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Nations Afire – The Ghosts We Will Become

Featuring Chris Chasse (formerly of Rise Against), Ignite’s Nik Hill and Brett Rasmussen and former Death By Stereo drummer Todd Hennig, Nations Afire is something of an all-star band that has been around since - I think - 2009. They’re gearing up now for the release of their first full-length “The Ghosts We Will Become”, which will be out on August 31st on Redfield Records.

The songs on here are a nice blend of punk, hardcore and rock and sound like… well, like Rise Against and Ignite alongside more straight-forward rock moments. I didn’t particularly care for the acoustic “Even The Blackest Heart Still Beats” but cuts like album opener “I Am An Army”, the title track and “Nine Lives” belong on the radio and come with enough energy to get every crowd going.

Check ‘em out on their upcoming European tour when you have the chance!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

The Hives – Lex Hives

“Lex Hives” is the name of the latest chapter in Hives history. It’s already their fifth album and pretty much the only difference is that they produced this one themselves. Other than that this is all vintage Hives. While some people complain that these guys never seem to evolve, I’m thinking this is a good thing. Never change a winning team, right?

Opener “Come On” is a short one-minute blast consisting of little more than repeating the song title over and over. The horn-enhanced “Go Right Ahead” is a catchy first single and the equally catchy “1000 Answers” could very well be the next one. Sure, they will remind you of other Hives songs off of “Veni Vidi Vicious” or “Tyrannosaurus Hives” but who cares? “Patrolling Days” comes with a chorus that begs to be belted along and with “These Spectacles Reveal The Nostalgics” they wrote a straight-up rager.

So yeah, “Lex Hives” is not a surprising album and while The Hives only seem to know one trick, they are flawless in its execution and once again deliver the goods!
Score: 8.5 out of 10
Disques Hives

Future Of The Left – The Plot Against Common Sense

In a righteous world, Andrew Falkous would be a rockstar thanks to Future Of The Left. Hell, he should’ve already been one years ago, back when he was still in mclusky. But I’m guessing he’s just a little too loud, too abrasive and too much of a smartass for most people.

Listening to “The Plot Against Common Sense” I’m not sure how much longer they’ll be able to stop him though. Future Of The Left’s synthy post-punk is über-efficient and Falkous’ observations are spot-on and further lift the band towards excellence. “Sheena Is A T-shirt Salesman”, “Failed Olympic Bid” and “Beneath The Waves An Ocean” is an opening trio that will leave your head spinning before they floor you completely with “Goals In Slow Motion” and “I Am The Least Of Your Problems”.

It’s just a shame that songs like “City Of Exploded Children” and “Camp Cappucino” weren’t left on the cutting floor. These feel a bit too much like filler, bouncing around on a single not so great idea and if they’d left those out, we might have been looking at a flawless album. Now it goes on just a couple of minutes too long.

But hey, if loud music and sarcasm are your thing, “The Plot Against Common Sense” will fulfill your every need. Or how many people do  you know who can make every single word sound like the most sincere ‘fuck you’ ever?
Score: 8 out of 10

Pennywise – All Or Nothing

When Jim Lindberg announced that he was leaving Pennywise, it seemed next to impossible that they went on with another singer. But then Ignite’s Zoli Teglas stepped in and saved the day. They’ve been playing a lot of shows since then to let everybody get used to the idea and now the first album with Teglas on vocals is a fact.

On “All Or Nothing” Pennywise sounds like… well, Pennywise. They’ll never change their formula and I’m not even sure why they should. The fast as fuck rhythms, the tight riffage, childish sloganesque lyrics and singalong parts… it’s all still there. But this time around the songs are played with newfound energy and the band ends up sounding more passionate than on 2008’s “Reason To Believe”.

Let’s face it… Lindberg might not have been the most talented vocalist out there, he was nevertheless a big part of what made Pennywise sound like Pennywise. But listening to “Waste Another Day”, “Song Of Sorrow” or “We Have It All”, I’m thinking that Teglas did a damn fine job. With “All Or Nothing” they prove that Pennywise’s days aren’t quite over yet and with Teglas they even managed to re-ignite the flame (ha!).
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Motion City Soundtrack – Go

After a short stint on a major label, Motion City Soundtrack’s new album is being released through Epitaph once again. Not sure what happened there… then again I don’t really care. Fact is that we have a new album. It’s called “Go” and it could very well be their most straight-forward release so far.

Opener “Circuits And Wires” is one of those vintage MCS tunes… poppy, playful tunes complete with self-deprecating lyrics courtesy of vocalist Justin Pierre. The same can be said for tunes like “Timelines” and “The Coma Kid”. “True Romance” is the single that Columbia never found on the band’s only major label release… short, to the point plus it comes with a soaring bridge.

There are a couple of lesser songs this time around. “Son Of A Gun” for example doesn’t hold up next to the rest of this band’s output and the same can be said for “Bad Idea”. Something of their usual music seems to be missing in those tunes.

That still leaves us with nine great new powerpop songs in which they show off their knack for writing great hooks and which come with the twinkling keyboard sounds and nerdy greatness that we’ve come to love from these guys.
Score: 8 out of 10

Serj Tankian – Harakiri

Ever since Serj Tankian went solo after System Of A Down called it a day, he never managed to convince. Nevertheless I keep hoping to hear another album worth listening to because with SOAD they managed to come up with an original sound that was aggressive, melodic and unpredictable. Unfortunately “Harakiri” is once again not that album.

