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SPQR – Low Sun Long Shadows EP

Definitely not for everyone but a sound for the disenchanted to absorb. This is SPQR, and they’re delivering thought-provoking, stylish art rock. Four loud, unapologetic songs.

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Definitely not for everyone but a sound for the disenchanted to absorb. This is SPQR, and they’re delivering thought-provoking, stylish art rock. Four loud, unapologetic songs make up the new EP, Low Sun Long Shadows, and yes, it is different, and the concept is multi-layered. But none of these tracks fade out into the black, rather they all help spearhead this band’s elevation. 

What SPQR do well is gravitate towards keeping it fresh and daring. They don’t keep their personalities encased in cotton wool either, they don’t zip their lips, and they just tell it as it is. “Slowly” starts proceedings. The vocals bounce off and create an exhilarating chorus. The protagonist of this tale isn’t well or equipped for the daily constraints of life. The track slows and enters subtle avenues, embracing both worlds. The drum beats excel here also. “Our Mother’s Sons” is a brash punk extravaganza. It’s rough and volatile. The guitar presence is breakneck, offering a brilliant contrast. The song falls into a melodic mode until it bashfully bangs the mind again. “This Gore” opens with sentimentality running throughout it. Inside the very heart of it, there are rushes of adrenaline, there is boldness, and brazen, thumping guitar lines. It is compelling work. 

Rarely do we get acts which brush against or even try to pulverize the status-quo. SPQR are a beast of curiosity and one which will spearhead revolutions and defy the norm. It’s refreshing to hear music that overthrows the ordinary, one that forgoes cheap lyrics and one-dimensional tones.

Low Sun Long Shadows isn’t an easy listen but it isn’t a rigid one. There is so much depth and intelligence within it. You can say that SPQR are musical captivators, stretching their talents like multi-colored chewing gum, keeping together a paper love heart that has seen better days. They’re the type of act molding possibilities from bare happiness, a unique outfit orchestrating a sound for the renegades. Low Sun Long Shadows is gratifying and rebellious, and we ready for the onslaught. 

(Modern Sky UK)

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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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