Songs To Cure Depression :: Alkaline Trio – ‘Goodbye Forever’

“….stuck to the roof of my mouth with a staple.”

A hard abusive vacuum of negativity twists and hides inside your stomach, making the only viable escape an abundance of alcohol fuelled nights combined with a terrifying fear of static living, causing both the mind and body to cave in to defeat.

Again, I’d hit rock bottom. I was keeping busy, but I still couldn’t shake the depression. It was consuming me, and I was spending 70% of my waking moments drinking myself into an oblivion and trying to see the optimism in life. Then it came in the strangest of ways. I found optimism in Leeds. Fuck! I’ve already written that article, so I’ll pick up from where that one finished.

I woke on Barlow’s couch and screamed “WHERE THE HELL AM I?” – A split second of confusion, as I woke in a place I’d never seen before. I was given a lift home from Barlow’s ma and soon after met Lewis. The sun was beaming,  and I still had the edifying passion of yesterday’s antics where the music and company was like fire in my belly. We headed down the canals to a pub where the boats docked and they sold coffee, nuts, beer, and would give you a free pint of water with a slice of lemon if you bought all three; which I did. After we left, we entered an abandoned house, looked around, got lost in a forest and gave some golfers the finger. When we got back to my flat we bought a bunch of beers, pulled out the acoustic and sang Alkaline Trio songs all night.

Alkaline Trio had been my favourite band since I was about 12. Before then it might have very well been New Kids On The Block, but these things I’ve blocked from my memory. Their combination of pop-punk riffs – with dark, intoxicated subject matters for lyrics – have spoken to me in a way no other band ever have. This is where it all began (sort of). ‘Goodbye Forever’ was once my favourite Trio song. Unfortunately, as is the case with many old favourites, they become over played and left on the hypothetical shelf of music that has been burnt out from over indulgence. Lewis blasted it out, and a wave of old emotions from a time of old Trio and white cider with blackcurrent around Manchester on a Saturday afternoon flushed back. We sang it hard, we sang it loud, and I’m sure the Trio would have been proud as long as they never had to hear our off-key vocals shouts.

Album Review :: The Menzingers – On The Impossible Past

“They’ve mastered catchy choruses, pounding rhythms, and everything else that was special about their back catalogue.”

On The Impossible Past is the third album from The Menzingers, and their first on Epitaph Records. I was lucky enough to hear this record before most – when they took Leagues Apart, Dave and I from Philly to FEST 10 last year – but unfortunate enough to have to go without hearing it for the following three months.

Compared to previous efforts, On The Impossible Past is less in your face, and more in you head. The chorus of ‘Burn After Writing’ has been running through my head daily since I first I heard it. This is a more mature and accomplished record.

I honestly believe that there’s no filler songs, and no songs that are a little bit worse than others on this record. It’s thirteen tracks of absolute quality. The album flows so flawlessly that even at 45 minutes in total, you still find yourself going back to track one (‘Good Things’) and starting all over again.

The Menzingers sound all grown up. They’ve mastered catchy choruses, pounding rhythms, and everything else that was special about their back catalogue. Expect to see On The Impossible Past in many ‘Best of 2012’ lists come the end of the year.

5 stars out of 5, 11/10 and 3 golden globe nominations.

– Kieran Kelly

Interview :: The Sleeping Souls

“…Does Frank consider himself the English Springsteen?” – Ben Lloyd (The Sleeping Souls/Dive Dive)

You might know them better as ‘Frank’s Band’, but those four guys bringing that extra bit of umph to every Frank Turner show are The Sleeping Souls. Nigel, Matt, Tarrant and Ben have been touring and recording with England’s favourite singer/songwriter for years. We sat down with them to chat about the ever lasting tour, playing bigger venues and firework displays.

Album Review :: Thursday – No Devolución

“Think War All The Time in a really big bath tub.”

Okay, so this album came out over a month ago, so admittedly, this review is a little belated. No Devolución is the sixth studio album from New Jersey’s finest, Thursday, and sees the band take a different step from their usual post-hardcore stylings.

