Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Review: Wasteoids - Demo 2011

Here are all the things I knew about this Wasteoids tape when I bought it:

1) Blank Stare put it out. Usually a good sign.
2) Jonah from Fucked Up recorded it.
3) Chris from Cursed has a vocal cameo.

As far as pedigree goes, that’s pretty solid.  It doesn’t say much about what the band actually sounds like though.

Fortunately, the tape manages mark out some fairly distinct territory. Wasteoids play solid street/oi! Influenced hardcore. The 4 songs here range from mid tempo and head nodding on “Moon People,” to full speed and balls out on “The Wasteoid Crew.” The whole thing manages to be catchy as all hell to boot.

I defy you to NOT scream “Fuck You! Give me a beer! I came to party!” during the last song. I just caught myself doing that, and I’m sitting in my apartment by myself.

So, here’s the thing, I got into hardcore through punk. As much love as I have for a great many metal based HC bands, I will ALWAYS get behind a band that keeps it simple, keeps it dirty and keeps it fun. This Wasteoids tape fits that description in spades.

Good shit.

Review: Pick Your Side - Let Me Show You How Democracy Works

Pick Your Side

Let Me Show You How Democracy Works

Track Listing:
1. Dark Future
2. Plug-In Generation
3. More Cops, More Crime!
4. Meltdown
5. How to Cope
6. Looking Back
7. Paranoid or Prepared?
8. This Too Shall Pass
8. My Troubles
10. Ham Sandwich
11. Doomsday Demise
12. It Could Be Better...
13. Matter of Time
14. New War
15. It's All Your Fault
16. No Good Will Come From This
17. 2 Headed Snake
18. Right Turn

As someone who grew up in the late 90's Southern Ontario hardcore scene, Haymaker was a band to be both revered and feared. If you are unfamiliar with their threat-filled lyrics, violent live shows, and general disdain for most things on earth, then you have some catching up to do.  Getting to witness Haymaker's mayhem live was a rare opportunity to see what it was to be truly angry at the world and finally have a platform from which to scream.  In short, it was everything hardcore should be.  Fast. Angry. Political. And bullshit-free.

Saying that I had high hopes for Pick Your Side's first full length would be an understatement. A rabid Haymaker fan, and longtime supporter of Fuck the Facts, when I heard that members from these two bands were forming a group I was thoroughly excited in every non-sexual way imaginable.  Having said that, I knew that such anticipation can often lead to disappointment and 'bands were better when I was younger'-type attitudes rather quickly.  Fortunately, Let Me Show You How Democracy Works led to none of these things.  What I first noticed when I put on this album was the marked improvement in production over the band's 7" release from last year.  While still maintaining that gritty and rough quality that we've all come to expect from Jeff Beckman-related projects, the solid and full production quality helps enhance rather than hinder all 18 frenzied and furious songs.

While tracks like "Dark Future" and "Meltdown" will leave even the most ardent Haymaker fan satisfied, the metallic elements of songs like "How to Cope" and "Right Turn" help differentiate Pick Your Side from any of the members' previous projects.  The most surprising track of the album is by far "Ham Sandwich".  Not because singer Jeff Beckman calls for the destruction of various religions, but because it is much more of a sludge metal song than anything....and it's a good one!  It is these departures from the awesome, albeit formulaic, hardcore song writing that makes this album so enjoyable.

Final Word: I could go on about all the various nuances of this album, and how no topic is too taboo for Beckman to address and condemn, but this really is an album that has to be heard.  The record is a call back to an earlier and angrier age of hardcore when it needs to be, but it's also a fresh reminder that musical growth and variety is still be possible when your average song length is only about a minute and a half.

Favourite Tracks: Plug-In Generation, How to Cope, This Too Shall Pass.

Buy this album now!  It's better than anything else you were planning on buying.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Review: Collision - Four Songs With James Singing

Track Listing:
1. Tiebreaker
2. Logan to Seasonal Depression
3. Bachelor's Degree In...
4. Rivers Cuomo Was Right

I’ll cop to feeling pretty out of touch with a lot of what goes on in the realm of pop punk these days. I don’t mean to say that it’s bad per se, just that it doesn’t really square with the stuff I remember from back in my day. “My day,” in this case, was the 90’s.

