Distorted reviews - ??/04/03.
Gatlin - Current (Hardcore Marketing)
Every year in America, there are hundreds of bands writing songs, playing shows and putting records out on independent labels. They are all trying for the same target; to be able to make a living out of something they love doing. They either hope to build up a strong grassroots following or else explode onto the mainstream from out of nowhere. A small minority of these bands actually do make it big; they secure a record deal and get an album out. They get away from playing the toilet circuit and start headlining their own shows in bigger venues. Unfortunately for themselves, Gatlin aren't on this road. For them, I think, it's going to be more a case of playing support to the big boys. For a very long time.
Gatlin's sound, while polished and finely produced, is your typical, middle of the road American rock. You know the type - boring, soulless guitar rock, the sounds you're more likely to hear on Jenny Jones than MTV2. One such example is 'Only I'. In the hands of a band such as The Beautiful Mistake or Finch this song would be a full on alternative, rock anthem. Here it's simply classic Puddle of Mudd (in case you're wondering, that's not a good thing). As if the heinous crime of sounding like Puddle of Shite wasn't bad enough, Gatlin still write songs that any band that's been together more than six months would turn their noses up at, even though this is their third album length release! Get them out of my sight, now.
Sugarcult - Start Static (Epitaph)
Sugarcult are definitely not going to be for everyone. Their brand of bubblegum punk is probably going to divide opinions very sharply and quickly. I've already heard cries of how terrible they are and, at times, there's no denying that they are. But then they have these little moments where they shine. They are going to be one of those bands that most music fans hate, but have that one song that's alright. That one song that you try to hate, but find yourself secretly loving because it's so catchy that you've got to like it, even though you think the band are the absolute pits.
In Sugarcult's case, they've got about three of those songs, one being the lead off single, 'Pretty girl (the way)'. It's one of those infectious little bastards of a song that you find yourself humming all day. You think it's harmless enough, then that spiky-haired chorus sideswipes you and it's in your head. 'I changed my name' is less of a hitter, more of a lullaby, strangely like The Eels, but still a good song. Now for the bad news.
Where Sugarcult let themselves down is when they pretend to be Green Day. They do this a hell of lot of the time and, to tell you the truth, it's fierce fucking annoying. Riffs that were great on the classic "Dookie" seem to be resurrected every few weeks lately. It's time a stop was put to this. 'Daddy's little defect' is a total waste of a song, straight from the Billy Joe Armstrong school of day-glow punk, right down to the snotty singing and the swinging tom-tom drumming. It's what seems to be popular at the moment, but only 'cause the kids don't know any better. If it's real punk music you want then check out The US Bombs album instead.
The US Bombs - Covert Action (Hellcat)
This is old-fashioned punk straight from the streets. There's nothing fancy here. It's pure anti-establishment hatred, spat back at the US government with guitars thrown in for good measure. Everything about The US Bombs screams punk. Just by listening to their album, you can imagine them all decked out in their torn denim, gobbing at the audience with their mohawks and guitars flying everywhere. There's nothing sweet or nice about this. It's like a sewer rat, crawling with disease and lice, and it's here to tear down the establishment. Whether it's the blatant outright attack on the US government's supposed involvement in the Oklahoma bombing ('Framed') or their claim that the mob would be better off running the country ('John Gotti'). The US Bombs are not leaving until they have you converted or else beaten up and left in stitches. "Covert action" is the sound of a band that is very angry with the state of affairs in their country. It's loud, it's angry, it's dirty, it's raw, it's true punk.
The Early November - For all of this (Drive-thru Records)
It's an interesting time in the post-hardcore scene at the moment with bands such as Finch, The Movielife and The Beautiful Mistake releasing great albums and thus raising the bar. What's great is that other bands in the scene have taken note and are following suit, refusing to simply rehash the same old clichés that have dogged the scene. The lesser bands are being left behind and the rest are really turning this into a suddenly exciting genre (more At The Drive-In and Glassjaw, less Jimmy Eat World).
The Early November's "For all of this", while not a groundbreaking or landmark album, is a stunning release. The band's use of dynamics brings At The Drive-In to mind on "Relationship of command". The use of light and dark is excellent, emphasised by the clean, almost whispered vocals set over distorted guitar lines. 'I want to hear you sad' is emotionally charged, driven by a powerful drum pattern. The soft verse gives way to a staggered and multi-vocal build up.
'All you ever needed' has a floaty chorus that's uplifting despite the lyrical content and vocals that sound like they were sung through a mouthful of tears. The album's centrepiece, 'Take time and find', shows a more abrasive side to the band without ever letting the melodies suffer. Definitely a band you'll want to keep an eye on.
Gospel of the Horns - A call to arms (Agonia)
Growling like a wolf with a sore throat and looking like Cousin It from the Adam's Family, Gospel Of The Horns are as old school metal as you're going to find this side of 1985. The vocals are barked and sharper than the spiked armbands they adorn themselves with, the riffs are twisty and widdly, but poor, and, if it's all meant to be very, very scary, it's failed. Maybe I'm too young to appreciate this properly, but I thought metal this old and, quite honestly boring, went out in the Middle Ages.
