Friday, December 30, 2016

REVIEW: SIMPLE PLAN'S "NO PADS, NO HELMETS...JUST BALLS"

No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls is the debut album from French-Canadian pop-punkers Simple Plan. The album, since its release in 2002, has made its mark within the pop-punk-rock genre as one of the shining examples of the genre’s resurgence in the early-2000s. How does Balls stand on its own years after its release? How does it continue to reflect on the genre’s continued popularity?

The content:

No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls is, at its heart, juvenile and pubescent in the best of possible of ways.

One look at the lyrics found within Balls showcases the album’s snapshot of adolescent life. The album’s second track, The Worst Day Ever, brims with teenage angst beginning with its title. Further into the song, lyrics like “Yesterday was the worst day every/And tomorrow won’t be better”, though initially shallow, play at the simplicity within the song’s progression.

Another song, God Must Hate Me, takes similar stabs at the album’s lamentations over self-worth. “I guess it’s no use/I’m screwing up every little thing” sets a revolving theme within the album of perception in the face of one’s self-image, a theme that’s more maturely handled within Perfect. The closing track on the album, Perfect blends the adolescent lyrics with somber powerhouse riffs and a killer, if not mellow bridge.

There’s something to be said for the production on this album, as well. From the first track onwards, the bass shines throughout the mix, moreso than other pop-punk albums of Simple Plan’s caliber. Riffs found in tracks like You Don’t Mean Anything also deserve credit for their legitimate catchiness – had they been performed by other bands (say, for example, blink-182), it’d prove to be just as original and catchy.

At the end of the day, Balls stands on two legs as a prime work of the early-2000s punk revival, even with its friendly vibes and often lazy lyrics. Though critics have found ease in lashing at Simple Plan for their style, there’s no argument that Simple Plan haven’t made that style their own.

The impact:

No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls has left behind a perplexing legacy, if anything else.

While Simple Plan hasn’t seen the successes of some of its pop-punk counterparts, the band’s debut album proved to be a foundation within the punk-rock revivalist movement of the early-2000s. Releasing in the shadows of larger bands like Good Charlotte and Blink-182, Balls left behind some of the most classic pop-punk anthems that still resonate within the genre today.

In particular, I’m Just a Kid and Perfect, two of the album’s singles, have established a legacy as some of the most well-known pop-punk songs ever, even among listeners who don’t necessarily know of Simple Plan.

The messages within those songs tie in to Simple Plan’s ideals as a whole.

“Most people we meet are not happy. You walk around at shows and meet kids, and most people don’t seem to be happy with where they are no matter how great a family they have, or how great they’re doing in school, or how much money their family has,” says drummer Chuck Comeau. “We have a society full of people that want something more, and they just don’t know what it is.”

Despite the album’s success as a double-platinum album, Simple Plan hasn’t let Balls hinder their aspirations. “I think a band needs to change a bit their style of music, you don’t want to be always doing the same thing,” said frontman Pierre Bouvier. “But at the same time, it is important to be faithful to what we are and our sound.”

The future:

Simple Plan’s newest album, Taking One For The Team, released in January of 2016. The band’s fifth album features the same lineup since the band’s inception – Bouvier on vocals, Comeau on drums, Jeff Stinco and Sébastien Lefebvre on guitar, and David Desrosiers on bass.


Next week’s review: Alkaline Trio’s “Maybe I’ll Catch Fire”

Friday, December 23, 2016

REVIEW: RADIOHEAD'S "PABLO HONEY"

Pablo Honey is the debut album from British alternative rock band Radiohead. Though it released to limited commercial success and exposure in 1993, it has since become notable within the genre, mostly due to the success of the album’s hit single, Creep. Despite its limited reach, how does Pablo Honey hold up today in light of Radiohead’s massive successes in the past two decades?


The content:

Pablo Honey is the first (and so far, only) Radiohead album that I’ve listened to. That said, having heard about the drastic change in style with their 90s follow-up albums, I don’t have that to go off of and compare against Radiohead's freshman effort.

That said…

Pablo Honey trogs along at mellow, if not inconsistent paces. While the opening tracks mix soft-spoken vocals with grungy riffs and instrumentals, it doesn’t take long for later tracks on the album to blend together. And while I’ve found that’s usually expected of unfamiliar albums, in the case of Pablo Honey it’s hard to find variety in the musical style.

Despite the lack of variety in sound, however, there is some quality to be found, particularly within some of the opening tracks. You sets the tone sufficiently enough, laying down the foundations for how the rest of the album will sound. Simple in its design and progression, You stands out as an album highlight simply for being memorable.

As mainstream as it’s become, Creep easily makes the album, it’s slow yet somber riff bursting into a deep, heavy chorus lamenting the narrator’s perceived status as a “creep” and a “weirdo”. For a song that’s one of Radiohead’s greatest hits, Creep settles right in within the album, unlike other successful singles from other bands in what I often call “title-track fatigue.”

While there are some duds to be found within Pablo Honey, the album goes to work in laying down the foundations for Radiohead’s original guitar-driven sound. The album’s gems help to make Pablo Honey a decent listen, as sparse as they may be.

The impact:

For a debut album, Pablo Honey initially saw little commercial or critical success. The success of its lead single, Creep, would eventually come to mark the album as the foundation from which Radiohead would refine and diversify their sound.

Released a full year before the album in which it’s featured, Creep became a worldwide hit once Pablo Honey released. First becoming a hit in Israel before spreading to the United States, Creep came to overshadow the band as a whole, with many concert goers going to see Radiohead performances simply to hear Creep played live.

Others, however, have cited Pablo Honey as “the album Radiohead made before they were Radiohead”. Citing later works such as their ground-breaking 1997 album OK Computer, many see Pablo Honey as a primitive work before the band really found their creative niche within the alt-rock genre.

Reflecting on the artistic standing of Pablo Honey, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke didn’t have the kindest words shortly after its release. “[Pablo] was quite flawed, and hopefully the [follow-up] will make more sense. I like the first album, but we were very naïve,” said Yorke. “We didn't really know how to use the studio."

The future:

Radiohead’s most recent album, A Heart Shaped Pool, released in May of 2016. It features the same main lineup as all previous Radiohead albums have since the band’s inception in 1985 – Thom Yorke on vocals and guitar, Ed O’Brien and Jonny Greenwood on guitar, Colin Greenwood on bass, and Philip Selway on drums.


Next week’s review: Simple Plan’s “No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls”

Friday, December 16, 2016

REVIEW: SUM 41'S "DOES THIS LOOK INFECTED?"