Now it’s clear from the first listen the album is a completely different sound to that of their previous efforts, but it is still Thursday. As far as instrumentation goes, there are clear instances of experimentation, mainly in the workings of keyboardist Andrew Everding, though these seem to fall mainly on the introductions to most tracks, after that it’s business as usual with verses filled with arpeggiated guitars which crescendo into hard hitting choruses.

It is clear from the get go that one of two things have happened, either Thursday have fallen into the trap of the studio magic demon known as auto-tune or vocalist Geoff Rickly has been working tremendously had on his technique, I hope and believe it is the latter. No Devolución sees Rickly push past the almost cliché “emo-whine” style singing and into a full fledged front man with a great grasp on everything from complex melodies to highly effective uses of falsetto. This album, in terms of vocal skill, is Geoff Rickly’s finest.

What really makes this album unique in comparison to their previous works in the production. Instead of the usual tough, crunchy quite raw sound the band have instead vouched for a much more ambient and almost sub-bass style. This is unfortunately, the downfall of the record. Though Thursday have always had an element of the avant-garde about them, No Devolución pushed this too far and attempts to find a marriage of post-hardcore song writing and atmospheric production, à la Sigur Rós, this gives an interesting outcome in terms of experimentation but ends up playing down on factors that make Thursday the band they are. The main example of this being the vocals which, though as previously said are great in terms of technique, due to the heavy use of reverb results in a very muddy sound. Thursday have always been revered for Rickly’s intrinsic lyrical content, which deals with dark issues coated in idiosyncratic metaphors, this is no doubt the same on No Devolución but the bizarre production techniques makes it much harder for the listener to pick the lyrics out. Think War All The Time in a really big bath tub. The album as far as studio technique and use of effect goes, has a lot of similarities to that of Glassjaw’s recent E.P Coloring Book, perhaps this pairing of post-hardcore/ambient/dub elements is the inevitable future of this genre.

No Devolución is by no means Thursday’s best album, it doesn’t even compare to an album like Full Collapse, but it isn’t a bad record by all means. It boils down to what is technically referred to as a “Marmite situation.” Listeners looking for a more melodic, ambient Thursday will love it. People looking for a more raw, old school sounding album, probably won’t.

Album Review :: Social Distortion – Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes

“If you enjoy getting let down by auspicious intros and want to buy an entire album for one half decent song, then this is the album for you.”

Social Distortion have been kicking it as a band for over thirty years now, with a brief hiatus in 1985. They are famed for punk/rock n roll riffs and tales of misanthropy. This, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, is the seventh full length studio release and their first album since ’04. It’d be an understatement to say Social D fans have been in great anticipation for this record, though I think they’ll be a little disappointed.

The opening track straight off is totally pointless, Road Zombie, an instrumental track, is neither relevant nor impressive. It is nothing more than a just over two minute tedium.

The second track California (Hustle and Flow) at first seems more like a poorly produced Aerosmith song than any sort of punk-rock anthem, with lines like “but the black man taught me how to sing the blues” sees singer Mike Ness really grasping at straws for lyrical content. The song, it has to be said, isn’t completely terrible, with a very creative tempo change kicking in in the last minute. This gives the song a feel much more synonymous with the back catalogue of Social D. I really have nothing positive to say about the backing vocals either.

Thankfully Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown comes in next and a fantastic breath of fresh air on this so far dull release. This song is catchy, has edge and is a real anthem that could show modern bands a thing or two about writing heavily rock n roll influenced punk. *cough* Gaslight Anthem *cough.*

The album seems to plod along with nothing really standing out, even the song Machine Guns Blues, with a hopeful hard-rocking intro, falls flat on its face after the first forty seconds tumbling awkwardly into mediocrity. It seems that Social D have finally fallen into that “Not another old punk band” category that not even being signed with a label as incredible as Epitaph could save them from.

The album progresses in a similar fashion, with each track sounding more and more like “Bryan Adams Greatest Hits” than any form of punk rock. I was hoping for one last redeeming nugget of rock n roll glory but this album, unfortunately, doesn’t have it. If you enjoy getting let down by auspicious intros and want to buy an entire album for one half decent song, then this is the album for you.

I’m not entirely without sympathy for Social Distortion though, it must be hard to write exciting new songs when a band much younger has come along and made that original style of yours one million times better. Cheers Lucero!

