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Witches With Dicks – Manual

October 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Kiss of Death Records, 2006

So let me get this straight.  These guys named themselves after transvestite dabblers in black magic?  How many of those are there?  Well, needless to say they didn’t have to worry about the old question of “Wait, what if someone already named their band ‘Witches With Dicks?”  No chance guys, so congratulations.  Given the typeface on the album art and a song called “Your Job Does Not Rock Balls”, I had a feeling this record was going to be punk all over the place.  Ahem, I mean that it will more specifically be a punk rock record by transvestite dabblers in black magic.

Boston’s Witches With Dicks play loud, urgent punk that sticks with traditional speed and grittiness.  The four guys in the band all sing/shout at various times during the record, and even though there is nothing pretty about it, at least they sound honest.  On “How to Cook 40 Humans”, the band gets hopeful with the realization that despite a difficult time in one’s early days one can still come out on top if they just stick out the troubling times.  At least, that’s what I could get out of the lyrics, which for punk rock came across as surprisingly thoughtful.  The band’s unabashed dislike of certain types of men in blue on “One Whopper For the Copper”, a song that paints some of the more power-hungry policemen in a bad light.

I am still a fan of the title of “Your Job Does Not Rock Balls”, which of course is a quick denouncement of getting stuck in a cruddy job.  I am making a note of that phrase to get my point across succinctly if a weary friend needs it told to him/her straight.  Another example of Witches With Dicks trying to help out in two minutes or less, the band promotes cutting off deadbeat buddies in “Die Painfully”.  Why hang onto a relationship if there is no reciprocation?  Thanks Witches With Dicks.  My favorite line is “So take a walk outside tonight cause it’s nice/There’s fireflies.”  This is a sensitive punk rock band that wants to hold your hand and give you those knowing eyes!

And hey, any band that makes a reference to 8-bit Nintendo wins some review points automatically from me.  The tune “Skate or Die Two is Going to Be Awesome When It Comes Out” is so true.  Granted, the song doesn’t seem to have anything to do with “Skate or Die”, but it got me thinking that I should have another go at punching out that mohawked punk again in the 1-on-1 skateboard race.  That guy always seemed to sideswipe me near the back alley finish line.  And uh, let’s not get into my lack of virtual halfpipe skills, okay?

Give Witches With Dicks a few listens to a couple of punk tunes at their MySpace page.

This is not a bad record, nor is it a great record.  It’s a punk record.  Straightforward tunes by guys who knew how to turn up the volume and not drag it on too long.  If one likes that nineties-to-now punk sound then this is a fine enough grab for a dollar to hear a few solid, quick ones.  As for the band, according to a clip on PunkNews.org Witches With Dick are no longer together.  So, aside from a few singles and this “Manual” album, Witches With Dick made a short, somewhat minimal stay in the Boston punk scene.  Some may say that it’s no big deal since these guys sound like a lot of other bands, but for Boston fans, it’s a pity to lose a crew that were capable of blasting out some high energy.

The Hellacopters – Supershitty to the Max!

October 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Man’s Ruin Records, 1998

Since I’m a heavy enthusiast of rock ‘n roll, I already know of the Hellacopters through their excellent “By the Grace of God” record.  However, this one I picked up actually came out some years before that record, so as it goes one never knows what, if anything, of the band you know exists from their early days.  Could they be flat out metal and the stuff I heard later is watered down?  Did they start cute and poppy like adorable Swedish musicians, only to decide to wreak havoc on the listening public due to a chemical imbalance?  Given the album title and cover image of a maniacal goblin, I figured these guys were going to try on their best Motorhead impression and tear it up.  Indeed, after ‘Play’ was pressed, there really wasn’t much time to strap myself in.

Yeeeaah!  ROOOOCK!  (pump fist pump fist pump fist)

I’m not lying, the first track of “(Gotta Get Some Action) Now!” has to rank right up there as one of the best first tracks off of the first album for a band from Sweden. Nicke Andersson’s frenzied vocals sound like the microphone is being consumed while the rest of the band produces something that might have come from an early KISS.  “24th Hell” is borderline punk with the speed in tempo and chorus, which continues just as urgently (and as shortly) with “Fire Fire Fire”.  Talk about making an instant impression on the debut record!

