It is like the most unexpected, yet slightly thrilling, weather. The forecast is displayed on the album cover using a tricksy and youthful approach. Alluding to what is to come in a handwritten, unedited, colorful font resembling the texture of crayons. The cover insert even has a game for you to play as you bide your time attempting to triumphantly rescue the captured twins from Queen Beaktapus (they made that up, not me), waiting for whatever is to come…
The time is now: a soft and subtle breeze brushes past as your game comes to an end. The vocals lack actual words, the instrumentation lacks drums, and still the combination is able to produce a delicate, soothing, and most pleasant wind. The breeze progressively gains speed, and it howls with pain, while regressing to a slow pace once before returning to the vocal expression of pain (or sounds of pain). The one time retreat, the super soft bridge, provides a potent and lingering calm that can seem eerie or wonderful. As the wind picks up speed (as “Skyscrapers” comes to a close) it progresses to something quite different. Something with a far different pace, a more brash and dark feeling accompanied and electrified by the muffled yet yelling wind (which has progressed from soft, to howling, to yelling).
As we head into mid-day (I would venture to guess around 12pm), the weather takes a turn for the unexpected; for the sun, for the fun. The wind is no longer howling, but consists of a slow afternoon breeze that is singing; singing in a wonderfully dreary, slightly drunken and careless sounding voice. The instruments accompanying such a delightful wind lack distortion and settle for a more indie pop feel, making you smile from ear to ear. The rest of the afternoon and evening is spent with the wind swirling and conjuring as many different patterns as it can. Sometimes moving with a brash howl and a pounding speed, other times it is more random. The more random movements are in conjunction with a staccato sounding background. At times the breeze even seems to talk to you, forgoing any attempt to sing, yell, or screech. As the day comes to a close the wind slows to a whisper with the air of an adorable lullaby (which is my favorite part of this album, “Spider” – the minimal aspects are perfect) as you await another day of unexpected weather.
Of This Blood lacks a consistent feel. It refuses to be labeled with one pace, rhythm or sound. I found that the harder, darker sounding songs – those with yelling – were slightly unappealing. “The Race” boasts of this yelling and cushions the blow with soft background vocals, with more morbid (not exactly deathly) instrumentation causing a creepy effect. While “When You Need” contains more of this vocal style I am not so keen on, the song has an undeniable rhythm. Most of the songs have great rhythm, of course some more than others. The vocals are as inconsistent as the guitar and drums patterns; ranging from a steady and strong singing voice, to a far from terrific whine/screech, to an unattached singing, and finally to rhythmic talking. The drums and guitar parts are hard to describe, but are quite great … impressive even. Ian has a great singing voice and it isn’t utilized as much as it should be, instead it is sneakily masked by said yelling and other antics. On a more interesting note, this album uses quite an array of instruments to parallel the selection of sounds such as: xylophones, trumpets, cellos, and an accordion among others. All in all it’s a good day; I saved the twins regardless of the sometimes curiously opposing weather.
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.