Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Deja Entendu Review

All bands have a strong point. Whether it be their lyrics, musicianship, overall style, or just something as simple making catchy music -- There is always something a band succeeds at. In the case of the New York group, Brand New, it is their raw emotion. They combine heartfelt lyrics and the sincerely desperate vocals of Jesse Lacey to create a dark, grim attitude that is at full force on their sophomore effort, "Deja Entendu". Through twelve tracks of bleak, yet brilliantly catchy music we're taken on a ride through the mind of Brand New. From heartbreak to utter despair, we're given no defense or sugar-coating from the uncensored emotion pouring through the speakers.

It all begins with "Tautou", a simple song that is thick with angst and heartbreak. Lyrically speaking, it's rather straightforward, but with the soft guitar and drums underneath the first taste of Lacey's voice, it perfectly sets the mood for the rest of the record. From there we're burst into the next and catchiest song on the album, "Sic Transit Gloria...Glory Fades". The flow provided by the slick bass line and basic drum pattern keep the song running at a quick pace while Lacey concisely sings lyrics of sex and desperation. While the verses keep consistent with the smooth flow, the chorus blows up into shrieks and displays some of the emotion that will become a trademark of the record

The faster moving songs like "The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows" and "I Will Play The Game Beneath The Spin Light" are prime examples of how Brand New provide something truly unique here. They masterfully craft incredibly catchy songs while keeping consistent with their despair. I never thought misery could be so catchy, but there is something addictive about screaming the chorus to "The Quiet Things..." when you're seething. Jesse Lacey never fails to provide his raw shrieks and yells with just the perfect tinge of rage and gloom -- But this could also easily be one of the downfalls of the album. The formulaic style to songs like "Jaws Theme Swimming" and "Me Vs. Maradona Vs. Elvis" can grow stale in a short time. They tend to follow the trend of starting at a creeping pace and exploding into loud bursts of Lacey's screams. It's repeated numerous times throughout the album and could have easily been its death had it not been for the strong lyrical content and great use of atmosphere.

The final two tracks of the record, "Good to Know That if I Ever Need Attention All I Have to Do Is Die" and "Play Crack The Sky" are the pinnacle of anguish on the record. Brand New proves that they have indeed transcended their rather immature debut album into a whole new area of excessively long song titles and expert song writing. "Good To Know..." is the longest track on the album, but doesn't lack substance like many lengthy songs do. The chorus is catchy, the lyrics are heartfelt and the music is a step up from the previous tracks with the wonderful guitar outro fading into the finale, "Play Crack The Sky". Lacey's vocals are at absolute perfection here and is accentuated by the slow rhythm of the acoustic guitar. The wonderful use of metaphors makes it one of the most lyrically impressive numbers, as well as possibly the best track on the album.

To go from a much more pop-punk sound on their debut record, "Your Favorite Weapon", to the depressed, sorrowful tone on "Deja Entendu" is one of the biggest musical leaps that a band could make. Brand New accomplished it seamlessly and earned a name for themselves in the music industry as well as developing an enormous fan base in the process, and rightfully so. "Deja" is an absolutely beautiful album in some parts, however formulaic it may become to a certain extent. To call it a masterpiece would be a stretch, but it is definitely a wonderful effort for a sophomore album. It doesn't surprise me in the slightest that they would move on to make one of the most well known albums in the genre . If "Your Favorite Weapon" was any sort of sign of what the band was capable of, then they blew that expectation out of the water.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Patent Pending Review

Heavens is a side project brought to life by Matt Skiba (known from Alkaline Trio) and Josiah Steinbrick (former F-Minus bassist). Together they decided to create something unique to their previous projects and it began with Steinbrick laying down some music for Skiba to do his magic with. The final outcome of all their work is their Ben Lovett produced debut album, "Patent Pending". The proposition was promising, sounding as if to have limitless potential with Skiba having a past of making great music with his main project, Alkaline Trio. Indeed what we're given is a great collaboration of moody, atmospheric songs that all feed off of the dark backdrops brought by Steinbrick's music and Skiba's morbid imagery.

