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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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Crossed Keys – Saviors

Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds

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Crossed Keys Saviors

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.

(Hellminded Records)

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Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”

A glorious sound of a time gone by

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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.

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