Now Streaming :: Social Distortion – Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes

Social Distortion have been entertaining punk fans for years with their catchy tales of misanthropy. The band’s seventh studio album, Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes, is being released through Epitaph Records next Monday (Jan. 17th), but you can listen to it right now!

Just click on the SoundCloud player below.

Social Distortion – Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes by Epitaph Records

EP Review :: Frank Turner – Rock & Roll

“Who’d have thought, that after all, something as simple as rock and roll could save us all?”

How Frank found time to make this is beyond me. The man has spent the majority of 2010 on the road (so what else is new?), touring Europe, America and even China, yet he still managed to put out a new record. This five track EP encompasses everything Frank Turner is about. It’s a perfect introduction for the uninitiated, but won’t leave the  hardcore wanting, either.

Rock & Roll is a record full of tributes. It feels like Frank’s way of letting people know how much certain people and things – past or present – mean to him. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some sappy, emo-tinged cry along. This is the Frank Turner we all know and love and these five new tracks are fantastic. The record opens with ‘I Still Believe’, Frank’s tribute to musical greats like Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. It’s a song full of passion and power that can’t be ignored, helped by the fact that it’s catchy as hell too! Anyone who’s seen one Frank’s shows of late will have undoubtedly heard this and chanted along with it’s chorus.  It might take a while, but soon enough you won’t be able to get it out of your head. It’s a real feel good song that follows a tried and true formula. Such a great way to open up a record.

‘Pass It Along’ is a track some will have heard before, and it’s probably my favorite track on here. For me, the whole sentiment of the record was captured in this line: “So here’s to Ragan, and here’s to Marwood. Here’s to Tim, and Jonah too. Here’s to the ones who have to take the stage and sing the truth.” This is a shout out to people just like him. Musicians who go out there and do it, not because they have to, because they want to. It’s a more stripped down track, something that lends itself perfectly to the subject matter. Ben, Matt, Tarrant and Nigel are still there, but they provide more of a subtle backing for Frank more than anything.

Those looking for something completely stripped down will find that in ‘Rock and Roll Romance’. It’s the shortest track on the record, but maybe the most poignant. Perhaps it’s the subject matter? Perhaps it’s Frank’s hushed tones? Maybe it’s a mixture of both? What I do know is that it’s a heartfelt love story told in less than two minutes. Anyone who says Frank can’t write a love song is wrong and this should set them straight.

Considering the tone of the EP thus far, ‘To Absent Friends’ came as quite a surprise. Granted, ‘I Still Believe’ packs a punch, but this one almost knocked me out of my chair. Starting out with just Frank and an acoustic, the track builds into a fast paced crescendo that just made me want to run somewhere (with this in my headphones, of course). As the title suggests, this is about another friend of Frank’s and is a tribute anyone would be proud of. This track in particular shows just how versatile Frank and his band can be, and that fast paced rock tracks can co-exist wonderfully with the regular folk-style stuff fans have come to expect.

Closing the album is ‘The Next Round’, an ode to the bottle and those who drink from it. This is probably the closest to a typical ‘folk’ song as you’re going to get from this EP and it’s calming melody works as a great finish to the record. Simple, subtle instrumentation provides the perfect backing to Frank’s soothing vocal throughout before it, again, rises up to create the perfect feel good ending.

If this is a teaser of what’s to come next from FT, then I can’t wait. Rock & Roll showcases just how great songwriting and production can come together to create a masterpiece. It shows how the range in Frank’s music has broadened, but it retains the simplicity that first drew me and many others in. Disregard Frank Turner at your peril!

Album Review :: Bad Religion – The Dissent Of Man

Bad Religion have been kicking some major dick for the past 30 years and with The Dissent Of Man, their 15th full length studio release. I’m hoping the awesome punk rock has not diminished one iota.

It has to be said, if I went off the general consensus of Bad Religion albums, I could probably write this without even listening. The band themselves have not really adapted their sound much from their initial release How Could Hell Be Any Worse, with the same quote on quote 3 chord punk rock, fast paced drums and politically driven vocals release after release. I’m making them sound like they’ve gone stale, trapped making music for a scene that has long since past, but this for some bizarre reason, is not the case.

