Results tagged “punk”

Various Artists: Short Music For Short People

Various Artists

Short Music for Short People
Fat Wreck Chords, 1999

Compilations are rarely easy to review. More often than not, some bands or songs are markedly better than others, so there's almost always a sense of inconsistency or disjuncture and the more bands, the more pronounced the discrepancies in style and quality. Bearing this in mind, it is fairly remarkable that Fat Wreck Chords managed to cobble together a collection of 101 songs by 101 different artists that rarely misses a step, yet this is precisely the case with Short Music For Short People. Given Fat Wreck Chords' reputation for promoting poppier punk and hardcore bands, it is perhaps no surprise that this compilation, released at the dusk of the 1990s pop-punk boom, has a decidedly pop-punk flavor. Sure, there's a smattering of straight-up hardcore, horn-heavy ska, and other punkish sounds, but there's an astonishingly cohesive sound on this disk. The only instances where this consistency breaks down can be found in the handful of old songs resurrected seemingly for the sole purpose of meeting Fat Mike's quota of 101 different bands. Where the vast majority of bands recorded songs specifically for the compilation, a few anachronistic (though frequently stellar) luminaries do appear a decade or more after breaking up. Of course, this is also a gimmick record, and, accordingly, there's a fair amount of self-effacing, self-reflexive humor (directed at the restrictive brevity of the songs) in the lyrics as well as a few gags in the track listing (songs by Black Flag, White Flag, and Anti-Flag appear sequentially, for instance). The short song gimmick does wear a bit thin, however, and, regardless of how solid the songs often are, the disk lacks the replayability of less crowded record. One really pleasant aspect of the disk, though, is its ability to showcase a huge array of bands, most of which successfully convey their signature sound in the allotted time. You know, just what a good comp is supposed to do.

Track Listing:
(Given the unique nature of this record, I'll list the track lengths, too, for fun).

Track 1. "Short Attention Span" (Fizzy Bangers) - 0:08. The perfect introduction to a compilation of super-short songs, "Short Attention Span" is so short, it'll be over before you realize how catchy it is.

Track 2. "Anchor" (Less Than Jake) - 0:30. A toast to the punk scene the band loves delivered over chunky guitars and skankable horns.

Track 3. "Ketchup Soup" (Teen Idols) - 0:30. A Ramonesy love song about living in poverty featuring the band's trademark male-female harmonization.

Track 4. "All Comic Heroes Are Fascist Pigs" (Terrorgruppe) - 0:24. After presenting a catalog of classic comic heroes ranging from Mickey Mouse to Dick Tracy, the song descends into a chorus of what sounds suspiciously like "all cops are bastards!"

Track 5. "Overcoming Learned Behavior" (Good Riddance) - 0:27. A brief blast of Good Riddance's standard headbang-worthy melodic hardcore.

Track 6. "Quit Your Job" (Chixdiggit) - 0:24. For a song pleading with the audience to avoid starting a band, "Quit Your Job" is just catchy enough to make you go out, quite your job and start a band. Oh, the irony!

Track 7. "Ready" (The Living End) - 0:34. Distorted vocals and sped-up hillbilly strings make "Ready" worth a play or two.

Track 8. "Out of Hand" (Bad Religion) - 0:40. From the very first second of this track, the moment you hear the angry three-part harmonization, there's no mistaking that you're listening to Bad Religion. In other words, this rules.

Track 9. "Asian Pride" (Hi-Standard) - 0:30. If I didn't know Akihio Nanba, Ken Yokohama, and Akira Tsuneoka were from Japan, I'd've assumed they were a bunch of SoCal skaters attempting to fashion a pop-punk hoedown based on this song. You'll be dancing and looking for a partner to swing around, trust me.

Track 10. "Steamroller Blues" (Aerobitch) - 0:26. From Spain with vitriol, Laura Bitch makes Brody Dalle sound like a Spice Girl.

Track 11. "Doin' Laundry" (Nerf Herder) - 0:30. If you didn't speak English, you'd think this was a sweet song, but it's really a boy's confession of thinking about the object of his affection while masturbating.

Track 12. "Freegan" (Big Wig) - 0:32. A slightly heavier-than-average bit of activist-baiting, presumably directed at the more sanctimonious anarcho-punks.