Fortunately, the guys in Boston’s Collision appear to have a similar affection for the days of my youth. At least for the posi jumps/gang vocals/skateboard parts anyways.

I wouldn’t presume to guess how old these dudes are or what they grew up listening to. But when I throw on this tape I’m reminded of everyone from Saves the Day to Blink 182 (before they got weird) to Pulley. It’s not that they sound that much like any of those bands. But the four songs on this demo wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a comp featuring all those people, that I paid 4$ for in 1997.

This tape blows through four songs in about 7 minutes so it never has a chance to overstay its welcome. The lyrics are pretty standard fare for the genre, but the delivery is so tight that it hardly matters. I do want to give specific props to “Bachelor’s Degree In…” That song has a borderline Cheshire Cat/Dude Ranch vibe to it that wormed its way into my head something fierce.

As far demos go, this one is pretty goddamn impressive. The sound is clean but not polished enough to take the raw edge off. It’s the sort of tape that they could press into a 7” as is and I would buy the hell out of it. Especially if they kept the Bill Murray cover art.

If you dig fast, melodic and catchy punk records, this is band you need to check out. Collision is legitimately a pop punk band. Not just a slightly faster emo band. Not a pop group with guitars. Not a breakdown obsessed hardcore band with singing parts. There’s a place for all of those things, but the 17 year old punk in me is happy that there are bands out there still doing stuff like this.

Review: Rise and Fall - Faith

Rise and Fall

Track Listing:
01 – A Hammer And Nails
02 – Deceiver
03 – The Gallows Await
04 – Burning At Both Ends
05 – Things Are Different Now
06 – Breathe
07 – Hidden Hands
08 – Escapism
09 – Dead Weight
10 – Faith Fate

Nowadays there is no shortage of crusty, d-beat, integrity/ring worm/entombed-style bands littering the hardcore landscape.  As someone who arrived at hardcore via metal, this has always been a style that I enjoyed, but lately it has become somewhat tiresome (as any over-saturated genre will).  Fortunately, Rise and Fall is still able to show the imitators how it should be done. Faith very much starts where Into Oblivion and Our Circle is Vicious left off, but there is a quality to this album raises it above their previous efforts in several ways. 

Beginning the album with songs like “A Hammer and Nails” and “The Gallows Await” helps establish Faith as one of the most impressive and crushing hardcore releases of the year, while tracks like “Breathe” and “Faith/Fate” demonstrate that Rise and Fall are no slouches when it comes to more dynamic and complex song writing as well.  Although I often feel that these types of esoteric songs are thoughtless add-ons that hardcore bands use to feel/sound artistic, the progression of style and mood throughout this album seems to fit perfectly.  Nothing seems forced, overdrawn, or out of place, which isn’t always the easiest task, especially on an album with song lengths that range from 1:14 to 6:46.

Despite my appreciation for the more complex and lengthier songs on this album, I keep coming back to the fast-paced and anthemic tracks on Faith.  As much as I love artistic exploration and other such wanker-associated elements of music, my true love lies with devastatingly heavy riffs and shout-along choruses.  It is in these aspects that Rise and Fall has really found their niche.  “Deceiver” stands out as the most impressive track on this album for exactly these reasons.  Throat-shredding screams of “Deceiver! Trojan Horse!” mesh perfectly with the track’s monstrous riffs and chaotic song writing. 

Final Word: While it may seem like I just spent three paragraphs washing Rise and Fall’s balls with my tongue, I am actually just giving credit where credit is due.  This album stands out as the high point for a band with an already impressive history.

Favourite Tracks: Deceiver, Faith/Fate

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Review: Demolition - Demo 2012

Demo 2012

Track listing:
1. Intro//Here To Stay
2. Don't Need Your Help
3. Us Against You
4. United We Stand

“I won’t play your games. I don’t need your help.”