Does This Look Infected? is the third full-length album from punk veterans Sum 41. Serving as the follow-up to 2001’s All Killer, No Filler (an album I reviewed back in September), Infected builds upon the foundations of the previous album set and explores some new, darker territory. How does it hold up compared to the band’s major-label breakthrough?

The Content:

Does This Look Infected? does fantastically expands upon its predecessor’s work in a lot of ways.

The guitars in Infected shine through more than they could’ve in Killer, and it shows through hit tracks like The Hell Song. Featuring one of the band’s best solos in its bridge, The Hell Song doesn’t beat around the bush in getting to the point of what Infected’s tone will sound like throughout the album: grungy, yet familiar with other punk stylings of the day.

All comparisons to the previous album aside, the album feels unique within the punk threshold it taps into. The brief interlude found in the crude A.N.I.C. is about as bold and brash as the band’s ever been, whereas Still Waiting (one of the album’s highlights) introduces the band and its fanbase to some new, heavier riffs not found on their previous albums. Mr. Amsterdam, another track on the back-half of the album, ventures into metal territory not unlike Slayer (a noted influence on the band).

As punk and metal as Infected can be, it sometimes hesitates to stray from the band’s pop-punk roots. Tracks like My Direction and All Messed Up, though lyrically dark, feel awkwardly sandwiched between the album’s heavier tracks: My Direction comes just before Still Waiting, as does All Messed Up before Mr. Amsterdam. These two tracks stand out in negative comparison for sounding lighter than their Infected counterparts, and while they’re decent songs in their own right they would’ve made for a better fit on All Killer, No Filler.

Looking at the natural evolution between albums, Infected represents the jump in maturity from the sound that originally made Sum 41 huge. Though change in sound is expected of any artist, for Sum 41 Infected is their first major step toward their current sound: a hint of metal, some touches of grunge, but loads and loads of all-around punk.

The Impact:

While Infected wasn’t the success that the band’s previous album, All Killer, No Filler, would go on to become, the band’s 2002 album still made waves within the Su
m 41 fanbase in addition to mainstream radio.

Infected showcased the band’s more hardcore stylings, abandoning the pop-punk overtures that originally brought them to fame. While the album still has touches of pop-punk in some tracks on the album, Infected would prove to be a stepping stone to even darker albums, most notably 2004’s Chuck. Said frontman Deryck Whibley on the stylistic change in between the two albums, “A lot of stuff happened in the past year that opened our eyes to new things."

As a result of the blending of the two musical styles, fans often consider Infected to be one of the band’s best albums. Whibley himself ranked Infected as his third favorite Sum 41 album in an interview with Vice, citing it as the sound he desired from Sum 41 despite mixing and production disappointments.

Three singles from the album – Still Waiting, The Hell Song, and Over My Head (Better Off Dead) were released. The first two singles particularly success, and are to this day considered some of the fanbase’s favorites. Does This Look Infected? would go on to sell nearly one million copies worldwide, as well as peak at #32 on the US Billboard 200.

The Future:

Sum 41’s latest album, 13 Voices, released in October of 2016. It is the first album in five years from the band, serving as a follow-up to 2011’s Screaming Bloody Murder. To support the album, the band embarked on the Warped Tour in 2016, followed by the Don’t Call It A Sum-Back Tour later that year. The tour is set to make stops in Europe throughout 2017.

13 Voices is the first Sum 41 album since 2004’s Chuck to feature founding guitarist Dave ‘Brownsound’ Baksh, and the first Sum 41 album without founding drummer Steve ‘Stevo32’ Jocz, who left the band in 2013.


Next week’s review: Radiohead’s “Pablo Honey”

Friday, December 9, 2016

REVIEW: PANIC! AT THE DISCO'S "A FEVER YOU CAN'T SWEAT OUT"

A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out is the debut album from Panic! At The Disco. Released in 2005, the band’s members were only 18 years old when they wrote and recorded Fever. Despite their youth, the album became a snapshot of the pop-punk-emo era of the time, and to this day P!ATD is one of the hottest groups around. What’s to be found within Fever that’s made it so legendary?

The Content:

A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out is notable for being split in two stylistic halves. While the tracks leading up through Intermission carry an electro-dance vibe, the album’s back half features more traditional punk-rock stylings, with a touch of baroque theatrics.

That said, Fever manages to balance the best of both worlds. Songs like The Only Difference Between Martyrdom And Suicide Is Press Coverage rightfully incorporate electric synthesizers with the classic pop-punk treatment, while There’s A Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered, Honey, You Just Haven’t Thought Of It Yet perfectly demonstrates the band’s ability to work with swing-style rock and make it blend well with the album’s other styles. Mix all of that with sentence-long song titles and unconventional song formulas, and you’ve got a recipe for a 40-minute exotic trip of an album.

Fever’s lyrics are also top-notch, and for them to have been written by a then-18-year-old puts any of my writing to shame (the band’s members had just graduated high school when they recorded Fever). Dealing with themes such as adultery, mental illness, violence, and marriage, Fever leaps way beyond the years of those who wrote and recorded it. The closing song, Build God, Then We’ll Talk, brings the lyrical thematics full circle, bringing a tale of prostitution and bribery to fruition.

However, it’s not a masterpiece. Though Nails For Breakfast, Tacks For Snacks and Camisado are some fan-favorites within the P!ATD community, I found them to be the slower tracks on the album, despite their budding lyrical content. With that in mind, the pacing within Fever doesn’t quite feel uniform, even with its outright dividing of the two stylistic halves with an instrumental track titled “Intermission”. While individual tracks hold their own gems of wit, as a collective entity the album could use some ironing and polish. But, for a ragtag group of high school graduates that created one of the most recognizable pop-punk hits of the past decade, I won’t hold that against them.

Perhaps their most famous single, I Write Sins Not Tragedies, the track hits early on in the album’s second half, segueing directly after But It’s Better If You Do. While this transition helps to provide a seamless listen between the two songs, Sins still suffers from standing out so starkly in comparison to the other tracks strictly based on its massive popularity. Its success is merited – Sins has some of the best riffs and vocals on the entire album – but its virtue also proves to be its vice. As a result of mass radio and web exposure, Sins loses the hard impact that it could’ve had as a facet of the album as a whole.

For a debut album, Fever manages to overcome its shortcomings and deliver a showstopping, if not flawed experience in pop-punk. Once I got over the slowness of some of its early tracks, I found myself enamored with the dance-club beats and swing-style instrumentals.


The Impact:

Largely in part to its most famous single, I Write Sins Not Tragedies, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out was able to mesh with the successes of other similar bands at the time, like Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance.

 Fever would go on to sell over two million records and peak at #13 on the US Billboard 200. Rolling Stone ranked the album at #39 among the “40 Greatest Emo Albums Of All Time”, citing the band’s debut effort as “a snapshot of where ‘emo’ was at in 2005.”

