Reviews

TOX20: The Capitalist Kids / Tight Bros - split 7" EP

from Punknews
   Toxic Pop keeps dropping tasty goodness. The Capitalist Kids and Tight Bros got together for a Ramones worship party and everybody had a good time. Cramming six songs into seven inches of wax, this split is mighty fine.
   The Capitalist Kids go first with a trio of tunes that really make you rethink your whole life, man. Just as they did on Lessons on Love, Sharing, and Hygiene, the Kids divide their time between love songs and political take-downs. "Special Looks" deals with morning after awkwardness while "What Have You Got to Hide?" discussing the increasingly Orwellian society technology creates. Also it works in the sarcastic line "somewhere an eagle cried" because America. The Kids close out with "Claustrophobia," a Bee-Gees cover because not tru punx is tru punx is not tru punx is tru punx.
   As much as the Kids kill it, though, Tight Bros bright the party just a little bit harder. Three tunes with a Ramones fetish and decked out in Mean Jeans grace side two, and they're all rocking. "Little Bird" is up first with a big hooky chorus despite a minimum of whoas (thereby subverting all of pop-punk and recreating a new universe in your ears, bro). "Markers" and "Relocate Me" are in the same vein, but hey, why mess with a good thing?
   At six songs, this split is a real deal in stereo, and anyone who likes the Ramones, fun, smashing the government and also the Ramones 2x should get on board.

from I Buy Way Too Many Records
   First off, I want to thank everyone that got in touch with me to say something nice after I burned my hand last week. It's very appreciated. I'm healing up nicely, though I can't say that typing is my favorite thing to do at the moment as my right index finger is still giving me some issues. As such, I'll be keeping this review kind of short.
   And honestly, there's really not much to say about this 7" other than if you don't buy it, you're a fool. The Capitalist Kids are just about the best straight up, MTX style pop punk band going these days and their songs on this record are another dose of their fantastic songwriting. Some of the best lyrics going along side of some of the best choruses you'll hear.
   The Tight Bros side is equally great, though they lean more towards a buzzsaw Marked Men style of rock. The harmonies that this band manages to squeeze into songs this fast is a real talent, and if you don't already have their S/T album that came out earlier this year, then you are missing out on one of the best. I've yet to hear anything from this band that I don't love.

from Just the Tip
   The true art of both rowdy pop-punk and the split 7” have overlapping, intertwined heydays. It couldn’t have been just timing, without a ton of vinyl collecting going on for most of the 90s. But more than anything else, the split 7” seemed a natural domain for pop-punk throughout the 90s. Almost two decades later, both never-lost (but often forgotten) arts still resurface here and there. In this case, two split 7”s arrived last year, sporting Ohio’s Tight Bros’ five newest songs. As important to the spirit of the whole thing, they’ve also brought along two like-minded friends.
   Tight Bros maintain most touchstones of 90s pop-punk–repetition–simple cut-time rhythms and vocal/guitar melodies–but without overusing any of the above. Faster than most post-Ramones practitioners (including both split-mates), they don’t sounding any more aggressive in the process. Overall, they’re similar to slightly less-known pop-punk refiners like Sicko or Scared Of Chaka. The melodies are paramount and the sound is treble-y overall, but nothing’s silly or forced. Above all, they contribute solid rock and roll songs, disguised as simple 1-2-3-4 punk rock of a specific era.
   Rad Company and The Capitalist Kids actually have a bit more in common with one another, than either do with Tight Bros. A picky pop-punk fan, myself included, would source both bands earlier in the 90s. Austin’s The Capitalist Kids’ come surprisingly correct with a cover of “Claustrophobia” by The fucking BeeGees. They make it their own so gracefully, it’s hard not to follow an unflattering road: the base-level similarities, especially lyrically between a style of music I hold dear and The BeeGees. Meanwhile Rad Company share a vibe with the couple Queers or Mr. T. Experience LPs you’d still find yourself attempting to defend in mixed company.
   15 or so years after peak pop-punk, all three of these bands have diverted course from The Ramones in their own ways. Rad Company are probably the least polished, while Tight Bros the most versatile and The Capitalist Kids the shiniest. But all three manage to add some tension and a little suspense to a well-defined, and well-traveled corner of the world.

from Uncle Critic
   Toxic Pop Records brings us this great split between to incredible newer pop punk bands. First up is the Capitalist Kids with two of their songs and a cover. Their two songs are fast catchy and just all around great. Pretty much the stuff we’ve come to expect from this band. The third song is a Bee Gees cover. I’ve never been a big Bee Gees fan but their version of this song is pretty good. Tight Bros don’t waste any time with their side, they’re kicking ass right out of the gate with ‘Little Bird’ which is just as good as if not better than anything on their incredible LP. Their second song ‘Markers’ as a bit of a weird flow to it but it’s still really great, it fits them perfectly, with other bands they might have been able to pull that one off. And just when you think they’re done Tight Bros finishes you off with ‘Relocate Me’ a song which is almost as good as ‘Little Bird’. Their side of the record is simply incredible. I like Capitalist Kids a lot and their side is great, but Tight Bros simply owns this split. I recommend you pick it up as soon as possible.

from Squid Pro Quo
   The Capitalist Kids are from Austin and released an album last year titled "Lessons On Love, Sharing and Hygeine" that reinstilled my faith in good pop punk. This split is pretty straight-up pop punk, with short songs all around. The Capitalist Kids cover "Claustrophobia" by the Bee Gees and it's AWESOME. Seriously. Didn't anticipate that coming. Tight Bros from Ohio offer up three originals. They have a little Mean Jeans likeness to them, and a little Be My Doppelganger in there. They're good pop punk. I was lucky enough to play with both these bands this past autumn in Austin and in L.A. They rip live. Especially the Cap Kids. I want to see them again so bad.

from Razorcake
   Both Capitalist Kids and Tight Bros play first class, 1990s pop punk in the vein of Squirtgun. It’s precisely the sort of record that can be used to confront anti-pop grumps with a rock solid “bet you can’t listen to this without dancing” proposition. There’s nothing but aggressive joy here. If those of us who don’t hate fun have our way, pop punk is coming back, goddamn it! –Art Ettinger

TOX19: Dead Mechanical - OK Night 12" LP

from I Buy Way Too Many Records
   This Dead Mechanical record is coming out in the next month on Toxic Pop records. There's a pre-order for it on the label's website right now, and I put in my order the very day it went up. However, since Dead Mechanical was playing Insub Fest in late June, Toxic Pop had a some test pressings of the record rushed and they made special screened covers for the occasion. They only sold 40 copies of this record at Insub Fest, but I was very luckily that a quick email to Toxic Pop had them put aside a copy for me. I guess being a loyal customer that buys almost every single thing the label puts out the day it goes on sale earned me some karma points.
   I love the screened cover and as cool as it looks in the picture, it really pops in person. Now, as for the music, I could not possibly say enough good things about this record. Over and over I've stated what a great year for music 2013 has been, but it's just getting downright insane at this point. This is an album of the year most years. It's a surefire top 5, it's probably a top 3. In all seriousness, just stop reading this review as you are wasting time that could be better spent buying this record.
   The band weaves together some of the best influences in punk. You've got your early Jawbreaker vocals, there's Leatherface inspired guitar play, Dillinger Four-esque catchiness in parts and it's all presented though a filter of incredible energy and passion. I always say that to me, the most important thing about a band is that I want to believe in them. I want to feel the conviction they have in their music. Dead Mechanical has this in spades. I believe every word, every note that comes out of this band. It's a soundtrack for life kicking you low, and your quest to crawl back.
   OK Night is essential, just absolutely essential. After 3 perfect records, I do not understand how this band is not one of the biggest in the US. Dead Mechanical should be huge. They should be the first thing anyone mentions when talking about today's great punk bands. Go buy this record, you deserve it.

from Uncle Critic
   Toxic Pop Records is on fire lately with their string of great releases recently and topping that list is the new Dead Mechanical album. This is the band’s third album and I can without a doubt say it’s their best. These guys just know how to make good songs and aren’t shy about showing it off. One of the best things going in Baltimore or anywhere else for that matter. Their previous two albums are really good, but this one just leaves them in the dust, its leaps and bounds better than just about everything else even released. If you aren’t listening to this album you’re really doing yourself a giant disservice. Go order it right now and enjoy the rock/pop punk greatness that everyone else is already jamming to.

from Just the Tip
   Even if Dead Mechanical weren’t from Baltimore, The Thumbs would have probably still come to mind pretty quickly. Both bands use the classic Bay Area power trio template, with a thick layer of Crimpshrine or early Jawbreaker’s inviting snarl. Dead Mechanical’s approach is often more nuanced, using established modes but leaving out much of the repetition. More than a strict 90s time capsule, OK Night’s ten songs do hold tight to pop-punk’s brighter corners from 15-20 years ago.
   If you’re like me–an unfortunate adult still harboring strong feelings the golden era of pop-punk–it probably peaked for you the moment things first seemed over-sweetened. Like old men and fashion, you have the option of settling deep into that gold era until you die, unconcerned with modern opinions about maroon polyester. Rather than blame Sum 41 and give it up when you’re 23, plenty of bands press on, curating something new from their own golden eras. With pop-punk, that perceived sweet (but not too sweet) spot between grit and hooks is the white whale. Dead Mechanical’s particular rendition lands within a few years of my own high-water point, so I’m predisposed to a soft spot for it. But OK Night is a worthwhile punk rock record in 2014, despite my attempts to apply some equation to my own sadly-specific nostalgia.
   You’d be hard-pressed to find anything associated with youth culture that’s even close to ‘timeless.’ But this particular era of 90s melodic punk rock is still alive, including a handful of newer standouts like Sundials, Joyce Manor, or Tenement overlapping with Dead Mechanical. All of them walk a defined, but not a self-limiting line, updating–not fetishizing–the most satisfying morsels from post-Ramones nostalgic punk rock.

from Scene Point Blank
   Dead Mechanical is one of those mid-tempo punk bands, built on life’s grimy surfaces and reflecting that tone of rough-and-tumble, down-and-out luck. The music fits this tone, drudging, cursing, and lamenting, striving for a blend of catharsis and transcendence. OK Night is their third full-length and its title just screams of that blunted worldview, neither positive nor negative.
   The onesheet namedrops influences of Jawbreaker and Superchunk and I definitely see more of the former than the latter. It’s world-weary and carefully constructed punk rock with a heavy focus on lyricism that moves it to the next level. While it’s not my first introduction to the band, it’s the first full-length I’ve heard and it feels in tune with their output on previous EPs. The distinction comes largely from Lucas Carscadden’s voice, which is unique with a rough sensibility that sounds almost like screaming even at the slowest moments on the record, shredding his vocal chords to express the point. There’s not much variation to his voice as the records progresses, but he works within his means to keep the sounds different as fitting with the rhythms, really ripping that larynx raw in “Last Summer.” The tunes are guitar heavy, with an anguished tone that matches the vocals’ pitch well. When the tone gets a little more introspective in songs like “Into a Wall,” the vocals also switch gear into an easier, steadier flow, often courtesy of drummer Matt Dorsey. In other words, the band is well suited together, playing off one another’s strengths and really focusing each song on a single tonal achievement rather than spreading layer upon layer to create a complex microcosm.
   While Dead Mechanical can hit hard, it takes until the latter third of the record to really offer that gut punch, especially in the form of “My Young Family,” which blends a hooky melody with start/stop rhythm that accentuates the rest of the song, bringing the lyrics more into focus over the melodic backdrop. It’s effective and touching, and it seems to give an extra kick to the remainder of the record. Following it with the faster running “How the Day Runs Down” is a great sequencing move. This song has something of an old I Spy feel, and the forward-charge drums add a sense of urgency.
   While the early songs are generally strong, it takes a while to really hit stride. The latter third gives the record a second wind and it leaves on a positive charge; one that, if maintained across the board, would have turned a solid album into a really good one, perhaps on par with Rumspringer’s Stay Afloat.

from Jersey Beat
   Although they have been around since 2006, Baltimore's Dead Mechanical are a brand new act to my ears. Ok Night is a solid collection of incessantly catchy and crunchy guitar rock with just enough punk attitude to tip it in the favor of those who enjoy rough edges to their harmonious hooks. Cases in point include "Scoop Me Up" and "My Young Family"; both efforts are high energy blasts of passionate vocals and soaring choruses delivered in a style that is sure to make Bob Mould smile. "Bad Math" and "Vagrants" rattle with with nervous energy and lyrics that grab the listener. When vocalist/guitarist Lucas yelps "now you want those feelings back" on "Into a Wall", there is an unashamed sense of vulnerability and intensity reminiscent of Mission of Burma, a band who is again clearly channeled on "Last Summer". A multitude of legendary indie and post-punk acts can be cited here as influences, ranging from Sebadoh to Seaweed, but Dead Mechanical is not attempting to raise the ghosts of the past; instead, they are crafting their own unique path on Ok Night. The noisiest track of the bunch is also my favorite, the blaring, jarring "Off a Bridge", proving that these guys can brush aside precisely crafted melodies and throw old fashioned punk in the face of the listener. This is a record one will undoubtedly listen to on repeat in a single sitting. The songs are well designed, played with honesty, and reflect a band that will hopefully move beyond local bars and east coast only tours.

TOX18: Industrial Park - s/t 7" single

from Much Music
   Welcome to Friday night, everyone! We got some new music coming at you straight from the depths of Portland, Oregon. We're pretty obsessed with the incredible duo Industrial Park here at MUCH HQ. Maybe it's because it's great to take a break from the usual sugary pop and electro dance mixes we usually bump in the office? Jamming in the same vein of bands like Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, and Slowdive, we think that these guys need to get on The Wedge quick. Industrial park just released a two-track 7″ and it's ready for pre-order off their Bandcamp, but you can listen to it here right now. We hear they have a video coming out in the next few weeks and we can't wait for it.

from 7 Inches
   I think a black and white photo of a massive empty building should absolutely be all you need to illustrate the dark, hazy layers from the Portland duo, Industrial Park. Not a sign of a single human being and hulking square shapes fallen into ruin. Sounds like Salford, England in the late '70s, the home to pioneers of post punk, Joy Division - not that you should jump right to that comparison. From what I remember Portland didn't have vast neighborhoods of empty warehouses but why would I have been wandering arounf that part of town int he first place? Industrial Park has played with another great dark duo, Blessure Grave, who are actually still releasing records. Weirdly enough I'm happy to revisit these sounds maybe because some of the first bands that I listened to on the back of the bus were Bauhaus, Killing Joke and Siouxsie. There's distant echoes of that stuff here with more of a focus on thick heavy layers of guitar and Emma's breathy vocals.
   A-Side's "Echoes" rises up with a pounding primitive beat from Nick Makanna under Emma's bleak incessant layers of distortion. She might have a similar mysterious vibe as Siouxsie but stays further back in this mix bouncing around the hard concrete walls of that manufactured space, hardly ever rising above the thick sustained guitar. This whole track has a huge cavernous sound, impossible it's just the two of them build this ominous packed fog. Like The Big Sleep, they creep up on you, all of a sudden it's a smothering sound, how did you find yourself in the middle of this. This hypnotic tempo oppressively bears down in an unassuming way, but that's how they get you. It's not interested in tricks or trends in fidelity, they get on with the business of crushing hopes and dreams under the guise of shoegaze, which in this case sounds powerful because it's going to bulldoze right over you. Forget that sweet English psych pop fog, this is the thing that fought off everything else to take over that building for itself.
   B-Side's "May" opens on solitary washed out notes that are place holders for a massive blow out that's looming with heavier echo on her vocal this time. Suddenly they sound more optimistic but it could be these higher register melodies, they're moving faster and the lyric feels more hopeful. Repeated and pounding, they really lock on to a groove and subdue it across their already plateaued sound here. Huge booming drum hits and throbbing guitar further prove that a duo just works harder to fill in the gaps. They're not content to leave a single kilohertz on the EQ untouched or a breath left between layers. Hold it - be glad it's just a single.
   I'd love to hear their full length EP on Desire Records, on a crazy smeared black and white pressing but it's an overseas label and I'm sure the euro doesn't convert in our favor. Even more reason to pick this white vinyl up from Toxic Pop Records.