On the man’s third solo offering, we get more System Of A Down lite that follows the formula down to a T without ever questioning whether it’s the right way to go. Rushed refrains with Tankian doing weird things with his voice… check. Big choruses… check. Yet it never captures your attention and there are too many transitions that feel awkward.

Listening to songs like the very plain vanilla title track and “Reality TV”, I’m left thinking that someone else in System Of A Down was in charge of quality control and by the time I heard the line ‘how could you just occupy another child’s tear’ in “Occupied Tears”, I gave up on finding any redeeming qualities about this album. At this stage in his career, hara-kiri does begin to seem like a viable option.
Score: 3 out of 10

Tim Barry – 40 Miler

Once upon a time there used to be in a band called Avail with Tim Barry on vocals. It’s quickly becoming a distant memory with Barry working hard at his solo career with every subsequent release. “40 Miler” is already the good man’s fourth full-length and apparently it’s a somewhat derogatory term in the hobo community for someone who only hops on trains for short stretches rather than making it a lifestyle. Whatever… it’s another solid album.

Whether Barry is painting a picture of the local Richmond scenery (“Fine Foods Market”) or singing about trains (“Driver Pull”) or life on the road (“Amen”), he always does so with poignant reflections and rootsy tunes that get under your skin. Opener “Wezeltown” is as infectious as an opener can be, the title track is one of the best things he has written so far and “Adele And Hell” (a duet with fellow Virginian) shows off his storytelling capacities.

Coming from a guy who’s singing strictly about what he knows, the lyrics on here are as ‘real’ and sincere as they can get. But they would still amount to nothing if they didn’t come in great songs. Luckily, Barry has the that down pat as well. All aboard!
Score: 8 out of 10

Local Resident Failure – A Breath Of Stale Air

From the band name and album title to the cartoonish artwork and funny song titles (“Defamation By Defecation”, “Everyday’s A Holiday On Christmas Island”) and the fact that they are from Australia, a link with Frenzal Rhomb was made in my head before I had even heard a single tune…. Alcohol-loving punks with a sense of humour and songs about loving alcohol with some social commentary mixed in.

Turns out I was right on the money but as Local Resident Failure prove, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. After relentless touring and numerous EP, they churned out this full-length which comes with no less than 15 songs and if you like fast 90s punkrock like NOFX and Lagwagon, there’s no going wrong with “A Breath Of Stale Air”.
Score: 7 out of 10

Destroy Nate Allen – With Our Powers Combined

Destroy Nate Allen is a married couple called Nate and Tessa Allen who are helped out by the weirdo punks of GnarBoots on “With Our Powers Combined”. Personally I’d find it slightly unsettling if my wife suggested being in a band named after my destruction, but listening to the songs at hand here I’m thinking stranger things happen on a daily basis at the Allen residence.

“Waking Up Is Hard To Do” wastes no time getting the party started and it quickly becomes clear that these songs are high on energy which they unleash in short bursts. With chaotic synths, dual vocals that constantly seem on the verge of stumbling over one another and fast rhythms, this mix of punk, folk and ska made me wonder if Nate Allen could be the lovechild of the Aquabats and Atom & His Package.

The completely over the top music comes with witty lyrics about everyday occurrences that will get a couple of laughs, especially when delivered by way of slightly off-key vocals. While songs like “Chick Flick” and “We Talk Occasionally On The Internet” are pretty solid, the hyperactivity does become a bit much towards the end. I’m pretty sure they’re even more fun live though!
Score: 6 out of 10

Kråke – Conquering Death

This Norwegian outfit seems to like their black metal with a symphonic edge. Cue the obvious Dimmu Borgir and Old Man’s Child influences. They’re a new band who have recently released their debut full-length and while “Conquering Death” sounds good enough, it adds absolutely nothing new to the genre. Back when Dimmu Borgir released “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” I was impressed because it was some of the heaviest and darkest shit I had ever heard. But it’s been done to death since then.

Even worse is the fact that the songs on “Conquering Death” aren’t even as good as Dimmu Borgir’s work. The songs on here are way too monotonous and the further you work your way down the tracklisting, the more things start to sound alike.

The only reason to check this one out is if you still haven’t tired of double bass drums, symphonic-sounding synths and an angry Yoda soundalike.
Score: 4.5 out of 10

xLooking Forwardx – Down With The Ship

xLooking Forwardx… remember those guys? This straight edge outfit is back with an 8-song EP that clocks in at just under 13 minutes. It might not be much for their first release in seven years but with the few songs that are on here, they do show that they still know how to write fast as fuck ditties that come with big breakdowns and gang vocal moments.

I wasn’t particularly hoping or wishing that these guys would reunite but they did release a fun EP with “Down With The Ship” that gets the job done without bringing anything new to the table.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

Xavier Rudd – Spirit Bird

When an album is called “Spirit Bird” and opens with a didgeridoo, I get scared. And after having listened to the whole thing, it turns out that in Xavier Rudd’s case my fears were justified. This Australian surf dude not only opens his album with a didgeridoo, he then proceeds by letting it go on for six minutes with a minimalistic beat thrown in along with something that sounds like chanting. Yeah, you lost me there buddy!