The band credits Fall Out Boy (from which bassist Pete Wentz originally discovered the band’s demos and signed them to his label) for their rise to stardom after Fever: “I remember buying Fall Out Boy records not too long ago," former Panic! drummer Spencer Smith said in 2005. "We get to talk to them every day now. That's really weird, but it's awesome at the same time."

Ryan Ross, the band’s former guitarist, also found inspiration on the album’s dichotomous sound. “The stuff earlier on is a lot of dance-influenced, so dance music in general. The second half is more theatrical stuff, like movie soundtracks and musicals,” Ross said in an interview with Driven Far Off. “I guess the melody stuff would be from bands like Third Eye Blind and Counting Crows, stuff like that.

The Future:

Panic! At The Disco’s most recent album, Death Of A Bachelor, released in January of 2016. It is the band’s first album to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 200, and also fetched the band their first Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album.

Currently, frontman Brendon Urie is the only official member of the band. Rounding out the touring lineup are bassist Dallon Weekes, drummer Dan Pawlovich, and guitarist Kenneth Harris. The band has been massively touring throughout 2016 in support of the album, with plans to continue throughout 2017.


Next week’s album: Sum 41’s “Does This Look Infected?”

Friday, December 2, 2016

REVIEW: YELLOWCARD'S "OCEAN AVENUE"

Ocean Avenue is the fourth album and major-label debut for Floridian pop-punkers Yellowcard. Releasing in 2003 at the height of a rise in pop-punk groups and records, Ocean Avenue saw massive success thanks in part to a wildly successful single – the titular Ocean Avenue. The rest of the album, however, has also seen regards as a classic staple among the genre.

The Content:

Alright. I have a lot to say about this album.

Perhaps I’m biased since Ocean Avenue is in my Top 10 list of all-time favorite albums, but Yellowcard’s first major-label outing is one of those albums that I can never get tired of listening to. As a whole, Ocean Avenue feels like the pinnacle of the late 90s/early 2000s pop-punk surge that brought bands like blink-182 and New Found Glory to fame. And on a deeper level, the thirteen tracks in Ocean Avenue feel righteous on their own. That is to say, they carry their own weight as individual songs as opposed to being small pieces in a larger puzzle.

It feels right to give particular attention to some of the album’s highlights:

1.      - Way Away
Probably one of the greatest opening tracks on an album I’ve heard. The soft, yet electric introductory groove explodes into an absolute barrage of raw riffs and biting violin chords (Yellowcard is notable for featuring a full-time violinist as part of its lineup). The song’s hard, yet breakneck chorus sets the tone for the album in its themes of independence and self-acceptance (“Way away, away from here I’ll be” rings in to open the chorus), not to mention its killer bridge shines as one of the heaviest moments on the album.

2.      - Ocean Avenue
It’d be impossible to talk about the album without bringing up its title track. While the album’s third track does suffer from what I call “title-track-fatigue” (or, when an album’s title track jars out of place form the track sequence as a result of its mainstream over-exposure), it ultimately fits in with the rest of the album’s musical tone in a way that only Yellowcard can do it. And yet the pop-punk anthem still feels like one of the album’s biggest hooks in its belting chorus (who doesn’t remember singing along to “If I could find you now/Things would get better” as a teen?) and violin-solo outro. Without a doubt Yellowcard’s biggest song off its biggest album, and for good reason.

3.      - Life Of A Salesman
The catchiest song on the album for me. The band’s fantastic effects on the guitar shows through in this song’s intro, and even as it weaves through verses and a lyrically-powerful chorus the guitar tones on this track are some of the best on the album. While many pop-punk tunes from the era focus on negatively-focused songs about a parental figure, Life Of A Salesman looks up to a father, the speaker wanting to “be the same as you” in one of the album’s more upbeat tracks.

4.      - Only One
Definitely the showstopper on this album. Had Only One been present on any other album from any artist, its swelling chorus and lyrics beckoning to “Scream my lungs out, to try and get to you” would serve well as an album closer. Yet on Ocean Avenue, Only One closes out the album’s first half, sandwiched between two peppier tracks. The album’s sixth track takes hold of the slow-verse, heavy-chorus formula and makes it its own, managing to build to a stronger crescendo as the song progresses. Complete with a violin solo during the bridge and closing on emphatic strings, this song’s power will move you in ways that no other song can.

5.      - Believe
Believe is a fan-favorite, and is typically used to open Yellowcard’s concerts. Written after the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, the song tells a story of the speaker’s thankfulness for the firemen who gave their lives to rescue souls trapped in the burning towers. Perhaps one of the song’s greatest moments (and possibly the album’s greatest moment as well) is the lyrical refrain during the outro, in which verses and chorus are heartfully layered over each other to bring the song to a riveting close. The song’s thematics and vocals make this back-half album one of the band’s greatest hits.

So, with all that said about some of the album’s greatest tracks, let’s take a look at the album as a whole. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, is the inclusion of the violin within the band’s lineup. While some songs would be great on their own without the violin, some songs appear to lose their structure and flow only to be saved by the accompaniment. Then again, I feel that that’s how Yellowcard has always written their songs. By basing the songwriting around the violin’s inclusion, we’re provided with unique song structure that no other band can really provide.

Ocean Avenue, upon multiple listens, has the structure and the feel of a concept album, a la Green Day’s American Idiot. While some tracks, such as Believe, come off independently enough to disparage this idea, I still find comfort in letting Ocean Avenue’s thirteen tracks tell a coming-of-age story of isolation as it develops into a longing for “home.”

Speaking of “home,” it’s that central theme that appears to be the driving force for the album’s lyrics. Ocean Avenue begins and ends with songs talking about home; Way Away details the great escape from home in a want for independence, while Back Home, the album’s closer, laments the glamour of life in California: “Another sunny day beneath this cloudless sky/Sometimes I wish that it would rain here”. And it’s in retrospective lyrics like those that the musical genius behind this album really showcases itself. Only this album could find sympathy in a longing for imperfection, favoring simplicity over shine.

Ocean Avenue is a perfect bildungsroman within the genre of pop-punk and should be a must-listen for any music aficionado.

The Impact:

Thirteen years after its release, Ocean Avenue has become a pop-punk staple for millions of fans across the world – particularly as a result of the success of its title track.

Released in 2004, Ocean Avenue, the third track off the album, saw massive success with its infectious lyrics and humming violin accompaniment (performed by Sean Mackin, the band’s violinist). To this day, fans old and new still find themselves humming to “A place off Ocean Avenue/Where I used to sit and talk with you”.