The opener, "Gardens", quickly introduces us to the sound that will be consistent throughout the record's run time. There's the thick bass line that is soon joined by Skiba on the guitar and vocals. His lyrics are shadowy and mysterious, and work well with the music provided. As always, he uses clever metaphors and imagery to give the song substance and set up a dark atmosphere for the listener to get lost in. The same goes for the next track "Gardens", though it is one of the faster moving tracks (and catchiest) it stays constant with the grim mood, all of which are perfectly accentuated by Skiba's singing. The guitar is quick and concise while Skiba sings at a lower tone than expected, all of these things keeping up with what they were trying to do with the record -- Keep it moving and catchy, while still maintaining the atmosphere.

Skiba's lyricism is as dark as ever, bring forth sinister images of blood and death (which is expected) but never quite hitting the intelligence level that is to be expected from him. Throughout the record he provides solid lyrics, which works great in some spots, but we're not given anything spectacular. There are obvious strong points where his lyricism shines ("Dead End Girl", "Anabelle", "Patent Pending") and others where you're left with much to desire ("Heather", "Watching You"). For what we're given, this is still a lyrically solid record. The atmosphere is set up perfectly, often sounding wonderful along with Skiba's words, but in some spots it feels a little weak and underwhelming.

Matt Skiba has never had trouble creating catchy music, and this is no exception. "Dead End Girl" is a great example with its fast moving rhythm and eerie lyrics. Ben Lovett's contribution on this track is one of the highlights of the album with his clean singing and some great writing from Skiba. From that song we're taken to "Doves" a small interlude which felt mostly unnecessary to me, but isn't a bad listen. Another of the catchier tracks, "Another Night", is again constant with the mood of the album and uses wonderful imagery to portray vivid images of death and exasperation. The singing on this track is one of the better vocal points on the record, with it sounding crisp and clean and not quite as dreary.

The smooth, flowing pace of "True Hate" makes it one of the more addicting tracks on the record, as well as Skiba contributing some of his best writing. The words are simple, but the synth and bass keep the song moving at a steady pace which keeps you singing along. The final track of the record keeps in line with the previous with its prominent bass and one of the darker atmospheres on the record. Whenever I hear "The skeletons under the sun..." being echoed through my headphones I always get that perfect shadowy feeling that this album thrives on.

Throughout "Patent Pending", Skiba and Steinbrick show us that they have endless potential outside of their normal punk suits. They create a moody, shadow filled atmosphere that is full of some of Skiba's most morbid lyricism and some extremely catchy songs. While it is not nearly a perfect album, it is still a wonderful listen if you're in the right mood. Whether it be for a stroll at night, or just a smooth listen before bed, find a way to incorporate "Patent Pending" into your listening schedule.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Brother, Sister Review

While I myself am not a religious man by any stretch of the imagination, I always find myself running into more and more Christian bands that catch my attention. It began when I first started to expand my musical tastes with Underoath. Their album "They're Only Chasing Safety" was wonderfully catchy and had some great lyrics, but not once did it seem like the Christian themes were overly present. I was honestly surprised to be so interested in something that I figured I would dislike off the bat since I'm not exactly warm to the whole "religion" thing. From there I looked more into the genre and found some shockingly great bands, not all necessarily having the same style. But it wasn't until I fell in love with an album by Pennsylvania's mewithoutYou that I realized that the genre can be not only endearing, but absolutely beautiful with it's religious themes.

Even as somebody with an extreme disinterest in the ideals, I was immediately infatuated with mewithoutYou's third studio album "Brother, Sister". They take a step forward from their previous work and incorporate new sounds and instruments to add to the overall feel of the record which shifts speeds and intensity as quick as Aaron Weiss' singing does. Take the tenth track on the record, "In A Market Dimly Lit" for example. At first, it's simply Aaron weakly singing with various instruments softly playing in the background until just after he says "The needles worn the grooves too deep..." where the song explodes into cymbal crashes and Weiss shrieking. It catches you completely off guard but is perfectly done with Aaron doing some of the most impressive emotional singing to be heard on the record. Weiss' vocals sincerely display that raw anger and desperation many times throughout the course of the record.

