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The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

The affin­ity I hold for the Gaslight Anthem has become dif­fi­cult to explain. The suc­cess in which Amer­i­can Slang has pro­pelled them to is as deserv­ing as I’ve ever seen

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The affin­ity I hold for the Gaslight Anthem has become dif­fi­cult to explain. The suc­cess in which Amer­i­can Slang has pro­pelled them to is as deserv­ing as I’ve ever seen– an hon­est to good­ness recep­tion fit­ting for a band so entrenched in the work­ing class ethos they have extolled since 2007’s Sink Or Swim. They spoke like Spring­steen, sang songs the way Ker­ouac wrote, and held strong the val­ues of Amer­i­can rock n’ roll. They were in every respect, the great Amer­i­can band for the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion. Amer­i­can Slang is an album end­lessly rich, the alba­tross on which they will undoubt­edly fly to immea­sur­able heights with.

Yet, in a strange sense, the suc­cess and global recep­tion almost works against the fables they preach. How does one relate to liv­ing the hard life when you’re at Glas­ton­bury amongst a hun­dred thou­sand strong? Does singing about just get­ting by lose some of its roman­ti­cism when you’re on the cover of a glossy mag­a­zine? I never really under­stood why so many peo­ple were in uproar when Dylan first plugged in– maybe I still don’t, but I guess a small part of me com­pels the ques­tion of how an unruf­fled soul con­nects to some­thing almost solely writ­ten for some­one below the line. Is there a greater under­stand­ing of cer­tain artists and gen­res when all of which it cel­e­brates is very much part of who you are?

An edu­cated and well-versed music enthu­si­ast can cer­tainly under­stand and appre­ci­ate var­i­ous styles, gen­res, and his­to­ries and still remain dis­tant, but will they ever con­nect to the music the same way as some­one who lives a life par­al­lel to the artist does? I’m not sure, but I know that when I lis­ten to Born to Run, I have a far greater con­nec­tion to it than when I lis­ten to The Ris­ing. So when The Gaslight Anthem start play­ing sta­di­ums (a very good pos­si­bil­ity than I’m actu­ally not against at all), will the music mean the same as when I saw them play in front of 100 peo­ple in a small, bro­ken down back­packer hotel on a sweaty August night? Peo­ple who saw Spring­steen in 1972 and then saw him again post-1984 may have that answer.

In the June 2010 issue of Big Cheese Mag­a­zine, they describe Amer­i­can Slang as “the pain of a bro­ken heart, sal­va­tion from the radio and love by the lights of the bar. The record is a per­fect mar­riage of expert sto­ry­telling, superb musi­cian­ship and clas­sic melodies.” It is an apt assess­ment and among the many rea­sons why it is such a good album. Brian Fal­lon has traded in his crunchy riffs of The ’59 Sound for more bluesy gui­tar licks, drop­ping ref­er­ences to Maria while expand­ing his already excel­lent grasp of cre­at­ing per­fect blue col­lar rock songs. You will be hard pressed to find a writer who is able to inject his music with actual, down to earth sub­stance bet­ter than Fal­lon. It’s gen­uine, all of it. And my favorite part about it all is that no mat­ter where I’ve trav­eled and what I’ve seen, there is some intan­gi­ble con­nec­tion to the music that will res­onate dif­fer­ently for each and every lis­tener. It’s a murky the­ory I know, and I don’t have the vocab­u­lary to explain it, but with every lis­ten of the clos­ing “We Did It When We Were Young”, I am reminded of life up to this point and I am hit with end­less con­tem­pla­tion and reflec­tion. It’s not about whether or not they wrote this song with any such inten­tion, it’s just that it is pow­er­ful enough to do so.

