Island Records

15 Minutes (Short)
My Rating:

Sometimes you find a band, and the moment you hear them, you know they're gonna be great. That's kind of the story with when I found out about Grrrl Friend. A punk band from Portland, Oregon, lead by Duffy Wrong Island, formed in 2006. The group has a very strong D.I.Y.-based ethic, and has gone through durastic line-up changes for the entirety of its existence. I also admire their skills of writing good, catchy songs, as well as their lo-fi production which gives the music a very organic, raw feel to it.

For awhile, I thought this was the first Grrrl Friend album, but I recently found out that that iz not the case -- there was another record before it called "Period", which is now out-of-print and they have not released it as a free download like their other releases, so I am not sure how the hell to even obtain that one. But this is the earliest one that you CAN get for free at this point. In my opinion, this EP has most of their greatest songs on it, so far (there's a really good song called "Get Up", but it's on a compilation album that I do not yet own and have only heard from a live video... "Roadside Picnic" is really good, too). The first two songs are more hardcore-oriented, but everything else is totally a sound of its own... the first listen is a very moving, emotional, genuine sweep of beauty ingrained into your skull. To put a long story short, I believe this is the kind of music that lives forever. Now, onto the review.

1. Probably
Begins with two thumping drums amidst the silence, before the dreary riff kicks off, along with a somewhat fast beat. Duffy's vocals and the just slightly abrasive sound of the guitar set the mood for the song -- a path being taken which is off-beat but on-point. Not sure what it's about. Doesn't matter though, 'cause I can hear Duffy say that we're going to "have a good time". Well, I am having a good time listening to this. However, there is an acoustic version on the "B-Sides and Rarities" album that's even BETTER than this version of the song, with Elyssa (or maybe it's Cora) and Duffy on double vocals. THAT is the ultimate version of the song, but it's all legit.

2. The Rag
After the frantic-ness of "Probably", we are treated to the title track, "The Rag", which starts off on a downhill slide... and by that I mean that the verse part is slower. The riff is wonderful. The song's probably about, well, being "on the rag" or something like that. The chorus section is fast n' furious, with a boingy sound being made on one of the other guitars. The band actually sounds like they're having fun... you can hear Duffy and Elyssa laughing just before the second verse. I like this one the best while driving or walking off into a sunset or something like that...

3. Mine
Starts with a short acoustic intro (a.k.a. the riff being played once) -- this song's really happy and relaxing. It's slower, with a more psychedelic tinge to it. The verse riff is beautiful, and then there's a nice chorus with a trippy-sounding lead guitar playing during that part. Elyssa also sings in this song -- hell she sings in about all of the songs on here except for the first one. Definitely a song that deserved to be written.

4. Cast a Shadow
This one's a Beat Happening cover. Great acoustic guitar sound... actually, it starts out acoustic in the very beginning, and then quickly morphs into an electric one with not a whole lot of distortion... the lead guitar is so fucked up here, but it's awesome. You can credit that to Jay Briggs of the Sonitus Revolution, who was in Grrrl Friend at this point... "Cast a shadow on my ERECTION" -- hah!! The song fades out...

5. Homesick
This one's a little slower, like "Mine"... driven like a gear in a great machine or a tiny falling snowflake, there's neat lead guitar here... just peddling along like a... bicycle... or something. Heh heh. The rhythm guitar here is a bit more heavy than the other songs, like grunge or something. Here, the vocal duties are sort of different... Duffy sings high-pitched, and Elyssa sings more low-pitched. When the lead guitar doesn't sound all sparkly, it's got a crazy sound to it like a ripple in a lake of ACID. The song sort of reminds me of the feeling of going back home after a long, exciting journey. Duffy yells, "DO IT, JAY", and Jay whips out a neat-o guitar-o sol-o on command.

6. By a Thread
This song is more dominated by an acoustic guitar than the rest. Either that or an electric with very light effects. Duffy n' Elyssa on vocals. It's a very soft, serene song. The bass is pretty easy to hear. At one point, there's a BACKWARDS solo. I thought that was pretty cool. It's a cool-down after a storm of coolness, I suppose. The song ends, and then so does the EP.

It's sort of lame once the record's over, but don't worry, they'll be back! Actually, the band has just been releasing some new demo songs (Black Jesus, Doppelganger 12-Step, etc. just to name a few)... in my opinion, these songs are amazing. You should definitely get this. Even if the cover art offends you/grosses you out. Ignore that if it's that big of a deal. Yeah, definitely awesome. This record restored my hope in the music of today and gave me optimism for the current generation of musicians... I recommend this for everyone. Listen to good music.

Top 3 Favorites:
1. The Rag
2. Mine
3. Homesick

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Review #102: Nowhere Fast - No Escape (EP) (2009)


Year: 2009
Genre: Punk Rock
Label: Mind Rot Records

8 Minutes (Short)
My Rating:

Nowhere Fast was a British hardcore band that was active from 2008 to until just earlier this year. The band consisted of Ad (guitar), Tank (bass), Tom (vocals), and Joe (drums). During its existence, the band released a 7" EP... that EP is currently out-of-print, so I found you can download all the discography of the band for free, including the demo. Today, I'm gonna talk about their 7" record.

1. Useless
A fast song. Rough but distinct vocals. They actually sound pretty cool. There's a solo in this song. This song's about people who think they're "saving the world", but get wasted more than actually doing anything to save it. Great guitar riff.

2. No Escape
Even faster than the song before it! The end section iz slow, though.

3. Brainwash Broadcast
This one's about how the mainstream media has fed the current generation a sterilized, "safe" agenda, turning the youth of today into pussies while filling their minds with "sex, drugs, and fake rock n' roll" -- it's true, kids my age today suck BALLS.

4. Imposter
This one's very fast, and then in the middle, it goes into a slower part before speeding up again. End of Side 1.

5. Get Away
Slow intro. Then a fast part. Then another slow part. Then a very fast part at the end. Longest song on the album.

6. Shutdown
This song's about the city slowly dying as political and social pressures close in on it, and the displeasure in the idea of a city collapsing due to this. Cool bridge section.

7. Never
This one's about never giving in to the system or becoming a "button down slave". Fast, hard. Real cool riff!

8. Hatred
Uhh, it's about hatred. And hating people n' stuff. And it's fast. And it has guitars and drums and stuff. The riff is good. It has an amount of distortion. The song ends in a cool slow outro.

This is a pretty traditional hardcore record, but it's quite well-done and the songs are good and the production is too, and stuff. Half the songs are under a minute long! Others are, well... OVER a minute long. The band reports that the members have gone on to be in different bands. What bands are those? Well, one of them is called "Amateur Video", a new band that plays songs that are fast, but not quite as fast as these ones. They have just released a demo, and it's very good! So search that band up, or just wait for me to review 'em... anyways, Nowhere Fast seems like they were pretty good. At least before they went away, they left a good EP to be remembered by... if you like fast, hard punk, then try listening to this.

