The Vaccines’ first album scratched an itch I didn’t know I had: hooky, buzzy, speedy rock that fell between pop-punk and pop-rock. Since finding what I didn’t know I was missing, I’ve been loving the style ever since. (I must sadly admit that I am remiss in not having checked out their recent follow-up yet.) So it was with great joy that I came across Automotive High School, which plays a similar brand of hooky, buzzy rock.
The band’s Demo 2 kicks off with the perky “Look. It’s Gone.”, which marries playful verses to a driving, insistent chorus. The high vocals and treble-happy guitars in the former section both give off a charming vibe, which turns ominous and desperate for the chorus. They nail the transition between the two moods, as well as making each chorus feel a little more dark than the last. It makes for a striking tune that grabs attention. “Wonder Sings” ratchets up the playfulness, with the lead riff sounding like a children’s sing-song melody being blasted through a Sleigh Bells speaker. Closer (I know! I was sad too!) “Planks” is more like the first tune than the second, sticking to a mid-tempo romp vaguely reminiscent of Menzingers’ unusual quiet/loud structures. There’s still a bit of sing-song in the vocals, which works perfectly here.
This three-song demo couldn’t have piqued my interest more. I want to hear more Automotive High School, stat. If you’re into loud, fun, buzzy rock, you’ve got to hear this band.
The Devil’s Sunday Best is a acoustic-based pop-rock band from California. Their Time Bomb EP features incredibly solid songs but lacks a cohesive flow. The band packs ska, adult alternative, rockabilly, folk and peppy guitar-pop into the release, but without meshing the genres: Each genre gets one song. And while the demo is beautifully recorded and played excellently, it’s easy to wonder what type of band The Devil’s Sunday Best actually is. The members are pretty good at all of these genres, but they don’t seem to have an idea picked out of what type of band they want to be. Thankfully, with a talented vocalist, solid musicians and songwriting chops, this band can go somewhere if it picks a genre or two and camps out. Right now it’s just a bit scattershot.
North Carolina is a hot bed of sorts for a vast amount of music these days. Caltrop’s recent self-released 4-song demo pulls from an array of influences that expand well beyond the region to create something which is not only unique but a rather pleasant surprise. Whenever a clearly DIY CD arrives it generally means one of two things: it is either a shoddy attempt at music and the sound follows the packaging or the band simply focused on the writing the music and due to lack of funds (like every indie band) simply put out an album on a shoestring budget. Luckily, Caltrop falls in the latter category.
Opening track “Dr. Motherf* cker” is an experience in epic, doom-laden dissonance. From the tortured screams of Sam Taylor to the pounding bass lines of Murat Dirlik, the band trenches onward, clear and concise each step of the way. Throughout the album you’ll hear ambient shredding and spacey overtones of guitar guru Adam Nolton, who concisely sets a doomy, sludge-filled atmosphere. The biggest surprise comes from drummer Jason Alward, who is unmistakable in his presentment. From furious rhythms to driving rock’n’roll beats, he controls the charge at whatever tempo is deemed necessary.
For a debut I can certainly say that Caltrop is heading in the right direction. Now to pinpoint the said direction may be a bit more difficult, but nonetheless they are forging onward. With a new recording planned in the spring I can say to keep your ears open for their next album. In the meantime I would urge fans of doomy, dissonant rock to experience this great little demo. Caltrop needs to be played loud so you can feel it… so forget the neighbors, take 27 minutes out of your life and crank it up!
I don’t get this album. Bricks for Shoulders is a hardcore band, but the vocals are almost all done in spoken word. The screaming that is done is rough, but I like it. It almost seems like the band wants to be a spaz-core band but wants their lyrics to be understood. This causes the lead vocalist to sound really stupid while he is half screaming half singing. At times the spoken word works but it is overshadowed by the times when incoherent screaming would fit the bill much better. The demo was recorded on a piece of poor quality home recording equipment, which makes it hard to hear the guitar part. Not only is the guitar part hard to follow, there is no bass part. The band consists of two people, a guitarist and a drummer. I don’t like two person hardcore acts because the guitar can’t fill in for the missing bass.
The band gives off a strange image. The song titles are beyond bizarre; Track one: “How Are You Still Breathing With My Hands Around Your Throat?”, track two: “Fill in the Blanks While I Load My .35”, and track three: “My Prelude Had Horses, Now I Own Gerbils, Thank You”.
The whole album paints a strange picture of the band. If they would commit to being a spaz-core band instead of being half spaz-core and half indie, the band could have a future- but I can’t really see this current style working with anyone.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.