It takes some bands a while to get their just due. Not all roads to stardom and fame are easily paved. Some bands must spend several years before they get the respect they deserve. It takes that hard work and persistence to keep pushing before you finally break through. For Cleveland’s Brandtson, that time to break through is now. After spending about seven years in the background to comparable bands like Sense Field, The Get Up Kids and Jimmy Eat World (watching them settle down in the spotlight), it is time Brandtson got to enjoy the warmth of the glare. In many respects, they helped define a genre of music that said it was okay to be sensitive and emotional while rocking out at the same time.
Ending their flourishing long tenure with Deep Elm Records and then signing to up and coming The Militia Group, Brandtson have finally pieced together an album that brings their traditional indie powered rock to the forefront.
Musically, Send Us a Signal is twelve songs filled with powerful rock melodies slightly coated with pop harmony; pulling everything together in an overall appealing sound. The guitars posses a heavy yet easy-on-your-ears sound coupled with profound drum beats that really resemble a mix between the often compared to Jimmy Eat World and the thrashing of Superdrag. This album also displays the elaborate work of studio specialist/producer Ed Rose. The recording is excellent and the sounds are meshed together incredibly well. Rose still manages to keep that well-known Brandtson rock sound but adds some unique musical patterns and punch that really push their musical identity to another level.
Lyrically, the album is stamped with those heartfelt words of despair and lost hope. Good songwriting has always been a staple of Brandtson, and this album is no different; “I wonder now and then If I ever really knew what brought the end / If I got the truth my friend / So I brought you here tonight to finally get to your insides / Close the drapes and lock the door / I’ll ask once more / I just have to know / Is there something on your mind?” Maybe something that you never said / Now all we have is time / So break it over my head. These are the words from the third track, “Throwing Rocks Tonight,” and it illustrates the awareness and emotion that Brandtson have displayed for quite some time. The track “Mexico” shows the anger and agonizing side of their lyrics; “Records on the floor / I’m giving back what’s yours remember us last weekend dancing to the Psychedelic Furs / I tried to tell myself that we could be alright, now it’s me and my cigarettes and alcohol tonight / So screen all the phone calls and put the chain on the front door, and if you see her tell her I don’t live here anymore”.
Brandtson will clearly benefit from being on The Militia Group roster. They may finally get the spotlight they have worked so hard for. But just the way this album sounds proves to me it’s not really that important either way for Brandtson. They just make music that’s heartfelt and recognizable to anyone that has loved. Send Us a Signal proves that they should be right up there with the other bands that have achieved success for their innovations.
(The Militia Group)
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.