The rest of the record unfortunately wears of some of the excitement of the first few tracks, mainly because they all sound the same.  Every song has Andersson absolutely in your face with blast of volume out of his mouth, only to severely muffle the microphone and thus get drowned out by the band.  There is no break throughout the album (nor should there be on a ROCK ‘n ROLL record, maaaan) unless you count the slightly slower “Tab”, so after awhile one could start to feel that songs start to blend together.  “How Could I Care” has a great chugging guitar riff that pounds throughout the tune, but since it came not too longer after “Bore Me” and right before the thrash punk tune of “Didn’t Stop Us”, it gets a little lost in getting itself noticed.  They might as well have thrown “Random Riot” in with “Didn’t Stop Us” given its pace and muddled vocals, though the chorus sounds a lot cooler in my opinion.

Beginning with “Didn’t Stop Us”, the last six tracks finish rather quickly.  It likely has to do with the aforementioned pace, though “Spock In My Rocket” is the exception to the acceleration.  It still burns fire with heavy guitar and the clashing of the drums over the choruses (which, by the way, was featured in the twelve previous songs as well).  However, it lasts for six minutes!  It’s armageddon in a song.  Then, of course, as a band from the late nineties the Hellacopters opt for the signature ‘hidden song’.  Unfortunately, it turns out to be an even more muffled live track that just comes across as a bunch of noise in the end.  Oh well.

The Hellacopters’ website could use a real update, but at least they’ve still got a good assortment of music up on MySpace.

It’s a tough call for this one for me.  I really liked the music and would love to hear a few tracks from these guys from time to time when I need an instant boost of power.  However, thirteen tracks that generally sound the same and come across as rushed might be a little overdone.  I still think the Hellacopters are a great band and that people should definitely go check out any release from them.  Since “By the Grace of God” sounds a lot more varied and contains much more clarity, while still delivering true on its fantastic rock anthems, I recommend starting there rather than the very start with this debut.

Red Aunts – #1 Chicken

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Epitaph Records, 1995

Ahh, nothing like picking up a record and seeing that one of the members on the cover is giving you the ‘Loser’ sign.  Does the music store owner see a patron shudder whenever he or she picks up this record?  Psychological effects aside, the scratched out band and album name, as well as the bleached blonde smokin’ with shades in the passenger seat, gives off the air of something edgy.  The fact that it’s an Epitaph Records release seals it, as this was going to be some kind of punk or hard rock.  I was definitely intrigued with the thought of hearing what “Rollerderby Queen” sounded like, never mind that plushy song title of “Satan” (hmm).  And hey, I had to review this album or that girl was going to drive by and flash me the ‘Loser’ sign again.  NOBODY ‘Loser’ signs ME and gets away with it, MAAAANNN!

As a California grrl punk band in a decade of grrls, the Red Aunts are abrasive, raw and a little rude.  However, they know that in two minutes or under they can make your adrenaline rush.  “Freakathon” has no slow introduction and immediately begins its jilted assault of heavy riffs and Terri Wahl’s screamy vocals.  No sooner has it gotten started than “Tin Foil Fish Bowl” and “Hate” barrel in with similar quick tempo.  Along with Kerry Davis, Wahl sings in various tones depending on the situation.  Both ladies often sing/scream high pitched, but on songs like “Detroit Valentine” they sometimes opt to sing at a lower, sultry level.  This at least gives the impression of variety and skirts the worrisome ‘monotonous’ label.

The Red Aunts rarely ever take a breath on the record.  “Krush”, after a slow guitar intro (aka breath), the song turns into an exciting noise and scream fest.  “Rollerderby Queen” consists of some clever tempo changes, as the beginning has Wahl wailing while the backup girls sort of sneer.  Then the song quickly changes into a slower swing, before accelerating all the way to the end.  “When Sugar Turns to Shit” is another great punk tune that actually has some slide guitar and harmonica in it, though damned if I know what the heck Wahl is squealing throughout.

