Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lovejunk - Amstradivarius (Blind Drunk, 2003)

The next few download posts of mine are dedicated to my buddy JGoon, probably because he's the only one one who might be interested in them. Hopefully not. Lovejunk is very intertwined in our pop punk history, though I'm not sure he's ever heard them before.

(I didn't think I'd make this so long. A couple of good beers will do that I guess.)

So a long time ago I heard of this band called Snuff, who were the introduction to my love of English melodic punk. I believe the label that originally put out Snuff Said in the U.S. (along with the Fuel album and a Mr. T Experience album) went out of business in the early 90's, but you could find cheap cutout versions of those albums on cassette if you did some digging. I think I ordered Snuff Said on cassette from Round Flat Records for like $4 brand new. I loved it right away and played it for JGoon, who also loved it. Now by this time, I had amassed a hefty collection of punk tapes from high school. At this point, however, I would only buy CDs or vinyl, but Snuff was a hard band to find in any format in the U.S. so I took what I could get.

Not long after I introduced my buddy to one of his favorite albums to this day (right?), we were at Rush-Mor on one of our record shopping excursions together. Did I even drive us there? I forget. Anyway, starting at different areas of the CD section, we comb through the selection. Suddenly JGoon makes his way over to me with a CD in his hand. I look at it and then at him. Snuff Said! Awesome! I wasn't even sure if this existed! Thanks! Oh, you're keeping it. Yeah, sure. Finders keepers. It's only fair.

Luckily Fat reissued it some years later.

But I have secretly harbored a deep resentment towards JGoon thoughout these years and I will NEVER FORGIVE HIS CALLOUS ACT OF TREACHERY, BETRAYAL AND GREED AS LONG AS I LIVE!!!!!!!!

After Snuff, I checked out all the English pop punk that I could get my hands and ears on. Some was easier to find than others. China Drum were on an incognito major label and I cleaned up on ebay finding a lot of copies of Leatherface Mush in dollar bins. But I eventually had to do some mailorder from the UK to get my fix. One of the distros that I bought from was Crackle, who also ran a label. I had heard One Car Pile Up from some old mp3 site. JGoon picked up a Chopper 7" that sounded a lot like old Snuff. And I heard of another band that featured an ex member of The Stupids who were releasing an album on Crackle. So I ordered Lovejunk and a few other things.

I loved Lovejunk right away.

A few years later I saw that Lovejunk were releasing a CDep and another album. I downloaded the only 2 or 3 songs that were available from each, one of which was featured on both releases called "Ethan & Emma." That song has been one of my favorites ever since. It's one of those songs, like Big Drill Car's "A Take Away" or the Hard-Ons' "What Am I Supposed To Do?" or Snuff's "Not Listening." A perfectly crafted punk pop song that gets stuck in your head and would fit perfectly on a 90's punk mix tape for someone special.

For some reason, I never ended up buying that Lovejunk CDep and album. I always figured I'd get around to it back then, but I think I ran out of other stuff to buy and didn't want to pay $30 or so for 2 CDs from England. About a year after the time of those releases, JGoon and I were writing reviews and I noticed that he had gotten to review the new Lovejunk album and liked it. I asked him to give me a copy of it, but it turned out that the review was done by someone else with his same initials. I even contacted someone in the band semi recently who couldn't locate an extra copy.

But I finally tracked this CD down. And I'll finally get to it. I'm sure JGoon will like it, because they've always reminded me of another favorite of ours: Sinkhole. I want to say they're like the English version, but they do sound really similar, both musically and vocally. For those not familiar with Sinkhole, imagine a pop punk version of the Replacements at their best. Or maybe old Soul Asylum. As much as I still like current pop punk, I miss the bands who weren't quite as typical of the genre, like Big Drill Car, Pegboy, the Doughboys, etc. Lovejunk definitely fall into that camp. Strong punk rock that just happens to be really melodic and catchy. But not afraid to slow things down at times or take a step outside the mold.

Amstradivarius was a little late in the game and severely under-promoted, so I'm sure it didn't get the attention of Dr. Strange or Lookout fans who probably would have liked it. I can hear some of Lovejunk's sound in a newer band like Rumspringer as well, with that heartfelt punk simplicity done really well. This album was one of the reasons I couldn't concentrate on my best of 2012 post. I was too distracted revisiting 2003. Not that I'm not complaining. I'm sure no one else was either. ;(

Oh, and I've heard mention that Boss Tuneage is going to be releasing something from Lovejunk this year. Hopefully something new, but I'm sure it will be a full discography, just after I finally finished tracking most of their stuff down. Maybe now I'm complaining. ;)

Lovejunk - Own World

Edit 3/15/2013 - Aaannd of course Boss Tuneage is releasing a discography from the band soon. They could have let me know that when I ordered the CDs recently! Nah, they do good work.