Top 3 Favorites:
1. Never
2. Useless
3. Get Away

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Review #101: Patti Smith - Hey Joe (Single) (1974)

HEY JOE (Single)

Year: 1974
Genre: Blues Rock
Label: MER

9 Minutes (Short)
My Rating:

Patti Smith is often considered the "Godmother of Punk". She was born in Illinois to a poor family, and raised in New Jersey. She worked in a factory during high school, left her religion, and after graduating high school, she went to Glassboro State College. She began to pursue the arts at this time, painting, writing poetry, engaging in performance art. She also frequented the early CBGB (which would later be the most famous 'punk club' in the world). As a big fan of rock n' roll, she eventually became the singer for the band Blue Öyster Cult for awhile. She was even a rock journalist, and she got her writings published in magazines such as Rolling Stone.

In 1974, the Patti Smith Group was formed, which played rock & roll music Patti wrote herself, and, well, punk rock! "Hey Joe" was their earliest release, and it's more of a blues-rock record, as Patti would not really set out her punk rock sound until "Horses" came out a year later. The A-Side is a cover of "Hey Joe" by the Leaves, and the B-Side is a completely original song called "Piss Factory". Let's hear it...

1. Hey Joe
Patti made sure to make her version of the song very distinct from the original. The song starts out with her giving a spoken intro about Patty Hearst, a girl who was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, and was a member of their ranks during the time that this song was released. A reference is made to a photo taken of her "with a gun in her hand". This song is slower and clamer than the original. The chords are piano-dominated, but there is a clicking noize being made by the guitar, and a soft bass drum can faintly be heard in the background. Lyrically, the song is similar (with a few additions) to the originally, but placed in the context of Patty Hearst, who was at this point with the Symbionese Liberation Army. The singing style is supposedly common of the beatnik poetry style, which I haven't heard a ton of, but from what I can hear here, it is real fuckin' furious and I think it's actually a tad cooler than just yelling to the rhythm. There is an insane guitar solo going on in the background towards the end... it's like a bunch of spaghetti created by the sounds of a guitar just... doin' stuff, I guess. Because of its low budget and the fact that it's from 1974, the quality is rather murky, but it's okay, because it adds a certain aura to the sound... something almost aquatic, vague, but re-assuring. The song ends by fading out...

2. Piss Factory
Patti wrote this song completely. The main musical instrument here is a piano, but trust me, it's full of energy and furor... this song's about when Patti was 16 years old and working in a factory, and the depression, anger, and frustration with the life she was living, until she discovered and stole a poetry book by Arthur Rimbaud called "Illuminations". Patti goes on about how she wants to go to New York City to be a "big star" and never return. You can hear the determination in her voice... sometimes it sounds like she's just yelling, and at others, it sounds like she's kind of singing to the music. Later on you can hear a little more lead guitar (which sounds great on this single). The song fades out at the end...

I think this is a great first release... for any band, really. I don't listen to a whole ton of piano-oriented rock, but this music is really good! After this, Patti would go on to release an album called "Horses", which is in a sense the earliest punk LP, and after that, many more. She is still performing and making music today, but I have not heard much of her work beyond this 7" single so far... new discoveries, y'know? Anyway, it's a great single, and I recommend it to just about anybody who likes rock n' roll. Period.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Every Band I've Reviewed So Far

Well, it's been four months and 100 record reviews... here's every band I've ever reviewed so far (and how many I've reviewed by them). Just for the hell of it.

A.N.S. (2 reviews)
AIDS Wolf (1 review)
Bad Brains (1 review)
Bad Choice (1 review)
Beastie Boys (1 review)
Bionic Senses (1 review)
Black Flag (8 reviews)
Butthole Surfers (5 reviews)
Circle Jerks (1 review)
Dead Kennedys (1 review)
Death Piggy (1 review)
Deep Wound (1 review)
Defendants (1 review)
Diehatzu Hijets (1 review)
Dinosaur Jr. (1 review)
Distillers (3 reviews)
DrunkDriver (2 reviews)
Ecoli (1 review)
Flipper (1 review)
Germs (2 reviews)
Government Warning (1 review)
Green Day (1 review)
Green River (1 review)
Grrrl Friend (1 review)
GWAR (1 review)
Homostupids (1 review)
Hüsker Dü (4 reviews)
Kraut (1 review)
L7 (1 review)
L-Seven (1 review)
Lunachicks (1 review)
Malfunkshun (1 review)
Meat Puppets (3 reviews)
Melvins (9 reviews)
Minor Threat (2 reviews)
Minutemen (1 review)
Nazi Dust (1 review)
Nü Sensae (2 reviews)
Nüklear Fear (1 review)
Offspring (2 reviews)
Pandora (2 reviews)
Pissed Jeans (3 reviews)
Ramones (2 reviews)
Reprobates (1 review)
School Jerks (2 reviews)
Scream (1 review)
Screaming Trees (1 review)
Seaweed (2 reviews)
Sex Pistols (1 review)
Shocker (1 review)
Skin Yard (1 review)
Social Distortion (3 reviews)
Sonic Youth (3 reviews)
Sonitus Revolution (1 review)
SoundGarden (2 reviews)
Suicidal Tendencies (1 review)
Teen Idles (1 review)
U-Men (1 review)
Vendetta (1 review)
Ween (2 reviews)

Favorite Five Albums I've Reviewed So Far:
1. Lunachicks - Babysitters on Acid
2. Social Distortion - Mommy's Little Monster
3. Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation
4. Butthole Surfers - Locust Abortion Technician
5. Black Flag - My War

Many more to come!!

Review #100: The Ramones - Rocket to Russia (1977)


Year: 1977
Genre: Punk Rock
Label: Sire Records

31 Minutes (Medium-Length)
My Rating:

"Rocket to Russia" was the Ramones' third album. By the time this record came out in 1977, punk was at an all-time high. There were many, many punks and punk rock bands in both the U.S.A. and England, and it was becoming visible to the point that there was actually a large moral panic amongst the more conformist segments of the population and the police, who believed that punks were only no good and punks during this period were often beaten, arrested, and generally abused for no reason other than their clothes or the music they played. It was a hard time, but they lived for the music. This album is similar in style to the two albums before it, and it's the last Ramones studio record to feature Tommy Ramone, the original drummer (and the only still-living member of the original line-up!).

1. Cretin Hop
Well, it's a song about some dancing "cretins". Apparently a Cretin in the literal sense of the word is a person with a severe stunted growth disorder, often appearing to look very similar to a troll doll. Seriously. So if the Ramones were actually singing about a bunch of Cretins dancing around and stuff, then that's pretty cool. Anyways, the song is pretty good, but it's not the best of the bunch.

2. Rockaway Beach
Once again, speaking in real-life terms, Rockaway Beach is an actual beach in New York. The song was probably named after this beach. The song sounds very influenced by the Beach Boys or something like that. The Ramones sing about not wanting to hang out on the street because it's too hot and because "they blast out disco on the radio".

