For as much as I love me some straightforward pop-punk like Broadway Calls or The Swellers, God help me, I just can't deny a good hook when I hear one.
For instance, I would personally score Nothing Personal around a 75% or so: fluffy, empty-headed, but still full of pleasant melodies ("Break Your Little Heart" and "Sick Little Games" are big-time guilty pleasures).
For my money, Broadway Calls recorded the best pop-punk album of the year. Set Your Goals is another choice favorite; New Found Glory recorded a fun record, and if the demos reveal anything, The Swellers will be up there with a hell of a follow-up to My Everest.
But come September 1st, one of the bigger surprises for me is Farewell's Run It Up the Flagpole. I received this album a few weeks back, and after a few occasional spins, it hit me how good this record is. As a follow-up to Isn't This Supposed to Be Fun, it kicks that record's ass. Sure, there's no "Zelda," but it has plenty of boisterous tunes that deliver a spoonful of sugar without the gut rot.
It's very heavy on the pop element of the pop-punk formula, but it doesn't come across as cliche or cookie-cutter in the way we've seen with so many scene bands. The lyrics are quite fun, the hooks come fast and it's just a carefree dose of pop-punk that actually sticks its nose up at the current trends.
All 11 tracks are just out of this world catchy, and while I won't call this the best pop-punk disc of 2009, it's up there. Been listening to it a lot between Thrice (oddly enough), so I'm earning a nice dose of seriousness and summer fun.
Had the chance to indulge in many advances lately (although a couple have leaked and a few more I have reviews for this Sunday/Monday/Tuesday, which are not mentioned here), so I figured I'd jot down my initial feelings on these albums. In case you're wondering. I hope I can score some more sweet advances down the road soon. I'm not Jason Tate or Drew Beringer or even a Julia Conny... but I am striving to be! Maybe if I wear something revealing, labels/bands will fork them over to me... not because of my professionalism, but because of my sex appeal. I am very superficial, FYI.
We Shot the Moon - A Silver Lining: Lush piano rock that's a little bit orchestral and heavy on melody. The perfect kind of music for the fall season, this will likely be a big sleeper hit for pop music fans. Won't be available until this fall, but anyone who digs piano-based rock or anything Jonathan Jones has done... you'll love this to pieces. Dare I say it's better than Fear and Love? I just might.
The Used - Artwork: Like going from super-intelligent humans to monkeys who get excited every time they see their hand move, The Used have gone from being one of the top bands to a sludgy Aiden-like dinosaur of uncreative & dull cock rock. Maybe dumping Feldmann for Squire was a mistake, because the only worthwhile song off this travesty is the first single. Rummaging through the other tracks is simply a waste of time.
Nightmare of You - Infomaniac: Despite the fact this already leaked awhile ago, it's not officially coming out for a few more weeks. I am still a huge fan of this band's self-titled debut, so while this one fails to stack up to it, I still like it a great deal. It does have some boring moments and it's darker in many places, but since it is so different... I guess that's why I enjoy it. Been getting mixed reviews from people, and I can't say it will be a Top 25-er, but every so often, it will be a nice alternative to the jauntier spirit of the debut.
fun. - Aim and Ignite: Yes, this is one more confirmation that Nate Ruess (The Format) is a phenomenal creator of pop music. In 2006, Dog Problems was not only my favorite album to be released, but also one of my favorite pop records in the last ten years. Aim and Ignite is no different, combining everything we miss about the Format with everything we love about Steel Train. Perfect summer music, and easily one of the better pop releases in years.
Farewell - Run it Up the Flagpole: That old-school '90's pop-punk sound has not died just yet, I promise you. Despite people claiming All Time Low are the ones doing it... well, frankly, that isn't true. Farewell obliterate their debut with this album (dropping Sept. 1st), and really make up for all the Warped Tour "pop-punk" that's been cluttering the record store shelves for the past couple years. This isn't an album I was expecting to enjoy this much, but for any pop-punk enthusiast, you might be surprised by this one.