Cowbell actually shows up in “Poker Party”, but unfortunately that’s about the last of the interesting items of the record.  The rest of the songs until the end of the record don’t have any unique “Freakathon” or “Krush” moments, so though the band does power through a solid instrumental of “Mota”, it is apparent that their best songs are contained earlier on.  For a record that easily finishes under thirty minutes, it is doubtful that many will notice or care that the band had to squeeze out a few so-so tracks to make it past twenty minutes.  They’re listening for the rush of it all.

Though you can listen to them on MySpace, I prefer this amusing video of the ladies on skates in “Rollerderby Queen”:

I like the Red Aunts for what they stand for and how they delivered it.  With so many grrl bands of the day, the Red Aunts not only sounded rough for four women but also managed to construct a few catchy tunes as well.  I found that a lot of grrl stuff tended to be one-and-done to listen to, as they were understandably heavy on the message but less so on the return value for the casual fan.  I thought this record succeeded in its spinability.

The Red Aunts put out a few more records after this one before disbanding in 1998.  The popularity of the grrl movement was about done at that time, but I would like to think that the band motivated a few other girls in the California area to start up their own rock bands.  Though one doesn’t hear this kind of sound these days, I recommend giving a listen to this record if you want to hear something that positively represents the grrl era.

Various Artists – Cheese Borger’s Pie and Ears Volume 2

August 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Smog Veil Records, 2002

With one of the more revolting covers I’ve seen in awhile, there is no chance I would pass on picking up a compilation of Cleveland punk rock.  I, ah, recognize the name of Cheese Borger from a previous review regarding his cadre of Pink Holes, so for twenty-three tracks for much less than twenty-three dollars this was a surefire grab.  To think there was a previous volume of Cleveland punk released is hard to believe, but I guess when the Browns and Indians aren’t doing much of anything people are driven to high volumes.  Better than reading I say!

So what does one expect from a punk compilation that is nearly a decade old?  Well actually, this compilation was put together in 2002 but consists of mostly punk tunes from back in the eighties.   Therefore, consider this collection as a group of musicians who were recently influenced by the big punk movement from the seventies.  Given that the state of music today mostly consists of interchangeable dance pop tunes and irony-maxed indie rock, a compilation with some raw, lightly produced garage rock from back in the day can actually be refreshing.  Who knows, one may even find a highly unheralded band to dig into more deeply.

After a few muddled compositions by Kneecappers and Disciples of Death (band name props), things really get revved up with Idiot Humans’ “Toppling Stairs”.  The main riff thoroughly reminds me of the Wipers’ “D.7” with its foreboding sense of doom, yet the song doesn’t bother with any of the slow stuff and consists of pure acceleration.  The cover of the Pagans’ “Eyes of Satan” by Styrenes doesn’t have much for lyrics aside from the title track.  Is it punk to essentially skip verses?  Still a fun blitz of a tune, though.

Those songs aside, apart from a few stand outs there are many tracks that sound like what one might expect from a local punk band compilation.  There’s a lot of low production, speed, inattention to lyrical clarity, short song lengths, and guitars, guitars, guitars.  Many songs tend to blend together for the most part, but there are a few nice exceptions.  New Salem Witch Hunters’ “Plain to See” sounds like a great bar room pop song with its sixties style and fine keyboard inclusion.  The Clocks sound very fresh with their garage rock  during their detailing of a literal “Family Feud” while the Pink Holes throw in a solid, fuzzy surf track.  I can’t get enough of the surf stuff.

Since a bunch of these guys were out before MySpace came along, perhaps you will find something interesting to buy or listen to at Smog Veil Records’ website.

Overall, it’s an enjoyable compilation of punk tracks of varying quality.  I didn’t find any that were just too awful to sit through a few minutes with, which either reflects the time period’s style or the general talent of the musicians.  Or perhaps I was too busy stroking my leather jacket to notice, who knows.  Truth is, compilations are hard to utterly pan given that there always tends to be enough variety to make anyone appreciate the disc in spurts.  All I know is that if I ever find myself in Cleveland I’ll be seeking out this Cheese Borger guy to tell me which shows to catch.

