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Sahara Hotnights – Kiss & Tell

I would still opt for Jennie Bomb, Kiss & Tell is a good effort… a less cocky, less abrasive, and less memorable album but a good effort all the same.

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I had been anxiously anticipating this album. Since Jennie Bomb I pledged my loyalty to Sahara Hotnights and all they represent. Maybe not all they represent but make mistake about it, I developed very strong feelings for these four women. By strong I do not mean sexual nor do I mean borderline obsessive. By strong I mean I really liked the music of Sahara Hotnights. I was thrilled when Kiss & Tell arrived in my mailbox, partly because I was excited for the album and partly because I received mail. I was so happy upon receiving the album that I had put one of the stickers that accompanied the disc on my door. Given that the only thing on my door was my name (courtesy of the R.A) and that even the walls in my room were completely bare, placing the sticker on my door really said something.

Now that I have walked you through my excitement for the album, let me walk you through my disappointment upon listening to the album: I was disappointed. That is really all there is to it.

I had hoped for a continuation of Jennie Bomb but what was on the disc was not on the same level as the Hotnights’s previous album. Mind you, I am not the type to insist that a band remain with one sound for the duration of their musical career. I understand, accept, and sometimes even hope for a new direction or a shift in sound for the sake of avoiding monotony. Perhaps it was because I felt that the Jennie Bomb sound was filling a void in the musical landscape of today, perhaps it was the uniqueness of the sound … whatever it was I wanted it back. Even as I was wrapped in disappointment, my heavy heart would not allow me to write the review while in that state. So I tried again more than four weeks later.

On the plane ride to India all but two weeks ago, I gave it another shot. This time I placed my earphones on without the high expectations I had once had for the disc. Maybe it was the self-inflicted hype or the memory of my disappointment but I managed to listen to the entire album unscathed and with some good memories. This time around I was able to indulge in the candy sweet melodies of Kiss & Tell. After accepting that this album did not carry on in Jennie Bomb tradition I found that I rather liked (to an extent) the 80s influenced light heartedness, singing, and big poppy sound.

Maria Anderson shows a greater depth on this album in terms of vocals and proves that she does have a lovely voice that can sound as brash or catchy as needed. “Stay/Stay Away” and “The Difference Between Love and Hell” especially hold that 80s feel with the synthesizers and poppy chorus and back-up vocals. Within all the singing and melodic play, the Hotnights remind us that they still have it in them to play great and fast licks. The guitar riffs in “Walk On the Wire” and “Nerves” are indicative of this. I found the vocals, not including the chorus, in “Walk On the Wire” to be noteworthy. The Television influenced licks of “Hangin’” are pleasant. Although I would still opt for Jennie BombKiss & Tell is a good effort… a less cocky, less abrasive, and less memorable album but a good effort all the same.

(RCA 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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