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?
Red Scare Industries
(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.)
It’s easy to talk about Orations through the lens of “modern band does classic genre music.” Hell, that was my main talking point when I wrote about their previous EP. It’s really not a point worth revisiting because there is more going on. Orations are easily one of the strongest modern voices in this kind of music.
All that said, what’s new? Wych Elm is Orations honing their sound even further. The reverb is still there. The melodies are still top notch. Jess Collins still has one of the best goddamn voices. Wych Elm stands out by what makes it different from past releases. They still effortless emphasize the punk part of post-punk, but not so strongly as on the self titled EP. It’s still very “goth” sounding, but has more of a college rock type jangle when compared to to the more Siouxsie And The Banshees / The Cure vibe on Incantations.
Wych Elm is absolutely everything a first full length should be. It feels like a declaration of intent. Like a mission statement. It’s documentation of a band that knows exactly what they are and exactly where they’re going.
Custom Made Music
Swiss Dark Nights
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.
Bandcamp / Buy It
It’s been about four months since I wrote about any record. I’m coming back with an easy one. Less Than Jake is one of my favorite bands. They have been since I was a teenager. It was Less Than Jake and the Bouncing Souls forever. Like, I’ve forgotten a lot of things over the years. The lyrics to every Less Than Jake record up to and including GNV FLA are still burned in my brain though. I definitely got away from this band after that. I never really listened to either of the Greetings EPs or See The Light very much. They were great records. I was busy reviewing every fucking emo revival record, or whatever.
There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to Less Than Jake. They are a band of veterans who know exactly where their proverbial bread is buttered. It’s why, in 2017, I can still put on any of their records and know I’m going to enjoy it. Is it predictability? Definitely. Could that be viewed as a negative thing? Absolutely. Not by me though, because I still love this goddamn band.
Sound The Alarm is exactly what you expect it to be. It’s an EP full of poppy songs with oddly bummer lyrics. Sound The Alarm would him every point if there was a template for a Less Than Jake record. “Call To Arms” is the classic punk with horns opener. Compared to their discography, it is probably the most Anthem-y. “Welcome To My Life” and “Years Of Living Dangerously” hit the laid back ska vibe. Both songs deal with friendships and relationships in different ways. The former being apologetic, the latter hits on the classic, reminiscent theme the band often uses. “Thing Change” is the strongest song on the record. It closes the record with the most Less Than Jake song they’ve recorded in years. Fast verses, great horn line, and a huge chorus.
It’s not really easy to write about Less Than Jake objectively. This band is wildly important to me, and I’m definitely willing to overlook things other people maybe won’t. Nostalgia is a hell of thing. Anything this band does is going to remind me of something I’ve done while listening to them. “Bomb Drop” makes reminds me of driving in a blizzard while listening to Borders And Boundaries. “Years Of Living Dangerously” reminds me of being sad and drunk while listening to B Is For B-Sides.
It’s a fucking Less Than Jake record. You know what it is. Don’t overthink it. It’s good, and it is another strong release in this band’s discography. I know everyone is going to try and compare it Hello Rockview or Losing Streak. Don’t do that. Just let it play. You’ll like it.
Less Than Jake
Pure Noise Records
The Lower Echelon play a kind of punk rock that doesn’t get much play these days. It is something in the middle of traditional, 70s style punk rock and the sardonic, sarcastic 80s stuff that permeated out from the West Coast.
Come To The Loud is a record that has more going on than an initial listen would cover. On the face of it, a song like “Dirty Princess” can come across as a little questionable. With proper analysis the lyrics actually get the point about bro culture and the weird fixation is has on damsel in distress tropes. This political tone is recurring. “All Against All” is more of a dirgey type song that touches how consumer culture and and financial system is rigged against normal people. “Flops To Lofts” has a similar tone.
As far as being a genre record, this record hits a lot of the touchstones. The songs are rough around the edges, the vocals even more so. It has the energy and heart that punk rock should have. If I had an issue with the EP it would be that the topics don’t necessarily get dealt with the weight they could be. There is a lot of bullshit happening in the supposed “progressive” world of punk rock, and masking the message in too much sarcasm tends to muddy the water.
But, look, let’s get down to brass tacks. The Lower Echelon are definitely on some punk rock shit, and this EP is definitely worth a listen.
The Lower Echelon
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.
Grave Mistake Records
My favorite punk rock records are the ones that sound like everyone in the band just said “fuck it” and just went as hard as they could regardless of the consequences. Punk rock is built on that energy. A lot of bands who try that end up playing fast, sloppy, amateur hour type shit. They mistake energy for speed. Good punk rock isn’t just stuff that is loud and fast. Good punk rock is something you can feel.
Slow Bloom is a band full of energy and heart. They play post-hardcore, but are still very aware of their punk rock roots. The songs sound gritty and dirty. It’s super welcome in a world where most punk rock bands have rounded of the jagged edges. They are also deceptively melodic and catchy. Underneath the screaming and distortion on “Phantom Tantrum” is a really great early 90s alternative rock song. “Veriforms” and “Deep Space” are what I think At The Drive-In would sound like if they weren’t too pompous and cool to be punk.
I don’t want to wax philosophically about a punk rock record. It’s on Bandcamp, it’s on Spotify. You can find it. My notes when I listened to this EP started with the phrase “dope as fuck.” Let’s just leave it there.