New Jersey rock band Halogens are not easy to pigeonhole. While some would say the foursome cut their craft from pop punk influences, the reality is they are so much more than a singular genre. Happy Hour, their new EP, is a 6-song trek through a myriad of moods, sounds and aural landscapes that become distinctly them. To my ears, they take some musical cues from bands who made their way down similar musical paths in the past- Piebald, Limbeck, (and if you squint a little, FYP)- and sound very comfortable in their sound.
“Pretty Enough”, the opening salvo, hits you like an emotional punch into the gut. Slow burning, delicate but sullen, it is a little jaunt into Midwestern emo’s less distorted moments. It’s a terrific track, and one that you’d think gives you a clear picture of what the rest of the EP sounds like, but before the next track “The Inside” can finish, you realise Halogens aren’t content with singularities. They take genres and wash them over with different textures and a good dose of their own personality (something about the vocal delivery of singer Zach Henry that adds to the picture) and so tracks like “Pretty Enough, while not groundbreaking, are given a distinct Halogens hue.
“Buckle” flares into more alternative rock territory while there’s just a little cow punk Limbeck-ish twang to “Sometimes”. It gives you some cowbell (cowbell!) in “O’Gorman” but swings ears to puckish indie rock, coupled with toe-tapping “woah woahs” and frenetic guitars.
As the closing “The Backwoods” swells into its gorgeous crescendo, Happy Hour ends on a true high. Electric solos, mixed tempos, distortion and a good serving of introspection;
“I just wanted you to stay and change my life but things are always in your way / So I will go and I will stay there / Sometimes life just ain’t fair”
Happy Hour is 6 songs that show a band flexing their take on the influences that have shaped their music- with competence and poise. You’ll never get bored with Halogens. And on that note, it’s time to for another round.
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.