Having successfully crafted the pop-punk anthem, Philadelphia-based punk rockers The Loved Ones try out some new threads on their latest effort, Build & Burn. As the title suggests, there is a sense of accomplishment to the idea of creation itself- one that becomes extinct upon its completion, with nothing left to do but to tear it down and start again. It is an ethos perhaps, exemplified by the spirit of more traditional American music: ‘Americana’ in a word. It is no surprise then, that the Loved Ones shred their more pop sensibilities in exchange for a heartfelt dose of the American outback. Their new found terrain is then solidified by their ever-present brand of rock n’ roll; fast-paced guitars, rollicking drum work, and the vocal sneer of great rockers past (one that vocalist Dave Hause emulates to near perfection).
Check in at “The Bridge,” the band’s best effort to date by far- an almost back streets homage to working class existence of struggle, pain, and hardship. The track is surrounded by a healthy helping of up-tempo numbers that gives the album the kind of gate-crashing, no-die mentality you’d like in a rock n’ roll record. Take the woah woah-clad “Sarah’s Game” and the positively bouncy opening of “Pretty Good Year,” as examples of the band’s ability to meld genres together almost seamlessly. If however there was a song on Build & Burn that would best exemplify the Loved Ones’ new Americana tone, it would have to be “Selfish Masquerade.” Its melancholic, downtrodden outlook is very much akin to the beaten, self-degrading nature of some of America’s most heartbroken cowboys, and it seems the song (mid-tempo riffs, beautifully strewn chorus and all) has managed to crunch this sentimentality down to a very succinct 4 minutes. And if there were any doubt of just what the band is about these days, look no further than the honky-tonk attitude of “Louisiana” (with its references to Biloxi, Alabama et al)- if it doesn’t get the giddyup in you going, then nothing will.
While the seemingly dusty visage the album paints isn’t exactly “Born to Run” (or “Jack & Diane” for that matter), it’s a great example of a band extending past their initial boundaries and finding new ground to grow on. There is still a distinct punk ring to it all, and it never quite throws you out on a highway somewhere with nothing but the clothes on your back and a guitar, but it does get you as far as the on-ramp. The Loved Ones haven’t quite written a classic yet, but they’re getting pretty damn close.
(Fat Wreck Chords)
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.