Chuck Ragan - Gold Country: Eric's review hit the nail on the head, as this album is an exceptional piece of honest folk music from a very well-respected musician. It doesn't top Feast or Famine, but this album really knocks it out of the park. Top singer-songwriter record of the year for me. I'm waiting for Ragan to make this generation's Nebraska. I know he has it in him.
Broadway Calls - Good Views, Bad News: As previously mentioned, this is going to be the go-to pop-punk/punk rock record to go to. Hey, I love me some Set Your Goals and all, but while that album gathers loads of praise, this sneaky devil will slowly pull people in through word of mouth (hopefully I can be the main spout). Tons of energy, lots of moxie, and plenty of thoroughly enjoyable fun, Broadway Calls is my band to keep an eye out for this year.
Other releases I am stoked for, but have yet to grab an advance of are: Third Eye Blind, Relient K, Mute Math, Thrice, The Swellers, Strike Anywhere, Brand New, AFI, Moneen, Pearl Jam, Muse and Every Time I Die.
Also, expect me to talk about Broadway Calls and The Swellers a lot. I plan on promoting the hell out of these bands, because they deserve it. There are a few others bands I want people to latch onto as well, but those two are my main focuses because, well, I love their music and what they do.
He not only recorded Thriller and Off the Wall, but he was an icon of legendary status that will never be achieved by any other musician again.
For all the shit we've given him throughout the years since he started his fascination with plastic surgery, loving children (to whatever extent) and dangling babies off balconies, the self-proclaimed King of Pop was untouchable. Despite all his humiliations, I commend his vast achievements and what he did for pop music in general.
Remember -- he made Thriller, the best-selling album of all-time. An album that will forever hold that title, an album everybody knows. Think about this for a moment: Michael Jackson is a name and an individual every person knows. No matter where you live, who you are -- every single person knows this man and his music.
Jackson 5, Off the Wall, Thriller, Moonwalk, the Glove, Bad -- FREE WILLY! C'mon, we could all go on and on.
The reason I'm taking this moment to reflect is because I love music, particularly the popular music that has brought us to this point. Whenever I hear modern-day popular music, I am torn and disappointed that we will never have someone like Michael Jackson, a man who crossed over genres and reached out to every fan of music, sold ridiculous amounts of albums, and in general, paved a very big path for future musicians. Who comes closest these days? Usher? That's about it -- and he doesn't even touch the base of the mountain that the King conquered long ago.
No matter what your feelings on his personal life, go back and enjoy the music the man created. It still holds value and continues to be a constant in our lives. He did for popular music and R&B what the Beatles did for popular music and rock. He was not only a pioneer and an icon, but a man of immense talent and someone who continues to speak to music fans everywhere.
That's saying something.
I was not alive when John Lennon was shot, but I imagine this echos that day. He will be missed, forever and always. Now, with all due respect, beat it. Rest in peace, Mr. Jackson.
I think I have a problem. I'm starting to buy vinyl nearly every time I leave the house haha
No problem with loving something awesome, amirite?! Okay, enough of me trying to be all Blake Solomon-y over here. Just peep the new additions - one of which my cat thought would be fun to start clawing ... thankfully he didn't do too much damage. Or he would be dead.
Stick around -- I have a bunch more arriving this week: some more classic stuff and the start of my punk selections (thank you Fat Wreck for $10 LPs)! Wait until pay day arrives -- I'm gonna blow my wad haha. It's my new favorite hobby for a pretty lax summer in rural Washington.
By my count, I have 10 upcoming reviews on my pallet... reviews I thought I'd have up by now. To be honest, I have most of them halfway written - I am just at a standstill, currently suffering from a bad case of writer's block. You all know how it goes - after a few weeks, putting all my time and energy into schoolwork, you simply run out of any fresh material you feel is worth sharing. Sure, I'd say 50% of these will be "once-overs," but I am picky about what I publish for the public - so if I am not feeling it, I won't bother.