3. Here Today, Gone Tommorrow
They say that this is the first song that Joey Ramone wrote all by himself. It's a slower love song. Probably something you n' your fellow Ramones-lovin' lover could listen to on the radio (instead of blasting out disco) and kiss passionately to as the sun sets out on Rockaway Beach. Well, actually, maybe not, since it actually seems like it's supposed to be a song about breaking up. Like, you could listen to it, and then just turn off the radio when he starts talking about breaking up. But that's probably a bad idea. Heh-heh. I could swear a heard a phaser or something at one point in the song. Someone had to pay the price. It's a nice, sort of sad-but-also-happy riff.

4. Locket Love
It almost sounds like there's a little bit of acoustic guitar here. Either that or the distortion just isn't as high, here. I like the instrumental riffs inbetween the verses more than the verse riffs to be honest. Still, good, though. Lyrically, it's another stupid love song. It's good, though.

5. I Don't Care
The riff here is really bad-ass. Lyrically, it's very simple: "I don't care". Not caring. Dee-Dee provides strange falsetto backing vocals.

6. Sheena is a Punk Rocker
First we knew that Judy is a Punk, then Suzy is a Headbanger. Now, meet Sheena. She iz a punk rocker. This is a fun, fast, catchy song. I like the vocal melody during the chorus section.

7. We're a Happy Family
Definitely my favorite Ramones song I've ever heard. This song is about Johnny Ramone's dysfunctional family life during childhood, though the lyrics give a more humorous take on it all. The riff is awesome, the vocals are awesome, they all fit really well together, actually giving you that "happy family" feeling of total harmony with the music. A bunch of random sound clips start fading in as the sound slowly fades out, with random radio clippets and snippets of the band arguing with eachother playing until the song ends. End of Side 1.

8. Teenage Lobotomy
The lyrics are kind of nonsensical (unless there's something I don't know) in this one. It's pretty good.

9. Do You Wanna Dance
A cover of a 1958 pop song by Bobby Freeman translated into pop-punk song in which Joey asks some unnamed girl if she wants to dance. More Beach Boys-style "oooh, ooooh"s for background vocals. Probably 'cause the Beach Boys ALSO covered this song.

10. I Wanna Be Well
A slower song about being a burnout who gets high all the time. However, as already suggested by the happy melody, the Ramones sing, "my future's bleak -- ain't it neat??"... could be sarcasm, though. Little did this kid know he would eventually grow up to be a Ramone and be in a band called the Ramones which was really cool n' stuff.

11. I Can't Give You Anything
More acoustic guitar here -- I just love the sound of an acoustic guitar combined with the fury of an electric one, y'know. This song's about a girl who likes a boy, but doesn't realize that he's poor and can't buy anything for her.

12. Ramona
Yet another woman loved by the Ramones: meet RAMONA! A girl that always comes over to hang out with the Ramones and listen to loud music with them. Ramona was probably, like, some girl who was going to be the fifth female Ramone, but she didn't make the cut because she didn't play any instruments. And get this -- she's a spy for the B.B.I.!

13. Surfin' Bird
A cover of the classic rock song by the Trashmen (who could be considered one of the progenitors of punk rock themselves). However, the Ramones version takes the cake. It's about a fucking surfin' bird! YEAH! Don't tell me you haven't heard about the bird... what? You have? OH YIPPETY-YAY! Anyways, it's a very fun, cool song. Joey even goes on to imitate the little "Poppa-Oom-Mow-Mow" part halfways through the song.

14. Why is it Always This Way?
The riff is very upbeat and happy (I swear, the Ramones couldn't write a sad song), but the lyrics are very dark... it's about a girl who Joey knew, who committed suicide by drinking poison. The song just sorta fades out during the second chorus. Well, that's the end.

So, that's "Rocket to Russia". The actual album itself has a lot of neat cartoons in and on it, including, well, a guy riding a rocket to Russia! Coincidence or incidence? Who knows, man. As you already probably heard, after this one, Tommy was kicked out of the band and replaced by a new drummer named Marky Ramone -- both are still alive and well. This album takes a slight deviation from the straight-forward punk sound they pioneered, and shows their great interest in pop music, surf-rock, and garage rock. It's a pretty neat album, and if you like the Ramones or punk in general, then what are ya waiting for? Go listen to it.

Top 3 Favorites:
1. We're a Happy Family
2. Surfin' Bird
3. Locket Love

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Review #99: Bad Choice - Demo (EP) (2009)


Year: 2009
Genre: Punk Rock
Label: None

6 Minutes (Very Short)
My Rating:

Bad Choice is a hardcore punk band from Toronto, Ontario (Canada). The band formed around early 2009, and the line-up currently consists of MTM (vocals), Beav (guitar), Steve (other guitar), Rick (bass), and Curtis (drums). While the group has not yet released an 'official' album, they have this self-released demo out available for a free download, so if this music sounds interesting to you from the sound of the interview, then go ahead n' get it!

1. Bad Intro
Starts with just drumming, and then MTM begins barking out his vocals. He sounds kinda like the guy from Pissed Jeans but slightly harder to understand. Sorry, but it's not completely fitting for the instrumentals. Maybe that's the intention. Whatever. The song's got a pretty nice riff (the production sounds similar to the "Lexicon Devil" single by the Germs to give an accurate example), and it alternates between slow and fast.

2. Lash Out
This one's got a more consistent tempo. The riff is really cool and catchy! Probably the best song on this record. It's a minute long...

3. Dezerter
This one's a little slower. Once again, it's got a really neat guitar riff in both the verse and chorus. I just wish the singer could hold a syllable for just slightly longer -- his singing just sounds like he's going "uugh dughkt tgha uggha duggha dugk!" -- it just gets kind of boring. It would sound much cooler if he could hold a word for a little longer.

4. BDS
Alternates between fast n' slow. MTM sings during the slow parts, and the fast parts are dominated by a very exciting guitar riff. Only 46 seconds of punk fury!

5. Get Together
This is the longest song (two minutes). Begins with a slow intro, which is eventually dissipated by the speedy verse and chorus sections of the song. Whoever's writing these songs is really fucking talented, that's for sure! The riffs here really rev me up. Like all of the other songs. Well, that's the end.

Overall, I think Bad Choice is a band with a lot of potential. The songwriting is excellent, the riffs are in my opinion up there with early Black Flag as far as being rough-sounding and catchy and the same time. This music is of good quality. The production is great, too. My only gripe is the vocals. They just tend to sound a bit repetitive, and lack any real substance. Not very compelling. Maybe it's just the mixing. I just don't think it sounds very good with the rest of the band. But this band is still good -- none of this corporate-born cheeze that has infiltrated so much of the punk scene, no preachiness, no whining, just good, fun punk rock with balls. If Bad Choice makes the good choices (get it?), they could become one of the best bands for the years to come!

