Tag Archives: pop punk

Review: Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again

Band – Joyce Manor

Album – Never Hungover Again

Label -Epitaph

By Lewie Peckham

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One of the most divisive arguments that follows Torrence, California indie-punks Joyce Manor around is about the shortness of most of their recorded output. Some listeners feel cheated that many of the bands songs rarely exceed the 2 minute mark and albums can be finished in as much time as it takes to watch an episode of Seinfeld (or insert any U.S sitcom in its place..you get the idea). The other side of this debate is that Joyce Manor are the masters of concise punk rock songwriting, trimming the fat of their songs until perfect blasts of hook-laden Indie/Emo/Punk/Whatever you want to call it remain.

Never Hungover Again lasts for about 19 minutes (give or take a couple of seconds) but in that time Joyce Manor have found enough space to make their most musically ambitious album yet. The usual hallmarks of their sound remain, Barry Johnson’s impassioned vocals over gritty Pinkerton-era Weezer and Jawbreaker guitars and Guided By Voices melodic exuberance, but now with added instrumental depth and influences excavated from outside their usual sound.

The swells of gorgeous synths that appear in sublime highlight ‘Falling in love again’ recall the wistfulness of The Psychedelic Furs and the dual guitar lines that arrive in the middle of ‘Schley’ could have been lifted from seminal Ohio art-punks Pere Ubu’s most accessible record (1989’s Cloudland). It’s a testament to Joyce Manors songs that these nods to their record collection never throw the album off track or leave it scrambling to get back on its path. It’s the subtle compliments that make you realise that you are hearing something very special.

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There are still the usual blasts of pop-punk that will appeal to even the most casual fan of the band. The lovelorn ‘Victoria’ and self-deprecation of ‘Heart Tattoo’ are glorious, fuzzy gems that once again are the best examples of Joyce Manors sharp, concise song craft. The ambiguous amped-up Smiths riffage of ‘In The Army Now’ and Jangle-pop of ‘Heated Swimming Pool’ show the different and exiting musical paths the band may choose on future releases and how adept they are at incorporating these into Joyce Manors existing sound. Never Hungover Again is probably one of the most rewarding listens of 2014 and will, quite rightly, find itself lavished with repeated listens and justified acclaim.

Proving that there is still life in a genre that can sometimes feel stodgy and overladen with mediocre bands, Joyce Manor are one of the better examples of what heartfelt, interesting music can be made within the shortest bursts of noise.

Thanks for reading. Get in touch. ittoblog@gmail.com, http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, twitter – @alex_itto, @BonersaurJR

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Review: Make Do And Mend – Everything You Ever Loved

Band – Make Do And Mend

Album – Everything You Ever Loved

Label – Rise Records

When you’re a huge music fan and you keep discovering new music that is unbelievably amazing it’s hard not to get carried away with writing overly positive things about everything you find. It’s also a massive shock when something you’ve been looking forward to and keeping an eye out for turns out to be utterly disapointing.

Make Do and Mend caught my attention, like they did many others, with the 2010 album ‘End Measured Mile’. A really solid record that whilst not being album of the year showed a lot of promise for a band that could be capable of recording a classic. ‘Everything you ever loved’ is not the classic that I was hoping for, It’s not even a good record, a definite step down from their last effort.

The problem begins straight from the start. I don’t know if it’s and intentional effort on Make Do and Mend’s part to push for a wider audience or if it’s just them becoming the band they want to be but they’ve taken on a far more middle of the road rock sound. Think more Foo Fighters and less Hot Water Music, and if there is one thing the world doesn’t need is another Foo Fighters. The opening song, ‘Blur’, begins with some cheesy, mainstream grunge guitar work and the album finds it very hard to recover from this. Far too many effects and overproduction instantly take away the grittier edge they used to possess. It then all becomes a bit predictable and, sadly, dull.

Second track, ‘Dissassemble’, tries to swing it back but has too many cringeworthy moments (backing vocals) to be enjoyable. On, ‘St Anne’, they try a Jimmy Eat World style ballad which doesn’t come off. Jimmy Eat World pull these kind of songs off in their sleep but here it just sounds misguided. The rest of the album then blurs into a mush of uninspired riffs and instantly forgettable songs, it then kind of fades off in to the distance with a bit of a whimper. Not at all what I was expecting. I always try and look for a positive in everything I write about but I’m struggling here. There is not a single song on the album that I can claim to like.

Overall ‘Everything You Ever Loved’, is a big disappointment and a real shame. If you want a band who aimed for this kind of sound and really pulled it off then check out the latest Polar Bear Club record, but I’d stay away from this. Still, if you wanna give it a go then click HERE to go to the Rise Records page and check it out for yourself.

