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The Broken Saints – When The Music Stops album review

Out there in the wonderful world of the interweb, there really isn’t a lot of information that you can find on The Broken Saints. Actually, the more I searched, the more I just wanted to give up and watch The Boondock Saints instead so I could see Willem Dafoe do a pirouette while shooting up south side Boston criminals. But I eventually came across an interview with them discussing the process of making their debut album When The Music Stops, and it included a couple of previews of some of their songs. Now my initial thought was that these guys reminded me of the Bacon Brothers; just two dudes who don’t have any real musical talent but are touring off of the fame of Kevin simply so they can get laid in different cities. But then I realized that neither of them was actually famous and that the uglier brother had just admitted the fact that he can’t write songs unless they are about himself. This is when I realized that these guys were actually worse than the Bacon Brothers.

From the opening track you realize how limited they are both musically and vocally. Neither of them happens to be blessed with a good voice and as a result you are stuck with horrible melodies and average at best harmonies. Each brother plays guitar in the band but unfortunately they play the same two chords in every song. All of this is okay if you are Bob Dylan and have excellent lyrics but not if you’re bringing Hanson quality Mmm Bop lyrics to the plate.

For instance in Nobody Else where he compares himself to a bird, one of them says “I don’t need nobody else, I don’t want nobody else, I don’t need nobody but you, the bird song came true”. Or there was my personal favorite in Scared Again, which I swear is about his childhood nightmares of the boogie man, in which he sings “Shadows dance across my bed, don’t go where the angels dare don’t tread”. Now don’t get me wrong, I realize that you can take any lyrics out of context and make them sound silly but I swear these are just bad poems from someone who watched St Elmo’s Fire one too many times. And honestly I can’t blame them; I can’t get enough of a young, hot, and horny Demi Moore myself. I just wish they had some vocal range to help mask the fact that you are listening to some of the cheesiest lyrics ever written.

Musically, Dreams Never Die and Open Your Eyes are the best of this 8 track effort because they finally infuse some piano into their songs. And thankfully they add a female voice in Eyes to help give a consistent melody but sadly it’s just not enough to save this album. It almost makes the 180 that you usually get in movies; you know, it’s so bad that it becomes comical and you end up liking it. But not quite. I checked their Myspace (yes Myspace) page and it says that they have been around since at least 2008. I just can’t imagine that it took them at least 5 years to come up with this album.

Sadly, when the music finally stops with these saints , you want to repent and claim that you will never listen to this album again. And yes I was channeling my inner David Caruso there; cue the cheesy  guitar music as I put on my shades.

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The Phoenix Foundation – Fandango album review

In the past, Australia and New Zealand were only known for a few random things. Australia was known for bringing to the globe kangaroos, Crocodile Dundee and a few banished British criminals. New Zealand was only noticed because it brought us their beautiful landscapes, The Lord of the Rings, and the fact that it’s citizens were the castaway bastard children of these same Aussie criminals. Ok, so I may have made that last part of up, but the point is both countries have come a long way since then and in that time they have brought to us The Flight of the Conchords, Cut Copy, and the Presets just to name a few.

Well while they aren’t there yet, I think that we can soon add The Phoenix Foundation to that growing list. You may have discovered them when they had their hit Buffalo off their 2010 release of the same name or you may have been down with them when they did the score for Jermaine’s Eagle Vs Shark in 2006. Either way, as a fan of theirs you will be pleased to hear that their latest effort in Fandango continues to challenge the band as both musicians and song writers. And it will also challenge you, the listener as they skillfully interweave the keys and guitars in their 5 piece band to take you on a weird psychedelic pop journey that goes from mellow to dancey to even a bit dark at times. Now I am not saying that these guys are the next Radiohead or anything; as a matter of fact they are pretty far from it. And when you listen to the first three tracks, you will be a bit underwhelmed in the fact that it sounds like your typical homeless indie band banging canned goods and stray shopping carts for instruments. But by the time Sam Scott is repeatedly yelling I don’t belong here at the end of Thames Soup, you realize that you are in for something good.

Following this, the album takes you right to Evolution Did, the most upbeat and danceable track on the record. So there you are figuring that these guys are going to be next MGMT and then Inside Me Dead starts up and you are instantly disappointed. It  initially comes across as your normal boring, slow, and uninspired track and then it surprises you mid song by switching to this dark moody number that sounds like the soundtrack to a western movie. Oh those sneaky kiwis! Corale may be one of my favorites as the band goes back to its movie score roots with an all instrumental track. But once again, at the tail end of the song they kick it up a notch by adding in distorted vocals that are accompanied by strong keys and distorted guitar.

From there the second half drifts off into the indie lost world where perhaps they smoked too much herbal refreshment but overall this is a surprisingly good album.  Keep The Phoenix Foundation on your radar as they may eventually be the best import from New Zealand since sheep wool and condoms.

