Illinois’ Spitalfield have carved themselves nicely into the pop punk tree. Ever since the release of 2003’s Remember Right Now, their brand of breezily accessible pop tunes emblazoned with the occasional searing guitar cut has given them the right kind of exposure and continued momentum to build upon. As they launch their brand new LP, the rather awkwardly titled, Better Than Knowing Where You Are, Spitalfield have established that while their music is certainly easy to get into, it is by no means sagging with the burden of being labeled “Nickelodeon” punk. And immediately apparent from the release is how comfortably Spitalfield appears to be in their designation- somewhere between guilty pleasure and enjoyable, easy listening rock.
First single, “Secret In Mirrors,” is a slow moving amalgam of mid-paced rock and sugary MTV melodies and is a fitting way to showcase slight maturity in their music. The album gets its much needed pep from tunes like “The Only Thing That Matters” and “On the Floor” that harkens back to the catchy, up-tempo numbers found on Remember Right Now. It’s a formula repeated again on “Tell Me Clarice” and “Curtain Call,” songs that try their best to get the ‘go’ into the mix. Their Jimmy Eat World influences are made as clear as day on tracks “Lasting First Impression” and “Hold On,” both relying more on slower harmonies and a gradual build up to its respective apexes (the latter tune being their best impressions of Jimmy Eat World’s slower radio hits).
Lyrically, Spitalfield get a bit queasy; doe-eyed all the time, fluffy puffy rhymes found in your very straightforward yet no less painful (un)romantic inklings of ‘teener types; “You picked out your favorite dress / Made yourself up your very best … I know you’re dying to be / Broken and let down by me.” So while they’ve found comfort in musical maturity, their lyrics seem to remain within the Teen Beat slash quasi-romance type that will surely turn away anyone older than fourteen. It’s the most frustrating aspect of their music because their sometimes great tunes become so excessively bogged down by poor lyrics that the whole experience becomes a turn off.
While their shortcomings are rather less than subtle, the lack of depth is covered up nicely with their overall zeal for writing excessively catchy and accessible rock tunes. And make no mistake, there’s enough rock of the briskful kind to keep those listening entertained. Spitalfield, like a temperate autumn day, is a soothing blend of easy listening that’s certainly great for the brief duration of the season. Either you really like the sight of falling leaves and the gentle hum of the wind across your face, or it will really just piss you off.
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.