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Mike Park – North Hangook Falling

Quite frankly, Mike Park is the man. Do not take that statement lightly.

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I cheated. That’s right, I cheated and I am owning up to it. Under normal circumstances I would not have done it. Under normal circumstances I would have listened to the album before reading the lyrics or the press release. Although, I have, on occasion, read the press release and lyrics as I listened to the album. Yet, I did not do either for this CD. For this I will present my case: I respect and admire Mike Park. Hell, I want to BE Mike Park. The fabulous records he has helped distribute amongst us, the unique and value-bound label he runs, and the noble causes he has established and continues to support are all enviable and should be applauded. Quite frankly, Mike Park is the man. Do not take that statement lightly.

So how does one approach a record constructed by “the man”? Perhaps, one immediately plays the album upon receiving it with such enthusiasm that Richard Simmons would take note. Or perhaps one dawdles for fear that this album may in fact ruin the musician’s reputation as “the man” in her/his mind. Obviously, I chose the latter approach. I waited and waited. Then I caved; I read the literature and waited some more. I wanted to be given an idea/a hint as to whether I should expect to be disappointed or pacified. It was for the sake of my vision of Mike Park. So that’s why I did it, judge me however you please.

As for my findings: 

The album is quite the treat. I will not lie and call it brilliant, but it is indeed a solid effort from “the man.” It kicks off nicely with “Is It Safe for Me to Go Outside?” The ever so brief instrumental intro to the song sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s a great tone, a chill tone, perhaps even a somber tone. While it is rather consistent through the album, the tracks differ enough to keep one interesting and satisfied. Great for those moods where all you want to do is lay down and think or relax. Starting the album off with a song that hints to the political theme of the album stressed by the press release is somewhat deceiving. While one may be able to put her or his own political twist regarding any country to the majority of the songs, none can really be considered political anthems for a generation. Quite frankly, I like it that way. It gives the audience more of a person feel, something to better to relate to. 

Unlike some musicians, Park successfully found his vocal range and stuck to his guns. His sing-along melodies provide the listener with a good half hour of sweet, almost political, goodness. It seems as if this man can do no wrong.

(Sub City Records)

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Crossed Keys – Saviors

Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds

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Crossed Keys Saviors

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.

(Hellminded Records)

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Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”

A glorious sound of a time gone by

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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.

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