joshthevegan: (screamy)


When a band establishes themselves within a certain genre, it is generally pretty hard for them to break that mold. For every instance of a band releasing an album that is different and/or challenging that succeeds critically and commercially (Bad Brains' I Against I introduced a new sound and ushered in a new era for the band, and Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sounds nothing like the alt-country offerings that came before it but was hailed by critics and adored by many fans), there are several examples of bands attempting to diversify their sound and ultimately failing. Bad Religion's Into The Unknown, Neil Young's various genre exercises in the early to mid 1980's, and the notorious disco-influenced album by KISS are just a few examples of total failures from artists established within a certain sound. Even if the music is well-written and performed with sincerity, there is no guarantee that it will succeed.

Face to Face learned this lesson the hard way. They burst onto the punk scene in the beginning part of the 1990's with a series of albums that each gained the band more recognition than the last. After their song "Disconnected" was played on the radio station KROQ, the public really started to take notice, and Face to Face was on the verge of becoming serious punk superstars like some of their contemporaries. They eventually signed with A&M Records, and released their self-titled album which is a powerhouse of melodic hardcore that plays better than most bands greatest hits records.

At this point, Trever Keith and co. knew that they were at a very important crossroads. If their next album was as strong as the one they just offered, they could possibly solidify themselves as a band with a serious legacy. How strange, then, that their next album wouldn't be a punk record at all, but rather a straight-ahead heavy rock album chock full of mid-tempo songs about relationships and philosophical concepts rather than political anthems and speedy hardcore blasts.

Ignorance is Bliss is not a bad album. In fact, if one listens to it for what it is (a heavy rock record with psychedelic melodies and stellar production) then it borders on great. The interplay of the two guitars is complex without being flashy, the melodies are haunting and catchy, and the lyrics are some of the strongest that Keith has ever offered. This is the kind of record you want to listen to in your car on a cool autumn night while driving through the city after a heavy rain finally ends.

Even though Ignorance is Bliss received hearty critical acclaim, the sales were sluggish, and Face to Face soon found themselves struggling to reclaim the momentum they had going for so many years. Even though their next album, Reactionary, would be one of the best of their career, not nearly enough people heard it, and after one more attempt (How To Ruin Everything), Face to Face called it quits until 2010. The band is back on tour, but they refuse to play any of the songs from Ignorance is Bliss (probably because of a combination of bad memories and poor reactions from fans), so this album will remain an out of print oddity that only hardcore fans of the band will ever hear and get to enjoy.

Ignorance is Bliss - 9 out of 10

Here are just two examples of how great this album is:
"In Harm's Way"

"Heart of Hearts"
joshthevegan: (Hank)


Late 2010/early 2011 has seen a number of albums released by "vintage" punk bands/artists. Many of them have been quite good, but the debut release(s) by OFF! is probably the most impressive of all of them. This isn't to say that the new Social Distortion and Bad Religion records weren't great, or that the upcoming release from Bad Brains won't be incredible (I'm sure it will), but OFF! is an unexpected home run.

OFF! is a supergroup of sorts, bringing together Keith Morris (the original lead singer of Black Flag and frontman of Circle Jerks) and members of Red Kross, Burning Bridges and Rocket From The Crypt. This line up only came together after a failed Circle Jerks reunion recording session forced Morris to look for new people to perform his new song ideas with. (Their promotional slogan has been "From the ashes of a really screwed situation!")

The similarities between OFF! and the early recordings of Black Flag are pretty obvious even before listening to the music. Between the band's name (both are insect repellents), the artwork found on the releases (Raymond Pettibon created all the art for the OFF! releases, as well as most of the Black Flag catalog), and even the compilation's name (First Four EPs sounds a bit like The First Four Years, a compilation by Black Flag), the intention is clear. Morris and company want to be clear that they are promising the listener rough, blistering hardcore, trimmed down to the bare bones. Boy, do they deliver.

These songs are living, breathing proof that punk and hardcore are not exclusive to the very young anymore (Keith Morris was 55 when recording these songs). The twelve songs contained on this release are every bit as in-your-face and anti-authoritarian as anything any of the members had recorded in their impressive collective back catalogs, and more relevant than most other punk rock that has come out in the last ten or so years. These are shitty times we live in, and luckily OFF! is there to supply a soundtrack for those of us who are paying attention enough to be up in arms about it. "You wonder why I'm always shouting, You wonder why I've gotta yell. . .'Cause you turned this into a livin' hell!" Morris belts out on "Upside Down". Yeah, that seems about right.

First Four EPs - 9 out of 10
joshthevegan: (screamy)

Flower Power Sucks! )


My wife and I decided about a year-ish ago that we both wanted to select an artist with a rather extensive catalog, and go through their works chronologically and learn about them. She chose Neil Young (we're deep in the '80's with that one) and I chose Frank Zappa.

Getting into Frank Zappa can seem like a daunting task to a lot of people, since he recieves so little airplay, and has such a massive catalog. Where do you start? First off, I'd recommend, as the Mad Hatter would say, start at the beginning, and when you get to the end, stop. Also, hopefully me ranting about these works will inspire a few of you to check out some works by one of the most unique and compelling voices in rock and roll history.

Release Number 1: Freak Out! )
joshthevegan: (Bassy)

But it's silver and gold, silver and gold! )
joshthevegan: (screamy)


The way Rancid released "Let The Dominoes Fall" is a media blitz of the highest degree. The internet caught wind of a new Rancid project to be released as far back as a year ago, all over their last few tours Lars Fredriksen had been announcing a new record to be released on their own label, Hellcat Records (I know this because I saw them last August) and dubious preliminary announcements had been flooding Myspace and other social networking sites for months. Leading up to the actual release, you could stream the album for free on basically every website on the internet, you could pre-order the album for a chance to get (in my case) a T-Shirt, several stickers, 3 reversable posters, guitar picks, a copy of the Roots Radicals E.P. on CD (?) an acoustic CD, a DVD of the making of the album, and. . .oh, yeah, the actual album.

Is "Let The Dominoes Fall" everything it's choked up to be? Well, that's a complicated question. Yeah, it's a fantastic Rancid record, but, really, are any of them bad? I certainly don't think so. The differences between this album and its predecessor, "Indestructable" are not really that huge. They are both well-produced punk records with a tasty ammount of ska, soul, and hiphop-influenced tracks mixed in to create what is by now the classic Rancid blend of styles. Both are chock full of personal stories, both are a bit angry (though always hopeful about the end results) and have fantastic sing-a-long tracks throughout. The only thing seperating these two records is the media hype behind one ("Let The Dominoes Fall") and a major label behind the other ("Indestructable.")

What I think is really great here is the acoustic side of Rancid that is emerging on this project. Songs like "Civilian Ways" (a great country-tinged song about soldiers returning from the current war and becoming part of society again) allow Tim Armstrong's songwriting ability to shine through in a way that no other musical style would allow.

"Let The Dominoes Fall" is destined to go down in history as Rancid's "comeback" album, though I disagree with this sentiment. This band never went anywhere (in terms of writing great music) they just remembered how to embrace fame in a very punk way.

Let The Dominoes Fall - 9 out of 10.
joshthevegan: (screamy)

I'm brain dead, you're brain dead. . . )
joshthevegan: (Bassy)

Come dance with me! )

September 2014

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