Lovejunk - Amstradivarius (R) (vbr 0)

Monday, February 11, 2013

How Could I Forget My Favorite Album Of 2012?

You might think it's pretty juvenile after 1 or 2 songs. Or if you're like me, you'll think this is genius.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Best Of 2012

I'll always remember the eloquent wall scribbling in an old Benny Hill skit:

Time flies like the wind.
Fruit flies like bananas.

Another year gone. More than a month into 2013 already, and another late entry for my 2nd Best Of list. (Happy Anniversary to me!) I do like coming up with these lists, but it gets exceptionally harder with the huge influx of music nowadays. And is a year or less really enough time to truly absorb an album? What about the 2012 albums I'm just learning about now, or will so in 10 years? Was 2012 really that great when the 2 albums I'm listening to the most these days are from 2003 and 1998?

But really, it was another good year for music. There were a few disappointments (NOFX, Jaill, the Darkness) which really weren't that disappointing, some last minute favorites and a plethora of really good EPs.

* Albums *

Tenement, Direct Hit! and now Arms Aloft: the trifecta of great Wisconsin pop punk. These Eau Claire natives might be closer in distance and kinship with Dillinger 4 and Banner Pilot though, with rough, melodic punk and whiskey soaked vocals. Lyrics like those in "Skinny Love" make me heart and homesick: "Here's to waking up shaking, balled up on the floor, of an iced-over, winter Lake Superior. Raise a flag at half-mast and a half empty glass in a toast to remembering what it's like to not have to know she's sleeping somewhere else tonight." They're not reinventing the wheel, but they're whipping some shitties in a snow covered parking lot somewhere.

Somehow after years spent on electronica and pro wresting script writing (???), Bob has returned with basically the 3rd Sugar album. Not as depressing and ambient as some of his other solo work, this album is a return to Sugar's big guitars and bigger hooks. So many bands owe their existence to Mould's legacy and he's still showing them how it's done.

If the first track "Autobahn" doesn't reel you in, then I don't know what to tell you. This album is an infectious blend of punk, 70's psyche and dirty New York rock and roll. Listening to them just conjures up the image of a dirty bar full of smoke, beer, hair and leather. Yeah, maybe a horrible image to fellow almost 40 year olds, but after a couple beers you don't mind the coked up dude with his arm around you spilling half his beer on the crowd. If you miss (and remember) Tight Bros From Way Back When, this might satiate you.

I can't say I've followed Jesse Michael's bands since Operation Ivy. But when I heard the Classics Of Love, something connected immediately. I think I miss when hardcore bands actually had singers who occasionally sang. Jesse's delivery is a combination of urgency and an almost playful singing style, throwing in cool inflections every now and then. It doesn't hurt that the music is awesome as well, reminding me a little of Minor Threat mixed with classic Gilman punk.

There were a lot of strikes going into this album. 1) Their last album was kind of forgettable pop punk (even coming from a lover of plenty of pop punk). 2) My gf interviewed the singer once and apparently he was a bit of an asshole. 3) The album starts out with a really slow song and then an 8 minute song. But, once you get past your A.D.D., this is a great album. Maybe my favorite of the year. They mix the best aspects of the 90's, from indie to garage rock to noise. But it's all just so catchy and that's all that matters to me.

Not the most prolific band in the world, but I'll forgive these veterans of melodic heartache. Blair Shehan's voice seems to have gotten a little lower (more weary?) to my ears and gone are the shouts of the Knapsack days, but the man knows how to write a song. Thoughtful lyrics and plenty of the quiet/loud dynamics of emo's yesteryear. They don't make them like this anymore.

It seems like everyone can agree on this one. The album title says it all. Spunky, anthemic tunes from this 2 man juggernaut. My favorite song would have to be "Evil's Sway," which reminds sounds like a mix of "American Girl" and "These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things." The sound of music, indeed.

Nada Surf may still be remembered for their uncharacteristic "hit" back in the 90's, but they've actually been churning out pop gold throughout their career. This album is right up there with their best stuff. Classic indie rock sound with big guitars and great melodies. It's hard to find new bands that carry that 90's emo/punk/indie torch, but luckily bands like Nada Surf and the Jealous Sound are still around.

