The Counting Crows dove into the music scene during the early 90s and haven’t looked back since. I think all of us can think of one Counting Crows song and remember a distinct time and place when that particular song hit the airwaves. They wrote great, radio friendly tunes that boasted solid songwriting miles ahead of any other radio, one hit wonder band during their prime. Now, its time for a little bit of respect to be handed out to the band that gave us such rousing hits like, “Mr. Jones” and “Round Here,” a band that probably had some sort of positive influence on half of the bands that pay tribute to them here.
Cover songs, let alone a tribute album, can be a scary place to visit. Let’s face it, cover songs over the past few years have been agonizingly generic and plain. Often times, bands try too much to put their own little flavor into the song and end up overflowing the song with their touch and the cover turns out just plain messy. Then other times, bands pour no creativity into it and you end up getting an updated, carbon copy version of the original song. The line is so fine that many bands just never seem to pull it off.
Not the case with this indie tribute to the Crows; Dead and Dreaming. Each band does an above average job of taking a classic song and putting just the right amount of personality into the song. The results: 12 extremely well done tracks that I believe would make Adam Duritz and friends smile from ear to ear. The songs give you the impression that there was a good amount of time and energy poured into them from the beginning stages to the finished product.
The tribute album starts out with more of the lesser known, easy on the ear paced Counting Crows songs after Rydia opens the album with a solid performance of “Angels of Silences.” The Rocket Summer gives one of the top of the line efforts on the track “High Life” where the vocals really differ from the original. Boys Night Out strips down their hardcore armor to deliver an acoustic and mellow performance of “Walkaways” which was a nice bolt from the blue. The album then shifts to the radio rock hits where Punchline ups the tempo with “Round Here” and gives the song an impressive coating of pop punk that sounds really clever. Houston Calls might do the best overall work on covering the song “Einstein on a Beach.” They implement keyboards and synthesizers to offer a really unique spin on the track. I was also incredibly impressed with Hidden in Plain View’s rendition of “Mr. Jones.” They keep true to the song mainly, but overall, they did a great job instrumentally and I can tell this Drive-Thru band has really tightened up, and the outcome is very notable.
I had high expectations for this album, and in all honesty, the bands exceeded my expectations. Each and every band did just enough to the original songs and each knew the right formula for making the cover song work. With so many cover songs just not worthy of being listened to, this was no easy task. Each band showed that no matter what, great songwriting in any form can be appreciated on many levels and in many genres.
(The Vinyl Summer)
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.