An Open Letter to Alternative Press
“Let’s be honest- Alternative Press has seen better days. What once was the authority of the underground (albeit for a short while) is now a vehicle for major-label emo and Hot Topic punk. Considering how Editor-in-chief Jason Pettigrew recently urged his readers to go see the Taste of Chaos tour (the My Chemical Romance, Used, and Senses Fail festival of pseudo-goth gimmicks and eyeliner), expectations were low for a tour bearing the Alternative Press name.”– Ashley Rigazio
Jason Pettigrew <XXXXXXXXX>
Subject: CHEERFUL INQUIRY
Dear Editor: I’d like to send Ashley Rigazio a Christmas card this holiday season. Do you have an address I could send that to come December? Thank you so much.
I’ve read Alternative Press on and off since 1999 and have subscribed since early 2002. I won’t be renewing my subscription. Looking back at my comments, I realize that they were harsh and ill-supported – I’d like to apologize for that. I’d also like to clarify my opinions for your consideration. I’m sorry for singling you out but, as a fan of your work who has seen you push bands you truly believed in over the years, I expect better from your magazine than what I have been receiving in the mail as of late. I know you’re not going home and putting on Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. You probably rock out to exciting bands that are pushing the envelope and trying to do something different, something that doesn’t promote harming one’s self and wearing guyliner. I want to hear about those bands.
Yes, I understand that a magazine is a business and you need to sell issues and attract advertising. Covering popular, commercially-driven bands is a necessary evil; I often photograph bands I don’t particularly enjoy for Sound the Sirens and review shows that I wouldn’t have gone to otherwise so I can gain exposure for my work. Regardless of its practicality, I find AP’s extremely narrow-minded approach to music troublesome.
AP has whittled down “alternative” to just the Warped Tour scene – is this a reflection of heavy advertising by the tour, its sister tour Taste of Chaos and their sponsor, Vans? There is music beyond the Warped Tour, and it is glorious. Explore the alternative genre instead of relying on the current TRL pop-punk crossovers. Fall Out Boy, while I adore them, is no longer an alternative to anything. Those boys are everywhere. So, instead of adding to overexposure, let your young readers discover new bands they will love.
You cannot ignore the fact that the same bands frequently pop up in AP’s pages and on the covers. Coheed and Cambria was featured in issue #207 and graced the cover of the very next issue. Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday and the All American Rejects had all been the subjects of cover stories before this year. There are enough bands battling for exposure that this redundancy is unnecessary. AP is in a more powerful position now than it was ten years ago and can afford to take risks by balancing bankable stories with coverage of alternative artists outside the emo/pop-punk/hardcore sub-genre. Also, I can’t help but wonder if those little bands that the scene has loved and lost over the last few years (The Movielife, Northstar and countless others) would still be around had they had an AP cover or just a little more exposure. Maybe that’s idealistic and simplified, but are bands giving up because of the favoritism of press coverage?
However, my main problem with Alternative Press isn’t the fact that many of the same bands are repeatedly featured. Criticism of AP is only refuted, not taken into consideration and used to improve the magazine. For example, as subscribers aired their grievances on the other AP (absolutepunk.net), an AP staff writer responded by telling everyone they were wrong. These are loyal subscribers to your magazine! They are your core audience, your raison d’etre. They are never wrong! Listen to them before it’s too late.
P.S. – Please don’t send the Hot Topic army after me. I’m allergic to pleather.
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.