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Ben Kweller – On My Way

Ben Kweller’s On My Way is good, clean, safe fun.

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In my attempt to join the tennis team with an erratic academic past (not completely my fault), I had to endure a bunch of bureaucratic bullshit (wow, an alliteration). Anyway, after having my screw-ups from, I kid you not, three years ago thrown in my face by a jackass of an Econ professor (the athletic advisor as well), one cam imagine my anger and the shredded state of my ego. It was not Columbine-type anger, more of a “who do you think you are?”-type anger.

Lucky for me I had just received On My Way to review, and it was currently in my CD Walkman. As I left the Econ department building I slipped on my headphones, pushed play and within seconds I felt my anger subside. I felt much better, almost happy even. Ordinarily, it takes the solemn-ness of AFI’s The Art of Drowning or the political angst of Propagandhi to save my soul from hours of torment. So, it was quite a surprise when the upbeat notes and melodies from the first song were able to patch up my ego with in seconds.

The words were not inspiring nor were they intriguing but the energy was inescapable. The more I consider what it was in “I Need You Back” that pulled away my anger so quickly, the less I find I am able to come up with any sort of slightly plausible explanation. One thing that does stick out when I listen to the song and compare it to the tap of my foot is that my foot follows the drum pattern. The drum pattern drives the song in a stable yet progressive matter. The guitar sequence only adds energy to it. That is what I came up with at least.

Still, don’t be fooled by my praises of energy and foot tapping fun. There are some more solemn songs on the album, “Living Life,” “On My Way” and my second pick of the album “Believer.” While the pace is different, the lyrics are still far from being acclaim worthy. Then again, not many lyrics these days are. Though elementary, at least Ben Kweller’s lyrics make some sort of sense. The album is relatively enjoyable, a nice fun break from the monotony of many bands. Yet, there is one thing I find irritating (having only one blatantly irritating thing, is quite a feat in these times). I cringe as Kweller repeats, “I know what you want, you want a piece of me.” If he is able to recognize this well, that’s well and good but frankly I don’t need to hear it over and over again.

As I skim through the songs on the album, I fear I may have overshadowed the appeal this album has by resting on the lyrics and one irritating thing. The manner in which the tracks are organized provide the listener for changes in paces, which are favorable and enjoyable. The slower songs are caring and soft, while the faster paced ones, while not brutally loud or overcompensating, are definite pick-me up songs. On My Way is good, clean, safe fun.

(ATO Records)

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The Ritualists – Painted People

The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music

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ritualists

After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.

“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.

Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.

“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.

There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.

(Out Of Line Music)

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The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk

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The Decline

It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.

Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.

From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).

Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.

(Pee Records / Thousand Islands Records / Disconnect Disconnect Records / Bearded Punk Records)

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