Category Archives: Reviews

Strange Homes [Review]

Strange Homes - Mallory

If you carry on following this blog, you’ll notice a few reoccurring themes. One of which is that I fucking love punks with banjos/mandolins/accordions. Seriously, recommend a band like that and there’s a 99.9%* chance I’ll like them. What can I say? I’m set in my ways…

So, that said, it’s not entirely surprising that when I stumbled over this album, I knew about 6 seconds into opening track ‘The House You Were Raised In’ that I was going to enjoy it. The track features guest vocals from Sofia Albam, who also plays in Sons Of  An Illustrious Father (who you should also check out and I will most likely review soon, see: http://www.myspace.com/sonsofanillustriousfather ). Throughout the album there’s fantastic use of vocal harmonies, or, to use more punx terminology, gang vocals.

The lyrics are spot on in terms of balancing and combining the political and personal, which is refreshing, because as much as I love a protest song, they can sometimes feel more like being shouted at than something to relate to.  The overall charm of the band means that they get away with recycling certain lyrical conventions of the genre (burning buildings, pipe bombs, hopping trains, I’m sure coffee must be in there somewhere) without coming across as a parody of a folk punk band. Clichés aside, the vast proportion of the lyrics are interesting enough to be worth trying to decipher, even in the parts where they get slightly overshadowed by the general musical chaos. Musical chaos meant in the best possible way!

Although the album is undeniably catchy and sing-a-long-worthy while you’re listening to it, I found that it took a few listens before any hooks jumped out as memorable, but I think that’s actually a good thing and stops the album seeming shallow. My main criticism is that there could be more variation between songs, but from what I gather the band are all pretty young and haven’t been together that long, so I’d assume that with time there’ll be greater experimentation, and possibly more variation in sound.

Overall, a really promising album from a band with a great amount of talent, and great ethics to match, who are definitely worth supporting. You can download the album (and everything else they’ve produced) for free at:

http://malloryband.org

http://www.myspace.com/mallorytheband

*It’s not 100% because I wasn’t sure if Against Me! had ever used said instruments, and didn’t want to take that risk.

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Adults!!!…Smart!!! Shithammered!!! And Excited By Nothing!!!!!!! [Review]

Adults!!!...Smart!!! Shithammered!!! And Excited By Nothing!!! - Bomb the Music Industry!

I actually only found out about this EP a couple of days ago, because I went on the Bomb The Music Industry! website because I was gonna use them as an example for the anti-copyright post. Anyway, I didn’t, so now I’m just going to review it.

I have a bit of a weird relationship with BTMI!, mainly that I love about 20% of their stuff, but think the rest of it is pretty meh. Not sure how that happens but there you go. This EP was no exception, which when there’s only 7 songs on the whole thing is a bit unfortunate. The first song ‘You Still Believe In Me?’ pretty much sounds like Generic BTMI! Song 101. Not bad, but nothing special. ‘Planning My Death’ is a livelier ska punk number, nice brass section, but drags on a bit (at 1 minute 57)…

Quite enjoyed ‘Slumlord’, but it made me realise the other thing I feel this record is lacking, compared to some of the earlier stuff, which is genuinely witty lyrics. I appreciate the sentiment of ‘All Ages Shows’…but I got bored. I have nothing to say about ‘Big Ending’ except that it made me want to turn off my computer. Now for some positivity (not in a Good Clean Fun way..)! In general I’m not fond of the overly catchy chorus, it’s sort of the lowest common musical denominator. But, after what felt like an endless sludge of trumpets/synths/shouting that I’d sort of stopped paying attention to, ‘The First Time I Met Sanawon’ was a welcome break, and is by far my favourite song on the EP. NO FLAKING NO LEAVING!  Quite enjoyed the epic-ness of the closer, ‘Struggler’, but it’s not amazing…

I would like to say that I have a lot of respect for Bomb The Music Industry!/Jeff Rosenstock in general, in terms of ethics and making bizarre unclassifiable music in a scene which has a tendency to repeat itself. The EP (and every other BTMI! album) can be downloaded for free on http://www.bombthemusicindustry.com

Oh, and here’s a lot of people who disagree with me… http://www.sputnikmusic.com/soundoff.php?albumid=47722

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Goodbye To The Rank and File [Review]

Goodbye To The Rank And File - Casey Neill & The Norway Rats

It should be noted first off that I’m writing this review almost a month since I first heard this record. In this case, I think that’s a very good thing. It should also be noted, that this was the first record that I’d been really excited about for a long time. That said, it’s probably not surprising that when I first heard it, I was a bit disappointed. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t have the raging Earth First! protest songs of his early work, or the more subtle bluegrass influences of the Casey Neill Trio era. But I persisted, because I really wanted to like it, and now I’m glad I did.

It’s now one of my favourite records of this year so far. Beautifully crafted folk/rock songs of letting go, leaving, and looking back. Part of me does miss the political aspect to his earlier work, but at the same time, I’m glad he hasn’t just rewrote Dancing On The Ruins Of Multinational Corporations for the past 15(?) years. The different progressions and phases, and ability to reinvent himself without forgetting his roots is one of the things that makes Neill such an incredible artist.  From his words on ‘Guttered’: “Me I still cling to the things that once fueled us/ In on The Kill Taker, Cometbus & Unrest” it’s obvious that Neill isn’t afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve. Which brings us neatly on to another song off the record, ‘She Floated Away’. Covers are never easy, and I really wasn’t expecting to be impressed by this, simply because the Husker Du version is one of my favourite songs ever. However, this version pays tribute, while still changing it enough to be interesting. I’ve always thought the Husker version sounded like a folk song, so in some ways I think it could have been taken further, but still definitely a nice addition to the record.

As it is now, there’s only two songs that my opinion hasn’t really changed on since I first heard the record, ‘Radio Montana’ and ‘When I Came To You’. ‘Radio Montana’ is a new version of a song on the earlier Casey Neill record, ‘Memory Against Forgetting’. To put it simply, I just don’t think it’s as good, it overcomplicates it and doesn’t leave as much room for his voice to shine. ‘When I Came To You’, just really doesn’t do it for me. I’m not sure the duel Casey Neill/Little Sue (I think) vocals quite work together, and it just doesn’t feel as emotionally deep as the rest of the record, but that might just be me.

However, this is easily outweighed by the splendours of ‘Ouroboros’, ‘Idyll’, and my personal favourite, ‘When The World Was Young’. The nostalgic tone is perfect, with lyrics such as “What ever happened to those who swore they’d never stray?/There’s an undercurrent of dirt and stain no shine can wash away…”. I could basically quote that whole song, but it doesn’t mean anything without Neill’s rich voice, or the excellent backing of the Norway Rats.

So yeah, since this record came out just under a month ago, I’ve listened to it while bunking my last ever day of school, waiting for nightbuses in the rain, cycling home as the sun rose, and, yeah, basically non-stop. Perfect soundtrack to all of the above, and more! It takes a few listens, but I promise this is an album well worth persisting with. It’s available now, from In Music We Trust Records and various other places!

http://www.caseyneill.org/

http://www.myspace.com/caseyneill

http://www.inmusicwetrust.com/

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