One year after his much acclaimed electroclash comeback Kittenz and Thee Glitz, Felix (real name Felix Stallings) once again pays tribute to his fellow producers and performers in the title of his new album Devin Dazzle and the Neon Fever.
Despite sounding like something you might catch if you drank the water in Bollywood, the Neon Fever and Devin Dazzle certainly lend a different if still unmistakably “Felix” tone to this album- especially after his acrimonious split with Ms Kittin. New recruit Devin coupled with the old guard of Tommi Sunshine Dave the Hustler ensure that very little of the now-defunct electroclash sound have all but disappeared. However their time machine still appears to be in fine working order and has this time taken them back from their eighties-themed efforts into the realm of New York seventies disco funk, his own brand of electronica and… shhhhhhh, whisper it… guitars.
Sounding like a sexually ambiguous Scissor Sisters track, the opening two tracks use this new found toy excessively, with their funkalicious 70’s riffs seemingly lifted straight out of Saturday Night Fever without even having taken their white flares off. As the album moves on the classic and oh-so-cool Felix lyrics permeate every song; giving the impression that everyone he knows smokes like James Dean and only drinks cocktails made in an upturned top hat. Although this can get a tad cheesy all the way through there’s nothing quite so good to get ready to as “Everyone Is Someone in LA,” perhaps best described as the new “Silver Screen Shower Scene.”
Sounding like an even more sexually ambiguous Scissor Sisters track, “Hunting Season” does exactly what it says on the tin and exposes a darker, more explicit side to the album, whilst still remaining firmly tongue in cheek. It also brings with it a shock to the release- a catchy melody. These have become quite a scarcity this time round, with only “Ready 2 Wear” and “Romantique” providing hum along moments, but certainly not as good as any present in Kittenz & Thee Glitz. In fact the whole sound of the album is far more clustered and confused than his previous melody-driven hook-fest. There are perhaps a few songs that take a little too much from his prior effort too, “She’s so D*amn Cool” for example, owes more than a little to “Runaway Dreamer.”
However, one epithet that would be hard to level at this album would be ‘boring.’ A new sound or effect seems to be heard on every track and you get the impression that Felix and his cohorts certainly know what all the buttons do in their studios – yes, even those little fiddly ones at the back. If you’re looking for a repeat of his last work then you had better look elsewhere, however if something more akin to Ladytron is what you’re after you won’t go far wrong here- a pretentiously fun album- if a little too much of mish-mash.
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.