As I sit here in my quickly emptying bedroom at my current apartment (I’m packing to move to a place closer to town in a couple of days), the music filling the air feels somehow appropriate. I always found myself moving around a lot at my younger ages; having gone to a handful or two of middle and high schools before finally graduating and heading on to college. Since I graduated high school, I’ve lived in at least four different places within the span of three some odd years. The only things that followed me through all of those ‘homes’ were a small collection of books, and my ever-burgeoning album collection that has lived in various cases and incarnations.
I’ve been a Goo Goo Dolls fan since back when I first got my hands on a copy of Superstar Car Wash was new and edgy, and I became a devout stalwart the first time I heard “Iris,” in the film City Of Angels. Just the immediacy in Reznik’s words and voice; it really spoke to me at that diffident age of barely being a teenager. The four year span between the releases of ’98’s masterpiece Dizzy Up The Girl, and 2002’s Gutterfloweralmost did me in, and on top of that the only truly great track on the latter was the too-short “Sympathy.” The misstep of Gutterflower was followed up by the filler release of the CD/DVD combo Live In Buffalo, and two years later, Let Love In finally arrives.
The Goo Goo Dolls have always happened to speak to me at their different stages of development, and somehow seemed to parallel my own life. Through all my moves, all the places I’ve been, their music had been a shifting constant in my life at different times. Along with Dizzy Up The Girl‘s confidence,I was confident in my own life when I first heard it. Happily sliding through high school, I seemed to know what I was doing, and I was having a good time doing it. When Gutterflower came, I was ending my high school run, and the confusion of the period and lack of direction seemed somehow unknowingly mirrored in the songs that I found there. It is with my own newly found sense of stumbling direction, knee-deep in college and (hopefully) finally beginning to figure things out that I happen upon the latest Goo Goo Dolls release.
Let Love In is the sound of a good band that has finally, I hate to say plateaued, but reached a level of quality and comfort that can only come with maturation and experience. Gone is the vivacious intensity of A Boy Named Goo, and Dizzy Up The Girl, and what is there now is a more stable sensibility; still passionate, but aged to the other side of the spectrum, where you look back upon it all with that knowing sense of hindsight. I find it comparable to recent releases Healthy In Paranoid Times by Our Lady Peace, and U2’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. They’re all the products of good, experienced bands, making good, solid music from the other side of their youth. Not revolutionary, but evolutionary. On this album, a more peaceful Rzenik & Co. are present, with prevalent themes of love (look no further than the title), and peace exude from the tracks. It’s an appeal to the world to be heard one more time, with a message worth singing about, and I hope you’ll give it a chance to be heard. From the album opening rocker “Stay With You,” all the way to the beautiful ending “Become,” Let Love In is just the Goo Goo Dolls doing what they really seem to do best; making good music.
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.