Anyway, figured I'd say that in written form so I feel better about my current whereabouts/status on the site. I guess a couple of these upcoming reviews don't need to be posted anytime soon (for as-yet-to-be released albums), but I still have a racking sense of guilt on my conscience. I just love my job here too much, and I've neglected it for far too long now.
In case you are interested... here's what albums I need to finish:
Half Hearted Hero
High Five Drive
The Van Buren Boys
House of Heroes
Not to mention...
This is a Standoff
Our Lady Peace
Yeah, some of these are for small, up-and-coming bands so they might be pretty short -- there's only so much you can say, really. But some will get my magic touch. I actually really like Our Lady Peace and Sugar Ray's offerings this summer. Broadway Calls continues to sound better with every listen, and I fully endorse High Five Drive, Anchor Down and Half Hearted Hero. Stay tuned I guess -- you never know when I'll throw down.
Picked up some new vinyl the past week. Probably gonna post a summary of my recent additions to my ever-growing collection. I'm currently on the lookout for some speakers in good condition so I can play these over 4th of July weekend.
Stay well, AP Faithful. Who loves ya baby? This guy does.
Oh, and P.S. Look what I received in the mail earlier this week.
Spent a good deal of time today with the upcoming Broadway Calls release, Good Views, Bad News. It doesn't come out until August 18th, but for those of you who (like me) loved the self-titled record, their split with Teenage Bottlerocket and the first EP... this is a worthy adversary that might be one of the big sleeper releases of 2009. More polished with a bigger budget in control, but it doesn't keep this album from shining.
Lots of good energy, big hooks and an electricity that flows into your entire system. I didn't expect this to top the self-titled disc, but it might be able to. Really solid from start to finish, and doesn't overstay its welcome (only 34 minutes long).
In a summer full of pop-punk records bound to grab a majority of interest (Set Your Goals, All Time Low), it's good to have that alternative go-to record not too many people are expecting. What a bright little ray of sunshine to have in your summer music collection.
SideOneDummy did a good thing in signing these Oregonians. I might even say that SideOneDummy is the best label at the moment. Look what their bands keep putting out! Quality shit, man! Anti-Flag, Fake Problems, Broadway Calls, The Gaslight Anthem -- they are every punk rock fan's Drive-Thru Records circa 2001 at this present time. Plus, the band is also signed to Adeline Records, co-owned by Billie Joe Armstrong. Not too shabby.
Let's just hope SideOneDummy can keep it up without any backwalking shenanigans. Yeesh.
One day after I start up a new hobby of collecting vinyl, I find a ton more old CDs to trade in for more vinyl classics! Look at me - even when I am sick, I am determined to be greedy!
I managed to score 12 more classics (to me, at least) for my collection. Not too shabby, considering I found a near-mint condition copy of my favorite Bruce Springsteen record. Might browse eBay for some vinyl deals here soon, considering I get paid Friday. Kind of a fun hobby, ya know? I'm such a popular music nerd, so it's quite a treat for me. Anyway, here's all what I got. Might have to have some fun later on and go into depth on why I think these records are worth owning. Sorry they aren't modern or anything... I'm in an oldies mood lately, I guess.
We have a great little used record store here in Ellensburg, and on my first day of summer, and first day without most of my fellow students in the area, I took my favorite gal to this place for some trade-in fun. It's great -- I trade in some old books, video games, movies, CDs ... I get store credit ... and then I get to pick up whatever the hell I feel like. I had about $200 in store credit, so I let Sarah pick out a couple DVDs for cheap, and I fished through the extensive vinyl record stock they have piled up. Imagine, first edition press copies of classic pop and rock albums for dirt cheap. Heavenly!
Since I don't normally colelct vinyl, I thought it would be cool for a guy like me -- who has a vast appreciation and love for classic pop and rock -- to start getting some of my personal favorites to add to my collection. My folks own an old 45 I can use to play these puppies, so unless I find a great player at Goodwill, that will do the trick. I have my mom's original copy of Sgt. Pepper sitting at home, too -- need to get that in my library ASAP!
