Sunday, January 1, 2006
Van Damage / Down to Nothing / The Geeks
The Championship, Lemoyne, PA
On New Year’s Eve I had to work open to close at my job at Pacsun with just one of my managers, which put me in a relatively poor mood. However, when I found out that there was an all-day hardcore-fest on New Year’s Day, my frown was turned upside down! Aside from making me use Sesame Street phrases, it also gave me a chance to try out my brand new Nikon D70s digital SLR camera. I had tried to use it previously at the Chameleon Club for an August Burns Red and Further Seems Forever show, but my failure to be able to do so is another story altogether.
The show started at 2, and I got there around 5 or so, presumably with a good 3 hours or so left of music. However, War Hungry, one of the headlining bands, decided that halfway to Harrisburg, they were tired of driving and decided not to come. Well, boo hiss to them. When I arrived, there was a band already playing, so I didn’t catch their name, but they seemed to be decent.
The next band to play was a straight edge band all the way from South Korea, called The Geeks. According to them, they’re pretty much the only straight-edge hardcore band there, being that everyone else listens to crappy music like j-pop. Korea’s loss is the American music scene’s gain, because they play some of the best posi-core around, and man, you should have seen those little skinny Asian guys jump around. They also happened to be the friendliest and most appreciative band I have ever seen play; stopping to thank the crowd and everyone who helped them along the way between almost every song. And to those of you familiar with the short barked choruses and quick breakdowns of traditional hardcore, you know how short the songs can be. Think 2 minutes tops. But pack the wallop of a pit bull, Chuck Norris, and a room full of angry tattooed kids into those two minutes and you’ve got the kind of hardcore I was subjected to.
The next band to play was a semi-well-known national band called Down to Nothing, with whom The Geeks were touring. They put on the same kind of crazed show as The Geeks, only the members of Down to Nothing were twice their size, not Asian, and very, very angry. As a general rule, American hardcore is full of fist-shaking, floor- punching, spin-kicking anger, while Asians stomp and yell with a smile. Down to Nothing play an impassioned version of music complete with sing-a-longs, positive lyrics, and plenty of breakdowns for the dancing enthusiast. They put on an awesome set, and the fact that I almost got jumped on and had my skull bashed in several times is merely an indication of a good time being had by all in attendance.
The last band of the day to play was Van Damage, a local favorite, who were also having their record release of their newest album. A bit gruffer and slightly less clean vocally than the other bands that played, they were clearly the crowd favorite. Their brand of hardcore reaches back to their roots and has a definite old school sound to it, with an intense stage presence to match it. I was constantly leery of receiving a roundhouse kick to the camera, which would have been far more tragic than one to the head. One thing’s for sure; all the bands that I saw play would have done Chuck Norris proud.
…And That’s When the Bricks Roll In
Bricks for Shoulders interview
Bricks for Shoulders is an aggressive hardcore band from NYC that just keeps getting better and better. Their brand new release [u]You Are, Therefore I Am…[/u] shows great improvements to their stripped-down hardcore sound and leaves listeners anxious for more. I got the chance to sit down (on the computer) and talk (email) Steven from Bricks for Shoulders. After the two of us figured out our holiday schedules, we finally got this interview. Enjoy!
Scott (IC): Ok let’s start out with your name, instrument, spark notes history of your band and your favorite touring food.
Steven: Hey I am Steven, sometimes they call me Stevie D, and I scream (?) and play guitar. Long story short, I used to be in a band called Prescott C, in which the whole two piece band came about. We were more on the Hum meets Helmet style and things began to fall apart. I moped for awhile and WAY too much anger about the crap that goes on in this world, and thought of BRICKS FOR SHOULDERS. Food? Shit, I eat anything I can get my hands on, but for the most part, it would have to be Fried Chicken from ANYWHERE!!!
Scott (IC): Bricks for Shoulders has an alternative set up (one guitar and drums). Why a two piece band?