Track 13. "Not Again" (Undeclinable Ambuscade) - 0:31. Mellow Dutch punk bordering on alt-rock.

Track 14. "Waste Away" (Fury 66) - 0:29. Furious, slightly metallic punk with sandpapered vocals.

Track 15. "The Radio Still Sucks" (The Ataris) - 0:28. Two decades after the Ramones lamented the death of sixties' pop radio, the Ataris remind us that things haven't changed.

Track 16. "Armageddon Singalong" (Unwritten Law) - 0:36. Bass-driven and bouncy, "Armageddon Singalong" is more singalong than eschatological, which is good, really.

Track 17. "Hearts Frozen Soil Sod Once More By The Spring of Rage, Despair, and Hopelessness" (A.F.I.) - 0:32. Remember when A.F.I. wasn't a trendy emo band? If not, play this. Sad, eh?

Track 18. "Farts are Jazz to Assholes" (Dillinger 4) - 0:32. This puerile, hand-clappingly, foot-stompingly catchy Minnesota punk track makes me miss my former home. It's D4 to a T.

Track 19. "Surf City" (Spread) - 0:28. Hard, fast, and loud with plenty of of chant-worthy bursts of "Go for it," "Surf City" would do well on a long distance runner's soundtrack.

Track 20. "Back To You" (Swingin' Utters) - 0:33. Solid cowpunk with just enough twang.

Track 21. "Outhouse of Doom" (Bar Feeders) - 0:34. Silly drunk punks, there's no such thing as an "outhouse of doom." At least that's what it sounds like you're saying through Scared of Chaka's distortion box.

Track 22. "Alienation" (Citizen Fish) - 0:33. Hook-heavy Brit punk gloriously devoid of the band's ska element.

Track 23. "Family Reunion (Blink-182) - 0:36. While not as painfully polished as some of the band's recordings, "Family Reunion" is fairly consistent with Blink-182's commercialized punk sound. Recipe for a Blink-182 song: sing "Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits, fart, turd, and twat" four times, followed by "I fucked your mom" and a faux-outtake in which one sings "And I want to suck my dad, and my mom, too! Oh, is thing this on?" And make it catchy. Really catchy. This is the perfect song to play for someone who thinks all punk rock is, is a bunch of swearing for the sake of swearing.

Track 24. "Mirror, Signal, Wheelspin" (Goober Patrol) - 0:28. Somehow, this song sounds both desperate and totally danceable.

Track 25. "Saturday Night" (Kill Switch) - 0:32. Much more urgent a "Saturday Night" than that of the Bay City Rollers.

Track 26. "Bedroom Windows" (Enemy You) - 0:24. Snotty skatepunk with some sweet ahhs in the background.

Track 27. "Sara Fisher" (No Use For A Name) - 0:30. "Sara Fisher" is one of the better bits of melodic hardcore on the disk.

Track 28. "The Ballad of Wilhelm Fink" (Green Day) - 0:32. Probably the least punk song on Short Music, "The Ballad of Wilhelm Fink" is basically a folk-drenched Billie Joe Armstrong playing solo. Not bad.

Track 29. "Delraiser Part III, Del on Earth" (Consumed) - 0:27. Thoroughly satisfying Britpunk about slackerdom.

Track 30. "Told You Once" (Mr. T Experience) - 0:11. MTX might fit more bubblegum and "fucks" in these eleven seconds than Blink-182 does in their 36.

Track 31. "Randal Gets Drunk" (Lagwagon) - 0:28. Some solid ska-tinged punk courtesy of one of my favorite bands.

Track 32. "Fishfuck" (Gwar) - 0:32. For some reason I'm surprised by Gwar's musical competence here. I'm not surprised by the ichthyologically-oriented paraphilia they sing about.

Track 33. "Howdy Doody in the Woodshed" (The Dickies) - 0:33. Only the Dickies could take a cherished, if occasionally creepy, childhood icon, place him in perverse circumstances, warble about it, and make you want to sing along. Fucking brilliant.

Track 34. "Long Enough to Forget You" (Samiam) - 0:30. A metafictional bit of melodic hardcore.