The softer songs of the album can be referred to as the Spider trilogy since, obviously, they all refer to a different colored spider. Each of the songs are unique in their own sense, despite the fact that they all use the same guitar pattern. The accordion used on "Yellow Spider" is one of the many examples of the different instruments strewn in with the basic band instruments. There's trumpets, harps, accordions and pianos among the drums and guitar which makes each song unique in it's own way aside from Weiss' incomparable lyricism. He uses brilliant metaphors and several bible references in order to paint a picture that is never what it appears to be on the surface. On "O, Porcupine" is where you'll find some of the most memorable lyricism on the record. Aside from the catchy drum beats and guitar riffs you're given wonderful imagery and intelligent wording that Weiss shouts with the perfect amount of intensity and emotion.

"O' Porcupine low in the tree/Your eyes to mine/You'd be well inclined not to mess with me!"

The light rainfall heard in the background of the opening track, "Messes Of Men" immediately introduces a dark environment to the listener. The atmosphere is delicately accentuated by the slow guitar and Weiss' softly spoken words until finally the song breaks into faster paced guitar and drum and Weiss' volume and desperation increases. This song, unfortunately, holds most of the atmosphere on the record -- The rest relying on Weiss' singing and the music; which are both great in their own regards. This is only a small downfall of the record, although it does keep it from reaching a "classic" status with me. Had the atmosphere for the majority of the record been established more effectively it would have been an absolute masterpiece.

The album concludes on a strong note with "In A Sweater Poorly Knit". It takes everything that made the last twelve songs great and captures it in a single track. Weiss' lyricism is at top-strength here with more clever bible references and his wonderful use of metaphors. It ties back into the opening track with it's repetition of "I do not exist..." which if taken with the first lines of "Messes Of Men" it makes an intelligent reference and makes you think back to the start of the record, and always makes me want to start listening again from the beginning. Weiss' singing over the soft playing of the harp makes this one of the more musically beautiful on the record.

Whether you're heavily religious or a more spiritually laid back person, you will find something to enjoy on "Brother, Sister". Enjoy intelligent lyrics riddled with metaphors? See "The Dryness and The Rain". Enjoy atmospherically dark and intense music? See "Messes of Men". Enjoy impressive musicianship and incorporation of various instruments to create a wonderful backdrop? See "In A Sweater Poorly Knit". Enjoy all of the above? See mewithoutYou's album "Brother, Sister". It will be one of the best post-hardcore listens you'll have and will have you enjoying it for hours upon hours.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Here, Hear. III Review

La Dispute's shockingly brilliant first release, "Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega and Altair" made a substantial impact on me -- And I wasn't the only one. With Dreyer's wonderful writing and passionate singing he captured the attention of many hardcore fans and even some people who weren't too interested in the genre (Me). In no time I was pining for more of the band. I searched to see if they had any earlier material, and to my surprise they actually had three EPs released, "Here, Hear. III" being the freshest. With eager anticipation I quickly nabbed it from the site. I was excited to hear more of the hardcore greatness that I heard on "Somewhere...", but to my surprise what I heard was something completely different.

Within seconds of listening to the opening track you'll notice that the sound is a massive step in the opposite direction of what we've come to expect since "Somewhere...". "nine" begins with the slow sounds of a soft breeze and dull synth, creating a dark and soothing atmosphere. Once the first strum of the guitar comes in, we're introduced to Dreyer. He's replaced the whiny wailing we've grown accustomed to from his last effort with a smooth, breathy tone which contributes to the songs tranquil mood. The song flows along, increasing the volume and adding more sounds while we hear that Dreyer hasn't lost his touch as a writer. He gives such vivid imagery while at the same time maintaining the sad, dark vibe established by the music in the background. This song could easily trump one of the weaker songs on "Somewhere..." with how well the atmosphere is created and held.

"We'd throw our bottles from the rooftops/At this city - it looked endless/Guess I still don't see the difference between real purpose and that urgent adolescence"

"ten" is another tranquil song, being carried along by an acoustic guitar and Dreyer's spoken words. On the first few listens this song sounded slightly corny, but it grew on me. Something about how it progressively grows more intense really captures the essence of La Dispute. They maintain a slow, quiet mood until the final verse where the electric guitar makes it's appearance and we're given Dreyer's desperate screaming once again -- And it works to absolute perfection here. It exposes what the beginning of the song for what it is with it's repetition of "It doesn't bother me at all" -- It's a clever twist on the lyrics by showing that the first few verses were actually the faux thoughts of a desperate man. The style in which this is done is so beautifully clever that it almost catches you off guard when the screaming kicks in. It feels like a quiet, peaceful song; And then in no time it's a passionate plea for help.