Steven: Well, here is the thing. I bought a bass cabinet that was (makeshift) stereo-ed with a guitar speaker from our previous band. When that band faded, I tried out guitarist after guitarist, and bassist and so on…NOT ONE wanted to tour or could even play the parts exact…so I said “THE HELL WITH THIS!” and kept the way we are now. Plus, if you think about it, we’re 2 guys yelling and playing instruments like there are four of us. PLUS I HATE BANDS who have more members than needed and the lead guitarist is CONSTANTLY playing a frigging lead riff over the rhythm guitar part…WHILE THE DUDE SINGS!!! IT IS INCOHERENT!!
Scott (IC): What are your biggest influences musically?
Steven: There are so many bands that HAVE and STILL influence me. My all time favorite band is HUM. I love the atmosphere that they would create over heavy guitars and mono-tone vocals. Then there are stuff like Helmet, Some Day I, Far, Planes Mistaken for Stars, the Casket Lottery…it goes on and on. I do not want to bore the living doo-doo out of ya…YEEEEE HAW!
Scott (IC): Many of your lyrics seem to have political connotations. Do you consider BFS a political band and if so, what do you want the listener to get out of your lyrics?
Steven: I will be honest with you…I am not a political person, nor do I understand what that means. I mind my own business, and I stay alive. My lyrics deal with PEOPLE in general…these supposed mothers and fathers who neglect their children; their children playing with the SO CALLED “hidden” guns. Some songs I like to make fun of how people like to play “GOD” and do stuff like make turns without a turn signal. Do whatever they want without the thought of how it will affect the other person’s feelings. I also like to write about hypocrites. You know the “TREE HUGGING” musicians who write songs on their, ready for this? On their WOODEN GUITARS and DRUMS!!! Save the rainforest, while strum along. Am I ranting too much? Sorry…
Scott (IC) : Personally I would consider your latest album “You Are, Therefore I Am…” an amazing step forward from the first demo I heard. How was your experience in the writing of this EP different from the writing you have done in the past?
Steven: Well, I grew up a lot more, and I know that sounds weird, but I had more of an inspiration to work with. The recording process took forever, but after it was all done, and MANY of changes were made to the songs, we were very satisfied. I only regret not having it mastered…boo hoo me!!
Scott (IC): Who did the artwork for the album and where was the inspiration for that artwork?
Steven: My old drummer, Tom (who is on this record) and I love drawn out album covers, so we went with it. Some people may get it, but for those who do not, the man looking at his watch is the typical 9-5 guy, has no time to make his wife or kid happy, and hates commuting. The kid to the right of him is the YOUNG guy without a care in the world, and always speaks to his friends about how will NEVER ever become one of “THEM.” We all know later in life, we all do. Our friend Jessica did the rest of the artwork. She busted her ass on it, and we appreciated very much.
Scott (IC): When a kid comes out to see BFS at a local club what can they expect from your live show?
Steven: A whole lot of HOPEFUL whoop ass. I think people who have never seen us are in AWE that there are only 2 guys making a racket! Shit, I would.
Scott (IC): What are your touring plans in the coming months?
Steven: I think our label Far Between Records (www.farbetweenrecords.com) is setting up a small spring tour and a full extensive one in the coming summer time.
Scott (IC): Thanks a lot man, good luck.
You are thanking US?! I think we should be thanking you for are taking the time out of your busy schedule to help us out. Thank you Scott.
Allison’s Top Ten Records of 2005!
1. Thrice – Vheissu
This record is phenomenal from start to finish; there isn’t a song that I don’t like. It has an epic feel that was missing on Artist in the Ambublance, but isn’t quite as edgy and fresh as my favorite Thrice release, The Illusion of Safety. There are also myriad hidden references that only make the album seem more amazing and complex once you figure them out.
Standout Track: For Miles
2. Fall Out Boy – From Under the Cork Tree
While this record may seem to be nothing new to the music world, Fall Out Boy has evolved immensely from their last record, Take This To Your Grave. Not only are the song structures more complex, but the subject matter is handled in a more mature matter, though still retaining the biting and caustic lyrics characteristic of their work. I dare you to listen to this without wanting to sing along with every song.
