Bats and Mice, a band comprised of former Sleepytime Trio members released their album, Believe It Mammals, in 2002; but after a year they seemed to fall out of my memory. Believe It Mammals was a stunning album complete with lush guitars, deep bass lines, forceful drumming, and muted vocals that seemed to exude emotion effortlessly. The songs on that album became the soundtrack to my life for years after its release. So imagine my happiness and fear when I saw that Bats and Mice had released something new. Happiness because I’ve wanted to hear new music from them for quite some time and fear because I was afraid that I would taint the new release by thinking that nothing could be better than Believe It Mammals. They also had some line-up changes that made me think that their music would be switched from the muted melodies of their last release to the something less appealing … such as crunching guitars and less than perfect harmonies. While A Person Carrying A Handmade Paper Bag Is Considered As A Royal Person is a lot more polished than Believe It Mammals, it still has that not all familiar music that made Bats and Mice one of my favorite bands.
The first track, “The Royal Paper Bag,” is purely instrumental which makes for the perfect introduction to the new sound Bats and Mice are producing. It is automatically noticeable that there won’t be anything muted on this release and it isn’t a bad thing. The pounding drums of the newest member, Luke Herbst and the perfectly matched bass and guitar make for a wall of sound that just takes over everything that stands in its path. The second track, “Military Smile,” features the familiar vocals of former members David Nesmith and Ben Davis. This track begins with a light guitar riff but you slowly come to see that this track manages to give each instrument their time in the limelight. After the short guitar solo it seems as if this song belongs solely to the bass. The heavy bass line takes control of everything, weaving together the different instruments as if it were the thread in a handmade sweater. Yet as soon as I was getting acquainted with the bass, the drums kick in to take over – and what a glorious takeover it is. The percussions flourish as the bass and guitar takes the backseat to the overwhelming pounds Herbst produces. Towards the end of the track, all of these elements blend together with the vocals to finalize the first complete song by the band.
With this release, Bats and Mice tries to take what was perfect about their sound and incorporate into it something new. They fill this short four track EP with enough of the old stuff, so as not to alienate old fans, and a lot of the new sound to produce a release that once again leaves this listener craving more; unable to withstand the wait for the next full release.
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.