Track 35. "Erik Sandin's Stand-In" (Dogpiss) - 0:33. Not only is this one of the more eminently singalongable songs on the Short Music comp, it has a bluegrass banjo that somehow makes the song even punker.

Track 36. "We Want The Kids" (59 Times the Pain) - 0:21. I love Swedish punk, always have.

Track 37. "Warren's Song Part 8" (Bracket) - 0:31. Not quite emo, but getting there.

Track 38. "No Fgcnuik" (Nomeansno) - 0:31. A finger-snapping lounge lizard opening erupts into a furious explosion of snotty, lightspeed punk.

Track 39. "I Like Food" (Descendents) - 0:17. Milo's impassioned celebration of alimentary joy never gets old.

Track 40. "Triple" (Dance Hall Crashers) - 0:33. A thirty second ska punk song about writing a thirty second song for Fat Mike.

Track 41. "Don Camero Lost His Mind" (Guttermouth) - 0:29. This is what would happen if punk bands wrote radio ads for shitty retail stores.

Track 42. "X-99" (Limp) - 0:38. Uh-oh, nah-nah-nahs, finger snapping, and hey-heys; that's a recipe for getting something stuck in your head. And, boy, this will.

Track 43. "Faust" (Jughead's Revenge) - 0:31. A chant-ridden song about being oneself rather than, say, signing a pact with the Devil ala the tragic figure sharing the track's name.

Track 44. "Deny Everything" (Circle Jerks) - 0:25. Another classic that never grows old.

Track 45. "Hand Grenades" (The Offspring) - 36. This is what might happen if Ted Kaczynski wrote hardcore punk rock.

Track 46. "Mike Booted Our First Song, So We Recorded This One Instead" (Mad Caddies) - 0:28. More metafictional, self-reflexive ska punk.

Track 47. "Union Yes" (The Criminals) - 0:34. Adenoidal doesn't even begin to describe the vocals on "Union Yes."

Track 48. "Dirty Needles" (Screeching Weasel) - 0:28. Well, this is Screeching Weasel for you: references to hard drug abuse, a dig at hippies, and thoroughly catchy poppiness.

Track 49. "300 Miles" (One Man Army) - 0:29. Imagine the Swingin' Utters swallowed Tom Waits.

Track 50. "Klawsterfobia" (Strung Out) - 0:30. Some pretty solid melodic hardcore from a pretty solid melodic hardcore outfit.

Track 51. "You Don't Know Shit" (Youth Brigade) - 0:35. Take Minor Threat's "Straight Edge" and play it backwards.

Track 52. "Doin' Fine" (Groovie Ghoulies) - 0:27. The Groovie Ghoulies are one of those bands that take the Ramones' formula, barely alter it, and totally kick ass. Indeed, "Doin' Fine" will get you off your ass and onto the dancefloor as fast as anything off of Leave Home.

Track 53. "John For The Working Man" (Tilt) - 0:31. Cinder Block has always been one of my favorite vocalists; play this once and you'll see why.

Track 54. "A Prayer For The Complete & Utter Eradication of All" (Spazz) - 0:26. This upliftingly-titled ditty is about as jarring a transition from the Ghoulies and Tilt to the Damned as anything I can imagine. Power violence as a bridge between pop-punk and goth-punk? Weird choice, Fat Mike.

Track 55. "It's A Real Time Thing" (The Damned) - 0:31. I fucking love the Damned, so it's no surprise that Dave Vanian's creepy musings on temporality and the band's eerie gothic ambiance pleases me a good deal.

Track 56. "All My Friends Are In Popular Bands" (88 Fingers Louie) - 0:31. This is pretty much exactly what you'd expect to hear on a late nineties pop-punk compilation. Archetypal stuff, this is.

Track 57. "I Hate Puck Rock" (D.O.A.) - 0:31. Joey Shithead has one of the greatest voices in all punk and this song showcases it perfectly.

Track 58. "Fun" (Pulley) - 0:31. The fact that Scott Radinsky sang lead vocals for a punk band while simultaneously pitching in Major League Baseball will always amuse the living shit out of me. Oh, and "Fun" is a pretty damn good song, by the way.

Track 59. "To All The Kids" (The Vandals) - 0:29. The Vandals channel spirit of sixties pop radio on this doo-wop-tinged ode to outcasts and freaks of all varieties. Delightful.

