We are rapidly closing in on the two biggest punk shows of the year with Riot Fest and the Fest 18 on the horizon. Calling either of those “shows” probably denigrates them a little but we’re going to go with it. In the coming weeks we’ll be highlighting some of the bands performing at either or both of these shows. It’s gonna be hyuge. That said, the machine churneth on and there’s more tunes for your earholes that we’re quite excited to share with you… even if some of them are only narrowly available. Forgive that and find these songs anyway. Yeah? Yeah.
Have Mercy – The Love Life
Have Mercy’s fourth full-length, The Love Life, announces itself with an ambitious, almost dream pop interlude which hints at an underlying adventurousness for the Baltime emo band. “We Ain’t Got Love” serves the same function as the foreword to a really good book. It sets the table for all of the sensations that are about to be unleashed on the listener. Sonically, it feels reminiscent of something that might have been spawned by Biffy Clyro or Frightened Rabbit but the band quickly rearrange themselves into more familiar territory.
One ready reference point for the band on their latest effort for Hopeless Records is Jimmy Eat World. “Heartbeat” and “These Streets” stand out the most for being a bit more propulsive than the majority of the tracks here. Part of the other side of that coin means there are also moments that bring to mind Death Cab for Cutie especially on the tracks “Clair” and “Dressed Down”. The bulk of the album is more in this mode than the more energetic tracks but it’s extremely well executed and sure to be that album that you’ll likely own just to listen to when you’re alone with yourself.
Brian Swindle’s penchant for heart-tugging lyrics is the showcase here with the music being the mode of delivery for those barbed little bombs of agony in the wistfulness of loss. The manner in which the music compliments that lyrical expression is what pushes this band into the upper echelon of those revisiting and, crucially, revising emo for this generation.
Junior – Beautiful Life
Welsh band, Junior’s, latest album wound up in my inbox and it wasn’t until I did some digging that I discovered that bassist, Mark Andrews, is pro wrestler, Mark Andrews (WWE – NXT UK and 205 Live) whose character, for those who don’t know, is a bit of a send up of fans of precisely this type of pop-punk or easycore. This is the part where I acknowledge my own bit of wrestling fandom even though this wound up being a chance collision of worlds. All that aside, Junior have been introduced to a lot of people through that avenue but their promising strain of melodic punk deserves recognition on its own merits.
“Day of the Dead” with its big “whoa”-filled choruses and galloping bass and drums provides a nice thesis statement of the best of what the band has to offer. The band sounds like the human embodiment of a skate, surf, or snowboard video but that’s not a harsh judgment when its technically executed with this much aplomb and quality. They also tend to attempt to mix things up in a variety of ways. “When the Tower Falls” borrows liberally from the repertoire of Sum 41 while both “Baby Blue” and the title track wouldn’t sound terribly out of place in the oeuvre of Frank Turner circa England Keep My Bones.
At the end of the day, Junior are giving us something varied, something tried, and something true. Everything here is solidly executed though it does feel like the band are still trying on a lot of hats to see which one fits best. That’s not a bad thing and it will be interesting to watch the band continue to develop and eventually settle on their sound. For now, though, it’s a Beautiful Life for the ambitious Welsh trio.
GRLwood – I Sold My Soul to the Devil When I Was 12
GRLwood pulls no punches. There is no subtlety or clever wordplay that listeners will have to perform mental gymnastics to get to the meaning behind their songs. That’s in line with the best that punk music has had to offer throughout its not so long history. The opening track, “Get Shot”, is a song about exactly that reframing the warnings that female presenting people have had to hear their entire lives and with increasing frequency as gun violence, and particularly violence against women, continues to rise around the world. This kind of directness is the rule and there are no exceptions on this album.
The band, Rej Forester and Karen Ledford, have called their music “scream pop” which, sure. That’s as good a name for it as anything. The music swirls between flanged out pseudo-surf riffs adrift on dynamic shifts in the drumming and all out fuzz attacks replete with said screams. Here are the obvious historical references: spiritually, if not entirely sonically, the band passes brief points along the arc of history spanning X-Ray Spex, the Gits, 7 Year Bitch, Fire Party, and L7, among others. They join a growing crowd of essential and unconventional listening that includes Petrol Girls, Mannequin Pussy, War On Women, and Brutus to name a scant few that we’ve been high on.
This, their second full-length album, ripples with tension and release in a way that has to be heard to be understood. Basically, it rips unlike anything else out there right now. The highlights of this blunt force instrument include “I Hate My Mom”, “Donald”, “A-State”, and “I’m Not Afraid of You”.
Baby Bhang – Nothing Serious
Baby Bhang out of Puerto Rico deliver a potent, low-fi, fuzzed out punk rock with vocals reminiscent of early No Doubt and Dance Hall Crashers largely without the ska influences. This is their first album with new lead singer, Sandra Lourenco, who shines throughout. The band is largely driven by the creative riffs of guitarist, Ruben Arias, who shifts seamlessly between angular indie-rock that invokes the Pixies and Superchunk at points and the garage type pop-punk of the West Coast in the mid-90s.
