“Dead bands are better off dead.” It’s the sort of rhetoric that has floated around the webosphere since the announcement that post-hardcore darlings Lifetime would be recording and releasing new material. It’s quite the crass statement too, but we’re not talking about a band that overstayed their welcome, pushed record sales, and/or hawked cheesy merchandise. And in this day and age, no matter how old you are, it is hard to escape the painfully trite shtick of marketing trends, music video rotation, and first-week sales. Sure, certain label-heads may be a little annoyed that the albumwas leaked a couple of weeks before it hit stores, and yes, maybe Lifetime is getting the sort of attention and scrutiny they probably would never have a decade ago- but strangely, when you juxtapose the music with this “sales package,” it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The music is, in a sense, “unsellable.” And herein lies the beauty; it never was, and often times, a writer can be left feeling a little goofy staking bold claims in its defense while contending with copious amounts of discussion and attention about something that probably never wanted it in the first place.
It has been said a couple times already but for the sake of slamming the door onto the now unconscious body, the précis one last time; Lifetime sounds as if the band never left. It’s the natural musical progression from Jersey’s Best Dancers (assuaging fears they may write something Jay-Z would want to mail in an intro to) and, besides the increased production value (which is a good thing), sounds every bit as good as its predecessor. There isn’t a whole lot of technical musicianship but there are plenty of up-tempo, fuss-free tunes that skate between crushing aggression and melodic ridges that became the band’s trademark sound (see songs like “Airport Monday Morning” and “Just a Quiet Evening”), all of which could easily trade places with “25 Cent Giraffes” or “Turnpike Gates.” The album’s highlights, “Haircuts & T-Shirts,” and “All Night Long” (re-recorded from their raw sounding 7” versions) are every bit as great as when “Young, Loud, and Scotty” first made its way through stereos. Lyrically, they tread on familiar ground- songs about friendships, landscapes, loves lost, and the people they share these stories with. It’s a remarkably personal listen- all the more rewarding when it never once sounds too smart, pretentious, or inane.
Rarely has “sticking to your guns” been so gratifying on so many fronts. The album is a reflection of the band’s outlook and personality- a throwback to simpler times, simpler politics, and a far more worthwhile way to spend 30 minutes. And while the magnifying glass that they’re under has become far larger, it is far less important in this case because the music and the connection it can have with its listener is still very much the same. So what if they still like to party like its 1999, and so maybe they’re a little better off these days, and maybe this whole reunion thing doesn’t last past next Wednesday, but honestly speaking, none of it matters in comparison to the sincerity of the music— and this is the attitude-embodiment of the band itself. Some bands like to talk about changing the landscape of music on different levels, and some like to claim their music will, but so few actually do.
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.