Strangely, I feel less com­pelled to talk about the actual songs them­selves; there are many rock crit­ics and writ­ers who will do a far greater job at explain­ing or jus­ti­fy­ing the praise with con­nec­tions to Dylan, Strum­mer, Miles Davis, and of course, Spring­steen. They’ll tell you about the great lit­er­ary ref­er­ences, the homage to the great cities and trails, and the many emo­tional highs and lows as painted by the chord pro­gres­sions and melodies. But for me, it is the last­ing impres­sion and con­tin­ued con­nec­tion they’ve painted since I first heard them in 2007; that life’s great­est reward comes from an unfor­get­table jour­ney regard­less of the final chap­ter. It reminds me of the many great pages left to write, and that fill­ing them through your time here is the only rea­son why we should wake up every day. It does not res­onate emo­tion­ally (save the clos­ing track) as much as The ’59 Sound does, but it con­tin­ues to do the great­est thing a band/an album/a song can do for me. The past is part of who you are, the present reminds us of this, and the future will always be unwrit­ten. It is the only part of their music I hope they keep intact no mat­ter where they go and what they do.

(SideOneDummy Records)

Reviews

Void of Vision – Hyperdaze

An adventurous exploration of sound that takes the listener on a dark and powerful journey

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Void of Vision - Hyperdaze

Void Of Vision, from Melbourne Australia, have been on the fringe of breaking out in the Australian heavy scene for as long as I have been listening to music. While they have clearly got a massive audience, it has always been a question of why aren’t they bigger? It has seemed like they have struggled to find their place within the churning machine that is the Aussie scene, and in the lead up to this release it felt like, as a fan, it was make or break for them. And now, sitting here after having Hyperdaze on repeat ever since I received it, I am happy to say they have found themselves, and they are about to take off.

Hyperdaze features an adventurous exploration of sound that takes the listener on a dark and powerful journey through the entity that is Void Of Vision. Making it immediately evident that they are taking a spookier approach to their sound with this album, Hyperdaze with the ominous and atmospheric intro track, “Overture”. The slow build of this leads perfectly into the opening hits of “Year Of The Rat”. Immediately punching you in the face with a mix of growling guitars and massive drums, this headbang inducing rhythm alone is enough to set the nightmarish tone for the rest of the album. An atmosphere filled with intensity reigns through the verses, and is released only for a mesmerising sung chorus, that while is nothing ground-breaking, will stick in your head for hours.

“Babylon” opens with a maniacal fast paced intro, leading up to a dreamlike swaying verse. Heavy and hard, it maintains this high level of pressure all the way through to the demonic breakdown that makes up almost half the song. Only 2 minutes long, “Babylon” is short yet sharp. Transitioning fluently into “If Only”, this extra fast paced track implements extra usage of the added dark synth that they’ve merely flirted with thus far. The verses feel like they are throwing you back and forth, as the frantic tempo adds a maniacal edge to the track before it flows into the chorus. One issue that I personally have had with Void over the years, is their sung choruses can sometimes have jarring effects, and can seem like they interrupt and resultingly dissolve any momentum that they had previously built up in the verses. I’m happy to say that through Hyperdaze they have found the balance, and every chorus flows perfectly throughout each song that is relevant. As well as a gorgeous chorus and strong verses, “If Only” features a rare but welcome guitar solo that is a tonne of fun.

“Slave To The Name” closely follows, and is a slower but more mechanical take on the darkness. Injecting a healthy dose of panicky guitars, screeching vocals, and gut-wrenching drums straight into our veins, it leads us perfectly into the absolute fucking vibe that is “Adrenaline”. Clocking in at 1 minute and 31 seconds, this synth-heavy dance track is a wild time from start to finish. Grooving and moving their way into the electronic and house scene, Void of Visionhave now raised the question, “Could Void Sell Out Revs?” Instrumental and well out of left field, “Adrenaline” is the most eyebrow raising and most fun song off the entire album.

Lead single “Hole In Me” is the one that got everyone especially excited for this release, and for good reason. Unrelenting in tone, it was the first sign that Void were about to take the next step up. Bouncy and frantic and featuring some of the snappier snare hits you will find, “Hole In Me” remains to be one of the strongest song releases of the year. “Kerosene Dream” shows the band getting extra inventive with their guitars, and while it is chock full of fun riffs, what predominately draws the listeners ears to it will undoubtedly be the ridiculously tough blast beats, and the ridiculously tough breakdowns.