Standout Track: Dance, Dance OR Get Busy Living, or Get Busy Dying etc.
3. The Number Twelve Looks Like You – nuclear.sad.nuclear
Wow. Nuclear.sad.nuclear took The Number Twelve Looks Like You into uncharted musical territories for the band. Unlike the last release, which was good, but could have been mistaken for records from any metalcore band, such as From a Second Story Window, or Into the Moat, this one expands their musical stylings greatly. The vocals are almost intelligible at times, while retaining their wild sense of abandon and force, and the music is reminiscent of the late emo greats Saetia. This is a very good thing. Evolution without sucking is rare nowadays.
Standout Track: Like a Cat
4. The Receiving End of Sirens – Between the Heart and the Synapse
I think that I’ve listened to this album approximately 293729837928374 times while in painting this semester. Approximately. And believe me, for me to not get bored with any one album for that long is saying something. Between the Heart and the Synapse has the same almost epic haunting undertones present in releases such as Vheissu and Co and Ca’s latest, Good Apollo , I’m Burning Star IV etc etc, yet has infectious choruses backed with solid and original musical stylings. A must have for any fan of excellent rock.
Standout Track: Planning a Prison Break OR Then I Defy You, Stars
5. Death Cab for Cutie – Plans
They’re Death Cab; I would expect nothing less than an excellent album from the mind and vocal chords of frontman Ben Gibbard. This time around, they added a bit more piano, but seemed to stick to the same basic sound as Transatlanticism. Some of the subject matter particularly touched me, like that of What Sarah Said.
Standout Track: What Sarah Said OR Brothers on a Hotel Bed
6. Copeland – In Motion
I’m not going to lie; I found Copeland’s last release, Beneath Medicine Tree, to be rather beautiful, but also rather boring. However, this effort is comprised of a nice mixture of up-tempo rockers and ballads of sorts that are easy to sing along with and relate to, yet make you go ‘aawwwww’ at the same time.
Standout Track: Pin Your Wings OR Choose the One Who Loves You More
7. Motion City Soundtrack – Commit This to Memory
The only song by MCS that I was exposed to prior to this were the two songs from their split with Matchbook Romance and The Future Freaks Me Out. Judging by the latter of the three, I was expecting this album to be solely danceable pop punk. I was wrong. The lyrics were much improved, and more tongue in cheek than the previous release, and the maturity was very evident, even in the musical style. While the happy go lucky edge was most definitely there, there was a much darker side there as well that gave the album depth.
Standout Track: Resolution OR Hold Me Down
8. Bright Eyes – Digital Ash in a Digital Urn / I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
Yes, I DO realize that there are two albums at number eight. But they were released at the same time by the same artist…so if you don’t like it you can…stop reading my top ten list. The first of these albums is a slight digression from Conor Oberst’s usual folksy style and delves into a much more polished and upbeat sound, while the latter of the two remains true to his typically lo-fi, heart wrenching acoustic stylings.
9. August Burns Red – Thrill Seeker
This band is a native of the Lancaster, PA area, which is practically next door to where I attend college, and just recently got signed to Solidstate and toured nationally with Bury Your Dead. They create a brand of hardcore similar to Dillinger Escape Plan or Norma Jean yet manage to make it their own. Thrill Seeker is a very strong debut LP from a very strong band that I predict will soon be on every hardcore fan’s playlist, if they aren’t already.
10. Circa Survive – Juturna
Anthony Green had almost certain fame and success within his grasp as frontman of the band Saosin and then DUHN DUHN DUHN he left the group to start another band. Saosin part II, aka Circa Survive. Don’t get me wrong, I love Circa Survive’s quirky indie rock sound with a twist of prog rock; however, I think I love them so much because they sound almost exactly like Saosin, with less edge. Anthony Green’s endeavors will always be unique, if only because of his distinctive voice, but enjoyable and almost accessible at the same time, which makes for a winning combination.
