REVIEW: The Lillingtons – “Project 313”

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L-I-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N-S

The Lillingtons always feel like two different bands to me. There is the standard pop punk band doing standard pop punk love songs, but then there is the sci fi/horror/b-movie influenced band who put one of the best genre records ever (and two additional classics). The problem with the former style is that Kody Templeman does that style with way more gusto in Teenage Bottlerocket. The Lillingtons, despite being the older band, suffer as a result of this.

All that being said, after a roughly 10 year hiatus, what does a new Lillingtons EP sound like? Well, it kind of sounds like a Teenage Bottlerocket record. Ok, that’s a little shitty to say. It’s definitely a Lillingtons record, but it feels more Shit Outta Luck than Death By Television to me. The first two songs, “Until The Sun Shines” and “Rubber Room,” come off as retreads of things the band has already done. Like, “Rubber Room” feels like an ehhh version of “I Need Some Brain Damage” mixed with Teenage Bottlerocket’s “Welcome To The Nuthouse.” The other two songs are more in the b-movie side of things. “Project 313” is about being stuck on a rocket in space. “It’s On” is about a succubus, but is also a pop punk pastiche of 80’s cock rock.

Project 313 sounds exactly how you think it would. Simple pop punk in the tradition of Lookout Records and the Ramones. Genre fans will love it, genre haters will hate it, and no one will learn a goddamn thing. And isn’t that good enough?

The Lillingtons
Red Scare Industries
Bandcamp
Buy It

(Usually I embed Bandcamp or Soundcloud stream. Only one song was playable on Bandcamp at time of writing. Had to use a Spotify link instead, I guess. Sorry.)

REVIEW: Diet Cig – “Swear I’m Good At This”

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It’s not easy to make pop punk music. Like, ok, that’s not true. It’s mechanically easy to make pop punk music. It’s not easy to make pop punk music that can live and breath as it’s own thing. The genre purists are going to piss and complain no matter what. You’re derivative if you stick too close to the formula, you’re a trend jumping phony if you deviate. It’s fucking ridiculous. But let’s get down to brass tacks. Diet Cig is fucking good.

Swear I’m Good At This is exactly what any band would want their debut full length to be. Diet Cig has honed their indie pop influenced punk rock down to a science over the course of one EP and two singles. They are a two piece that sounds huge. Everything is firing, and everything works.

Swear I’m Good At This is in the fine tradition of records that sound happy but are lyrically kind of a bummer. There are songs about failed relationships. Songs about feeling lonely and hopeless. There’s some 20-something ennui. There are a couple fuck you songs directed to a society that really doesn’t seem to get what the fuck is going on. It’s musical sugar to cover up real life bitterness and I love it.

This a record full of singles and mixtape fodder. “Link In Bio” and “Tummy Ache” were absolute no-brainers to be lead of singles. “Barf Day” and “Bite Back” would fit perfectly on a bummer mix. It’s a record that is definitely going to appeal to an entire demographic of disillusioned kids just trying to find their voice.

This is the kind of music that exists to let you know you’re not the only one going through some shit. It’s 100% the kind of thing I loved when I was in my 20s, and I know some kid is going to be stoked on it. Diet Cig have all the potential to be huge, and I hope they everyone sees it.

Diet Cig
Frenchkiss Records
Bandcamp / Buy It

 

REVIEW: Earth Girls – “Wanderlust”

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Earth Girls feels like a genre departure for Liz Panella. In fact, this can really be said for all the current members of Earth Girls. Much of the band’s collective discography outside of Earth Girls tends to fall more on the hardcore side of things. Panella has a varied discography, including a lot of one off hardcore bands, Libyans being the most consistent. Joey Kappel and Antonio Holguin III have both been active in the Chicago punk and hardcore scene. The former with Boilerman and Poison Planet, the latter with Raw Nerve and Big Zit. It seems strange that they would come together to make a bubblegum pop punk record, but here we are.

Wanderlust is the perfect distillation of bubblegum and pop punk. Earth Girls have a sound that makes me think of what Helen Love would sound like if she edged more towards garage and punk rock than pop. Kind of like a Helen Love / Marked Men combination. The band has a very distinct sound, and it’s probably due to the pedigree the band has. They aren’t afraid to leave some rough edges on things. Those rough edges add a lot of heart to a record that could have gone glossy and shiny. This record could have gone full power pop by overselling the hooks. Instead they chose to combine the hooks with a driving grit. This is the kind of record that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Lookout Records circa the late 90s, early 00s.