"I don’t know if it’s necessarily my favorite song we’ve ever written,” said Yellowcard frontman Ryan Key on the single, “But it’s the most important song we’ve ever written…we had a sense that it was a special song, one of the most accessible, massive-sounding pop songs that we’d ever written. But we didn’t know that song was going to change our lives forever."

Thanks in part to the title track’s success as a single, Ocean Avenue would go double platinum, as certified by the RIAA, for domestic sales of over two million copies. In tribute to the album’s success, the band released an acoustic rendition of the album’s entirety in 2013, ten years after its original release.

The Future:

Yellowcard recently announced their forthcoming disbandment following their final world tour, set to end in 2017. Their final album, Yellowcard, released in September of 2016.

In light of the legacy that Ocean Avenue left behind, during select shows on The Farewell World Tour, the band played the album in its entirety among the tour’s setlist. Among the shows in which the album was played were Los Angeles, Hungtington, NY, and a forthcoming show in Cologne, Denmark.

Next week’s review: Panic! At The Disco’s “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out”

Friday, November 25, 2016

REVIEW: THE OFFSPRING'S "SMASH"

Smash is the third full-length album from American punk-rockers The Offspring. Though it was released on an independent label, it quickly rose to the fame and prestige of the hottest punk-rock acts and helped to cement the revival of the overall punk-rock industry. What does Smash have, though, that these other punk bands couldn’t replicate?

The Content:

Smash is one of those punk albums that feels right at home.

As someone who’s, admittedly, never listened to The Offspring whilst being a lifelong punk-rock fan, Smash feels like a breath of fresh air as it simultaneously calls back to other punk-rock acts of the era.

Smash begins with spoken-word, smooth jazz-esque narration that ironically segues into the ever-classic power chords that feel synonymous with punk-rock. While this concept separates Smash from its peers of the era, the actual music holds up well against the likes of Green Day and NOFX. Meanwhile, vocals in tracks like Bad Habit feel reminiscent of blink-182, who would explode in popularity five years after Smash’s release. The playful riffs and lyrics from What Happened To You? could’ve come straight from a NOFX album.

Yet with the vocals and instrumentals serving as both a callback and a herald of acts to come, the album still does a sufficient job of standing out on its own. The introduction to Come Out And Play (the album’s leading single) features a smooth drum intro that’s starkly different from other 90s punk anthems.

Perhaps my only gripe with Smash is its lack of…hook, I suppose? Smash doesn’t have that one amazing song that draws me back to the album, nor does it have the cohesiveness of a great, classic storytelling album to really wow me. That’s not to say Smash isn’t a good album – the musicality of it is solid, for sure. But, Smash didn’t necessarily inspire me to check out any more of their work, or dig deeper into the meanings and technicalities of the album.

Despite this, it’s easy to see how Smash rose to popularity. With its similarity to other punk tunes of the day, it fits right in with the revival of the punk-rock scene.

The Impact:
While Smash (and, on a larger stage, The Offspring as a whole) may not be as mainstream as punk-counterparts Green Day, it’s mark on the punk-rock scene of the 1990s is still visible to this day.

Smash would go on to peak at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 and sell over 11 million copies worldwide, making it the highest-selling album of all time on an independent label. The album, along with Green Day’s Dookie, NOFX’s Punk In Drublic, and Rancid’s …And Out Come The Wolves, is credited for having revived the punk industry during the mid-1990s.

The sudden fame that The Offspring saw as a result of Smash was unexpected, to say the least. Guitarist Kevin Wasserman, who goes by the nickname of “Noodles”, still worked at a janitor at his local elementary school months after the album had skyrocketed in sales.

“Up until that moment I didn't really think any of our bands would truly break through,” said Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz. “We had some groups on Epitaph that were bigger than others, but none of them had ever crossed over into mainstream acceptance. Not even close. What the Offspring did was leapfrog over everybody.”

The Future:

The Offspring’s most recent album, Days Go By, was released in 2012. It was the first album from The Offspring to feature drummer Pete Parada, who joined with the band in 2007.

Currently, the band is in the studio working on their tenth full-length studio album, which will be released sometime in 2017.


Next week’s review: Yellowcard’s “Ocean Avenue”

Friday, November 18, 2016

REVIEW: METALLICA'S "ST. ANGER"

St. Anger is Metallica’s eighth studio album, released in 2003 after one of many hiatuses in the thrash-metal band’s career. The album is highly controversial for a number of reasons; while many consider it to be among Metallica’s worst, St. Anger is still widely discussed among the Metallica community in light of its criticisms. But is St. Anger really that bad to warrant such a flaming from critics and fans alike?

The Content:

St. Anger is one of Metallica’s longer albums, standing at seventy-five minutes. And for some, that might be a curse as much as it is a blessing.

That’s because – and for good reason – St. Anger does a lot of things wrong as much as it does right.

Let’s start with the biggest offense: the drums. While previous Metallica albums made good use of heavy-hitting drum sounds, on St. Anger the snare has a distinctly tinny sound that overrides all of the other instrumentals on the album. While a difference in sound may be welcomed by some, for others it turns St. Anger’s eleven tracks into mush, with one track indistinct from the next.

That’s perhaps one of my biggest criticisms of the album; while the front half is absolutely loaded with headbangers not typical from your golden Metallica albums, the back half just feels like one long slosh of drop-tunings and messy drum beats. While tracks like Frantic, St. Anger, and Dirty Window feel worthy of the Metallica name, anything after track 5, Invisible Kid, is nearly devoid of replay value. It’s this issue – not the lack of guitar solos, not the cheesy lyrics (One lyric in particular, “My lifestyle determines my deathstyle,” nearly made me turn off the music and review another album entirely), not the nu-metal sound that’s antithetical to Metallica as a whole – that made listening to this album an overall frustrating experience.

And yet at the end of the day, St. Anger isn’t a total flop. As I mentioned before, the redeeming tracks in the first half of the album are great on their own. But, as an eleven-track collection, it feels creatively misguided in so many aspects that it can’t even come close to Metallica’s best work.

The Impact:

St. Anger is, to this day, seen perhaps as Metallica’s most controversial album.

Releasing on the heels of a near break-up following the departure of longtime bassist Jason Newsted in 2001, the album became a subject of a documentary, Some Kind Of Monster (named after the third track on the album), in which the band’s tribulations before and during the album’s recording were caught on film.

St. Anger, of course, remains a polarizing album for many fans as a result of its nu-metal sound, lack of solos, and a snare drum sound often compared to the sound of drumming on a metal garbage can. As frontman James Hetfield has put it, “It’s one of those albums where you love it or you hate it.”

Despite the mixed opinions, St. Anger still debuted at #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and has since sold over six million copies worldwide.

