I have had this CD to review for at least six months now, and one may speculate that I avoided reviewing it because it was inappropriately horrid. One would be wrong. I am just ridiculously good at putting things off. The God Awfuls, who had recently signed to Kung Fu Records (recent as of the time I received the album), put out a pretty decent album. I will admit that I was expecting something slightly different given the label they were on. The label is home to Ozma (not a fan of this), Audio Karate and other such bands. So, I logically expected something along those lines when I was looking through the press kit for The God Awfuls release. Keep in mind that there is a horrible, bright pink color chosen to designate the sky on the cover.
Still, I like my “pop-punk” as much as I like my ska and “skate-punk” and whatever the fuck other subgenres there are in the whole punk category (honestly, how many are there?). So, I didn’t have the lowest of expectations especially since I like the Vandals. The press release was sure to mention that this album and this band played a type of punk rock that was true to the genre, unlike the more poppy bands sprouting up. With the release focusing so many words to persuade the reader that The God Awfuls are not synthetic, I became seriously doubtful.
At first listen, like 30 seconds into the album, I thought, “ok, this is no Ozma.” Still, saying that it veers so much from the more melodic trend currently infesting the industry, is somewhat of a misdirection, daresay a lie. While I found myself recalling Anti-Flag there were not too many similarities. The common characteristic is the political outbursts via the lyrics. The God Awfuls provide tighter and catchier melodies, not as angry sounding as Anti-Flag or passionate even. Not to say they aren’t passionate about the issues addressed. It just seems that “motherfucker” was used as a replacement for more coherent and forceful words of dissatisfaction. It became downright amusing to me in some of the songs when “motherfucker” was belted out.
As far as the social justice pleas go there is nothing revolutionary or new. Nothing that makes one see a different twist on an issue, nothing enlightening. Though, there is some refreshing (not profound or original) introspection done in “East Side One.” Basically, I am trying to get the point across that there is nothing exceptional about the album. But, an album need not be exceptional to win my ears over.
It is hard to be a political band; I understand this (not through experience just through empathy for the struggle). I mean, you try to put out a strong, mind-opening album and your ideas are deemed generic and idealistic. I, for one, am a supporter of the concept of ideal, of perfection, of everyone getting along. While I did agree with the messages in the album, it was slightly bland. Luckily, the fast guitar riffs and drum patterns kick some life into the content. Imagine that, kicking the life into something … who would have thought? So while Next Stop, Armageddon isn’t groundbreaking, it is still worth a listen or a few. If I were going to the Warped Tour, I’d make sure to check them out. Fast, melodic, and surprisingly good. At least they are making an effort though they really should change their name just because it’s a name I see being for a band for angst filled thirteen-year-olds. So, good job to Kung Fu for introducing some variety into the line-up.
(Kung Fu Records)
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.