Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

F-Units-Reject on Impact

October 1, 2006

funitsBand Name: F-Units

Album Name: Reject on Impact

Best Element: Energetic, exciting pop punk

Genre: Pop punk

Website: www.f-units.com

Label Name: Self-released

Band E-mail: info@f-units.com

It has been a long time since a pop-punk band has come into existence and truly excited me. For the most part, the genre has gotten so old, stale and commercialized that there is just nothing to grab you and get you keyed up and dancing around.

Then I popped the F-Units Reject on Impact into my CD player, and that all changed.

F-Units are just a really fun band to listen to. There isn’t really anything new or distinctive about them- they are just really fun to listen to. It’s hard to describe their general sound without sounding cliché, but it is similar to a hybrid of Green Day and the Dead Kennedys- an odd mixture of old and new, to be sure, but definitely a cool combination of two time periods to create something that is not stale, but also not innovative.

It is just hard to not be excited about when listening to F-Units Reject on Impact. It is energetic balls-to-the-wall punk with catchy hooks and slick production quality. They have a definitive sound, which prevails throughout the CD, but never gets stale.

The highest point on Reject on Impact is the song “Lost in Space”. This song has hook after hook and just gets you amped up and singing along. It is a bit slower than some of the other tracks on this album, but it’s just so unbelievably catchy.

While F-Units’ sound is not unique in and of itself, they are just a really fun band to listen to. And isn’t that what music is really all about, when it all boils down? Just playing what you love and entertaining? This F-Units do this really well, and Reject on Impact would be excellent for a few, if not many, listens.

-Andrea Caruso

Sunshine131@gmail.com

Faster Faster Harder Harder-Clap Fall Run

fasterfasterBand: Faster Faster Harder Harder
Album Name: Clap Fall Run
Best Element:
Genre: Dance-rock
Website: www.fasterfasterharderharder.com
Label: n/a
Band E-mail: fasterhardermusic@gmail.com

There’s really nothing wrong with Faster Faster Harder Harder’s new EP Clap Fall Run. The only thing that’s wrong is that I’m reaching the end of my enjoyment of dance-rock. As it is with all trends that have certain set features (dance rock’s being the high-hat-heavy drumbeat) there comes an end or a breakthrough. I don’t think that this EP signifies either, but it’s hard to say what subsequent releases by FFHH will say about the validity of dance-rock’s staying power.

But I’m sure that they weren’t thinking about that when they wrote this EP. The boys in FFHH just want people to dance, and with those ideals in mind, this EP succeeds. The band is solid, with all the bells and whistles you would expect: adventurous bassist, cymbal-heavy drumming (although some interesting tom patterns do occur), Strokes-ian guitars, and a vocalist that commands attention with a tone unique enough but not grating.

This album is great to slap on to improve a mood, drive to, or dance to, but at a critical standpoint there’s just no new ground broken. But do you really need to break ground when you can throw down a bass-heavy crowd-pleaser like “Smith vs. Savage”? It’s all in opinion.

So if you want a good time, dial Faster Faster Harder Harder. They’ll hook you up with some awesome bass lines and dancing.

-Stephen Carradini

independentclauses@Hotmail.com

No iPod

No iPod

I don’t own an iPod.

There- I said it. Yes, by scenester standards I am now unhip, not “with it”, and musically illiterate, but it’s the truth. In fact, I don’t even own an mp3 player of any variety. I am a CD man. And instead of crippling my music listening abilities, as some would argue that living without the white ear plugs does, I would argue that the absence of Apple has enhanced my listening experience. By not having music with me every second of every day, I treasure music much more than the average hipster.

When I was a little kid, I wasn’t allowed to play video games- my wise parents made me go outside instead, and for that I am grateful. But whenever I went over to a friend’s house, all we did was play video games. In fact, at that time I probably would have told you that one of my favorite things to do was play video games, even though I didn’t physically own a console. The very absence of video games made me love them.

