Hi friends! Today we will learn how to make a derivative emo rock band. Yes, I know your CD case is probably packed with derivative emo bands already, but find a place in your heart for one more. They’re easy to make! First, take the gloomy imagery and masochistic lyricism of Alkaline Trio, then add the melodic vocals of Midtown and stir in the metallic riffs of Thrice. Simmer on stove-top for fifteen minutes and chill overnight. In the morning, revel in the glories of music that can be described completely with characteristics of better, more established bands.
The band we just created is Bayside, one of Victory’s latest signings and yet another buzz band from Long Island. On Sirens and Condolences, Bayside lacks any unique elements that can be called their own (unless you count the uncanny resemblance to Alkaline Trio) and show very little song variety. While the album starts to pick up towards the end, the last three tracks are unable to compensate for seven tracks of tedium.
Highlights are few and far between, but each of guitarist Jack’s solos outshines all other aspects of the music and manages to resuscitate the songs, at least temporarily. Singer Anthony’s vocals are generic, and while the dark, self-loathing lyrics are above average in these trying times of “wahhh my girlfriend dumped me na na na” songs, the melodies and vocals are ineffective. Songs like “Phone Call From Poland” and “Masterpiece” just don’t grab the listener; the album as a whole is neither catchy nor exciting and the debut fails both as a product and an artistic collective.
In fact, Sirens and Condolences is pretty close to terrible, spiraling into the underworld of the mediocre and uninspired. Decent efforts like “Poison In My Veins” and “If You’re Bored” may find their way onto a worthy mix or compilation, but most of the album leaves lasting impressions of being rushed fillers. Bayside, who started up during the winter of 2000, are still a young band with potential and if they are able to find a niche and style of their own, they could achieve some level of success. The talent is obviously there, but the majority of the work here is unmemorable at best. To make matters worse, some of these songs gave me the overwhelming urge to take a cheese shredder to my ears.
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.