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Down By Law – Redoubt EP

Redoubt is a worthy addition to the Down By Law catalog. Its only real negative is that it is only three songs long and once you’re done, you’re left wanting more.



It is always good to hear Dave Smalley’s voice. His vocal work is as distinct as his penchant for consistently good punk rock songwriting. For many like myself, Punkrockacademyfightsong was and always will be a watershed moment of punk rock’s then-burgeoning expansion from underground medium to new found accessibility. And while it was certainly something that translated better for mass audiences, it did not lack the sense of urgency that was displayed in his earlier work in DYS or Dag Nasty. Songs like “Bright Green Globe” and “Hit or Miss” proved that you could still hit hard while sounding like you could sing, hold a note and write a good tune. And while their cover of “500 Miles” was undoubtedly the moment everyone remembers from the album, it was songs like “Goodnight Song” that stuck with me. Punk rockers could be in-your-face but have a softer side, and the music didn’t have to suffer for it.

Now more than 20 years later Smalley and Down By Law are still going strong. On the back of their 2018 full length All In, they’ve released a short EP on new label Pine Hill. This 3-song outing is a quick hit featuring the kind of tracks Smalley and DBL are renowned for; melodic punk rock with its roots still firmly in hardcore. The opening track “At the Redoubt” cuts its mold from Dag Nasty-era hardcore, and when Smalley sings “gotta get away, gotta get out”, you can’t help but think back to a time long ago. It’s punctuated with this soaring guitar solo that comes askew- but sounds absolute fantastic. It’s a great juxtaposition of no-frills hardcore punk and stadium-filling rock that surprisingly works as strange bedfellows.

“For Your Eyes Only” takes on a more rockabilly sheen as its rhythm section snakes around Smalley’s haunting vocal work. It’s a fine example of the many styles and genres Down By Law have infused into their music over their discography. Whether it was the reggae-themed “Radio Ragga” (from 1996’s All Scratched Up) or the rock n’ roll boogie of “Champions at Heart” (from the 2012 album of the same name), Down By Law have always managed to fine tune their brand of punk rock with an impressive array of outside sounds.

Yet Redoubt’s best track is probably the Sam Williams’ penned finale “Boring Things”. Down-tuned dissonance its being called, and its a fair assessment of its straight-to-the-point nature of the song; marked with Williams’ expressive guitar work and another pretty fantastic solo, the song is the band at its most frenetic.

Redoubt is a worthy addition to the Down By Law catalogue. Its only real negative is that it is only three songs long and once you’re done, you’re left wanting more. The band remain faithful to their sound and continue to fly the flag, one of the few remaining sharpshooters amongst the current crop of punk rock pseudo heroes.

(Pine Hill Records)


Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP

Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper



Alice Cooper Breadcrumbs

For a large number of Alice Cooper fans who didn’t experience everyone’s favorite snake-adorned shock rocker at the height of his powers through the ’70s, most probably were introduced to Cooper through 1989’s hair-metal infused generational breakout album Trash. That was at least, my introduction to Vincent Furnier, at the age of 9 years old, seeking for something to satiate my love of hair metal and shock rock. Trash was everything Bon Jovi’s New Jersey was- big, radio-friendly- but had that added sense of danger and darkness that didn’t come with the pretty side of hair metal. However, as sure as songs like “House of Fire“, “Bed of Nails“, and the ubiquitous hit “Poison”, are still great today, long-time Alice Cooper fans know that Cooper is at his most enthralling is when he taps into his garage rock lineage, cut from the same mold that was paved by bands like the MC5.

So for those born in the early 80s like myself, the initial foray into the world of Alice Cooper meant that you had to work your way back into this long-running discography to find the rich, often timeless work Cooper is best known for. In 2019 Alice Cooper himself is working his way back on his latest EP, the aptly titled Breadcrumbs. The 6-song EP finds Cooper revisiting music and artists connected thematically by what ties them all together- the Motor City. This Detroit-centric EP features Alice Cooper’s take on songs by Suzi Quatro, The Dirtbombs, Motown soul singer Shorty Long, and of course, The MC5 (the EP also features guest guitar and vocal work from Wayne Kramer). Included in the mix are a reworked version of the 2003 Alice Cooper song “Detroit City” and one new cut, “Go Man Go”.

