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Tag: The Righs

After the Fall's punk-rock is best-of-year, shiver-inducingly good

I still have a soft spot in my heart for well-done punk. Many people grow out of their punk phase, but I didn’t. Mine just morphed. I still mosh and skank and throw up my fist with the best of them; I’m just more selective with who I go all out for. Flogging Molly earned my passion, as noted in my Righs review a couple weeks ago. If I ever saw After the Fall live, they would earn my fervor as well.

There’s nothing complicated about After the Fall or their album Fort Orange. They play punk rock with a constant snare, more strumming than should be possible, and hollered vocals that waver between screaming and singing. This is my favorite vocal style, as it shows a singer who really wants to be singing, but occasionally becomes too passionate for notes and has to scream. It gives me shivers. And there aren’t that many bands (and even fewer punk bands) that can give me shivers the way that “1994” does.

They don’t usually stray toward the pop-punk end of things, choosing more often to err on the side of hardcore. But they rarely set up in chugga-chugga breakdown mode, preferring the spastic side of hardcore, as seen in the brutal, flailing attack of the minute-long “It’s Her Choice.” They also keep it short and tight; of the thirteen songs here, only three make it over 2:10. Most clock in around a minute and a half. This rapid-fire release of songs helps distinguish the songs. If they were any longer, the stuff might run together. Instead, it feels like After the Fall is dropping bombs, one after the other.

“Poor Excuse” showcases the chops of After the Fall, as there’s some impressive metal-esque guitar soloing. The strumming also shows up in some interesting patterns. The drummer keeps pounding that snare; the muscles in his right arm must be about twice as large as his left. “Routine” makes it clear how tight the band is, as there are timing breaks and tempo shifts that require a lot of band cohesiveness. This isn’t just a frantic, “play-as-fast-as-you-can-GO!” band. They know exactly what they’re doing; they decided to play punk because they wanted to play punk.

They show they aren’t a one-trick pony with the slowed-down melodic sections in “Decapitate,” the only song that breaks three minutes (and barely, at 3:10). It’s an impressive song, as they maintain their attitude even through the quieter sections. They keep it punk by (hilariously) having the drummer play as if it wasn’t a quiet section. What’s even crazier is that it becomes one of the most memorable moments on the album. Shows what I know, right?

After the Fall’s Fort Orange is the best punk release I’ve heard this year. I’m sad it came out last year, although I might still sneak it into my best-of list at the end of the year (I do what I want!!). If you like straight-up, snare-heavy, passionate, scream-it-loud-and-mosh-along punk rock, you need this record. Or, at the very least, a download of “1994.” It will give you shivers, it’s so good. That is, if you recognize shivers while you’re flailing in a pit.

The Righs' Irish punk stretches its wings lyrically and musically

Over the past few years, I’ve come to love Irish punk music. One of the most incredible concert experiences I’ve ever had was at Flogging Molly’s Austin City Limits ’09 set, when it rained and we danced anyway. There’s more to the tale (there always is!), but you’ll have to track me down in person to hear it. It’s too good to pass up telling live.

The Righs are an Irish punk band and (full disclosure) my friends, as lead singer/acoustic guitarist Nate Williams was a long-time writer for Independent Clauses.  Nate handed me this album and asked me what I thought. I told him pretty much what I’m writing now. But now you’re free to take all this with a grain of salt.

Back to the Righs’ Irish punk. The band is gleefully raw, having recorded these tunes on Roses purposefully without pristine sound quality. Having seen some of these songs performed live, it was a good move to go a little more raw on the recording; this album sounds a lot closer to what the Righs sound like live than their debut album The Rivers Run Deep does. The drums pound, the vocals run ragged, and the band seems to tilt a little bit toward losing control. It’s a wild and frantic sound most of the time, and it’s an energizing one.