"eleven" is a slightly faster moving track, but the desperation is still present. Dreyer sings quickly with his slightly whiny voice as the solid lyrics progress with the guitar. It's not quite up to par with the previous two tracks, but it's still an enjoyable listen. "twelve" is a surprisingly poppy song, with it's high-pitched guitar and Dreyer singing slightly above the droning tone from the first two tracks. The lyrics are soothing and beautiful, and match great with the tone that the music develops.

When looking back at "Somewhere..." it's hard to think that La Dispute could make such a drastic change of tone here. They went from fast, intense music to slow, passionate songs that perfectly show how skilled they are at creating vivid atmospheres. There are few things to dislike about "Here, Hear. III", with Dreyer creating some of his best work. They show such great potential as a group and I have no doubt that they'll keep up the trend. Some fans of their previous album may be confused upon first listening, but it takes little time to adapt and appreciate the change.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Maybe I'll Catch Fire Review

Alkaline Trio's first studio release, "Goddamnit", established their sound as a band. With their aggressive pop-punk style and intelligent lyrics they captured the attention of fans of the genre and began to form a fan base. It was difficult to think of how they could follow up on such a huge success, but they returned two years later with more shades of crimson and black with "Maybe I'll Catch Fire". They bring back the same formula of anger and alcohol to present another successfully catchy and well-written album with a bit more polish on it than their previous.

The key players of the first record return here with Matt Skiba on guitar, Dan Andriano on bass and Glenn Porter (This being the last album he would record with the band) on drums. As expected, the album is balanced with a mix of sharp, clever songs of spite and anger, and emotionally charged numbers which excel with the atmosphere they create. Skiba provides many of the spiteful tracks, keeping on track with what he established in "Goddamnit". With songs like "Fuck You Aurora" it appears that he's mastered the craft of catchy hatred. His grim vocals set up a dark subtlety which go hand-in-hand with the lyrics.

"Letters meant to be sent have been torn/The phone lies off the hook on the floor/All these I'm sorry's and I miss you's are useless/I fucked this one up long ago"

The sludgy sound of Dan's bass is ever-present throughout the record, being perfectly displayed in his song "You've Got So Far To Go". His clean singing and unique storytelling really display his progression from "Goddamnit". The lyrics are a little less whiny and a lot catchier. The title track, also belonging to Dan, is a precise representation of Alkaline Trio as a band. There's the morbid imagery shown through the lyrics, quick and repetitive chord changes and the overall dark feeling brought from Dan's droning, but crisp singing.

The raw sound used on their previous album is still here, but the production quality has been upped to find a good balance between scratchy guitar and clean singing. Take a song like "Tuck Me In" and you'll hear the swift guitar playing still fills your speakers with distortion, but doesn't overwhelm the track. This was a step in the right direction when it comes to listening pleasure, but maybe a step in the opposite when you're wanting to let loose and snap your neck when you're jamming in the car.

Matt's lyricism has always been his strong point, and his writing on this record is no different. He spices his songs with clever metaphors and wonderfully dark imagery, making him one of the best lyricists in the pop-punk industry. On "Sleepyhead" is where you'll find some of the vivid and disturbing imagery on the record. The way he wails the lyrics only adds to the atmosphere, making it one of the best on the album.

"You're scratching at itching/Brought by spiders beneath your skin"

When it comes to conclusions, Alkaline Trio brings the best. "Radio" is a slowly accelerating, emotionally drenched number which perfectly shows you how incredible Skiba's writing is; As well as his spot-on singing with which he portrays his feelings beautifully through his intensely passionate wails. As the song builds up, his singing becomes more ferocious until finally it comes crashing in with guitar and cymbal pounding in the chorus. The anger with which it's presented makes it perfect to shout when you're heart-broken and full of rage. Definitely one of the Trio's best.

