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Failing Up – Sword and the Wall

A succinct six songs that leave you hungry for more, Sword and the Wall goes a long way in solidifying the appeal of Failing Up.

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Sword and the Wall

While we have seen countless female-fronted rock bands dominated by a hundred and one Hayley Williams clones, female-fronted punk rock has had the enviable position of featuring an amazing variety of powerful women fronting a cavalcade of in-your-face music. We’ve had in this recent lifetime the opportunity to witness a host of bands both globe-conquering and local who have shredded stages and studios- The Distillers, The Interrupters, White Lung, Tsunami Bomb, Naked Aggression, L7, The Donnas, Deviates- just to name a very select few. All coming from an assortment of genres, but all sharing one commonality; attitude. There is one band that needs to be added to this list immediately, and that is Los Angeles based punk band Failing Up.

Buoyed by the shattering and snarling vocal work of Tanya Delgado, Failing Up are a mesmerizing blend of melodic punk and hardcore. The lovechild of Beat the Bastards-era The Exploited and melodicore heavyweights like Strung Out and Pennywise, the band have just released their latest work, a six-song EP of pummelling riffs accentuated with Delgado’s menacing voice. From the onset of the opening “Deal With This”, Failing Up take no prisoners, lobbing a salvo of blazing guitars, machine gun percussion work and the kind of urgency that goes missing in more serene musical pastures. It is impossible to listen to “Deal With This” and not get amped. Whether it is the soaring “woah woahs” or the breakneck tempo of the song, it does in just two minutes what bands fail to do in entire full-lengths.

“Headlights” takes its sonic cues from Pennywise and early 88 Fingers Louie, while “The Method” cuts a more melodic mid-tempo veneer. It is a nice break away from the pace of the rest of the album but doesn’t sacrifice any of the EP’s urgency for easy to digest harmonies. The EP closes with “Antichrist”, with its hardcore roots in tow, the song burns the right kind of bright in its sometimes sludgy breakdowns and metal-tinged riffage. A succinct six songs that leave you hungry for more, Sword and the Wall goes a long way in solidifying the appeal of Failing Up.

There’s been a long lineage of noted female frontwomen who have dominated the punk rock landscape, a lineage that started with names like Patti Smith, Exene Cervenka, and Siouxsie Sioux, and continued on by the likes of Kathleen Hanna and Brody Dalle. There’s a cavalcade of terrific frontwomen making music today, all deserving of praise, but you can’t argue for adding Tanya Delgado’s name to that prominent list. It may be early on in the piece but Failing Up have got the chops and this EP is proof they are no slouch. While it sounds that Delgado’s terrific vocal work may overshadow the rest of the music, it is not true, her voice is one part (a great part) of a complete persona. This EP comes highly recommended, and if that is not enough to sway you, in the age of easily accessible digital music (free), I bought this and would buy it again.

(Sound Speed Records)

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Crossed Keys – Saviors

Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds

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Crossed Keys Saviors

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.

(Hellminded Records)

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Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”

A glorious sound of a time gone by

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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.

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