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Longwave – There’s A Fire

Longwave have turned in a complex, heartfelt, experimental rock album that just feels massive, but never clumsy.

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I’m trying as hard as I can to make this review brief, lacking the rambling (read: boring) style that my reviews can often delve into. I’m going to try extra hard to make this one a curt little piece so I can drive home exactly how good an album There’s a Fire is. The album is a leap forward from Longwave’s last full length, The Strangest Things, and miles ahead of the bands formerly used as comparison points (Strokes, etc.) This is an album filled with rock songs so anthemic, (I refuse to use U2 in reference to anthemic- when was the last time you felt a rush listening to “Vertigo”?) your ears might give out. Longwave have turned in a complex, heartfelt, experimental rock album that just feels massive, but never clumsy.

The album begins with a mission statement of sorts with its title track. A tense keyboard line, powerful drumming and an uplifting guitar melody buoy poetic, slightly existential lyrics, like “in the end it’s all the same / when there’s no one left to blame whether your dancing in the light, or crawling on all fours.” This is one hell of an extraordinary opener.  If there is one word that might seems foreign in the above, it is certainly “poetic” in reference to the lyrics. Longwave, while always being able to craft impeccable rock songs, were never extraordinary or especially effective wordsmiths (“I am everything you wanted, I am everything you need” was the refrain from the hit, “Tidal Wave” off their last album). On There’s A Fire, they stretch themselves while also acknowledging their flaw- the songs’ lyrics are often brief, natural realizations- Bright Eyes they ain’t.

Track two, “Underworld,” is just as jarring, sounding as though it were recorded underwater (rumor has it the album was originally a concept piece about a sea creature) with distant, muffled drums, and singer Steve Schiltz providing a delicate falsetto. Halfway through the track, however, the song abruptly changes into a psychedelic freakout. A similar progression occurs in first single, “River (Depot Song),” where the song’s moody aggravation surrenders to an extraordinary two minute guitar solo at its end. I could gush this much over every track on the album, save two, both of which suffer lousy production at the hands of the normally great John Leckie (who has produced albums by The Stone Roses and Radiohead). “The Flood” could be a great track, were it not for the pretentious, ineffective echo attached to Schiltz’s voice, and “Tell Me I’m Wrong” sounds like pop-punk made by robots, with blips and beeps all over an otherwise adequate rock track.

For every flaw on the album, there are three or four successful experiments, like the reworked “We’re Not Gonna Crack,” (originally appearing on last year’s Life of the Party EP) a straight ahead mosh worthy agro-rocker, or the bossonova percussion on “Down in Here.” However, just like The Strangest Things, the band has saved its real gems for the albums conclusion. “Fall on Every Whim” is a touching, sprawling ballad most bands wish they could write. “Underneath You Know the Names” a plodding, victory lap of a song, closes the album in high style.

Longwave recorded There’s a Fire in an old house in upstate New York, away from their stomping grounds of Brooklyn, and save a short EP, it was the first material from the band in nearly three years. Leave it to a band like Longwave to wait for all hype to die down before they actually deserve it again. 

(RCA Records)

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The Ritualists – Painted People

The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music

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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

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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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