As I grew older, my parents let me buy my own video game consoles, and I was ecstatic. I’ll never forget my ridiculous love of the Super Nintendo I bought- I became a Super Nintendo connoisseur (in case you were wondering, I can still talk your ear off about the SNES). I loved it. I loved it so much that I got an N64, and I loved some of those games. We actually traded the SNES for a Playstation (I kick myself every single time I remember the transaction- you just shouldn’t sell pieces of your soul like that), and I became an RPG nut. But my love for RPGs wasn’t as strong as my love for the SNES. And because there were so many options open to me in the video game world, each new console decreased my love of video games. I had hit a glut in supply, and my demand dropped off because of it.

That’s the nasty trend I’m seeing in music-listening these days. People have become so used to having music with them all the time that the original, spastic, all-out iPod-commercial-esque joy that came with music has been lost. Music has become itemized in the eyes of listeners, and that’s a tragedy. Music has been an item for a long time in the eyes of the business world, but it’s a new trend that consumers see music as a line of text on a mechanical box.

One of the qualities of being an item is that an item is disposable. You don’t throw away CDs- you just don’t. They’re more than just items. You delete old iTunes purchases off your iPod when they don’t please you any longer.

I’m not saying that people don’t enjoy music any more, because they most certainly do. But the whole world has become single-obsessed. It’s rare that anyone listens to an entire album straight through on an iPod, because the ability to skip parts of songs, full songs, whole albums and entire bands is just too tempting. I guess it’s catering to our ADD mentality, but I don’t like it.

What I do like is coming home after a long day of no music and letting my stress melt away with some Hotel Lights or Meryll or Postal Service or Appleseed Cast. Because I haven’t experienced music walking to class, during class, during lunch, on the way to work, and during work, I feel revived and refreshed by good music. It’s like a reward that I made it through the day.

And another thing: I like the feel of putting a CD on the player and listening to it all the way through. Even if it’s a mix-tape (mix-CD just doesn’t have the ring), the effort put into it makes it much more than an iPod shuffle mix. It’s a real, tangible experience, the mix-tape. In short, I love the experience that music gives me. iPods jeopardize that experience. Will I eventually get an iPod? I don’t know. It is a handy traveling device….but I don’t travel enough to make the price worth it. I’ll stick with my CD book,CD player, and oversized, noise-canceling headphones.

Giveaway

Giveaway

It’s a pretty simple, really- you send us your name, mailing address, and shirt size, and we’ll send you some music. The first two people who get their name and mailing address to me will also get a shirt. If you want a specific type of music, you can specify genre. Otherwise, you’ll just get whatever we pick up. We may send you one, maybe a couple CDs- who knows. It’s just another way that Independent Clauses works for you. So e-mail independentclauses@hotmail.com and get your free stuff.

Candygram For Mongo-The Red Pill

Band Name: Candygram For Mongo

Album Name: The Red Pill

Best Element: Catchy lyrics and rhythms

Genre: Old school rock/punk

Website: www.candygramformongo.com

Label Name: none

Band Email: gsharp@candygramformongo.com

Tearing their way out of one of America’s most diverse cities, Los Angeles-grown Candygram For Mongo combine elements of music just as diverse as their hometown. With influences ranging from the Ramones and Chuck Berry to Motorhead and Tom Petty, the old school rock trio has found a unique sound and image in a time filled with guys in girl pants and men singing higher than their female counterparts.

The first key to Candygram’s success comes from the fact that they recognize their independence from mainstream radio drones. Proclaiming themselves as the answer for those who are weary of low key music coming from the likes of popular artists Jack Johnson and James Blunt, Candygram kicks off their album with a kickass rock song that will have you singing along by the end.