The Future:

Metallica’s newest album, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, releases today. It is the band’s tenth album overall, and their first since 2008’s Death Magnetic. Three tracks from the album – Hardwired, Moth Into Flame, and Atlas, Rise! were released in the lead-up to the album's release.

Drummer Lars Ulrich has confirmed that the band will shoot a video for all twelve songs on Hardwired. “The practicality of shooting 12 music videos is kind of crazy, especially when you’re trying to promote your record,” Ulrich said in an interview with The Straits Times, “And you’re all over the place and trying to make sure it doesn’t leak. It’s crazy but, at the same time, fun.”


Next week’s review: The Offspring’s “Smash”


Friday, November 11, 2016

REVIEW: THE DESCENDENTS' "MILO GOES TO COLLEGE"

Milo Goes to College is the debut album from California punk-rockers The Descendents. Released in 1982 to little fanfare in a budding punk scene, the album would go on to be a founding example of punk-rock music that would forever shake the core of the future punk industry. 

The Content:

Milo Goes to College is very much a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it album.

Clocking in at just twenty-two minutes, Milo manages to cram fifteen songs on the album for a collection of tunes that start and end so fast, you can barely tell one apart from the other (a number of them start and end in less than a minute). That said, it was somewhat difficult for me to absorb the album on a first listen, as I barely had time to focus on one song before it switched so fast.

On another end of the punk spectrum, the overall production on the album, though significantly low-fi, ironically gives Milo a sort of polish, distinct from more modern punk peers. The graininess of the sound still impresses sonically in that there’s a certain depth to the bass, a dimension to the guitars and vocals.

Once Milo really sets in, however, it’s not hard to appreciate it for what it is. Songs like I Wanna Be A Bear, the second track, are quintessential circle-pit material that made me want to mosh just while sitting at my desk. And, in reflection, short songs make for little to prove when it comes to thematics. And, in reality, thematics on Milo takes a back seat to the album’s groove; if it sounds good, it works.

Other album highlights? Jean Is Dead, the closing track, feels a little more whole in comparison to the rest of the album. For a selection of songs that flies one-by-one, Jean at least feels like a proper finish. Suburban Home, opening with a brief spoken-word quip (“I want to be stereotyped/I want to be classified”) is perhaps the most conceptual song on the album, and does give a sense of awareness not found in other songs. That’s not to say the album hinges on its politics; in fact, Milo sells based on its pure no-fucks-given drive, and that’s what makes it so great.

The Impact:

The Descendents, in just twenty-two minutes of rushed punk pageantry, created one of the most significant punk albums of all time with Milo Goes to College.

While the album did not chart and saw little, if any commercial success, it is cited as a major punk influence to this day. Fat Mike of NOFX, for example, has cited Milo as his all-time favorite album.

The album came at a time in which the West Coast punk scene was still blossoming. Released in 1982, Milo would pave the way for even bigger punk acts to take over and find success throughout the rest of the 20th century. Bands like Green Day, NOFX, and blink-182 would take the reins going into the turn of the century, in turn cementing the California punk scene founded in part by The Descendents.

The album is also noteworthy for having inspired so many other punk-rock acts that would follow. Tom DeLonge, the former guitarist of blink-182, has also credited this influence, saying that his band was “absolutely a product of The Descendents.”

The Future:

Hypercaffium Spazzinate, the band’s first album since 2004, released in 2016. Lead singer Milo Aukerman, a doctor in biochemistry by trade, only recently gave up his profession to give his full attention to The Descendents; Aukerman’s career made for long hiatuses within The Descendents, as they've only released three albums in the past twenty years.
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Next week’s review: Metallica’s “St. Anger”

Friday, November 4, 2016

REVIEW - THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS' "A BEAUTIFUL LIE"

A Beautiful Lie is Thirty Seconds To Mars’ second effort, released in 2005 after their eponymous debut in 2002. While their first album only saw limited success, A Beautiful Lie catapulted them into the mainstream airwaves and brought newfound recognition upon the band. What’s inside this iconic album that made it a widespread success?

The Content:

Listening to A Beautiful Lie for the first time both fascinated and confused me at the same time. While I had heard the album’s singles before, and have always been fond of Attack and The Kill, the style of the rest of the album felt so broadly inspired by so many other bands that I couldn’t pinpoint one specific influence for the band’s sophomore release. And yet it’s the broadness of progressive sound on the album that left the biggest impression for me.

While the introductory riff from Was It A Dream? could’ve come straight from a Metallica ballad (Sanitarium specifically comes to mind), the rest of the song fits right in with the 2000s punk-pop-emo scene. The preceding track, The Kill, is heavy on the My Chemical Romance sound with its aggressive screaming vocals. Each track has a different vibe from the rest, putting its listeners in a different mood to make for a roller coaster of a musical experience. It is for this reason that, as a short-term impression, I wouldn’t hesitate to rank A Beautiful Lie among some of my favorite albums.

The back half of the album, meanwhile, takes on a similar blend of musical influences. While some songs take pages from the musical styles of Linkin Park and Blink-182, songs such as The Battle of One adopt the theatrics of Green Day. As I write this and currently listen to the album’s closing track, Hunter, I come to realize that the album’s varied influences are what make 30STM’s sound so unique; if you were to ask me which band 30STM reminds me of, I would likely fail to give you a singular answer.

I truly don’t believe that there’s a bad song on the album. I wouldn’t even claim to say that some songs are weaker than others. Each song on A Beautiful Lie both blends with the next while standing out uniquely on its own, be it differences in vocal styles, instrumentals, or even in the electro-vibes heard in Attack and Hunter. A Beautiful Lie feels like a rare album that perfectly summarizes the progressive rock scene of the 2000s and deserves your utmost attention.

The Impact:

A Beautiful Lie marked a departure from the band’s self-titled debut, but this evolution in sound would help to contribute to the album’s success. A Beautiful Lie debuted at #36 on the Billboard 200 in its first week of release for sales of 21,000 copies.

Frontman Jared Leto, before his involvement with the band, made fame as an actor, starring in films such as Fight Club (1999) and American Psycho (2000) during the band’s early days. As a result of Leto’s filming schedule, A Beautiful Lie was recorded in five different countries on four different continents.

The album would bring the band to worldwide fame, particularly with singles The Kill and From Yesterday. A Beautiful Lie has since sold 1.2 million copies in the United States alone, and would lead to the band’s first performances at international festivals such as Rock am Ring and Roskilde.
In 2009, Kerrang! Magazine ranked A Beautiful Lie #4 on their 50-album list of decade-best albums.

The Future:

Thirty Seconds to Mars’ latest album, Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams, was released in 2013. As of late, Leto has refocused on his acting career, which included supporting roles in Dallas Buyers Club (2013) and Suicide Squad (2016). Despite his filming schedule, Leto’s touring requirement have been seemingly unfazed, as the band has played festivals and tours throughout 2015 and 2016.