Here's what I managed to scoop up. If you've never given these gems a listen, do so. Your life will benefit greatly from some of these popular classics.
I haven't been around here for awhile, so in case anyone is wondering, "What the hell ever happened to that loud-mouthed poopface who dishes out piss-poor reviews and makes n00bs angry?" Well... I am happy to say I am still very much alive.
The last couple weeks of school have been catastrophic, and have left me pretty drained. All my attention in terms of writing has been devoted to papers, scripts, etc. I have also been working more recently due to the fact that people keep quitting or getting canned.
Anyway, this week is my first official week off before summer courses begin. Thankfully, it's only for 6 weeks and both classes are online. No big threat there. I will be working much more, maybe hanging out with friends more often after we're done... but I am coming back strong this week. My goal is to complete every review on my plate (around 8 or 9) -- and many are halfway done or unorganized thoughts... so not too much left to do. 311, Sugar Ray, some unsigned bands, Half Hearted Hero, a unique idea I have for both House of Heroes EPs... all kinds of goodies.
I will also finish up my summary/analysis of Green Day. I'm sure some clown will try to knock me for it, but I enjoy lighting fires under people here. Sometimes, it's all so personal, ya know?
That's my update for now. I feel like I have been gone for ages... and to think it's only been a few weeks since that disastrous New Again fiasco. New day, my friends... new day.
Go see Up and The Hangover. Go listen to Eddie Money. Go enjoy some Domino's pasta bowls. The end.
Hey, it's my one year anniversary of being a staff member. Cliche to say this, but damn time flies by. I still feel like the new kid.
Despite all my cynicism and overzealous review scores or unfavorably low scores... God bless us everyone! I love being here. Thank you to all staff and those members who continue to support my work here -- it does mean a lot, even if I don't say it often.
In an effort to heighten the overall meaning of the story taking place on Green Day's latest album, I have taken it upon myself to try and do my best at giving you -- the casual listener -- an interpretation of what I believe to be the overall storyline present on 21st Century Breakdown.Agree with me or not, let me know if you have any ideas to go along with my own or even dismiss them entirely! It's all speculation anyway, and besides... it's just for fun.
This is my own personal interpretation of the story Green Day presents on 21st Century Breakdown. It's quite long, but I think I have it pretty figured out, so before I run through each song, let's go over a few key elements to understanding this tale:
- Each act is a separate narrative that divides up the main plot points of the story.
- The two main characters are Christian & Gloria.
Now, Gloria is referred to as a "hurricane" a few times, perhaps in reference to the 1985 "Storm of the Century" Hurricane Gloria. It would make sense her name refers to this as she is regarded as an unstoppable force -- who is eventually brought down by her own inner demons (more on that later) -- and the hymn Christian sings to her over the radio is entitled "Song of the Century." This also ties into the fact that she is the new "Storm of the Century" as the tale takes place in the development of a new era. She could also be named after feminist protester Gloria Steinem, a woman who took it upon herself to stand up for female equality in the 1960's and 1970's.
Christian is obviously an allegory for a Christ-like hero and contains some elements of Caesar, since the story incorporates the fall of the Roman Empire as a metaphor for this record's telling of a modern-day America crumbling down. Christian also closely resembles the main protagonist of John Bunyan's novel, "The Pilgrim's Progress," which tells an allegorical tale of a man aspiring to earn his rights to go to Heaven (from his sinful "City of Destruction" to the "Celestial City" (aka Heaven). There are many religious references here about a troubled young man who desires to reach the Promised Land, and by the end, eventually yearns to "see the light," after crossing a river he obviously mocked earlier in "East Jesus Nowhere." This is a references to the practice of Baptism, a rebirth of sorts that would ultimately lead Christian into an entirely new, optimistic life.
There is only one reference in "East Jesus Nowhere" to the "dogs," a group of uncivilized, uneducated soldiers who are struggling to create order in a time where no one believes structure is necessary. These "dogs" are likely referencing former President Bush's regime, forcing religion upon people who refuse to listen and acting like animals by ruthlessly abusing power. By the time "21 Guns" comes on, they are asked to cease fire and be honorable men.
