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The Killers – Hot Fuss

The eleven songs of Hot Fuss would qualify as little three to five minute drugs

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This album was on the brink of being overplayed even before the CD was released, but let’s give it a go shall we? Imagine a band that comes out and puts the words dance/rock into every little hipster’s mouth. Now imagine the millions of carbon copy clones that arise after this band gains popularity (think everyone from Hoobastank to Incubus). Now imagine a group that manages to take the best parts of the popular bands and mixes them with their own infectious sound; you have this month’s latest musical obsession, The Killers. The lads from Las Vegas have released an album which brings dance to the hipsters, joy to the indie snobs, and possibly a summer hit for the masses.

The singles, “Somebody Told Me” and “Mr. Brightside,” are guaranteed to bring fans in from whatever indie rock sub genre. “Somebody Told Me” may have the most confusing lyrics I’ve yet to hear but the sheer addicting quality of the music and melody hooked me at the first listen. Let me paint a little picture of me listening to this song:

The Killers: “It’s not confidential / I’ve got potential / for rushing, a-rushing around”

Me: “Huh? … What the? … Meh! … Let’s dance!”

This song caused me to forgo all of my insane love of lyrics and made me dance around like some spastic hippie. “Mr. Brightside” opens with an instantly infectious guitar riff which leads us towards the equally addicting vocal melody. The lyrics have a less than sunny outlook as they describe a jealous lover’s thoughts on what their partner might be doing. “Now they’re going to bed and my stomach is sick / And it’s all in my head / but she’s touching his chest now” is just a sample of the lyrics that detail how despite these thoughts and their probable truth the narrator will still show a happy, “bright” demeanor while on the inside “it’s killing me.”

One song that didn’t really click with me until recently is the song “On Top.” I didn’t really give it a chance but when I actually did, it became one of my preferred songs of the album. It begins with a little synthesizer because, well, what would a dance/rock record be without some synthesizer? The vocals then proceed to maintain a certain fun tension as the collective guitar, bass, and drum work paints this nightlife scene. The chorus jumps in with lush riffs and once again the lyrics come into the limelight. “It’s just a shimmy and a shake / uh huh / I can’t fake / We’re on top” brought another one of those “What..?” moments to me but I found myself embracing them and soon enough I found that they had become some of my favorite lyrics of the entire release.

“Believe Me Natalie” made me question everything I’ve come to know about myself. This song evoked sadness from my danced filled body and I can’t truly explain why. The lyrics play a big part with lines like, “Remember the art of roses lined up on your couch / Forget what they said in SoHo” and “God help me somehow / There’s no time for survival,” but I think the defining element of the track is the smooth, mournful music. Even in the beginning it seemed to be different in comparison to the rest of the material. It held a darker, less upbeat tone while all the others boast some sort of optimistic quality.

If it were up to me, the eleven songs of Hot Fuss would qualify as little three to five minute drugs. Even after hearing the entire album day after day, I still find myself coming back for more. I could try to describe them as a more rock influenced Franz Ferdinand but that wouldn’t do any justice to their infectious sound. The Killers have shaped and molded the genre of dance/rock to a most excellent form.

(Island Records)

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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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