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Les Savy Fav – Let’s Stay Friends

Les Savy Fav’s Let’s Stay Friends is a mostly-great record from one of America’s most unappreciated bands.



Every review of every Les Savy Fav record seems to have some reference to the band’s legendary live shows, and how the critic saw them and they were better live than on CD. Me, I’ve never had the pleasure to see Les Savy Fav live. I didn’t even discover the band until 2004 when an acquaintance, whom I bonded with over our collective love of The Hives, told me about the band. “There like Gang of Four, but like from France or something,” he said. His information on the band, they’re actually from Rhode Island, may have been wrong, but his Gang of Four reference was spot-on. The way that Seth Jabour uses power chords and Morse-code minimalist riffs, and the way vocalist Tim Harrington barks and shouts over his band’s thrashing are very similar to the way Andy Gill and Jon King used to in their late 70s heyday.

My acquaintance gave me copies of Rome (Written Upside Down) and 3/5, largely considered to be the band’s best studio albums, but looked down on by fans that’ve seen them live. Rome is probably the band’s masterpiece, as it saw Harrington moving to the forefront of the mix with the exit of their second rhythm guitarist, and focusing his lyrics. The bands has remained mostly quiet since the releases of Rome, releasing only one album since, 2001’s Go Forth, and are returning with their new studio album Let’s Stay Friends, an album of excellent post-punk and punk songs, cementing the band as one of the genre’s best. 

The album begins with the one-two punch of the self-referencing “Pots & Pans,”which talks about a bands slow rise to fame, and the first single “The Equestrian,” a fast and furious slasher with a floating chorus. The album’s main strength is the fact that it flies by so fast, you almost don’t realize what you’ve heard. Songs are sequenced so they have less than two seconds between them, and all of the songs are less than 4 minutes and 20 seconds. The album’s best track is “Patty Lee,” a near-Prince, stomping funk song, with Jabour playing a riff that sounds like it’s coming from somewhere in the stratosphere, while the rest of the band plays more terrestrially. Other highlights are “The Year Before the Year 2000,” “Brace Yourself,” and “Comes and Goes.” 

It remains to be seen if this album will finally break Les Savy Fav, as their version of punk and post-punk isn’t what is “hot” right now. A typical Fall Out Boy fan might not find what he wants here, but Let’s Stay Friends is a mostly-great record from one of America’s most unappreciated bands.

(French Kiss Records)


The Ritualists – Painted People

The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music




After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.

“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.

Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.

“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.

There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.

(Out Of Line Music)

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The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk



The Decline

It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.

Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.

From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).

Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.

(Pee Records / Thousand Islands Records / Disconnect Disconnect Records / Bearded Punk Records)

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