“Aha Aha”, “Sorry to Say”, and “Uninvited Situation” show off the band’s range and are the kinds of songs you’d want to build a party playlist around. While those songs are typical of the band’s short-burst of energy strategy that runs through the majority of their music they do manage to get ambitious on the track “Heavy Luggage” which features some spacey passages and even an extended guitar solo. It’s an interesting jam but it proves to be more of a pit stop than a dramatic shift of intention on this album. Where the band is most impactful is using their sharp bursts of energy combined with the alluring melodies of Lourenco’s vocals. The band definitely have something good in their recipe and a lot of ways to build upon it. Nothing Serious could lead to far more serious things for the band in the future.
[This is where the link would be if it were widely available but if you put it in the Google machines you might be able to find it.]
The Dead Love – The Extinction of Unicorns
In what feels like a growing tradition around these parts, here’s yet another Australian band to feature who are doing their own uniquely effective thing within the very wide confines of what we can consider punk rock. The Dead Love are more in-line with acts like Nerf Herder and Weezer while making a big enough racket to fit under that big, broad punk tent.
Album opener “Young & Dysfunctional” and “Anyway” carry a strong scent of influences like those mentioned above while adding to the canon of alternative rock tracks carried by big guitars and melodically yelped vocals. If we’re seeing a revival of that 90s alternative sound then bands like the Dead Love are going to be at the forefront of it. That’s not to say this is the only trick in their arsenal. “All In A Day” carries the kind of clean-distortion-clean dynamics commonly deployed by Foo Fighters. The band have that little bit of something, though, that makes the way they manipulate sounds you may have heard before into something quite fun and very original.
What’s most novel about the band is that they’ve firmly established a style at this point that they can play around with more on subsequent releases and, if they manage to maintain their keen sense of melody and dynamics, there’s absolutely no reason not to expect compelling material in the future. Every indicator right now says the Dead Love are bound for big things beyond their home country.
Punk Rock Jukebox – EPs and Singles
Press Club – “New Year’s Eve”
Another Australian band, another excellent track of pummeling punk rock with pummeling and ascendant lead vocals. Kind of reminiscent of both Good Riddance and, especially, Ignite.
Hesitation Wounds – “At Our Best When We’re Asleep”
Deathwish Inc. Hardcore. Supergroup. Guys from Touche Amore, The Hope Conspiracy, Trap Them, and some drummer that worked with Against Me! and Slipknot. The hype for their August 30th release is real.
Sixteen Scandals – “C No Evil, Hear No Evil, Talk a Lot of Shit”
Melodic garage punk from Toronto along the lines of FYP and J Church. Is good.
Lagwagon – “Bubble”
It’s Lagwagon doing Lagwagon things and copping to it. Doing it like it’s still 1992. Get reacquainted before the new album arrives on October 4th.
Denzel Curry w/ Bad Brains – “I Against I”
This is from a Spotify session so if you have the service, you know what to do. If you don’t have it this might be as good a reason as any to check it out. Impeccably powerful and shockingly faithful to the original.
CRYSTAL – “Speak of the Devil”
Another available on that particular service but it’s well worth seeking out. Imagine a re-imagined Blondie with huge hooks and even bigger guitars and low-end. You’re getting close.
No Home – “Narrative”
Forceful, emotional hardcore that hews awfully close to that Killswitch Engage line but lives with feet firmly planted in that chugga chugga everyone still loves.
IDLES – “I Dream Guillotine”
It’s no secret that I love IDLES and that the idea of a new album by the band makes me giddy. This, however, is the b-side to previous single “Mercedes Marxist” and wipes the floor with a lot that’s already out there.
Hippie Trim – “Blasphemy”
These German punks-but-don’t-call-us-that continue to impress and this time they get some help hollering from Patrick Kindlon of Drug Church. We will continue to pummel you with HT music until you finally click.
Jail Socks – “Poplar Avenue”
Tiny Moving Parts with a little less prog and little more vroom vroom with a dash of Dead Bars.
Feeny – “Are You Leaving?”
Sporting some deliciously precocious Saves the Day type hooks, melodies, and ennui this New Jersey band kicks.
Ariel View – “Friday Nights”
Pretty undeniable power-pop from… Epitaph? Ok, let’s roll with it.
there there – “Hit Stop”
Eventually, if we’re not already there, the deep well of Toronto kinda depressing yet oddly communally joyful alternative-influenced punk is gonna get tired of being compared to the amazing PUP but here we are again. “Now I just do things to complain about them later”, I mean… yeah? Yeah.
Signals Midwest – Pin EP
Six new songs of potent self-effacing, Midwestern pop-punk that bears some of the hallmarks of Red City Radio or the Menzingers. They’re also Fest-bound in November so that’s cool.
Barfbag – “A Moment of Clarity Between Tweets”
Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, and Fear get into a fistfight. Barfbag wins and Henry Rollins laughs in the background.
Snuff – “Dippy Egg”
It’s Snuff. They still have the trombone and they’re releasing a new album September 20th. It’s going to be fun because this band of lawless old farts always will be.