It seems like we’re entering a summer of revival and renewal for the punk scene. Coming on the heels of new and very solid efforts from the likes of Bad Religion and Bouncing Souls we have a slew of new releases from godfathers of the scene debuting now or in the not too distant future. Warped is upon us, the Fest has announced its lineup, and so has Riot Fest. There are a lot, A LOT, of reunions and old album performances in your future and if you can’t make it to the venues for the real thing, good luck hoping they appear somewhere online.
With all that said, we’ll have a full-throated preview of the Fest coming up later this summer and some additional news about Gainesville’s 18th annual debacle in the coming weeks. For now, though, let’s take a quick spin around the albums and singles that are currently getting a lot of play around these parts.
Get Up Kids – Problems
What? What is this? A new Get Up Kids album? Well, hell, why not? It’s only been 8 years since the band gave us a new record. The first tracks we got to hear, “Satellite” and “The Problem is Me”, sees them in fine form once again but the question hangs over this about exactly how good it would turn out to be. After all, there are few bands that could ever do what they have done. To attempt to recapture it or, dare say, reinvent themselves after all this time could yield just about anything.
First of all, to get it out of the way, it’s just damn good and comfortable to hear Matt Pryor’s vocals leading a band again. Particularly this band. So, beyond pure nostalgia, what’s under the hood of this old, Midwestern jalopy? Where the opening pair of tracks provide a kickstart back into what we’ve all come to know and love about this band, the track “Lou Barlow” truly sees the engine start. From there out, it’s clear sailing for the band back in vintage form possibly surpassing anything since On A Wire.
“Fairweather Friends” is explosive, almost revelatory, in a way that makes it feel as if this collection of musicians is ecstatic to be back and doing things their way. Even the heavily Cars-influenced “Waking Up Alone” stands out as an off-the-beaten-path kind of track that says the band are still quite capable of experimenting with their sound. “Brakelines” is about as much of a “scorcher” as you could call any track by this band. It’s all-too-brief runtime and sprint to an emotional finish feels like exactly what’s supposed to happen as the build to the emotionally exhausted denouement that is “Your Ghost is Gone”. That moment that we are sent away by the final track is also exactly the right situation that ties up all that makes Problems.
TL;DR – The new Get Up Kids is everything you could want from a revitalized version of this band.
Carousel Kings – Plus Ultra
The previews we’d already received of the LP from this Pennsylvania-based four-piece were pretty solid and infectious in “Lock Meowt” and “Code Breaker (Smile)”. But here we finally have the final product and a chance to give the whole thing a listen. The initial impression given off here is DAMN, that production! This is one polished piece of highly varied punk-influenced hard rock.
Now, that’s much different than the vibe we got from the previously released tracks. However, that doesn’t add up to a negative though it does tamp down some of the expectations for what comes. “Move Slow”, for instance, is a track that should fit on a number of playlists and hit radio this summer especially with its integration of guest vocals by Lexxe. My one nitpick with the track is the sudden ending that winds up feeling forced and possibly a maneuver to get one to quickly hit repeat.
More than anything else, though, this album feels like a band exploring a lot of different territory ranging from electronic elements, heartland rock solos, some late ‘90s influenced alternative, hints and stabs at hardcore breakdowns, and so much more. The solo on “Shellshocked”, the synths on “Great White Buffalo”, the easycore chorus of “Truth Seekers” (not to mention some interesting winks and nods at late Blink-182), the opening salvo of “Shelter” echoing Agony & Irony era Alkaline Trio before introducing a ukelele, and so on and so forth exhibit a band throwing many ideas at the wall. That so many manage to stick well enough without dragging the whole thing down is some kind of testament to the underlying music the band creates.
Thousand Oaks – Bound for Destruction
In the mold of skatepunks and thrashers, alike, Thousand Oaks come to you out of Italy with a tight take on the mercurial punk of bands like Satanic Surfers, Ten Foot Pole, and Adrenalized. Bound for Destruction carries on starting each track with the sonic equivalent of dropping into a half-pipe, emulating that split second inhale before the descent and exhale before you go careening off into space.