TOX17: Highway Cross - Run Dry 7" EP

from Punknews.org
   Given that they've been quiet for a while, I sometimes forget how much I love Cloak/Dagger. The Virginia hardcore band drops bullshit-free, Stoogey tunes of a most righteous quality. They even have good taste in record labels! Which is why I feel ever so slightly guilty about liking Highway Cross. Featuring (former?) Cloak/Dagger members Matt Michel and Colin Barth, Highway Cross continue that band's style, to the point that I feel like I'm committing audio infidelity.
   Run Dry offers up four tunes on seven inches of vinyl, simply and expertly. The recording quality is a little cleaner that the graininess Cloak/Dagger favors (think Smoke or Fire), but the heart is still there. While nothing can quite top the joys of screaming "STAY WASTED" (I don't care how straight your edge gets, them shits is tru punx), Highway Cross still hit a sweet spot.
   That's the biggest strength 'n' weakness of being a no frills rock band. Highway Cross delivers a 7-inch that doesn't stray from a tried and/or true path. If you like opener "Ringing in My Ears," you will like closer "Run Dry." It doesn't matter which side you spin first; you can use the digital download code to play the songs in any order. But while that means there's a lil bit o' homogeny at play, it also means you cannot fuck with this formula. Coupled with this very punk rock 7-inch format, you cannot deny the tru punx qualities that are inherent. And, really, isn't that what makes our stupid lives tolerable?

TOX16: The Capitalist Kids - Lessons on Love, Sharing, and Hygiene 12" LP

from Punknews.org
   It's interesting, if not a little weird, listening a band that simultaneously takes influence from Screeching Weasel and its ilk, and yet hates Screeching Weasel (or at least Ben Weasel) so thoroughly. Such is the dichotomy on display on the Capitalist Kids' Lessons on Love, Sharing, and Hygiene. Sure, the group draws equally from the likes of the Mr. T Experience (Dr. Frank Portman even gets a shout out in the liner notes) and MxPx.
   "Weasel," a critique of the SW frontman for that one time he made everybody feel awkward, is one of several catchy pop-punk songs found on the record. It's also indicative of something else: The Capitalist Kids remembered that they could write Ramonescore pop-punk tunes that didn't have to be about girls. "Socialism Ain't a Dirty Word" and "Never Fear, Capitalism is Here!" cover politics, as does "I Dreamed I Saw Phils Ochs Last Night," a pseudo-Billy Bragg cover.
   Sure, the Kids sing songs about hooking and/or breaking up as well, but they bring a little diversity to the mix. They even drop an epic onslaught in the outro for "Three-Oh." While they're based in a tried 'n' true formula, the Capitalist Kids throw in the occasional left turn.
   That said, this record is still Ramonescore pop-punk. The formula can only be stretched so far, and while the Kids take things in semi-new directions, they still don't reinvent the style. That means the nerdy leanings and repetitive vocal lines that plague the genre overall still apply here. The Kids still do it better than most, but compared to Teenage Bottlerocket and Mean Jeans, they've still got some growing up to do.

from Jersey Beat
   There are plenty of political punk bands; but how many can write a sweet love tune too? It's hard to picture, say, Propagandhi writing a song about singing They Might Be Giants songs on a second date, or Against Me! allowing themselves the corniness of "missing the electricity / that happens when we touch hands". And yet, as their band name and album title respectively show, Austin's Capitalist Kids are the rare band that can show us why both politics and love matter.
   Both themes are given about an equal weight, and the implication is that without one or the other, we'd be sunk. The Capitalist Kids advocate togetherness in both realms-- they aren't afraid of being called Socialists because Socialists stand together, and "Eagle Thunder" takes its name from the fact that singer/lyricist/bassist Jeff (credited with no last name in the liner notes) and his future wife apparently call themselves Team Eagle Thunder. The album's greatest fear is that "We Are Each Ultimately Alone in the Universe"-- it's no accident that that song is the most jittery here, switching between stop-start guitar riffs and fast palm-muted sections, lyrics spit out with maximum anxiety. But even "We Are Each Ultimately Alone..." ends with a "please", with the possibility that things aren't so ultimate, and most of the other songs combat this idea.
   Of the love songs, "That's When I Knew" is both my favorite musically and the one most likely to make me smile. It mixes sixteenth-note palm-muted guitars, some tasteful "woah-oh-ohs", and the afore-mentioned TMBG reference. It's the story of a new relationship, the little details that let us know we're falling in love. The political songs are all pretty great, attacking capitalism both in general and in specific failings. "Parachute of Gold" ties in nicely to the Occupy movement, "Socialism Ain't a Dirty Word" defends progressive politics in an election year in which government's involvement in issues like business and health care is a crucial debate. "Ayn" is a real stand-out, smartly criticizing her brand of free-market capitalism as just another way to make sure the "supermen" get everything the rest of us can't.
   The general sound of the album is heavily indebted to the classic Lookout! Records bands that were playing when these guys were teenagers-- spiced up by a mid-song key change here, hand-claps there, the short acoustic closer "Ericacoustic". None of the songs repeat each other, but it's a very familiar sound. It's accessible to anyone whose knowledge of pop punk doesn't go beyond Green Day or Bad Religion (Jeff's voice is sort of between Billie Joe's and Greg Graffin's, actually), but those of us who've heard a Crimpshrine record or two will appreciate how the sound gets updated and tweaked in places. The Capitalist Kids have taken all the catchiness of classic records and really played up the vocal melodies. But by playing around with rhythms that sometimes chug into each other and sometimes emphasize staccato hits, and almost eschewing choruses altogether, they've made a record that pays homage without aping. It makes Ben Weasel-slam "Weasel" a lot more personal, as you can tell he really was a big musical hero to the band. Fittingly, the song about getting older, living in a world when Lookout! is punk history, "Three-Oh" has a more mellow sound, and the extended instrumental outro sounds like the Capitalist Kids breathing and letting themselves bring out sense of melody they've sprinkled through the rest of the album.
   Unfortunately, I do have one unavoidable critique of the album. I realize a lot of punk fans aren't going to agree or care with this complaint, but it's part of a big problem in the scene. As I've said before, the love songs here are generally sweet, have an intimate and self-deprecating sense of humor, and generally come off as honest and heartfelt. But there are some lyrical moments that make it difficult for me to wholly appreciate them: "...and pretty soon now you're gonna wonder how / you ever lived before you met me"; "...so stop resisting, just give in to happiness / this might be as good as it gets"; "I need a tube or two of super glue / so I can glue her to me today"; "...and maybe one day when we're older / we'll put some babies in her". All of these lyrics depict a relationship model popularized by Weezer (great article here: http://www.theawl.com/2010/04/sex-offender-week-rivers-cuomo-messes-you-up-forever --though I'm not saying anything on Lessons on Love... is remotely as terrible as a standard Rivers Cuomo lyric, just that there's some common DNA) in which women don't have a lot of independence. Sure, the guy in this model professes dependence and need too, but there's always the sense that he's the provider, protector, and possessor. The idea is that, because a guy loves a girl, she owes him love back. I don't want to accuse anyone in this band of real-life misogyny-- the problematic lyrics aren't aggressively male-centric so much as not fully thought-out-- I'm just saying that, as someone who isn't male, songs that perpetuate ideas of women giving themselves up to men and being glued into relationships are getting pretty old. Punk is full of gendered power dynamics, and the Capitalist Kids may not be making these any worse, but these occasional lyrical acts aren't making things better either.
   That said: this is a great album, and I don't think the above paragraph should stop anyone from picking it up. Some love songs, like "That's When I Knew", are respectful and relatable the whole way through, and those that aren't generally only get dodgy in one or two lines. I still listen to Pinkerton; I just have to listen to P. S. Eliot and the Max Levine Ensemble too. Buy Lessons on Love... for the politics, for the music, for its intimacy-- just be careful about which relationship lessons you choose to take away.

from Ghettoblaster Magazine
   This has "high school summer" punk rock written all over it. It's the kind of record you'd put on after wak-ing up at 1 in the afternoon. You're groggy, probably hungover, and just need a pick-me-up. This certainly fits the bill. It also reminds of a time I never really wanted to revisit, but Lessons on Love… makes it not as unnerving. The blend of love songs and political commentary (often in the same song) are kind of the saving grace for this, particularly "Ayn," an ode to the current patron saint of the right. It certainly addresses how fucked up things are but while many other bands address it with apathy or rage, these guys approach it with a bit of dark humor and sarcasm, which make it stand out a lot. (Toxic Pop) by Andrew Ryan Fetter

from OVRLD
   #18 - Top 50 Austin Albums of 2012
   Austin's prolific political punks came back this year with their third full length and it may just be their best yet. Here's the kicker though: it's full of love songs! Lessons on Love… skates gracefully between political snark, finger-pointing anthems, and blisteringly fast ballads in a way that few bands could accomplish. The Capitalist Kids manage to find the Goldilocks zone with every song in providing politics without being preachy and love songs without the sap. If you can't get your toes tapping to this album then you may be a robot or possibly a Republican. For fans of: Bad Religion, Screeching Weasel, Green Day – Brian

from Razorcake
   Timeliness is tricky. Political ideas that are topical can seem silly in time, but that can be ignored if songs are written with music that stands on its own. Nobody complains about how outdated the references are in Dead Kennedys songs, right? Aiming for the sweet spot between Propagandhi and Mr. T Experience, the political songs match the love songs about one to one. Perfect for when you can't decide between Bracket or Crass. I've listened to this record half a dozen times before Razorcake ever sent me a copy, so I'm probably the most qualified person to take a whack at this. I've been around this record for a while. I've overheard conversations between band members as they talked about these songs before the band had learned them and I've seen the songs played a handful of times before the recordings got made. At this point, I feel like I know this record like the back of my hand. The pop punk community should be happy that a band like the Capitalist Kids is playing right now. This isn't me giving the old argument of "what happened to the politics in punk rock?" It's always been there, it's just been in the pop punk section of the store. In a section of rock dominated by songs about youthful nostalgia and partying, I hope the Capitalist Kids spark arguments. I hope they get people talking who don't normally like to think about these kinds of things. If you like tight Lookout-styled pop punk, these guys are some of the hottest shit on the market. Get with it. –Bryan Static

from Razorcake
   I gotta say, it's kind of funny at first to hear a band doing such a great Mr. T Experience/early-Green Day impression while singing about the evils of corporate welfare, their hatred of Ayn Rand, and their love of socialism. Something about major chords accompanying bleak statements like, "We live in a world of imbalance and disparity, where one's manipulation severs another's greed, some people live in comfort, others suffer, bleed, and die," feels a little weird, especially when you sound like you're singing about a girl you've got a crush on. But, honestly, Capitalist Kids pull it off. This is solid straight-up pop punk with straight-forward but poignant lyrics. Had they existed in 1996, when Noam Chomsky and Lookout Records were just about my two favorite things, they would have been one of my favorite bands, no doubt about it. –Chris Mason

from The New Scheme
   Hailing from Austin, The Capitalist Kids point toward the Bay Area with one hand, and Chicago with the other. Channelling the glory days of Lookout! pop-punk, with a bit more variety and attempted lyrical sophistication than the original version. Lessons on Love... is poppy alright, with relatively short and simple songs. But the songwriting and production both add wrinkles, which make it considerably more than another post-Ramones rehash. Think the first few Mr. T Experience records, or The Vindictives, with the wisdom from living through the last decade of pop-punk embarrassments of more recent Green Day or Alkaline Trio outings. It's a serious gem, capitalizing on nostalgia without hiding behind it.

from Scene Point Blank
   Holy Lookout Records! The Capitalist Kids' Songs of Love, Sharing, and Hygiene bears some stark similarities to the output of seminal 1980s-1990s East Bay pop-punk label. With an ear for clean melodies and crisp chords, the songs are quick, catchy, and witty in similar fashion to early-era Green Day, Mr. T Experience, or Screeching Weasel. It's a sound that is familiar to listeners and can easily be butchered yet, when done right, it packs a refreshing punch.

   Maybe it's just because I haven't heard this style in some time, but Songs of Love… is a refreshing piece of pop-punk. Like the intro stated, this style is far from new and the songs have a sense of familiarity even on first listen—but it's not an, "Oh, I've heard this before"—there's an authenticity than comes through rather than an simple aping. Touching on a range of mostly serious topics (albeit with a fun touch), the band considers Ayn Rand, deregulation, Ben Weasel's antics and, yes, more than a few songs about girls. It's less Teenage Bottlerocket and more MTX as far as the lyrical tone goes, with the songs being a little cute but not novel—a tight rope to walk. For example, the refrain of "Corporations are your friends/ just put all your faith in them" in "Never Fear, Capitalism is Here!" is clearly tongue-in-cheek, yet the dramatic tone of the music and the earnest vocal delivery makes the listener consider the whole of song rather than just the jokey lyrics. They wisely keep the songs quick and to-the-point before the repetition gets too heavy.

   The band uses a straight-up lead singer whose inflection carries the chord changes instead of relying on vocal tradeoffs or group choruses to pick up the slack, and he does a good job of leading the songs and staying on key. For an easy comparison, think Green Day minus the snottiness/faux-British stuff. With the record playing a quick half hour for the fifteen songs, the sound stays fresh. Well, as fresh and the early 1990s can sound which, on repeated listens of Songs of Love, Sharing, and Hygiene, is a lot more than I would have expected.

   The LP also includes a nice foldout insert, though is debunks the "kids" part of the band's name.

from OVRLD
   There is no doubt that the term "punk rock" conjures images of social and political rebellion in the minds of many. During its formative years, punk music was often seen as the favored audio accompaniment of those who eschewed societal labels and had nothing but disdain for "the man." While the last 40 years have seen punk music wax and wane in many different ways to the point where even "pop" and "punk" somehow coexist, that rebellious punk spirit is still alive and well for those willing to look for it. On Lessons on Love, Sharing, and Hygiene, Austin's The Capitalist Kids do a great job of reminding us of this fact with a delicious helping of socio-political commentary served over a bed of scorching riffs.