(P.S. -- that cover image I have up there isn't actually the official cover art. There is no official cover art. It's just a flyer that I edited. It looks pretty cool, though, doesn't it?)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Review #98: Draft Beer, Not Students (2007)


Year: 2007
Genre: Punk Rock
Post-Punk, Psychedelic, Noise
Label: Wrong Island
46 Minutes (Long)
My Rating:

"Draft Beer, Not Students" is a split live album featuring the Sonitus Revolution and Bionic Senses. The Sonitus Revolution is a psychedelic funky punk band from Wantagh, New York that formed in 2005. Bionic Senses is a noisy avant-garde music unit from Portland, Oregon (founded by Duffy Wrong Island of Grrrl Friend). The two bands are considerably different in style, but both share the spirit of punk and were during this point label-mates on Wrong Island Records. The contents of this album are taken from a live performance (presumably in Portland) in 2006.

1. Sonitus Revolution - "Borderline"
The band briefly introduces itself ("we are the Sonitus Revolution") -- then they begin. A studio version of this song can be found on the band's sole album, "There Is No One Way to Dance", so if you want to hear this song in even better quality, download that record (it's free). The song has a pretty simple riff and a typical punk rock beat. Great rockin' solo halfways through the song.

2. Sonitus Revolution - "Clap On"
Starts with the singer talking about how his car got totaled and then proceeding to say "Fuck the Police." Drumming-wise, this one's a bit more energetic and thrashy than the song before it. The beat is more dense here, though there is a periodic pause between the crashing drums that is filled by the simple *ching* noize. Another good solo two-thirds through. You hear some guy yell "YEAH!" during this part. Not sure if it's coming from the audience or the band. Yeah hear the same guy yell "YEAH!" in the EXACT SAME tone of voice and everything. I shit you not. Just kinda funny.

3. Sonitus Revolution - "Violent Education"
Jay makes a joke about "throwing himself into things". This one's got a really funk-flavored bassline, at least in the beginning. It's really cool -- kind of reminds me of the Minutemen. Did I mention that Jay Briggs's voice sounds a lot like D Boon's? Well, it does. During the chorus section, the guitar just does sort of an upward ascension of notes -- it sounds really cool and triumphant... sort of like an uprising in a great war of rock n' roll. There's a brief slip-up on the drumming at one point in the song. The "YEAH!" guy makes a return after the song finishes.

4. Sonitus Revolution - "Laius"
Definitely the best one on this whole album. Easily one of the greatest songs of the past decade ever. This song actually sounds just about identical to the version on the studio album, so I'm wondering if they either just used the studio version on this album, or used the live version on that album. It's a bit better in quality than the other songs, either way. There's actually an even better-sounding recording (re-recording?) of this song on a compilation called "Save Our Heads For the Future", released by the Dinosaurs in Vietnam 'zine in 2009. Anyways, about the song. Starts with just the guitar riff -- the guitar sounds so fucking awesome, here. I don't know what the effect's called, but it sounds awesome either way. The bass slowly coaxes its way in, and then the rhythm guitar gets a tone dirtier as the drums pound, climaxing into the mean beat. This song just makes me wanna dance, it's really that good! Nice solo, nice funky bass. What I love is the part where it goes into an instrumental bass-dominated section, and then it really revs up again when the main riff and the thumping drums come throbbing back in. Great song. The "YEAH!" guy can briefly be heard at the very end, but he is obscured by the rest of the crowd clapping.

5. Sonitus Revolution - "Pavement"
This song begins with Jay telling the audience that the next song will "make their bowels explode", much to a certain woman's dismay. Well, this is probably my least favorite song, here. I just really don't like it. It's driven by a certain bassline, but unfortunately it's not very charming. There's some lead-guitar as well, which is pretty good. Ends in a real noisy section, and then the crowd begins to clap. That's the end of the Sonitus Revolution's half of the performance. Now, on to the mayhem of the Bionic Senses!

6. Bionic Senses - "Neon-Boy-Toy"
The band introduces itself, and the song begins. The guitar uses heavy metal-ish wah-wah effects, along with a buzzing, noizy layer of fucked-up rhythm in another ear. Just over seven minutes long.

7. Bionic Senses - "The Genius of the Crowd" (by Charles Bukowski)
Basically a continuation of "Neon-Boy-Toy", with Duffy doing a reading of "The Genius of the Crowd", by Charles Bukowski, an American writer and poet who lived during the 20th Century. This one is really good, the words are really compelling -- Duffy screams the piece as if they are his very own words!

8. Bionic Senses - "Can't"
Duffy's vocals are really aggressive, here. This one is more bass-driven, going on a different tempo than the two songs before it. The song is a bit repetitive (aside from the lead guitar), but it starts to speed up towards the end. The song ends with some thumping of a bass drum and a downward swooping explosion of rhythm guitar noize. There is a studio version of this song on their 2005 album, "Migraines and the Cotton Candy Psychosis".

9. Bionic Senses - "Piss and Moan Disorder"
The shortest of the Bionic Senses tracks. It's another slow, dirty, unpredictable, monstrous track. I really like the way Duffy sings here, his lyrics just have good sort of timing or so to speak. After the sung part, the song segues into a quicker section dominated by thumping drums, repeatedly hitting you in the head, and then after a bit Duffy starts singing some more, and then he just starts speaking and yelling. Duffy tells the crowd "don't do drugs", and apologizes for "bothering" them. This was the best Bionic Senses track.

A lot of the songs here are real good, but this album could have been better than it was if the sound quality was a little better. Oh well, that's what you get in a bootleg, I guess. You've got the funky coolness of the Revolution and the unfiltered rage of the Senses. Did you know Duffy was only 11 years old when he started Bionic Senses? There are a lot of Bionic Senses albums, most of which are even weirder than the songs here, and make heavy usage of electronic instrumentation and samples and just basically everything Duffy could get his hands on. The Sonitus Revolution has one album besides this one and it's called "There Is No One Way to Dance", released in 2006. Jay Briggs from that band currently runs a label/zine called "Dinosaurs In Vietnam", which has released various free albums (much like Wrong Island Records) in the past few years. Also, Bdee, who played bass guitar in both bands, currently is in a band called "Bdee + the Venomous Oranges". Blah blah blah. These guys have all done a lot of stuff and a lot of it rules. You can download this album for free on Wrong Island Records's Last.FM page, so if you wanna give it a listen, check it out -- the sound is kinda bad, but the songs are very good!

Top 3 Favorites:
1. Laius
(Sonitus Revolution)
2. Piss and Moan Disorder
(Bionic Senses)
3. Clap On (Bionic Senses)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Review #97: Bad Brains - Pay to Cum! (Single) (1980)

PAY TO CUM! (Single)

Year: 1980
Genre: Punk Rock, Reggae
Bad Brains Records
3 Minutes (Very Short)
My Rating:

Bad Brains is considered to be one of the earliest hardcore punk bands ever, and also one of the most famous. They were also one of the earliest bands in the Washington D.C. scene. The group formed in 1977, originally called "Mind Power". They started out playing jazz-fusion, but quickly became interested in punk rock and started playing hard, fast music like no other at the time. Early on in their existence, the members of the band were introduced to punk bands such as the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and the Dickies. The band renamed itself "Bad Brains" after the Ramones song "Bad Brain", and H.R. (Human Rights), originally a guitarist, became the band's vocalist. This was the first release by Bad Brains, and also likely the first hardcore-punk record to come out of the D.C. scene, which would later also be the source of bands like Minor Threat.