Psychedelic and cybertronic-baby vocal effects reign through the verses of “Decay” and maintain that the freshness of this sound doesn’t stale towards the end of the album. “Splinter” is opened up with the return of the, to put it in professional terms, “fucking sick” blastbeats that have popped their heads up a few times so far. They lead into ridiculously tight and fast verses and ensure that “Splinter” is one of the heaviest tracks off the whole album. The drums are the MVP of this track, and it is impossible to ignore how integral they are here. Setting the pace and taking control of the entire song, it is the added intensity of drums that gives “Splinter” the added edge it needed.

And thus we have hit the closing/title track, “Hyperdaze”, which ends the album with an added sense of dread. While all the way through it is just another fun heavy song that fits with the tone of the album, the way it ends, with intense nightmarish samples and effects, adds the haunting tone that it felt like the ending of this album deserved.

(UNFD)

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Reviews

Blink-182 – Nine

Bland-182

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blink-182 nine

It’s been an odd few years for Blink-182. The band, now crystallized with the addition of Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba, seems to have fallen into the steadfast routine of existing to remain relevant by doing everything by the book. Nine, the band’s eighth studio album, and now the second without Tom DeLonge, is a natural progression from 2016’s California, but it’s so determined to remain current while checking off every single pop music trope of today that it does everything except have a personality. It’s 15 songs of music that fit anywhere in-between pop songs by Ariana Grande or Post-Malone. The album is just as easy to digest next to Lil Wayne as it is next to Maroon 5, and like all these aforementioned artists, Blink are now so safe, so saccharine, so inoffensive that it becomes such a chore to sit through this latest iteration of their music.

The problem with Nine is that so many of the songs are lacking any sense of urgency and commit the ultimate crime of just being songs that fill a tracklist. From the singles “Blame It On My Youth”, “Happy Days”, and the confounding “I Really Wish I Hated You”- they all come packing the same bouncy, pop-laden hooks, Travis Barker’s skitterish drum work, and singy-songy choruses that have dominated the charts the last decade and are bereft of a willingness or desire to grab the listener by the ears and demand attention. Songs like “Hungover You” sound like half-songs with its whispered, scatter-gun verses that explode into mid-tempo choruses. “Remember To Forget Me” is “Stay Together For The Kids” lite, except that it doesn’t have the impact of the latter’s substance while “Generational Divide” gives off “my first punk song” vibes. Skiba sounds bored half the time, which is a shame really. Even when the album does its best Alkaline Trio impersonation (“Black Rain”) it sounds like a song Skiba left off the last Trio record.

Nine finally hits a spot of excitement in “Ransom” with its uptempo percussion work and (finally) the urge to push the limits. But dumbfoundingly, the song is only a minute and a half long, and while I’m all for brevity, the song ends just as it is about to pick up some momentum. Bizarre.

So who is Nine for exactly? Well, it’s definitely not for old-school Blink fans who first discovered the band with Buddha, Cheshire Cat, or Dude Ranch. But I’m probably just a crotchety old-school listener who has been puzzled ever since 2003’s self-titled album. Nine is really for the average listener who “likes all kinds of music” and loves that so much of popular music today is inoffensive, safe, diverse, and caters to listeners of all genres and backgrounds. For you, the album is fine and will sit happily in your Spotify playlist next to whatever tepid song is currently topping the charts. But for anyone who longs for Blink with a little bit of personality and juvenile attitude, you’ll find none of that here. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the album’s lack of DeLonge either because by the time he did Neighborhoods, his head was already in the stars chasing aliens.

Perhaps it is too much to ask for another song about jerking off in a tree, but this band used to be fun. Now they’re just pedestrian at best. Imagine an average Alkaline Trio hooking up with +44 on the dance floor of some terrible night club and you’ve got Nine. It’s a shame really. Growing up doesn’t always have to suck, but it really shouldn’t be this bland either.

(Columbia Records)

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