And since you all know it was painfully hard for me to choose just 10, here are the honorable mentions:
Minus the Bear – Menos el Oso
The Fall of Troy – Doppelganger
Nightmare of You – S/T
Panic! At the Disco – A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out
Between the Buried and Me – Alaska
Funeral for a Friend – Hours
Gatsbys American Dream – Volcano
And now, the section you’ve all been waiting for; the WORST records of this year, or at least the worst one’s I’ve bothered to listen to:
1. that one by Scott Stapp.
…ok ok, I admit that I haven’t listened to this one. I’m just assuming based on the atrocities that he’s released in the past that this one is utter shit. 311, Scott Stapp is ready to fight you for worst release of the year awards. But you failed to release a record this year, so he wins by default.
2. Weezer – Make Believe
This album was already created when my little cousin picked up a guitar, listened to an early Blink 182 album on repeat and tried to mimic the guitar parts, then added some trite lyrics about really liking some girl and wanting to have a bitchin’ car when he grew up…oh, and some ice to go along with it.
3. From Autumn to Ashes – Abandon Your Friends
Ok, I admit that I like one song on this album; the title track, which is also the only ballad and the very last song. I couldn’t get past 1 minute into any of the songs on this CD, so I will make that disclaimer that maybe if one was to listen to the last 2 or 3 minutes of every song, it might be a decent album. However, the first minutes of each song were enough to put me to sleep with their mediocrity.
Vic’s Top 10 CDs of 2005
1. Death Cab for Cutie-Plans
2. Latterman-No Matter Where We Go…
4. Rise and Shine-Anthems of Summer
5. The Gunshy-Souls
6. Jimmy Eat World-Stay On My Side Tonight
7. The Loved Ones-EP
8. Motion City Soundtrack-Commit This To Memory
9. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals-Cold Roses
10. Limbeck-Let Me Come Home
Top 5 Albums of 2005 – Zac
1. Coheed & Cambria- Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV
2. Manntis- Sleep In Your Grave
3. Bloc Party- Silent Alarm
4. Bob Dylan- No Direction Home: The Soundtrack (The Bootleg Series Vol. 7)
5. Beck- Guero
How to Say Goodbye: Bear vs. Shark (2001-2005)
I usually don’t do this for bands- in fact, this is the first band I have written a eulogy for while working for Independent Clauses. But Bear Vs. Shark is a band that truly deserves to receive a final salute.
Bear Vs. Shark was spawned in Michigan in 2001 and quickly became the cornerstone of Equal Vision Records. Their first full length Right Now You’re In The Best of Hands. And If Something Isn’t Quite Right, Your Doctor Will Know In A Hurry created a small, yet very dedicated fan base. These fans began to find that though Bear VS Shark put out a great recorded product, the true genius of the band could only be experienced through the live shows. Marc Paffi quickly became known as one of the most energetic and talented front men in the scene. He would frequently be seen jumping off stage into the crowd to crawl around on the ground or to find a kid to help him scream the final chorus of a song. While Marc went crazy in the crowd the band would always be steady as a rock and still having fun on stage.
During BVS’ lifetime they entered Harrisburg twice, once while I was in Europe and once while I was in Harrisburg (I got to see them then). They put on the best show I have ever seen. The energy filled the room and kept the entire crowd singing along and crowding the stage. I was even lucky enough to get to sing the final song of the set with Marc. The set, filled with songs from their final release Terrorhawk, provided the best experience I have ever had at a show. Bear Vs. Shark is a band that will be terribly missed in the underground scene. If you can find a video of a live show, buy it; even on video you will be able to experience the greatest side of BVS.
Band Name: Boss Tweeter
Album Name: I Was the MotiveEP
Best Element: Finally discovering their sound.
Genre: Fractured Indie-rock/Surf-punk
Label Name: n/a
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Every time I review Boss Tweeter, they have a new member. I reviewed a set of their first demos two or three years ago when they were a duo, and then last year they sent me their Disillusioned and Aware EP as a trio. This new EP entitled I Was the Motive sees them as a quartet. And as they have grown in numbers, they have grown in talent, as I Was the Motive is lightyears ahead of where they were in their last EP.