Luckily he somewhat redeems himself with “Comfortable In My Skin” and “Follow The Sun”, mellow tracks that sound like fellow surfer dude turned songwriter Jack Johnson. But then there is the title track alongside others which aren’t bad but go on for way too long. And the songs that rest are more experimental affairs such as “Prosper” that go absolutely nowhere. In the 10 minutes long “Full Circle” Rudd even manages to combine both flaws.

If you’re not looking for a soundtrack to your tree-hugging activities or meditation sessions, there simply aren’t a whole lot of redeeming qualities about this album.
Score: 4 out of 10

For Today - Immortal

After three albums on Facedown, the dudes that make up For Today have found a new home over at Razor & Tie. Other than that things haven’t changed much on “Immortal”. Not that I think anybody was expecting them to change anything. After all, ‘innovative’ and ‘metalcore’ are two words that just don’t go together.

Expect to hear these guys regurgitating all the clichés I’ve grown tired of a long time ago. There are breakdowns. Of course. There are over the top screams mixed with clean vocal parts that remind me of POD. Hell, Sonny from POD even joins them in “The Only Name”. There are chugga chugga riffs. Duh! Throw in overtly Christian lyrics that I can’t relate to and you end up with a – putting it mildly - not so good album that will only be enjoyed by those of you who somehow still haven’t grown tired of all the Facedown/Solid State bands.
Score: 3 out of 10

Hold Tight! – Blizzard Of ‘96

Following up “Boundaries” and their split with Direct Hit, Hold Tight! (mind the exclamation mark) is back with a new album called “Blizzard Of ‘96”. With 14 songs clocking in at just under 28 minutes, these Virginia boys take the ‘less is more’ attitude to heart. Then again, you don’t need longer songs when you’re playing fast pop-punk.

Taking the genre back all the way to Drive Thru’s heydays, Hold Tight! Does a friggin’ solid job on songs like “I Guess This Is Fucking Up” and “Maiden… Or Slayer” with plenty of energy and singalong parts. If you’re into Latterman or the more contemporary stylings of Turnover, you’d better grab onto “Blizzard Of ‘96” and hold tight. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one!
Score: 7 out of 10

Boxer – Undertow EP

Despite sharing an album title with my favorite Tool album, Boxer’s 5-song EP comes with a slightly different sound than Maynard & co. This Richmond, VA based band likes to churn out melodic hardcore punk tunes with gritty vocals that fit right in the city’s rich tradition of great tuneage.

It’s not all that different from what bands such as Title Fight or Such Gold are doing and it comes with dual vocals (one gritty, one more melodic), which always adds a little something extra when done well. And well they do even though it’s not entirely original. But fuck it, songs like “Anagram” and “20/20” are high on energy and made my day more enjoyable!

If you want the score the vinyl, you might have to hurry… there’s only 250 copies pressed on transparent deep purple with black haze and transparent kelly green with heavy black splatter
Score: 7 out of 10 

Summerlin – You Can’t Burn Out If You’re Not On Fire

Ha! If you would’ve told me that I was listening to the new New Found Glory or Set Your Goals album, I might have believed you. Because what these UK dudes pull off on “You Can’t Burn Out If You’re Not On Fire” comes pretty damn close to those bands’ sound. It’s as if they thought ‘screw originality… but hey, if we are going to be a copy, let’s be the very best one we can be’. And damned if that isn’t just what they did.

All of the songs on this album are high on speed and energy, chock full of melody, hooks and catchy choruses and come with breakdowns in all the right places. Throw in some of those sweet pop-punk high-pitched vocals and boom, you’ve got the formula down pat. If you’re into the abovementioned bands, there’s no doubt you’ll go nuts over Summerlin as well.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Destine – Illuminate

The Dutch dudes that make up Destine follow up 2010’s “Lightspeed” with a new album called “Illuminate”. They like playing pop-punk with the emphasis placed firmly on the pop part. It’s all a bit too slick and sweet for my taste but fans of Yellowcard should be able to appreciate songs like “Four Leaf Clover” and “Stay”.

If you’re like me and already consider those songs too syrupy, then you’d better shy away altogether from “All The People”, a track with Coldplay aspirations that sounds like it should only be played on the Disney channel. No wait, that pretty much goes for the entire album. “All The People” actually made me throw up a little in my mouth. Yes, it’s really that bad.

If you don’t belong to Hannah Montana’s target audience, chances are slim you’re gonna want to hear “Illuminate”.
Score: 3 out of 10

Ghost Thrower – 10 Songs

After the split of Boston’s Therefore I Am (ohhhhhh), two of its members started a new band called Ghost Thrower (woohoo!). They released an EP called “Get Miserable” pretty fast and now even have their first full-length out already as well. It’s called “10 Songs” and it comes with the 5 songs from the EP and 5 others from 2011's “...Has A One That Got Away” EP, which had previously only been available digitally. Put together that rings up to 10 songs.

