Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Community Records' huge pop-punk-based comp thrills

March 2, 2012

I have waxed rhapsodic over the joys of the compilation album before, but here’s a reminder: I love the idea of twenty or more bands all chilling on the same disc. SXSW is kind of like one giant compilation, if you conflate seeing music live and hearing it recorded.

But what’s even better than a great comp is a great comp from a high-quality label. If that label is a homegrown, upstart indie, all the better! And Community Records (no, really, that’s the awesome name) has released just such a disc with their Compilation Volume 3: Old Dog, New Tricks. The album showcases 26 (!) bands associated with the New Orleans-based label; a footnote states, “Download free music from all of these bands on our web-site.” (That’s prolific!)

Some well-known bands like A Billion Ernies, Marathon and Swear Jar are present here, alongside a slew of up-and-comers. The music falls into five general genres: pop-punk, ska, hardcore/post-hardcore, acoustic and reggae-ish stuff.

The pop-punk is the lion’s share of the material. Caddywhompus’ “The Weight” won my heart by incorporating prog-based rhythms and melodies into its pop-punk, giving the song a very Fang Island-esque feel. Safety’s “Alone Together” throws down great melodies and energy in an early-2000s pop-punk style; the action-packed 91 seconds of The Rooks’ “The Benefit of Fish Tacos” throws all sorts of things into an unconventional song structure. The off-kilter “I’m Not Done Yet” by All People is oddly catchy as well.

The highlights of the ska offerings are the wildly varied tune by A Billion Ernies, the rhythms-not-horns ska of “They Can’t Fix Me” by Matt Wixson’s Flying Circus, and the gruff ska-punk of Brunt of It’s “Bad Sign.”

I wasn’t too into the loud stuff or the reggae, but the acoustic offerings are worth note: my favorite tune on the whole comp is See You in Mexico’s “Human Race.” It starts off as a pensive, moody tune in the Deja Entendu vein, then kicks into acoustic-punk high gear for the satisfying conclusion. The vocal melodies and harmonies are especially notable. Closer “Live On” by Matt Wixson (minus the Flying Circus) is a charming, lo-fi acoustic pop song that could be sung around campfires forever. “Summer’s Slumber” by Dominique LeJeune is a poignant, female-fronted acoustic love song that made me swoon a bit.

There’s all sorts of things inbetween, from woozy, New Orleans-style jazz bombast (Stuck Lucky’s “Finland”) to the indie-rock haze of Sun Hotel’s “Talks.” I mean, with 27 tracks, there’s almost something for everyone who even remotely likes the idea of modern punk. That should be a strong motivator for you to check out Community Records’ Old Dog, New Tricks.

Phratry Week: Swear Jar

July 18, 2011

Although not the loudest of the Phratry bands, Swear Jar still packs quite a wallop. The basic idea from the band is yanked from that time in the early ’80s to the late ’90s when punk rock became a true art form: let’s play loud, fast and hard, but not necessarily the way everyone expects us to.

Swear Jar’s punk rock never slips into musical pretension, which is to say it imagines ’98-now never happened. There are still good old punk rock sections (“Blinders”), but there are also sections of straight-up noise (“Sasquatch”), spoken-word post-hardcore (“Bad News”),  and lots more.

It’s the atypical rhythms and the bass that make Cuss the fantastic trip it is. Just when you think you know where a Swear Jar song is going, it’s not going that direction anymore. The drums have changed on you, or the bassist has gone nuts in a new way.

The metallic edge and “turn that way up, man” volume of the bass guitar in the mix makes for an arresting sound that doesn’t appear often anymore. Since there’s only one guitar in this band, the bassist has a distortion pedal on hand to take the rhythm guitar bits when the guitar is “soloing” (“On the Prowl”). In “Lonely,” it sounds like the bass is leading the sound and the guitar just there for rhythm. The interplay between the three members of the band is fascinating: see hyperkinetic “Rastallica” for all you ever wanted to know about band chemistry.

Here’s a note to prove the quality of this album: all of these examples come from the first half of the disc. Yeah. This band knows what’s up. If you’re a fan of serious punk rock (i.e. people who disagree that Green Day ever existed), Cuss should be a smorgasbord of delights.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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