“I don’t feel at home in this generation” moans one of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s two vocalists in their song “Generation.” No kidding, BRMC’s music sounds as if it was pulled straight out of a different decade. Ever since their glorious debut in 2001 they have been compared to everyone from Jesus and Mary Chain to Love & Rockets. These comparisons, as flattering as they are, often hindered the listener’s ability to decide whether or not they enjoy BRMC’s music for what it is, a beautiful mixture of dark, poetic lyrics and poignant music, and not only because of the resemblance to those other bands. After touring for two years and struggling with drummer Nick Jago’s visa problem (which was resolved by some help from, of all people, Bono), they finally return to the scene with a new album that is both elegant and mysterious.
“Stop”, the first single and first song on the new album, grabs your attention as soon as it begins. It starts off simple enough, a single riff being played over and over. Then the drums and guitars kick and it feels as though you are being lead into an exciting new world. When the vocals come in, the entire scene is complete. You are no longer part of your world; you are a part of theirs. Songs such as “Generation”, “Six Barrel Shotgun”, and “Rise and Fall” are true rock songs. Filled with booming guitars and mellow vocals these songs exemplify what modern rock songs should be: insightful yet rockin’, technically outstanding yet catchy.
Their sound varies from song to song. One track that stands out from the entire group is “And I’m Aching”, an extremely introspective acoustic number. It happens to be the only acoustic track on the album but it holds its own when compared to the other songs. Alone with only a single voice and acoustic guitar this song manages to evoke emotions that other tracks simply look over. You can feel the pain that gave birth to this song through the haunting vocals. The lyrics paint a scene of an abandoned person, whether this person is an abandoned lover or not is up to you, just trying to “move on” despite the fact that everything that was keeping them strong was taken away. “In Like The Rose”, another song that starts off strong, comes at you with staccato guitar bursts, a steady beat, and booming vocals that meander lazily throughout the entire song. It possesses one of the catchiest opening riffs on the entire album.
“Suddenly” starts off rather unassumingly with strikingly beautiful guitars and a haunting melody but as the song continues the guitars get stronger, the drums intensify, and the vocals stay constantly evocative. As “Suddenly” ends you may find yourself saying, “What could possibly come next?!” The last track on the album answers that question without doubt. “Heart & Soul” opens simply enough, slowly the drums come in and they continue to intensify until all is put together and they start off what will be seven minutes of driving beats. “I don’t think you care to know but you’ve taken out my heart and soul”, this lyric is delivered with an acidic tongue that remains present the entire song. By the time the second chorus jumps in you can tell that this song is going places that the others didn’t dare wander. The musical high of this track comes toward the end where screeching guitars and intense drums take over and lead into the end chorus. With impressive lyrics and outstanding music “Heart & Soul” is a perfect way to end this album.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club may be flawed (their influences shine through a bit too clearly for some) but through this album it is evident that they have evolved immensely from their last release. With Take Them On, On Your Own BRMC pumped up their songs with heavier riffs and stronger beats and could be the release that gets them the recognition they deserve.
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.