Bad Religion, in some incredible way, have managed to keep their same sound without it becoming repetitive or un-inventive, and TDOM is no exception. If it ain’t broke don’t fix, right?

From the get go, it’s business as usual. Opener, ‘The Day The Earth Stalled’ is a minute and a half slice of glory, with lyrics that denounce that the band are “looking back”; with opening lines: “Do you remember when? We were young, adventure had no end? Those were the days, my friend. But I’m not talking about that at all.” This is Bad Religion at their best, as much intensity as can be fit into the 1:27 royal rumble of punk rock chaos. The vocal harmonies on the chorus aren’t anything new to old BR fans, but I’ll be damned if they still don’t please me immensely.

The lyrical content has not been put on a back burner for this album.  ‘Won’t Somebody’, a personal favorite, really put this album on a level with the best of Bad Religion as far as word play goes. Lines like: Won’t somebody please come up with something , ‘cuz Jesus just don’t seem to be impartially working” and “Just a moment of bliss amid all of the waste. The despair and oblivion of our precarious race. It’s ours to face now,” shows that the intellectual outspoken views on society the band hold so dear are still prominent in their minds and souls. The first single, ‘The Devil in Stitches’, is no different. Other than being from the slightly more popped up spectrum of the BR scale, which makes it an obvious choice for being the single, it is still a hard hitting sing-a-long anthem with an awesome array of vocal melodies.

The musicality of this album gets a good dose of insanity with the track ‘Meeting of the Minds’ – a song which follows in a similar vein as ‘1,000 More Fools’ from, legendary album, Suffer – has a very raw stripped down sound which, even though the production values of Bad Religion albums have increased a whole lot since 1988. The listener finds themselves transported back to an era where Greg Graffin had a full head of hair and Epitaph was just there to sell Bad Religion records.

If I had to pick a weak track on the album, I guess it would be ‘Cyanide’. It’s my least favourite, but not a weak track in any sense, in fact, it’s pretty good. That’s all I have to say about that!

Throughout the album it is clear that the many years of singing in a band has done nothing but good for the vocal talents of Greg Graffin and the rest of the band. At a number of different points throughout the album a surprising shock of vocalism is injected into the mix, with Graffin pushing the vocal octaves higher than any previous Bad Religion effort.

The album seems to slow in tempo nearer to the end, but the heavy sound is not lost. With the exception of ‘I Won’t Say Anything’, which features an acoustic guitar, its nothing but distortion all the way. The Dissent Of Man is an album that truly does not stop. Oh wait, it just did. Luckily I can just hit play and listen all over again.

Promo :: Frank Turner – ‘I Still Believe’

Hello, and welcome to the Frank Turner Minute

Touring the UK, Europe, the States, China and wherever else wants him has taken up the majority of Frank Turner’s time this year. The Winchester-born singer/songwriter never stops. Even when he’s got time to rest, he’s still busy doing covers, helping charities and recording a new EP. Rock & Roll – Frank’s new five-track stopgap – doesn’t come out until December, but here’s a taste of what’s to come.

Debuted sometime this year, ‘I Still Believe’ is Frank’s homage to his heroes. Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash all get a mention in this catchy new single. In true Turner fashion it’s a real crowd pleaser. Even before release swathes of people were singing the words back to him (good old YouTube), so I can only imagine what’ll happen now. This track will feature alongside ‘Pass It Along’, ‘Rock & Roll Romance’ and others on the new EP, as well as being included on his new album.

Watch the video, watch it again and then buy it off iTunes.

Rock & Roll is released on December 6th on Xtra Mile Recordings and Epitaph Records. Pre-order your copy here.

Germs Of Perfection :: Cobra Skulls Feat. Fat Mike

It goes without saying that Bad Religion had a big influence on punk rock. Scratch that, they had a big influence on music in general. No band were more influenced by them than Cobra Skulls, something that’s evident as soon as you hear one of their tracks. To leave these guys off a Bad Religion tribute album would be criminal.

They’ve brought their A-game with this track and brought in a familiar face to help. Fat Wreck head honcho and NOFX frontman, Fat Mike joins the Skulls to collaborate on this cover of ‘Give You Nothing’ originally featured on their 1998 album Suffer, the title track having already been covered by Tegan & Sara.

You can listen to the new track here.