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Self Against City – Take It How You Want It EP

While Self Against City fit into the Drive Thru formula, they really are an above average band with their execution and I think they definitely have the talent to grow.

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Rushmore and Drive Thru folks describe this music as catchy pop songs coupled with rock and roll beats. They honestly are doing their own band a great disservice because I definitely wouldn’t lump this band into the hundreds among hundreds of the all too familiar watered down pop punk bands that fill the pages of PureVolume and MySpace. Being the first band on Drive Thru’s new sister label Rushmore, it’s a typical and expected signing but its refreshing to know that Self Against City does have potential to grow based on this EP. Self Against City are way more accomplished, polished and tight with their musicianship than most bands of their genre.

Yes, the music isn’t breaking any new boundaries or forging into any uncharted waters, and it does fit into the pop rock genre but the execution and delivery of these songs are what give Self Against City the possibility of a bright future. They honestly sound like they have been playing together for years so there is clearly an abundance of talent with all these guys. While the band plays the pop punk format of music the lyrics and vocals are delivered in a more mature fashion and the song topics range from more than just relationships gone bad. The lyrics also come across pretty open-ended which leaves everything open to interpretation. Vocalist Jonathan Temkin also has an above average voice, which is a nice change of pace from the shrill vocals that often accompany the pop punk style.   

The EP also is structurally put together neatly with most songs being very aggressive and blaring but they manage to slow things down a bit like on the track, “Speechless.” It offers a nice break down early on in the EP. The band also manages to change and shift the guitar tones around quite a bit to make each track a little different offering some variety where it is rather hard to find in the pop punk genre anymore. It will be interesting to see how this band makes the jump from EP to full-length. Lately, it seems a lot of up and coming bands are doing an above average job with their EP’s because with only five or six songs they are able to offer just the right amount of material to satisfy. It seems to me though that at least Self Against City seem conscience of this as they already have put their EP together with this in mind so with their full-length, they should be all right. I also must admit that I was very skeptical of this whole Rushmore thing- figuring it was an excuse to release more of the same. And while Self Against City fit into the Drive Thru formula, they really are an above average band with their execution and I think they definitely have the talent to grow.

(Rushmore Records)


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The Ritualists – Painted People

The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music

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ritualists

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.

(Out Of Line Music)

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The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk

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The Decline

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.

(Pee Records / Thousand Islands Records / Disconnect Disconnect Records / Bearded Punk Records)

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