So here we are with the second installment of this month’s cavalcade of punk music in just about every style imaginable. Punk is, after all, as much a mindset as a musical style, right? Right. There’s a lot to get to so I won’t hold you up. Dig in, enjoy.
Bad Religion – Age of Unreason
Bad Religion are back with what really sounds like their best overall effort since 2002’s Process of Belief. The soaring melodic vocals, hyperspeed guitars, and metronomic drumming are all there from roaring opener, “Chaos from Within”, to closer, “What Tomorrow Brings”. Over the course of 14 new tracks the band largely explore, revisit, and somewhat reinvent the various evolutions and facets that have gone into making up the band’s latter day career. That said, not everything is perfect on their first new album in six years.
“Lose Your Head” dabbles in mid-tempo rock territory and almost apes some of the bands from the ‘80s and ‘90s that were often mocked by their punk counterparts. There are artists who straddle that line between this and punk rock more successfully, think Dave Hause or Laura Jane Grace, but it’s not such a distraction as it is a valiant attempt that remains lyrically strong. It’s just not quite Bad Religion. “End of History” retains the lyrical theme of the album over a backdrop of what almost sounds like a missing Bouncing Souls tune.
There are other interesting attempts here to stretch the band’s sound such as the nearly classic rock tinged “Big Black Dog” and “Downfall” complete with handclaps, moogs, guitar solos, and big backing vocals. However, one of the more successful experiments here is the more primal “Faces of Grief” that blasts away in just over a minute. At the end of the day, Age of Unreason, brings home a new and same Bad Religion as we’ve always known. The duality in their dichotomy is one of the continuing constants as the band sail towards their 40th year of existence.
Dead Bars – Regulars
Dead Bars specialize in heavy duty bar rock and is exemplified on their new album, Regulars, by the songs themselves but moreso through a production that is lo-fi in a way that really suits this band. The songs are fuzzed out, slightly off-kilter, and sound massive as if a garage band were playing in an aircraft hangar. The album starts off with the sonic equivalent of a jagerbomb in “Freaks” before sliding off into an album made up of mid-tempo bangers that recall Japandroids, the Brokedowns, and even (of course?) the Replacements.
“Pink Drink” serves as a rallying cry for the desperate and disillusioned while anthemic choruses highlight the ennui here. “Time Takes Away” kicks in some instant nostalgia for bands from rainy, cloudy, snowy, and cold locales with the opening guitar lick that settles into a nice groove before John Maiello’s vocals take over. “Lucky” is another track that celebrates the ecstasy and agony of the drinking life and is something of a sequel to the album opener. “Another Day”, with it’s sardonic delivery of punchline “(it’s) another day in paradise” gooses the gas pedal one last time before we slide off into oblivion on album closer “You Never Left”.
Overall, Dead Bars have created a fun, addicting, lo-fi ode to low self-esteem and lowered inhibitions on their latest album and it’s a hell of a fun ride.
Not on Tour – Growing Pains
Tel Aviv’s Not on Tour do hyperactive punk tunes that rush by in about a minute or less of intertwining vocal melodies delivered by singer, Sima Brami, nimble guitar and bass work (Nir and Mati), and impeccable drumming (Gutzy). Because the songs are so short, 17 of them in about 23 minutes, you’ll find yourself spending some time either going back to the start or wondering what hit you. Overall, the band show similarities to the Descendents, Belvedere, Satanic Surfers, and Ten Foot Pole.
Both “Lost and Found” and “Saw it Coming” see the band stretch a bit as these tunes threaten to last two whole minutes but they’re sublime slices of pop punk. It makes it easy to see how this band has been picked up by many contemporaries to tour various parts of the world. The kicker is that they’ve been around for 10 years so probably I’m the only dope to just now be getting acquainted with their addictive sound.
Some other quick hitting highlights on the album include “The Distance”, “Run for It” which has a nice hook evoking early No Doubt, “Call it Freedom” which tackles racism, and “Outta My Head”. In reality, though, it’s extremely difficult to pick out highlights because the entire album is of such high and consistent quality. I didn’t know I needed this but I do. Maybe you do, too?
Abramowicz – Modern Times
On Modern Times German band, Abramowicz, lean heavily into the indie territory previously trod by acts such as Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, and Shout Out Louds but what’s interesting here is the gruff yet engaging vocals that drench everything in a certain gravitas that makes it all much more endearing. Now, one might discern that those references above aren’t really all that punk but so much of the time, what we class as punk can also be defined by the delivery and attitude, which Abramowicz have in spades.
One of the vibes that I can’t shake is “what if Fear produced emotionally powerful indie rock?” That’s what Abramowicz excels at here. Beyond potentially obvious comparisons to the Gaslight Anthem or Bruce Springsteen, they also evoke feelings of the National whenever they get more contemplative here, particularly on tracks like “Queen of the Night Boats” and “Drive”. It’s hard to say which gear the band are the best at because so much of what they do is good. “Blood Red Letters”, “Death on the Streets”, and “Rolling Up My Sleeves” are certified bangers with tracks like “Brooklyn” showing off how well they maintain a sliver of ferocity with minimal guitars and keyboards as the main movers of a song.
