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

REVIEW: Sad Blood – “Legion Of Gloom”

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Hey, remember when I wrote about Sad Blood back in November? No? Well, here is a refresher. I ended the review being kind of a snarky and saying:

“Will Sad Blood be another one of those one-and-done bands that flooded my inbox a few years ago? I hope not. I’d like to hear a lot more from them, because Ultimate Worrier is a hell of an introduction.”

Past me can stop worrying though. There is a new EP from Sad Blood. I would have talked about it back in May, but I’m the worst. Anyway. It’s really good. Legion Of Gloom is the logical next step after Ultimate Worrier. It’s still a Doomsday Device of emo music loaded with pop hooks. There is still a lot of Dowsing and Pet Symmetry going on here, but Sad Blood are making it theirs. They sound more comfortable and have really found their feet.

If anything, the music has gotten more on the power pop side of things. It’s actually very interesting to see the band start making those moves. There is almost a dissonance between how the music sounds and what the lyrics are. The music has only gotten poppier and more melodic. The lyrics remain ever in bummer territory. I like that kind of thing though, so it definitely works for me. They add lighthearted humor behind it though. It certainly helps when they are talking about feeling nothing.

Also, the handclap gimmick on “Ten More Years” is my favorite thing.

Sad Blood
Bandcamp / Buy It

 

 

 

REVIEW: Kind Of Like Spitting / Warren Franklin & The Founding Fathers – “It’s Always Nice To See You” (split)

kolswfatffI do a blog named Team Reasonable. I feel like it’s pretty obvious how I feel about Kind Of Like Spitting. I live in Illinois and love to support local. I’m also a big fan of indie/emo music. It’s probably pretty obvious how I feel about Warren Franklin & The Founding Fathers. Writing this review might be a little superfluous, so I’ll keep it as short as I can.

It’s Always Nice To See You is a split that is basically 100% my shit. It runs the gamut in sound, and everything on it is pretty goddamn strong. There are driving, garagey indie rock songs. There are a few acoustic numbers. There are really solid indie/emo songs. There is nothing on here I wouldn’t like.

Kind Of Like Spitting is the front side. This is the first release under that name since 2006. Ben Barnett continues to write really strong songs. This incarnation of Kind Of Like Spitting is Barnett (guitar/vocals), Brian Grant (bass), and Dante Johnson (drums). The trio fire on all cylinders for most of their half. Driving indie rock songs full of chunky riffs, strong bass lines, and really solid drumming. There are strong pop and garage influences throughout. Most songs feel more on the Blunt Mechanic side of the fence than the Kind Of Like Spitting side as a result. This is especially true on Bullied By A Bee and Audience Of Two. Those songs feel a bit looser and jammier than a “traditional” Kind Of Like Spitting song. It’s all good though, and not that unexpected. Both bands are/were Ben Barnett vehicles. Either way, it’s a fun bit of distortion and fuzz.

Warren Franklin & The Founding Fathers continue to impress on their side. Watching Warren Franklin transition from a solo act to a full band has been really exciting. Every release improves on the last. The band has built a unique sound, and they have found a way to encompass everything they’ve done in the past without getting stuck in a rut. It’s hard to think of another band so adept at walking the lines between indie rock, power pop, and emo. One of the biggest things is how much Franklin’s vocals have improved. His voice is stronger than ever here. Just a great showing for a great band. Can’t wait to see a full length.

So, yeah. It’s a great split. Both bands excel at what they do. Check it out.

Kind Of Like Spitting
Warren Franklin & The Founding Fathers
Topshelf Records
Bandcamp
Buy It

REVIEW: Sunday Guts – “Cool Music”

sundaygutscoolmusicI’ve discussed Sunday Guts a few times already. And, goddamnit, I’m doing it again. Mostly because a Sunday Guts record is generally a great listen. Cool Music is really more of the same. I mean that in terms of quality, not in style. The guitar pop from the earlier releases is still here in force, but it’s getting colored by other things too.

Immediately there is a presence of a new wave influence. Certainly on “Get Out Of Town,” but definitely on “Wish It All Away.” It’s a sound not totally unexpected, especially after listening to the Wet Salvos EP. There are different touches that make it stand out over the rest of their catalog. It works really well. Billy Kilgannon has a very distinct voice, but it lacks a lot of range. That being said, the slightly new direction adds some great color to the songs.

There isn’t a lot I can say about Sunday Guts that I haven’t already said before. It’s just quality pop music from Lehigh Valley. Catchy guitars, nice vocal hooks, and this time around there is a new wave/power pop influence. You really can’t go wrong with that. If you haven’t already, go check it out.