Currently, the band is at work recording their fifth studio album. It was confirmed in 2016 that the band had signed with Interscope Records, with an album releasing sometime in 2017.

Next week’s review: The Descendents’ “Milo Goes To College”


Friday, October 28, 2016

REVIEW: RED'S "END OF SILENCE"

End of Silence is the 2006 debut album from Christian rock band Red. Though the genre may initially sound niche at the mere sound of the name, Silence blends spiritual lyrics with hard-hitting rock influences that make for a surprisingly strong listen that bridges all genres.

The Content:

Upon a first listen, End of Silence makes its mark sonically among bands such as Linkin Park and Breaking Benjamin. The deep, lurching hardcore sounds nearly perfectly marks Red’s status as a Christian Rock band, and in doing so can appeal to both demographics with vast success. Though, personally, calling them a Christian rock band may seem to be a stretch during their first impression. Without a deep reading of the lyrics, they could almost be considered within the same topicality as the aforementioned bands.

Breathe Into Me, as an opening track, does its job well enough. Hooking its listeners with a throaty, god-thirsty chorus and soaring symphonics, the rest of the album seems to blend in blandness in comparison. But, despite the disparity, the album still makes a lasting impression even to those who aren’t acquainted with 2000s rock (myself included).

And yet, during some of the slower songs such as Pieces (a fan favorite amongst many), I still felt myself wanting more. It has substance, sure, but it feels spread too flat as opposed to rooted in the depth it could possess. That is, Pieces feels as though it passes up a lot of missed opportunities.

Despite these setbacks, the album still feels cohesive and consistent with a full run-through. While listening to this album, I never have the urge to, say, skip a track here or there or repeat a song over and over again. On its own, front to back, End of Silence is perfect for a straight listen during a strong study session, its modern-rock vibes making for some strong focus music.

Overall, End of Silence is a strong first entrance for Red. For good reason, it remains a fan-favorite to this day with highlight tracks (Breathe Into Me and Already Gone in particular) that are still played live to this day.

The Impact:

Though End of Silence was the first album from a band performing in a somewhat niche genre, the album would go on to be RIAA-certified gold.

To this day, End of Silence, particularly its lead single Breathe Into Me, remains a hallmark for Christian rock fans and casual rockers alike. The song continues to be a live staple and, arguably, is synonymous with the band itself. 

However, the album wasn’t written with the intention of mainstream success. Said band member Randy Armstrong, “When we made that first album, we didn't know anything about radio, we didn't know anything about anything.”

The album would go on to pave the success for their sophomore effort Innocence and Instinct. Released in 2009, the album would continue the buildup that led to their No. 2 debut on the Billboard 200 with 2011’s Until We Have Faces.

The Future:

Red’s most recent album, Of Beauty and Rage, released in 2015. Currently, the band is touring in support of the 10th anniversary of End of Silence. Red also released a 10th anniversary edition of the album, with two unreleased tracks and four acoustic renditions of original End of Silence songs.


Next week’s review: Thirty Seconds to Mars’ “A Beautiful Lie”

Friday, October 21, 2016

REVIEW: BOX CAR RACER'S "BOX CAR RACER"

Box Car Racer is the first (and only) album from the eponymously named pop-punk band Box Car Racer. What originally began as a side-project in 2001 for blink-182 guitarist Tom DeLonge would eventually become a full-fledged band, complete with a 2002 tour intermixed with blink-182’s schedule. Even with Box Car Racer being a one-and-done thing, why do people still care today about its presence?

The Content:

For an album that starts off with a slow and melodic piano intro, Box Car Racer wastes no time in laying down grungy, raw verses and guitar breakdowns. Frontman Tom DeLonge proceeds to explore the dark and doom in songs like I Feel So, Tiny Voices, and Sorrow.

Though the album features two members of massively successful punk band blink-182, the side-project marks a huge departure from the happy-go-lucky sound the potty-mouthed punk rockers accustomed themselves to. Box Car Racer explores mature themes of sorrow (hence the aptly-titled track), isolation, and confusion.

While songs like I Feel So feel reminiscent of the sound that made blink-182 so popular, at the same time it’s the low-fi sound production that gives Box Car Racer it’s unique edge and charm. Perhaps one of the album’s highlights is the quick, rapidly paced My First Punk Song that serves as an interlude to the album’s grown-up themes.

And then there’s the maturity in Letters to God and There Is, soft power-ballads throughout the album’s second act. While the former evolves into one of the heaviest choruses on the album, it’s the softness of these songs that set Box Car Racer apart from other pop-punk contemporary acts.

The Impact:

Though Box Car Racer was only meant to be an unreleased side-project for Tom DeLonge to take time away from blink-182, the album eventually saw release in 2002 to moderate success. Singles I Feel So and There Is would go on to chart at #8 and #32 on the US Modern Rock Tracks Chart, respectively.

The album would be more notable, however, as its herald of the beginning of the end of Tom’s tenure with blink-182. Box Car Racer created a riff between DeLonge and blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus, in which Hoppus felt betrayed by his two bandmates forming another band without him. “At the end of 2001 it felt like Blink-182 had broken up. It wasn't spoken about, but it felt over," Hoppus said.

Despite this split, blink-182 would go on to release a massively successful eponymous album in 2003 before a 2005 breakup. The breakup was caused by tensions between the bandmates stemming from the Box Car Racer project.

The Future:

Box Car Racer would come to be the only album released by the band before their disbandment. DeLonge and drummer Travis Barker would continue with blink-182 before their 2005 hiatus, 2009 reunion, and DeLonge’s 2015 departure from the band.

DeLonge, during blink-182’s hiatus, would later go on to form Angels and Airwaves, another side-band which he would describe as a continuation of the Box Car Racer project. Barker, meanwhile, would go on to join blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus’ side-project, +44, before blink-182 reunited in 2009.


Next week’s review: Red’s “End of Silence”

Friday, October 14, 2016

REVIEW: MEGADETH'S "PEACE SELLS...BUT WHO'S BUYING?"

Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying? is the contentious second album from thrash-metal band Megadeth. Their major-label debut, it set the scene for a mainstream breakthrough for the band as they began to lay the foundation for the thrash-metal scene. But what is it about Peace Sells that stood out among the greats to lay that brickwork down?

The Content:

For an album that promises sheer and utter description with its apocalyptic album cover, Peace Sells surely delivers.