The long and short of it is that this record rules. It’s catchy, it fast, and it’s a perfect summer record. My only beef is that it’s only about 21 minutes and it came out so late in the season. Otherwise, I really can’t complain.

Earth Girls
Grave Mistake Records
Bandcamp
Buy It

REVIEWS: Save Ends – “Hug Your Friends”

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Let’s start this out simply, as I’ve talked about about Save Ends a few times already. The stuff I said I loved about this band in 2012 and 2013 are the same things I love now. I don’t want to just be lazy and recycle the same talking points, so I’ll tackle this a little differently than I usually do. At least the intro paragraph anyway. I first heard Save Ends right around the beginning of 2011, maybe even at the end of 2010. The first song I heard was “The Art Of Throwing People In Volcanoes.”  I don’t remember where I heard it, but I remember that I was totally into it immediately. I still get excited when that song pops up in a shuffle, on Tumblr, or whatever. That song made me want to hear more. The point I’m clumsily making is that I’ve been listening to this band for a while now. Almost as long as I’ve been doing this shitty little blog, actually. I’m always impressed by what they put out. This was true of their self released EPs, it was true of their debut LP, and it’s still true now.

The easiest way to talk about Hug Your Friends would be to place it in the band’s overall discography. It does exactly what their older records did. It builds on the strengths of all their other works. It’s why a lot of the praise you’ll see for this mirrors the praise of the older stuff. The obvious starting point is the overall sound. This band is really good at finding that great middle ground between indie rock and pop punk. Even their slowest, most reserved songs still have that heart and energy behind them. The hooks, the big choruses, whatever. All those things are on this record, but maybe a bit more restrained. The tonal shift is noticeable, especially compared to the more driving songs on Warm Hearts, Cold Hands. I’ve seen a lot of Lemuria comparisons in the press leading up to the release. To borrow from that comparison, the stylistic shift is comparable to how that band transitioned from Get Better to Pebble. The songs still have drive and energy, but the EP definitely plays in a more melancholy territory. It’s really fucking good though, and that’s what matters. Genre descriptions be damned.

i always thought the strongest thing about Save Ends has always been the vocals. I love bands that do the dual vocal thing. It’s rare to find a band where both people singing absolutely nail it. It’s a really easy thing to fuck up. That is absolutely not the case here. Christine Atturio and Brendan Cahill both sound as strong as ever. It doesn’t matter if it’s lead, back up, or wherever they are on a song. The interplay between the two is always a great thing. “I Fell Asleep” and “Love Like A Home” showcase how well their voices play off each other in a split lead situation. The songs they take the lead on individually, “Smudge” for Atturio and “Sam’s Lament” for Cahill, show how solid they are at carrying songs on their own.

Hug Your Friends is a fantastic record from start to finish. It’s clear that they’ve spent the last couple years really focusing on songwriting. Everything sounds crisp and alive. It’s everything you would expect from Save Ends.

Save Ends
Black Numbers
Bandcamp
Buy It

REVIEW: The Unlovables / Dirt Bike Annie – “Reunion Show”

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Christ. Did I die? Is there really new music from The Unlovables and Dirt Bike Annie in 2015? I feel like I’m 20 again. I’m going to try and be as objective as I can, but these two bands were my early 20s. They are two of my favorite pop punk bands in the world.

The Unlovables are on the A-Side, so let’s talk about them first. I first heard them on a compilation in 2005. The first song I heard from them was “Doot Da Doot,” and I was totally into it. I didn’t get around to actually getting their record until I heard “If You Were Here” on the Bubblegum Attack: World Compilation that came out shortly after. It was over after that. This was my band. Crush, Boyfriend, Heartbreak is one of my favorite pop punk records of any era. Heartsickle is right up there too. Then 2008 came along, they called it a day. It sucked.

Dirt Bike Annie was a band that I got into too late. I had found a copy of Hit The Rock! at a Disc Replay in late 2003. It was the year they released their last record. They were still a band for another two years, but weren’t releasing new music. It was one of those really disappointing things. Like, oh you like this band? Too bad, they’re done.