It’s a pace they maintain through the early stages of the album before “Adamant” arrives with some clean parts reminiscent of current period Propagandhi and pulls some interesting tricks with the dynamics throughout. However, we return to regular programming once again on the outstanding “Gone Astray”. Simply put, it’s everything that’s this type of pop punk should be. “Alvaraders” is another banger in the textbook version of this kind of stuff. The combo of “True Blue” and “Under the Bark” are especially well suited to leave us wanting more.
Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – Routine Maintenance
Dan Campbell of the Wonder Years brings us the latest in his story of Aaron West and it’s a gripping array of Springsteen and Weakerthans inspired rock that spends much of its time spinning us various tales of woe and loneliness set to the lilting of acoustic guitars and occasional uplifting moments of full band clamor. This isn’t the kind of stuff that makes you run out and conquer the world but it is pretty and, hopefully only just, here and there it’s identifiably miserable stuff. At least the first half of the record.
The dual smirk and slump of “Just Sign the Papers” and “Bloodied Up in a Bar Fight” serve as the stage dressing for what Campbell calls a dramatization but it wouldn’t be too far a stretch to imagine anyone who’s been mired in the pleasantries of life in your mid-30s to 40s to feel an affinity for this, whether you’ve lived through it or not. That said, there’s some let up immediately after in, at least, the tone of “Bury Me Anywhere Else” and “Rosa & Reseda”. Then things get most interesting.
Ballads make room for mellotrons and various horn arrangements (“Wildflower Honey”), unabashed “Born to Run” worship (“Runnin’ Toward the Light”), a rocker that basically becomes an a capella piece in it’s final minute (“Winter Coats”), and, ultimately, what feels like a duet between our downhearted protagonist and another (“Routine Maintenance”). This is an album that gets more complex and yet more of a gut-punch the longer it goes on. But in the end, it’s all just “looking for where the light went”.
Ten Foot Pole – Escalating Quickly
Switching from the sounds of relative hopelessness to something that sounds downright sunny even while delivering a message of “Don’t Be A Dick” comes the latest from Ten Foot Pole who have now been doing this for nearly 30 years. That said, two things become readily apparent very quickly on this album: the band clearly wanted to step outside the conventions of their ‘90s-rooted, Epitaph-style punk sound and that they are out of fucks to give. They even go so far as to say so on “Numb”.
Every track here still has some very strong connections to what Ten Foot Pole have excelled at over the course of their career, which is to say, solid, high-speed pop-punk with melodic vocals and convincing guitar hooks. However, on Escalating Quickly the band ramp everything up to 11 which might be the actual number of guitar tracks on each song. See “Long Night”, for example, with layer upon layer of guitar tracking somehow not making a complete mess of things.
There are references from the band about trying to create the “Bohemian Rhapsody of ‘90s punk” with this album and, from a technical standpoint, they certainly seem to have achieved some approximation of what that would sound like. More than that, though, they’ve crafted a thoroughly intriguing album by a band with a pretty direct style that had been honed by many years plugging away at it. In a way, we only get glimpses of that old band underneath all the shiny layers but half the fun here is digging through that to get to the familiar bits then seeing how it all works together. Tracks like “The Jackals”, “I Hate the Night”, and “Goodbye Sunny Days” especially benefit from this as it encourages you to look at the songs in different ways. Overall, if this wound up being a swan song for the band, it would be a hell of a way to go out or a devil of an act to top if there’s a next time.
Petrol Girls – Cut & Stitch
There may not be a better old school-leaning hardcore album this year. Now, with that grand claim out of the way early you may as well get ready for one of the most satisfyingly confrontational pieces of music to lead off an album in quite awhile. The sinewy, car crash that is “The Sound” is a bold declaration in and of the intent of Petrol Girls as they channel the very best of Refused. “Tangle of Lives” sees us guided initially by a fairly straight forward guitar driven piece that quickly diverts into the territory of early At the Drive-In. Suddenly, the band are on the front foot.