I’m sure that the decision to let the sound be less-than-perfect will drive some away. But if that’s what sends them packing, they weren’t really listening to the songs anyway. This album is over an hour long, and the band uses almost every minute of it to say something. They charge through punk songs, drinking songs, anthems, folk tunes, sea shanties and more. The lyrics run the gamut too: from the call-to-arms of opener “Double Edged Sword” to the depressing storytelling of “Mother Knows Best” to the protest anthem “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” back to philosophical musings on closer “What Good is Death?”, The Righs devote time to tons of topics.

Because this album is long, varied musically, varied lyrically, and in a style that often gets pegged as a gimmick, it would be easy to think that this would get tiring. It doesn’t, because the album can be neatly broken into two parts: the ragged, wild beginning half, and the more subdued second half. There are still punk tunes in the back half, but “And So It Goes” is a much more orderly song than the “fire that’s on fire” urgency of early standout “The Man With Nickel Plating Makes All the Rules.” It doesn’t mean it’s less enjoyable; it means it’s different. And the Righs use that difference in songwriting and recording style to keep their long album interesting. There are some tunes that lag, but you can skip ’em. With so many songs to choose from here, missing one isn’t a huge loss (especially when the album is not composed with a particular theme, story, or central element).

The Righs’ Roses is an entertaining Irish punk album that draws in a variety of songwriting and lyrical influences from outside the Celtic tradition. While still retaining their core sound, the band pushes its boundaries outward, mostly resulting in success. The crazy, energetic, great songs are proof.

The Righs-The Rivers Run Deep

(http://www.myspace.com/therighs)The Righs – The Rivers Run Deep

Self-released

Irish-punk with strong acoustic songwriting and instrumentation.

I have only one problem with Irish punk: I can only hear two different sounds. No matter what Irish-punk band I’m listening to, I hear the Dropkick Murphys (Irish-PUNK) or Flogging Molly (IRISH-punk). That’s why hearing the Righs is so refreshing: it doesn’t feel like I’m listening to either staple of the genre.

In fact, on the best tracks of The Rivers Run Deep, The Righs summon comparisons to the decidedly non-Irish Neutral Milk Hotel rather than their Gaelic brethren. Standout track “Dublin: Easter, 1916” draws comparisons to Jeff Mangum’s “Holland, 1945” in more than just title. The heavy acoustic guitar strum, the crowded exuberance of the embellishing instrumentation and the underlying distortion drone of “Dublin” evoke feelings very similar to those that “Holland” creates. The Righs’ vocals are deeper and more ferocious than Mangum’s, and the lyrics are more straightforward story than NMH’s lucid dreaming, but it’s still a comparison that screams to be made.

If a NMH clone was all this band was, there wouldn’t be any reason to keep writing – there have been plenty of NMH clones over the years, and none have been as good as the original. But the Righs are not anyone’s clone. They have their Flogging Molly leanings (the mercilessly catchy “My Life in the Bike Scene”), their Dropkick Murphy moments (the nearly straight-forward rock song “That Guy”) and their “traditional Irish” moments (their rowdy takes on “Amazing Grace” and “Loch Lomond”).

But they don’t conform to any of those brackets. “Agony’s Night” is a sea shanty, Decemberists-style. “The Shire” is a well-written and performed song that also happens to be a tribute to Lord of the Rings. Heck, they even subvert the idea of a ballad by throwing distortion and a snare-heavy drumbeat under their prettiest song (“I’m Bound Away”). Yeah, they do lay it on heavy with the Irish-related lyrics, but that’s one of the few clichés that they fall into on the album.

The performances are solid, but it’s not the individual skill of the players that makes this album such fun to listen to. It’s not that the pan pipes or the violin are especially virtuosic – it’s the fact that the sound works together perfectly that makes this such an engaging listen.

In short, I’m no big fan of Irish punk, but I am a big fan of the Righs. Their songs are catchy, their instrumentation is varied, and the attention level is high. The songwriting prowess and melodic intensity captured in The Rivers Run Deep make for an engaging and exciting listen, no matter what you normally listen to.

Stephen Carradini

Stephen’independentclauses.com