I’ve had this CD for a very long time, and I thought about mentioning how everyone knows this band even if they didn’t think they did (through a car commercial; “We’ve Been Had” is instantly familiar to everyone even though no one knows the name of the band that made it) but I couldn’t find a way to include it and it doesn’t seem to do them any justice. I spent months listening to it, going over every single drum beat, bass line, every scratchy growl lead singer Hamilton Leithauser manages to produce, and I still couldn’t find the words to describe how amazingly good this release is. Building upon their last release, Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, The Walkmen have proven themselves to be band that will break free of this current bland garage rock revival scene to showcase music with unforgettable heart and melody.
The album opens with a very childlike tune where Leithauser is singing “What’s in it for me?” leading us into a blissfully slow moving world of guitars, drums, and bass. It’s a perfect beginning to an album that would prove to be moving, distinct, and unsuspecting. The next track rips you out of your blissful calm into a fast paced world of bitter cynicism. “The Rat,” which is the first single, begins with a deep pounding drum beat. After a few seconds the guitars and bass begin to pummel away that serenity the first track brought and replaces it with an unbridled intensity. Leithauser screams ever so spitefully, “You’ve got a nerve to be asking a favor / You’ve got a nerve to be calling my number” and immediately you are brought into a place that harkens your inner most hatred but as soon as that is brought out it is pulled back in by the remorseful “Can’t you hear me I’m calling out your name / Can’t you see me I’m pounding at your door” which brings a sense of heartache and pain to you, or more respectfully, me. It’s the musical equivalent of a shot to the heart: painful, as the truth always is, yet overall needed and looked back on as a good thing.
The entire album is a mix of slow and fast tracks, each with its own appeal and different sound. “Hang On Siobhan” is one of the slower tracks that caught hold of my mind. Every time I would think of the album I would play this song in my head. It begins with a quiet little piano melody playing over muted drums and guitars. The music, which is innocent and full of childlike splendor, matched with the lyrics, which are very adult and downtrodden, creates this deceiving track that keeps me singing it for weeks on end. “Thinking Of A Dream I Had” opens with the lyrics “I’m waiting on a subway line / I’m waiting for a train to arrive / I’m thinking of a dream I had” and with that The Walkmen have basically described my entire life. The constant melody and sound makes this song hard to refuse. I’ve never been as completely connected to a song as I am with this one. The lyrics provide someone like me with internal dialogue that can be sung to the world and those that surround me. I’ll be sure to one day stand in front of my house screaming, “Don’t lead me on!”
So to recap: 1. This CD is amazing in more than one way. 2. The tracks provide constant amusement and hours of introspective thought 3. I think I’ve formed a slight love affair with Bows and Arrows. These former car commercial kings (ha! I managed to work it in somewhere) have released an album able to stimulate even the weakest of minds.
(Record Collection Music)
The Ritualists – Painted People
The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music
After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.
“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.
“Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.
“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.
There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.
The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk
It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.
Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.
From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).
Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.