Expect to hear plenty of not so cheerful post-hardcore that rocks like a rawer version of Fear Before. Not too shabby. The intro of “Prima And Sinatra” reminded me just a bit too much of Brand New’s “Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t” but other than that it’s a pretty solid song as well.

The only downside with “10 Songs” is that it’s so pitch-black that you are left feeling kinda depressed yourself.
Score: 6.5 out of 10 


School Of Seven Bells – Ghostory

On album number three, School Of Seven Bells had to make due with one less band member  after the departure of Claudia Deheza. Luckily her twin sister Alejandra Deheza decided to stick around. Together with knobtwister Benjamin Curtis, the two of them came up with what is probably their best album to date.

Don’t be put off by the fact that this is a concept album about a girl named Lafaye who finds herself surrounded by ghosts. And nevermind that School Of Seven Bells has the image of a band that spends its downtime polishing their chakras. No seriously, don’t run!

Alejandra’s hushed vocals have this ethereal ring to them and line up perfectly with the shoegazer waves of guitar and frivolous use of electronics. A song like “Lafaye” wouldn’t have looked out of place on the recent soundtrack of “Drive”, whereas “When You Sing” comes with a My Bloody Valentine vibe and even other songs bring back memories of coldwave bands like Cocteau Twins. And on top of that the whole thing sounds downright danceable. That’s a lot to juggle around yet School Of Seven Bells manage to make the album sound whole.

They say that less is more and listening to “Ghostory”, I’m thinking that this is one cliché that comes with more than just a kernel of truth.
Score: 8 out of 10

Cancer Bats – Dead Set On Living

On what is already their fourth album, these Canadians with a Pantera fixation simply show off more of the same. This doesn’t make their mix of punk, hardcore and metal any less interesting though. “Dead Set Of Living” is so full of kickass riffage, more guitar squeals than a pig can utter in his entire lifetime, tons of groove and a vocalist who’s screaming like he won’t need his vocal chords for a fifth album, that you’ll gladly forgive them the lack of originality. Or subtlety for that matter.

Whether you’re talking about the awesome opener “R.A.T.S.”, the pummeling title track or the sludgy “New World Alliance”, Cancer Bats will show you every corner of the room before they’re done. And you’ll thank them for it if you have any breath left.
Score: 8 out of 10

Waco Brothers & Paul Burch – Great Chicago Fire

When the head honcho of Bloodshot Records suggested that two of his artists might get together to record an album, I’m guessing he was hoping the end result would sound something like “Great Chicago Fire”.

Both Paul Burch and the Waco Brothers sound like they were having a blast in the studio and partying in between takes. It’s all very charming and even better, it’s pretty solid. “Monterey” sounds like a homage to Sir Douglas Quintet, they pay their respect to Bob Dylan by covering “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and with “Transfusion Blues” and “On The Sly”, there are some great originals on here as well.

If you’re looking for some of that Southern twang to liven up your summer nights, try this one on for size!
Score: 7 out of 10

DNF – Hurt

After the menacing sound of feedback and a low bass rumble preps you for what’s to come, DNF lets loose a nasty concoction of grindcore and sludge. Racing through 8 songs in 13 minutes, there is no time to come up for air unless you count the sludgy parts that dwell these songs. Not that they help much, seeing as they suck up all the oxygen in the room.

It’s not like I was expecting poppy tunes from a band that consists of members from Trash Talk and Touche Amore but “Hurt” is more heavy and violent than anything I imagined. It sounds like the return of Cursed. An extremely pissed of version of Cursed at that. Looking for something that hits harder than a carton of Red Bull? Go ahead, here’s a can of DNF!
Score: 7 out of 10

Static Thought – Static Thought

Static Thought used to be one of those typical Hellcat streetpunk bands that wasn’t bad at all at playing that kind of music. I never really got into them because streetpunk just isn’t my thing. I thought they called it a day back in 2010 but here you go… a new album. And a new sound!

While there are still some streetpunk influences lingering around (the vocal delivery at times, gang vocals), you’d be hard-pressed to find a lot of the other clichés that plague the genre. Instead all of the songs on here take unexpected twists and turns and have this Fugazi-like urgency about them that wasn’t there before. Shall we call it progressive streetpunk? Or post-streetpunk? Whatever. Point is that Static Thought released a damn fine album with this self-titled release that is worth checking out and friggin’ hard to classify. For the adventurous among us!

Apparently the band did call it a day shortly after the release which would be a damn shame if it’s true!
Score: 7.5 out of 10
301 Collective

The Used – Vulnerable

Okay, I admit it… I’ve never been a fan of The Used. Their brand of screamo with way too many electronics, more teen angst than even a horde of teenage girls can muster and Bert McCracken’s high-pitched whine have never been point of attractions. And as I’m going into “Vulnerable” quite hesitant, it quickly becomes clear that they haven’t changed a thing.

Opener “I Come Alive” sounds like a bad carnival trip before launching in a dubstep breakdown that is just plain awful. I manage to wrestle myself through the second song as well but when I come across a completely misplaced hiphop beat in “Hands And Faces”, I’m ready to throw in the towel. And by the time they go in reggae mode about a minute later, I called it a day and threw this album where it belongs… in the trash.
Score: 2 out of 10

The Sun The Moon The Stars – Mind Reader

Featuring members of New Jersey acts such as The Banner, The Oval Portrait and Mermaid In A Manhole, The Sun The Moon The Stars is a relatively new band that blasts out six (six six) metal/stoner tunes on “Mind Reader” that are far more interesting than what any other extreme metal band has been churning out lately.