Now, onto the songs...
1. "Song of the Century": Coming through a static radio broadcast, this intro may seem pointless, but it foreshadows to later events. The speaker is Christian, singing a hymn out to Gloria before trying to move on and start a new life of hope & prosperity. Some of the subtle clues here are Christian referencing Gloria as someone who had a voice in the community and started a war that cannot be won, asking her to "sing us a song for me." This key line is explicitly giving us an idea of who Gloria is, which we will find out in a moment.
Act I: Heroes and Cons -- my guess is the heroes and cons are one in the same, meaning the ones who were supposed to be our heroes fooled us and left us for dead.
2. "21st Century Breakdown": The title track sets it all up for us. Sung from the point of view of a casual bystander, it's referencing several famous anthems from over the years and telling the story of an outsider with desires to escape an already-failing world. Essentially, the writing was on the wall, and there was ultimately no chance for a new horizon. After all the struggles of trying to remain positive and be a good, hard-working man, by the end, the speaker breaks down and confesses that despite the presence of faith ("I sat in the waiting room wasting my time / And waiting for Judgment Day"), hope never came. It left people helpless and losing their belief in God, as the ones they trusted (their government) destroyed it all ("I praise Liberty / And freedom to obey"). Pay close attention -- "freedom to obey," meaning it's a privilege and a right.
3. "Know Your Enemy": With the world now in panic, somebody needs to stand tall and speak for the group looking for answers. The rally cry is sung from Gloria's perspective, asking people if they know who they should blame. "Do you know your enemy? / Gotta know your enemy!" she cries, insisting that "violence is the energy." "Revolt against the honor to obey" -- there's a twist on the aforementioned line, with one key word replaced. It's evident that these protesters have pride, and are simply angry as hell. Raging mad and passionate, these words are something that Gloria will later come to regret as her message is heeded by nearly everyone. Notice the common theme of fire references and the classic spirit of revolution. More religious references come up here: "Blood's been sacrificed."
4. "Viva la Gloria": Here is where we begin to understand why Gloria is the ringleader. In the deluxe booklet, there is a large painting of Gloria with an American flag bandanna over her face, symbolizing her protest to revive the old, classic America we know & love (on the title track, we realize this is the desire through the speaker's proclamation of being ignored despite holding the ideals of working class America). Sung by Christian, the song starts out with a slow piano ballad, as if Christian already sees he and Gloria share something special. Standing atop the edge of a building overlooking the broken landscape, Christian is fearful she is going to jump. He pleads with her to look at his own hands to show that he has been through a great deal himself and that their war has just begun. "Your slogan's a gun for hire / It's what we've waited for," he says, leading us to believe that she is a savior of sorts, the leader of a new world. Again, referencing the presence of faith, it's obvious Christian is a faithful individual who sees a great spirit in Gloria, and admires her courage. The song then moves into its heart: Christian calling out Gloria's name; listing that she spray paints her names across the walls (trying to spread her message through guerrilla tactics). It's apparent throughout the song that Gloria is out trying to spread her message, with Christian wondering where she actually is (he sees evidence of her, just not Gloria herself). The song passes through months of time, with Christian pleading she keep at it, not to "lose [her] faith to [her] lost naivete." By the end, Christian is still screaming out to her, and we sees signs that some other figure is still ruling the nation (...last November, when your banners were burning down") and that the use of light is a key communicative tool between the two now-separated lovers. Like with every other song here, the last lyric is a key line that ties into the next song ("Tell me the story of your life...").
