Every so often a band comes around whose music is met with the kind of universal acclaim from listeners across the spectrum. Norway’s post-hardcore/rock outfit, Spielbergs, have rocketed into that sphere with their debut album This Is Not The End. Mainstream press are enjoying the record, so is the indie underground, and judgmental old punks like myself are already finding it hard to not consider it one of the year’s best with every repeated listen.
Premature? Perhaps, and hopefully it is not because we are all caught up in the swell of praise and lost in all the adulation it has received. But as soon as the feedback-laden fuzz of the opening cut “Five On It” kicks in, you know you’re in for something of a great ride. The Superchunk sounding “Distant Star” made its mark on their debut EP last year, but it doesn’t mean the song doesn’t stand out again on the LP. Its melodic overtures, coupled with the low-end vibrations swirl in a delirious, joyous amalgamation of indie rock’s best moments. And there’s just something about the synthesizer coated ending to the song that makes it complete. If This Is Not The End doesn’t end up being one of 2019’s best albums, then “Distant Star” certainly makes its case for best track.
It isn’t all frenetic guitars either, “Familar” sounds a little like a cut from the Drive soundtrack, while “Sleeper” takes on quiet acoustic reflection. The fantastically titled “McDonald’s (Please Don’t Fuck Up My Order)” is a little more post-rock than the rest of the album. Seven and a half minutes of guitar painted soundscapes that slowly ascends and descends into and out of, “musical neon noir” (actually this song could have been a cut off the Drive soundtrack too). The single “4AM” is Speilbergs at their most urgent; a beautiful mix of melody and buzzsaw guitar chaos. “SK” is a throwaway atmosphere track which is a little unnecessary, but This is Not the End closes with the pretty grand “Forevermore”. A more wistful adventure down shoegaze-y indie rock that provides a good closing to the procession.
This Is Not The End is a moment in time, and that time is now; perfectly noisy, subtly melodic, frenetically composed. The only fear is that the album, the music, the sound, isn’t timeless and we’re all a little blinded by the haze. Whether we look back at this album in ten years and remember it as one of the greats remains to be seen. But that’s something we can talk about in ten years. Take away all the talk and you have an album that demands repeated listens- both enjoyable and rewarding. For now, like this album, the moment is something to savour.
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.