   Lessons on Love, Sharing, and Hygiene is The Capitalist Kids' third full-length album and easily the best out of an already impressive discography. Playing loud, fast, and crisp, The Capitalist Kids are likely to draw immediate comparisons to bands like Green Day, but punk aficionados may be more likely to point to polarizing punkers Screeching Weasel or the punk masters of social commentary Bad Religion as better examples. Whoever you might think they sound like, it's hard denying that The Capitalist Kids are catchy and on this latest release they seem to have expanded both lyrically and stylistically, becoming even more accessible without losing their edge. What you'll find on Lessons' 15 tracks is a mix of love songs, social repartee, and political cynicism all delivered at top speed and with a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm. Whether it's "Parachute of Gold"'s admonishment of corporate America, "Ayn"'s sarcastic ballad to objectivist role-model Ayn Rand, or "Socialism Ain't a Dirty Word"'s righteous indignation, Lessons on Love, Sharing, and Hygiene makes me smirk, think, and rock out all at the same time.

from Uncle Critic
   Toxic Pop Records brings us all the wonderful gift of the Capitalist Kids second album, 'Lessons on Love, Sharing, & Hygiene'. It's fucking great out of the box surfy pop punk, fifteen songs that you'll have no choice but to love. I dug the Capitalist Kids first album 'Too Big To Fail', this album takes the greatness of that one and just builds on it what you get is a far more fleshed out album of the same awesome sound. This is by far the best thing the band is done, it's a really great album and I say that in 2012, a year when there's been a TON of great pop punk albums to come out. It's a hard fight for greatness this year and Capitalist Kids are holding their own with 'Lessons on Love, Sharing, & Hygiene', if you're a pop punk head make sure you get on this one or else you'll be wondering what everyone else is talking about when they're discussing the great albums of the year.

TOX15: In Between - So Steady 7" EP

from Punknews
   [Complete disclosure: Punknews.org staffer Mike French plays in In Between. But we've never met, and he's the kind of handsome jerk who wouldn't even brag to me about putting out a 7" on one of my favorite new-ish labels.]
   Get beyond the generic name, and you'll find a solid pop-punk band in the vein of early Crime in Stereo and Lifetime. In Between delivers lots of bangin' for the bucks with the So Steady 7", a five-song affair that'll set you back $5 online (That's a dollar a song! Talk about a deal in stereo!). I know I come with a bias, but this EP is mighty fine.
   "The Yard" opens the record, but it's so brief. "Claim" is the real introduction, and the song captures that '90s midpoint between hardcore and emo. It's melodic but ever so slightly dour, and something that's proven hard to maintain with many bands.
   If the 7" has any flaws, it's in the band's cleaner parts. In Between is a fitting name for the group since they split the difference between certain punk subgenres, but sometimes I wonder if one of them is easycore. However, I can't fault the band for writing big danceable breaks and hummable guitar parts.
   That aside, So Steady is yet another strong release from Toxic Pop, who split the release with Photobooth Records. While the set goes by quickly, it's hopefully a sign of more to come.

from The Ugly Years
   I'm going to give So Steady a short review since I've just now in the past few days been able to give it the listen it properly deserves, but I'll start by saying that I was very worried that I was going to hate this because the track that one of the labels had released sounded extremely different and basically like a whole other band, but I was very pleased to hear that they had just gotten better in every way. In Between took their formula from the five song demo and really stepped it up on this 7". Catchy leads, better singing, an acoustic intro on the track 'So Steady' (hello, Turning Point) and over all better writing. This will be your new favorite band if you give them the opportunity to be. I can't praise these guys enough. I would like to mention on a personal note that these guys played my house a few weeks ago and are seriously some of the nicest, most down to earth people to ever live. In Between is a great band with even better people in the band.

TOX14: Scum Again - s/t 7" EP

from Baltimore City Paper
   Scum Again, "Old and Jaded Song" Here's another cool thing Mike Riley can do with his voice. Scraping it out at high velocity onto a microphone is pretty cool in Pulling Teeth, but with Scum Again—another project involving the punk/metal/Charm City Art Space scene vet—we find him in Sick of it All/Fucked Up deep guttural, phlegmy hardcore vocal/cartoon barf mode. It's impressive. Dunno where exactly this band fits into the punk spectrum these days. "Old and Jaded Song," off the band's just out debut 7-inch, shifts gears a few times—high-pressure thrashy hardcore distills to pop-punk and actual catchiness. Thirty seconds from the end it seems like the song's moving into some kind of hooky chorus but just kinda trails off like that, with Riley singing "and fuck tomorrow, fuck tomorrow, fuck tomorrow" as sort of an anthem tease. It's the sort of hybrid that doesn't so much feel like the future and might just be better for it. Good fun.
[Mike Riley does not sing for Scum Again, Justin Loys and Matt Mutolo do. - TPR]

from Squid Pro Quo
   Scum Again is a relatively new four-piece Baltimore punk band, formed in 2010 by ex members of Warpriest, The Squints, Diablero, Mind As Prison and Plaguewielder. My first impression based on the cover art and the fact they are a punk band I've never heard of led me to believe they were part of the scummy, crusty-punk genre. I'd say they're a cross between that and '90s DIY punk bands like Crimpshrine and The Broadways
   "Mike's Job Application" is a short, crusty hardcore punk tune with scratchy, high vocals, but the vocals vary. "Damn, Corey Haim" is the best track on the EP because it's catchy, melodic and the music has a heavier, more progressive composure. All five are relatively short tunes, keeping in line with typical hardcore songs. This is a great 7'' for anyone interested in hardcore, DIY punk or old Leftover Crack-type street rock. The art is my favorite part (the back cover is cool too), and it's on gorgeous clear red vinyl.

from Punknews
   At first, Scum Again's self-titled 7-inch comes off like a crusty tribute to Choking Victim, with a little bit of None More Black's melody thrown in. And that's pretty cool. But the further listeners get into five-track 7-inch, the more things fall apart. Quite literally too. The band gets sloppier. The vocals get more off-key, culminating in the slurred 'n' screeching "Mike's Job Application." In short, it gets worse the more you listen to it.
   But that first side ("side scum") is pretty strong. "Damn Cory Haim" is a rocking lil romper stomper that's solidly executed. It's fast, it's punky and it almost has some melody to it. "Ghosts and Mice" can't quite top it, but it's still a solid second track.
   But man does that shit disintegrate on "side again." It's like the members didn't have enough time to practice all of the songs they planned, and just banked on people quitting after "Ghosts and Mice." "Puppies in Kittens Clothing" plays like an anti-song, as does the aforementioned "Mike's Job Application." "Old and Jaded Song" starts to right the 7-inch a little bit with a surprisingly hook ending, but by that point it's too late. Scum Again has one good song, and a whole lot of bullshit.

from Razorcake
   You certainly can't judge this 7" by its cover, not that there's anything wrong with its hilarious burger abortion artwork. Still, I wasn't expecting a harder-edged version of Fifteen based on the graphical introduction. This Baltimore band's five-song debut is fantastic. It comes with a download card for easy digital access when not hanging by the turntable. Sometimes sounding as much like a known singer as Scum Again's vocalist does (he really is a dead-on Jeff Ott doppelganger) can be a curse, but who wants to listen to that silly born again dude from Fifteen anymore anyways? I'll take Scum Again instead. – Art Ettinger

TOX13: Sick Sick Birds - Gates of Home 12" LP

from Play the Hit
   Sick Sick Birds operate out of Baltimore, MD. After years of touring in a band called The Thumbs, Mike Hall decided to settle down and do the family thing. He started Sick Sick Birds as a way to keep doing music on a more casual level. This little "hobby band" has been pumping out releases since 2006 and though they might not be traveling the world, the recordings are evidence that they're a serious bunch of musicians. Their sound could be described as a more straightforward, up-tempo, and punk version of The Jesus and Mary Chain, Black Tambourine, or Television. So of course, the aesthetic of Gates of Home isn't contemporary; even the cover art resembles The Clash's "Give Em Enough Rope", which is appropriate because the recording within sounds like a raw late 70's punk record. I find that this approach to recording yields a result that isn't as immediate as the slick, polished, or even crisp recordings we hear today. Though, the more you listen to it and hear its rough edges (and I've been listening to it on repeat for this review), the more you fall in love with its eccentricities. The hit is "Caution Wires." With its simple yet addictive opening guitar line, perfectly placed backing vocals, and passionate chorus of "she tripped the caution wires," it stands out as the obvious single.

from Squid Pro Quo
   If you're reading this, chances are you're familiar with the annual Insubordination Fest in Baltimore and if you've been, you've probably eaten Sick Sick Burgers in the alley at some point. My hungry, wandering belly was how I first heard about these guys, and now they grace my turntable with their second full-length, Gates of Home.
   "Pick and Choose" is a strong opener. Immediately, there's recognizable influence by Joe Strummer. The song is particularly catchy, and sticks out like a sore thumb on the album as one of its best tracks.
   A little deeper into the album, "Marietta" speeds its vibe. It's reminiscent of early Cure songs (as is the bass line of "New Shoe Leather"), particularly when it comes to the clean bass and vocal tracks.
   Sick Sick Birds take the melancholy, slightly-gothy and progressive characteristics of bands like The Cure and The Smiths and add a punk rock/garage touch, making something new.
   The songs on this album tease the listener a bit, keeping the vibe steady and bringing it up in the chorus with catchy leads, but they don't let it go on too long, thus creating an awesome ebb and flow effect.
   This is a strong album that brings new stuff to the scene, and I can feel it's already rooting itself into "Best of 2012" lists.

from Punknews
   What makes Gates of Home, and by association just about all of Sick Sick Birds' output when you get down to it, so winning is that it treads that delicate line between punk and indie rock. Gates of Home is a great meeting point of subgenres, a '90s throwback without feeling like a knowingly '90s throwback record, a nice complement to those of us who have been digging on the Sidekicks' latest effort.
   "Pick and Choose" sets the tone, wonderfully. Like a lot of indie and punk rock bands, Sick Sick Birds essentially write one kind of song, but it's a good one. This track has a rollicking, bouncy beat and some nice snotty--but not too snotty--guy/gal vocals that explode on the hooky chorus. If you're looking for reliable four-on-the-floor stompers that split the difference between Armalite, Cursive and Lemonheads, Sick Sick Birds prove up to the task, gloriously so.
   That being said, Gates of Home gets a little repetitive around the three-quarter mark. The record only contains 11 tracks, so any bit of homogeneity can hold it back. Gates is a good record, but it never quite jumps to that next level, greatness. These tunes are agreeable, but they blur together after a while. Still, there's nothing with being agreeably good. Beside, once the Birds really get rolling, like on the awesomely grainy, horn-laden "Olive," Gates stands out as a stellar, fun release. Starts strong, finishes strong, falters in the middle, but there's still fun to be had.

from Manik Music
   We all have our "golden age", whether or not we care to admit it. Baby-boomers and 80′s babies will all tell you "it was better when…" and I can't fault them. Yet, I have to say that my salad days were, for me at least, Baltimore in the late 90′s/early 2000′s. As fucking crazy as that sounds, hear me out. The clubs were mostly the same: Sidebar, The Ottobar, The Talking Head, etc. Maybe different and slightly sketchier addresses, sure, but similar. Drawn as I was, am and will always be to the LOUD, I was fresh-faced and post High School… itching for something of my own. I found it in the vacuum of Baltimore's punk scene. Aside from (The) Fuses, the sun rose and set around The Thumbs. Local lore that I can't tell the kids about because they've never heard of 'em. Tragically forgotten, their brand of punk was a seamless update of all that came before it. Angry, eloquent and a touch self-righteous, their brand of agitprop as music was IT. Though I could wax (poorly) poetic about all of their releases, 2001′s Last Match could hold its' own with their influences masterworks. Brief attention paid by one Billie Joe Armstrong saw this released on his "punk" imprint label, Adeline Records. It sells for a penny on Amazon. Please. Or ask me for a copy, seriously, it's that good.
   I saw them on the last tour in front of about 15 people @ the Ottobar. 8 of them were staff. That night, they left it all up there. Top five show for this guy…
   Wait, Sick Sick Birds?! That's right, almost forgot that Bobby Borte and Mike Hall's follow-up formed after the collapsed lung of a Baltimore punk scene lost The Thumbs. There time away from incessant touring served them well. They were slow to get their feet fully back into the pool, releasing a few 7″ EPs. After 2010′s Heavy Manners debut LP, Borte went on what he's chosen to call a "hiatus." This leaves Mike Hall, a man responsible for some of my all time favorite songs, as sole songwriter and official braintrust of SSB. Their is an intensity to Hall's new batch of tunes. He sounds lonely but light. Lots of single note runs, one guitar-player kinda songs.
   Gates of Home, much like their prior post-Thumbs work, finds them letting off the gas a bit. No longer as charged or bruising, these songs are a bit more developed and nuanced. "Pick and Choose", the lead track is so vintage 70′s snotty punk that it should be in a museum, or at least a lost Buzzcocks b-side. What's so great about this new batch is the relaxed writing, content to record and release as they please. Though the influence has always been there, there's a reverence for the jangly guitars of early Cure and The Smiths. "Caution Wires" is an absolute stunner as well, a nod to the epic intros of The Wipers or Mission of Burma. Dashes of tambourine, hand-claps and even tastefully placed horn sections dart in and out of the entire album. Everything is perfectly in its' place. They also manage to communicate the isolation of being an aging punk band in 2012. It's cold and, at times, divorced from this very era.
   I hear doses of many years, many decades and many classic records by thankless bands. Yet this feels firmly entrenched in the 90′s in that still fertile time when Superchunk, Archers of Loaf or perhaps Seaweed still held the baton. Before it was passed to whatever the fuck it was that came next (let's just agree to ignore the late 90′s). The Sick Sick Birds will never be that band for me. That band was The Thumbs. As it's unfair to grade on past performance, this would earn a solid B even if it was from a new band. Dig it, children, the new sound of Baltimore. Via 1998 or so…

from Scene Point Blank
   A lot of bands are waving their 90s flags these days. And I don't blame them. A) they grew up with the stuff and, B) I'll take the Alternative Nation over the skinny jeans 20-aught set any day. (Yes, I'm an old man.)
   Sick Sick Birds are a Baltimore group coming out of the punk scene, although their music doesn't necessarily fit the aggressive, shouty set all that well. Containing one ex-member of The Thumbs (founding member and fellow-Thumb Bobby Borte is no long involved) definitely lumps them in that crowd, and it's how I first heard about them myself. Regardless, Gates of Home is their second album and it's time to put the comparisons to old bands to rest. With their newest release they've taken another step away from power chords and singalongs, instead looking at measured dynamics, progressions, and tempered aggression. What you get is a DIY, less produced version of 90s rock. The DIY approach takes away some of the bloat that affected a fair shake of 90s bands and the punk background likely plays into their shorter songs (a plus), giving a sloppier, roughshod take on familiar sounds of bands like The Pixies or The Lemonheads, defined by loud guitars, soft lead vocals, even softer backing vocals, and a lot of cymbal crashes.
   "Conversion," one of the notable songs, positions powerful, expressive vocals over plodding, picking guitars. The real movement of the song comes when the guitar and bass interplay. Another 90s-biting track is "Spinning Jenny," which is one of the only songs where I've read a Pixies RIYL and actually heard the similarities. The song features excellent use of dual vocals, with Melissa Jacobsen's back-ups offering a soothing and hushed harmony. A standout is "Marietta," with emotive vocals from Mike Hall, nice harmonies courtesy of Jacobsen, and powerful effective breakdowns followed with on-pitch vocal delivery.
   The band's volume is primarily reserved for the choruses, which take on a little more shout-shout-let-it-all-out for a minute before the verses settle back into that quiet/loud dynamic shift. I could hear a bit of Thumbs coming through in Hall's vocals in the speedier "One Town Over," but that's really the only time I thought back to his former band. With Hall assuming primary songwriting duties this time around, the band has taken a wider swath of structures and there's very little "punk" to be found beyond the onesheet. Instead, the focal energy of the songs comes through subdued vocals that ebb during verses and erupt at chorus-time, flowing back into a hesitant complacence in between. Generally speaking, this formula applies across the board for Gates of Home but the songs aren't the least bit samey. Each progression and guitar/bass interplay is unique and the sequencing gives an uninterrupted run through the nine songs.
   It's a strong record and definitely recommended for those who like 3-4 minute songs with a slacker aggression and thoughtful progression. It likely won't blow you away, but the band is adept at what they do and they deliver a number of memorable tracks.