True to the spirit of Black Sabbath, the riffs sound as metallic as they do bluesy and have a meaty, sludgy sound to them before they run for the hills Iron Maiden style. Coupled to thumping bass lines, frollicking drums and Matthew Dwyer’s schreeching screams, it’s a massive wall of sound that comes crashing down on you. Hell, if you can keep a song interesting for almost ten minutes (“Firefly, You Shine”), you’re alright in my book!

Fans of High On Fire, Pentagram and Doomriders should take notice… a new player has just entered the game.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

“Handwritten” is already album number four for these New Jersey boys. Don’t expect anything you haven’t heard before… it’s all vintage Gaslight Anthem. It’s their strength but possibly also their weakness. Because let’s face it, Brian Fallon doesn’t exactly have the most versatile of voices and there’s only so much you can rip off from Bob Dylan, Joe Strummer and of course, Bruce Springsteen.

But let’s not start bashing “Handwritten” just yet. There are plenty of solid songs to go around even if all of them could’ve just as well been on “The 59 Sound” or “American Slang”. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve already heard first single and album opener “45”. “Handwritten”, “Keepsake” and “Mulholland Drive” could’ve just as well been the single as well… all of them come with equally memorable hooks, choruses and sweet riffs while the rhythm section drives the whole thing home. And you haven’t even heard album highlights “Howl” and “Biloxi Parish” by then!

So even if there are no original ideas to be found anywhere on “Handwritten”, it’s still a mighty fine example of great songwriting by a bunch of guys who proudly wear their hearts on their tattooed sleeves.
Score: 8 out of 10


Matt Skiba & The Sekrets – Babylon

This band should’ve been called Matt Skiba & guys from AFI and My Chemical Romance filling in for the rest of Alkaline Trio. But okay, The Sekrets is a little catchier. I don’t know where this guy keeps pulling them from but “Babylon” is filled with 10 new songs that wouldn’t have looked out of place on any Alkaline Trio album. You know the drill… it’s dark pop-punk with big choruses that’ll be stuck in your head for days.

Oh yeah, it’s Hunter Burgan from AFI on bass and Jarrod Alexander from My Chemical Romance on drums in case you were wondering.

Kind of a short review but this one is easy… if you like Alkaline Trio (and especially their last album), you’ll enjoy the hell out of songs like opener “Voices” and the new wave of “Falling Like Rain”!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Dave Hause – Time Will Tell 7”

Dave Hause is back with already the fourth installment in his series of 7” after previous releases on Side One Dummy, Bridge Nine and Jade Tree. This time around “Time Will Tell” and “Meet Me At The Lanes” get the acoustic treatment alongside covers of the Detournement’s “Odessa” and Bouncing Souls “Ghosts On The Boardwalk”. It’s that last band’s Pete Steinkopf who oversaw the proceedings at Little Eden Studio.

While this 7” is by no means a must-have, it sure is fun enough. After all, it’s Dave Hause we’re talking about here. The guy is pretty much the epitomy of a good time.
Score: 7 out of 10

Russ Rankin – Farewell Catalonia

After a slew of albums with hardcore punk stalwarts Good Riddance and later with Only Crime, Russ Rankin is now releasing his first solo full-length. The idea stemmed from a time when he found himself with a bunch of songs and no band that suited the material. Rather than abandoning those songs, Rankin went for a solo delivery. With a little help from Lagwagon’s Joey Cape, who offered him an opening slot on a couple of his shows, Ranking quickly found his feet facing a crowd on his own.

With Paper + Plastick backing him, Rankin then went on to record what has become “Farewell Catalonia”. It’s  basically a collection of rock songs that happen to be played acoustically. Opener “Pushing Daisies” and “American Amnesia” are just two of the catchy tracks that address the same topics as most Good Riddance albums (politics and relationships). So it doesn’t take a great leap of the imagination to picture these songs with distorted guitars and a beefed up rhythm section. Then again, it’s a bit harsh to  label “Farewell Catalonia” as a collection of acoustic Good Riddance songs. It doesn’t help though that the album lacks variation making this a somewhat enjoyable solo offering that’s not entirely convincing.
Score: 6 out of 10

Continental – All A Man Can Do

Continental is a new band around Dropkick Murphys’ founding guitarist Rick Barton and marks the good man’s first stint as a frontman. While things still rock in a punky way on “All A Man Can Do”, the Irish folk influences of the Murphys have been replaced with country. That this is not a bad thing, becomes clear right off the bat with “Curious Spell”. “Shine” is up next and sounds like a good John Mellencamp song with a bit of Bruce Springsteen thrown in and things just keep on going from there.

Don’t expect the world of this album… it’s just plain old, honest rock n roll that is as straight-forward as it is entertaining from start to finish.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

Baroness – Yellow & Green

Kinda like what Mastodon did with “The Hunter”, “Yellow & Green” sees fellow Georgia natives Baroness move away even further from the sludgy, heavy-ass riffs and screams and go for more clean riffs and ditto vocals. In short, they opened the doors for progressive parts, southern rock and classic rock. ‘Short’ is not a word you can use to describe this release though. This double whopper comes with no less than 18 songs spread out over 2 albums and just under 75 minutes.

