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Say Anything – … is a Real Boy

Say Anything …is a Real Boy definitely is an album that needs to grow on you. You have to use your imagination and your head a little bit to fully grasp what I believe is going on.



Through the over-hype and constant buzz swarming around Say Anything, I discovered an album that made me think; and with the lyrics and music combined, made me search a little deeper than what was on the surface. It is very easy to disregard something at first just because it doesn’t sound familiar or doesn’t really fit into a genre. It can easily happen if after the first listen, you walk away.

My initial thoughts were that I didn’t like it one bit. It was a different type of sound and different isn’t always a good thing. But after that first listen, I said to myself, what the heck was this album all about? I rummaged through the lyrics, reading line after line, and I started to listen to the album again, appreciating the unique approach to indie rock music. I then discovered that two people recorded this album, Max Bemis who provides the guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals and Coby Linder who conducts the drums and percussion. Slowly but surely, I was beginning to understand what this album was all about.

Musically, Say Anything is very difficult to describe without mentioning the vocals. The music is simply a background setting to the lyrical commentary. The vocals easily remind me of the early Nada Surf material; resembling someone standing in front of a podium preaching or lecturing rather than someone fronting a rock band. But with the music filled with guitars far away in the background and bass and drums leading the way, coupled with clever keyboard and piano work, this recipe definitely works and slowly grows on your ears. The commentary like vocals are also supported by group vocals which include Patrick Carrie and Robb MacLean of Limbeck and the ever likable, Blair Shehan of Knapsack and The Jealous Sound fame- they compliment the lead vocals extremely well.

The music of Say Anything would not be successful if it wasn’t for the philosophical lyrics of Bemis. After reading through the lyrics, my day of discoveries continued. It became clear to me that my interpretations of these lyrics are that they are delivered in a commentary like way because the lyrics are a social commentary of cries. To me, behind all the glamour that being in a successful band brings, it still comes with some baggage. Maybe even more with the lifestyle of new cities every night, driving hours in a van and finding a floor to sleep on, and Bemis would seem to be trying to echo this sentiment with his lyrics and his delivery of them. Throughout the album, he cries out on what is wrong with the world we live in and what bothers him about everyday life. It is almost as if he is conducting his very own fairy tale of sorts with rock music paving the way. Maybe I’m completely off in my interpretation of this peculiar, clever style of Say Anything, but the opening lines of the final track, “Admit It!!!” definitely reinforced my understanding of the band:

“Admit it 
Despite your pseudo-bohemian appearance 
That vaguely leftist doctrine of beliefs 
You know nothing about art or sex 
That you couldn’t read in any trendy New York underground fashion magazine 
Prototypical non-conformist 
You are a vacuous soldier of the thrift store Gestapo 
You adhere to a set of standards and tastes 
That appear to be determined by an unseen panel of hipster judges (bullshit) 
Giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to incoming and outgoing trends and styles of music and art 
Go analog baby, you’re so post-modern 
You’re diving face forward into a antiquated path 
It’s disgusting, its offensive don’t stick your nose up at me”

…is a Real Boy definitely is an album that needs to grow on you. You have to use your imagination and your head a little bit to fully grasp what I believe is going on. For some, that might be asking too much and some simply might just not get it, but for those who do, lucky you.

(Doghouse Records)

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Good Riddance – Thoughts and Prayers

The fire still burns brightly for Good Riddance



good riddance

It would seem that the current US administration has proven to be fertile fields for political punks. If there is a positive to have come out of the past few years, it is in the form of angry punk rock records. The aptly titled Thoughts and Prayers, the new record by Good Riddance, could very well be the best of them. For many like myself, Good Riddance was the gateway to a world of punk rock socio-political commentary; wrapped in aggressive, melodic hardcore that opened your mind as much as it punched a hole in the wall. 1996’s A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion and the really terrific 1998 record Ballads from the Revolution, were eye-opening propositions for a wide-eyed kid. Good Riddance resonated because their songs were hard-hitting commentary that sounded like broken-hearted punk rock songs. They sang intelligently about inequality, human despair, and the sometimes broken system in which we live in. And when their broken-hearted punk rock songs weren’t about society and politics, they were broken-hearted punk rock songs about broken hearts (don’t think there have been love songs as good in the genre as “Jeannie” and “Not With Him”).

Four years since their comeback record, Peace In Our Time, we get the much more furious Thoughts and Prayers. 12 songs of trademark breakneck melodic hardcore that talks about the divisive current political climate without going as far as saying things like “Trump sucks”. But that’s never been the Good Riddance way. Vocalist and chief lyricist Russ Rankin has always found a way to express his anger and disappointment with poise and intelligence- sounding more like a well-read poet than a man yelling on a street corner.