from Jersey Beat
   The 90's indie rock revival continues with Baltimore's Sick Sick Birds. Frenzied guitars and vocals submerged in a gloriously noisy mix greets the listener on the opening "Pick and Choose" and do not let up over the course of ten additional songs. The speedy "Marietta" highlights Mike Hall's vocals as he strains his voice above a raucous din, while "Spinning Jenny" has a seething low end groove that makes it my favorite of the bunch. Hall's lyrics are obtuse, as if one enters the story in the middle of the action, uncertain of how the story started but curious about how it will end. The concept of dreams reoccurs throughout the record and there is a frantic intimacy to each son;, the Sick Sick Birds sound like they are playing in your basement, best conveyed on "One Town Over", a scorching rave-up with a surprise ending and "(Cross the) Shipping Lanes", a song dominated by a convulsing fury. Sick Sick Birds return to indie rock roots, but it is not simply jangle by numbers. "Gates of Home" may borrow heavily from pre-Document R.E.M., but with subtle keyboards accenting the rousing guitar work, the song is entirely fresh. Energetic and honest, the Sick Sick Birds will remind you why indie rock is fun.

from Razorcake
   What if The Cure were from Baltimore? What if Robert Smith sang almost-short-story songs about isolation, the ethereality of cultural status? What if songs were jotted with a marker, waiting for a bus instead of melancholic bubbles of smoke? Not to overstate the origami, but the folds in the paper are this: take punk and figure out how to age gracefully, how to not sound like a joke, a disaster, or shame. Make it a cool design. It may not change the world, but it takes ordinary materials, crafts them carefully, and aesthetically reshapes how we regard them. Gates of Home is a more complex response than a total divorce from the previous music made by Mike Hall (The Thumbs) or complete suburban/"I have a kid" amnesia when the "real world" gives punks their mid-life crises. The respect-worthy answer is Gates of Home. It's a revisitation to melodies with serrated edges. It's not glued-up-mohawk circle-pit punk. It's not sweater-pill fluff indie. It's, thankfully, in-between the two and simultaneously far from both. My only complaint? Some of the songs sound too similar to one another. I think a little more adventure would pay big dividends. –Todd Taylor (Toxic Pop)

from Ghettoblaster Magazine
   These guys definitely stick to a formula: straightfor-ward mid-90's based indie pop/rock. No frills, no bullshit. The occasional combined male/female vocals are at times very reminiscent of The Anniversary, and some songs are about as poppy to boot. Gates of Home starts strong with "Pick and Choose" and doesn't re-ally lose any ground throughout, but it doesn't really gain any either. It's consistent almost to a fault; any variety between certain songs is based more in tempo than volume. Each song walks the balance between indie rock and punk almost too safely. I'm all for keep-ing it simple, but at some point you have to take some risks, and this really doesn't. (Toxic Pop) by Andrew Ryan Fetter

from The New Scheme
   First with The Thumbs, then Sick, Sick Birds, Baltimore's Mike Hall and Bobby Borte have been making music together for almost 20 years. For this second Sick, Sick Birds full-length, Borte stepped aside, but the band doesn't seem to have lost a step. This is refined, confrontational garage rock, mostly uncomplicated but rarely simple or brutish.
   Gates Of Home has more focused, sharpened early new-wave influences, which were evident even on later Thumbs material, but much more with SSB. The simple, slightly sour melodies, meld the early years of both new wave and Bay Area punk rock. In essence, it's like the attempts by The Clash at any sort of "crossover" sound; except here it's actually successful and potent.

TOX12: Sundials - Never Settle 12" LP

from Punknews.org
   Last year, Richmond, Virgina's Sundials released an enjoyable 7'' that may have suffered from a bit of a sectarian appeal. The band's first export into LP universe finds the trio crafting a unique median between the cordial yet quirky melodies of Archers of Loaf and the volume of Pavement. Never Settle, if anything, is just unbelievably catchy; but more importantly, it's the perfect stepping stone in the right direction.
   The album is raw and the singing is flat, but it's all contextually appropriate. Multiple listens unravel layers that may reveal a tambourine, piano run, or slide guitar—it is admittedly a deceptive quality. However, the pitfalls of 3 Songs are cleanly avoided: The LP knows how to restrain itself, even reaching a haunting, Plan-It-X style dynamic in "San Francisco Courthouse Steps".
   Their songwriting establishes nice hooks at an engaging pace. Opener "Either Way" casts a sense of reluctance, stating that "tomorrow is tomorrow either way," a tidy reminder for the ego and a humbling tone-setter for the remainder of the record. Likewise, "Carver Blues" kinda sums up the whole thing for me. Maybe it's simply relatable to a painful degree, but there's something undeniably palpable in the line, "The only thing I leave this house to see is living in a different city." There was potential for the second half to lag, but "Take You in My Coffee" fulfills the energy with a clever demeanor. After that, it's smooth sailing.
   Whatever Never Settle misses in originality is quickly made up for with memorability and wit. If Sundials isn't included on your next mixtape, it'd probably be in your best interest to pay your otologist a visit.

from RVAmag.com
   The last time I uttered the name Sundials, it resulted in an epic Internet clash of commentary erupting from anonymous sources, and feuds fueled by cascading intelligent thoughts. I'm excited to see what comes of this go-around.
   After months of recording and touring, Sundials have finally unveiled a full-length entitled Never Settle. For every element that I loved from the Richmond-based three-piece on The First Six Songs, I have come to enjoy even more on this new release. Their sound, steeped in the heart of nineties alt-rock, has evolved gracefully and powerfully to solidify the group's status as up-and-comers in the local scene.
   Never Settle flies by in a little over thirty minutes. This steady flow allows the record to remain in a listener's hindsight for much longer. After each listen, I find a new song to adore and a new observation to absorb. "Either Way" helps provide the record with an identity, as Harris Mendell's voice ponders his physical, mental and emotional state. In all of his vulnerability and reluctance to let anything bring him down, he realizes that tomorrow will happen one way or another. To deny this would be foolish. In his hesitance to flounder in pessimism, a greater theme presents itself--Sundials are fighting to make everything count.
   For me, the standout track has to be "Blame." This may be the most personal song out of all of the confessions made by the group on Never Settle. The story begins with a falling out between two former lovers. They are still courteous to one another, but she has moved on, and is bound to be married soon. With the arrival of this news, our protagonist contemplates what went wrong and the subsequent blame he administers to his own psyche. "Blame" stands out because it may be the most difficult struggle encountered on Never Settle. In other instances that involve political struggles and future worries, "Blame" insists on accountability. It's a song that offers insight on impending adulthood and learning to accept that we may be destined to continue repeating the same mistakes. It's easy to relate to, and it doesn't hurt that it carries itself well with a catchy chorus.
   The only moments where Never Settle seems to falter is in it's political manifestos. This isn't a personal criticism that revolves around the content of these songs. I am in total agreement with their politics. I just felt like Sundials wanted to achieve the development of a story that revolved around a personal reflection, as well as offering a bit of political commentary. This isn't something that is accomplished poorly... I think at times, it works incredibly well. At other moments, it sticks out to such a degree that it may unintentionally disrupt the song. Thankfully, it's never a disruption that places the songs at a point of no recovery. It simply causes the songs to form a difficult contrast--which could be a strong asset for the group in the future. I could see Sundials, in future releases, inspiring ideas that resemble those of The Weakerthans. If they do so, the personal narratives can then cohesively function alongside political asides, and the band would be all the better for it.
   Sundials belongs in a category with Superchunk, The Lemonheads, The Replacements, and so on. With Never Settle, they have proven that their potential is still rising. I for one am excited to see the evolution of the group, and what they will bring to the forefront on future releases. An evolution that I can currently only imagine would put Sundials in a position to avoid comparisons to the sounds of the past, and to be considered a band that will inspire new legions of bands in the future.
Review by Shannon Cleary.

from Squid Pro Quo
   With spring upon us and the weather finally getting warmer, I look forward to a few simple pleasures in life: baseball, cooking out on the grill, the smell of fresh cut grass and what I lovingly refer to as "summer music!" You know, that album that just doesn't sound the same in the dead of winter? The one that gets multiple plays while you're hanging in the backyard with friends? Yeah, that one! Well, I found a new one to add to my collection. It's by a trio from Richmond, VA that call themselves Sundials.
   Their new album, "Never Settle," is jam-packed with jangly guitars, honest lyrics and a sound that's so familiar, you swear you've heard them before...but at the same time, it's original; something new and fresh, and that's what makes this album so wonderful. Songs like the title track, "47 Million," and "Take You In My Coffee" are serious rockers that make you want to get up and dance. The songs just have this groove that takes hold of you and doesn't let you go until the end. That's the mark of a great record. Other soon-to-be classics are the slacker anthem for a new generation, "Probably Not," and "Crosby Sucks," with its blatant use of "fuck" in the chorus, are just two high points on an album full of high points.
   These three guys embody what was so great about the early '90s alternative scene without sounding cliche and dated. Honesty, sincerity, staying positive and having fun is what makes this album a true gem. Now, there is no such thing as "the perfect album," but this one comes mighty close. If I had to take one thing away from it, it's that the album's 12 tracks come in at just around the 30-minute mark, leaving this listener wanting more. But, if this band continues to make albums as good as this one, I will have no problem waiting for the next one. Keep an eye out for Sundials. I have a feeling if the band continues to put out quality material such as "Never Settle," they very well could be the next big thing.

from Razorcake
   Wow. Twelve songs of the college town blues played with a punk heart and the ramshackle catchiness of '90s indie. I'm having a hard time knowing where to start, since so many things are striking me about this record. Sundials are based in Richmond, Virginia, a dangerous little city with a thriving arts scene based around a rapacious college. Richmond is one of those places where you can pay your rent by working three days a week in a restaurant and take your band on a sweet weekend tour in any direction except east. Sundials sing about the drawbacks of this charmed life: "I traded learning for a coffee shop, and I'm losing money in the long run. Can't advance too far once the curve is done." All three members write songs, and all have a knack for capturing a feeling without being verbose, dumbing it down, or not seeing beyond the beers in front of them. Other topics include gentrification, lost love, southern ennui, Native American plight, and —why the hell not—The Great Gatsby. Their sound mixes punk and indie in a way that has paid off for early '90s bands like Archers Of Loaf, the first couple albums by Alkaline Trio, Against Me!'s more intimate material, and the gruff underdog pop punk favored by Tip-Top Todd Taylor et Le Razorcaque Readershippe. I've been gone from Richmond for the better part of a decade, but some things never change, like the confederate monuments and the fact that the city still spawns awesome bands. Like I said, the college town blues. - CT Terry

TOX11: Dead Mechanical - Addict Rhythms 12" LP

from the Deli Magazine
   I would imagine that Dead Mechanical would cringe to hear me describe their newest album, Addict Rhythms, as a "throwback" to 1990's era underground pop-punk. But, when you first play this record, that's exactly what you think. And, for me, that made me instantly excited. However, as I listened to Addict Ryhthms a few more times, it began to take on a life outside of The Jawbreaker Era from which it may have been born. It began to sound like this record had been crafted as if the pop-punk anthems of the 1990's had never really gone away, leaving these songs as a natural progression of the genre into the cultural realities of today. Dead Mechanical manages to convey this feeling on a record that is well crafted and arranged, but produced low-fi enough to still carry the energy of a live show. Their songs are catchy and melodic, but with edges that are just rough enough to let you know that they mean business.
   Their song, "Last show," depicts the final show of a band that may or may not be fictional from the perspective of an adoring fan. The feeling of loss is expressed openly, but the song doesn't sound like a lamentation, it sounds like a celebration. You can't help but feel like this is somehow a metaphor for an entire genre or scene of music, ending and beginning, but always filled with vigor and life.
   Addict Rhythms is at its best during anthemic choruses that challenge a generation at risk of losing its identity to re-take control of their lives. You can really feel this on "Sidewalks," a song that surrounds a lyrical portrait of voiceless and unappreciated youth with a resoundingly optimistic refrain: "You can hit the sidewalks early," a call to arms for the weary to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and start going somewhere.
   If you're in need of picking up, the first place you should head is to Traffic Street Records [or Toxic Pop Records] to pick up Addict Rhythms. -Jarrett

from Punknews.org
   Baltimore, MD's Dead Mechanical avoid the sophomore slump on Addict Rhythms with another consistent collection of competent, fuzzy pop-punk.
   The band has always done choruses quite well, and the opening title track is no exception here. Ditto for "Sidewalks," a track that has a certain repetitive bounciness to it that the band hasn't often utilized this well. The gruff background screams that echo the song's chorus toward its end are a positive touch.
   The mid-tempo "Baltimore Calling" has a certain melodic quality to it that recalls luminaries like Banner Pilot, and again, the chorus is top-notch. The guitar sounds here come off surprisingly layered as well; it's probable that some studio magic was employed, but still, for a three-piece with what was undoubtedly a meager recording budget, shit sounds good. "A World of Mistakes" showcases some fairly impressive riffing on each end, and some neat tempo changes that, while subtle, might catch some by surprise. The melodies carrying "Pictures in the Hall" are pretty great, and the more subdued vocal approach pairs with the twinkling distortion quite well.
   Dead Mechanical dabble in a bit of silliness with the brief "Feathered Creature," which appears to be about a bird (an oriole, perhaps?), though its metaphorical nature might lead one to believe otherwise.
   And "Creature" isn't Addict Rhythms' only misstep; "Film at Forever" sounds unnecessarily sloppy and out of place, especially in the vocal department. It's made even more curious by the fact that the very next track, "Watchpost," is similarly constructed while sounding a hell of a lot tighter.
   Another surprise here is the post-punk groove behind "All the Weathermen." The guitar parts are unlike anything else here, and the band pulls it off with flying colors. It'd be interesting to hear them dip into that well more often.
   Addict Rhythms, with its relative consistency and mostly successful curveballs, ought to please any fan of the band's earlier work and, hopefully, gain Dead Mechanical some much deserved praise as a band to be reckoned with in the pop-punk universe.

