Reviews July 2003
THE ASSISTANT -- We'll Make The Roads By Walking (CD / Nova Recordings)
I liked this band without having heard a second of their music, just because of the booklet. Each of the seven songs (playing time over 45 minutes, some songs over seven minutes long!) is extensively explained and the attitude of the band appealed a lot to me. Obviously (some of) the members are straight edge, and as I am, too, I always find it interesting to hear about other people's views on that. On the other hand I always am a bit reluctant to politics in music, because I think that too much politics in the lyrics or especially on stage can turn people off. But oh well, that's just my opinion, and obviously The Assistant from New Jersey have another one. If you want to know which one, check out this debut album. As I said, you can find seven songs on here that are in the vein of chaotic bands like (early) Cave In, Botch or Converge mixed with some more quiet parts. Very rarely you can hear that Leigh Sabol who does the vocals is female, because of her fierce screaming that fits perfectly to the music. Sometimes a bit too chaotic for me, but when I go to shows I meet lots of people that are exactly into this kind of sound, so they will definitely love this album. "We'll make the roads by walking" comes out in the US on Alone Records while the vinyl is released by Scene Police Records. Heavy stuff, indeed!
BRANDTSON / CAMBER / SEVEN STOREY -- Split (CD / Deep Elm Records)
Three Deep Elm bands share this split CD, namely Brandtson, Camber and Seven Storey. It's the third part of a split series that is released on Deep Elm, the first chapter consisting of The Appleseed Cast, Planes Mistaken For Stars and Race Car Riot, the second one comprising Red Anima War and Slowride. I'd say that this third split release is worth your attention concerning the fact that there's a new and unreleased Brandtson song on it. I guess it's from the "Death and taxes" sessions and as I love Brandtson I was very happy to hear a new track by these guys. And as I expected it's once again a great song. Unfortunately Brandtson only contributed only one song, while Camber are featured with three and Seven Storey with two. All of these songs are previously unreleased. Unnecessary to say that Brandtson are my fave band on this EP, but Camer are really cool, too, especially their track "I could not care less" is amazing. Far above the usual indie stuff, Camber have the necessary drive to get your attention. Sometimes the vocals remind me to those of Knapsack/Jealous Sound or those of Blake Schwarzenbach (Jawbreaker, Jets To Brazil) which is an extra plus in my eyes. Third and last band on this EP are Seven Storey, but to speak of a band here is a bit funny because when I'm not completely mistaken Seven Storey consist of one person alone, this being Lance Lammers who handles all the instruments. So don't expect some lo-fi acoustic stuff witjh just guitar and voice, in fact Seven Storey sound like a real band. His two songs are cool, too, and so this release is definitely worth your attention.
ELEKTROLOCHMANN -- Whatever The Occasion (CD EP / Transsolar Records)
In the interview I did with Costa's Cake House their drummer Nanouk told me that he'd play in another band called Elektrolochmann that would sound totally different than the metal influenced Hardcore of his main band. And indeed, Elektrolochmann are different. Apart from Nanouk on drums it's an all girl band (apparently they started with a female drummer as well), but don't expect that kind of Riot Girl crap (sorry, but I can't stand that hype). I'd rather describe the band's sound as pop influenced indie that combines the various personalities of the band members (Ahlie the singer is writing screenplays and already did some smaller movies, Stephanie on bass is a fashion designer and Stefanie on guitar is well known for her guitar abilities in the Stuttgart area). Mixing dynamic and quiet parts, the songs never are too much easy listening, and that's maybe the only point of criticism for me. You know, I totally like those cheesy melodies, but if you are more into the laid back stuff, check out Elektrolochmann.