Track 60. "Thirty Seconds to the End of the World" (Pennywise) - 0:32. One of my favorite tracks on the disk, "Thirty Seconds to the End of the World" is an apocalyptic sing-along for the ages.

Track 61. "Get A Grip" (No Fun At All) - 0:27. Ah, even more melodic hardcore from Sweden! (Jag älskar Sverige).

Track 62. "Blatty (Human Egg) - 0:32. I want to hate this song, but I totally dig it.

Track 63. "I Got None" (All) - 0:29. A bit jazzy, a bit hardcore, a hundred percent All.

Track 64. "See Her Pee" (NOFX) - 0:32. I can't help but find Fat Mike singing about urolagnia over a backbeat that sounds as if it was lifted from Phil Collins's "In The Air Tonight" to be underwhelming.

Track 65. "F.O.F.O.D." (7 Seconds) - 0:31. 7 Seconds' contribution to the whole self-refelxive metafictional thing. You know, writing a song about writing a song for the CD.

Track 66. "Blacklisted" (Rancid) - 0:27. "Blacklisted" is reminiscent of Rancid's Let's Go-era sound. Good stuff.

Track 67. "Chandeliers And Souvenirs" (Dieselboy) - 0:29. Hard-edged punk with quasi-emo lyrics dripping with nostalgia.

Track 68. "Your Kung-Fu is Old . . . And Now You Must Die!!" (Adrenalin O.D.) - 0:31. The track's concluding gong makes what would be a merely good song great.

Track 69. "My Pants Keep Falling Down" (Frenzal Rhomb) - 0:32. Silly Australian punk.

Track 70. "I Hate Your Fucking Guts" (The Queers) - 0:30. Happy-sounding misanthropy from America's happiest misanthropes.

Track 71. "Comin' To Your Town" (D.I.) - 0:26. The opening riff to "Comin' To Your Town" is eerily similar to the Ramones' "Judy is a Punk."

Track 72. "Spray Paint" (Black Flag) - 0:33. Another classic from punk's vaults.

Track 73. "Rage Against the Machine Are Capitalist Phonies" (White Flag) - 0:28. Well, they are. The quivering vocals here are pretty kickass, too.

Track 74. "Bring it to An End" (Anti-Flag) - 0:28. Facile call-and-response sloganeering never sounds bad coming from these Pittsburgh boys.

Track 75. "Not A Happy Man" (Avail) - 0:35. An acoustic guitar and handclaps provide the backdrop for the speaker's tale of sitting in a cherry orchard without having access to the coveted fruit.

Track 76. "Old Mrs. Cuddy" (The Real McKenzies) - 0:31. Bagpipe-driven Celtic punk that would put the Dropkick Murphys to shame.

Track 77. "Traitor" (Agnostic Front) - 0:31. Note to self: do not piss off Agnostic Front.

Track 78. "Life Rules 101" (Down By Law) - 0:31 Dave Smalley sounds rather wimpy here.

Track 79. "Wake Up" (Radio Days) - 0:32. The xylophone on this track reminds me of the sort of music my younger sister used to play during her Little Mermaid Soundtrack-playing days. It's like "Under the Sea" goes punk.

Track 80. "Too Bad You Don't Get It" (Useless I.D.) - 0:34. They had me at the cowbell solo.

Track 81. "Humanity" (Poison Idea) - 0:35. Today's hardcore has nothing on these guys, nothing.

Track 82. "In Your Head" (Men O'Steel) - 0:25. Montreal punk with some really interesting (in a good way) vocals.

Track 83. "Supermarket Forces" (Subhumans - U.K.) - 0:32. An anarcho-punk attack on the local effects of large-scale chain stores.

Track 84. "Tribute to the Mammal" (Buck Wild) - 0:23. Chugging guitars and snotty vocals = punk.

Track 85. "Pretty Houses" (Lunachicks) - 0:28. Theo Cogan's lyrics on "Pretty Houses" may be the best out of all 101 performances on the disk.

Track 86. "The Band That Wouldn't Die" (Dwarves) - 0:38. Self-aggrandizing sleaze punk. What else would you expect?