from Uncle Critic
   A lot of people were waiting for the follow-up to Dead Mechanical's 'Medium Noise'. Well three years we get what we want as the Baltimore rockers drop Addict Rhythms on us. There are a few of tracks you may already know because they've been on some of the band's previous releases but out of them some are slightly different, and all are good. Dead Mechanical appears have to grown and gotten more polished with this album, it took more than one listen for me to really appreciate this but after two or three spins how good this is finally sunk in. What sunk in was the fact that this is the best thing the band has put out to date. Hopefully the band keeps putting out killer stuff like this, because if they do they'll be around for a long time, (I hope). The CD version of the album is being put out by DC's Traffic Street Records and the LP version by Baltimore's own Toxic Pop Records, I recommend buying both because this album is good enough to double own and both labels are good enough to equally support.

from Beat the Indie Drum
   After listening to this Baltimore-based indie/punk outfit for 3+ years, I've finally realized why the band is a trio. Frontman Lucas Carscadden's voice is the 2nd guitar. I've always enjoyed Dead Mechanical's music on a superficial level – it's catchy bash and pop like Jawbreaker and Superchunk and other stuff that throws indie rock hooks and punk blasts into a blender. After this "vocals as guitar" revelation though I feel like I understand things on a deeper level, and I guess in some way that leads to a more well-rounded enjoyment of the music. Allow me to elaborate: Carscadden's voice has an intense, loud quality. Every line is amped up and exhaled like an electric strum, the melody arm wrestles with volume with neither one pushing the other to the table. It's rough and fuzzy, but still vibrant and full, like a smoker that refuses to be reduced to a hacky rasp by sheer power of will. Another part of the Dead Mechanical dynamic that seems to confirm my point is the songs that drummer Matt Dorsey sings. Excellent in their own right, but with Cascadden's vox out of the mix they sound treble-heavy and almost a little hollow by comparison.
   It all comes together in brilliant fashion on their latest, Addict Rhythms. 12 tracks of alt-punk that bream with experience and sincerity (and geography). Lines drawn from New Jersey's punk pop, DC's Dischord output, and Chapel Hill, NC's 90s scene all intersect here. Punk rock has traditionally carried a message in it's lyrics, usually about some political or social ill that incite the songwriter in some way. 99% of the time the result is dumbed down diatribes or vague (and yet predictable) chants – slogans that do nothing more than provoke empty sing-alongs. These guys thankfully occupy the other 1%, and this album is marching firmly into my top 5 records of the year. Check out "Film At Forever" for a small taste of all they have to offer, and head on over to Traffic Street for the goods.

from Razorcake
   Second record from this Baltimore trio. So many things spring to mind while listening to this recording. Since the band has two primary singer/songwriters, I tend to think of bands that reached for the brass ring and got it like Hüsker Dü and Mission Of Burma. Not because Dead Mechanical sounds like those bands. Just that the inner dynamic of having two writers/singers in the band just takes it into the upper stratosphere of excellence. Plus, bassist Dan Bress co-writes on a few tracks, proving he is a step above Greg Norton. But seriously, on some tracks here the vocal interplay recalls Fugazi at their fiercest, but without being overly preachy at any point in time. Guitarist Lucas Carscadden's brittle vocals and guitar lines mesh so well with drummer Matt Dorsey's drum patterns and subtle vocals that you may not even notice it until it's too late. Then you will never get Addict Rhythms out of your head. This is an excellent situation to be in when all is said and done. - Sean Koepenick

from Razorcake
   One major problem with digital is that it's either there or it isn't. Pure black or pure white. No storming sunsets with impossible oranges. No ice scraping at dawn through holes in gloves. And when there's meaning to find behind the bash and crash and basement screams, it's much more than just a shame that most people will never read the lyrics to this record, even if they hear it. Just bleeps and bloops yanked from one isolated place to another. And maybe that's part of why people feel more and more lost; disconnected in the same room, staring at glowing screens, screaming on message boards, widening the distance between flesh and blood people sitting next to one another. And I may just be old fashioned and foolish that if I think a piece of paper with words that accompany noises twining off spinning pieces of vinyl is different—that it's naïve or purist to say that I care about the contents of a band's soul, no matter how good the band sounds. We all die. I want to die with some good ideas, awesome songs ringing in my ears, good friends, and tight family. Dead Mechanical play and sing day-to-day vignettes that give into politics reigning down on your shoulders like bombs, and soak into your shirt like tears and the sweat of a hard day. They aren't crutching on platitudes or slogans. They're heartbreaking and defiant and poetic and funny. They also just happen to be amazingly tight and fluid. I think they're one of the best bands playing DIY punk in America today. This band means more to me at thirty-eight than Jawbreaker did to me at twenty-one. Pack up your nostalgia, quit huddling under a shelter of past memories lived or pined for, and join a roaring band in the ascent… or continue bleep blooping to the newest whatever, biding time before everything goes black again. - Todd Taylor

from Razorcake
   Dead Mechanical is one of the best of today's poppy punk bands. Hailing from Baltimore, the land of John Waters and Insubordination Fest, this new full length is in heavy rotation in the pop underground. These twelve dark songs cover subjects ranging from addiction, being in the wrong place at the right time, and playing a last show. The vocals have a unique touch to them that reminds of the first time I heard Blake Schwarzenbach or Larry Damore. Addict Rhythms is a musical refocus on a seemingly tried and true subgenre. The Dead Mechanical experience is literally like getting a new pair of glasses or contacts, sans the pricey exam. - Art Ettinger

from Razorcake
   Take Jawbreaker, make them one of the best bands of '90s alternative rock, while channeling post hardcore/Revolution Summer era DC. Have them being the ones who are slowly pushing into more indie rock territory, but while retaining their edge. This isn't a huge departure from what they've done before, but they've really hit their stride this time around. - Joe Evans III

from Jersey Beat
   I saw these guys at Awesomefest 4 in San Diego, over Labor Day weekend. They were one of the greatest revelations of the weekend for me (see my review of Awesomefest here. They play really great, tight, melodic post-hardcore, blended with a dash of punk. They're only a three piece, but they get such a huge sound. Imagine blending Chicago's big buzz-saw wall of guitars sound, DC's post-post emo sound and then tossing in a bit of East Bay punk snottiness, and you have an idea of how good these guys are. This CD was actually released a few months ago, but I just got my hands on it, so I am providing a belated review. Get this! Now! The album runs a scant 30 minutes, but there's more excitement packed into that half hour than you're likely to find most anywhere else. The second track, "Sidewalks," is a favorite. It's a driving track that had me jumping around. "Watchpost" is another great one, feature great hooks and plenty of power. "Pictures in the Hall" is another favorite. This will sound like heresy when describing a band that's in today's punk scene, but this one sounds like a blend of the aforementioned power and shoe-gazer stuff. The fact is, there isn't a bad or weak track on this disc. Like I said, get this now!

from Hanging Like a Hex
   I'd been meaning to get this record since the Summer but couldn't find it anywhere. Luckily, one of the guys who released it happened to have a table right next to me so I just had to get it. Once again, DM made a great collection of songs here. While the rest of the album is stellar, the re-recording of "Sidewalk" from one of their 7"s is still my favorite tune of theirs pretty much ever. A close second is "Pictures In the Hall". a departure from their typical vibe, mostly due to the somber vocal quality that lends an awesome feel to this great song. The rest of the record is a collection of melodic pop punk rock with bratty and snarled vocals, yet somehow has something more complicated lying beneath... like they listen to a lot of The Police or something. It's not your typical three chord pop punk record and I love that about them.

TOX10: Tenement - Taking Everything 7" EP

from Squid Pro Quo
   Following its debut full length release, Napalm Dream, on Mandible Records, Tenement released the Taking Everything 7" October 28 via Toxic Pop Records. The songs, "Taking Everything" and "Daylight World," were recorded at the same time as the songs for Napalm Dream, in the spring of 2010 at Howl Street Studio in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The first song, "Taking Everything," is a driving poppy melodic grunge/punk/rock tune about misinterpretation and coming up short and learning a lesson from it. Lead singer/guitarist Amos Pitsch does a real nice job of mixing rhythm and lead guitar together in one, and utilizing feedback as well. His riffs are catchy and not your standard chord progressions. I have to throw the drummer and bass player some props as well - they really carry the song. There's also a part in the song where it's just drums and vocals and it sounds awesome, as does the nifty guitar solo.
   Side B features the upbeat tune, "Daylight World", a song that starts out slow and folky before drums, bass and clarity kicks in. It sounds like a love song. "When the clock stops, will you catch me in your arms? Today could be the day," Pitsch sings in the chorus. Pitsch sounds like he's trying to coax a girl out of the house, so they can be outside together and go for walks before the weather gets "cold and dark again." There's an element of a deadline thrown in there, giving it a sort of urgency, but the music remains steady and upbeat yet calm and collected. This 7'' is available from Toxic Pop Records for $5 and comes with a download code with two bonus tracks ("Paper Airplanes" and "Jesse's Poem"), and the digital copy with two extra tracks is available on Tenement's Bandcamp site for $5 as well.

from Playground Misnomer
   For as long as I can remember, punk bands have been putting out 7"s. There have even been a few that staked their entire early reputations on them (Fucked Up comes to mind). It can be a risky move but it can pay off down the road as well. Some of my favorite bands I've found through split 7" records and some of my favorite releases have been in that format as well (the Sleeping in the Aviary/The Hussy split absolutely kills). However, there are still bands that manage to get it wrong and lose everything, or just somehow manage to put out a bad record. Then there are the bands with streaks of near-flawless 7" releases both on splits and on their lonesome. Tenement is one of these bands, and the "Taking Everything" b/w "Daylight World" +2 7" is the latest in an already unbelievably impressive small-wax discography.
   It starts off with "Taking Everything" which is an absoulte destroyer. It's Tenement at their finest, combining fast-paced, gritty, punk-laden powerpop with 80′s hardcore sensibilities. In other words, it's vintage Tenement, which is something it wouldn't be if it didn't also include some seriously impressive lyrics, which frontman Amos Pitsch seems to effortlessly spout off. "Can't find the words to say everything I'm really thinking / A lesson learned today / Another ship that's sinking." The songs got a menacing little back-story that could be feasibly tied in to the lyrics about the house venue they used to run that unfortunately got shut down earlier this year. It gives the song some emotional heft when it's factored in but on its own it's still one of the best songs I've heard this year.
   "Taking Everything" is followed by "Paper Airplanes" which falls much more in step with the poppier side of classic Replacements albums like Let It Be. Its tempo is one of the bands slowest, which makes it stand out immediately. The fact that it's as good as it is even at it's almost glacial pace (by Tenement standards) shouldn't surprise me as much as it does. This is a band that can seemingly have their way with just about any variable of their genre. "Paper Airplanes" also features a more lo-fi quality that makes the backing vocals about halfway through sound downright haunting. The song's also got some really effective buildups littered throughout, which is another instance of Tenement showing some muscle that some people only speculated about up until this point. "Paper Airplanes" ends amidst a haze of guitar overdubs, some seriously tasteful (and impressive) bass work, and general ambience.
   Then you flip the record over and get hit with "Daylight World," which, like the Napalm Dream track "Spit in the Wind" that came before it, is exactly 2 minutes of punk-tinged powerpop bliss. "Daylight World" has a bouncy quality to the instrumentation that reminds me of some old country and bluegrass greats in their prime, but is turned into something entirely new with the vocal melody over it. Once again, it also showcases Pitsch's strengths as an almost novelist-like lyricist, which at this point should surprise virtually no one. He's got an eye for the mundane and details that wouldn't stand out to a lot of other people, and it shows. Also showing on this track is his strength as a guitarist, as the song concludes with a short – but blistering – guitar solo. In keeping with the bluegrass/country aspect, it's also got a nice chord progression run wrap-up to close the song out. Perfection.
   In my review for Napalm Dream, the Tenement LP that came out earlier this year, I wrote about Tenement's recent tendency to end with something divisive, like complete noise or smashing bottles. This 7" keeps that tradition going with "…….." in which Amos narrates some unknown passage of material over audio snippets slowed down and reversed. It's interesting but it's also somewhat unsettling, giving the record an extra little confrontational edge and providing some more uniqueness and identity (not that it needed either).
   All together, it's a fairly fierce collection of songs that feels complete if a little uneven. It could essentially work as a compilation, representing four of Tenement's strongest aspects via the individual songs, but it also works on its own, instantly making it one of the best 7"s I've heard all year. Do yourself a favor and when you've got the time, and stream it. It's well worth your time.
8.6/10

from 7 Inches
   This one came in from Amos, a member of Tenement, a punky Wisconsin three piece with a full length behind them already and this single from Toxic Pop Records.
   The A-Side track, "Taking Everything" is a punchy, blasting pop punk sound with a bratty punk vocal, feeling a lot like the huge catchy power chord sound of something like the Promise Ring, complete with backup harmonies. Singing as hard as the mic's will take, taking jabs at swinging guitars. Stop for the distortions to drop out for a minute and it's just a verse and drums, that tension launching back to the chorus of "Taking everything the wrong way!", with an organ (or synthy electric) melody line over the layers. I've been there buddy, you try to explain, but it just makes it worse.
   The next one, "Paper Airplanes" really takes things down to a slow picked electric slow dance mood with a heavy distanced echo effect on vocals. This one is clearly positioned to be a sadtown tearjerker, it's what happens when all the energy is turned inward and you get that emo introspection...but it's definitely tempered by the medical oddities textbook imagery on this single...well, that description makes it sound ok...one guy is missing his entire lower jaw and mouth, even in black and white, on the reverse of the insert... it's disturbing. Is he going to appreciate being taken on this serious ride? Maybe he can... for a minute... forget about his problems. Or this will be the last thing he ever hears. Yikes. I did think this was going to be heavy doom metal, so when it's optimistic power pop like this, it throws me for a minute.
   The B-Side with "Daylight World" then goes in an entirely different direction sort of power alt-country with a line dance rhythm, tinny acoustic guitars turn to power chords and alternating big riff harmonies. Big reverby solo makes this really feel like things are going to be ok, until it turns into and a long backwards song hidden track that makes me think the sleeve art wasn't a mistake. They're not letting you off easy with 4 tracks of cohesive material, it's a one band gymnastic mix tape. Here's the giant obstacle course and what we can do with it.
   Check out their bandcamp page and get it direct from the band or on Toxic Pop Records.
   "Four brand new songs from your new favorite band. We're super stoked to get to bring you this EP. If you're unfamiliar, think a modern take on Sugar, the Replacements, Mudhoney, and later Husker Du. 100 on clear vinyl. First come, first served."

