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)
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.