"I've got a big, fat fuckin' bone to pick with you my darling"

"Maybe I'll Catch Fire" is the epitome of what emotional punk should be. A haze of heavy guitars, smart lyrics and passionate singing. Through ten tracks we're shown the potential of a band that can create a wonderful first album, and then a follow up record that is on par with it. Rarely does it lose momentum, but when it does it in no time accelerates back to the catchy punk greatness that you'll be infatuated with by the end of the album. A must have for any Trio fan, and anyone who enjoys high quality pop-punk music.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Goddamnit Review

One album I will always associate with pop-punk greatness is Alkaline Trio's first studio release, "Goddamnit". The band's lineup at the time of recording was Matt Skiba, Dan Andriano, and Glenn Porter (Who would later leave the band). Together they created a thrashing, catchy and raw album that caught the attention of many with its intelligent lyrics, speaker shattering guitar work, and addicting choruses. Although the record is relatively short, coming in just over thirty minutes, it's full to the brim with everything you'd expect from a great punk album and more. Sit down with your expectations high -- Or maybe even a head full of anger and a shattered heart for an intensified experience -- and be ready to experience Alkaline Trio at their best.

The opening track, "Cringe", wastes no time with a subtle introduction. Within seconds we're plunged from silence into a delicious mess of guitar, bass and drums. How better a way to start an album then immediately diving into the grungy display of Matt's scratchy vocals, the quick, but repetitive guitar work and Dan absolutely shredding on the bass? This would soon be known as the Trio's formula for each catchy song they've produced over the years and it works fantastically throughout all of "Goddamnit". From there we're taken to our next number which begins appropriately with police sirens, pounding drums, a great bass line and a distortion-laden pick slide. "Cop" is another quick, addicting song which again shows how great the Trio are at what they do. Matt's voice is clean and sings his ever-clever lyrics with an intense anger that he performs so perfectly. This style is repeated numerous times throughout the record, but never once does it feel stale. It's always an invigorating listen, especially when you're angry and feel like screaming at the top of your lungs, the Trio has a style with angry songs that is always flawlessly executed.

Among the fast-paced angry numbers there are also the emotional tracks, which are just as good, if not better in their own respect. "San Fransisco" shows us Skiba at his best. The heart-wrenching lyrics about his homesick feelings for his hometown give us an insight to his emotions that is rare to see so vividly in music today. His voice is just the perfect intensity to show how truly heartbroken he is and how raw the passion for what he's singing is. Skiba appears with another emotional song on the album's acoustic conclusion, "Sorry About That". Here we're shown again that Skiba has a soft side outside of the songs about drugs and anger. The vocals are flawless once again for what he's singing. He really has a way with letting his emotions flow out through his music.

I'm of course not forgetting another key player in Alkaline Trio's success on this album. Dan Andriano is ever-present with his gruff bass shredding on each fast-paced song, giving us wonderful ear candy when he's not being drowned out by Skiba's relentless guitar. He first appears as vocalist on his slow, emotional number, "Enjoy Your Day". Although this track slightly dulled the pace that was set up by Skiba's previous tracks, it is still a great, emotionally vivid track. Andriano, much like Skiba, wonderfully portrays his emotions through his singing. Each note stings with an obvious sadness that only Andriano could make you feel. The next track we hear him on is his faster number, "Message From Kathlene". Though not as emotionally effective as his last, this is still a solid track; His bass prominently appearing with a sweet line throughout.

During the course of the album we're shown Skiba's intelligence as a writer. He gives us wonderful metaphors (Mostly focusing on drugs and alcohol) and witty quips which set him apart from many of his punk competitors. On songs like "My Little Needle" and "As You Were" he gives us the insanely catchy rhythms along with his clever writing to create some of the best tracks on the record. On the other side of this, Andriano's writing isn't nearly as cryptic but is still effective in it's own regard; though you can't say he had as much of a chance to have an impact with only 2 tracks to himself.