After a number of eps (collected on last year's The Joys Of Living), Sharks finally release a full length that doesn't disappoint. Plenty of big hooks and punk pop classics. Like a British counterpart to the Gaslight Anthem (substitute Rudy for Peggy Sue or Mary Jane or whatever), their sound seems to embody a romanticized version of the past. I can't say I'm a big fan of the Clash, but I'll take this updated version.

Nothing will probably top To The Confusion Of Our Enemies, my introduction to the band, but I enjoy their maturing sound. They seem to be tackling slightly more serious themes on their recent albums, perhaps the cause of punk rock mixing with growing up or maybe due to the guitarist's serious bike accident a few years ago. Regardless, it's opened up their lyrics to interesting subject matter, while retaining the anthemic quality of their music.

My favorite hardcore album of the year. Tight as a gnat's asshole. The songs are fast and catchy and the noodley guitar parts put them over the top.

This was a random bandcamp find, but these guys deserve to be heard by more people. Imagine a mix of Manifesto Jukebox, Leatherface, the Wipers, Rites Of Spring and later Articles Of Faith (the singer sounds a lot like In This Life era Vic Bondi). Got your attention? Yeah, they definitely got mine. The lyrics are in Macedonian, but they also deserve your attention. The translations are available on their bandcamp page.

* Eps *

I only got this EP a few days before the end of the year, but it became an instant favorite. I can't say this sounds like anyone in particular, but they remind me of classic melodic punk bands like Naked Raygun, old Snuff or Visions Of Change. They do possess a unique sound though. Hopefully a full length is in store soon.

Awesome English inspired melodic punk from France. For fans of Leatherface, Hooton 3 Car and Mega City 4. Apparently this demo along with a bunch of new songs will be released on Waterslide Records out of Japan sometime this year.

Another band heavily influenced by DC Revolution Summer era bands, most prominently Rites Of Spring and Gray Matter. But there's more than enough talent and character to make these guys...unique. Unfortunately they just broke up recently.

I've never listened to a record on bandcamp all the way through as many times as I have with this EP. And at 29 minutes, this is a pretty hefty EP, but they have a full length coming out in 2013 that I'm sure I'll be adding to 2013's list. Awesome melodic punk with touches of Rumspringer, Snuggle! (whose singer shares vocal duties here) and maybe Seaweed. These songs hearken back to the East Bay days where bands like Samiam and Jawbreaker were taking pop punk to a more grown up level. Really bummed that I missed them in SF last fall.

Insomnio put out one of my favorite punk albums in recent years. Of course they broke up too soon and Warsong formed in their wake. I can't say their album debut knocked my socks off, but this 5 song ep is the cat's pajamas! There's a great mix of Wipers style gloom with classic SoCal punk guitars and melodies. The Observers were probably my favorite newer band doing a similar style, and this EP is right up there with them.

It's hard to remember a time when a 2 song 7" wasn't a letdown, musically and/or financially. Their album is one of my faves of the year, but the first song on this is my favorite song of theirs. Definitely looking forward to whatever they have next.

* Reissues *

I can't imagine many younger people getting into the Minutemen these days, much less Firehose. Hopefully I'm wrong, but they seemed like a time and place type band. It did take me a few tries to like the Minutemen, but with that and skateboarding, Firehose just fell into place. I've only recently realized how much they actually sound like old REM as well (who I dislike). I still throw on their SST albums every now and then, but this compilation reminded me of great songs like "Can't Believe," "Rocket Sled/Fuel Tank" and their entire Live Totem Pole EP. A band that definitely needs to be heard by a new generation, and revisited by their old fans.

The first album by these spazzy punk legends is finally reissued. Just having songs like "Houses Made For Mannequins" and "The Family Knows" available again would be enough, but this reissue includes a ton of cool bonus stuff, like their first EP, a completely different recording of the Love Songs 7", compilation songs and some live stuff. Completely manic hardcore, but with a good sense of melody to keep these songs in your head, even 30 years later. These guys are still going to this day and I still listen to everything throughout their entire discography.

My first introduction to these guys was seeing them at The Fest a few years ago and it was the punkest show I've seen in a long time. The band was menacing and the crowd was a little scary. But as the garbage bins went flying, I could tell there was something more to the music than just aggression. They were like a modernized version of early Black Flag with more emphasis on melody. The second volume of their discography contains my favorite EP of theirs, Obsolete, along with 2 other EPs and some previously unreleased songs and covers. Hopefully a proper full length is on the horizon.