GAMEFACE -- Four To Go (CD / Defiance Records)
Finally the great Gameface are back! It took Jeff Caudill and his three companions three years since "Always on" came out. I got addicted to Gameface when I heard their 1999 album "Every last time" and that one's still my favourite album by them. Even though many people think their early records - Gameface started way back in 1990 - would be their best ones, I disagree with them. "Every last time" is their best album so far and "Always on" was great, too. Now after a couple of (acoustic) EPs "Four to go" comes out on Defiance Records in Europe and on Doghouse in the US. I was surprised to see that Gameface are no longer on Revelation, and I'll ask Jeff in an interview about that. But now to "Four to go": Once again Gameface did a great album in the vein of the previous two full length albums, which means that it's less punk than their early records and more melodic and simply better. I don't think I have to describe the sound of Gameface much because everyone reading this should know how great they are. 12 songs are on this album, one of them, "How far is goodbye?" has already been released on their split EP with Errortype:11 a couple of years ago. Jeff's outstanding and unique vocals are still there, and so are the lyrics that deal with the typical Gameface topics. So "Four to go" is like meeting and old friend that you haven't seen for a while but recognize how much you have missed him/her.
GARRISON -- The Silhouette (CD EP / Revelation Records)
Garrison are back with another EP and in my humble opinion it contains the best songs they've done so far. That's probably due to the more straight elements that can be found here more than on any other past Garrison album. But of course Garrison are still Garrison, which means they still have these typical strange and somehow dissonant melodies at times. This EP (five songs) is the sister record to "The Model" EP that came out on Iodine Recordings / Simba Recordings a while ago and if the songs on "The Model" are as cool as the ones on here then I have to check out that EP, too. Oh, in case you shouldn't have heard of Garrison before, the band's from the US and plays some of the best post punk songs around. Check them out.
THE LAST MILLENNIUM SUCKERS -- Oestrogene Overdose (CD / Winged Skull Records)
"Oestrogene overdose" by the Last Millennium Suckers is the latest release by Winged Skull Records from Luxembourg, and following the tradition of their previous release schedule this four piece also comes from Luxembourg. Described as a "melodic punk / death rock band with female vocals" the four songs (15 minutes) are pretty cool, even though the only true death rock band were the mighty Samhain I think. Track 3 "O Fortuna!" starts off with a well known classical part from Carl Orff which is great but also used too many times now. All in all a nice release, nothing outstanding but quite entertaining.
ME FIRST AND THE GIMME GIMMES -- Take A Break (CD / Fat Wreck Chords)
The first time I heard Me First and the Gimme Gimmes was way back in 1995 I guess when they had a song on the second Fat Music compilation, this being "Country roads" that could only be found on the b-side on one of their countless 7"s ("Denver"). I was totally blown away by that song and bought the first full length, "Have a ball" right when it came out. I didn't knew at that time who exactly was in the band, because the guys made fun out of this by claiming to have (ex-) members from bands like SNFU or Green Day among them. Later I found out that Me First... consisted of Spike on vocals (Swingin' Utters and Fat Wreck Chords), Joey Cape on guitar (Lagwagon), Chris Shiflett on the other guitar (a.k.a. Jake Jackson, ex No Use For A Name, now Foo Fighters), Fat Mike on bass (NOFX, but you know that, don't you?) and Dave on drums (formerly in R.K.L., now in Lagwagon). After two more albums ("Are a drag" and "Blow in the wind") and countless 7"s on various labels (I got all of them except one, damn!) the Gimme Gimmes are back with album No. 4, "Take a break". Still no line up changes, but still great fun. This time they chose R'n'B tracks by such "classic" acts like Boys 2 Men, Seal, R.Kelly and some other artist like Sinead O'Connor, Stevie Wonder or Whitney Houston. As I hate most of the original versions (R'n'B sucks!!) it's cool to see that these tracks really sound good after all. "Ain't no sunshine", "Nothing compares 2U", "I believe I can fly" or "End of the road" just to name a couple of the 13 songs blast through your speakers and put a smile on your face. Summer music, great fun, and I hope there are some more 7"s on the way.
