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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)

Reviews

Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP

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

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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.

(earMUSIC)

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Reviews

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

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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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