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.
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.