In the track “Don’t Have Time”, he sings about the futility of repeating history to trumpet nationalism; “And those same old fears arise / With eyes too drawn to counteract / The ghost in you comes rushing back / Too caustic to subside / Just what have we done? / We killed a mother’s only son / Just to remain at number one“. And lyrically, much of takes a similar route of well-written stanzas that question a lot of what is going on in the world at the present time. Songs like the opening “Edmund Pettus Bridge” (let’s hope everyone knows the significance of this landmark), replete with Michael Douglas Wall Street sound byte, sings of social inequality but does it with a trace of hope. While songs like “The Great Divide” are an example of melodic hardcore’s finest moments; unrelenting sonic pummeling that is as melodic as it is potent. “Wish You Well” takes cues from Good Riddance’s “softer” tones of catchy choruses and mid-tempo verses; akin to the track “Saccharine” (from 2003’s Bound by Ties of Blood and Affection). Perhaps the best thing about the 12 songs here is that they are all very succinct, potent, with rarely a moment of filler. The album is consistently good, and while it rarely deviates from the Good Riddance sound, it never lacks in the fire and fury we’ve come to expect.

The album itself SOUNDS fantastic, credit again to Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore at The Blasting Room for their production. The guitars rip at the right levels while the percussion work hits just right. The mixing levels are as close to perfect as you can get without any one element dominating over another- a constant the band have found since 1999’s Operation Phoenix (no surprise, the first of their albums to have been produced at the Blasting Room).

The appeal of Good Riddance has always been two-fold. Firstly, their music has shown steadfast quality, and the albums have found longevity due to the way Rankin and company write their songs. With lyrics referring to and talking about a multitude of humanist issues without having to directly reference them, they remain political, timely, writing music as urgent as it was through the 90s as it is today. That may be a sad indictment of society itself, but it doesn’t take away from their effectiveness and influence. Rankin himself has said that their music may not have changed the world per se, they continue to open eyes and minds. This writer can attest to the latter- and the importance of that can’t be underlined enough. Their early discography spoke to my generation about life, self, and the interconnected reality of the world we live- no matter how hard to try not to believe it. Thoughts and Prayers is a furious, timely, and potent slab of hard-hitting melodic hardcore and shows that the fire clearly still burns as passionately for Good Riddance as it did all those years ago. And perhaps it’ll be what A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion and Ballads From the Revolution was to me for a whole new generation.

(Fat Wreck Chords)

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Hatriot – From Days Unto Darkness

From Days Unto Darkness is a relentless pummeling of thrash metal’s best qualities




When it comes to Bay Area thrash metal, there are two bands that sit atop the mountain forever entwined to its history; Metallica and Exodus. Both bands linked together by Kirk Hammett, both bands crucial to the Bay Area’s most destructive form of music. Exodus may not have their name in lights as Metallica does, but Exodus’ influence cannot be mistaken- and many point to them as being the one true progenitor of Bay Area thrash. Hatriot, a band that was started by Exodus vocalist Steve Souza in 2011, are a real chip off the ol’ block. Surprisingly, it isn’t just musically that Hatriot follows suit from Exodus, its a family thing too. While Steve Souza left Hatriot in 2015, his sons Nick and Cody continue on percussions and guitars with the latter taking on vocal duties once the older Souza returned to Exodus.

Hatriot does more than just follow on the Exodus path; they’ve loudly carved their own slice of the thrash pie. Led by Kosta Varvatakis shredding guitar work and Cody Souza’s blistering (sometimes ominous) vocal work, Hatriot may have found their Fabulous Disaster, ironically, also three albums in.

From Days Unto Darkness is a relentless pummeling of thrash metal’s best qualities; machine gun percussion work (I’m a sucker for some great double bass drums), shredding guitars, soaring solos, and vocals that does the growling well, and the screaming even better. Tracks like “Organic Remains” and the blistering “Carnival of Execution” showcase the band’s ability to craft songs that are equal parts urgency and solid musicianship. Thematically, From Days Unto Darkness covers the usual thrash metal spread; the end times, death, destruction, and humanity’s failing graces- all done with equal breakneck, ear piercing destruction sonically. “World, Flesh & Devil” is perhaps the album’s best outing- a raging beast of a song, that if carnage could be written in music form, this is it incarnate. At 4:26, it is one of the shorter tracks of the release, but much of the album features in at the 6-7 minute mark- a trademark of thrash metal’s desire to not only showcase talent but to do it over extended periods.

What the album lacks perhaps is that one magnum opus of a track. Sure, it’s not easy for any band to write “Master of Puppets”, but From Days Unto Darkness rarely takes a breather. It’s mostly positive, but while Master had at times, slow interludes to let you catch your breath, Hatriot takes absolutely no prisoners- staying true to their thrash metal heritage. If you’re not quite up for it, this album will hammer you into a stupor.

The halcyon days of Bay Area thrash metal may be long resigned to nostalgic documentaries, but Hatriot are not interested in just being a throwback to their roots. From Days Unto Darkness is not for the weak and if this is the sign that thrash metal is alive and kicking, then the future and present are in damn good hands.

(Massacre Records)

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