Right from the get-go, we’re treated with stupidly fast, yet traditional 80s thrash rifts reminiscent of the album’s rivals at the time; Metallica’s Master Of Puppets and Slayer’s Reign In Blood were also released in 1986. Yet Peace Sells manages to sound perfectly distinct from the aforementioned works – the bass feels heavier (sorry, Cliff Burton), the guitars are whinier, and the vocals, though subpar to other works of the era, feel uniquely styled to Dave Mustaine’s writing style. With some songs taking on spoken word bits while also blending in traditional thrash metal, tracks like Wake Up Dead and Peace Sells feel experimental, yet well worth the payoff.

Yet starting off the opening track, Wake Up Dead, with spoken word feels a tad jarring. While the song breaks down into a headbanger of a riff toward the song’s final act, songs tend to shift too often and too suddenly to feel cohesive or impactful. Bits of however – namely, the final breakdowns in the opening track as well as Good Mourning/Black Friday stand out as some of the album’s most kickass moments.

Does the album have its filler? Absolutely. Devil’s Island, in particular, doesn’t feel righteous among its fellow Peace Sells tracks, not to mention its similarity in vocal stylings. But, overall, Peace Sells, from the perspective of a new Megadeth fan, can stand pretty comfortably as a memorable piece of work with definite replay value.

The Impact:

Though Peace Sells was only the band’s second full-length album, it would go on to launch Megadeth into success both within the thrash metal scene as well as in the mainstream.

Peace Sells launched in 1986 alongside Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Slayer’s Reign in Blood, and all albums would go on to make a significant impact on the thrash metal era. These three albums helped to bring the genre out of the underground and would go on to help launch the bands into mainstream success; Megadeth would soon find worldwide prominence with 1990’s Rust In Peace.

The album would go on to be certified Platinum by the RIAA and charted at #76 on the Billboard 200. Though not a hot performance compared to artists of the day, for a barely-known genre it represented a major victory in bringing thrash metal to the public light.

While some songs off the album are still live staples today, such as Wake Up Dead or Peace Sells, some songs off the album haven’t been played live in several years due to Mustaine’s change in lifestyle. “being a dad, being a responsible person, being a musician who has influenced a lot of lives very positively,” Mustaine said. “I look at it and think ‘I don’t know if I would play that live.’”

The Future:

Megadeth’s latest album, Dystopia, released in January of 2016. The current lineup features Dave Mustaine on vocals/rhythm guitar, longtime bassist David Ellefson, lead guitarist Kiko Loureiro, and drummer Dirk Verbeuren. Currently, the band is touring the United States in support of the album.

Dystopia, the band’s fifteenth full-length album, was released to mostly positive reviews, and was cited as a return to form after the mixed reactions to their 2013 album, Super Collider.


Next week’s review: Box Car Racer’s “Box Car Racer”

Friday, October 7, 2016

REVIEW: GREEN DAY'S "AMERICAN IDIOT"

American Idiot is the seventh full-length album from legendary punk-rockers Green Day. Their first album after a four-year hiatus, it propelled them back into superstardom after 1994’s Dookie first brought them to prominence. American Idiot has since become synonymous with the band; that is, you can’t have one without the other making it what it is today. But what is it about American Idiot that remains so important within the context of Green Day?

The Content:

American Idiot is one of those rare albums where every single song has a purpose, a place, an unchallenged feeling of fervor as a representative of the album’s overall message. While the album is partly a political manifesto and partly fictional bildungsroman, songs on the album contribute to both facets while individually standing out as some of Green Day’s best work.

From the beginning riffs of the title track to the final outro of Whatsername, American Idiot never loses its charm or wit as it progresses through all thirteen tracks. The American Idiot track, in addition to Holiday, are more politically charged than anything Green Day has done before this, with lyrics such as “Television dreams of tomorrow/We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow” mirroring desensitization of the Bush-era in which the album was released.

Artistically speaking, American Idiot stands easily as Green Day’s magnum opus. Interwoven throughout the album is the story of the Jesus of Suburbia, a disenfranchised youth growing up in post-9/11 America. Frustrated with the broken state of his small town, he leaves to become his own man in the midst of political angst, told in the nine-minute epic Jesus of Suburbia. For more on the complete narrative embedded within American Idiot, check out IGN’s review of the album.

 Stadium rock anthems like Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Wake Me Up When September Ends, meanwhile, contribute heavily to the album’s anger while simultaneously feeling like singles. That’s not to say they stand out from the rest of the album in that way – on the contrary, they feel perfectly placed within the album’s story.

Apart from the album’s singles, each and every song feels like it has a story to tell. There’s the joy of returning home in Homecoming, another nine-minute track. There’s the pain of moving on from love in Whatsername. There’s the longing for validation and meaning in Are We The Waiting. Every feeling of anger, pain, happiness, sorrow, it’s all found in this album. And each song articulates those feelings with perfect execution.

The Impact:

To say that American Idiot is still a classic album would be a vast understatement. American Idiot remains, to this day, one of the greatest albums of the 21st century for a number of reasons.

Having released roughly six weeks before the 2004 Presidential Elections, the album made its mark as a vehement anti-Bush dialogue. Several songs from the album, most notably Holiday, explored the band’s political anger toward the Iraq War with inflammatory lyrics such as “Coming down like an Armageddon flame/A shame/The ones who died without a name.” In response to criticism about their music, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong would often clarify that “This song is not anti-American; it’s anti-war.” A B-side from the album, Favorite Son, would be featured in Rock Against Bush, Vol. 2, a compilation album from other punk artists.

“We were in the studio and watching the journalists embedded with the troops, and it was the worst version of reality television,” Armstrong said regarding the album’s topicality. “Switch the channel, and it’s Nick [Lachey] and Jessica [Simpson]. Switch, and it’s Fear Factor. Switch, and people are having surgery to look like Brad Pitt. We’re surrounded by all of that bulls–t, and the characters Jesus of Suburbia and St. Jimmy are, as well. It’s a sign of the times.”

Commercially, American Idiot would become the band’s first No. 1 album in the United States, and would go on to sell over fifteen million copies worldwide. The album also marked a comeback for the band after the commercial disappointment of 2000’s Warning and their subsequent near-split. With this comeback came a reinvention of sorts – a reinvention of sound, of image, and even of the band’s interpretation of punk rock; the band’s other major success, 1994’s Dookie, can’t claim to have nearly the sophistication nor the commentary that American Idiot offers.

The band would go on to further explore their political monologue in their follow-up album, 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown. Though it didn’t see the massive success of American Idiot, lead singles Know Your Enemy and 21 Guns still see their share of radio play today.

Twelve years after its release, American Idiot is still held in high regard. The album has left behind a currently-touring Broadway musical of the same name, a Kerrang! tribute album, and a currently in—progress Hollywood film.

The Future:

Green Day’s latest album, Revolution Radio, releases today alongside NOFX’s First Ditch Effort and Sum 41’s 13 Voices. Three singles from the album – Bang Bang, Revolution Radio, and Still Breathing  have been released.