from Razorcake
   Tenement know how to make songs and they know how to get weird. It's this balance between catchy-noise-pop power and "What the fuck? I like this" that's rising Tenement's balloon up through the layers of "eh, shrug, clinical pop punk," up through "you just discovered that effects pedal app on your computer garage rock," up to heights of well-known bands that get referenced easily and readily. But if the stained, threadbare, inside out Hüsker Dü T-shirt fits—and the band sounds like an airplane crashing in one song and casually walking away from the wreckage the next—I'm all ears. As of this record, any and all Tenement is worth your time. –Todd Taylor

from The New Scheme
   Tenement's sound is tied loosely to East Bay punk rock, and more tightly to the late 90s when the sound was at its best. This new 7" absolutely represents "pop punk," but only if you use the definition of it then. Their recipe is heavy on mid-tempo, semi-distorted guitar riffs and melodic, but never syrupy vocal lines. There's a swagger, especially in the title track, which nods indirectly (but definitively) in the direction of The Replacements' barbed sentimentality. It's pop-punk, which feeds on the melodic (if often limp) rock of the 80s and 90s, before pop-punk had the years to simply feed on itself musically and otherwise.
   Side B's stellar "Daylight World" reminds me of early Scared Of Chaka, especially vocally. I don't think these kids aped the sound directly from them or any other single band. But if you were to ape something in 2012, Scared Of Chaka would be a beyond-welcome source. A summation of 20 years of melodic rock history into 25-minute pop punk records was potent then, and a motherfucking revalation now. Maybe these kids never heard a note of classic-Chaka, what's important is that they understood it; indirectly or otherwise.
   If anything, Tenement seem to have one current contemporary in Dear Landlord. Both bands cull the best of late-90s melodic punk into a straightforward package that belies each bands' decade, but is true to their small-town Midwestern roots. (There may be a thriving scene in Appleton, Wisconsin that Tenement are piggybacking on, but I doubt it.) Of all that's going on (and, more importantly, not going on) here, it's hard not to find these few short songs as a tiny, but trusty life preserver in an ocean of Tumblr-band-hogshit.

from Punknews
   Wisconsin punk/indie rock act Tenement deals in catchy, garage-leaning rock tunes, and that's exactly what listeners get on Taking Everything, a sort of companion seven-inch to the band's recently released Blind Wink full-length. Boasting three new tunes and a throwaway psych jam, it's a tasty lil EP.
   "Paper Airplanes" opens the seven-inch with a harmonized bang. Recalling '90s acts like Lemonheads, Sugar and Teenage Fanclub, only, ya know, faster, this trick is a real romper stomper. It's just so infectious, so rocking, so… fun. "Taking Everything" slows the pace down a bit, but it's still mighty melodious. The members in Tenement can certainly play, but it's their vocal arrangements that really sell the band's songs. Things never veer into flashy diva territory, but Tenement certainly knows how to showcase some prowess with a microphone here.
   "Daylight World" is the only real song on the B-side, but that's A-OK. It doesn't quite capture the same urgency as "Paper Airplanes," though, which would be a shame if the harmonies and guitar solo here didn't rule faces. This one is short but sweet, like a sugar rush. "Jesse's Poem" closes out the seven-inch with warped vocals and not much else. It's a bum track, one that doesn't warrant more than one listen. Still, considering Taking Everything was released nearly concurrently with Blind Wink, it's a wonder there was this much solid material around to begin with. "Jesse's Poem" aside, the rest of the seven-inch is a winner, one that should score plenty of mini-dance parties.

TOX09: Sick Sick Birds - Heavy Manners 12" LP

from Uncle Critic
   The Sick Sick Birds came from the ashes of a local Baltimore band by the name of the Thumbs. The Thumbs had a great indie rock/pop sound and released a couple of albums before breaking up. Sick Sick Birds are continuing that same indie pop sound but seem to be going at a slightly slower pace. Before this they had only released a split 7" record [sic], but now thanks to Toxic Pop Records they have an eight song album for us all to enjoy. An album that takes tunes that we were given in the split record and essentially uses them as a stepping stone to get to the level of the songs that are on "Heavy Manners". I haven't had this record for too long but it's already gotten heavy play. It's a great album that no one should be caught sleeping on unfortunately if you don't watch out that might just be the case. First pressing we've only got four hundred [sic] of these. One hundred on baby blue, one hundred on pink and three hundred on black. Don't miss out!

from Aural States
   You might have noticed that tweens have a bastardized derivation of a once sacred screed from an Exploited album title: "Pop punk's not dead."
   Few people outside the New Found Glory, All Time Low set find any merit in that statement; what's moreso, some might argue pop punk was never alive.  To those nay-sayers I offer Sick Sick Birds, who prove that you can successfully reconcile maturity, pop, punk, and artistic and musical merit.  Tonight, their position opening for Thrushes is really a match made in heaven.  SSB distill the essence of mature pop into the bittersweet and pensive melodies that fuel their songs. The heady thrashing of punk is relaxed to a more tension-filled, mid-tempo gait, but the bite is still there.  The songs are all anthemic, filled with golden lyrical nuggets and political acumen that inform acerbic commentary moving seamlessly between politics ("We hold these truths. But you hold the reigns") and life ("A missing information ban. Like only your loneliness can").
   The entirety of the Heavy Manners LP is a treasure, one that gets more rewarding and meaningful with each listen. Opening track "Buildings" is an ode to a reckless and carefree past life, and ignites a vivid wistfulness with its poetic and incisive verses ("Brash plans from late night talkers and beds made from bad ideas"). "Your Machine" coos sweetly, ebullient on the backs of rising horn lines that cut straight to that reflective and nostalgic corner of your brain. "Hearts & Their Minds" bounces along like the best of the Clash, coming off as an indictment equally on political misdeeds and our complicity in them.  "Power Plant" starts off with a bit of resigned reflection on keeping people under control, before vaulting into a more resilient closing verse that brims with the slightest pangs of hope.
   And really, that's what SSB are all about: working through their complex and intertwined maturation of life, art, and ideology. We emerge with them: older, wiser, and maybe even a bit optimistic.

from Razorcake
   I wasn't in the control room when irony came like a rainbow—but was a dark cloud of cynicism—into independent music. But there was a definite shift in the late '90s when the torch was passed from Superchunk to The Promise Ring and then somehow ended in the hands of dudes (of both genders) with pants tight enough to curb sperm production (women don't produce sperm, dude. If you're going with the whole "both genders" thing, you might want to rethink that one. I'm guessing women in those pants might increase the production of said sperm in straight men.) and the words "indie music" no longer meant "independent" of anything, while the "music" part was debatable at best. (I guess that's part of the irony. This time was also known as "The Golden Age of the Publicist." Draw your own conclusions.) So, if you're a punk rocker whose knee-jerk response isn't "Turn that fucker up! Play it faster! More 'fuck' in the monitor!" and your scope includes an active liking of Elvis Costello, The Carrie Nations, an appreciation for early Cure and Echo And The Bunnymen, and songs like "Detroit Has a Skyline Too," without the musty, creaky smell of imperfect nostalgia, I heavily recommend Sick Sick Birds. Early '80s indie pop, late '90s fireworks, late '00s recession-enforced honesty. Blood's pumping through decades of music effortlessly in each song. (Todd Taylor)

from Razorcake
   I've enjoyed Sick Sick Birds for a while now. This record blows my mind, because it almost sounds nothing like them live, but that's not a bad thing. They've always had that "We've done the loudfastrules thing, and it's time to move on" post punk element, but on their full length, it really shows. Slower and a bit more blueprinted out, bringing to mind bands like Wire, or what the Minutemen would probably be like if they were still around. (Joe Evans III)

from Scenepointblank
   Sometimes life gets in the way of good music. When the Thumbs disbanded in 2003, Mike Hall and Bobby Borte needed a new outlet. They formed Sick Sick Birds, but families and education have slowed the band's production, leading them to release their first full-length in 2008. Heavy Manners isn't a far stretch from their previous band, but Sick Sick Birds are their own project and should be judged as such. While the voices and songwriting are familiar, Sick Sick Birds incorporate influences from 70's rock to indie. At their heart, and mostly on their sleeve too, the band fits under the pop-punk umbrella. It's just that bands like this tend to make that umbrella grow. The song structures are more complicated and the guitars have greater variation, but whenever I hear Hall's voice, I'm immediately brought back to those screaming Thumbs days. It may partly be association from prior works, but something in his voice is perfect for a pop-structured, wounded and angry outlet of a song. While the backing instrumentation accentuates the mounting frustration that Heavy Manners' songs represent, Hall's voice is what carries them. The frustration that he bleeds is done through nuance: Hall isn't screaming himself hoarse - not by a longshot. Rather, his vocals express an aggression that is bubbling beneath the surface. On the record, he never opens up and let's go, but wavers along the threshold and utilizes that tension itself. This would make for an exhausting experience, where it not for the band's exceptional harmonizing, with Melissa Jacobsen's voice offering a smooth and quiet contrast to Hall's lead, with Jacobsen playing something of a Kim Deal role. While the pop-punk structure and tempo is the format, the band's real strength lies with their vocals. The call and response trade-offs between members are well-suited to the members' voices, complementing one another and maintaining an energetic flow. Side one of the record is generally a more jangly, pop-punk feel with positive tones. On Side two, the influence expands a more on the quirky side, and unifying the record throughout is a classic rock backbone that makes me think of The Used Kids. Heavy Manners may only be eight songs, but it's taken Sick Sick Birds years to put them on wax. Fans should grab this while they can, crossing their fingers that the band will find the time for future releases.

from The New Scheme #21
   Sick Sick Birds began after the demise of The Thumbs, who are in a long line of really great 90s punk bands you may have never heard of. The Thumbs played gritty, melodic punkrock, with shades of un-ironic new wave. The Thumbs were known for hard work and relentless touring, something they maintained for the better part of a decade. When the band ended, core members Bobby Borte and Mike Hall started Sick Sick Birds. The days of Borte and Hall embarking on marathon tours may be over, but SSB are no retirement band.
   Heavy Manners is a debut full-length, though the band have existed for nearly five years. It's obvious that they put in the time, as there's something fully-realized about every song. While The Thumbs mixed some new wave in with their punk rock, SSB tend to mix a little punk rock into a formula that mixes power pop with a little new wave. Everything about their sound is earnest and grounded in history, but never stuffy. It reminds me of Chisel, or even Crimpshrine (if you could somehow vacuum every trace of punk rock off their sound). It's like the best non-punk things about the greatest punk bands, mashed together into one record. It's melodic, even poppy throughout. But the vocals and slightly-oblong rhythms give it an anxious, almost tense feeling that, in the end, makes the record.
   Heavy Manners is a mature, engaging, slightly-nostalgic and still wholly relevant rock record. The conventional wisdom has always been that punk rock can't - and probably shouldn't - age gracefully. Sick Sick Birds are proof that while that may be true, punks themselves certainly can. (Anderson)

TOX07: Sleepwall - "Is That Factual?" 7"

from Punknews.org
   Sleepwall was definitely one of the more unique local acts in recent memory, so it sucks they only stuck around for a demo and a few EP followups. One of their final bows is this 2-song single, Is That Factual?, which takes their base sound of '80s punk-influenced early/mid-'90s-style alternative pop and adds greater melodic, sunny flourishes to really give themselves their own voice.
   The A-side, "Tennessee Sun" is another upbeat, driving mark of Lemonheads and Sugar-esque introspection. But the back-ended "Change Your Ways" has a more experimental atmosphere about it, playing around with vocal effects to give it a more heartaching distance of sorts. It's a got a sweet but snappy, lilting buildup that, given a few more years to let the band coalesce and develop its songwriting, probably could have been a fantastic anthem. As is, though, it's still outright solid.
   Supposedly, Sleepwall finished a 7-song LP some time ago. If that's still factual, hopefully it eventually sees the light of day.

from Collective Zine
   Seems like bloody ages since that last Sleepwall seven came out, hope it's not too long until they deliver even more. For these are two fine tracks of bustling indie rock. "Tennessee Sun" kicks things off in an utterly Dinosaur Jr fashion. The vocals are lazy and far from the fore front, whilst pleasing guitar noodles and insistent rhythm section propel this song onwards. It's certainly not far removed at all from any of the poppier efforts on Beyond, and as such it is the kind of thing that makes me smile and nod along. However, standout song for me on this sweet split is the stunning "Change Your Ways", which now that I have listened to more is starting to sound like the Hated to me. The intro gently twinkles in, the bass strums and then the drums pick up the pace. This track is pretty different, it is grungier, in the Hum sense of the sound at least, and the vocals are rather droned. It builds up for the first half before breaking down in a pretty fashion in the middle and exploding into the noisier remainder, through a momentary Mascis-esque guitar solo and the repeated guitar parts from earlier on. This is definitely one of my favourite songs of 2009. Fine job!

from Built On A Weak Spot
   Man I was all over this new Sleepwall single when I saw it was finally made available, as any chance to hear new tunes from these guys will likely end up with me throwing money in your direction. Some may remember that I was a big backer of their debut single that was released on Toxic Pop last year and with good reason as it was mighty rocking. Is it Factual? definitely doesn't change my opinion of the bands ability to crank out solid and catchy rock songs. The A-side Tennessee Sun keeps right in line with the sort of Dinosaur Jr./Sebadoh influenced material the band displayed previously, however the B-side takes on a bit more of a different feel as if they were channeling a bit of Codeine if…well…Codeine didn't play at a snails pace. Whatever it may be, it's good stuff and absolutely what I was hoping to hear from these guys. Next up will be the Ripe EP that they've had in the works for awhile now…although I think you can purchase mp3's of it through iTunes currently, but I can't bring myself to do that. I want something I can hold.