Hardcore can, at times, be guilty of letting itself get way too fancy.

It can be exciting to hear some band take shit in interesting, genre expanding directions. Once in a while, I like a “hardcore” record I can play for normal people without them looking at me like I just pissed on their couch. Most of the time though, I go to hardcore looking for fast, ugly aggression. That’s what it’s there for.

Which brings me to this demo tape by Ontario’s Demolition.

This thing delivers 4 tracks  (well… 4 and a half. There’s an intro) of straight up HC punk in just over 5 minutes.  It plows through its run time pretty quick, but changes it up enough that you can tell the songs apart. Generally, Demolition keep up the pace but have enough slow, stompy parts to get your head nodding. With the right crowd, I could see this being a lot of fun live.

Lyrics-wise, Demolition sticks to the hardcore standards. Generally revolving around not taking a bunch of shit off of anyone. It’s all delivered via a solid, if unremarkable vocalist whose name I don’t know because the tape doesn’t have credits.

I always have a hard time pegging influences for bands like this. It just reminds me of OLD hardcore records. Do you like old hardcore records? Specifically, old East Coast hardcore records. Fast, pissed… no metal or whatever the fuck else? Then this is up your alley.

It ain’t pretty. It ain’t slick. It’s 5 and change minutes of angry kids venting spleen.  If that shit was ever gonna get old, it would have by now.

Review: Pick Your Side - Survival Prayer 7"

Pick Your Side 

Survival Prayer 7”

Rating: 8/10

Track Listing:
1. Controlled by Fear
2. Gnarly Times
3. I’ll be Happy When
4. Mentally Fucked
5. Digital Currency
6. Survival Prayer
7. World Split Open
8. Help Me Forget
9. Webs in the Sky
10. Hinkley Had a Vision (Crucifucks cover)

As the first substantial piece of music that legendary guitarist/frontman Jeff Beckman was put out since the demise of Haymaker, Pick Your Side’s Survival Prayer was inevitably going to be met with countless comparisons to the singer’s back catalog. Fortunately, this 10 song 7” will quickly silence any critics or naysayers who fear that Pick Your Side would end up simply being a poor man’s Haymaker.

Joined by Johnny Ibay from Fuck the Facts, Beckman and Co. have managed to capture much of the pissed-off, thrashy hardcore tone that made bands like Haymaker and Left for Dead so revered.  More importantly, the lyrical fury that Beckman has become widely known for remains intact on this release.   Songs like Controlled by Fear, I’ll be Happy When, and Digital Currency start off this EP with a sense of political ferocity that any Beckman fan will be pleased with, accompanied by buzz-saw guitar tones and a chaotic rhythm section.

Half-way through this flurry of distortion (10 songs in 11 minutes), songs like Survival Prayer and Help Me Forget show that Pick Your Side is able to mix break-neck speed with crushing riffs that further highlight Beckman’s anguished screams.  Finally, the EP ends with an unexpectedly impressive cover of the Crucifuck’s Hinkley Had a Vision, modernizing this atonal Reagan-era classic by adding Beckman’s hate-filled vocals and distortion-laden thrash riffs.

The only possible drawbacks to this 7” are the uniformity in song writing and production value.  While these factors are largely a matter of taste, the break-neck speed and one-dimensional distortion makes each song bleed into the next in an unintended seamlessness that sometimes makes it hard for even the most attentive listener to identify where one song ends and another begins.

Final Word:  Pick Your Side delivers the same furious thrashy hardcore that made Haymaker a hardcore mainstay throughout the early 2000’s.  While dynamics and diversity are lacking, Survival Prayer provides aggressive, distorted, hardcore without ever missing a beat.  As this 7” is a precursor to an LP set to be released in April, it provides a glimpse into future where political, stripped-down and sped-up hardcore is still relevant and appreciated.

Favourite Track: I’ll be Happy When, Hinkley Had a Vision

Review Date: March 21, 2012