On his reworked “Detroit City”, the song is given a rawer makeover, sounding far less produced than the original. Gone are the orchestral overdubs with the song relying more on the loud bluesy guitars- perhaps the way it was meant to sound. Suzi Q’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stays fairly faithful to the original, but Quatro’s vocal sneer is replaced with.. well, Alice Cooper’s vocal sneer. MC5’s “Sister Anne” is almost as great as the original 1971version, with the added benefit of today’s production qualities.

The EP’s one new track, “Go Man Go”, is very much Detroit, and very much Alice Cooper. It’s rock n’ roll roots are coated with a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of garage, a lot of attitude. Like this EP, the track should be a precursor of Alice Cooper’s anticipated next album. The hope is that he continues this work of keeping things dirty rock n’ roll as the results are more often than not, pretty great.

Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper. Breadcrumbs is a noble effort meant to tease and build anticipation than satisfy your craving for all new Alice Cooper material. It’s done just that, hinting at what could be around the corner. On top of which it shows that there are few rock stars who will ever reach the status and longevity of everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll snake charmer.


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Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill

The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good



Goo Goo Dolls Miracle Pill

One of the most remarkable things about the Goo Goo Dolls is their steadfast consistency amongst the ever-changing backdrop of popular music. Six years ago when they released Magnetic, I wrote that the band remained unchanged in the face of their supposed “waning popularity” in the eyes of pop culture and radio charts. It’s true that many of their contemporaries that made it big alongside them in the late 1990s are long gone, but for the Goos, they’ve quietly continued to be above everything else, themselves, just older, wiser, and continuingly more refined. Miracle Pill is their 12th studio album and is the natural progression from 2016’s Boxes. Like their previous release, Miracle Pill continues their musical evolution away from alternative rock to the more serene territory of adult contemporary. Sure, it may sound like a bad thing, but like everything the Goos have done over the past 25 years, it’s supremely confident and composed.

They may not write songs with the caustic bite like “Here Is Gone” anymore, but they have been finding comfort in the more introspective pop-strewn melodies found in songs like “Lights”. Similarly, in the new album’s lead single and title track, the Goos tap into bouncy, easy-to-digest pop empowerment. Songs like “Indestructible” show that the band haven’t put down their guitars just yet, constructing songs that are still fond of their alternative rock roots but have found comfort in grander, more expansive sounds.

The album’s best moments are when the Goo Goo Dolls unashamedly tug on the heartstrings like they’ve done so many times before. The quiet jangly nature of “Over You” does this particularly well, while the bigger, electronic-infused arena rock of “Lost” shows that this type of music is just done extremely poorly by bands like Imagine Dragons. “Autumn Leaves” is a throwback to the kind of songs found on Let Love In and Dizzy Up The Girl, sounding organic and wistful, while the closing of “Think It Over” is the kind of song they’ve been hinting at since Something For The Rest Of Us. It’s part quintessential Goos, but contemporary and timeless at the same time.

Credit to the Robby Takac songs of the album too- “Step In Line”, “Life’s a Message”- both some of the finest songs Takac has written. He is often cast in the shadow of John Rzeznik’s more recognizable sound, but on Miracle Pill, his work is the best its sounded since Dizzy.

The Ringer recently wrote a piece titled ‘The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing’. I echoed these sentiments in that Magnetic review years ago, but if there was anything long time Goo Goo Dolls fans know is that the band were never concerned about popularity or being “cool”. The problem with being cool in music is that it fades. The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good. Not much has changed in that sense, and really, that’s much better than being cool.

(Warner Bros.)

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