from Squid Pro Quo
   Toxic Pop Records released this New York band's 7", "Is That Factual?," in September. The first track, "Tennessee Sun," is a melodic blend of indie, pop, punk and rock 'n' roll. Throughout the song is a catchy riff played out on lead guitar while rhythm, drums and bass do their own thing. It's mostly instrumental - not too heavy on the lyrics. The tune is reminiscent of Radiohead, Chris Wollard and the Ship Thieves and a touch of The Strokes. And maybe a little Fugazi. "Tennessee Sun" is 3:37.
   The second track, "Change Your Ways," starts out a little slower, but those steady, melodic drums soon catch up, engaging the listener. Feedbacking guitars then take you by the hand into the song, which has a very '90s theme to it. The lead singer, Kevin, has a voice reminiscent of the late Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, only Kevin's in a bit more mellow and rhythmic with his music. Also notable is the similarity between his voice and Paul Westerberg's from The Replacements. The tune is 4:02 in length but goes by quickly.
   The artwork for this 7" is cool too - in orange and blue ink, it depicts clippings from personal ads - from something about a whale's penis to UFOs. All over! I would recommend picking this up if you're looking for something new to listen to. With their blend of '90s sounds and originality, they very well could be your new favorite band.
   4 stars out of 5

from Razorcake
   It's unfair to impose Zen Arcade on a two-song 7". Two different states of vinyl mass. But much as with Tenement's recent Ice Pick 7", it's hard not to make Hüsker Dü-ian references to another band that is looking far beyond its constraints from the Land Speed Record gate. This shit's expansive, layered, tension-filled, and is suited for a double LP to have it wash, glaze, and wander around your ears for awhile. I'll go ahead and mention that some Dinosaur jr. is in the mix. Bug wouldn't be a bad comparison. Funny thing is that Sleepwall's first 7" was much more Deep Wound meets Superchunk; working well as a 7" capsule. I'm super interested how all the pieces are going to come together for a full length. - Todd Taylor

TOX06: Sleepwall - "Come In From the Cold" 7"

from Built On a Weak Spot
   After seeing names like Seaweed, Hum, and Dinosaur Jr. thrown about when reading up on the fairly new Long Island outfit Sleepwall, I felt obligated to take a listen to their new single out now on Toxic Pop Records. The band doesn't take long to impress on this three song effort, leaping back in time a bit to the rich times of 90's indie rock/post-hardcore where they've managed to put to tape some excellent no bullshit rock. Side A features the track "Come in From the Cold", which is probably the most upbeat of the three tracks included while being jammed packed with riffs galore. The B side contains the absolutely smoking and more punk driven "The World is Too Dark", which may be my favorite track of the bunch. It's funny, as the description on the labels site mentions, if I weren't told who this was by or when it came out I would be surprised to learn that this 7 inch was released this year, let alone this decade. However, as much as it draws from indie-rocks past it's still entirely refreshing to hear something like this that has such an emphasis for tapped out distortion AND plenty of jangly melody to boot. Definitely check this out if you get the chance.

from Punknews
   Sleepwall's members all used to play in bands from the tri-state area that are rather diverse in nature (Robot Whales, Sick of Talk, and on this particular recording, the Agent), so it's surprising they still manage to sound nothing like any of them. Instead, this quintet (three guitarists!) produce `90s post-hardcore that's occasionally aggressive (the superb "Sleepwalking") and otherwise awkwardly cheery and fun (the equally excellent title track), managing to somehow find a place somewhere between Swiz and Sugar. Come in from the Cold is only three songs, but the band find time to sound strikingly unique as well as be versatile. As aforementioned, the leadoff title track is simply fun; it's introduced by a fluttering, ear-catching riff that then leads us into an upbeat, swaggering and catchy jaunt. Then on the B-side they become a little more combative; that "Sleepwalking" track finds frontman Kevin Faulkner repeatedly snarling "and if you've got dreams / don't let them take 'em away" and then giving way to a bouncy riff. Closer "The World Is Too Dark" is a little cloudier, too. With a companion three-song demo to go along with it (when you buy it directly from them), a new seven-song LP already in the can and two more songs planning on being recorded with a dude from Sebadoh, Sleepwall isn't slowing down anytime soon. And good thing -- if the band can progress fast enough, who knows what's next.

from Blogging on Meds
   Since all digital music is free now I'll steal and check out pretty much anything. Sometimes I'll have a really guilty curiously like an Unkle song with Ian Astbury contributing vocals, other times I just want to know my enemy and will download the latest blogtastic pile of shit to know what I hate. It's a great way to waste time at work and all your embarrassment is safely tucked away on a hard drive, no harm no foul. Googling the name of those curious but mostly disappointing reunion records and the word "mediafire" is your best friend. This piracy technique was the reason I actually heard Dinosaur Jr.'s most recent record, Beyond. Barring the weird song with the semi-White Zombie riff it was surprisingly good. Unfortunately when you have seven billion mp3s good = forgettable and ends up just sitting somewhere never to be heard again. Going to see Dinosaur Jr. now expensive and the equivalent of a high school reunion. Everyone is doughy and tragic. Spending hundreds of dollars for a nostalgia trip is tempting at times but not for Gray Mascis 2008.
   There are better alternatives in this sketchy economy. A few weeks ago I spotted a 7" at Academy Records in Williamsburg from Sleepwall. The description read "really awesome new band like Dinosaur Jr. and early Built To Spill check it out!". I love record store descriptions, they're operating on some fucked up elementary school lunch room trade psychology like "Hey man I'll trade you this really awesome apple for your Reese's Peanut Butter Cups because apples are SO good". I'm usually not swayed but who the fuck sounds like Dinosaur Jr. these days and $5.00 is an afforadble gamble. Everything I read tells me that people are really trying to be fiscally responsible so the economically concerned part of my brain, which usually fails me, decided that Sleepwall was an undervalued stock and that they were just the type of opportunity you need to jump on in a down market. Door opens, top comes off the record player, vinyl removed from paper sleeve, glance at the layout for clues, throw on the A-side, wait for the static to turn to guitars and so it begins. Wait a fucking second, there's a legit Dino-ish riff struggling to get out of the tiny speakers on my portable record player followed by a catchy vocal line and a very driving song.
   Right after the first spin I give it another spin to make sure I wasn't hoodwinked, nope this is the real deal. Clips of Neil Blender flash through the space over my beard but I'm not seeing long stringy hair, Fender Jazzmasters and washes of green and purple. Sleepwall has a modern feel despite the similarities in their sound to late 80s/early 90s indie rock. I go back into the caverns in my brain and go "wait if I heard this in the early 90s would I just think it was average, there was a lot of power poppy shit then." My brain then called me a fucking pussy and said "What the fuck is wrong with you dickhead? Who gives a shit about the early 90s when you wore corduroy and were obsessed with indie rock, you were a freshmen 15 years ago you fucking loser". My brain was totally right as it usually is when it's critiquing the manifestation of it's thoughts, it's weird like that, thanks brain.
   The beauty of the world today is that a web search can then provide you with all the info you need about a band. I was nervous because Sleep and Wall are really common words and I didn't want to bring up a bunch of shit about Ambien and Carpentry but I was quickly directed to their Myspace page. My next bit of info was that they were from Long Island and Brooklyn, which instantly made me like them more because they're local, and they're young so that makes me like them even more because it sucks to only be surrounded by old dudes as washed up as yourself. Digging through pictures I notice that of the Sleepwallers is wearing a Cro-Mags shirt, and I recognize the other cat... something is familiar about this. Further inspection left me with these details : other people dug Sleepwall and felt that they were Dino Jr.-ish, some of the dudes were in Hardcore bands and everyone that wrote about them on the interweb dug them. So I am not going to mention J's band anymore because they really only have a super Dino vibe on one track, everything else including the Is This Factual? Ep is riffy power pop that sounds very much rooted in Indie Rock. Not the iTunes genre Indie Rock, Indie Rock as in I'm Lou Barlow, I have floppy hair, I suck at getting chicks, I used to be into fast hardcore but now I smoke weed and really dig fuzzed out pop songs. The infectiously catchy yet twisted pop of Bobby Pollard, the sound of lo-fi recordings, lo-fi beer and lo-fi cigarettes. That is the best shit.
   Remember when you first discovered this type of music and you wanted to get anything that remotely sounded like that? Anything that remotely fit the description of power poppy indie rock would be consumed from Archers of Loaf and Polvo to Overwhelming Colorfast and Fluf. Every record, tape and CD out there on SST, CRUZ, Merge or whatever label might contain a song that perfectly summed up how you felt about being a semi-burned out 90s guy and would occupy your brain on a loop making you feel invincible even at your lowest. The hottest chick on earth could spit at you but if Web In Front is blasting in your head who-gives-a-fuck! Thanks Indie Rock. Sleepwall are young, focused and promising, if you're a douche you've got reservations because of the Cro-Mags shirt. I'll tell you this, it's not ironic and who better to be playing music like this than dudes transitioning from music with mosh parts than hardcore dudes with good taste? That's who the fuck formed Indie Rock in the first place so stop pretending you have any clue what the fuck you're talking about and enjoy a great new band. Bass player Joe Cristando is probably Italian so I already love him, he bought some shit in a blizzard during my estate sale which is super nice and then he hooked me up with a sampling of their tracks. That's extreme bro status right there instantly.
   They're working on songs for an LP with Jason Lowenstein from Sebadoh which promise to up the ante of their mopey but hopefully infectious guitar pop. All the elements of great power pop are there: guitars are notey and jangly but with enough crunch to avoid sounding flat. The vocals are simple, catchy and delivered with a perfect cadence, the rhythm section is steady and solid and they sound like good friends that have been itching to do this for a hot second. Come In From The Cold is wedged in my head between Hyper Enough and Second Chance. Nice Company!

from Collective Zine
   I have kind of given up on the 7" as a format that I listen to that often. I am sure that once you have a certain number of records, that this happens to almost everyone. Seven inches are fiddly, they only last a few minutes and then you flip it or put another one on. In an age of MP3 simplicity, where a digital entity chooses the next song you will listen to, and the only input you have is that you can elect to skip it's fickle choices, singles seem so quaint. I still enjoy slapping on a single, but after once around I'll invariably migrate back towards an LP. Regardless though of the fact that I am getting older and older, I am always eager to discover that most perfect of creations, the awesome seven inch. Where for 10 minutes, a band is on fire, inciting air guitar, air drumming, toe tapping or gyrating in the chair. Sleepwall have accomplished that with this astonishing single. It is, simply, as good a single as I have heard since I have no idea. Three songs, none of them really that similar to the other, but all stunningly executed. "Come in From the Cold" occupies an entire side of vinyl at 33rpm and it sees the band start out as a most divine take on 1990s indie rock. Throw Superchunk, Dinosaur Jr and Archers of Loaf into a pit, and eventually they would fashion instruments from the bones of the first to die, and write a song that sounds like this. Stupendous. A riot. It cruises. The drumming blows my mind. It does on every track to be honest. It's the sweet spot. The tip top. What a great song. Flip the wax and you get "Sleepwalkers", which curiously sounds like what if Current and Dinosaur Jr got together. It kicks off as a driving, melodic emo effort, with angry yelled / spoken vocals. Great vocals. And it rumbles. Then bursts into these indie rock bits with tambourines and then a guitar solo. Love it. It all falls apart at the end in quite the perfect fashion. The final surprise in store is the powerful punk rock they finish off on, "This World Is Too Dark" kicks in with more ace drumming and guitar chords and suddenly you think you're listening to a song that Leatherface should have put on "Mush" but for some reason didn't. Why didn't they? This song is so good. The best melodic punk song I have heard since maybe the Gibbons LP or something. So, Sleepwall - 3 different songs, basically they could form 3 bands, each playing one of the styles on this single, and record 3 great LPs, I reckon. I will surely punch a guy in the face if they never record an LP, it will be a massive travesty. Get this thing.

from Maximumrocknroll Magazine
   Being a normal person, I started this record on side A. The first thing that came to mind was Replacements-style rock - like the early stuff mixed with the later stuff, if that makes sense. I don't know if it's the guitar riffage, the vocals, or maybe just the whole thing all at once. Flip it over and side two is similar, but the songs get faster and maybe a little darker. The drumming is nice and tight, with some rad fills here and there. Now they're sounding a bit like early Husker Du, especially the second song, "This World Is Too Dark". I like the production of this record because it doesn't sound homogenized, but it also clearly wasn't recorded in someone's living room. Definitely worth checking out. (Brian Dooley)

from Flex Your Head
   Getting a new record from a label you don't know anything about along with a band you don't know anything about can turn out two ways. Either it's a piece of crap or you get totally turned on to a new band. Lucky for me it was the latter. Sleepwall are from the Long Island / Brooklyn area and have been in such bands as Sick Of Talk and Robot Whales but sound more like a 90's post hardcore style band. Side A's "Come In From The Cold" has very Dinosaur Jr. feel to it with the guitars but also has a quicker pace to it. The song gets better as it moves along. Side B kicks it up a little but stays with the fun vibe you get with this record. The record is only 3 songs and each song is a little differnt from the last showing the bands diversity. I'm already looking forward to hearing more from Sleepwall.

TOX05: Double Dagger - "Bored Meeting" 7"

from Dusted Magazine
   Baltimore trio of singer (notable typographic artist Nolen Strals), bassist and drummer, slugging two singles out here for the people. They're of a generation that's sick of being chained to a desk, even though they said that'd probably never be them, which is honorable enough in these times of weak political stances and laissez-faire, market-driven social policy, so it's winning (and telling) that they're willing to bring the '90s posi-political humanist stance to the table. Spastic screaming lands atop anthems of the Parts & Labor variety in "Luxury Condos for the Poor" (off the Sophisticated Urban Living EP) and "Catalogs" from the other. The messages they carry in their music aren't hurting anyone but their respective employers, as well, so that's another plus. Nice to hear something like this, especially in an era when punk rock is born cynical.
   (reviewed with "Sophisticated Urban Living" EP)

from Mashnote
   More vinyl action from Double Dagger! 3 more tracks, and again, offering a variety of styles. "Bored Meeting" is a rough one. Full of anti-corporate frustration, raging in an uptempo rhythm. You get some minimal lyrical contribution, but the recurring "blablabla" draws the most attention. It's a short, but a good one. "Catalogs" is a quirky track. Based on a dry riff and an angular drumpattern. There's not a lot going on, but I really dig the flow and the minimal approach. It certainly got me playing this a couple of times in a row. On the flipside we have a remix of the track "I Was So Bored I Wanted To Hang Myself On the Dancefloor". I'm not the biggest fan of remixes. And this one is a cut up industrial version. I'm all for industrial, but this is annoying. Too bad, they just had to put on a regular track on it. Making an excellent release of a good one. Still, this EP is worth getting for the 2 tracks on the a-side alone. This one comes in a nice brainhurting cover...red polka dots everywhere printed over everything.