MONTA -- Always Altamont EP (CD EP / Rewika Records)
Let me ask you one question: Is it allowed to cover Depeche Mode? The answer is unmistakably "NO!". Depeche Mode's ingenuity can't be reached anyway, so why doing a cover of a DM song? What this has to do with "Always altamont"? Well, Tobias Kuhn, who's playing in Miles, one of Germany's most popular indie/alternative acts, did a cover of "Shake the disease" on his first solo record. Anyway, his version is one of the better versions of DM covers I've heard so far. But let's go to the other songs on this EP: Surrounded by a stylish cover artwork there are five songs on this EP (its title is taken from a city from a book by Thomas Wolf) plus as I said the hidden Depeche Mode cover. Based on acoustic guitars the songs are filled with beautiful melodies and on top of that there's Tobias' calm voice. Pianos, drums, some distorted guitars and a rather unusual instrument like Theremin can also be heard. Miles fans and friends of that whole acoustic movement (Dashboard Confessional, Kristofer Aström etc.) will like this EP alike, and so do I.
NOFX -- Regaining Unconsciousness (7" / Fat Wreck Chords)
Alright, the "Regaining unconsciousness" 7" is already a bit older as it came out before the great last NOFX album "The war on errorism", but as I just bought it last weekend I thought I should review it anyway. Three songs can be found on the gray vinyl, two of 'em from "The war on errorism", one of them previously unreleased. This latter track is called "Hardcore 84" and sung by Eric Melvin in true mid 80s Hardcore style. Quite funny. Another funny thing about this EP is that the title track can't be found on it but only on the album.
NOFX "13 Stitches" (7" / Fat Wreck Chords)
13 stitches" could be one of my favourite songs from "The war on errorism", but I think it's a bit sad that NOFX decided not to produce that song at all as it is totally lo fi. Anyway, the vocal melodies are great on that one. "13 stitches" is featured on this marble orange coloured vinyl ("limited" to 7.000, haha) in an acoustic version. Quite cool, but once again I'd like to have heard it with distorted guitars. On the flipside you can find "Glass war" which is also on the latest Vans Warped Tour compilation. Cool midtempo NOFX rocker. For fans like me who have all their 7"s a nice thing to see some new stuff for the collector's box.
ONE STEP SHIFT -- "The Bridge" (CD EP) + "Chemical Burn" (7") (/Broke In Oakland/ Loderbrock Records)
Two releases by this Oakland based outfit I am about to review, the first being "The Bridge" EP and the second being the "Chemical burn" 7". If I am right then the 7" is the latest output by this three piece and the first release of Loderbrock Records. The band plays Mathcore if you want to label the music, and usually I'm not that much into this sound, but One Step Shift are pretty cool. Of course they have very complex song structures and elements, but not in a way that it destroys the song. In fact they show cool songwriting and so they should be checked out by people who are into Mathcore. Comparisons to other bands? No, I don't want to start any namedropping here, just check out this band and support them and this young and promising label. The 7" is limited to 1.000 copies (900 on white vinyl and 111 on clear) and features an amazing artwork by Derek Hess. The EP contains five songs, and unfortunately both songs from the 7" can be found on here, too, so the 7" doesn't feature any exclusive stuff. But as it's limited that's ok. Enough said, check them out.
SERAFIN -- No Push Collide (CD / Columbia Records)
Serafin are a real multi national band because their singer/guitarist is from England, the other guitarist is from Sotland and both the bass player and the drummer come from New Zealand (I wonder how they manage to practice, haha). Based in London, Serafin immediately got signed by Elektra after having played at the South By Southwest Festival. After two EPs on Taste Records the first full length is out at the beginning of August and it's called "No push collide". The record was produced by Dave Sardy who worked with Marilyn Manson or the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the past and it contains 12 songs of melodic and rocking songs that remind me to bands like Placebo or Feeder. Just listen to songs like "Things fall apart" (the first single) and you know what I mean. I bet you'll hear more of this band soon, because I could imagine that a video for "Things fall apart" could be seen regularly on music television. Cool stuff and worth to be checked out.
