It is far too easy to conclude a review of Heart Attack Man’s new album Fake Blood as the great album Weezer has been trying to write for more than a decade. So let’s get that out of the way, if Weezer had written Fake Blood, we have said that Rivers had finally found his mojo again and that we’ve finally found a worthy successor to the Blue Album or Pinkerton. But the truth is, Fake Blood is much more than a good album Rivers has been trying to write for so long. Fake Blood is 95% Heart Attack Man, an album that yes, may have found some influences from Weezer, but it’s got traces of Piebald too, and a little bit of early Say Anything and if you dig deep, takes power pop cues from bands like Ridel High. Fake Blood is brimming to the edges with attitude, spitfire spite, and a blast of humor and intelligence that make it a really irresistible listen.
The brainchild of guitarist and vocalist Eric Egan, Heart Attack Man is at its core, an alternative rock band that doesn’t shy away from guitar-fuzzed anger. Songs like the brilliant title track and the Blue Album sounding “Out for Blood” are but a small sampling of Egan’s sometimes brutally sharp and biting songwriting. In the mid-tempo “Rats In A Bucket”, Egan sings “I won’t entertain your bullshit / or give you the time of day” before slicing to the core of searing vengefulness; “cross your name of my hitlist / put you out of your misery and out of my head”, soundtracked to crashing percussions and power chords.
It isn’t all musical bravado either, in “Moths in a Lampshade”, Heart Attack Man cut a Jimmy Eat World-esque picture of more serene soundscapes. Its vocals are soundtracked by light instrumental twinkling and is the shade away from the burning guitar-heavy sounds of the majority of Fake Blood. “Low Hanging Fruit” takes on grunge’s distorted veneer with ample success- a throwback to a Seattle sound that once dominated commercial radio. But the one thing that you constantly come back to is Egan’s vocal fury that makes songs like “Crisis Actor” even more venomous than the music already suggests, yet is coiled with this melodic, comforting haze. The opening seconds of “Asking For It” paints darker, heavier tones, but as soon as the harmonies kick in, it’s a whole different picture. In mere seconds, Heart Attack Man traverse the musical spectrum with quite effective and dizzying results.
This dizzying, non-conformist composition of the music is just so damn alluring. With every listen you’ll pick up something new, something different, something that’ll invigorate your senses, piss you off, energize, and pulverize. Made the more endearing because it’s guitar music- rock music with an unnerving sense of attitude and bravado seemingly lost in today’s safe spaces. Yeah, that other band we talked about has sucked for years, but Heart Attack Man makes it all completely forgettable. Fake Blood is one of the year’s most compelling rock records. Make sure you’re listening.
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.