When I heard that Jonas Stein, lead guitarist for puerile punk band Be Your Own Pet, had a side project called Turbo Fruits with BYOP drummer John Eatherly, and their friend Max Peebles, I had only one question: when can I buy the disc?
See, Be Your Own Pet is the world’s greatest punk band. The combination of Stein’s slashing dissonant power-chord riffs, Jamin Orrall’s (whom Eatherly replaced when he went to college) scattershot, machine-gun drumming, Nathan Vazquez’s funky bass, and frontwoman Jemina Pearl’s ear-shattering shriek, re-imagined real punk music in a time when the punk aesthetic is bought and sold at Hot Topic. Punk songs are not supposed to have sing-along choruses, are not supposed to be more than three minutes long, and punk bands don’t need to be led by men in their thirties still singing about how much of a drag high school was. The band’s debut, all 33 minutes of it, gave punk music a much-needed kick in the ass. Naturally, the music on Turbo Fruits self titled debut is much like the music found on Be Your Own Pet’s debut, but is a melding of Stein’s punk riffs and aesthetic with more traditional rock forms like the blues and bluegrass.
Clocking in at a svelte 34 minutes, Turbo Fruits begins with “No Drugs to Use” which finds Stein lamenting over a sparse punk riff that he had nothing do, and alas, had no drugs to use. The second track, “Murder,” is about, gasp!, Stein getting away with murder. Simple yes, but what he lacks in the lyric department, Stein far makes up for in conviction. You have to be less than 21-years-old to sing and believe this stuff, and even younger to really grasp it, which makes the music have a sense of fearlessness that can’t be faked.
With third track “Volcano,” things begin to get interesting. The song is a strange blues-dirge that sounds like it could have been on Captain Beefheart’s Safe as Milk (Stein even sings in a Beefheart-lite voice) if it weren’t for the fact that the song is about being too stoned. Bluesy Beefheart-leaning material shows up on “The Run Around,” and the aptly titled slow burning closer “The Ballad.” Juxtaposed in the midst of these blues tinged song sketches are some excellent punk-tinged songs with better hooks than many of Be Your Own Pet’s songs. “20th I Was Blue,” with its “girl you’re dead to me,” chorus speeds by so quick you wish it was longer. Same goes for “Devo Girl,” “Poptart” and “Crybaby.”
Turbo Fruits is a solid record from a side project that is nearly as good as the main project. Above anything else, the band’s music represents a youthfulness and fearlessness that not many bands can touch. It will be interesting to see what a few years and some road weariness will do to both of Stein’s projects, as both of his bands operate in a bubble of youth and naiveté, and are better for it. What happens when they lose that? Only time will tell.
(Ecstatic Peace Records)
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.