Archive for March, 2008
Since 1988, Pennywise have been turning heads with their straightforward style of punk rock. Nearly two decades since their humble beginnings, the Hermosa Beach, CA punks have come into the spotlight with their new album Reason To Believe, and their non-conformist distribution plans.
Fletcher Dragge, Pennywise’s lead guitarist, in a recent blog, said, “We know that this will piss off a lot of people in the music industry, and what do we say to that? ‘Who cares?’ We’ve been pissing people off for 18 years. Why stop now? We have been telling people to get our records by any mean [sic] necessary for 17 years. As a band, we decided that it was time to come to terms with the facts. There are a lot of people out there who want their music for free, so we got proactive and with the help of MySpace Records and Textango we found a way to make it happen…we couldn’t be more stoked…PENNYWISE FREE TO THE PEOPLE.” Until April 8, the new record is available for free via MySpace, but does the album stand up to its publicity? Pennywise have released eight albums prior to Reason To Believe, so they have developed their sound into what has become a standard for the So-Cal punk scene. Each song follows their straightforward, high-energy format; the only difference between tracks really lies at the lyrical level. Unlike their past works, Pennywise doesn’t focus on changing the government through protest, but rather seeks to cause change within individuals through the new album.
“Goodbye tomorrow, no need to follow, I live my own way, I won’t go back ’til my last day, wake up and lead!” are the lyrics that ring out on “Faith And Hope,” an anthem about self realization and individuality. The single “The Western World” is a highlight that lies in the middle part of the album. A critique of stereotypes and western culture, the song pries at the faults of popular culture. The in-depth self-examination continues on “Confusion,” wherein the singer deals with issues of disillusionment and truth.
Pennywise has come to a realization that much of the music industry is still trying to find: music, like ideas, should not be controlled by distribution markets and economic gains. The band members pride themselves on allowing their music to be heard by anyone anywhere, which is an admirable aspect to the new album. For a punk record it sounds very much like what should be expected, heavy guitars and speed drumming, so in that aspect it is not a let down. The only issue with the record is that it does sound incredibly similar to older Pennywise.
The 1990′s was an energetic time for music. As new wave began to loosen its grip on listeners, punk and ska bands dominated the scene. Classic punk bands, such as the Descendants, returned from hiatus, and groups, such as Catch 22 and Less Than Jake, started up as the third wave of ska was in full swing. Somewhere in the midst of all the circle pits and tattoos came Goldfinger. In 1994, Goldfinger began rocking the Los Angeles hardcore punk and ska scene. 1996 saw the band’s first release, a self-titled album that was well received and featured the hit single “Here In Your Bedroom.”
Since the mid-90′s, Goldfinger has released several albums, each one moving in a slightly different direction. 1997′s album Hang-Ups featured the song “Superman” which was later used as a background track for the video game Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Goldfinger’s ska-punk style continued with their 2000 release Stomping Ground, which featured “Counting The Days” and a rendition of “99 Red Balloons.” At this point, Goldfinger singer and songwriter John Feldman began using his strong political views as a platform for songs. 2002′s Open Your Eyes featured several thought provoking tracks, such as the title track “Open Your Eyes,” which challenged listeners to pay attention to truth and to “Wake UP! Wake UP!” Also featured on that album, a track called “FTN,” a blaring criticism of Ted Nugent.
By the time 2005′s album Disconnection Notice hit shelves, the band had experienced a few line up changes and had become more passionate about animal rights. The track “Behind The Mask” used audio clips from an animal cruelty speech given by PETA president and co-founder Ingrid Newkirk. The album also approached ska in a new way as songs like “Wasted” mixed traditional beats with mandolins and catchy pop-choruses.
Jump ahead three years, to the present day. Goldfinger will headline the 2008 E-Days festival, here at CSM. The concert will be one of the first venues for Goldfinger to play some of their new material from their upcoming album Hello Destiny, in stores April 22. Goldfinger guitarist Charlie Paulson, in a recent interview conducted with Black Velvet Magazine, had this to say about the new album, “I think it’s going to go back to more of our original sound.” The E-Days concert should be a good chance to break out the Chuck Taylors, mohawks, and rock out to a legitimate 90′s punk band.