Boss Tweeter has always had their own sound- careening liberally between surf-punk, fractured indie-rock, and jam rock, they’ve never been quite sure of themselves, but they put it out there anyway. With I Was the Motive their efforts finally coalesce into a sound. They’ve dropped almost all of the jam influence of their sound and honed in on the fractured indie-rock/surf-punk interactions. The fervent, manic spoken word/yelled vocals that showed up occasionally on Disillusioned and Aware EP show up again here, cementing themselves as a genuine part of the Boss Tweeter sound. The two best tracks are the ones where Michael Ball rants in this spoken word/yell style- opener “Fashion and the Facsimile” and closer “Untitled”. These two brilliant tracks are explosions of vitriol and candor, sounding like the aural equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting. “Untitled” actually appears on Disillusioned and Aware as the best track- and it first perfectly here, showing just how all of their previous efforts lead up to this one.
“Hellbent” and “Path of Enlightenment” both focus more on the surf-punk side of the band, which is good, but not great. “Insomnia Jam” takes the passionate indie strains of “Fashion and the Facsimile” but puts sung vocals over it for a different take on that sound. “Failure at the Borderline” is the bridge between the indie-rock and the surf-punk- their nearly six-minute epic combines Weezer-esque surf vibes with a toned down version of the mad strumming and flailing of their earlier brilliance, making a song that is definitively Boss Tweeter.
I’ve always believed in Boss Tweeter, and they haven’t let me down yet. They’ve got a great, unique indie-rock sound going on, and they just keep getting better and better at it. Pretty soon they’ll be making waves in the indie scene- just you watch. They’ll say that they sound like the Pixies, but don’t you believe them. There is some Pixies, but this is all Boss Tweeter. Rant on, my men. Rant on.
Charts of ’05.
You may not know it, but a vibrant community is starting to grow in the General Promotions forum of Purevolume.com. Spearheaded by musicians who want to make friends rather than a buck, the forum has been growing immensely and continues to grow. Three posters have taken to making charts of their favorite unsigned artists- the first a submissions-based chart of bands, the second a submissions-based chart of songs, and the third a vote-based chart of songs. We post them now. Enjoy.
Independent Clauses’ Top Ten Unsigned Chart
Styles’ Weekly Top Ten Tracks
The Indie Spotlight’s Top 50 Indie Chart
Band Name: Coinslot
Album Name: Smile, Music Is DeadEP
Best Element: Extremely well-honed sound.
Genre: Ska-loving Alt-rock
Label Name: Silex Entertainment (www.silexent.com)
Band E-mail: email@example.com
I have to hand it to Coinslot- they have an extremely unique sound. They have effectively fused together ska guitars, funk/ska basslines, punk drumming, and an attitude-filled female vocalist on their latest EP Smile, Music is Dead. Their songs are dance-inspiring singalongs (occasionally screamalongs) that are always just a little bit left of center. There’s no denying their talent- but how it’s presented takes a lot of getting used to.
For example, “The Adventures of Nermal Jane” starts out with a ska-rific high-hat beat, upstroke ska strumming, and a funky bass line before transforming into a surf-punk inspired group sing-a-long, complete with “oy!” They then go back to the original sound to introduce the female vocalist who barks out vocals over the ska beat. The song transforms into a surf-punk song again for the chorus- later there’s a hand-clap breakdown, a Bobby Brown reference, male spoken word vocals, ambiguously gay references and more. The songs are all like this- hitting all over the map from the droning-to-stomping “Whatever the F*** I want” to intentionally absurd ska-punk “Peanuts and Car Exhaust” to the Red Hot Chili Peppers-influenced tracks “Monstrosity” and “Estrogenocide.”