1. Pay to Cum
One of the most famous Bad Brains songs, it's very fast. A lot of cowbell used, also. H.R. sings a mile a minute (more like a few seconds, actually), as his lines accumulate into an explosion of a group-shout of a single syllable. The lyrics sing about how humanity has lost sight of what matters in life, and if they don't rethink things, we will all die as a result of our ignorance. This song was later included on their debut album, and an alternate, slower version can be found on a 7" EP called "Cum to Pay". I actually like that version the best.

2. Stay Close to Me
A slower, slightly more mellow song. More on the reggae side of Bad Brains' musical style. Still, some of the drumming is pretty punk-influenced. The lyrics are pretty much what to expect from a love-song -- the protagonist tries to get his girl away from another man who ultimately isn't for her.

Well, that's all of "Pay to Cum". In 1982, the band released their debut album, simply titled "Bad Brains". The band would further delve into the Reggae style of music, as well as the Rastafarian religion, which the members were/are devout followers of. At one point, they had almost exclusively been playing reggae. They are practically one of the only notable all-black punk bands, and they are also one of the few original hardcore punk bands that still exists today -- they still perform shows and record new records! I must admit that I have only recently started listening to Bad Brains, but from the sounds of this and their first LP, I like what I hear so far.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Review #96: Meat Puppets - Meat Puppets II (1984)


Year: 1984
Genre: Punk Rock, Folk Rock, Country
Post-Punk, Psychedelic, Hardcore
SST Records
30 Minutes (Medium-Length)
My Rating:

The Meat Puppets are a band from Phoenix, Arizona. As you may have earlier read, the group was formed in 1980 and played mostly hardcore punk for the first half of the '80s. The first two records, a 7" EP called "In a Car" and a 12" LP called "Meat Puppets", were reviewed by me during the Winter and are both great examples of this style. During "Meat Puppets", their style began to shift towards a more psychedelic sound, with even some nods to country & western music along the way. In this album, that style is pretty much taken to full effect. The Meat Puppets stopped writing angry, typical hardcore songs save for a few; writing new, folk and country-influenced songs, with... ACTUAL LYRICS! With that said, Curt's vocals sound pretty different here -- gone is the Darby Crash-esque gibberish and screaming, and now that style is replaced by whiny, twangy, warbling cries and singing. Many of the songs are slower, and some feature very little guitar distortion at all. As you can guess, many in the punk crowd didn't really like this very much, but the band still found its fans...

1. Split Myself In Two
A fast, straightforward song similar to the style of the first album, but instead with a new vocals style in lyrics. Even with that, the lyrics are pretty nonsensical, but more coherent than the older songs, or so to speak.

2. Magic Toy Missing
This is an instrumental song. It's a fast song with a rawhide-like bass melody, and the focus is mainly on the lead-guitar. In the middle of the song, it gets more exciting in my opinion, with the lead guitar getting progressively more interesting, a little acoustic guitar, and stuff like that. Great song.

3. Lost
This one mellows it down a notch... more of a psychedelic country tune. The lyrics seem to just be about being lost in general... in an attic... on a freeway... he talks about being "tired of living Nixon's mess"... does he mean Richard or Dale?

4. Plateau
This one's kind of slow. Curt sings about a plateau and a bucket and a mop and a book about birds and Greenland and Mexico and stuff. I have no idea if there's anything more to those lyrics. 3/4 through the song, a layer of guitar distortion can be heard.

5. Aurora Borealis
Another instrumental song. This one's slower and more trippy, though. Good, interesting guitar leads. The bass and beat and pretty good too.

6. We're Here
A soft beat. The whole song's not too loud. It's a good song, still, though. The vocals are sung in harmony, here. I like the riff that goes after the chorus and before the verse. It's real cool. End of Side 1.

7. Climbing
A really country-ish feel to this one. The vocals are real mellow. They are really good on this one. Two thirds in, the vocals end, and they are replaced by an acoustic lead-section. You can start to hear the bass guitar coming out at this point, too. It's got a lot of character to it.

8. New Gods
This one also sounds a lot like something from the first album, but of course, with real lyrics. The lyrics are about some guy going to visit Mexico and being told "not to drink the water, and not to touch the food". That must've sucked. He had some Pepsi-Cola, also. The wild, chaotic guitar solo tell more tale which could not be uttered by the narrator.

9. Oh, Me
Another slower, quieter one. The guitar sounds really neat, here. You can hear little strands of trippy, aquatic-sounding guitar notes off to the side. It's very good. The chorus is pretty catchy. So many nice little subtleties in here...

10. Lake Of Fire
The only song which has a theme that I can directly decipher... it's basically a song describing Hell, talking about people boiling and frying and dying there, being tortured by demons for eternity... the song's a little bit sadder, the riff is more distorted and dirty-sounding, but the chorus seems to have just a shred of optimism of it. Nirvana pretty much made this song famous on their own when they played it on their famous "MTV Unplugged" performance nearly 10 years after this album first came out.

11. I'm a Mindless Idiot
Another instrumental. It's sort of slow, but slightly faster than "Lake of Fire". There's almost what sounds a bit like a ukulele in this one...

12. The Whistling Song
As the title suggests, there is a bit of whistling in this one... of course, sung vocals, too. It's a very good last song... the chorus section is simply a whistled melody. One of the more country-influenced songs here. Nice guitar solo at the end. And that's all, folks.

With their next album in 1985, the Meat Puppets at one point shed almost all of their "traditional" punk elements. This album finds a nice middle ground, and it's quite entertaining. As I mentioned earlier, 9 years later in 1993, Nirvana re-ignited relevancy with this album to the current media when he played three songs from this album, with Cris and Curt Kirkwood actually joining them for those performances... Cris and Curt, huh? That's actually really funny! There are people with names like "Chris" and "Kurt" in both bands! A lot of people in the punk scene back then disliked this album, because it deviated majorly from the normal punk sound, but others in the scene, such as the members of Black Flag loved them, and the two bands often played together. Well, that's all I have to say for now. Seeya!

Top 3 Favorites:
1. Magic Toy Missing

2. Whistling Song

3. Oh, Me

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Review #95: The Melvins - Mangled Demos from 1983 (2005)


Year: 2005
Genre: Punk Rock
Hardcore, Grunge
Ipecac Records
43 Minutes (Long)
My Rating:

While the Melvins were and still are the kings of sludge, they had a quite swift and speedy upbringing. For many years, Melvins fans who came too late to hear this era first hand (a.k.a. most of them) found this stage in the Melvins' career to be somewhat murky and vague. The unknown. Haunted by Melvins Dragons and Melvins Monsters. The songs on the Deep Six somewhat touched on this older sound. "Forgotten Principles" was released on one of the many Amphetamine Reptile 7" singles in 1996. There were a few bootlegs around with some of these songs on them, but most of the song titles were wrong. Finally, in 2005, after years of waiting, Buzz Osborne finally dusts off some of these 22-year-old tapes and finally gets the album that could have been released for all of us! One pleasant feature of this album is the fact that it does contain a lengthy writing by the King himself on what his life growing up as one of the lone punks of Montesanto, Washington... great stories, especially if you grew up in a rural area like this. It's really interesting. Anyways, after all that took place, the band formed, originally consisting of Buzz Osborne, Matt Lukin, and Mike Dillard (the original drummer).