Cheap Time – Self-titled

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment

In the Red Records, 2008

These guys look like they had some time off from their runway jobs and thought to start a boy band.  The one in the middle seems to have forgotten to turn off the eternally bored look that models tend to sport.  With the visuals screaming at me to beware the second coming of 98 Degrees, I caught the indicator of grand possibilities in the top right corner.  Looking at the 80s-themed logo with a resemblance of neon pink coloring, I thought there was a slight chance that Cheap Time was a either an 80s punk revivalist band or even the re-issued real thing.  Since listening to them would literally be a cheap time, I figured they were worth a grab.

Not long into their debut record, it is apparent that Cheap Time aren’t in the market for long players or deep lyrical conversations with their listeners.  The trio actually zip through most of their songs under two minutes with lo-fi production and catchy punk riffs.  They’re also not the angry type of punk, (the album cover kind of kills that idea anyway) but I can imagine they can light up a stage with the requisite noise and energy level.

The evidence that this hypothesis may be true can quickly be found in their music.   Though the opener of “Too Late” sounds a bit disjointed, the record really powers on when the chorus of “Glitter and Gold” crashes through some descending riffs.  The high speed chorus of “People Talk” definitely reminds me of U2’s “I Will Follow”, but it is a killer track.  It probably has to do with the repeated aspect of the title over a piercing, high guitar note that accompanies it.  Amidst all of the great adrenaline-inducing tracks on this record, “People Talk” stands out the most.

Since most songs are quick, it is rare for Cheap Time to let one get tired of any particular direction they’ve followed.  The one instance where they gamble with longevity is in “Trip to School”, which clocks in at just over three long minutes.  As the last track of the record, it begins quietly enough with slow guitar build that could go either way.  You know how it is; bands tend to make the last track of their record something personal, slow, and usually boring.  Just as one is about to give up on half of a song of build up, Cheap Time eradicates the notion of a cool off with another fantastically catchy pop punker.  That was the right way to go out on a record that just slips under thirty minutes with fourteen tracks.

Cheap Time do have a MySpace page, but the good man at Power Pop Overdose gives you a chance to check out this whole record for yourself!  You should think about doing this.

I think that Cheap Time’s debut record really appeals to me because they have quite a few similarities to a few of my favorite bands, such as the Exploding Hearts and the Marked Men.  I’m personally just thrilled that these guys are even still around!  Now with two records in the books, perhaps Cheap Time will be able to cull together a full hour live show if they end up touring away from their native Tennessee.  Either way, the exciting punch of their music deserves a Golden Dollar from me all the way.

The Loved Ones – Build & Burn

January 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Fat Wreck Chords, 2008

Punk records from the past decade can be a gamble in regards to quality, mainly because that quality is often lacking.  However, I had heard a few tracks from the Loved Ones debut record and vaguely recall liking them.  With a gritty looking black and white digipak, as well as inclusion on the generally entertaining Fat Wreck Chords label, I figured this was worth a cheap spin.  I did notice belatedly that the inside cover band picture showed four pretty clean cut guys.  In hindsight, that might have served as a warning.

The Loved Ones second record is what one might expect from a punk label; there is little chance to catch one’s breath throughout.  The opener of “Pretty Good Year” gets right into it with the clashing guitars, pounding drums, and strained vocals.  In a bit of a punk twist, it turns out to be the shortest track in just over two minutes.  Subsequent high speed rockers, like “The Inquirer”, “Sarah’s Game”, and “3rd Shift” take it a bit longer in the usual modern style.

Unlike other pop punk groups, the Loved Ones periodically take time to slow things down once in awhile.  “The Bridge” is such a track given its seemingly personal nature, which can either intrigue a listener or make them wonder where the fist pumping went.  The Loved Ones also go all sensitive on the listener in “Brittle Heart” and “Selfish Masquerade”, the former of which actually sounds quite good in its composition for a toned down rock song.  The cards are shown in regards to the Loved Ones’ preference of versatility when they actually end their punk record with a cover of All-4-One’s “I Swear”.  Okay, I’m kidding, but that’s the name of the song and I think the cover would’ve been a better idea than what their version actually ended up being.