TOX04: Clint Maul - "Ninguna Amplificacion" 7"

from razorcake.org
   I have no idea who this Clint Maul person is, but I likey...a lot. It didn't take but five notes for me to decide so. Music is country-like with such pleasant vocals and charming harmonica tunes that I found myself flipping this record three times before retiring it. It made it into the pile of records that are in regular rotation at my house. It's mellow, yet light and uplifting and puts me in a really good mood. My only beef with the record is that it doesn't have more than three songs and I wish it had more. Also, it doesn't include the lyrics in the insert, but really I don't even give a care because the lyrics are already so clear and simple. Oh man, I just looked up his myspace page. He's from Virginia, apparently. That explains the influence. If you're into Lucero, Chuck Ragan, or throwing horseshoes on a summer evening after floatin' the river, you will probably find easy listening in this record. - Guest Contributor

from razorcake.org
   Clint Maul is the kind of country singer who might bristle at the title, for as Tom Russell said, "Don't call me no country singer, those are poison words these days." His voice might be seasoned by years of whiskey and cigarettes, or the same spent screaming in a punk band, or both. The two A-side songs on this 7" are slow, worn-out, sad country songs played on acoustic guitar and harmonica, with the B-side picking up the beat slightly and taking the sound a little further from southern soil. This ain't no alt.country or folk-punk, this is just country, the way it should be. - Sarah Shay

TPR03: the Ergs - "Blue" 7"

from razorcake.org
   I find comfort within The Ergs'! depth of musical geekdom. Not only is this their "Blue" release—much like the Adolescents' record—they have the Adolescents' ability to be much more than the sum of their parts; those parts being punk rock; those parts being rock in general; those parts being filtered by guys who could probably play in any type of band, but I'm stoked that they chose punk to be the point of their spear. No, they don't sound anything like the Adolescents, but that's the point. Original hearts beat differently. Original awesome, bubbly original (I guess blue is the new color of bubblegum), one Nirvana cover with song credit going to Sid Vicious' original name. I'm sliding the set list from the last show I saw them at in with the 7" right after I write this review. Go Ergs! - Todd Taylor

from punknews.org
   The Ergs!'s long-awaited Blue 7" has finally seen the light of day, and it's quite a little doozy. On the A-side is the hyper and sugary title track, which is a lot of fun even though it's so old you can practically hear Mikey Erg going through puberty singing this (okay, so granted, he was in his early 20s during its recording). It's definitely signature Ergs! though, with three bouncy chords and an absolutely rambunctious vibe. And then what happens on the B-side? A cover of Nirvana's "Blew"?? Yes!! The band lovingly credits the John Ritchie Band on the vinyl, but you'll likely be the wiser. The Ergs! are always great at cover jobs, and this one's no different. Everything's nailed, from Mikey's cynical snarl impersonating Cobain to the grungy, dirty guitars. While there isn't much else to say here about these two splendid little songs making for one of the band's better 7"s, rest assured that the Ergs!'s long-awaited Blue won't...well, you figure it out.

TPR02: Dead Mechanical - "Medium Noise" 12" LP

from Punk City
   This gem hasn't left my CD player since I got it. I keep hearing people making Jawbreaker comparisons, but Dead Mechanical have more in common musically with early Stiff Little Fingers (I can't help but think of "Suspect Device" when I hear that guitar riff in the excellent ironicall-to-arms "Guantanamo Calling") and the like. Jangly, pointy guitar work, rumbling bass, and tight-as-churchshoes drumming blessed by turntaking singers. Lucas Carscadden (guitar) sings on most of the record, and his abrasive yelling-even-when-whispering voice suits the music perfectly. But as much as I like his songs, it's the few sung by drummer Matt Dorsey that I keep repeating once or twice before moving on to the next track. His voice reminds me of early Jazz June singles from back when emo wasn't a store at the mall. You just can't listen to a song like "Messy Apartment" or "Information In" and not be singing the chorus for the rest of the day. Everything about this disc fits...the dirty-loud production, the lyrics, even the artwork. Don't walk, run!!!

from Pocket Full of Chump Change
   Bands get tagged with the "Sounds like…" curse all the time, sometimes unfairly. You have to wonder how many great bands never made it passed playing their friends' basements for beer and heejs simply because the world collectively agreed that it didn't need another "cross between Sonic Youth, 'Repeater'-era Fugazi and Alkaline Trio. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying originality is a bad thing. Just keep in mind that we're not exactly reinventing the wheel with guitars and drums, and sometimes that "fresh new sound" comes across more like a hot steaming pile of musical garbage created to keep small toddlers amused (Hi, Vampire Weekend. We're looking right at you). So where does that leave Baltimore's Dead Mechanical? I'll say this: "Medium Noise" has been one of my favorite listens during these past few months.   Does it break new ground? Hell no. What it does do is merge early 90's Gilman Street punk with east coast cynicism. The best songs mimic the Jawbreaker formula to a "T": chunky guitars with buzzsaw riffs, and open-letter-to-a-near-girlfriend lyrics about how she did you wrong. The Best of the bunch, "One Act Play" pays homage to "Jawbreaker's "Condition Oakland" with a breakup message left on an machine answering playing over a breakdown. "I'll bet you'll never know what its like …creating new regrets to keep close to you at night". Other highlights: The speed- rant of Dear Marketing Department ("The committee to ruin everything isn't taking cigarette breaks/They're eating lunch at their desks these days"), with its message that for some of us, it's always just going to shit is brilliant as is the closer, "Shitty Wedding". The latter is a a partly gutbustingly funny, partly kinda heartbreaking rumination of a friends wedding and the sad realization that sometimes moving forward in life means leaving a big part of yourself behind.

from Eternal Playlist
   More Baltimore hero's of mine. Seriously, Baltimore rules. Ok, i'll say it, and i'm damn sure not the first, but if you HAVE to compare bands to get a sense of what someone sounds like, fine: JawBreaker. But Dead Mechanical is so much better and more complex than a simple comparison like this, and hey, i can think of BETTER: Listen to the track "New Alchemy" and tell me you don't hear some D4. Sounding much more midwestern than east coast punk, i'll go so far to say that this album would go great next to The Replacements (Let it Be) in the jukebox. Anyway, i have to find better ways to explain a band than a bunch of analogies, but you get the point. GET THIS ALBUM.

from Razorcake
   I feel about this band the way I might feel if I was a teenager and my punky little brother had a band that practiced in our parents' garage and I listened to all their practices while I read The Bell Jar on the porch and looked forward to college. By this, I mean I can't help but like this band a lot in a smiley and proud older-sister kind of way. They write good songs, they're politically aware, they seem to be enjoying themselves. Lots of spirited, yelled-out vocals, unrelenting guitars, and awesome drumming. I want to bake them vegan cookies and watch people go nuts for them at shows. Go, Dead Mechanical, go! - Jennifer Whiteford

from Rude Review
   "We were born knowing how to scream, but no one taught us how to speak" from 'The Only Bad Thing That Ever Happened', the disc opener. Dead Mechanical is a force to be reckoned with. So much in a way that in each song the music is prolonged out of the Punk Rock norm to make you understand them on a sonic level. Well versed in the Garage Band realm of rock music, Dead Mechanical relies on the past and the future to produce their driving and biting sound. Nailing the riffs down with the tenacity of a snakebite the vocals lead the way for this band. But the music leaves nothing to be assumed either. Deep and fast this is straight ahead Punk Rock but played with an array of talent from different places. Undercurrents of rock, reggae(maybe a little), metal, pop and a little indy for spice. In fact there are some pretty technical musical compositions here but I won't point 'em out, you'd have too much fun discovering them on your own. What I like the most about "Medium Noise" is the ups and downs it has. The songs are menacing and addictive but truly worth while. But I beg of you, crank it up and listen to the entire band, some of this record is amazing.  For fans of Jawbreaker, New Bomb Turks & 69 Charger, you're sure to smile when you pick this up...Ahoy! - Ryan Rude

from Joe Erg
   Last year I heard one demo CD that gave me something to look forward to in 2007, and that demo was by a band called Dead Mechanical. DM makes good on last year's shining potential and how. Even though Medium Noise is half songs that were on that demo, I'm just as excited as I would be if I was hearing every single song for the first time. Dead Mechanical has one of those original sounds that is hard to describe ­ they should be a starting reference in terms of describing bands, not a receptacle for comparisons to others. I guess the song writing, song structure and vocals lie somewhere between modern day Dischord records and Jawbreaker (hmmm, a scooch closer to Jawbreaker let's say.) There are some odd time signatures, a healthy dollop of political dissent, and some icy dissonant chords/words for ex's. However, the drumming blends the best of Grant Hart (very little) with Bill Stevenson which seems like it would not go along with what I said in the previous sentence. Somehow it works. That still sounds like a shitty description right? While I can't articulate it with a great deal of precision, if you're going to take any recommendation of mine on faith alone, make it Medium Noise. It's catchy, it's thought provoking, and it's perfect for playing in your car at night.

TPR01: Sick Sick Birds - "Chemical Trains" 7"

from Punknews
   The Thumbs were a punk band that lasted from 1995-2002, releasing records on various labels ranging from Soda Jerk to Adeline. Two of those guys are now in SickSickBirds, whose Chemical Train 7" EP is a cool four-song slab of upbeat pop-indie-punk, with male/female vocals, medium-paced tempos and some more thought-out guitar riffs than standard pop-punk usually allows for. Think halfway between the Pixies and Pink Razors and you've got a rough idea of what's going on here.
   Like most 7"s consisting of four songs, SickSickBirds' best moments come at the very beginning and end. In "(Revolt with) Perfect Spelling," some jumpy, angular riffs introduce the whole record, and soon make way for a bouncy, shifting number. With closer "Gag Order," it's hard to resist at least mouthing along with the endearing refrain of "gag orders for everyone!," while the band gets a little more aggressive to finish things up.
   Chemical Trains is far from remarkable, but it's definitely a solid little release that finds the band continuing to build upon their sound from last year's split with Vena Cava.

from Razorcake
   Members of The Thumbs playing post punk that's arty, yet still rocking, somewhat in the vein of Hot Snakes. This EP's a little mellower, but still a great listen. It doesn't do them justice live though (again, not meant as a put down of the recording, so much as an endorsement of having seen them a few times now). As they say in their native Baltimore, "Recommended as a chicken". - Joe Evans III

from Razorcake
   Since I often think that six years ago was last weekend (not out of nostalgia but from concussions), my memories of the Thumbs are still fresh. The Sick Sick Birds are like the natural progression of The Thumbs, if the Thumbs had been recording since the time of their disbanding, had released three more records, and loosely followed the trajectory of those type of bands that started out real fuckin' fast, but when they slowed down showed that there were songs buried under the roar the entire time; and that's what made the listens repeated. (I mean, who knew when Land Speed Record was released that a song like "Everything Falls Apart" was going to come from Hüsker Dü?) Anyhow, the Sick Sick Birds take their time and populate these well-constructed houses of songs and, yeah, it's mellower, but it sounds like their house from foundation to roof, not a house from the past they're merely tourists in, scavenging cheap souvenirs from their past. - Todd Taylor

from StovePCP
   When the Decemberists announced a green screen challenge last year, Stephen Colbert immediately said, "An indie rock band is ripping my style. Why can't they be like every other indie band and rip off the Pixies?" Thus brings us to Sick Sick Birds, a rock band ex-Thumbs, native to Baltimore. While listening to their freshman EP, Chemical Trains, I immediately thought it sounded like indie rock... but I know next to nothing about that genre, so I wondered whether it was okay to peg a band as such, especially when the term indie-rock has become even more cliché and overused in the world of rock than its ugly step-sister, "emo." But it didn't deter me all that much, because this seven-inch is spectacular. We have four songs, all with a thick sound, and no repetition or skip-worthy moments. The lyrics are clever ("choked on your own words, tighten the tourniquet. / i guess they're calling it a curse. somebody said it is a theory in reverse"), and the vocals are split between not one, not two, but three people, one being a female; case in point being that the vox are passionate but diverse. The A-side is stellar. The EP kicks off with the jam, "(Revolt With) Perfect Spelling." We're treated to an intro worthy of Chicago math rockers Paul Newman, but the tune quickly heads into a delightful power-chord punk tune, then alternates back and forth as the verse comes in. Once there is sight of a chorus, we hear the rallying chant, "this is the first of the worst solutions." And just when the first song ends and the listener is ready to come down from that high, the bliss continues with "Bullet Goes a Mile," a track reminiscent of the Pixies (one of the reasons I felt the blog intro by Colbert was necessary). And thus brings me to another rock cliché--is it okay to compare a band to the Pixies? I may never know, but once the main part of "Bullet" kicks in, Sick Sick Birds takes the song for its own (you can peep that track here and see whether you agree). Featuring the handsome Matt Dorsey from Dead Mechanical (possible indie rock album appreciation coming soon). This is out on Toxic Pop Records. (Pick up Blue while you're at it!)

from Hip Displeasure
   Hailing from Baltimore, MD and featuring former members of plenty of local-legend status bands (Thumbs, Pee Tanks, Gamms Rays), the Sick Sick Birds can find no way to avoid the label of punk rock. The first 30 seconds of their latest ep confirms that tag, and phrases like "angular post-punk" and Dischordcore begin to escape the lips of quick judgers and pigeonholers. However, just when the cookie cutter is about to clamp down on the band, the jarring beat of "(Revolt With) Perfect Spelling" turns into a straightforward riff, and the riff turns into a shout-along anthem ­ luring in basement punks, Pixies fans, and anyone else who likes their punk to have pop and that pop to have teeth. "Bullet Goes A Mile" doesn't mix the styles proper like the previous track, but it does eschew the traditional verse-chorus-verse structure to tell the story of friends, foes, and a vague declaration of love going wrong. Each step along the way is an aural thrill, with vocals pouncing in and out, and the rhythm section rattling around each corner like a frenzied trip around the block. Not until the end does the song regroup for a repeated stanza. It was quickly forgotten when sharp new lyrics intervened, but the second time around the hooks dig in deeper. "The Connects" brings the energy down a notch but the emotional charge is still intact. Rather than go with a quiet/loud dynamic (which is hardly dynamic these days), the band just plays calmly, and releases tension in minimal amounts to greater effect. "Gag Order" is another mid-tempo rocker, creating a song fort built on a strong melody and earnest vocals rather than speed. Also, the riff at the very beginning reminds me of "Your Bed" by the band cub, which is an odd comparison indeed, but a fairly accurate note in reminding the listener that these sick birds can still hum a sweet tune.

from Collective Zine
   Sick Sick Birds was a band I had heard a bit about, but never heard. This 7" quickly rectified that, it's 4 songs of highly impressive post punkery, drawing in other elements to create a rounded experience that will surely improve your life tenfold.
   Things kick off with "(Revolt with) Perfect Spelling" that combines subtle post punk grooving, with catchy, melodic punk sing a long parts. Count me as impressed. It flows into "Bullet Goes a Mile" which picks up the baton, moving forward at a medium pace. It's all highly solid and tight, and you can be certain that they make for a good live band. On the flip, "The Connects" ambles into earshot like a clumsily misplaced Superchunk song, they've got it spot on I reckon. We play out with "Gag Order", another middle paced effort and perhaps the least notable of the four tunes on offer.
   These folks used to be in the Thumbs, so have a pedigree for sure. The overall sound I guess is somewhere between Hot Snakes and Superchunk or Husker Du, i.e. traditional melodic punk that will warm the heart of the crusty old geezers and gals, rather than hype the frenzy of a wet behind the ears young un who craves something over the top and out of the ordinary. Plenty of promise here, I am sure they'll crank out a decent LP given the chance.