Opener “Take My Bones Away” kicks things off nicely and comes with a catchy chorus. It is followed by “March To The Sea”, which is just plain awesome with a bassline that gives the song immediate momentum and keeps going from there. Over the course of the album you’ll hear influences from all over the place… Queens Of The Stone Age, Foo Fighters, Muse, Pink Floyd. It’s all present and accounted for! Especially in the epic “Eula” which pretty much embodies the new Baroness sound.

I’m just wondering if maybe they wouldn’t have been better off releasing a single album instead. Keeping things equally exciting throughout 18 songs is asking a bit much and there is the occasional song on here(“Collapse”, “Board Up The House”) that could be considered filler.

All in all though, “Yellow & Green” is a solid album with plenty of highlights that will get you banging your head in no time.
Score: 8 out of 10

Teenage Bottlerocket – Freak Out!

Ah, that familiar album cover in yet another color… it’s already their fifth album and by now every new Teenage Bottlerocket release feels a bit like coming home. You could say they are repeating themselves but in their case it’s their biggest asset rather than a disadvantage.

“Freak Out!” comes with 14 new songs that feature goofy lyrics coupled to a deadpan delivery, fast riffs and ridiculously catchy choruses. Who can resist? I sure as hell can’t when I hear a kickass songs about mosh etiquette (“In The Pit”), a track that comes with Top Gun references (“Maverick”) or a cautionary tale about the dangers of headbanging (“Headbanger”).

If you are into pop-punk, you need to pick this one up. And by extension every other Teenage Bottlerocket album. Period.
Score: 8.5 out of 10


Young Guns – Bones

The five guys from the UK that make up Young Guns seem to have it all figured out… they write radio-friendly rock songs, their faces wouldn’t look out of place on the cover of a magazine (or on the bedroom wall of a teenage girl). The downside is that there is no trace whatsoever of any originality. Think Funeral For A Friend or any of their zillion American counterparts (Seether, 30 Seconds To Mars, Nickelback,…) and you’re right on the money. Way too safe, predictable and boring as fuck… nuff said.
Score: 3 out of 10

Dinosaur Jr. – Live At 9:30 Club

Having recently seen Dinosaur Jr live, I can tell you that their shows are indeed loud. They make Spinal Tap look like a bunch of sissies!  Luckily I still control the volume of my TV so that now I can enjoy a Dinosaur Jr show without the risk of permanent hearing damage.

In 2011 Dinosaur Jr played 1988’s “Bug” in its entirety at a limited run of shows and the 9:30 Club in Washington DC is where they decided to commit the whole thing to tape with Henry Rollins opening up by interviewing the band. While Barlow and Murph seem happy enough to do the interview, Mascis seems to be off in his own little world. One in which there is no 9:30 Club whatsoever. Not a real shocker, the guy has a reputation to uphold.

The show itself was filmed by six fans, which gives it a little extra. They focus on the band and do a good job of registering the show rather than making a video that cuts relentlessly to shots from a zillion different angles, something that would only please the ADD kids out there. Well, we probably have Dave Markey to thank for that. He oversaw the whole thing and you might know him from the Sonic Youth film, “1991 : The Year Punk Broke”.

Rounding out this DVD is a backstage interview with the fans, Henry Rollins on the history of the 9:30 Club and some bonus live footage (“In A Jar”, “The Wagon”).
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Exile Parade – Hit The Zoo

Even though they already garnered some rave reviews with their debut EP “Brothel Ballet”, it took these UK youngsters six years to record their first full-length. That’s pretty friggin’ long if you ask me! Kinda makes you wonder what took them so long exactly…

These guys claim to be heavily influenced by Oasis, but the songs on “Hit The Zoo” are a lot louder than what the Gallagher brothers used to churn out. Some of the songs on here are rock solid (opener “Fire Walk With Me”, “Man Is Sick”), both of which have been recycled from their EP. We already knew they were good… but what about the new songs? The ones they took so long writing.

Well, I’m afraid they’re just not quite as good as the abovementioned. “Hello Blue” and “Life Of Crime” are still decent enough but when Exile Parade slows down, things go decidedly downhill. Songs like “If I’m Not Famous” and “Mach Schau” are borderline boring to be perfectly honest.

So even though there are some pretty good songs on “Hit The Zoo”, it doesn’t quite live up to the expectations and I’m thinking that maybe we’ve already heard the best from these guys on their first EP.
Score: 6 out of 10

Trophy Wives – Old Scratch

Trophy Wives is fronted by Billy Bisig, who played bass for a while in Elliott. That’s funny if you think about it because they were an emo band back when emo was not yet a dirty word. And now he’s in a band that’s trying to revisit grunge, another genre that started out original enough before it became somewhat of a dirty word as well.