Though it’s easy to quickly go through this record without getting too annoyed, the one track that stands out as a bit much is “Louisiana”.  For one, these guys are from Philadelphia.  Secondly, the lyrics are incredibly repetitive with “They’re pounding nails in Louisiana” with little explanation as to why the Loved Ones care.  Is it some kind of old slavery or criminal anecdote?  Are these guys really into Louisiana construction?  Finally, the song typically builds from quiet to a rousing end … with the repetitive lyrics.  Other songs can be dealt with, but this one got the eyes rolling.

If you need a quick punk fix, check out the Loved Ones’ MySpace page and website (which is just a link to their MySpace page … zzzz) if you gotta.

I can’t imagine a time when punk rock, or pop punk for that matter, will ever dissolve into a genre that is no longer sought after.  I suppose the same could be said for heavy metal and country music, so with the few great bands that lead a genre for a few years there will be a ton of bands that fit the sound but don’t stand out.  The Loved Ones are such a band, for though they bring everything that punk rockers should (energy, volume, speed, etc) they don’t create anything that is unique or incredibly interesting.  That’s okay I suppose, because sometimes all one wants to hear is the same kind of stuff and get on with their day.  I just wish it didn’t have to be the tired pop punk sound we’ve heard in recent years.

The D4 – 6Twenty

March 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Infectious Records Ltd, 2003

New Zealand.  Quick, name two bands from that country.  And no, the New Zealanders don’t count and neither does We Ain’t Aussies, though there may be a band by those names already.  Yet here we are with a group called the D4, who look like they could really be from everywhere given their simple t-shirts, haircuts, and tattoos.  But wait, there is a guy with a mutton chop hair thing going on, so perhaps that could have tipped me off that they weren’t from around here.  Regardless of their look, the exceptionally sharp red and black contrast is a real eye-jarring look that at least makes one think that the band might be edgy.  That, or they knew there were color contrast suckers like me.

The band doesn’t waste too much time colliding into your senses with its extremely rushed “RnR MF” opener, which you can easily interpret despite the acronyms.  There isn’t much to distinguish this song from, say, every garage punk song you’ve heard before.  The singer prefers to blend in with the band and doesn’t make any real attempt at standing out with vocal displays.  The band also likely wouldn’t let him take a dramatic breath either, for they just pound through each song once “RnR MF” is quickly over.  Songs like “Get Loose”, “Come On!” and “Invader Ace” all have that max excitement element, but one would be hard pressed to depict which song is better than the others.  Once “Heartbreaker” rolls around the band finally decides to utilize the slow build up.

Arguably the best song on the record, “Heartbreaker” begins with a riff that may have been ripped from Devo’s “Mongoloid”, but it is quite welcome considering the blitzkrieg the listener has just been through.  The band takes its time getting to the chorus, which you know is coming with a bang, and finally delivers with an escalation of the lead vocalist, a pair of guitars, and some backing vocals to boot.  Great song.  The band varies its approach after that song with a more bluesy “Ladies Man” and a New York Dolls-tinged “Pirate Love”.  They actually slow down a bit compared to the blast off at the beginning of the record, so it is almost as if the band wanted to keep you interested initially as long as possible before trying to delve into slightly more creative compositions.  It still mostly sounds the same throughout, which is cut and dry garage rock.

Check out a few tunes from these guys on their MySpace page.

Well, it is understandable that this band has found its debut record in so many dollar bins.  It is a perfectly fine rock record that typifies the modern genre and will get one’s energy up.  However, it is completely indistinguishable from records that have come before it.  There’s nothing wrong with developing a similar sound to past bands, but it certainly doesn’t get anyone to think twice about letting the record go when it comes to making a choice.  The band has not let this mass dump off get to them at the time, though, for they did manage to release another record in 2005.  It does seem that they haven’t done anything more recently, so that may be it for the brash D4.  They may not do much for the seasoned rock fan, but if there’s someone younger who you know is just exploring this rabid garage sound, it’s worth a cheap gift.

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