It’s hard not to like what this band are doing, not to mention how very promising this is displaying a range almost unheard of for a band that’s only been releasing material for a few years. There’s a sense of sophistication and drive that one doesn’t often see from a band on their first full-length album. Modern Times is well worth your time and more than deserves a space in your collection. It could very well be the soundtrack to all of your long journeys home.
Boundaries – Turning Point
Boundaries, out of Quebec, Canada, are doing their damned best to put the fun back into melodic hardcore with a sound that sits comfortably alongside Comeback Kid, Bane, and Shai Hulud. On “I’m Glad You’re Gone” and “Old Wounds” the band come storming out with solid shout along vocals and the kind of riffs that create moshpits. Midway through the album we get a slower tempo with the same kind of fire as the earlier songs on “Necessary Evil” that seems to be a natural fit for the kickboxing crowd.
“This morning I woke up just to hate you” is the line that kicks off “Hate Routine” which spins out into the exact kind of hardcore you’d imagine. Riding a Sick of It All surge of energy the track is a banger of an update on that tried and true style. Everything seems to be going all well and good until the inexplicable and potentially pointless instrumental “La joie dans la mort”. It’s not entirely a mood piece and it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the album. “Big Red” never quite gets there as an overall comeback from that point either.
That said, things rebound on “Uncorrupted Youth” back into some solid moshcore and delivering the kind of energetic performance that this style, in particular, demands. Not to mention a healthy dose of self belief. The title track brings it home with nice shifts in dynamics and tempo throughout. Overall, we have a nice entrant here in the effort to revive this particular style of hardcore.
Free Throw – What’s Past is Prologue
Free Throw are a demonstration of easycore and emo melded into the perfect little package but it’s a bit reductive to confine them to that one description. As we enter the band’s new world on What’s Past is Prologue we get treated to a sparse yet glistening guitar line backing the gut wrenching vocals of Cory Castro on “Smokes, Let’s Go”. It’s exactly the introduction that this album deserves as we go for a ride with Castro on his journey with mental health through his stories here.
One of the best, or most accurate, stories on this album comes in the form of “The Corner’s Dilemma” that gives a gripping portrayal of what anxiety is really like while leaning on music that fits alongside some of the best that artists of this genre like Taking Back Sunday and Senses Fail, primarily echoed in the yelps of Castro. That’s to take nothing away from the guitar talents of Jake Hughes and Lawrence Warner as the two entangle melodic lines throughout the album even taking side trips into the territory of stalwart bands like Braid and Jawbox on “Stay Out of the Basement” and “Today is Especially Delicious”. The latter track even sees Castro, with the assistance of drummer, Kevin Garcia, taking a turn into prime Say Anything territory.
One of the most enticing aspects of this album is the conceivable variety. We have what’s noted above but then we also have the Minus the Bear moods of “The Fix is In”, “Monte Luna”’s push into Sunny Day Real Estate territory, and the title track/album closer takes everything to throw a bow on the proceedings bringing to a close what ultimately comes off as a hopeful chapter. If you have any appreciation for emo performed extremely well it’s time for What’s Past… to be in your future.
Kayak Jones – You Swear It’s Getting Better Every Day
Kayak Jones are the band you might struggle to get your friends to take seriously because of the name but after a few listens, everyone would understand the appeal. Despite a puzzling ability to bury the vocals of Tyler Zhumov in the mix or otherwise render them slightly more unintelligible than they should be due to Zhumov’s excellent emotive delivery You Swear It’s Getting Better Every Day has a clear conscience and a decided point. Zhumov shuttles between the most vulnerable moments of Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz, that certain Midwestern emotionality that Patrick Stump captured in Fallout Boy, and his own intense honesty that bleeds all over this record.
That is to say a whole lot about just the vocals before we dive into the caterwauling yet delightful noise that the band from Dubuque,IA with a funny little name comes up with here.”Good Quality Work” is the snack before the meat and potatoes of this album that really begins with the opening bars of “Nose Blunt”. The way the song comes crashing in and sends us swaying back and forth in that ever familiar emo-punk way is gleeful and satisfying in that way that all those emo favorites of years ago were able to attach themselves to our brains and hearts. When Zhumov delivers that killer shout along line “smother me in all the things that I’ve done wrong” we’re getting not just that moment but the blueprint for what makes this album so good. And the band never let up from here.
Track after track buzzes and tingles with the dual guitar approach and an underrated but really solid backbone provided by drummer, Brandon Blakeley, with real highlights including “Foolish” with some hints of Husker Du, “Time and Place” that almost melodically mirrors the Goo Goo Dolls’ hit “Name” in places, and where the album hits hardest – the closing combo of “The Mess I’ve Made” and “Valediction” that wind up feeling like all the fruitless conversations you could have had with an ex, leaving you just as emotionally drained and somehow wanting to come back for more over and over again.