Anyone who comes across this as a casual listener would never believe that it's a brand new album. Just because you're going for the old school sound doesn't mean that you should cut out such essentials as writing good songs and doing some sort of production word on the finished product. Soundwise, you'd think that it had been recorded about fifteen years ago. In a bucket. A rusty bucket. This album is not going to win Gospel over many new fans, especially at a time when bands like Dark Tranquillity, The Haunted and In Flames are creating such great, FRESH sounding music. All in all a very ignorable release.
Brand New - Your Favorite Weapon (Triple Crown/Eat Sleep Records)
Brand New, while not as original as their name would lead you to believe, are an odd bunch of guys. They're post-hardcore, but not in any conventional sense. They don't sound like Throat, The Movielife or any other band you care to mention, yet post-hardcore is what they are and they've even landed themselves a tour with Finch, so you'd expect them to be half decent. What they are is pretty good, if not all that memorable.
Sarcastic, biting lyrics are in abundance throughout, especially on 'Mixtape', 'Failure by design' and the fantastic 'Seventy times 7'. Sample lyric? "Have another drink and drive yourself home/I hope you there's ice on all the roads/and you can think of me when you forget your seatbelt/and again when your head goes through the windshield". Musically, they slip from guitar-heavy punk ('The shower scene') to acoustic tomfoolery ('Mixtape') to head bopping pop-rock ('Logan to government centre') to sorrowful, Smiths soundalike, but with electronica ('The no seatbelt song') and back again. Closer 'Soco Amaretto Lume' is an acoustic anthem for everyone who's ever been a teenager and wanted to get out of their shitty, little hometown. One of those songs that's meant to remind you of knacker-drinking in fields with your friends. Yes, there is a little bit of Blink-182 in there (someplace in the singing), but it isn't all that noticeable.
In reality, Brand New is the sort of band who'll probably crash the Top 40 with a hugely popular single. It doesn't matter if you like them or not, you are probably going to be hearing a hell of a lot of them in the future.
The Movielife - Forty hour train back to Penn (Drive-thru/Eat Sleep Records)
Last year was going well for The Movielife when there tour-bus crashed, nearly killing them all and destroying all their equipment. No insurance meant no money for new instruments and, if it wasn't for their friends in Glassjaw (who organised a benefit concert for them), this album would probably never have been made. That, in case you're wondering, would have been a tragedy. Ironically 'though, this, the band's best release to date, wouldn't be what it is if it wasn't for that little patch of ice. The pain of what happened is heard throughout especially in the pained lyrics of 'Jamestown', a retelling of the accident. Listen to the anguish in the words "late night, snowfall, get us to a hospital". It actually sounds like a bus crash, concluded with the scream of "I'm still fucking here". Or the pained delivery of "I need to see my friends... I wanna go home" in 'Ship to shore'.
With "Forty... ", The Movielife have hit their stride and show no signs of letting up. This is the album they had to make and they've pulled out all the stops. The entire album is near perfect and has been brought to life by the pure, raw emotion the band has poured into it. There are plenty of bands dancing at the post-hardcore disco right now (just take a look at the majority of this month's reviews), but few can hold a torch to this band.
'Kelly song' is a caustic attack on an ex-girlfriend, which often becomes overwhelming because of the distorted guitar swell. Elsewhere, The Movielife nod back to their high speed, garage punk days ('Takin' it out & choppin' it up'), explode out of the speakers with ferocity ('Face and kneecaps') and play emo with an attitude ('Hey' and 'It's something'). The album finishes with the double assault of 'Keep never changing' and 'Ship to shore', both are explosive and fiery, like how Lost Prophets would sound if you covered them in petrol and lit a match. An essential album, that really is (unlike Sum 41) all killer, no filler.
Allister - Last stop suburbia (Drive-thru records)
Good Idea: Spending sunny days sitting outside, drinking beer with friends and listening to the Deftones. Bad Idea: Buying Allister's new album. Good Idea: Getting dressed up in black clothes and corpse paint then going to hang around graveyards. Bad Idea: Buying Allister's new album. Good Idea: Eating toast. Bad Idea: Buying Allister's new album.
Tsjuder - Demonic Possession (Drakkar Productions)
I really feel for Tsjuder. Even their album sleeve reeks of the rotten, putrid scent of death metal. Their name is probably the hardest to read of all time and their frightening demonic poses are terribly impressive, if only for their ability to keep a straight face through it all.
Musically, the band is making a stand against the invasion of melody and emotion into the territory of hard, fast death metal. None of that lightweight Opeth or Emperor stuff here. Singer Nag sounds like a terrier caught in barbed wire and the accompanying music savages the ears like a bear that has been listening to Cannibal Corpse for the last six weeks. It's a relentless landslide of blast-beats and guitar-smashed rubble. There's no let up at all as they lay waste to the enemy, who have been identified as peace and quiet, with their explosive chords and devastating percussive artillery.
There's nothing new about Tsjuder, but their single-mindedness and refusal to veer even slightly form the most brutal of paths should be admired. Their music is about as vicious as it can get while still remaining listenable and their undead image is good for a little chuckle. Dust off that old camping gear, take a trip into the heart of that creepy old forest, pop this on the earphones and then just try and get some sleep. Good luck.