These last two tracks are my favorites, as they take the inherent talent in this band and put it to good use. The first four tracks of this EP are fun, no doubt, but they have very limited replay value if you’re not in just a killer upbeat mood. “Estrogenocide” on the other hand, has ebb and flow, artistic touches, and great performances from every member in the band. From the punctuating, rapid-fire drums to the groove-laden bass to the boundary-pushing guitar sound (as opposed to the boundaries imposed on himself the rest of the EP) to the pointed, meaningful vocals, the darkest, most interesting track on the album makes me want to repeat it.
Coinslot knows what it’s doing. They’ve refined a very unique sound, and it’s ready to be unleashed upon the world. It’s up to you to decide whether you like it or not, but you can’t deny that Smile, Music is Dead is really, really good.
Band Name: Felix Culpa
Album Name: Thought Control EP/DVD
Best Element: Brilliant songwriting and exhaustive DVD.
Genre: Dark, emotive indie-rock.
Label Name: Common Cloud Records (www.commoncloud.com)
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I recently heard that The Felix Culpa won the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands. I wasn’t aware that you could actually win it- I thought it was all some sort of myth, pretty much. But no- The Felix Culpa actually won the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands, making them one of the best bands in America. For that, they deserve immense props.
But then again, they deserve it- they blow everyone else out of the water, and this CD/EP proves it. This band is everything you would expect in one of the best indie bands in the nation- exhilaratingly complex songwriting, beauty and crushing rock intermingling, ear-snagging vocals, jaw-dropping insight in their lyrics, beautiful art, and down-to-earth personalities to boot (any band that puts a section called “home videos” on their DVD with a disclaimer saying “we’re idiots” is pretty down-to-earth).
And they get it all done with three guys. Three guys. No wonder these guys took the crown.
Did I mention the exhilaratingly complex songwriting yet? The Felix Culpa aren’t afraid to do anything- they’ll make crescendoes that lead into sections of near-silence (stand out track “Commitment”), throw down raging sections of stomping rock (“Good Business Moves”), feedback and effects (“Commitment”, again), eerie melodies (the beginning of “Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body”) and anything and everything in between. This what rock music should sound like- diverse, dark, and deep. There’s elements of emo, rock, ambient, pop, and so much more, all piled into one mixture that is The Felix Culpa.
The Felix Culpa pulls from the deepest sections of themselves for inspiration, and it shows: the dual vocals burn with passion, whether yelling or whispering or harmonizing with each other. Both vocalists have great range and tone, making their interactions all the more exciting. Their lyrics graze clichés (“I’ll follow this until my legs give and my heart explodes/a course well run, a job half done”) but they make up for the occasional shortfall with thought-provoking gems like “My dear friend, if it’s really love you’ve found then hold it high and love it more even when it lets you down” (from “Commitment”) and “It’s getting harder to discern art from good business moves/as the poets auction off their best lines” (From “Good Business Moves”).
As if a brilliant EP wasn’t enough, their DVD is simply thrilling- packed with hours of stuff, there’s anything and everything you ever wanted to know about being a band. It’s not all glamour, they want to show: there’s a 3-minute music video that took them six hours to record, there’s footage of being bored on the road, weird places they’ve played, odd situations they got stuck in (Freddy’s Music Lounge is hilarious), and all sorts of stuff you really wanted to know about a band but never really got to know. They go through and do interviews with themselves, further giving insight. They joke around, they make faces at the camera, they play around in hotel rooms, they rock, they show pictures of their families. The Felix Culpa is a rock band that loves life, and they show almost all aspects of their life as a band and as people in their DVD. There’s tons of live footage, too- I’m not a big fan of live footage though. Maybe you are.
If you like rock today at all, you will fall in love with the Felix Culpa. I don’t care if you’re listening to Shinedown, Radiohead, Taking Back Sunday, Bear Vs. Shark, hardcore, acoustic-rock- you will find yourself loving the Felix Culpa. They are the epitome of good rock- the epitome of what IndependentClauses is trying to promote. They simply get it. May everyone else soon ‘get’ The Felix Culpa.