"I'll come down and get you high/Or maybe sing you a lullaby/Sing you to sleep, a sleep you'll never wake from/Sing you to coma so to speak"

For the Trio's first full release this is an absolutely superb effort. We're served wonderfully rough, emotionally fueled songs from start to finish. It has an almost unstoppable pace, only losing momentum a few times along the way, making this an album to easily become entranced in. This will remain one of my favorite pop-punk albums available and would highly recommend it to anyone who is at least slightly interested in intelligent writing, gruff music, and of course those ridiculously catchy rhythms.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Positives Review

Having been a fan of The Starting Line for some time, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that their lead singer and lyricist, Kenny Vasoli, had moved on to a side project of his own. I was expecting more of the intoxicating pop-punk I had grown to love from his previous work, but to my shock what I got was a wonderful step in the opposite direction. Indeed, Vasoli took away his pop image and replaced it with a crisp new indie sound. Person L is of course this new offspring that I'm talking about and on their first record, "Initial", they properly displayed that they were a unique force to be reckoned with. They brought a solid collection of enjoyable tracks all of which were perfectly accented by Vasoli's ever-clean vocals. However, on their sophomore effort, "The Positives", they polished and improved this sound for a great collection of songs which perfectly encapsulate what they were attempting with their first effort.

The first thing to be noticed about the record is that it could easily be split into two different categories. The slow, relaxing songs ("Stay Calm", "Hole In The Fence") and the quick moving, rock songs ("Goodness Gracious", "Loudmouth"). This is not to suggest that this album is formulaic in any sense of the word. Quite the opposite, with each song sounding unique to the last. Of course Vasoli's vocals work great for each -- From his slow and concise, almost spoken, words on the lurching track "Changed Man" to his passionate shouts on "Untitled", he never falters in his delivery.

It could easily be said that Vasoli's singing is the highlight of the album, but I believe the beauty lies in the music of the slower songs. On tracks like "Hole In The Fence", the smooth guitar riffs have a soft, relaxing feel underneath the words of Vasoli; the instrumentals alone could put me to sleep. This is one of the aspects that drew me to them from their first release, it feels so natural and effortless when the snare is softly being hit in the background and the guitars seamlessly flow with one another -- But the soothing effect of the slow-paced tracks aren't the only appeal to be found here.

Along with the swaying sounds of rhythmic guitar riffs we're served a couple faster songs here and there, and even a few hard rocking songs mixed in. "Goodness Gracious" gives us the first taste of delicious distortion and Vasoli's vocal range is displayed again, switching between singing crisply and shouting with a passion. This style is shown again on "Untitled" where the first shout of the song gave me a slight shiver with how intense it sounds, and it only gets better with increased volume, as is the same with many of the songs.

The only slip up I feel to talk about would lie in the lyrics. Though most of the music is enough to make the songs enjoyable by themselves, the lyrics sometimes feel like they're lacking substance. Usually they are simple and effect, but in songs such as "Stay Calm" the creeping effect is enough to reel you in, but the lyrics leave me feeling like there is something more to be desired. This is only a small nitpick of mine, and it does not take away from the overall merit of the record; However I do think it keeps it from hitting that point of total greatness.

For the conclusion we have quite possibly the best track on the record, and one of Vasoli's best. "I Sing The Body Electric" is incredibly relaxing with it's smooth guitar riff, Vasoli's voice and of course the best lyrics on the record -- All but the latter being the formula for greatness on previous tracks that has been perfected here, making it the most memorable track for me. This is indeed the perfect end for "The Positives", it feels like a summary of all that was trying to be said on previous songs has been encompassed in seven minutes of tranquil listening.

"The Positives" is a never failing display of Vasoli as an artist. He, and the rest of Person L, present twelve tracks of unique, well produced music that is more than worth a single listening. Fans of The Starting Line may initially be taken aback by the swift change of style for him, but will appreciate the craftsmanship put into this effort. Is it perfect? Not quite, only falling short in a few categories, but it is indeed a wonderful listening experience and I encourage you to check this out, along with the band's first release "Initial". And, of course, there's always the savory pop goodness of The Starting Line to introduce yourself to.

Friday, March 5, 2010

...Is A Real Boy Review

Max Bemis is an artist who deserves respect. If not just for his passion for the music he creates, but for the amount of effort put into his band's sophomore record "...Is A Real Boy". Though, Bemis would consider this to be their first creation, for he basically shuns his first effort, "Baseball". Onto the record at hand, Bemis takes his position as head of the operation -- Playing every instrument you hear except for the drums, which are put down by Coby Linder. Through the process of recording, Max was under an immense amount of stress and anxiety, brought by his marijuana abuse and obsession with making this record a masterpiece. The product of this obsession is certainly something to be proud of, to put it lightly. We're presented with Bemis' greatest effort to date, and one of my personal favorite albums of all time.

