There is a passage in a book I’m reading that proclaims that those who carry their music as emotionally as the hearts on their sleeve tend to find stable relationships hard going. The emotional spectrum they say, is too polarizing to remain somewhere in the middle- you’re either all in, or all out. Taking many pages from Lifetime’s Hello Bastards, Saves the Day’s Can’t Slow Down and the Get Up Kids Four Minute Mile, Keep It To Yourself is the kind of record you cannot go in to half-hearted.
Boston, Mass, with its cold streets and winter nights, is remarkable inspiration fitting for the topical ground covered. From the opening salvo of “Dear Anyone” to the re-recorded “Please, Head North”, Transit proudly wears their intentions with great urgency. It’s melodic and accessible, but with out the plastic buoyancy that listeners often associate with the term “pop punk”. Before you get visions of The Wonder Years and more sugary filling, Transit owe their lineage to the grittier, more abrupt type of music played well by the aforementioned Lifetime and early Get Up Kids; plenty of self-reflection cut with unconventional song structures and melodies. “Hope This Finds You Well” and “A Living Diary” are every bit listenable as they are directly affecting. It’s like when you listen to “Anne Arbour”, “Ostrichsized” and “Bobby Truck Tricks,” you can pick up the positive musical qualities that make these songs appealing, but there is an underlining intangibility to it that immediately separates it from an All Time Low song or a Simple Plan effort.
Ultimately, it is the intangibles that make Transit great- a sense of urgency perhaps? A better understanding of how to make an emotional song without it being sappy or trite? It all permeates through Keep It To Yourself leaving it with a more long term appeal. On the flipside, it isn’t quite as immediate as their Stay Home EP- there is this one lacking, nagging issue with Keep It To Yourself that I wrestled with for a few listens. I only realized that it was missing the song “Stay Home”, which by far is still the band’s best song to date. The full length seems to waver a little towards the end- not quite running out of steam, but certainly not as eventful as the first half (until the glorious closer, “Love ___”, asking of all things, “why is the world so sad?”).
Keep It To Yourself is miles ahead of their debut This Will Not Define Us, and only a few years removed. Rarely do songs about pain and heartache come across as this uplifting. These anthems will ring long after the last heart is broken.
(Run For Cover Records)
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.