There aren’t a lot of original ideas floating around here but it’s fun enough to listen to with loud riffs, pounding drums being slung at you while a vocalist with the right kind of raspy voice is going on about his insecurities. There are some definite Nirvana and QOTSA influences lingering around. Unfortunately you’ll also have to deal with a fair amount of Silverchair and Puddle of Mudd… yikes!
Score: 5 out of 10

Sigourney Reverb – Bees In Your Bed Bad

Not only do these guys have a funny name, they play some solid powerpop that’s as punky as it is garage-y. Is that a word? Well, you know what I mean. They don’t like to take themselves too seriously and so you end up with 14 songs that are as goofy as the band name. It’s something I like about them.

On “Bees In Your Bed Bad” vocalist Eric belts out tune after tune and if he’s not sure how to go any further, he’ll just start whistling (“Everybody Wants To Be Alone”). It reminded me a bit of older Dwarves when they’re not thrashing around. It’s not the album of the year but it’s a lot of fun! Oh, and if you look long enough at the cover, it will open the gate to another dimension. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m pretty sure it’ll work!
Score: 6.5 out of 10

The Cubical – It Ain’t Human

These Liverpool natives may look like they play Britpop, as soon as opener “Dirty Shame” kicks in you’ll find yourself hearing some nasty blues that belongs only in the darkest of bars. One where they don’t serve anything but the cheapest whiskey and where you’re amazed if a fistfight does not break out every other hour.

Blues, soul and rock n roll are mixed into one nasty whole and Dan Wilson’s vocals are gritty as fuck with the horn section and melodic riffs offering only the slightest counterweight. Even when they’re slowing things down in songs like “Are We Just Lovers?”, it sounds like something of a nightmare. Okay, Captain Beefheart and Bo Diddley already did this before these guys but when it’s done this good, a lack of originality isn’t a big problem.
Score: 7 out of 10

Old Californio – Sundrunk Angels

“Sundrunk Angels” is already Old Californio’s third album. I had honestly never heard of them before but I’m not sure if that is such a loss.

The songs on here are twangy rock songs that come with a twist of 60s psychedelic sounds and you can perfectly imagine a bunch of hillbilly hippies (if there were any) to sing and dance along to these tunes. It’s all very happy go lucky with a banjo here and an accordion there… kind of like what a jam session between Gram Parsons and the Beach Boys would’ve sounded like.

These guys know how to write a song that’s easy enough on the ears but unfortunately none of the material on “Sundrunk Angels” left much of a lasting impression afterwards.
Score: 5.5 out of 10
Californio Records

High Dive – High Dive

Ever came across people who said that listening to punkrock is gay? Well yes, I guess it is if you are listening to High Dive. These guys are a queer-positive folky lo-fi punk outfit who don’t sound all that different from Defiance, Ohio (who they apparently share members with).

All of the songs on here have a bare bones kind of approach and the vocal delivery on here is quirky, not unlike Atom & His Package. There isn’t a bad song in sight here but “Tennessee” is an absolute standout. That one and their sweet cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” already make this self-titled album worth the purchase.
Score: 7 out of 10


No Motiv – Winterlong EP

Let me just say right off the bat that No Motiv is one of the most underrated bands I know. Despite releasing awesome albums (“And The Sadness Prevails…”, “Diagram For Healing” and “Daylight Breaking”), they somehow never achieved the mass appeal their labelmates Get Up Kids and Saves The Day were privy to. But maybe that will all change now?

Eight years after the release of “Daylight Breaking”, the guys in No Motiv are back and still sound the same as they did back then. Call it dark alternative rock, emo-punk (before it became absolute crap) or whatever… fact is that these guys still write kickass songs. Think of a punkier Foo Fighters or a less poppy yet equally melancholic Alkaline Trio with some more progressive parts in it and you’re getting there. They’re really hard to pin down, which is one of their strengths and probably also the reason they never got the recognition they deserve.

My only problem with the six songs that make up “Winterlong” is just that… there are only six songs. But they will do just fine until a new full-length comes out (fingers crossed!). Until then I’ll just keep listening to songs like “Bled” or closer “Deathwish” which comes with a Queens Of The Stone Age vibe. There’s just no going wrong with this release!
Score: 9 out of 10

The Minutes – The Minutes EP

The Minutes are what happens when three Dublin punks try their hand at playing rock n roll. While there are just four songs on here, it does paint a clear picture of what this band is about. From the radio-friendly, horn-toting opener “Black Key” with its contagious chorus and the wild and out of control Bronx-like tune “Secret History” to the live version of “I.M.T.O.D.”, which shows off the band’s skills onstage, this is one hell of a good way for a new band to show the world that they’re coming for them with their guns blazing!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Little Barrie – King Of The Waves

When singer/guitarist Barrie Cadogan wasn’t busy playing shows with Morrissey, Paul Weller or Primal Scream, he was working on new material for his own band, Little Barrie. Apparently he’s been playing a lot of shows because their last album already dates back to 2007.

They’re back now though with “King Of The Waves”… a title that suits the album well seeing as opener “Surf Hell” is a surfrock tune that comes, albeit one that comes with a ferocity you don’t often hear in the genre. The rest of the songs are all bluesy rock cuts that were somehow never released by another band in the sixties or seventies. And whether they try their hand at something mellow (“Dream To Live”, the soulful “New Diamond Love”) or the blues (“Now We’re Nowhere”), the result is always kickass.

