Wildcat General Strike is Melbourne man Paul Connor and Codswallop is the second EP. Self-produced and brimming with off-centre energy, Codswallop is an interesting document for an artist just beginning his career.
New single, “The Truth About Music”, works exceptionally well as an opener – kicking things off with momentum. The overarching guitar riff is given prominence throughout as Connor puts on a Northern England drawl to deglamourise the role of music in our lives. The song is propelled forward by layers of guitar and distortion which reappear regularly in later songs.
The first touch of Bowie eccentricity comes through on the very brief Schadenfraude. Despite its length, it features perhaps the best chorus on the EP and its wonder why Connor didn’t pursue it further. Having said that it does work exceedingly well as a lead into “High School Diploma”. This song has already got some love through triple j Unearthed and it’s not hard to see why. It’s spacious, bass-heavy verse gives way to a fuzzed-out chorus that is hard to resist. It is the standout track in terms of accessibility, even managing to incorporate some beneficial 80s-style guitar wankery in its final moments.
The constant use of the clean opening to guitar-overload becomes a little grating by fourth track, “Throw Me A Bone”. It would be nice to hear a further exploration of the strange-funk that underpins the track without being bombarded by guitar at some point. “Throw Me A Bone” does highlight the oddball lines that Connor drops into his lyrics and on repeated listens to the EP it becomes clear that there is more weight to this release than it would seem on surface level.
Codswallop closes with “The World Is An OK Place”; and if “The Truth About Music” was a great opener, well then this is a near-perfect final track. While Connor has been guardedly pessimistic for much of the EP, he cautiously opens up for a track that comes close to celebratory. The layers of instrumentation are still there but this time the guitar work settles back into the mix and allows Connor to deliver a very cool piece of retro glam.
It’s hard to pin down the intentions of the enigmatic Paul Connor. If his amateur but oddly-effective videos for “The Truth About Music” and “High School Diploma” are anything to go by, he will be happy to achieve local fame on an eccentric mix of rocking tunes and weirdo-wit. However for someone this talented there is room for him to break structure and further explore the musical and lyrical themes he touches on with Codswallop.
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.