As always, cheers for reading xx

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PRAWN, Folkestone 15.06.2012

Now that my back is starting to feel more normal, or as normal as it’s likely to feel after 19 months of pain, painkillers and operations, I am able to get out and see bands again. I’m now seeing flyers for shows and getting excited rather than frustrated at my predicament. A show I’d been really excited to go to since it was announced months ago was Prawn and Ape up! being put on by Box Social in Folkestone. This excitement was then vastly increased when Alex, the promoter, arranged for me to be able to interview Ape up! before the show.

If you’ve read my review of Ape Up!’s latest record, Kemosabe, (if not you can read it HERE) then you’ll know why I was excited. The band are awesome. But then a couple of days before the gig some really bad news broke. Matt, the singer, had had a really serious accident whilst in Poland and was in hospital. Ape Up! obviously had to cancel the rest of the tour. But Prawn had made the decision to continue and play the remaining dates, which meant they were still coming to the UK, which meant that I was definitely gonna make the hour long drive to Folkestone to support them.

As there were only going to be 2 bands playing the sensible decision was made to put the bands on after the football had finished. England were playing Sweden in the Euro’s and sometimes it’s easier to not try and compete. It turned out to be a great move as the result, plus the disbelief that an England team could score a goal like they did for their third, added to the overall enjoyment of the night.

First up were local band Yes We Canada who played a short set of noisy punk with a big heap of pop for good measure. It was the first time I had ever seen the band and I really enjoyed their set and it seemed the rest of the crowd felt the same. A young band full of youthful energy is hard not to like and they had enough hooks and melody to back it up. Impressive stuff, even when they finished a song early because of a mistake it kind of added to their charm.

Then it was the turn of Prawn to take the stage. I’m a really big fan of Prawn, they play a classic, Low Level Owl (minus the weird bits) era Appleseed Cast type of emo and they do it well. A good crowd had started to assemble but there seemed to be problems. The power in the venue kept cutting out and time was getting on, it started to look like Prawn weren’t going to be able to play. Luckily they managed to sort the problems out, although not without having to sacrifice some effects pedals and a good chunk of their bass sound. The problems were later blamed on the wrong power converters given to them in Holland, that added to what had happened to Ape up! in Poland and Prawn were starting to take a dislike to some of Europe. Thankfully the goodwill of the crowd kept them positive enough to still entertain us with their beautiful songs. They opened with ‘At dawn we left’, the opening song from their full length, ‘You can just leave it all’, which still sounded gorgeous despite the lack of bass and distortion pedals. Maybe it was the added relief that they were actually playing which made Prawn sound all the more sweet. The only downside with their set was, due to the problems they had be encountering which meant that they started late, it was a bit too short. They only played 4 songs, which wasn’t their fault and was one more than they could have done with the threat of being chucked out by the venue after they had finished their second song. They sneaked in a fourth before accepting the fact they would have to stop, in their own words they didn’t want to be “punched in the face by some English bloke”. During the short set we were treated to a new song which sounded as consistent and great as their older stuff and they finished with ‘Arctic Foxes’ at the request of someone in the audience which went down a storm.

There was a great atmosphere in the venue that night and although the set was short Prawn still managed to blow me away. Short sets can sometimes be a blessing anyway, I hate bands that outstay their welcome and play for far too long, not that Prawn would have done that. A short, sharp set can be just what is needed, leave ’em wanting more as the old showbiz saying goes. I do hope they come back to the UK soon though. They still have a few dates left in Europe so go see them if you can.

And to Ape Up! I really hope all is ok and you manage to get safely home. I managed to speak to Roland from the band afterwards. He had stayed on with Prawn to do the merch and sell some Ape Up! stuff too. He was so super nice, sadly I had nothing with me to interview him so hopefully I’ll get to do that another way soon. He also gave great advice on size and colour when deciding what T-shirt to go for, a man of many talents.

Me (with full on geeky fanboy grin) and Roland after the show

Next up on the gig front is Joie De Vivre and Football, etc in Brighton this July, very very excited about this one. Some more reviews and other things will be posted soon. Thanks for reading xx

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Review: Daylight – The Difference In Good And Bad Dreams EP

Band – Daylight

EP – The difference in good and bad dreams

Label – Run For Cover Records

My first, actual, music purchase of 2012 is this, the new EP from Daylight. So, I could be cheeky and say that this is the best release of 2012 (which currently it technically is), or I could just be honest and say it’s rather bloody good, which it also is.

Daylight were one of the few bands that I got to see play live in 2011 when they visited our sunny seaside town of Margate on their UK tour with Hostage Calm. They were on great form that night so it’s a pleasure to get hold of some new material. ‘The difference in good and bad dreams’ is 4 tracks long, it is the bands third EP and is a precursor to a debut full length album which is expected later this year.