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The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation album review

With the recent scary news of Kanye West encouraging Will Smith to get back in the studio, I think it’s evident now more than ever that pop music is in desperate need of a savior. And apparently Kanye thinks that he can fill this role because rumors abound that he will he name his latest album Yeezus.  Please, please someone stop him before he crucifies himself on stage like GG Allin threatened to do so for years.

Well before Kanye rises from the dead, there are a few bands that are lining up for the job and one of them happens to be The Wonder Years. Sadly though, I think that they will fall a little short as well. First of all, what is with the kids today and their lazy efforts when it comes to band names? Cossbysweater, The Wonder Years, Boy Meets World? I’m just waiting for the day when Night Court and Moesha are headlining Coachella. But I guess what matters most to their fans and for those who are just now discovering their music is not their name but the fact that they fill their need for a guilty pleasure.  This is why guys flock to the latest Fast and The Furious movie or girls watch Dirty dancing for the 1800th time; sometimes you just need mindless entertainment. And The Wonder Years do just that by providing you music that you expect to hear playing over a MTV reality show or during a party scene of a teenage romantic comedy.

That’s the problem with pop punk, it all sounds the same. Bands like Good Charlotte and Blink 182 are like batteries; when you through with them, you simply replace them with the next band that has too much product in their hair. So the next double A installment comes in the form of The Wonder Years and their latest effort The Greatest Generation.

It starts off with one of the album’s few bright spots in There There. Musically it’s strong as they finally mix up their sound a bit by not playing the same chord over and over again and Dan Campbell gives you lyrics that you can identify with by singing about being awkward and nervous. But it’s like they were going through heroin withdrawals and reverted back to what they are comfortable playing as soon as Passing Through A Screen Door begins.  Now to their credit, some of the lyrics aren’t bad. In Screen Door he questions the fact that he’s 26 years old and still single and wonders if he has made bad choices in life because all of his friends and relatives have wives and children. And then there’s Dismantling Summer where he is dealing with a loved one who is in the hospital and the fears that come along with the thought of losing them.

Now all of this is great but it’s a bit too introspective and depressing  for pop punk. These lyrics would be better served over twangy guitar with Taylor Swift singing them.  With punk music you want anthems that you can scream along too; something about anarchy, partying, and girls. The Bastards, The Vultures, The Wolves is the album’s best song and this is where you start to hear their true punk sound coming out. They punish you with heavy guitar in a manner that makes you feel like they are getting every bit of anger and aggression out of their system that has built up since their last album; and the song ends with Campbell yelling “I came here looking for a fight’. Now that’s more like it. However there are far too many low points in Generation; with the lowest coming in the form of Madelyn, an acoustic number. I don’t know why punk bands do this; there should always be distortion in their music. He tries to be punk rock by yelling “I don’t believe there’s a god, I don’t think there’s someone coming to save us” but then he follows it up with “I know your cold scars turn purple, I know how the Irish goodbyes feel”. I will mercifully spare you the rest but just know that with every song sounding the same musically there just isn’t enough lyrically going on to separate this album from the pack. I would say look elsewhere this summer to get your guilty pleasure fix.

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Cossbysweater – Cossbysweater album review

When I first heard that I needed to check out Cossbysweater, I was expecting a black hipster hip hop group that wore skinny jeans, not some cute and timid librarian rocking an acoustic guitar. But I guess The Cool Kids already have that market cornered so I should’ve known better. So upon first listen, I instantly brushed her off as the same musician that you hear in every coffee house here in Austin. It was background music that you only noticed when you were trying to steal an extra biscotti from the counter. But as I was searching for my organic sandals to wear while listening to it, I started to pay attention to the lyrics and was pleasantly surprised.

Cossbysweater is LA based singer songwriter Allison Goertz who as she describes it, writes nerdy love songs. Or as I describe it, nerd core folk music. Her album is a clever mix of songs inspired by quotes from The Jerk, stories from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and the game Dungeons and Dragons just to name a few. Some of the highlights include the opener Comedians where she sings about the comedians she’s in love with today. The song covers everyone from Pee Wee Herman to Louis C.K. and she even goes as far to say the she hopes to have her salad tossed by David Cross. If you’re not in love yet, just keep reading. There’s also the lovable song about the unlovable male subject in Everything’s Coming Up Milhouse where she softly sings about a loser whose “Flood pants cant keep his eyes dry” and who “knows what it’s like when doves cry”. Hey, in today’s European fashion, flood pants would get Milhouse all of the girls.

She’s also self aware of her hipster status in the song Open Letter (to myself) where she openly and honestly talks about how opinionated she is about the many mindless things our society is in love with today and how she is trying to change that about herself. This is the song that I personally connected with as it is something I struggle with as well. And maybe this is why I can’t fully endorse her as a great up and coming artist. I think I’m just jealous of the fact that she took my comedic style of telling barely funny stories and life experiences, put them into song with an average at best guitar, and has become successful. Meanwhile I’m a struggling blogger who has to look up the latest rates for Megabus just so I can travel. The albums clear highlight is Stagnant’s Fine, where she basically puts your heart in the pit of your stomach over a relationship that is tailspining. We’ve all been there and it’s sickening because there’s nothing you can do about it. And with her tender voice and the sad guitar that accompanies it, she brings back that awful feeling with each lyric. At least that’s what I think this song is about, honestly with her it could be about how’s she’s out of moves in her biggest D&D game to date. But I’ll go with the former description.