Revolution Radio is the band’s first album in four years, serving as the follow-up to their UNO, DOS, and TRE album trilogy in 2012.


Next week’s review: Megadeth’s “Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying?”

Friday, September 30, 2016

REVIEW: SUM 41'S ALL KILLER, NO FILLER

All Killer, No Filler is the second full-length album from Canadian punk-rock band Sum 41. Produced by the late and great Jerry Finn and released in 2001, it became the hallmark of Sum 41’s career and is their most successful album to date. But among the band’s varied sounds, from ska to punk to metal, why is it this pop-punk classic that’s still regarded as a classic?

The Content

All Killer, No Filler opens with a prophetical warning: “The dark armies then will come/When the sum is 41.”
Cue the gritty guitar riffs and rhythmic drum beats that lead into Nothing On My Back, the band’s opening track apart from the intro.

What follows feels like a grab bag of punk, pop and rock mixes. There’s that blazing, no-holds-barred punk found in Never Wake Up, All She’s Got, and hit single Fat Lip, but Sum 41 doesn’t hesitate from going down the pop-punk road with album highlights In Too Deep and Summer. In Too Deep in particular has all the makings of a stadium rock anthem, and to this day is regarded as a Sum 41 classic.

Despite the album’s promise of its tracks being all killer and no filler, there are some minute weak points to be found. Though they follow the same formula as some of the album’s more notable tracks, Rhythms and Crazy Amanda Bunkface in particular feel unexciting even with the usual pop-punk formula tallied in. Though they’re by no means bad songs, they lack any kind of hook found in In Too Deep’s slow buildup or Fat Lip’s alternating vocalists (guitarists Dave “Brownsound” Baksh and Steve “Stevo32” Jocz share vocals with frontman Deryck Whibley on this track).

But what the album lacks in content makes up for in overall flow. That is, every single track in Killer feels precisely located, every single track fades into the next seamlessly. There’s no going wrong with a track progression like Motivation à In Too Deep à Summer. One after the other, the band blasts through Killer with hardly a breath in between – and for such a monumental album, that’s a really good thing.

The Impact

Every time In Too Deep comes on the radio, or on Spotify, everyone in the room proceeds to sing along. Fifteen years after Killer’s release, it still feels like an instant pop-punk classic.
All Killer, No Filler would go on to sell nearly two million copies in the U.S., in turn launching the band into superstardom.

However, the album would not turn out to be indicative of their later works. Their follow-up albums, Does This Look Infected? (2002) and Chuck (2004), ventured into darker punk and metal territories that is more indicative of their current style. “A lot’s happened in a year,” said Whibley in regards to Does This Look Infected?. “When we were writing [All Killer, No Filler], everything was happy go lucky. Now this time we've seen a little bit more and our eyes have been opened up a little bit."

Still, thanks to the success of Killer, Sum 41 rests easily among the many pop-punk greats.

The Future

Sum 41’s latest album, 13 Voices, releases on Oct. 7th. It is the first album in five years from the band, serving as a followup to 2011’s Screaming Bloody Murder.
13 Voices is the first Sum 41 album since 2004’s Chuck to feature founding guitarist Baksh, and the first Sum 41 album without founding drummer Jocz, who left the band in 2013.

Three tracks from the forthcoming album – Fake My Own Death, War, and God Save Us All (Death to POP) – have been released. The album will launch alongside NOFX’s First Ditch Effort and Green Day’s Revolution Radio.


Next week’s review: Green Day’s “American Idiot”

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

REVIEW: NOFX'S PUNK IN DRUBLIC

NOFX's Punk in Drublic is the American punk band's fifth full-length effort in addition to their mainstream breakthrough. Released in 1994, it is considered to be one of the band's best albums. But why does Punk in Drublic still hold a candle to other punk albums today?

The Content

For what was, at the time (and arguably still is), a lowkey punk-rock group, Punk in Drublic starts off with its head held high and its eyes set on total destruction. The opening track, Linoleum, sets the pace for what becomes a nearly nonstop power-chord shredfest, leading into other tracks such as Don’t Call Me White, Jeff Wears Birkenstocks?, and Reeko.

Upon first listen, Drublic has all the makings of your classic punk album. Power chords, raw vocals, lyrics of doom, gloom, politics, lovemaking, and everything in between, lurching bass, machine-gun drum fills…it’s all there. I’ll admit to having never listened to NOFX before last week, but all of its hooks have gotten me, well, hooked.

And yet for an album that released in the year of a Punk Renaissance (Green Day’s Dookie, The Offspring’s Smash, and Rancid’s Let’s Go all released in 1994, alongside Punk in Drublic), it feels so ahead of its time in comparison to its millennial counterparts. Riffs found in tracks like Linoleum, Leave Me Alone, and Perfect Government feel reminiscent of the works of later pop-punk bands such as Blink-182 and Sum 41, who would both go on to inspire bands of similar caliber.

And in this case, the early bird gets the worm; the tracks found on Punk in Drublic feel uniquely inspired, its lyrics indicative of other punk songs of the day while setting itself apart from other punk albums released during that era.

The Impact

Even without the help of a major record label (a NOFX trait that still carries to this day), Punk in Drublic stands among the many 90’s punk greats, and for good reason. Drublic managed to launch NOFX into the mainstream without any radio airplay, major label recognition, or aired music videos.

The album would go on to earn a Gold certification from the MPAA for domestic sales of over 500,000 copies, whereas worldwide Drublic has sold upwards of a million copies. Though that number pales in comparison to diamond records such as Green Day’s Dookie, this was a feat the band managed to achieve all their own. That is, with all the punch seen from major label bands.

On the band’s success, NOFX frontman Fat Mike has come out in what could be called an air of confusion. “The biggest songs on the album don’t have choruses,” he said in 2014. “You generally don’t see bands who write songs without a chorus…I had no idea we were going sell that big. Gold? That was probably the furthest thing from our mind.”

Throughout all of this, the album seems to know exactly what it’s getting itself into. Riffs and melodies crafted and perfected for this album would still sound great played in a concert today just as any other band’s. This is to say that the songs on this album are timeless.

The Future

After almost 35 years of rocking hard and flying to shows on S&M Airlines, NOFX is returning with their latest album, First Ditch Effort, on October 7th of this year. The album drops alongside Green Day’s Revolution Radio and Sum 41’s 13 Voices.
All four of the band’s members – Fat Mike, Eric Melvin, El Hefe, and Eric Sandin – are returning for the band’s thirteenth album, maintaining a lineup that’s held firm since 1991.


Next week’s review: Sum 41’s “All Killer, No Filler”