Building on the groundwork laid out on their previous EPs, this feels like a definite step forward. The sound is brilliant here, really thick and dirty guitars over a solid, galloping rhythm section. I’ve noticed elsewhere a lot of comparisons being made with Title Fight, which is understandable for the new wave of pop punk aspect but they are a lot darker than Title Fight. Although catchy and memorable, they songs have pain and misery seeping throughout the 4 songs. They also have elements of grunge to their sound, which has a similarity to Balance and Composure, but not in any obvious kind of way. Although it’s hard to describe how a grunge influence could be subtle, I suppose you could say that there is an essence of grunge. You could also describe it as an emo grunge but all this would do a disservice to what is a great EP.

‘The difference in good and bad dreams’ is a solid, personal, honest and exciting punk rock record which is passionately delivered. It powers through from the opening angst ridden song ‘On the way to Dads’, to the slower paced finisher ‘In my dreams’ staying intense all the way.

My appetite for a full length Daylight LP is now fully whetted, very exciting to think it may be here within the calendar year. Until then this will saty on heavy rotation. Daylight are touring throughout Europe in March and April, if you get the chance then go!!

You can buy the EP now as a digital download from the Run For Cover Bandcamp site, go there now by clicking HERE

As always, cheers guys.

Below is the video for ‘Damp’, the third track from the EP (check out how seriously awesome their drummers beard is!)

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Review: Four Year Strong – In Some Way, Shape, or Form

Band – Four Year Strong

Album – In Some Way Shape Or Form

Label – Universal republic

It must really, really suck to be Four Year Strong right now. How do you follow up an album like ‘Enemy of the World’? It is an unenviable task because that album is a classic. Pop punk perfection. The pressure is on for Four Year Strong to deliver big as they’ve already set the bar so high for themselves.

I knew there was gonna be a different direction to ‘In some way, shape, or form’, having read in interviews that they wanted to make a straight up ROCK album. They had also parted ways with keyboard player, Josh Lyford, as they no longer had room for a synth sound in the songs they were writing. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this album sounds so different. It shouldn’t, but it does.

The thing Four Year Strong always had in their favour was the fact that they knew how to write a good song. Fun, catchy as hell, fist pumping anthems. You can change sounds, directions and styles as a band but that can’t stop the fact you know how to rustle up a few hooks and killer melodies. Yet this album feels so bland. That is the surpise.

It takes getting to the third song to find something that vaguely reminds you of their talent for a tune, lead single ‘Stuck in the middle’ is probably the song that is most like previous output. But, even then, it probably wouldn’t have made it on to the last album ‘Enemy of the world’. At least the song is a bit of fun, something that is missing from the rest of the 12 songs that make up the record.

You used to be able to count on the fact that putting on a Four Year Strong album would get you in a good mood, both ‘Rise or die trying’ and ‘Enemy of the world’ could be used as a pick me up. But this is just depressing. Maybe it’s just the fact that i’m dissapointed, maybe the album is a grower. Although I have put off writing this review for over a week just so I could give it a fair chance. But each listen lead me to the same conclusion.

There just feels that there is no need for them to take this direction. They were an incredible pop punk band, but now a mediocre rock band. You are better off sticking on an old Foo Fighters record or listening to Biffy Clyro because they do it better. There are moments in the album that are best left forgotten. First song ‘The Infected’ has a breakdown moment towards the end that made me think “I wonder what happened to Dog Eat Dog??”. The start of ‘Heaven wasn’t built to hold me’ sounds so much like Paramore that it’s a shock not to hear Hayley Williams singing where the vocals come in. And the piano led closing song, ‘Only the meek get pinched, the bold survive’ is verging on Elton John territory. I didn’t sign up for this, hence the disappointment.

At least the album is recorded well, for a band taking on a more ROCK direction they’ve certainly achieved that in how the album sounds. The sound is big and thick, it blasts out of your speakers and as always Four Year Strong play fast and tight as a unit. If only they had backed this up with some good songs.

A few posts ago, I asked how many times can you forgive a band? The conclusion I came to was that you can forgive a bad album but not a second one. So that’s strike one. You get one more chance, Four Year Strong. I sincerley hope you take it. As always, though, your beards are awesome.

I am probably being a bit harsh. Let me know what you think about the new album. Cheers x

Click here to see the video for ‘Just drive’ from the album.

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Review: I Am The Avalanche – Avalanche United

Band – I Am The Avalanche

Album – Avalanche United

Label – I Surrender / Xtra Mile

Brooklyn’s finest, I Am The Avalanche are back!! This album has been a long time coming, six years in fact since their last album, and as Vinnie puts it on the opening track: “Holy fuck, things have changed”.