“Big Mouth” pays tribute to its old school roots, not only with its adherence to wirey guitar arrangements and sparse drums as the backdrop for another round of intense and melodic vocals but also with it’s dropped in sample of Poly Styrene’s (X-Ray Spex) iconic bit from “Oh Bondage Up Yours”. “Monstrous”, however, is the band’s deepest cut providing a glimpse into their expertise. The riffs are sharp and tight with seamless switching between tones. The vocal gymnastics are dizzying. The rhythm section follows and builds upon the maze-like structure of the song.
All of this cacophony, however, gives way under the weight of the subdued yet nearly oppressive poetics of “Rootless”. Throughout the album we catch glimpses of this more serene side of the band but here it takes hold only to release the listener back into the aural chaos of the bright modern hardcore of “Weather Warning”. Closing track, “Naive”, gives us a spiraling summation of all the band embodies at this stage of their career… which might just be greatness.
Stuck Out Here – Until We’re Each Someone Else
“Never Should’ve Bothered” sets the tone for Toronto’s most downtrodden-sounding party band and that’s saying something considering they share a scene with PUP. You want more reason to grab this album? Ok, how about the fact that they share some personnel with Pkew Pkew Pkew? Still not convinced? Imagine if the Hold Steady drank Keith’s instead of PBR and were even more self-effacing. That’s Stuck Out Here.
“Embarass You” gets right to the heart of the matter by profusely apologizing with the kind of desperation that I’m sure we’ve all engendered at one time or another in our lives. If not? Well, life will get to you soon enough. That or the alcohol. Speaking of alcohol, “For You, for Me” sticks out like a ballad for the hungover ghost of Gaslight Anthem. It’s another in a pile of songs here that strike an apologetic tone for all of the partying that precedes bleary eyed mornings, kicking over empty bottles by the bedside.
The band do a fair amount of style-hopping here but it all falls under the banner of anthemic punk rock mostly having to do with all of your relationships gone awry, especially the one with yourself. “Sweet Fade” and “Bore Me” establish themselves firmly in that sweet spot of examining what went wrong and self-loathing that has armed many a band over the years. What Stuck Out Here add to the mix is another layer of catchiness due to an undeniable ear for a variety of hooks.
Jeffrey Lost Control – Small Town Rivalries
For us old fucks who were around for the time when Small Brown Bike brought us the noise of Dead Reckoning and The River Bed, this album from Quebec’s Jeffrey Lost Control serves as a sublime throwback to everything that made us stand in over-crowded VFW halls whilst screaming our lungs out in the early 2000s. The album opener, “What Are We After All?”, makes you wish for those sweat soaked nights all over again and if you never experienced it, it will make you scour your local calendar for a VFW show near you.
The bulk of the album serves as a love letter to that particular scene but it’s also a full-throated update of the sound that brought so many into the Hot Water Music fold. “Time Fades Away” fits right alongside that band’s later catalog all while brimming with the kind of energy that reminds one of Red City Radio and others who have arrived in the wake of the Gainesville kings. To wit, “Anxiety (Everything’s Fine)” will have you hoisting cans of beer, shouting every word, and hanging onto your friends like your life depends on it from the first note to the last.
Overall, this is an album with lots of shouting, deceptively simple riffing, solid bass playing and drumming, and an unabashed desire to deliver punk in the image the band desires. That, in and of itself, makes it something worthwhile. It’s not devoid of blemishes but manages to revel in them on tracks like “Daylight Saving” and “Staring at This Sinking Ship” much like most of the best punk music does. Do yourself the favor and check this one out.
Punk Rock Jukebox
IDLES – “Mercedes Marxist”
This song was released all the way back at the beginning of May. It’s been playing around here incessantly ever since. If this is a glimpse of what Bristol’s finest have on offer for later in 2019 then we’re all in for a stripped down, old school punk treat.