In the end, her songs are funny and indeed nerdy but I think it’s just a bit too gimmicky to have any true staying power. I would suggest scooping it up for when you’re having a bad day and you need a chuckle. But her biggest fans will be women because guys won’t be able to get past how cute she is. One way to get around creeper status of carrying around her picture, is to use her album as sort of an audible porn magazine that you can listen to while masturbating. Just a thought, not saying I’m going to do this or anything.

Cossbysweater album review

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No Age show review

I couldn’t hear for 2 days straight when I was dumb enough to rock out right next to a giant speaker while at a No Age show a few years back. They are notorious for playing a loud set, not quite as loud as My Bloody Valentine, but pretty darn loud I can assure you. And people just stared in awe as my ears literally fell off my head during their closer Sleeper Hold. Ok, so they didn’t really fall off, but I’m fairly certain I lost some equilibrium mid set from all of the noise that was ringing in my head, as my “dancing” immediately turned into swaying right when my body entered into survival mode. Since then I thought I was getting smarter with age but after this Saturday’s show, I’m not so sure.

No Age is currently on a tour where they’re playing random venues in each city they stop in. While in Austin, they played in this underground museum which is hidden somewhere deep in the east side of town; so unless you know a hipster with a monocle and a curly mustache, chances are you’ll never find it. Well lucky for me, I know a hipster or two that fits this description, so I was in the house. Just to give you an idea of the layout, it’s a giant abandoned warehouse that they have turned into a art space. It’s run by these borderline counter culture kids and it’s full of sculptures, videos, and paintings that they have made themselves; some of which are pretty interesting. They have weird live shows that are going on while you can check out their art. The main issue is that there is no central AC in this place, so unless a door is opened, you will instantly be covered in sweat. And that was the scenario this past Saturday.

I missed the first opener Coma in Algiers because I was at a party that paid homage to the poor man’s version of summer wear, jorts! That’s another story for another time but just know that there was free beer. I did however arrive just in time for Austin’s own alternative darlings, Ringo Deathstarr. They were fresh off of a trip from Tel Aviv where on their way back, they were apparently flagged as high risk travelers, and were temporarily detained while security took apart all of their equipment. So they had to deal with faulty instruments as they ripped through their grunge heavy set but thankfully they didn’t miss a beat as they had the crowd moving to Kaleidoscope and Some Kind of Sad, both of which are heavily influenced by Valentine and The Smiths. Right as they were about to play their last song, they asked the crowd if they were ready for No Age; and this led to some moderate yelling. The lead said that he couldn’t really hear us so naturally the hipsters yelled even softer than before, perfectly playing the role of too cool for school. I’ve been to a few too many shows in Austin where everyone is too busy “taking in the artistic experience” to allow themselves to let go and have fun, and sadly this hipster heavy crowd seemed well on their way to making it yet another one.

No Age however, came right out and after a short sound check went right into two new songs. Now I haven’t actually purchased their recently released new album An Object yet, but I have heard them play some of it live before and it sounded really good. So I wasn’t surprised at all that the crowd responded well to the new material. But what really caused the hipsters to put down their Lone Stars and start a mosh pit was when Dean and Randy destroyed their most popular song Teen Creeps! They immediately followed it up with Every Artist Needs a Tragedy and it was at this point I realized we were in for something special. Despite the unbearable heat in the place, the guys seemed to be enjoying themselves and were feeding off of the crowd’s energy. Quite a few of their new songs required Dean to get from behind the kit and play a guitar alongside Randy, which is a rare treat if you have ever seen them live. They played I Won’t Be Your Generator and No Ground, whose live performances were leaked online by Spin magazine a few weeks ago. But don’t let this throw you, the second Dean returned to the drums, it was vintage No Age.

It felt as if we were at a high school party because after about an hour into their set, someone said they had to end it a bit early because the cops were outside trying to shut it down. Now I don’t know if this was actually true or not but everyone ran out to their cars like the INS had just arrived! Given the fact that we were on the east side and there was about 200 hundred of us packed in a warehouse and covered in sweat, it felt as though we were illegal immigrants. Add to the fact that about 20 minutes before then, I forgot for a minute that I’m actually old and I proceeded to jump right into the pit! It wasn’t until I helped catch a kid in mid-air from his stage dive that I realized I was surrounded by all 19 and 20 year olds. And the kid I caught was a guy I met last year at a No Age show on the day of his high school graduation. I also ran into this same kid in the pit of a Japandroids show! What’s it say about my music taste, when everyone at the shows I attend can barely shave? Oh well, rock on No Age, rock on!