In an interview prior to the release of The Dissent of Man, Brett Gurewitz had referenced Tom Petty and The Kinks as influential outlets for the album’s songwriting. It was a disarming statement at first, but why can’t a Bad Religion album sound a little like something Ray Davies would have written? Yet as The Dissent of Man unfolds, it is clear that it is still a distinctively Bad Religion album- compact melodies, sharp guitars and Brooks Wackerman’s great percussion work- but there are many instances where they venture out into the kind of ambition unseen since Into the Unknown.
It isn’t a grating, blatantly abstract form of musical diversity- they’ve exercised these textures with certain restraint. Most evident perhaps, in the closing “I Won’t Say Anything”, an acoustic driven, soft rock-tinged tune that will play closer to Tom Petty and Ray Davies than Greg Ginn and Steve Soto. But the song’s diversion from the regular Bad Religion sound is still in line with the album’s bigger thematic nuances- so it doesn’t feel out of place. Mid tempo tracks “Won’t Somebody” and “The Devil in Stitches” are from the same book as “The Answer” and “Honest Goodbye” while “The Pride And the Pallor” is a great example of forward thinking songwriting blended perfectly with accessible rock aesthetics and their trademark lyrical attack.
Where The Dissent of Man really tests the waters are with its two (yes, two) love-themed tracks, and as alarming as it is to know that Bad Religion have written a love song, it is less so once you hear it. Lyrically, it’s a mix of cheese and embittered lovelorn couplets in “Cyanide”; “Let me say / (Oh oh) well there’s no place left to hide / (Oh oh) from the loneliness inside”, complemented well by the song’s country-punk flavoured sound. “Turn Your Back On Me” is equally pessimistic.
The most effective aspects of The Dissent of Man are when Bad Religion ups the tempo and dives into more familiar waters. “Only Rain” and “The Resist Stance” (first heard on 30 Years Live) is closer to vintage BR, while tracks like “Meeting of the Minds” and “Wrong Way Kids” would not feel out of place on Generator or Against the Grain.
Gurewitz has said that there have been a few cases where they would step back from the progressive writing to pen a more straightforward punk album (as with New Maps of Hell and The Empire Strikes First) but this is not one of those times. Greg Graffin has made no secret of the band’s intake of music outside of punk rock since their earliest of days. Their latest simply shows these influences on a more prominent level. Some 30 years after their formation, The Dissent of Man is proof that one of the smartest bands on Earth is still challenging music on a multitude of levels. They’ve now challenged long-time fans and listeners as well, with remarkable effect.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
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.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
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.