But, here we are. It’s 2015, and both bands are back. I’m definitely looking through nostalgia goggles a little bit, but that doesn’t really matter. Both bands have more or less picked up right where they left off. If anything, they are cementing their place as definitive pop punk bands. It’s fantastic.

The Unlovables definitely represent that early 2000s pop punk sound. Heavy dashes of old Lookout Records mixed with their contemporaries that were putting out stuff on Stardumb and Whoa-Oh. It’s very much that bubblegum, Ramones type pop punk. Super bouncy, super poppy, and just a lot of fun to listen to. “Miracle Braves” and “Worthwhile” would fit right in on Crush, Boyfriend, Heartbreak. “1996” and “Skip A Stone” would be cozy on Heartsickle. Their six songs on Reunion Show are perfect. This is a perfect intro to the band, and the genre.

Dirt Bike Annie date back to the mid-90s. They definitely embody the old Mutant Pop style of pop punk. More power pop, less Ramones. Great hooks, great vocal interplay, and a strong start/stop style of playing. They are a band that never got big, and I never understood it. “Saludos A Todos” and “Have You Ever Slept The Night Alone” show how strong this band is vocally. They’ve got super vocal harmonies. “Cynical” is a slower paced song, it’s built around a midtempo acoustic guitar. The vocal harmonies on it are top notch as well. Dirt Bike Annie is a band that always makes me think of huge choruses, even on slower songs. The only downside is that, outside of these song, nothing else is really streaming anywhere. It’s going to make it hard for people to really check them out.

Look, just give this split a listen. Fan of the bands will love everything on the damn thing. Fans of the genre will feel right at home. Check out the back catalog for both bands. The Unlovables have their stuff on Bandcamp, Dirt Bike Annie have their stuff on iTunes. You won’t be disappointed.

The Unlovables
Dirt Bike Annie
Whoa-Oh Record
Bandcamp
Buy It

 

REVIEW: Long Knives – “This Is Your Life”

longknivestiylI think I love debut releases the most. They’re are my favorite things to listen to. I know this sounds pretentious as fuck, but I think debuts are the most pure recordings of a band. They’re full of promise for things to come. Long Knives have a great thing going on their debut EP, This Is Your Life. It’s a great introduction to a band with a great future.

Long Knives could be filed under a bunch of different genre tags, and would live up well to any of them. The most common thing you’ll see is some amalgamation of pop punk, emo, and indie rock. The “Recommended If You Like” name drops would have to include The Anniversary and The Get Up Kids. Throw a bit of The Promise Ring and Rainer Maria in there too, maybe? They cover a lot of bases, and take bits and pieces from a lot of places. Everything is tied together with driving, punk rock guitars.

“Bones” and “Unwelcome Guest” kick This Is Your Life off with a really high energy one-two punch. Long Knives are great at writing catchy, hooky songs. They have a strong pop sensibility. Those two songs show it, and really set a great tone for the EP. Even on a midtempo song like “Home” has a lot of kick. I also really love the vocals on this record. Specifically the way Kristia Moya and Matt Bartels play off each other. The former is singing lead, but the latter provides great support. Harmonies, call and response, whatever. It works.

Long Knives have me really excited to hear what they do next.

Long Knives
Count Your Lucky Stars
Bandcamp
Buy It

REVIEW: Bong Mountain – “You’re Doin’ Great!”

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I find it really interesting to see how regional influences affect musical genres. This is especially in genres that have very established sounds and tropes. Pop punk, even more than emo, is one of the best examples. Every region has it’s own flavor, and bands tend to wear that influence on their sleeves. In that regard, Bong Mountain is Midwestern as fuck.

You’re Doin’ Great! is an EP that embodies the gritty and gruff pop punk that this region is known for. It’s got jagged edges to it, but it maintains a strong sense of melody. It reminds me a lot of bands like Signals Midwest, without some of the emo influence. Maybe some Mixtapes in there too?

All in all, this is a great introduction to this band. The onus is now on Bong Mountain to differentiate themselves from the crowd of bands playing this style. They definitely seem to be up to the task. If you’re into this kind of gruff pop punk, this will most certainly be a band you should watch out for.

Bong Mountain
Bandcamp