I make the three hour trek from school in Los Angeles to home once a month on average, summer included. Before each trip I load the car and refill my CD player. I often find that I have trouble picking only 6 CDs to accompany me on my journey. Still, I manage by making sure I have a good variety of damn good music. On my most recent trip back from L.A., I had a rather entertaining combination of CDs holstered in the trunk. A little side note: I try to shove my CDs in the holders very fast so that I don’t remember which one is in which slot in order to aide in the suspense of what will be next and the thrill of being able to recall it.
The line up from my last trip (still in my car, a whole two weeks later) was (in order … it doesn’t take long to figure it out): Waking Ashland – I Am For You (not sure if that’s the title), Mr. T Experience – Yesterday Rules, The Long Winters – When I Pretend to Fall, The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow, Switchfoot – Beautiful Letdown, and Common Rider – This is Unity Music. Another side note: I can’t believe I forgot how incredible this album is (the Common Rider one). I remember thinking that the first album was awesome and the second one not so hot. I was quite mistaken.
The fact that Mr. T Experience made it to my car was no mistake. I put it in there because it is so much fun. Before I listened to this album I had only heard two songs by Mr. T Experience, “Leave the Thinking to the Smart People” and “Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend.” Given my limited experience with the band’s music I was very surprised by what I heard when I put the release in my player for the first time (at least a month before the trip … yes, this review is long overdue). The first song that spits out of my speakers (which is in, yes IN, the ceiling) was not like the songs I had heard. It wasn’t acoustic, it wasn’t soft, it wasn’t mellow and the lyrics were not blatantly amusing. The lyrics were interesting enough though. As one would expect, there are plenty of great quips and consistent bursts of wit. My favorite being, “smart things come in stupid packages.”
For those of you who are fans of the two songs I mentioned earlier, there are a few (which is more than two, that is a couple) which hold the same air and flow. There is a wonderful variety in this album not only with the instruments but also in the use of words and metaphors alike. It is rare that I am interested in the lyrics of many bands these days, aside from wanting to sing the correct words in my car. The script of this album is as exhilarating, interesting and thoughtful as the performance. With the mix of songs ranging from acoustic guitars to songs with fast electric guitars (don’t forget the great drumming, bass work and keyboarding) and songs with incredibly melodic singing, to the more ballad-like songs soaked in smart (and I mean smart) and pervasive words, this CD will most likely remain in my car for treks to come … given the vast amount of bonus features on the disc, I may remove it from the car only to give some joy to my computer.
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.