5. "Before the Lobotomy": Gloria has been captured and taken by some unknown group. We will find out later that while it sounds like she was caught unwillingly, she actually surrendered herself. As the slow acoustic intro starts, we are in the middle of Gloria's "dream," looking back on her previous life as a young girl. She feels as if it were so long ago in a different time, that it never actually happened. It turns out Gloria had a lobotomy, to remove the part of her brain from caused all her pain, misery and acting out, essentially turning her into a vegetable. Unhappy and uncomfortable with her turn as a prophet of sorts, she had the surgery to prevent herself from remembering such hostile and violent times (more on this on "Restless Heart Syndrome," where this is all cleared up). While in love with Christian, she "sign[s] [her] love a lost memory." She even goes on to say Christian's faith has been "sold" to him, and that the rest are "normal and self-controlled," that he acts on the words from another faceless person from on high (more reasons as to why this ties in with Bunyan's novel). Despite all this, Gloria feels happier that she (apparently) chose this for herself. The reason as to why this is unclear in the beginning is mainly due to Christian's reaction, which evolves the rest of the album. Pay attention to the last line: "Songs of yesterday now live in the underground..."
6. "Christian's Inferno": Pretty straightforward one here. Christian receives news of Gloria's death and takes it badly, assuming someone else did this to her. He confesses he fell "under the grip of this modern hell," and lashes out by exclaiming fire pours through his veins and is ready to start "pouring out like a flood." Feeling more alive than ever, Christian begins denying his faith in God and says he is now "the chosen one," and continues to say he will devolve the current state of man from "man to ape."
7. "Last Night on Earth": After his brutal outrage, Christian takes a moment to sing to Gloria. Again, he mentions light, and how it will be their one means of communication throughout the story. He explains that he'd been living a relatively normal life before finding Gloria, and realizing she was why he'd been living all along. We get a glimpse of the new side of Christian's insecurities here, mentioning "so if you dare to second guess," which is his way of letting people know he sticks to his opinions -- and you better believe him (this will come up on the next track). Christian admits he's risking it all for Gloria, to keep her memory alive, but that his "beating heart belongs" to her -- and his motive is clear.
This takes longer than you think, so don't worry -- Act II explanation coming soon!
I was planning on posting my review for New Again this morning (Friday) ... but I still don't know what exactly to say. The album is just so mediocre, I seem to be having difficulty finding the words to match. I still passionately hate two songs, and strongly dislike one. The others I'm either "meh" on or like a decent amount. Nothing is spectacular here, and that's never a good sign. I haven't listened to the album all day, and honestly, I barely remember most of it. It's all a bit of a blur. After five very intent listening sessions, that is not a good sign at all.
Think I'll hold off until Monday or Tuesday, since it's gotta be a good one -- after all, this is going to be another big'un. Oh, and I am proud to say I was right -- Green Day is now my most viewed review. What what!
In the meantime, think I'll finish and post some smaller band reviews for tomorrow. Not sure if anyone gives a shit... I just felt like sharing. I am going to go watch The Wrestler now.
When the sun is out or it's a beautiful night out, this is the album I like to throw on.
It is pure pop but has a simplicity to it that I really enjoy when it's a sunny day. Easy to sing along with, somewhat nostalgic, well-produced. Sometimes, a dose of simple pop music is just the perfect antidote.
Wow, in only four days, my review for 21st Century Breakdown is currently my second most-read review. Rise Against holds the top spot with a little over 13,000 page views -- but it earned those in much less time. I have a feeling at the end of the week, Green Day will surpass that.
Pretty cool, since I've never had a review as widely-read as some people (Tony, in particular) here. When you look at the most popular reviews here, mine aren't up there -- so unless I write a review trashing a band highly-praised by most users here (All Time Low and Taking Back Sunday do have albums coming out soon, ya know), I am knocking on wood that Green Day can do it for me.
I have a bunch of reviews that will be posted this next week once my homework palette clears, none that are bands anywhere near Green Day's stature (most are unsigned or lesser-known punk bands). I am debating reviewing Taking Back Sunday, since I only had one "major" review for May. I'd like to take on another challenge, and New Again would provide that. Not sure yet. That could potentially be a biggie... hmm.
Anyway, as the quarter winds down, more reviews are bound to be posted. It will be my one year staff anniversary next week, and I have just begun, AP Faithful.