April 2008 Archives

Various Artists: Quality Punk Rock (Bad Taste Records)

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Quality Punk Rock is one of the better samplers to emerge out of the mid-nineties pop-punk boom. Released by Sweden's Bad Taste Records (one of the country's best indie labels) in early 1996, the compilation does not rely too heavily on bands signed to the label, choosing to fashion a "quality" pop-punk record out of contributions from some of Sweden's brighter stars as well as from international acts such as Lagwagon and the Bollweevils instead of cobbling together a mediocre showcase of the label's back catalog. And, for whatever reason, I love the mock-seventies cover. The confused, headphone-wearing girl and the horrible font just feels totally right for the album's campy mood.

Track Listing:

Track 1. "Wind in Your Sail" (Lagwagon). I love this song. Seriously: "I live to watch you fail"? The compilation is worth buying for this one lyric alone. Oh, and the song is about as poppy as any Lagwagon track you'll have heard. It's a shame most people had to wait until 2000 when Lagwagon released Let's Talk About Leftovers to get ahold of this song.

Track 2. "Memories of You" (Pridebowl). Snotty-sounding vocals lamenting a poor father-son relationship. Fortunately, it lacks the syrup of emo.

Track 3. "7 Clicks" (Bollweevils). The Bollweevils rule. That's all you need to know.

Track 4. "Labios De Mierda" (Satanic Surfers). The Satanic Surfers never disappoint. Pop-punk about a "guy who's sure got a way with turds." Oh, the potty humor never stops.

Track 5. "Thought" (Turtlehead). Bass-driven Scottish punk. For some reason, this sounds as if it could be on the Mallrats soundtrack. Just don't ask me why.

Track 6. "Cardboard Boxes" (Loosegoats). Clearly recorded before the band became alt-country (thank God), "Cardboard Boxes" features a pretty impressive lead guitar and is an amusingly chaotic-sounding addition to an otherwise polished-sounding compilation.

Track 7. "Bubble Burst" (Adhesive). One of Adhesive's more intense songs, "Bubble Burst" really hits its stride when, towards the end of the track, after a pretty solid bridge, the lyrics collapse into the musings of a wounded, solipsistic loner and waves of frantic guitar riffs wash over the whole mess.

Track 8. "Killer" (Everyday Madness). Ah, crusty Swedish punk girls. Can it get any better?

Track 9. "Alone" (Astream). Pretty standard Astream fare.

Track 10. "Spearmint" (Slobsticks). Pop-punk occasionally interrupted by bursts of ska.

Track 11. "Somehow" (Passage 4). Although "Somehow" conforms to the relatively poppy sound of the compilation, it has a harder edge than most tracks on Quality Punk Rock.

Track 12. "Dare to Speak" (Scarecrow). If it weren't for the lame "be yourself" lyrics, "Dare to Speak" would be a pretty solid track. Unfortunately, the "don't take shit" and "work hard" messages throughout the song remind me a bit too much of the equally lame stuff I expect from, say, MxPx.

Track 13. "Corruption" (Sarcoblaster). Okay, now this is what most people expect to come out of Scandinavia: hard, loud speedcore.

Track 14. "No Way Out" (Home Grown). Another solid track, "No Way Out" is exactly what you'd expect from Home Grown: silly lyrics ("my dog's inbred"), loads of backing vocals, and fairly straight-forward pop-punk.

Track 15. "Days Like This" (Slobax). What starts out as a relatively average-sounding hardcore track soon becomes something quite different when decidedly un-hardcore vocals join what may be one of the catchiest guitar riffs ever to come out of Uppsalla. And the oohs and aahs are, as NOFX would say, "in just the right places."

Track 16. "Yesterday (When I Was Mad)" (Randy). Despite its occasional use of rapcore vocals, "Yesterday (When I Was Mad) is another delightfully poppy track.


Sobriquet Grade: 88 (B+).

Adhesive: Sideburner

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People tend to compare Adhesive to Bad Religion, and for good reason. Indeed, the band's first full-length album, 1996's Sideburner, features the sort of vocal harmonization (the Swedish quartet's oohs and aahs bear more than a passing resemblance to the sound Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz tend to work into their songwriting) and the polished melodic instrumentation one generally associates with Bad Religion. Furthermore, despite writing in a foreign tongue, Adhesive's richly allusive, metaphor-laden lyrics do not shy away from the use of sophisticated vocabulary to convey their meaning.


That said, Adhesive's sound on Sideburner is relatively one-dimensional, though the dimension is, admittedly, a highly-listenable one.

Highlights:

Track 4. "On a Pedestal." Quite possibly the best song on Sideburner, "On a Pedestal" is Adhesive's parable of Faustian ambition (complete with a suitably Mephistophelean shopkeeper) set to catchy melodic hardcore.

Track 5. "Scottie." Despite the song's overt reference to Trekkie culture, "Scottie" has nothing to do with kitschy American sci-fi. Rather, the song waxes metaphysical, expressing the pain of the speaker's solipsistic existence and questioning whether or not the palpable loneliness he (or she) experiences in "a domestic jail" is, in fact, a ubiquitous emotion spanning all humanity.

Track 7. "Scent of Life." While not wholly original, "Scent of Life" is a hook-heavy statement of an individual's existential self-actualization.

Sobriquet Grade: 85 (B).

Circle Jerks: Group Sex

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Clocking in at an anemic fifteen minutes and forty seconds, the Circle Jerks' fourteen song debut album remains one of the most influential hardcore punk records ever recorded. Although vocalist Keith Morris (formerly of Black Flag) and guitarist Greg Hetson (ex-Redd Kross, current Bad Religion) may have more recognizable names and more famous bodies of work, it is Lucky Lehrer's frenetic jazz-tinged drumming that seems to drive Group Sex. That said, Keith Morris, whose drugged-out vocals alternate between constrained fury and bursts of outright frenzy (the bipolarity of which is perhaps best heard on "I Just Want Some Skank"), somehow manages to keep up with Lehrer's pounding and delivers almost as impressive a performance.


The album also features two songs originally written for and recorded by Black Flag: "Wasted" and "Don't Care."

Highlights:

Track 1. "Deny Everything." Twenty-eight seconds of the sort of paranoia-tinged ranting Keith Morris brought with him from Black Flag shouted over an impenetrable wall of sound. You really can't ask for much more.

Track 2. "I Just Want Some Skank." Remember Howard Dean's scream? Speed it up, make it sound even more insane, and add drums and guitar and you've got "I Just Want Some Skank."

Track 3. "Beverly Hills." Roger Rogerson's bassline manages to convey a sense of impending disaster without crossing the line into outright fury. Keith Morris crosses it.

Track 8. "World Up My Ass." This is about as snotty as hardcore can get. Play it loud.

Sobriquet Grade: 87 (B+).

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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