Murder By Death is a group that does not fit into categories easily. Perhaps that is what makes their music appealing. The quartet from Bloomington, Indiana, draw their specific sound from an eclectic mix of cello, electric guitars, vocals similar to those heard on old Johnny Cash records, and lyrics that are oftentimes morose, dark, and thought provoking. They have toured with the likes of post-hardcore pioneers Thursday, punk rockers Against Me!, and rock-a-billy giant Reverend Horton Heat.
Murder By Death debuted on Eyeball Records with their first album Like The Exorcist, But More Breakdancing, followed by 2003′s Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left of Them? These releases garnered the band some attention, but their big breakthrough came with their 2006 album In Bocca al Lupo, a concept album about the ideas of sin and punishment in the old west. In 2007 Murder By Death signed to punk and emo label Vagrant Records, releasing their newest album Red of Tooth and Claw earlier this month.
Adam Turla’s deep, resounding vocals fill the first track as he begins with the words, “By the light of the moon, I’m coming home.” The story that unfolds on the disc has been described by Turla as a “Homer’s Odyssey of revenge, only without the honorable character at the center.” An old fashioned mix of western beats and piano fill “Ball & Chain,” giving a bit of contrast to the album’s first single “Fuego!” At this point in the story, a woman with a fiery personality and passion enters the scene. The protagonist fervently seeks the woman, but fears that he won’t find true love with her. The haunting instrumental track “Theme (For Ennio Morricone)” follows, and sounds like it could have been the background track to an epic western film. Seeking revenge of one variety or another, the protagonist becomes a merciless spectator to the demise of his enemies on “A Second Opinion.”
The story takes a turn as the protagonist convinces his nameless lover to run away with him on “Steal Away.” Fire comes back into the story line as flames engulf the protagonist’s home and possessions on “Ash.” He learns about the other side of vengeance and loss through the last part of the album. His best friend is doomed on “The Black Spot” and he runs away yet again in “’52 Ford.” The story comes to an end on “Spring Break 1899,” when the protagonist snaps out of his violent tendencies and sobers up. He tries to cover his pain with a variety of quick fixes, never finding contentment.
Murder By Death is one of the most intriguing bands performing today. Their music is deep and not easily digested, but does tell an epic story about the price of revenge and the pursuit of happiness.
St. Patrick’s Day has come early this year, break out the Irish beer, wear green clothing and listen to Flogging Molly’s newest album Float. Mines students may remember that Flogging Molly headlined the 2007 E-Days festival concert, which was one of the most popular parts of the festivities. Since last spring, the L.A. based Irish-punk rockers have been busy touring and recording. The newest disc from Flogging Molly is a return to form as they blend So-Cal punk with traditional Irish instrumentation.
“There’s a government whip cracked across your back!” are politically charged lyrics that start the album on the track “Requiem For A Dying Song.” Banjos, tin whistles, electric guitars and heavy drums fill the speakers in one of the most upbeat requiems ever heard. Moving from funeral songs to lamentations, “Paddy’s Lament” references a traditional Irish tune about immigration and exile in America. “Float,” the title track for the album, remains laid back and does not break into all out punk beats, but gives the listener a chance to hear the lyrics.
Similar to past albums, Flogging Molly focuses their lyrics on drinking, the lives of sailors, the enchantment of the sea, and occasionally politics. The pace of the album picks up again with “You Won’t Make A Fool Out of Me” and continues through until the closing track “The Story So Far.” A highlight of the second half of the album is “Between A Man And A Woman,” a track that originally appeared as a live track on Flogging Molly’s first release Alive Behind The Green Door.
Float is an enjoyable listen because of its high energy drinking songs and unique style. Flogging Molly have not changed their sound since the late 90′s, however they have not become stale in their approach to music. Of the handful of Irish-punk bands, Flogging Molly rises above others with their newest release.