“The Kids Have All Gone Crazy” speaks for Candygram’s debut album The Red Pill with its catchy guitar lines, memorable lyrics, and high energy. Drummer Gary Sharp hammers out a fill straight into a springy beat while guitarist and bassist Johnny D. lays down a toe tapping rhythm himself. Singer and co-guitarist Tony Shea comes out with hoarse yet pure vocals that give hope that good rock vocalists are not extinct. Exposing his softer side in a dynamically smooth bridge, Shea goes into each chorus with his hoarse yell that will have Motorhead fans begging for just one “Ace of Spades!” exclamation.

The back-up vocals are spot on in each song of the CD, adding dimension to songs such as “Bleed For It” and “Happy.” Shea shines through on his own, however, in arguably the best song on the CD, “Girlfriend.” Being the only ballad on a

CD filled with fast paced and aggressively charged tunes, “Girlfriend” stands alone as the most chill song offered by Candygram. Offering up a look at the bands softer side, Johnny D. strums gentle acoustic chords while a beautiful downward progression of piano tumbles gently over it. Shea sings softly, slowly, “begging on his hands and knees” for a lost lover that makes the listener go straight back to the time they went through the same experience.

Previously mentioned “Happy” stands out on the album as a straight up punk rock song. With a repetitive and easy-to-yell-along-to chorus, “Happy” gives off a same-titled energy to listeners, flaunting some of the more complex intertwining guitar work and ending with a bang.

Everyone in Candygram gets to show their talents in “Intermission”, the only instrumental song on the album. Thumping in softly with a funky bass line,

Johnny D. paves the way for a funk guitar, building drums, and in essence, a perfect jam song. Had Candygram no self control, who knows how long this song could have gone on.

All in all, Candygram come off as a refreshing taste in a world of blandness.

Their fun songs, catchy lyrics, obvious vocal and instrumental talent, and recognition of who they are and their mission in the music world make them a band to keep an eye on in the future.

-Erik Williams

–EndlessCreed@charter.net–

Band Name: Cameran-A Caesarean

cameranBand Name: Cameran

Album Name: A Caesarean

Best Element: Good musicianship and production

Genre: Hardcore

Website: www.cameran.net

Label Name: Innocent Words

Band E-mail: info@cameran.net

Cameran’s sound will take you back in time about fifteen years – back to the days when Victory Records was all about screamy hardcore and angry lyrics.

For many of the tracks on A Caesarean, your ears will be attacked with brooding guitars and angry, violent screaming about the various things that piss them off. They have a message to convey, and they do well in coupling that angry message with an angry delivery.

This is not to say that there is no diversity to be found within their style, either. Just when you think Cameran is all about shouting their frustration with a myriad of injustices, they mix things up and give you “Headphone Music Op 001”, which is a very somber sounding instrumental. It is a slow and sensitive song, with strings that cry out to you. It is a nice break in the CD from the brutal screaming.

The production quality is very well done. In spite of the screaming and distortion, the sound quality of the record is crisp and clean.

It should also be noted that the musicianship on A Caesarean is remarkable for the genre. They are able to combine the thick, brooding guitar style with fierce screaming vocals without having the result being an assault on your eardrums. All things considered, this is a fairly easy album to listen to.

-Andrea Caruso

Sunshine131@gmail.com

Band: Branches-Grown in You

branchesBand: Branches
Album Name: Grown in You
Best Element: Creative songwriting
Genre: lo-fi indie pop/rock
Website: www.branchestheband.com
Label: Contraphonic
Band E-mail: branches@branchestheband.com

It’s always a pleasure to review something that is completely unique- and with Branches’ Grown in You, I can have that pleasure. Even though Grown in You technically falls under the lo-fi indie-pop genre, it’s 100% fresh.

How can something be completely fresh in this oversaturated music age? It’s all about the songwriting. Even though there are four members in Branches, it feels as if there are two, or at most, three. The sound isn’t minimalist by any standards- but it doesn’t sound full or crowded, either. The music here is immaculately conceived and performed.