In this album, they play fast hardcore punk songs -- similar to Black Flag, the Germs... bands they were heavily influenced by. This album is actually somewhat historically significant in the sense that many consider Mangled Demos to contain what are the first grunge songs ever -- "Set Me Straight" and "Matt-Alec". They're basically two songs with a hardcore punk edge but a slower speed, and lots of distortion. In a sense, here, you are hearing the first grunge. And they're still kids, here! Well, it's a got a lot of songs -- some of them were recorded for an album that was never released because there were no record labels in the area until 1985 when C/Z Records formed. Some are just demos/jam sessions/live performances. So yeah, let's just dive in now, shall we?

1. Elks Lodge Christmas Broadcast

This part's great... it's an local old radio broadcast of a talent/fundraiser show called "Sunshine Kids" in Montesanto Washington... starts with an old guy with an acoustic guitar playing a soft, happy, family-friendly folk/country song. The two host men comment and seem to get slightly confused as the Melvins are tuning up their instruments, joking about how they "are about to get their sinuses cleared". The band members are interviewed, in the order of Matt Lukin, Buzz Osborne, and Mike Dillard. The younger interviewer tells the audience to get ready because the Melvins are about to play some "good PUNK rock"...

2. If You Get Bored (Live)

The Melvins say that they're going to play now, so we hear various snippets of some of the other songs they played. About a half-minute into the track, the Melvins begin to play "If You Get Bored". Buzz's voice is a lot more nasal than usual, but still snotty and confrontational. Lots of feedback. Just imagine the reaction the crowd must've had -- the Melvins were practically the only fans of punk in this whole area. Keep in mind that this is one of the first Melvins live performances ever! The song fades out just before the second chorus ends. The two host guys seem pretty glad to tell us that they are going to be next having some more "traditional" acts up for the Sunshine Kids Broadcast. The clip ends in one of the commentators joking about wether or not they were still alive after the Melvins performance...

3. Forgotten Principles
This is the first track from the 1983 studio session. Supposedly the studio they recorded this in was run by two hippies and in really bad shape. However, they were luckily able to record these songs! Like you may expect, it's a fast, snotty, thrasher with a shouted chorus of "FORGOTTEN PRINCIPLES". Buzz's vocals are as aggressive as the sound of the guitar, with a furious beat continuously punching you in the face. The song is just over a minute long.

4. Snake Appeal

One of their most famous hardcore-era songs... it was re-released on the debut EP, then on the later LP version of that record from 1991, and then a later demo version from 1984 was featured on the album "26 Songs". As for the song itself? Well, it's got a great, combative bass guitar, combined with more fucking awesome vocals and good guitar. It's just a shame it's not a little bit longer than it was. Sounds very Germs-esque, especially in the chorus part.

5. (Flower)

This one is very fast! The title is given as a small picture of a flower, but because I cannot find a flower symbol right now, I am going to just write it as "(flower)". Make sense? Anyways, the song is a pretty typical hardcore punk song with Buzz singing about how his parents steal his money from him even though he lost his job because "he's just a slob". The song ends in a slow part. End of Side 1.

6. If You Get Bored
We hear it once again! However, this version was recorded in the studio rather than live. The vocals are much more on-point and tough-sounding. Damn, this is a great, aggressive song if there ever was one. It just doesn't miss its mark. Few bands can sound this good consistently even in one song.

7. Set Me Straight
The "first grunge song". Well, it's pretty slow, the distortion is cranked up a notch. Really, it's not extremely different from what a lot of hardcore punk and noise punk bands were doing already, playing an occasional slower song, but I guess since this song's a little heavier and the Melvins being near Seattle and everything, some find it appropriate to call it that. Buzz's vocals just fit perfectly with his guitar sound. Hear him practically growl like a wild animal after singing a line. The drumming of course, sounds good, too. Not as good as on "Matt-Alec", but we'll get to that later. This song was later re-recorded for a 1986 studio session and then again in 1993 for their major label debut, "Houdini".

8. (Star)
I like this one a lot! It's very fast, it has a fun riff, more good, confrontational vocals. It's pretty short, but legit. Buzz says "boy" or "boi" a lot... I'm not sure what that meant... perhaps a parody of the shouted phrase "Oi"? I know the skinheads hated the Melvins early on in their career. Or maybe I'm just reading into this too much. Anyways, good song.

9. I'm Dry

Once again, great song. It's fast, not like the track before it -- more in the way of "Snake Appeal" or "If You Get Bored". The vocals hit the edges of every fucking curve. Shame no one appreciated them back then.

10. Forgotten Principles

This is pretty much a distorted version of the version of Forgotten Principles in track 3. I'm not even sure why they put this one on the record. Maybe just a typical Melvins weird moment. Basically the guitars sound all weird and Buzz's voice seems to have been slowed down. End of Side 2.

11. I Don't Know

Another very fast song. However, about midway through the song, it goes into a slower, instrumental section with a guitar solo that resembles the music from "the Nutcracker". Or maybe just a coincidence. A ca-winky-dink. Heheheh.

12. Matt-Alec

Possibly one of the greatest songs the Melvins have ever written. It's another song on here that we could classify as being an early grunge tune, with its slow tempo, exemplifying the now-conventions of the genre moreso than "Set Me Straight". Awesome, growly vocals from Buzz angrier than a buzz-saw!

13. The Real You

The last studio recording. Starts with an intro of bass-guitar and bass-drums before it explodes into the song. It's probably my least favorite of the songs from this section of the album. I dunno, just not as interesting or powerful as the other songs. Still good by any means, though.

14. Run Around

This is from a demo tape, so the quality isn't quite as good as the songs before it. However, still great quality for a tape from 1983! If there's one thing the Melvins had going for them back then, it was good equipment. Somehow. The tempo is sort of the same as "Snake Appeal". There's a little solo in the song.

15. Keep Away From Me

This one's a tad faster. Similar to the songs like (Flower) and (Star) before it, but not quite as entertaining, production or riff-wise.

16. ♣

There! I was able to find an actual symbol for this one! This one's pretty good. It's very fast. I love the melodies/riffs they use in this one. It's pretty diverse in its usage of a midsection as well as verses and a chorus and stuff. Very short. Just one minute long. End of Side 3.

