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A Night with Brand New

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.

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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.

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Crossed Keys – Saviors

Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds

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Crossed Keys Saviors

Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.

Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.

For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.

(Hellminded Records)

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Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”

A glorious sound of a time gone by

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Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.

I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).

To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.

Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.

While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.

Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.

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