Hot Water Music – Shake Up the Shadows EP
Gainesville icons, Hot Water Music, are back celebrating their longevity again with a new, abbreviated collection of songs. The 5 songs here don’t deviate too far from their last full-length. It’s still led by Chuck Ragan’s rasp and Chris Wollard’s complimentary vocals in the forefront with big, hooky chords underneath while Jason Black and George Rebelo provide the spine of it all. It’s another testament to the band that they are still cranking out songs this solid after so long and so much time apart.
Bellevue – Picking Up the Pieces EP
Bellevue’s debut EP is finally here and it showcases all the things we loved about their previous singles with no filler. This is straight up pop-punk tinged emo done with expertise and is well worth diving into if you’ve been craving that saccharine sweet ennui that made the genre a powerhouse when bands like New Found Glory started to explode.
Good Riddance – “Don’t Have Time”
The lead single from Santa Cruz legends, Good Riddance, sees the band in fine form with this minute and a half blast of a preview from July’s upcoming LP, Thoughts and Prayers. The band still can nail their particular brand of melodic hardcore while showcasing, not just why they’re still relevant but, why they remain important.
Strung Out – “Daggers”
The first single from the upcoming Songs of Armor and Devotion shows that Strung Out are still the kings of their particular brand of melodic pop-punk metal hybrid theatrics. Next to Propagandhi and a slew of young and up-and-coming bands all over the world who have taken up the mantle of this style, there still is no band who has perfected their brand of chaos quite like Strung Out. This song proves it.
Asleep – “Thorns”
Another one from way back in early May, this single from Santiago, Chile’s Asleep is a dynamic and powerful piece of melodic hardcore that shouldn’t be ignored for fans of the genre. It’s executed with tight precision and excellent production.
Harker – “Dead Ends”
This British band captures a highly melodic sound that would fit in well with bands that normally play shows in dirty bars and somehow wind up on the Fest. It’s catchy, memorable and not unlike those bands you used to love in college or on your favorite college radio station when you wanted to let loose about that girl or guy you couldn’t talk to without the aid of a few beers.
Alexisonfire – “Complicit”
Shout along with AOF on their latest single that’s breathing life into hopes for a new album from these Canadian stalwarts. It’s rough and tumble, Friday night kind of stuff from these guys and, if this is the future, it’ll be damn near irresistible punk and roll when a lot of higher profile acts are getting it wrong.
Get Your Head Straight – Contrast EP
GYHS are a band that we’re buying in on the potential just as much as what they’re currently offering. There’s a lot of heavy influence from contemporaries in the emo punk scene as well as bands who have made quite a life for themselves in the niche, especially A Day to Remember. Contrast, as a whole, reads a lot like that band’s earliest efforts and, if that’s any indication, this band are due for an evolutionary leap as they grow into their own sound.
The Friday Prophets – “I’m so tired”
This Swedish band have been banging away at their mid-90s version of pop-punk that leans heavily towards the stalwarts of Lookout!-era bands for a few years now. Here they ever so slightly change gears with an equally haggard and energetic cover of Fugazi’s piano-driven ditty from Instrumental.
Decay – “Slow Decline”
Liverpool post-hardcore band, Decay, are releasing their latest EP, Modern Conversation, next month and it should head up your lists if you’re interested in hearing a band crashing their way through multiple genres of punk, hardcore, and emo while diving headlong into some shoegaze-y elements.
Hippie Trim – “Supersonic”
This German band comes out of the gate sounding like early Goo Goo Dolls before some face-melting vocals come howling your way, making more like WUP favorites, Clowns. In most universes these kind of vocals wouldn’t fit with the kind of flange/phase-heavy guitar work but in this genre and expectation-bending unit it fits quite nicely.
Reminders – “Post Paris Blues”
From the South Coast of England comes this delightful piece of pop-punk that is driven mostly by ever agile basslines and drums that careen about like your buddy driving a go kart after a few too many on a sunny summer day. The vocal delivery is urgent and earnest while ever tuneful, propped up by wispy guitar riffs that don’t steal from the show while being integral to the whole affair. It’s a highly addictive, jangly kind of punk that should make your parties this summer much more enjoyable.