Lately, there has been a surge of synthesized-pop hitting the music scene. It’s been witnessed with the success of the Postal Service, Ima Robot, and a number of others. Everyone is swiftly claiming new roots in classics like Daft Punk and New Order. Described as a record to “light up your life,” excitement was soon in the air, and the giddiness lead to Cut Copy’s latest, Bright Like Neon Love, quickly finding its way into a CD player.
“Time Stands Still” doesn’t remind me of a dance club track. Well, maybe it does considering it has catchy hooks and simplistic lyrics that are easy to sing along to by the song’s end. Getting a thought that maybe this would be something different than the music that has been spurting out of the club scene, Bright Like Neon Love continued on. Then suddenly something happened. Nostalgia of the first days of synthesizers flooded my brain. Bad fashion, bad hair, bad music, it was all rushing back. By the time “Going Nowhere” rolls around, I had to wonder if this was just a copy of some old washed up album no one paid attention to in the 80’s. Luckily, there was a little bit of saving quality to “Going Nowhere” in the sense that Dan Whitford’s voice took on a number of different facets. Maybe it’s him; maybe it’s his pedals that he was playing with while recording.
“That Was Just a Dream” managed to remind me of the movie The Ring in the beginning with its creepy, mysterious sounds and ringing telephone. Paranoia? Perhaps. Weird music? Definitely. But even stranger was the fact that the next single “//” was exactly the same as the one before it. Now, if Whitford is running low on material, he could have just avoided releasing such a lengthy collection. The reduction to using the same song twice on the release was disappointing to say the least, citing this occurrence twice on the CD.
Towards the end, I was giving up hope for walking away with “my life lit up.” “Autobahn Music Box” was something of a savior to this album. It was truly different, and not just the same beats that have been played and over played across the board. While it didn’t really match the rest of the album, it was a good thing, because it’s about the only redeeming quality of Bright Like Neon Love.
Besides being a little freaked out and annoyed by hearing the same song 11 out of 12 times, I do have to admire Whitford for at least putting this out into the void. I still have yet to figure out if he wanted to prove anything with this album, or if he was just trying an experiment to see what he can get away with as far as repeating the same songs. But it didn’t work. When one song is the only thing saving this album from being pitched into the trash, it is honestly not even worth the listen.
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.