w/ Men Women & Children, Colorable
07.25.06 @ Avalon, Boston, MA
Following a long and secretive stay in the studio, Brand New is finally back. However, the band remained guarded and photo-phobic at the Boston stop of its fan-appeasing teaser tour with Men Women & Children- understandable given the immense pressure on the band members to recreate their past success. Absolutely no cameras were allowed into the club, and no press passes were handed out on behalf of the band. Although the show had a very clandestine feel, there were signs that the band was readying for a return to the spotlight. Frontman Jesse Lacey was without the wool hat and thick-rimmed glasses Where’s Waldo get-up that had become his uniform of late- he looked like himself again. The band had tightened up its set since its shows in late April, and they readily debuted more new songs, which now had definite titles.
After an interesting short set by alt-rockers Colorable (imagine Coldplay with Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock spazzing out on vocals), Long Island’s Men Women & Children took the stage with a unique blend of oddball chic, disco fever and a charmingly retro sense of humor. The band’s choreographed stage moves and strange, fun dance tunes like “Monkey Monkee Men” were a completely unexpected yet enthusiastically welcomed addition to a rather serious night of music. A riled up performance of “Time For the Future (Bang Bang)” solidified the band’s status as every scenester’s guilty pleasure.
Men Women & Children’s momentum continued to escalate throughout their set, peaking with their last song, “Dance In My Blood.” Charismatic vocalist T.J. Penzone worked the stage, and the crowd was worked up into a frenzy. As the lyrics to the song affirm, we may “not need a reason to get out on the dance floor,” but Men Women & Children’s infectious hipster disco tunes gave concertgoers a damn good reason to shake it. Even the drunken frat boy hecklers (perhaps they got lost on their way to Ozzfest?) were silenced by the end of the band’s lively set, a tremendous feat for a new act.
After a torturous 50-minute wait, headliner Brand New emerged to adoring yet irritable cheers. All negativity disappeared quickly as the applause faded into the gentle yet gripping “Tautou” and Lacey’s quivering voice filled the room. The band quickly picked up the pace with the blistering breakdowns of a new song and the familiar riffs of “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows.” A powerful rendition of “Guernica” teemed with strong emotion, and “Take Your Head Apart,” the reported first single from the upcoming album, was memorable and intriguing.
What’s most notable about Brand New’s live show is how well this band works together – there is no weak link in Brand New. All four band members are not simple performers, but skilled musicians with a vision, and this makes them much more interesting than the multitudes of emo hacks. The complex, layered and meaningful rock of 2003’s Deja Entendu nearly broke the band free of its emo shackles, and as it ended the night with “Sic Transit Gloria (Glory Fades),” there was no doubt that Brand New will finish the job very soon.
The Ritualists – Painted People
The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music
After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.
“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.
“Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.
“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.
There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.
The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk
It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.
Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.
From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).
Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.