The best thing about Little Barrie is that all of the material rocks from start to finish, yet somehow they make everything sound laid-back. Like they just made it up on the fly when they stumbled across a recording studio on the way back from their local watering hole.

If you’re into the White Stripes, The Strokes or any other ‘The’ band, you seriously need to check these guys out!
Score: 8 out of 10
Bumpman Records

The Audition – Chapter II EP

After four full-lengths on Victory, The Audition’s new EP really does mark a new chapter for the band. With the help of their fans, they got the necessary funds together through Kickstarter and recorded their first new material since their Victory departure.

Saying bye bye to their label hasn’t had much impact on their sound though. These Chicago natives still like to dabble in danceable pop-rock and with Danny Stevens they have a vocalist who’s well-suited for the genre and I guess it helps set themselves apart in an overcrowded scene. Have a listen to “Who Do You Think You Are” and hear a band gearing up to start a party. They’re good at what they do… no question about that. But I’m trying to ban sugar out of my life and I’m afraid this is all a bit too sweet for me.
Score: 6 out of 10
no label

Static Radio NJ – We Are All Beasts

Static Radio NJ was already a great band when they were tossing their Lifetime and Kid Dynamite influences around like it was nothing, but they have truly exceeded themselves on “We Are All Beasts”. Rather than being content with simply repeating themselves, they went and introduced more melody and poppier song structures into their material, thus transforming themselves into a full-fledged pop-punk band.

I know, I know… Did we really need another raw and gritty pop-punk band? Fuck yeah, we do! Especially when they have some cool Samiam throwbacks lingering around in songs like “Addict” or “Incestuous Friends” and filled the rest of the album with equally solid songs that are both high on energy and melody. Like I said, they were already great and they just got a whole lot better on “We Are All Beasts”.
Score: 8 out of 10


Flatfoot 56 – Toil

Chicago-based Celtic punk band Flatfoot 56 is back. New album “Toil” consists of 13 songs, most of which are rowdy, upbeat punkrock affairs with a bagpipe or mandolin thrown in (opener “Brother, Brother”, “Work For Them”).

While the comparison to Dropkick Murphys is an easy one and not without foundation, Flatfoot 56’s material comes across as less exuberant than their Boston neighbours and more akin to the Swingin’ Utters. The songs on “Toil” are certainly entertaining enough, even if things do start to sound alike after a while. If you’re not yet tired of the whole Celtic punk band thing and still have enough money left after picking up the new Real Mackenzies album, this one is certainly worth the consideration.
Score: 6 out of 10

Nada Surf – The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy

Nada Surf is one of those bands that never disappoints and even if album number seven for these New Yorkers would’ve sucked, they still would’ve gotten a prize for best album title.

No worries though, they once again dish out a bunch of powerpop songs on “The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy” that are instantly committed to memory. The only difference with “Lucky” is that they rock a little harder this time around. Maybe the addition of former Guided By Voices guitarist Doug Gillard has something to do with it? Whatever the case may be, check out “Waiting For Someone” for example and hear Foo Fighters in the best of moods. Nice, right?

These gius are still having a blast writing tunes together fifteen years into it and it shines through in every single song. I hope they’ll never stop.
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Band Of Skulls – Sweet Sour

Band Of Skulls are back with the follow-up to “Baby Darling Doll Face Honey”. The new album is called “Sweet Sour” and you’ll find that things haven’t changed all that much. So yes, that means comparisons to The Kills and White Stripes are still valid.

But who cares? Just like the songs on their debut, these tracks are propelled by hard-hitting drums, loud riffs and choruses that you can easily belt along to at a festival near you. Opener “Sweet Sour”, “The Devil Takes Care Of His Own” and “You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Goin’ On” are all crowd-pleasers. They do give you some time to breathe with “Lay My Head Down” but just when you think things are starting to get too calm, they chase a blistering solo through the speakers and make everything alright again.

Call it electrified blues or just plain rock n roll… whatever. Point is that Band of Skulls delivered another great album with “Wanderluster” as my personal favorite.
Score: 8 out of 10

Useless ID – Symptoms

Four years after the release of “The Lost Broken Bones”, these yarmulke-wearing punkrockers  are back with a new album called “Symptoms”. Over the years they’ve tweaked their sound here and there, but never strayed too far off the beaten path. So if you liked them before, “Symptoms” is a safe bet.

How come? Well, these guys always had a knack for writing energetic yet extremely melodic pop-punk songs and even though the tracks on here are a little darker and slightly more aggressive, everything I liked about this band still shines through in every single song. Picture a pissed off version of No Use For A Name and you’ve got it figured out. And just like NUFAN, these guys are now part of the Fat Wreck family which will hopefully lead to them finally getting the recognition they deserve!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Jon Snodgrass – More Buddies, More Fun EP

“More Buddies, More Fun” is a 4-song EP that was previously available in Europe but never got a proper US release, something that will be rectified next month by Paper + Plastick.

This version boasts a bonus song and an updated version of the “Buddies” song with a plethora of guest musicians including Frank Turner, Ben Nichols, Jim Ward and Stephen Egerton among others.

It might be a small release with just four songs but they are full of country twang, acoustic strumming and basically just pretty damn good. If you’re a fan of the Revival Tour artists, you’ll want to pick this one up.
Score: 7 out of 10