Connect with us


The Ordinary Boys – Over the Counter Culture

In the end, The Ordinary Boys understand that sometimes, its all just rock n’ roll.



There are a great deal of things Her Majesty’s great land has given us over the course of the country’s long history. Once the great British Empire, and known at times for its brash occupation of distance lands, the United Kingdom has been home to some of the greatest musical entities we have encountered over the past few decades. From The Smiths to the Stone Roses, from the Who to the Clash, the incarnations of this form of expression is as limitless as those who craft it. And while the majority of what we have come to consider as these cornerstones of music often speak of artistic revolutions (inevitably soaked with praise from the media and hailed as the “saviors/innovators of [insert genre in need of saving/innovating]”), one recent act is in no danger of being hailed as “saviors;” at least not directly. Perhaps the act in question aren’t quite of the level of praise their more luminous predecessors are often associated with. Yet what is most striking about their progress is not whether they will or will not revolutionize their genre; but that they reinforce the idea that perhaps revolutions aren’t necessary all the time.

Taking parts of The Clash, The Jam, and some good fashioned pop sensibilities (but surprisingly, not so much Morrissey), The Ordinary Boys could very well have released this year’s bona fide rock album. Part energy, part enthusiasm, bags of class and little to no intentions of being the next in line to carry of flag of revolution; one can find a great deal to like about Over the Counter Culture. With traces of Weller, Strummer, and Townshend clearly visible in primary vocalist Preston (he’s got the mono-name thing going on), The Ordinary Boys clearly have the knack for being as musically decisive as these artists. From the opening salvo of the guitar soaked, trumpet powered (yes, trumpets! And not in the gangly, ska sort of way either) opening title track, their irresistible nature is almost immediate. And it’s not that their sound is remarkably innovative (perhaps that is the point), but that they have molded from well-proven qualities a formula of surprising potency.

The album as a whole is strong from beginning to end. Tracks like “Week In and Week Out” and “Talk Talk Talk” do more than just reminisce about past greatness, but do their part to reinforce the thought that something brought to life many years ago still has a viable place in today’s constant search for upheaval. The release’s most able outing, “Seaside,” is a delicate mix of subtle pop melodies, Brit-rock, and touch of glamour reserved for getting away from the erosive nature of modern life. As they so eloquently state; “The seaside needs us more than ever.” And whether is contemplating the sad state of affairs of the business, or being reflective about how seemingly distant we have all become, much of the album delves into matters that ultimately surround us as a whole without picking one distinct undertone. While the nature of their subjects is one regularly visited, it is rare to find them tackled with the acerbic wit, charm, and cheeky disposition seen here.

The most interesting statement in Over the Counter Culture could very well be words sung in “The List Goes On;” a Love is Dead-era sounding Mr. T Experience effort that, when not commenting on music critics and the sad state of radio, perceptively states; “Originality is so passé.” The band’s very principles delicately balance on this one rather brilliant statement- there are no delusions of great originality here as their influences are as clear as daylight; yet it does little to take away from the album’s appeal. Listening to the Ordinary Boys isn’t about discovering something new, it’s about rediscovering something you’ve likely heard before done with a great deal of competence. And while they may not reach as high as the summits achieved by some of the UK’s greats, they do share a certain quality that many have come to associate with these timeless artists- because in the end, The Ordinary Boys understand that sometimes, its all just rock n’ roll.

(B-Unique Records)


Good Riddance – Thoughts and Prayers

The fire still burns brightly for Good Riddance



good riddance

It would seem that the current US administration has proven to be fertile fields for political punks. If there is a positive to have come out of the past few years, it is in the form of angry punk rock records. The aptly titled Thoughts and Prayers, the new record by Good Riddance, could very well be the best of them. For many like myself, Good Riddance was the gateway to a world of punk rock socio-political commentary; wrapped in aggressive, melodic hardcore that opened your mind as much as it punched a hole in the wall. 1996’s A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion and the really terrific 1998 record Ballads from the Revolution, were eye-opening propositions for a wide-eyed kid. Good Riddance resonated because their songs were hard-hitting commentary that sounded like broken-hearted punk rock songs. They sang intelligently about inequality, human despair, and the sometimes broken system in which we live in. And when their broken-hearted punk rock songs weren’t about society and politics, they were broken-hearted punk rock songs about broken hearts (don’t think there have been love songs as good in the genre as “Jeannie” and “Not With Him”).

Four years since their comeback record, Peace In Our Time, we get the much more furious Thoughts and Prayers. 12 songs of trademark breakneck melodic hardcore that talks about the divisive current political climate without going as far as saying things like “Trump sucks”. But that’s never been the Good Riddance way. Vocalist and chief lyricist Russ Rankin has always found a way to express his anger and disappointment with poise and intelligence- sounding more like a well-read poet than a man yelling on a street corner.