In my eyes things have definitely changed. I think punk, pop punk, emo and whatever other scenes that are associated are in a much healthier state now. There are a mass of bands out there producing quality new music, and people are consuming music in new and strange ways. So when a band have been gone for so long can they still prove to be relevant?

Well, I can answer that by saying HELL YES!!!
Avalanche United is an absolute triumph from start to finish.

For whatever reason I have been really into pop punk bands this year. Maybe it’s because I’m 31 trying to feel 19 again, or maybe it’s just that there are some really awesome pop punk bands out there right now. So you can understand how excited I was to finally get my hands on a copy of this new IATA full length.

I am very fond of the self titled debut album. My wife, Hannah, got me first into the Movielife and then subsequently in to IATA. the first album became her record of choice to listen to while she cooked, so whenever I hear it now, not only do I hear a succession of punk anthems I also hear her sweet voice singing along in my head and then my tummy rumbles, it’s a good feeling.

From the get-go ‘Avalanche United’ takes off and never looks back. It’s one of the most instantly likeable albums of this year, each song is catchy hit after hit of punk goodness, there are more hooks here than a fishing tackle shop. Songs like ‘Brooklyn Dodgers’, ‘Amsterdam’ and ‘Is this really happening?’ are so infectious you are already singing along with your arms in the air before the end of your first listen.

Frontman Vinnie Caruana sings about love, friendship, pride in where you are from and about good times. It’s an uplifting record. And it’s solid, I was surprised, in a very nice way, with how big the sound is, it’s huge. All the worries about whether after all this time they could still cut it were clearly unfounded. I Am The Avalanche are here to show other bands how it’s done, this is how you make a punk record in 2011. They are not breaking any new ground here but what does that matter? They’ve taken their classic sound and made a classic album with it.

The band have obviously not been sitting idle for six years. They have been on tour after tour playing with bands like Bayside, No use for a name and Four Year Strong. During this time they had been playing and demoing songs like ‘Brooklyn Dodgers’, a monster of a song. So it’s amazing how fresh the album sounds. The songs have done well out of the time it’s taken to get the album together. They are tight, precise with not a duff note or rushed moment between them.

And Vinnie is one of the nicest guys. We hung around after a Movielife show back in 2003 at the LA2 in London and Vinnie came out to chat to us and the other fans who’d stuck around. It was awesome. He even posed for a photo with Hannah and her brother, Zander. I don’t know if it shows (much!!) but Hannah was pretty damn excited to be in the picture

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All in all and to reiterate, I Am The Avalanche have delivered the best pop punk album of this year. It’s gonna have permanent residence in my cd player for quite some time, I can tell you.
They are about to tour the UK with the great Hostage Calm, I ain’t gonna be able to go because of my stupid back so I’m am hoping that they will be back. If you get to see them let me know how awesome it was either here or on twitter (@alextb3).

Cheers again xx

Click here to go to their myspace page and have a listen

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Review: Transit – Listen & Forgive

Band: Transit

Album: Listen & Forgive

Label: Rise records

I feel like i’m being completely spoilt at the moment. Every week there seems to be a wrath of new albums to gorge on, so much so i’m finding it difficult to keep up. Top of the pile for me, currently, are Transit. If I didn’t know better i’d think that Transit exist purely to make me happy. They play music so appropriate to my taste that i’m convinced that at any moment I could wake up to realise they were nothing more than a perfect dream. I am a massive fan of Transit’s previous album ‘Keep this to yourself’, I think that its the quintessential pop punk album full of songs that Taking Back Sunday can only wish they were still capable of writing. But ‘Listen & Forgive’ is a step up. Transit have taken the late 90’s emo sound, dusted it off, mixed in their pop punk but now with added pop sensibilities. It’s an album so insanely catchy that you find yourself already singing along on your second listen. Every track is an immediate standout. The opening song ‘You can’t miss it (it’s everywhere) hits the ground running, The infectious up tempo beat grabs you by the lapels and forces you to climb on board. The guitar sound is so warm, lush and almost understated it gives the album an incredible glow. Combine that with the personal poetry of the lyrics and the memorable vocal melodies you get something very special. The record flows from track to track seamlessly. Using influences from several bands but never in an obvious way. Title track ‘Listen & forgive’ is a pop gem reminiscent of ‘Mass pike’ by Get up kids, there can be found elements of Braid and American Football in various places, ‘I think I know you’ has more of an indie sound and ‘Don’t make a sound’ reminds me of Maritime at their catchiest best.

I really hope ‘Listen & Forgive’ doesn’t alienate any of the fans from their earlier output. I can’t see how it could, the sound may be more accomplished but it’s still very much Transit. This is definitely a highlight in a year full of potentially classic albums. As the title suggests Listen! As for Forgive, Transit you ain’t got nothing to apologise for.

Perfect for: Soundtracking these autumn months.

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