Track 87. "Like a Fish in Water" (Bouncing Souls) - 0:34. A bizarrely polka-ish song that sounds like a Gogo Bordello outtake.

Track 88. "Turn it Up" (Happy Trigger) - 0:30. A half-minute's worth of metallic hardcore with irritatingly hair metal-ish background vocals.

Track 89. "Madam's Apple" (One Hit Wonder) - 0:32. In case you couldn't make the leap upon reading the song's title, "Madam's Apple" is One Hit Wonder's "Lola" or "Dude, Looks Like A Lady."

Track 90. "Staggering" (Hot Box) - 0:28. How, exactly does one growl mellowly?

Track 91. "DMV" (2.0) - 0:29. More middle-of-the-road melodic hardcore.

Track 92. "Big Fat Skinhead" (Snuff) - 0:34. Solid Britpunk.

Track 93. "Pimmel" (The Muffs) - 0:34. You've always wanted to hear Kim Shadduck sing in German? Now you can!

Track 94. "Mr. Brett, Please Put Down Your Gun" (H2) - 0:30. A silly hardcore tableau in which the Bad Religion/Epitaph founder goes on a shooting spree.

Track 95. "Wake Up" (Bodyjar) - 0:33. About as complete a song as you'll find on the disk.

Track 96. "Eyez" (Nicotine) - 0:26. Ska-punk with some killer vocals I promise you won't soon forget.

Track 97. "Another Stale Cartoon" (Satanic Surfers) - 0:31. Have I mentioned how much I like Swedish punk?

Track 98. "I Don't Mind" (Ten Foot Pole) - 0:32. A poppy celebration of wanderlust and traveling for the sheer joy of being on the road.

Track 99. "Welcome to Dumpsville, Population You" (Caustic Soda) - 0:24. Frantic and fun, Caustic Soda's entry is worth waiting through the first 98 songs on the disk.

Track 100. "NY Ranger" (The Misfits) 0:28. I'm guessing "I Want to Be A New York Islander" had too many syllables? And, by the way, this does not sound like the Misfits at all. Besides, they're from Lodi, NJ. That's Devils territory, man.

Track 101. "The Count" (Wizo) - 0:31. A nerdy song that counts the thirty seconds of recording the band promised to deliver to Fat Mike. Somehow, despite it's stupidity, it's really catchy.

The Adicts: Sound of Music

The Adicts

Sound of Music
Razor Recordings, 1982
Reissue, 2006

The Adicts, for the uninitiated, are, among other things, one of the most chronically under-appreciated bands of the early punk era, the band responsible for incorporating the droog look of Alex DeLarge's gang in Kubrick's stylized vision of Burgess's A Clockwork Orange into punk fashion (see also: "Clockie"), regular guests on British children's programming, and one of the most consistently entertaining live acts in existence.

Unlike Kiss, a band whose theatrics often mask relatively mediocre music, the Adicts' clownish appearance reflects and even enhances the group's lighthearted sound. Rather like the fifties' B-Movie kitsch championed by the Cramps or the pseudo-demonic trappings of the Misfits, the Adicts' look is a perfect fit for the music. Indeed, the confetti-tossing, playing card-flipping, cane-toting, troupe of mime-lookalikes always seem to be having about as much fun playing their songs as fans do when hearing them.

And, really, shouldn't we get to the music already?

Sound of Music, the 1982 follow-up to the previous year's debut, Songs of Praise, contains several of the Adicts' best-known songs. Including "Easy Way Out" (taken from the band's first-ever release, 1979's 7" EP Lunch With the Adicts), the oft-anthologized "Joker in the Pack" and "Chinese Takeaway," as well as the radio-friendly "Jonny Was A Soldier," Sound of Music could almost be repackaged as a greatest hits collection. In fact, no fewer than eight of the sixteen tracks on the reissued disk appear on the band's most recent compilation, 2005's Made in England.

From the Merry-Go-Round music with which the band introduces "How Sad" to the sublimely mellow (if a bit 80s synth rock-sounding) cover of the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" closing the album, Sound of Music is essentially a flawless disk. Backed by Pete Dee Davidson's extremely melodic, hook-laden guitars, Spider's jouncing bass lines, and Kid Davidson's tight skin-pounding, Monkey has little trouble making every song on the record a singalong.

