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Matchbook Romance – West For Wishing EP

Matchbook Romance’s West For Wishing is an unfortunate trek into the myriad world of emotive nondescript music

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My last college roommate was quite the hefty fellow. He drove a beat up old Dodge truck (which he named “The Beast”), ate like one who would and loved the midnight meals and those big plate dinners. He was, what some might call, a connoisseur of not-so-fine dining, and the Americanized Mexican fast food chain was undoubtedly a favored destination spot. The only place on earth that can create a multi-itemed menu from about three ingredients does certainly have its appeal, but the drawbacks can often leave a very sour feeling in one’s stomach.

This one trip was quite the anomaly; we had received our order and like so many times before, he asked for a bagful of extra “hot sauce” from the seemingly jaded cashier. Perhaps it was from the unconceivable excitement of working at fast food taco (or the fact that it was Bakersfield), but this wily cashier refused;

“Sorry sir, we can’t give you any extra hot sauce.”

Now there a few things you don’t do to a large hungry man – show him where your kitchen is and deny his right to extra hot sauce. What proceeded was confusion, anger and a conversation not suitable for young, tender ears. My unfortunate friend is perhaps the only person to have ever caused such commotion at a fast food place while not robbing the joint. In the end, thanks to manager intervention, he did score his extra hot sauce, but was informed that new policy states they will no longer be handing out ‘free’ extra sauce but in the future, doling it out for an added sum.

As if it was some act of divine beings, all the trouble that he went through, all the bickering, the anger, the frustration; it all resulted in one thing – diarrhea.

And for all the unique artists, stirring records and affecting changes to society that Epitaph Records have been involved with over the course of so many years, it is dumbfounding that they release this mechanical, overbearing, pseudo-emotion filled mess of audio diarrhea. On a staple diet of punk-like guitar chugging, heartbroken adages and rhythmic anonymity; Matchbook Romance’s West For Wishing is an unfortunate trek into the myriad world of emotive nondescript music. Is this Finch? Is this Taking Back Sunday? Yes – it reeks of wilting familiarity – another faceless lump in the wretched “new emo/punk” pestilence.

Their single “The Greatest Fall (Of All Time)” (ironically enough) and the other four tracks have been put through extensive knob turning, but don’t let the slick production and sound quality fool you. If someone happens to say, “Hey, Matchbook Romance are going places!” – You’d better believe them; they’re heading out of Epitaph’s posterior and straight into the toilet bowl.

(Epitaph Records)

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The Ritualists – Painted People

The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music

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ritualists

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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