New Jersey-based punk rockers The Warhawks are still trying to figure out exactly who they are — and Never Felt So Good is a compelling album chronicling that ride. The album is a nine-track blitz filled with churning punk rock, catchy tunes, and a vibe that feels like the sweet spot within a vortex of The Gaslight Anthem, a fuzzed-up amp, and Cage the Elephant — all stitched together with that sweaty, garage band attitude that gets honed from lining up small venue after small venue and selling records and T-shirts the old fashioned way.
The songs are heavy on guitar, understandably, and technically sound for what you’re probably looking for if you pop in a punk record. Highlights include catchy album opener “Not a Problem” and admittedly on-the-nose break-up tune “Don’t Fuck With Me.” Though most of the album sticks fairly close to the usual punk rock beats, the Warhawks do go for just enough experimentation to show they could have range moving forward, if those are avenues they ever choose to explore. Album closer “Ten Things” feels more like a dream pop ballad than anything else, while “Your Touch” feels like a wider pop-rock stadium sing-along that is almost guaranteed to be an earworm.
The band has toured a lot the past few years, and put out an EP or two along the way toward Never Felt So Good, the group’s freshman full-length release. That familiarity and time together shines through here, and you can feel the comfort level among the bandmates, in a good way. That said, it’s clear the Warhawks are getting comfortable doing what they’re doing — but is that all they’ll ever be able to do?
That’s the question Never Felt So Good doesn’t really answer. It’s a solid punk record, with some solid tunes. Heck, a few are even pretty good. But it’s not a genre-busting breakthrough release, or the type of record destined to put the Warhawks on the map (at least not yet). It’s a pretty good record from what, for all intents and purposes, looks to be a pretty good band. It’s the type of record you hear on college radio, when they’re sampling pretty good songs from pretty good up-and-coming bands. Will this be a stepping stone toward the next big thing, or is this the best the Warhawks will be? Regardless, being here is not a bad place to be. The band has clearly proven it can get folks out to hear their particular brand of punk rock, while Never Felt So Good is more than fun enough to give a spin.
It’s a solid debut record, and if the Warhawks keep at it, could be the beginning of compelling career. If not, a few tunes like “Not a Problem” are still more than good enough for a spot on your playlist.
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.