Once again, Belle & Sebastian fascinate their fans with an intriguing title. The question really, is where have the friends gone? Since their last album Dear Catastrophe Waitress, Belle & Sebastian fans have been waiting furiously for some signs of new music. Instead, Stuart Murdoch and the rest of his band from Scotland release Push Barman to Open Old Wounds. What better way to call back diminishing fans by making a dual disc of all their b-sides? In their latest collaboration, they re-explore the hidden treasures; unless you’re from Glasgow or a crazed fan, you would probably think the whole album is a set of new creations. Unfortunately, frequent Belle & Sebastian website checkers know better than that. It’s another album to finally add amongst the dust-harboring If You’re Feeling Sinister and Boy With An Arab Strap.
This two disc album intrigues the mind with two senses: it is important to listen to all those tracks that no casual listener would have heard of like “Beautiful” or “Judy is a Dick Slap.” Aesthetically, the album portrays some strange song names like “Take Your Carriage Clock and Shove It,” or “I Love My Car” to even “Belle and Sebastian.” This album does not only complete a colorful rainbow of monotone colors schemes for their patterned cover photos, but it pleases the ear with fascinating stories of love loss, beauty in simplicity, and of course the occasional song about a “Dog On Wheels.”
To take a closer look at one of their songs, we examine “Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie.” It is the tenth song on the first album and a strange tune to boot. This song reverts the mind to a simpler time, a more “beach” time for lack of a better word. With a quick synthesized start, the song goes straight into a more Beach Boys-like setting. Of course, there are no harmonized tunes or simple lyrics; the song represents the freedom of a person. Hitting the soul with a stanza like “Wouldn’t you like to get away / Give yourself up to the allure of Catcher in the Rye / The future swathed in Stars and Stripes / Wouldn’t you like to get away / Kerouac’s beckoning with open arms / And open roads of eucalyptus / Westward bound,” to reveal the beatnik in lead singer and songwriter, Stuart Murdoch and his dream to be free. To follow, the album enters into sweetly acoustic “Beautiful.”
A final note to mention is the song “I’m Waking Up to Us” on the second disc. The name is very deceiving; making the song sound as a ballad to someone Murdoch loves, but it is quite the opposite. As the song slowly enters in, the first line echoes “I need someone who takes some joy in something I do / you need a man whose either rich or losing a screw.” The song then turns to an angry rock song about how the narrator is screwed over by the one he loves. Talk about false advertising, not only does the song have a deceiving name, but the music is deceiving as well. By using high portions of trumpet to compliment the straining strings in the background, “I’m Waking Up to Us” constitutes time to rethink about what Murdoch is writing before starting trouble with his ex. What more can a fan ask for than a song where Murdoch loses the strength in his voice to crack a note or two- sounds like he needs to start going to therapy for that broken heart.
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.