"And the record begins with a song of rebellion..."

As the opener of the album we're given "Belt", a strong track about rebellion against set boundaries. On top of that, we're given the first taste of Bemis' brilliant writing. He uses fantastic vocabulary and imagery to guide us through the varying tales told by each song. The singing has just the perfect intensity to show us he means business, but not once does he dive into pure screaming. It makes you feel as if there is a bubbling anger deep inside his gut, waiting to explode out through your speakers, but he saves that for later. That, I believe, is what makes this record so beautiful. The subtle, yet blatant anger is so wonderfully done that you can't pick out when he's furious, or just using a normal singing voice. The themes suggest he is seething, but the way it is served is interestingly calm, yet intense. The perfect example of Bemis' fury comes from the song "Chia-Like, I Shall Grow". If there is one song to listen to show his belligerence toward his foes, it is this. He is fully prepared to take on everyone, saying himself that he will spare no one.

"Sun, I won't spare/Moon, I won't spare you"

A critical point to address when creating a record is whether your music will have a long-lasting appeal. I've listened to this album for over three years, never once tiring of it. The way that each song is unique to the last has always struck me as wonderful. Listening to "Woe", a catchy song about letting loose the words suffocating your mind, and then listening to "The Writhing South", I get two completely different vibes. There is such an incredible balance of songs, which is unfortunately rare to hear, that you have to respect them for not attaching themselves to any pre-determined formulas. This, I believe, keeps them well above their, dare I say, mainstream competitors; as well as helping this record pass the test of time.

As the first single of the record, we have "Alive With The Glory of Love". An engaging love tale that takes place during the holocaust. Here, Bemis takes that intensity found in previous songs and transforms it into a passionate howl letting everyone know that nothing will stop him. The crashing drums and quick guitar really help portray the message about his unstoppable affection for whomever he may be singing to -- And of course the inspiring lyrics, once again sung perfectly by Bemis make this song one of the most addicting and memorable on the album.

"Our Treblinka is alive with the glory of love/Treblinka, alive with the glory of love!"

From there we are taken to the perfect mix of synth and guitar with "Yellow Cat (Slash) Red Cat". The rhythm is smooth and flowing, making it one of the more relaxing tracks to be found on the record. The lyrics are intelligent and descriptive, telling us the tale through the eyes of one man, observing the world around him. This may be the best song on the album, the way Bemis is able to tell depict each of the characters in such a vivid way is incredible; as well as how he builds the song up, having it on the verge of full explosion, but slows back down just before the moment of impact.

"These are my friends/This is who they have been for always/These are my days/This is how they stay"

Before we are led to believe that Max is the angriest man on the face of the planet, we're given a soft, romantic song. "I Want To Know Your Plans" is a sincere, heart pouring song, and another great display of Bemis' wonderful writing. He makes it honest and loving without making it a suffocating love song. But, of course, before we begin thinking he's gone soft on us, we're given "Admit It!!!". Quite possibly the most bitter song about the music industry to be produced so wonderfully. This is the song that made me really appreciate this album. The uncensored honesty that spews from Bemis here is one of the most impressive encapsulations of emotion I've heard in a song, as well as one of my favorite conclusions to an album. This song itself is enough to get you to listen to this album, just for the epic value of the last track.

"Go analog baby!/You're so post-modern/You're diving face-forward into an antiquated past/It's disgusting, it's offensive, don't stick your nose up at me!"

"...Is A Real Boy" is an album I will have endless praise for, as well as the man who produced it. Max Bemis creates one of the most memorable albums to be produced for the indie, pop-punk genre. That is indeed a bold statement, but I believe it to be true. The ride you're taken on while listening to it really brings a sense of awe once "Admit It!!!" ends. The thought that one man alone wrote such genius is really something to applaud. I could sit and talk about the timeless factor this has, and every song in it but instead I will say this. "...Is A Real Boy" is most definitely worth the 58 minutes you'll give to listen to it, and the many hours of repeated listening after that.