In the track “Don’t Have Time”, he sings about the futility of repeating history to trumpet nationalism; “And those same old fears arise / With eyes too drawn to counteract / The ghost in you comes rushing back / Too caustic to subside / Just what have we done? / We killed a mother’s only son / Just to remain at number one“. And lyrically, much of takes a similar route of well-written stanzas that question a lot of what is going on in the world at the present time. Songs like the opening “Edmund Pettus Bridge” (let’s hope everyone knows the significance of this landmark), replete with Michael Douglas Wall Street sound byte, sings of social inequality but does it with a trace of hope. While songs like “The Great Divide” are an example of melodic hardcore’s finest moments; unrelenting sonic pummeling that is as melodic as it is potent. “Wish You Well” takes cues from Good Riddance’s “softer” tones of catchy choruses and mid-tempo verses; akin to the track “Saccharine” (from 2003’s Bound by Ties of Blood and Affection). Perhaps the best thing about the 12 songs here is that they are all very succinct, potent, with rarely a moment of filler. The album is consistently good, and while it rarely deviates from the Good Riddance sound, it never lacks in the fire and fury we’ve come to expect.

The album itself SOUNDS fantastic, credit again to Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore at The Blasting Room for their production. The guitars rip at the right levels while the percussion work hits just right. The mixing levels are as close to perfect as you can get without any one element dominating over another- a constant the band have found since 1999’s Operation Phoenix (no surprise, the first of their albums to have been produced at the Blasting Room).

The appeal of Good Riddance has always been two-fold. Firstly, their music has shown steadfast quality, and the albums have found longevity due to the way Rankin and company write their songs. With lyrics referring to and talking about a multitude of humanist issues without having to directly reference them, they remain political, timely, writing music as urgent as it was through the 90s as it is today. That may be a sad indictment of society itself, but it doesn’t take away from their effectiveness and influence. Rankin himself has said that their music may not have changed the world per se, they continue to open eyes and minds. This writer can attest to the latter- and the importance of that can’t be underlined enough. Their early discography spoke to my generation about life, self, and the interconnected reality of the world we live- no matter how hard to try not to believe it. Thoughts and Prayers is a furious, timely, and potent slab of hard-hitting melodic hardcore and shows that the fire clearly still burns as passionately for Good Riddance as it did all those years ago. And perhaps it’ll be what A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion and Ballads From the Revolution was to me for a whole new generation.

(Fat Wreck Chords)

Continue Reading


Hatriot – From Days Unto Darkness

From Days Unto Darkness is a relentless pummeling of thrash metal’s best qualities




When it comes to Bay Area thrash metal, there are two bands that sit atop the mountain forever entwined to its history; Metallica and Exodus. Both bands linked together by Kirk Hammett, both bands crucial to the Bay Area’s most destructive form of music. Exodus may not have their name in lights as Metallica does, but Exodus’ influence cannot be mistaken- and many point to them as being the one true progenitor of Bay Area thrash. Hatriot, a band that was started by Exodus vocalist Steve Souza in 2011, are a real chip off the ol’ block. Surprisingly, it isn’t just musically that Hatriot follows suit from Exodus, its a family thing too. While Steve Souza left Hatriot in 2015, his sons Nick and Cody continue on percussions and guitars with the latter taking on vocal duties once the older Souza returned to Exodus.

Hatriot does more than just follow on the Exodus path; they’ve loudly carved their own slice of the thrash pie. Led by Kosta Varvatakis shredding guitar work and Cody Souza’s blistering (sometimes ominous) vocal work, Hatriot may have found their Fabulous Disaster, ironically, also three albums in.

From Days Unto Darkness is a relentless pummeling of thrash metal’s best qualities; machine gun percussion work (I’m a sucker for some great double bass drums), shredding guitars, soaring solos, and vocals that does the growling well, and the screaming even better. Tracks like “Organic Remains” and the blistering “Carnival of Execution” showcase the band’s ability to craft songs that are equal parts urgency and solid musicianship. Thematically, From Days Unto Darkness covers the usual thrash metal spread; the end times, death, destruction, and humanity’s failing graces- all done with equal breakneck, ear piercing destruction sonically. “World, Flesh & Devil” is perhaps the album’s best outing- a raging beast of a song, that if carnage could be written in music form, this is it incarnate. At 4:26, it is one of the shorter tracks of the release, but much of the album features in at the 6-7 minute mark- a trademark of thrash metal’s desire to not only showcase talent but to do it over extended periods.

What the album lacks perhaps is that one magnum opus of a track. Sure, it’s not easy for any band to write “Master of Puppets”, but From Days Unto Darkness rarely takes a breather. It’s mostly positive, but while Master had at times, slow interludes to let you catch your breath, Hatriot takes absolutely no prisoners- staying true to their thrash metal heritage. If you’re not quite up for it, this album will hammer you into a stupor.

The halcyon days of Bay Area thrash metal may be long resigned to nostalgic documentaries, but Hatriot are not interested in just being a throwback to their roots. From Days Unto Darkness is not for the weak and if this is the sign that thrash metal is alive and kicking, then the future and present are in damn good hands.

(Massacre Records)

Continue Reading

Popular Things