17. Bibulous Confabulation (During Rehearsal)

A five-minute recording of the band members arguing amidst a rehearsal. Starts out with Matt and Mike arguing over a hamburger and french fries. Some guitar-playing can be heard in the background. Mike is accused of drinking out of someone else's bottle and puking into it. Pretty funny if you want to hear some of the interaction between the band during its early years.

18. ╬

A pretty catchy song. Buzz's vocals are somewhat muffled by the loudness of the other instruments, but it's all cool. There's a little thing Buzz does with his guitar during the chorus that sounds really cool.

19. (Pencil)

Man, why the hell couldn't they have just come up with NEW NAMES for these songs if the original titles were so hard to find that they had to replace them with fucking symbols? Well, it's a fast song. The riff reminds me a teeny bit of the one for "Pay to Cum" by Bad Brains.

20. Matt-Alec

Once again, we hear the same song twice. Like "If You Get Bored", "Forgotten Principles", and, well this. Pretty much the same song, except the quality is slightly dirtier, and Buzz's voice is a lot harder to hear. Ends with a clip of some British guy on the radio talking.

21. Walter

A 3-minute instrumental song. Great riff. One person actually pointed out that seven years later Green Day ended up producing a song that sounded almost identical to this. Coincidence? Who knows! Not a whole ton I can say about it, other than like all of the other songs here, it rocks, and there's no lyrics or vocals.

22. (Scissors)

I don't even know why they included this one as a track... it's just one second of tape hiss followed by complete silence for about twenty seconds. What? Is there something I missed? Did the Melvins indeed write the FASTEST PUNK SONG EVER?? Like, a song SO FAST, SO HARDCORE that it was so short that it could not be sensed by the human ear and only by certain species of dog? The fucking ESSENCE OF THRASH. "5643-Song EP" by Anal Cunt doesn't have shit on this bitch.

23. (Airplane)


Well, that's all there is for now. Perhaps there was more the Melvins did in those days that is yet to be revealed... probably not. Well, it's extremely generous in my opinion that the Melvins decided to release this in the first place... I mean, there are only two known live dates the Melvins ever even performed in 1983. And this stuff is better than a lot of other hardcore punk from the era. Well, slowly, the Melvins got more exposure and started playing shows alongside other punk bands that visited the Seattle area. The band went on to master the hardcore punk genre, climaxing in godly pieces such as "She Waits". However, more importantly, the band's slowness was there to stay, and pretty soon afterwards became their most prominent characteristic. This, they say, was the birth of grunge. In 1985, some people noticed that the Seattle music scene was beginning to change, producing actual quality original music (it is said that the scene was mostly dominated by lame cover-bands before this period), and the Melvins were one of the first bands they signed. This was C/Z Records. Some post-Mangled Demos but pre-Six Songs songs can be found on "Deep Six", the first C/Z Records release ever. The second record they put out was a six-song vinyl EP for the Melvins. The band's sound became slower and heavier as time went out, eventually churning out songs up to 12 minutes long just on the sheer monstrosity of it all. But that, my friends, is another tale, which has been talked about and will be talked about in other reviews. This is the beginning of the Melvins. If you like the Germs, Black Flag, or Flipper, you'll probably love this.

Top 3 Favorites:

1. Matt-Alec

2. If You Get Bored

3. (Star)


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review #94: Government Warning - No Way Out (EP) (2005)


Year: 2005
Genre: Punk Rock
No Way Records
10 Minutes (Short)
My Rating:

Government Warning is a hardcore-punk rock band from Richmond, Virginia. The group formed around 2004. The music they play is fast, loud... you know the drill. It's not bad, though. The band does write pretty good songs and has a neat lo-fi garage-y sound -- true to the spirit of the original '80s hardcore punk movement. Just has that right vibe to it. This was their first record ever, along with being the first release on "No Way Records" which I suspect the band created itself to release this EP. That label now releases records for various hardcore bands throughout the U.S.A. and Canada. Anyways, about this record... it's their first one. Uhh... it's less metal-oriented than the more recent releases and more just straight-up hardcore. There's a picture of the White House on the cover...

1. Railroaded
Starting with a big stomp-out of noize from all instruments. The drums get a-rolling and the song kicks off at a really fast speed. The song is a less humorous take on the sort of dystopia often sung about by the Dead Kennedys -- a world where we all just put on our suits and ties, follow orders, only to get locked away if we disobey the "code". "Sometimes the truth can be worse than fiction", says Kenny the vocalist. They yell "bullshit" a lot in this song.

2. Blank
Starts out sort of atonal, but then a bit less after the first few seconds. Very fast like the first song -- somewhere inbetween MDC and Minor Threat musically. This song detests the apathy among many American people during the war, not doing anything to stop the madness while "killing fields are covered in blood" and "Soldiers sink their feet in mud".

3. Government Warning
Starts out kinda slow with a great beat. About 1/3 into the song, the song speeds up into typical thrash fashion. What I like about the vocals here is on the shoust of "GOVERNMENT WARNING" in the chorus part, the first chant is ended in a lower note than the second chant. You'd probably need to listen to it to know what I mean. But it sounds good. The song ends in a slow section similar to how it began -- only to end in one more quick fast section right at the very end. Much like the songs before it, the song describes a displeasure with the current American way of living and anger at the Government for enforcing a specific system on its citizens with no alternatives. The EP's title "No Way Out" comes from a repeated line in the song. End of Side 1.

4. Walking Dead
Starts only with a guitar melody and a little bit of light percussion -- the song begins to pick up some ground, and about 1/3 into it, it's off at light-speed again. Okay, maybe not light-speed, but pretty fast. There's some nice use of little strands of lead guitar solos scattered throughout certain parts of the chorus. Really great lyrics about the struggle of the working people in America just to stay alive and enjoy life, feeling like the "Walking Dead", feeling "forced to be glad"; being used as a mere piece of a larger machine. A bone in a dead dinosaur unable to break free.

5. Ghost Town
Fast and hard. A song told from the viewpoint of a poor Holden Caulfield; basically in the sense that everything around him feels fake and dead. "People all around, but I'm all alone" -- that's a feeling a get a lot too, sometimes. Basically it's a song about a punk's distaste for suburban superficiality.

6. Self-Destruct
In a sense, this one's the "slowest" song here. Still fast, though. The lyrics to this one are so damn true -- people today never want to rebel. Nobody wants to challenge the values they're raised on, they're "just content to be average or mediocre" -- THIS IS FOR FUCKING REAL. If there's one thought that really DOES get me angry/riled up, it's that one. That we're devolving. Somebody here needs to have some balls. Do something crazy. Be a free person. I dunno. But we really do need more of that in this society. I won't have this jaded decline. Neither will the singer, evidently.