"Proud of my life and the things that I have done/Proud of myself and the loner I've become"

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

This Addiction Review

Since the release of their 2008 record, "Agony & Irony", Alkaline Trio has undergone several changes. The punk group originating from Illinois have taken on their own record label, Heart & Skull, leaving behind their major label, Epic, as well as making a so called "Return to roots,". Whether this self-proclaimed resurrection of past styles is legitimate or rather a ploy to bait in older fans lies solely in the music of their newest release, "This Addiction". There was plenty of build-up for the album, vocalist and guitar player Matt Skiba stated several times that this record would be reminiscent of their earlier work. They even went as far as to return to the recording studio used for their first full length album, "Goddamnit". Is this truly a return to punk glory for the trio? Let's observe their latest creation.

As the album starts we're immediately introduced to the first single of the record, also being the title track, "This Addiction". This is the quintessential song to show the bands (Somewhat) return to their former sound. It has everything you've come to expect from Skiba -- Drug metaphors, catchy rhythms, and some simple guitar chords to string it all together. There is no denying this song's catchy factor; It's simple and addicting (pun very intended). Along with that, it also shows Skiba's repetitive and dare I say laziness as a writer on this album. The drug metaphors are nothing new -- Any Trio fan having come to expect them -- But these lack the cleverness we've also come to expect from him. This is seen once again on the third track, and Skiba's second of eight songs on the record, "Lead Poisoning". Besides it's sickening catchiness, and the surprisingly great use of a trumpet, this song is nothing special. Using the common broken-hearts, bitterness, and death filled lyrics to a catchy rhythm that can be found in almost any Trio song to bring forth an almost solid track; If only the lyrics had a bit more substance.

"Sobbing softly, lost and hollow/This fevered dream, tough pill to swallow"

The way I've introduced this has brought us to a shaky start for the record, but it's not all bad news. In fact, there are indeed some solid tracks delivered by Skiba. The fifth track of the record, "The American Scream", is a good song about a soldier's suicide after his return from Iraq. This is possibly Matt's best on the album, portraying the situation successfully with his descriptive lyrics. The next Skiba song that caught my attention sounds as if it could be a missing track from his side project, Heavens. "Dorothy" is incredibly reminiscent of "Anabelle" from Heavens' 2006 release "Patent Pending". I suppose you could say that about just any song by the Trio that includes a female name in the title, though.

I feel like I'm missing out on something here... Oh yeah! Dan Andriano! He's on the record too! With a whopping three songs out of the eleven on the album I almost forgot about him. Though, that isn't to say that his songs were forgettable -- In fact they were far, far from that. Andriano presents some of the best songs on the record, and I hate to admit it, but I don't think the album would have been half as good without his contribution. The second track is where we first hear Dan on lead vocals. "Dine, Dine My Darling" is a catchy song with good lyrics and, of course, Dan's wonderful vocals. He sounds consistently crisp throughout the record, which is refreshing with eight tracks of Skiba's not-so-savory pipes. Four tracks later Dan shows up with "Off The Map", another great song which has seamless flow and is one of the catchier tracks.

"I loosen my lips and the truth slips out/A free ride on a forked tongue/This twine of trust is unspun"

As the conclusion, and best song on the record, we are served Dan once again. "Fine" is possibly the best song Dan has written thus far. The ability to make a song extremely emotional, cleverly written, and catchy all at once is something that the Trio has perfected. Of course, you must compliment Andriano's vocals once again, showing that he is indeed the star of this album. It gives us a wonderful conclusion to a record that I was iffy about during the process of listening to, almost redeeming some of the mistakes on earlier tracks. This will no doubt be a fan favorite, and will be on repeat for me for quite some time.

"If I'm the captain of this boat then all my shipmates are fools/And all the stars in the world couldn't help me steer my way out of this kiddie pool"

I'd say this is a decent record at best. There are blatant weak spots brought by some of Skiba's weakest writing thus far -- And there are some high points, brought by a few Dan songs and the addictive factor of Matt's. Is this a return to former glory? I wouldn't say that at all, but it's a definite nod to their older material. It's a fine effort, but not quite up to par of what the band is capable of. Is it worth your money? Yeah, I'd say so. It has plenty of catchy songs and singalong chorus' to keep you humming them for a while. For older Trio fans, I'd say check it out. And, of course, if you've never listened to the Trio before. What are you waiting for? Seriously.