Highlights:

Track 1. "How Sad." An immediately catchy, even danceable gem of 77-style Britpunk.

Track 2. "4-3-2-1." See above.

Track 3. "Chinese Takeaway." A silly (yet somehow endearing) tale of a hungry bloke's long search for "the right shop . . . to stop [his] hunger." You won't stop whistling this for days.

Track 4. "Jonny Was A Soldier." Sirius's Punk channel, may it rest in peace, played this song constantly. And for good reason. It's a damn good representation of the band's sound.

Track 7. "Joker in the Pack." This could very easily be the Adicts' theme song.

Track 8. "Lullaby." My favorite Adicts tune, by far. A bit faster than many of the band's songs, it's got a killer rhythm and as catchy a chorus as the most beer-sloshingly anthemic oi! song.

Track 16. "I Wanna Be Sedated." Covering the Ramones is never a good idea. I mean, we're not talking about shitty Quiet Riot covering shitty Slade's "Cum on Feel the Noize" here. The un-criticizable Ramones already did the best possible version of the song. But, damn, the Adicts did a beautiful job converting the Ramones' pure wall-of-sound pop-punk into something uncannily close to being an original song.

Sobriquet Grade: 93 (A).

Gaslight Anthem: Señor and the Queen (EP)

One of the things I've always loved about punk rock is the pleasingly anachronistic tendency many bands have to release 7" singles and EPs in an era defined by CDs and digital downloads. Of course, you can find EPs like the Gaslight Anthem's Señor and the Queen on iTunes and other digital download sites, but there's something altogether charming in knowing that the 7" release of this record is out there and that it will probably end up in the kick-ass jukebox at the Triple Rock.


Let me just say that, as someone hailing from New Jersey, I've grown accustomed to hearing all sorts of inaccurate crap about the Garden State and describing anything as "New Jersey" is liable to be misunderstood as a negative assessment. So I am going to make this crystal-clear: describing the Gaslight Anthem as the most thoroughly New Jersey band I've heard in a long, long time is a good thing. A really good thing.

Okay? Got that?

It's no secret that after Bruce Springsteen saw the Ramones in Asbury Park, he went home and wrote "Hungry Heart" for the Forest Hills legends. Of course, Jon Landau convinced the Boss to keep the song and it went on to become one of his biggest hits. The Ramones, meanwhile, remained just outside the mainstream, always lacking the one massive single that would have brought them the fame they deserved. Now, three decades later, the Gaslight Anthem are like something out of speculative fiction: this is what pop music would be if Springsteen hadn't listened to his producer, let the Ramones record the song, and launched the C.B.G.B.'ers into megastardom.

At any rate, the Gaslight Anthem recall the best of Springsteen's brand of heartland rock. Armed with lyrics steeped in Americana and backed by what sounds a bit like the Bouncing Souls playing Tom Petty, Brian Fallon's gravelly vocals evoke the Boss at his anthemic peak while somehow managing not to sound derivative. Not an easy feat, to be sure.

Highlights:

Track 1. "Señor and the Queen." Easily the record's most energetic tune, the title track may well be the best example of the soul punk sound in existence. Seriously.

Track 2. "Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?" I love this song. I mean, you've got a driving bass line, a twangy guitar, and a bit of the folksy vibe you associate with Against Me! You really can't go wrong.

Track 3. "Say I Won't (Recognize)." A radio-friendly anthem that adds a dose of pure punk speed to a slower, cowbell-tinged sing-along. You won't be able to keep your hands from clapping or your toes from tapping.

Track 4. "Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts." Okay, this is the Boss, right?

Sobriquet Grade: 89 (B+).

Various Artists: Quality Punk Rock (Bad Taste Records)

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

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).

The Distillers: Coral Fang

Despite Gil Norton's slick production, the Distillers' third and final album, 2003's Coral Fang, retains much of the saw-toothed fury for which the band is famous. Of course, even the strongest belt sander in the shop couldn't smooth out Brody Dalle's vocals -- indeed, the former Mrs. Armstrong's voice tears a jagged hole through the album's aural fabric with a gravelly ferocity beyond anything her ex-husband could muster, even if he'd smoked his way through a crate of Pall Malls.

