One of the great questions of this industrialized nation: how many countless reviews have been written on how many countless bands?
After a while, I’m sure it gets repetitive.
After a while, I’m sure readers stop believing us reviewers when we swear you must hear this CD. Seems like we say it for every single band … exploring the depths of our broad vocabularies in hopes that you will understand how much we need to convey the message that you absolutely must listen to what we have just spent hours writing about.
Don’t blame us though, we’re music lovers and we mean well.
Nonetheless, how believable are our opinions when we’ve had a significant amount of time to coherently form our persuasions, then edit and polish them? What actually is going through our mind the second we’re listening to something? And what makes our verdict so damn important? Because I have a hunch that deep down, first and foremost, we’re trying to write well, and promote second. If not, wouldn’t reviews gauging musical merit would simply consist of us sticking our thumbs up (or down) at a proper angle?
So I had an idea. Maybe it’s a terrible idea, and maybe it’s a brilliant one. Let’s try it out and see. See, once the smoke cleared from the amalgam of godly punk/metal that was Sieg Howdy! with Jello Biafra, I didn’t think the Melvins could top themselves. After listening to their newest release, A Senile Animal, I wondered, how could I possibly convey how wrong I was and how psyched I get every time I pop in that CD? Dilemmas, dilemmas.
Consequently, I have indeed smoked some pot, and now I’m beginning to listen to A Senile Animal again as I sit down to write this. Why? I don’t know. Guess it may shake things up a bit. Maybe I’ll make more sense when my own senses are heightened. Or perhaps I’ll just get some intensified giggle fits. Oh, there they go.
Before we continue, let me clarify that I am not one of those stoners who listens to music while high and swears by the groundbreaking importance of it all. Not to say I haven’t tried to develop those sorts of tendencies- I tried jumping on the Pink Floyd bandwagon in my earlier years. The result? Turned it off out of boredom and ate a strawberry Pop-Tart instead. Therefore, I can conclude that in regards to stoned musical choices, I’m actually very picky. (Food on the other hand, not so much. I’m reminded of a time when I ate a Drumstick ice cream cone that had fallen on carpet coated with cat hair. Mmm.)
But I digress.
A Senile Animal is perfect in this state and out; very muddy, dirty, hazy, unhurried rock. My absolute favorite track, “You’ve Never Been Right,” has a very intense echoing quality to it, which makes staring at my Epoxies poster even weirder. (Surrounded by her bandmates, Roxy Epoxy’s just sort of floating in this 3-D checkered black hole. Which wouldn’t really make it black. I guess just a checkered abyss, if you will.) The transitioning into “A History of Bad Men” gives the Faint a run for their money … and between-track transitioning is a detail lost on almost all of today’s recordings.
Also, before I forget, let me note that except perhaps Jerry Falwell, there is probably not another person on this planet who discounts metal more than I do. And except the Melvins (and perhaps Wolfmother), there is probably not another band who can declare metal as such a strong influence and still captivate me as well as they do. Does this give me more credibility now? Or is it all shot to hell since I’ve admitted I’m high and now begun to talk about Pop-Tarts? Hmm…
But I digress … again. Jeez.
Ending with “A Vast Filthy Prison,” the Melvins achieve a sort of visual glory by providing the soundtrack to a very fuzzy mental picture of a (surprise, surprise) prison. The beginning sounds like cranking or noisy plumbing. Guitars are reminiscent of something off Fugazi’s Instrument soundtrack. Actually, so are the vocals. It’s very symmetrical, because the clanking pipe sounds start and finish the song. Now I’m starting to think I’m hearing things because there’s this weird faint sound towards the end and sprinkled throughout the song, like someone sucking liquid out of a straw.
How do you sum up extremely great music in writing and do it justice? Well, that’s why I’m writing this in an altered state. I figured I’d be able to describe it better, or have an excuse for my lack of not being able to. This release specifically; how do I describe it? It’s not revolutionary; it’s not the soundtrack to our generation. You’ll probably keep living if you don’t pick it up, unless you suddenly find yourselves cornered by a robber ten seconds away from puncturing your spleen with a sword unless you produce a Melvins CD. However, that seems unlikely.
It’s like, metal for metal haters. It’s like, aged mulletheads in acid-washed attire loitering in front of a 7-11, and walking to a muddy swamp to have kinky sex. It’s like, you absolutely must listen to what I have just spent about an hour writing about.
Or smoke some pot so everything I just wrote makes sense. Either way.
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.
The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk
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.