"No Way Out" is a pretty classic-sounding, solid hardcore EP. It's fresh, sincere, ragged, and has a story to tell (I love stories). It's pretty clear what message they were trying to convey with this one -- the rat maze of America kills its rats. Whether through inducing of depression, apathy, stress, overworking, sickness, or whatever; mainstream American culture, behind its plastic facade and high fructose corn syrup sweetness (with fake freedom fries on the side) is ultimately laden with, well, death. An abusive, virtually undefeatable father deformed from old age with his children cowering in fear and submission -- forever. You can feel this pain in the lyrics of these songs. The music is good, too... the songwriting is pretty damn good. The recordings have a really fuzzed-out, grainy lo-fi sound. So yeah, this is a proper example of GOOD modern hardcore punk. Check it out. Man.

Top 3 Favorites:
1. Government Warning

2. Blank

3. Self-Destruct

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review #93: Dinosaur Jr. - Dinosaur (1985)


Year: 1985
Genre: Punk Rock, Folk Rock
Post-Punk, Psychedelic, Hardcore
Homestead Records
40 Minutes (Long)
My Rating:

A few days ago, you probably heard my story on Deep Wound -- a Massachusetts hardcore band that existed during the early '80s... well, you also probably knew that Lou Barlow and J Mascis were in that band too! Well, when J Mascis went to college, his friend Gerard Cosloy introduced him to a more wide variety of tastes in music like the band Dream Syndicate. Soon after, Gerard dropped out of college to start his own record label called Homestead Records, which would release many high-quality punk records during the '80s. Gerard Cosloy told J that if he could record an album, then Homestead would release it. Accepting the offer, J Mascis invited Lou Barlow, Murph, and Charlie Nakijama to be the bassist in his band and began writing songs. They were unlike what Lou had heard before -- instead of exemplifying the cliches of hardcore punk, it was something totally different... more intricate melodies, not nearly as fast, a large folk and country touch... it was a totally new sound. The band MOGO played its first show in September 1984. The show ultimately erupted in Charlie's anti-cop rant, which caused him to be kicked out. The group renamed itself "Dinosaur" (a few years later legal issues would cause them to change the name once more). Dinosaur recorded their debut album in a home studio in Northampton, Massachusetts. Let's see what it sounded like...

1. Forget the Swan
Starts with what sounds like a typical punk beat and bassline in the first few seconds -- but then that facade quickly becomes more little guitar-leads, acoustic guitars, folky note-progressions. It's really a beautiful sound. Lou Barlow sings here. Lots of cool guitar effects. In the middle you can hear a phaser shifting back and forth, yielding on a beautiful solo that ends a bit too soon.

2. Cats in a Bowl
Lou's singing again. The beat is fast, in a neat country-punk style. There's an awesome slow part after the chorus to even things out and keep it all interesting.

3. The Leper
I believe this might actually be the first the recorded world has ever heard of J Mascis's voice! It's a pretty nice voice... the lyrics might not necessarily be about a literal leper, but rather, a person who is a leper on society, as the lines "safest to wallow in my own esteem" and "my life is chosen to rape"... maybe not. Who knows? Great, beautiful guitar solos.

4. Does It Float
Y'know, when I look at the cover for this album, it's what I imagine where you'd be mentally while listening to this. Like, sitting in the field with a bunch of flowers with a happy sun and some guy with hat -- probably singing this song. It's a pretty good song, not quite as interesting as the ones before it... well, actually, right after I typed that, Lou Barlow SCREAMED and a layer of really distorted guitar shredded the whole damn song to... shreds... and then the song kind of seemed like it was over, as a soft, quiet tune was played... suddenly, the whole damn monster comes right fucking back at you at an even faster speed! It's wild!

5. Pointless
This one carries a seemingly more ominous behavior to it, as Lou (maybe it's J, actually) chants using creepy effects on his voice and awkwardly screams in the chorus "I'M STARRRRVING". The last third of the song is a little more relaxed and ironically happy.

6. Repulsion
Yay! It's J! Mascis! Despite the name, this song isn't very repulsive to me. This one's a distorted by folky song with J Mascis singing. It's wonderful. I can hardly believe what I'm listening to, really... I haven't heard half of these before. I'd probably say the same thing about any great new song I'd heard in retrospective. But yeah, it's a really pretty song. Something I'd wanna get stoned to. Or make love to. Or both. To. This song. "The world drips down like gravy" -- heheh.

7. Gargoyle
Sort of gothic-sounding. More Lou singing. Sorta fast beats. Combinations of 'lectric and 'coustic. Nice solos. It's actually the shortest song on the album, being just over two minutes long.

8. Severed Lips
This one's a little slower and more laid-back. J Mascis sings, as he strums more great tunes on the guitar. There's a wonderful electric guitar solo just after the middle of the song. It's a nice song.

9. Mountain Man
This song sounds the most like traditional hardcore punk in this album, except for maybe the abundance of guitar leads. Lou Barlow sings this song from the viewpoint of a mountain man, who has to "struggle to survive", as he fights grizzly bears, eats wild hares, befriends the other animals, and hides from where the other people live which according to the mountain man is "filled with lies". Towards the end of the song, the song changes up into an even faster part with a guitar solo as Lou yells and screams in the background, ending the song with the proclamation, "'CAUSE I'M A MOUNTAIN... MANN!!!!!"

10. Quest
After the rage and immaturity of "Mountain Man", we get this, another slow folky type of song. I love how they use the acoustic guitars in this. For some reason I really like the line "I love the caterpillars munching on the leaves". I had a pet caterpillar when I was a little kid. He was black and yellow so I named him "Mustard". J Mascis goes on to express his sympathy and ability to relate with bugs. Some parts have no distortion and are pretty quiet, other parts rev up the distortion for a few brief moments. The lyrics here are fucking gorgeous.

11. Bulbs of Passion
J Mascis gets to sing the last song. It's a slow, sort of grungy, sludgy song. Lou does background shouting vocals. It alternates between quiet parts and loud parts, but not really in a Nirvana way. Besides, the album came out two years before Nirvana even formed! In the middle, the song is sabotaged by some great slap-bass as a guitar solo writhes in pain trying to escape its brutal... slaps... to the face! Yeah.

One thing you'll definitely notice on this album is the fact that Lou Barlow is almost more prominent on this album as a vocalist than J Mascis is. This pretty much changed overnight when the next album was released in 1987 (so by 'overnight' I mean two years). Of course, as much as Lou wants to sing, it doesn't change the fact that J Mascis's guitar-work is arguably the best feature of this whole album. I could listen to that man write tunes all day. You could say the band's sound got slightly more "condensed" after this, but that's how it works for a lot of great bands anyways. Dinosaur's music would get louder, heavier, and noisier. Maybe a step back closer to hardcore, but a step forward in the sense that the Dinosaur Jr. spirit was still there -- they still had yet to write some of their greatest songs ever... "You're Living All Over Me" is one of my very favorite albums of all time. This album is really good too! I haven't heard half of these songs before I reviewed 'em, so you've just been reading the thoughts of a first-time listener! I STRONGLY suggest this album for EVERYONE. And my friend Aaron, who is a budding Dinosaur Jr. fan and needs to hear these songs because I think he might like them! Hope you liked my review, everyone.

Top 3 Favorites:
1. Repulsion

2. Quest

3. Forget the Swan