That said, while Dalle continues to spit her trademark venom throughout the album, Coral Fang does lack some of the bite for which The Distillers (2000) and Sing Sing Death House (2002) earned praise. This tamer, poppier sound is particularly evident in the record's latter half, when acoustic guitars and melodic backing vocals soften the sonic blow showcased on tracks like "Drain the Blood" and "Dismantle Me."

Highlights:

Track 1. "Drain the Blood." A bilious screed penned by a woman "living on shattered faith" among murderers and predators. Nice.

Track 2. "Dismantle Me." A hook-laden, hard-driving raw nerve of a tune, reminiscent of the the band's earlier sound.

Track 5. "Coral Fang." The album's title track is pure punk: fast, loud, and damn pissed. With a near-perfect balance of melodic ohhs-wah-oohs and blood-curdling screeching sung over solid 77-style riffs, "Coral Fang" captures the energy of the eponymous album better than any other song on the record.

Track 6. "The Hunger." Leave it to Dalle to transform what initially sounds like Tom Petty playing "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" into the pounding catharsis of a scorned lover slashing at the stifling loneliness closing in on her. It's also a perfect lead-in to "Hall of Mirrors," the album's beautifully vitriolic break-up song.

Track 8. "Beat Your Heart Out." An incredibly catchy single, "Beat Your Heart Out" continues to enjoy a good deal of airtime on Sirius's Punk channel, as well it should.

Sobriquet Grade: 92 (A-). This is about as close to an A as an A-minus record can get. It's not quite groundbreaking, but it's great nonetheless. I have to admit, I love the fact that when some people started throwing fits about the album's original cover art (a crucified woman, nude save for a pair of stiletto heels, wounded in Christ-like fashion), the Distillers replaced the offending image with a crowd of cute, furry animals. One of the best albums of the decade.

Social Distortion: Sex, Love, and Rock 'n' Roll

When Social Distortion released White Light, White Heat, White Trash in 1996, I had a hard time imagining a follow-up album that wouldn't be disappointing. I mean, that was one hell of a record. In retrospect, it seems Social Distortion had just as much trouble figuring out what sort of album could live up to the ridiculously high standard they set with WLWHWT, waiting a full eight years before releasing Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll in 2004. Ultimately, Mike Ness and crew produced an entirely worthy successor to their mid-nineties masterpiece.

Stylistically, Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll resembles White Light, White Heat, White Trash in its polished, extremely radio-friendly sound. While the rockabilly and country/western elements so prevalent on their albums after Mommy's Little Monster (1983) remain central to the band's style, Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll, like its predecessor, is a straight-forward punk rock record with cowpunk undertones (rather than a cowpunk record with punk undertones), and a masterful one at that.

As usual, Mike Ness's plaintive vocals deliver the band's trademark themes of regret and longing in the sad, almost wistful sing-along style he's perfected over the past thirty years.

Highlights: The difficulty in selecting stand-out tracks on an album like Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll is in the elimination. For a record as consistently solid as this, it almost sounds like a greatest hits album...

Track 1.
"Reach for the Sky." The album's lone charting single remains one of the band's most representative songs. Lyrically, the song mourns a life in shambles while expressing a melancholy fear that the future "may never come," leaving the singer to embrace his present circumstances, diminished as they may be. Musically, the track balances the band's roots rock sensibility with their punk influences as perfectly as any song in Social D.'s discography.

Track 2. "Highway 101." In this bluesy tune, a wounded, hardened heart accepts love again-- along the California coast.

Track 4. "Footprints on the Ceiling." One of the album's more overtly country-influenced songs, "Footprints" is beautiful dirge for lost love.

Track 7. "Winners and Losers." Ah, sweet, sweet regret.

Track 10. "Angel's Wings." Co-written with Jonny Wickersham, "Angel's Wings" includes some of Ness's most upbeat lyrics. A sublime love song without sappy sentimentality, this track celebrates the rare variety of love that emerges midlife, after wrinkles appear and mistakes have been made. A tough guy ballad no tough guy would be ashamed to play.

This is the sort of record to play at, like, three in the morning when you're having one of those strangely profound conversations that come from nowhere but change your life irrevocably for the better.

Sobriquet Grade: 95 (A).

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