Moments in Grace singer Jeremy Griffith has one of the best new voices in rock, almost like a youthful Ozzy Osbourne, but with a bigger range and better tone (and fewer obnoxious children). Griffith leads the band on one of the stronger debuts I’ve heard this year. The Florida-based foursome released a downloadable EP through Salad Days before signing to Atlantic, and producer Brian McTernan (Thrice, The Movie Life, Hot Water Music) gives Moonlight Survived a great feel with clever string arrangements and nicely placed background burps. Thick guitars penetrate each track and arena-rock drums make you want to throw your fist in the air. Or maybe just bob your head a little harder for those trying to play it cool. I’m not sure how to classify this band-“rock” is the best general description, though the band gets grouped with a lot of post-punk bands. How bout post-punk arena rock? Sure.
Almost every song is radio ready, but doesn’t sound forced. This is mostly due to Griffith’s lyrics, which tie the songs together into a real album, not just a collection of songs. Most anthemic choruses feel cheap after repeated listens, but the heartfelt words here give them staying power. The album opens with “Stratus,” maybe its strongest song: “Feeling the sunlight breaking down our souls / learning that love will soon be the sign / promise of new days, and a new day will be born.” “Through bloodshot eyes / I struggle to see the truth,” Griffith sings through the pulsating rhythm of “We Feel the Songs.” Most of the songs follow this path: melancholy, but with a healthy dose of hope thrown in so it doesn’t sound whiny. Add to this the themes of loss, regret, death and soul-searching, all the while pushing forward and vowing to never give up. Gatorade would be proud.
The downside is that the songs are pretty formulaic and can sometimes have you thinking the album is one long song (maybe that’s why they tie together so well…). McTernan would have done well to find the ground in between quiet and loud–you can throw your fist in the air to a huge chorus after a lulling verse only so many times. Some varied guitar sounds and more diverse vocal melodies would help to make each track stand out from the other. Griffith also needs to learn when not to sing; a little instrumental space could do wonders on certain songs.
That said, it’s a strong album, especially for a debut. Get your fist ready.
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.