Bilmuri – wet milk
Is this the point at which we begin to define post-emo? Bilmuri evoke plenty of ghosts and spirits from the ‘80s with their extensive use of electronic and synthesizer bits before slamming the audience right into a sax solo straight from a George Michael video on album opener “lifeisgood”. Then we get emo accented by… TLC? Well, that’s sort of what “myfeelingshavefeelings” is constructed out of.
The huge left turn at “ilovebeer” seems to stick out way too much at first listen but as you make your way through the song it feels increasingly natural the longer it goes on. That said, as interesting as everything else is, and there’s a lot here that is very, very interesting, the closing combo of “spacesbetweenlettersarecool” and “youareamazingandiloveyou” is definitely a pinnacle for what Bilmuri creates as a band. For a genre that doesn’t really get much innovation it’s always astounding when someone comes along and does it. This band tear down the house and build us something else entirely on wet milk. What is it? On this glance, it feels a whole lot like the Dream Academy through modern pop sensibilities and the crunch of emo to create something almost ethereal.
Punk Rock Jukebox – Singles and EPs
Gameface – “I Owe You One”
One band I absolutely lose it over, Gameface, are one of the stalwart bands who managed to meld power pop with the methodology of punk a long time ago. This was released for Record Store Day and is now available digitally. These guys influenced a host of others and you owe it to yourself, if pop-infused, memorable punk rock is your thing, to check this out. Bonus: the b-side cover of Tom Petty’s “Two Gunslingers” is also great.
Frontside – Society’s View EP
This is a solid 5-song EP from SoCal’s Frontside delivering all the goodness of your favorite ‘90s-style NYHC channeling bands like Biohazard, Warzone, and Madball while updating things with a pinch of Terror.
Trashed – Yours Not Mine EP
Trashed are the kind of band that would have appeared on all of your favorite pop punk compilations back in the ‘90s, say Lookout, Asian Man, Fat Wreck and that ilk; that one band that you would listen to and love and wonder why they weren’t ridiculously huge and successful. Keep from repeating history by grabbing this EP now.
Arc of the Sun – “North Star”
Mining the ground of A Day to Remember and From First to Last, Arc of the Sun produce some solid, crunch heavy melodic hardcore-tinged punk. It’ll be interesting to see if this transforms into the first full-length since 2015 for the band.
Slowly Slowly – “Jellyfish”
Aussies Slowly Slowly unleash their brand of Say Anything-style power-pop on this quite catchy single.
Comrades – “Fault Lines”
This is some heavy post-metal mixed with hardcore but don’t label it metalcore. That’s an exhausting list of potential descriptors for what can essentially be called “good” with both soaring and screaming vocals, deep guitar lines, and a powerful rhythm section. Definitely worth checking out ahead of their June 7th full-length, For We Are Not yet, We Are Only Becoming.
The Buoys – “Inside Outside”
Two-and-a-half minutes of really solid, fuzzy guitar, and attitude driven sounds along the lines of Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill. Do thing.
Eat Your Heart Out – “Spinning”
This single off of next week’s full-length release, Florescence, gives us a quick taste of what this Aussie band has been up to since 2017’s Mind Games EP. They deliver solid emo/pop-punk along the lines of fellow Aussies, Stand Atlantic, and the easy comparisons to Paramore, among others.
Bearclaw Camp – Hands Tied EP
Who ordered more Aussie punk rock? We have it for you in the form of these pop-punk emo powerhouses out of Adelaide. In fact, they bear a semblance to the next band in our list. For now, though, if you dug Weigh the Anchor and that late ‘90s, early 2000s stuff you’ll surely enjoy what these guys are doing. “Home”, “Colour Me”, and “Stonecoat” are highlights here.
Sincerely, Me – Half Empty EP
So here’s the band that resembles those Aussies above. These guys produce a really balanced and well honed take on that kind of emo punk made famous by the likes of late period Saves the Day and the Early November. Definitely well worth your time if you’re needing something catchy.
Bright Green – Nosebleed EP
Early Saves the Day or Millencolin scratch your high energy, pop punk itch? Then Bright Green are another band you should add to your playlist.
Tendrils – Collapse EP
Switching from the melodic to the insanely brutal we have the UK’s Tendrils. Screaming vocals? Check. Panic chords? Yep, got that, too. Merciless tempo changes? Absolutely. Points of reference include Car Bomb, Genghis Tron, and, of course, Dillinger Escape Plan. Their social commentary also brings to mind Antischism. Do yourself the favor and get in on this.
Titus Andronicus – “Tumult Around the World”
This is the second song released ahead of the new Titus Andronicus album, An Obelisk (June 21), and it sees the band channeling all of the Sex Pistols, the Who, and Springsteen, among others. It’s a banger.
Mal Blum – “I Don’t Want To”
Another second release from an upcoming album, this time from Mal Blum; Pity Boy (July 12), is a great piece of slacker ear candy that is an updated mash up of acts like the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., and early Lemonheads.
Fresh – “Going to Brighton”
Contemporaries with Martha and Happy Accidents, Fresh are doing the job of polishing up the Vaselines legacy and re-tarnishing it in their own image. “Going to Brighton” is a delightful slab of sunshine off of their upcoming release, Withdraw (June 7).