Sunday Guts
BandCamp

REVIEW: Mike Bell & The Movies – “Nothing Works”

mikebellIt’s weird to talk about power pop in 2014. There aren’t any big names in the genre. Maybe whatever band Dan Vapid is doing now, put even that is really just pop punk. It’s a genre that has more or less faded away since it’s heyday in the 80s. Like anything else though, it has to still exist somewhere. No matter what the genre is, someone is playing it somewhere. But, without much along the line of historical talking points, I’m going to keep this brief.

Mike Bell & The Movies play power pop. Not pop punk trying to be power pop. Actual, honest to goodness, power pop. When talking about this kind of thing, people will invariably mention Elvis Costello, Cheap Trick, Joe Jackson, and maybe The Jags. It’s always the same talking points. And, you know what, those are all super valid comparisons here. I could sit here and write some long winded review about Mike Bell & The Movies. It would be almost totally superfluous, so I’ll keep it short. I don’t how anyone can listen to this record without getting stoked.

Power pop, when done right, is absolutely my jam. In this case, it being made by a band that is ex-Algernon Cadwallader, Bandname, and Dangerous Ponies certainly doesn’t hurt. More than anything though, Nothing Works, as an album, is just great. There is nothing new under the sun, and this is an example of how fun that can be. It’s a record that sounds like pure 80’s kitsch. It’s simple pop melodies, songs about love, and it is fast paced. It’s a summer record in every sense of the word. It’s energetic and catchy in all the best ways.

People use familiarity as an insult. As though a band that doesn’t sound amazingly original are less good than other bands. You know what is important about a band? Whether or not they sound good, and if they are good at what they do. Mike Bell & The Movies meet both points of criteria I have. Let’s try to not over think everything.

Mike Bell & The Movies
Major Bear Records
BandCamp
Buy It

REVIEW: Dan Vapid And The Cheats – "Dan Vapid And The Cheats"

Oh, Danny Vapid. The guy has a hell of a track record. I have spent so much time listening to Screeching Weasel, The Riverdales, The Mopes, and The Methadones in the last god knows how many years. So, compared to a ridiculously great back catalog, how is this new shit? It is pretty good.

Dan Vapid And The Cheats is basically power pop / pop punk. As far as the line up goes, It is basically The Methadones. Vapid, Mike Byrne, and Mike Soucy are there. The only difference is that bassist Pete Mittler has been replaced by Simon Lamb (who was in Screeching Weasel for a second or two). That being said, it basically sounds like The Methadones. Well, The Methadones taking their love of power pop to the next level.

For being so simplistic, this record is kind of all over the place. The opener, “Torture Chamber,” has a pretty serious Cheap Trick meets Ramones vibe. “Girl Group” has a 50’s doo wop thing going on. The back up vocals are fucking great on that track. “Die Trying” and “Just Like Cleopatra” are straight up pop punk burners. Basically, the whole record, save for “Devo On Speed,” could have been on a release for any of Vapid’s prior bands. Some songs are right out of The Riverdales songbook, some are more The Mopes. The lion’s share is very much The Methadones.

Really, this is a Dan Vapid band that sounds like what a typical Dan Vapid band would sound like. If you like any of his other bands, this certainly won’t disappoint. Great pop punk written by a guy who has done more for that genre than damn near anyone else.

Dan Vapid And The Cheats
Stream It (Bandcamp)
Buy It (the band links directly to Interpunk)

(NOTE: Normally I link to the label who put this out. This is put out by Torture Chamber. I can’t find anything resembling a website for it. Sorry.)

REVIEW: You, Me, And Everyone We Know – "Things Are Really Weird Right Now"

Well, we can throw this band on the list of bands that broke up this year. This EP is a pretty good way to go out. Prior to starting this review, I should note that I am reviewing the 7″ version. Seems that it is not the same track order as on the other formats. So, you know, that is kind of goofy. But, anyway.

You, Me, And Everyone We Know played some pretty solid pop music. As such, there is a bit of dissonance between lyrical content and musical style. We have three songs of rather sunny sounding music, but some rather bummer lyrics. Really, that is a perfect way for a record called Things Are Really Weird Right Now to be.
The titular song is the great, stand out cut on this record. The vocals are great, the keyboard line is fantastic, and the guitars are nice and sunny in a pretty awesome, British invasion type way. The song has the type of lyrics that would be great to sing along with when you’re having a shitty day.
“Now you might wonder where that leaves me
I’m not complaining, just beginning to see
I never really learned just how to aspire
mostly self deprecate, detach, and retire”

The other two songs follow a similar style. “Sad Bastard Music” being a songs that more than lives up to it’s title. “There Was A Thump, Then Another” is a great closer. There is one beef I have with the latter song. In the chorus, some words get emphasized in a weird kind of way. But, minor quibble aside, both songs are just as strong as the titular track.
Overall, this is a great EP. A good swan song. Musically, this is a solid guitar pop record. It follows the lineage of great British invasion pop records. It has a throwback kind of sound in the same kind of way as Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. Really, you can’t go wrong with that.