SLICK SHOES -- Far From Nowhere (CD / Side One Dummy Records)
Another band that appears on Side One Dummy Records who put out some great stuff in the last few months. Slick Shoes' fifth full length "´Far from nowhere" was produced by Ed Stasium (Misfits, Motörhead, Pennywise, Ramones, etc.) and recorded this March/April. Once again this was the first album I heard from the band that released their previous four albums through Tooth and Nail Records. And yes, both Ryan Kepke (vocals) and Joe Nixon (drums), the only constant band members since the beginning, are practicing Christians. Now personally I don't have any problems with this as there are so many great bands in the Hardcore scene that have Christian beliefs, but some people seem to have a problem with that. But they can leave their prejudices in the closet when it comes to Slick Shoes because they don't have the typical lyrics / thanks lists. Like Ryan Kepke says: "I mean if I were a construction worker, I wouldn't call myself a 'Christian construction worker', so why should we label ourselves a 'Christian band'?" Right! Now let's go to the music that can be found on the 12 tracks. It's melodic punk rock, mostly fast, but with some breaks and mid tempo parts. Fans of melodycore will like this album for sure, and even though I sometimes feel reminded to Lifetime and Saves the Day (first album) "Far from nowhere" is nice listening to but it doesn't blow me away. Solid work, but nothing oustanding.
THE SUICIDE MACHINES -- A Match And Some Gasoline (CD / Side One Dummy Records)
The Suicide Machines are around for 12 years and this is their fifth full length, but at the same time it's the first record I get to hear from them. I was pretty curious about this CD because I heard they'd mix punk rock with Ska, and even though there are great bands like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones or Operation Ivy (R.I.P.) there are also lots of bands that I don't like because they sound too hectic or fast in my opinion. The Suicide Machines belong to the category of bands I like. Even though there's some really fast parts on here ("Did you ever get a feeling of dread?") the Ska parts are really relaxed and cool ("Keep it a crime") and sometimes I feel reminded to the aforementioned Operation Ivy even though the vocals are more melodic. After a tour with the legendary Descendents back in 1997 they became friends with Bill Stevenson, drummer of the Descendents and ALL, so "A match and some gasoline" was recorded at his Blasting Room Studios and produced together with him, Jason Livermore and The Suicide Machines. Now that the great Ska hype is over I think it's pretty cool to hear some good bands that still play this kind of music. The Suicide Machines are one of them.
THE SUNCHILD -- Stand Together In This (CD / Redfield Records)
The first thing worth mentioning is the very nice cover artwork and layout of "Stand together in this", the first full length from The Sunchild from Germany. After last year's four track single that was limited to 500 copies which are already sold out The Sunchild manage to do something strange on this album: They became more catchy as well as more complex. I know that sounds contradictory, but in my eyes that's just what happend. Sometimes I feel reminded to acts like New End Original or Split Lip while sometimes the song structures are more complex. One thing that holds these various elements together are the cool vocals that are both melodic and emotional. "Stand together in this" is one of the most interesting albums in this genre for quite a while. Another cool band from Germany and definitely worth your attention.
V/A -- Too Young To Die (CD / Deep Elm Records)
I know, I know, in the last few months Deep Elm released many compilations, and in my opinion too much of them, because apart from the Emo Diaries and the Unreleased comp most songs have been released before. That's also the case with "Too young to die", the latest compilation from Deep Elm. All 20 songs (by 15 bands who are currently on Deep Elm or have been in the past) have been available on regular albums before, so you might wonder why this comp should make any sense. Well, it's in a way the accompanying CD for the "Too Young To Die" tour that took place from March 14 to April 13 2003 in the US and featured Brandtson, Red Animal War, Desert City Soundtrack, Settlefish and David Singer. The intention of that tour and also this CD is, as the title indicates, to prevent (younger) people from committing suicide and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the CDs and the tour merchandise is being donated to the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention. So I guess it's good to support this compilation as the booklet also contains lots of information on this important topic and how to help. As the info sheet says: "Each song was hand-picked for lyrics that promote hope, faith, perseverance and survival as well as the understanding that you're not alone in feelings of depression, loneliness and doubt." Go ahead and support this purpose.