Their instrumentation is unique as well- one quiet electric guitar with an effect somewhere between gritty and twinkly forms the basis of the songs, while a far-off pedal steel coaxes emotion out of the most harsh and unforgiving of electronic drum backdrops. The bass supplies a lot of melody in the sound, even carrying the lead in some songs (“All Appeal”). The ever-persistent vibes and bells add the most unique element of the sound, and Ben Schulman’s calm, even vocal tone caps it all off. When he does get riled up (“Loaded Guns”), his voice gets gritty and frantic, but most of the time he breathes a refreshing calmness into Branches’ nervous, neurotic backdrop. The entire album fits in one mood, which is refreshing in a time where the album has become marginalized in search of singles.

“Digital Dance” is easily the most memorable track here, with a soaring, wonderful guitar line and an amazing sense of tension and release from the verse to the chorus. The great part about Branches is that they’re so mature as a band that they don’t even need shift dynamics to shift mood. Most of these songs remain at a single volume, whether it be loud (“A Lot You Got To Holler”) or relatively quiet (pretty much the rest of the album).

Another highlight is the ironic “Bundled up in Covers”, which instrumentally is surprisingly cute and charming for Branches. Ben Schulman cancels out the twinkly-eyed happiness with disillusioned mumbles, coughs, and labored breathing in between sung parts. The song feels one way, but the vocals make it feel another- it’s extremely interesting and surprisingly engaging.

All this is to say that if you like indie-pop at all, you need to check out Branches. This isn’t your standard cute singalong, nor is it a neo-folk balladeer. This is a mature, restrained band that is making a specific, unique, incredible sound. No one’s out to be a guitar hero- this band is all about the finished product. This is lazy Sunday music- and it’s perfect for that.

-Stephen Carradini

independentclauses@hotmail.com

Eulogy: BoySetsFire

Eulogy: BoySetsFire

Earlier this month, it was announced that BoySetsFire, one of the bands that played a big role in shaping melodic-hardcore, broke up. After twelve years BoySetsFire never let up in their intense passion for music. They struggled deeply for a few of those years, just trying to survive as a band. They made several demos and EPs in a short while, including the EP Suckerpunch Training. This one EP could very well be the greatest extended play ever. It only contained three songs and was fairly short, but those three songs were so different from each other it is hard to not recognize them for their greatness. However, BoySetsFire still wasn’t making the impact they wanted.
Luck seemed to have found them when they debuted in 1997 with their first LP The Day The Sun Went Out. This put BoySetsFire on the map in the post-hardcore world and is now a classic political album. That was the thing that made them unique besides their music: every single song served a purpose. They all had meaning and most of the time the meaning served a political view or wanting to change something that was (and still is) wrong with the way the world is run.
They continued to produce epic music with After The Eulogy, which is widely regarded as the band’s premier record. So it seemed that BoySetsFire were poised to take the world on. They were about to have a major release on Wind-Up that held high hopes for the band, but Tomorrow Comes Today flopped. The severe debt got so bad for the band that they when they asked to be released from Wind-Up it was with no strings attached. For people on the outside looking in, it seemed like there was nothing for BoySetsFire to do but end their journey and leave a mark. After all, they had releases like The Day The Sun Went Out and After The Eulogy to look at as markers of true glory, so why not end things where they were?
However, that is not what BoySetsFire did. With a slightly tweaked lineup, BoySetsFire went through much hardship and came out with one final album, an album that may just be the band’s greatest yet. The Misery Index: notes from the plague years came out February 2006. It neared a whole hour long and continued the ways of the band by challenging the system and certain figures. But it was also was tinted with sadness, sadness that is easily understood.
They never gave a **** about what others thought of them. They never cared who or what it was; if it was wrong, they’d stand up against it. They were BoySetsFire, one of the best bands to grace Earth. They are gone now and no longer will they make music, but their essence will live on and people will still learn of them, grow to love them, be sad they aren’t together anymore, but know that the impact they had was profound and respect and love them for that.

-Ian Raguse

sputnikmusic.com

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of instrumental music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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