November 26

Just in Case – Better Late Than Never

Let’s just cut to the chase ok?  This album rocks!  The first track (also my favorite) titled News to Me jumps right in and the story is underway.  There is no fancy intro or dicking around of any kind.  All instruments are in full swing immediately and the following is what I noticed:  The vocals have that inexplicable thing that I have always been drawn to…melody without going overboard.  The tempos are fast and energetic just as I always crave.  The guitar and bass progressions crank along against a banging a$$ drum groove and I love every second of it!  On the following two tracks, JIC starts to bring in a little more of a pop element.  The riffs and vocal melodies start to have a familiar Blink-182/Lit happy So-Cal vibe.  Often, such a comparison in a review might take a turn toward the negative, but that’s not going to happen right now.  JIC has this cool way of keeping things unpredictable and interesting.  They don’t seem to worry about trying to force the song arrangements into perfectly balanced formulaic tunes.  Instead, when you’d expect the vocal cadences or a guitar progression to parallel a previous verse or chorus, it doesn’t happen.  The band will insert well executed variations and it breaks up the monotony of your standard pop punk song.  Sometimes this approach to song writing results in a choppy non-cohesive “Frankensong”.  Not the case with these guys!  The overall sense of groove and flow doesn’t waiver, and I can’t help but applaud this!  On the next track titled Damn Tasty, the band comes in with the fastest double-time groove on the release.  It brought back all sorts of fond memories of bands like Sicko and early MXPX, and as with all of JIC’s songs, it does not maintain this feel from start to finish.  Instead, the song makes a paradigm shift somewhere near the halfway mark into a loud and open half-time feel emphasizing the notion, “give them time to die…let their faces turn blue!”

justincase2Better Late Than Never wraps up with another really solid track called “Currently”.  It is loaded with cool elements including classic palm muted verses, a pre-verse bridge with a clever guitar riff, and one hell of an addictive chorustaschen.  Vocally, there is something about the phrasing and note choice of, “I won’t rely on the same old words and be satisfied” that just works!  …I mean it really works!  …and if you’re not singing along after a few listens, you can at least look forward to the minute-and-a-half long saxophone solo that takes you to the end.  It’s most certainly dope! (insert hand claps & cheers for sure on this one!!!)  I hope these guys hold it together and put out a full-length.  I’d pre-order it!

Review by T-Money

October 22

Arson Academy – By The Hour

By The Hour is the debut full length by San Diego post punk band, Arson Academy. The first thing I notice right away while listening is the production value of this album. The recording is big sounding and fills the whole spectrum of the listener’s ears. Everything sits where it should and is mixed and mastered very well.

The first track, Tint of Red, reminds me of A Day To Remember. Super heavy minor chord riffage, followed by pretty guitars while the vocalist comes in to sing his verses. The hook in this song is very catchy.

By The HourThe next song is the title track of the album, By the Hour. Once again Arson Academy has the right blend of super melodic verses mixed with heavy choruses. By the Hour has a very neat chanting chorus that I can see people singing along to live. The bridge break into a octave piece that leads nicely back to the chantey chorus.

Dizzy Spell is the next track, and the title describes it pretty well. It starts with a crazy drum piece that seems to be a bit out of time, and leaves the listeners scrambling to find time to tap your foot to. More of the same with this track. Very neat bridge/breakdown section in this song. Once again the drummer struggles to keep time throughout the whole piece.

The album continues on and is a steady dose of catchy hooks, breakdowns, and riffs that will make you feel like going to a show and bouncing endlessly while chanting along with the lead singer through the choruses.

My favorite track would have to be one called Robotic. It sticks out on By The Hour. It starts with some harmonizing guitar licks and breaks down into another chorus that makes you want to raise your fist and sing along. The harmonies are spot on, and the vocal melody is very original. I especially like the bridge in this song. Very creative.

Hips VS Hardwood is another cool track. It’s an acoustic track and is a great break from the overall  heaviness of the rest of the album. I really like the acoustic tracks and demo tracks that are included with the album. It’s always great to hear the progression of a song from demo to finished track.

Overall, By The Hour is a very solid release by Arson Academy. Every track is well thought out and the vocals seem to have a lot of thought behind them. Where this band sticks out is their ability to write a hook in each and every track that is easy to sing along to. The vocals aren’t always in key, the drummer seems to slip in and out of time a little, but that doesn’t matter when you have an audience singing along to all the words in your songs. They also do a pretty decent cover of Face to Face’s Disconnected on By The Hour. The bass player nails the bass line. If you are familiar with Face to Face, you know that is no easy feat. If you are a fan of A Day To Remember, The Black Maria, or Emery, you will enjoy Arson Academy.

Review By Loons

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October 8

Back Alley Hooligans – Self Titled

Back Alley HooligansYou can take Andres Gonzales out of the East Bay, but you can’t take the East Bay out of Andres!  After relocating to San Diego and helping to form Back Alley Hooligans, the band has put out an 11 track album that kicks open the front door, leaves it hanging open, and proceeds to shake 22oz cans of beer and spray down the inside of the house!  What you’re going to get from these rockers is power chords…two kinds….open and palm muted.  You’re also going to get a dose of syllables in the verses and a healthy serving of shouted gang vocals!  Don’t expect any rest either!  The pace is relentless!  The opening track Harding Street gets right down to business with hard driving rhythms and lead vox that are in your face and have no regard for pitch!  I should mention that this song has some killer vocal patterns with well thought out rhymes that resolve with extended phrasings and witty expressions.  There is little to no variation on the following four tunes until the band mixes things up on Sinister World.  This is a ska based track that, if the band hasn’t already done so, will remind you of Rancid.  Don’t get too comfortable though!  Immediately following, it’s right back to fast paced, fist pumping punk tunes!  BAH are no doubt inspiring punks to leave their show with an elevated BAC as they close out the release with a rowdy salute to alcohol!  My friends, this is a solid…SOLID…bash-it-up punk rock record!  (insert hand claps and cheers for Back Alley Hooligans!)

Review by T-Money

October 7

PunchCard – Non Compos Mentis

PunchcardYou either like snotty lead vocals or you don’t!  There’s no in-between, and I imagine that PunchCard is pretty polarizing in that department.  I’m not going to get through a review of this release without drawing a comparison to NOFX (there, I got that out of the way).  Regardless of how you feel about the vocals, there is much to speak highly of on this release.  These guys pay attention to their craft!  Chops, pauses, solos, turnarounds, breakdowns, vocal harmonies, half-time grooves, ska grooves, double-time grooves, etc.  It’s all in there, and these guys have put it together with plenty of technical proficiency and deliberateness.  The record kicks off with a snarky song titled 4 Drink Minimum.  It’s fast and high energy, as the guitar plays sustained octaves before dropping into thicker power chords as the singer rifles through different liquors with slick rhyming schemes.  The vocal harmonies are tight, and the whole package is a hell of a lot better than a 2 Drink Minimum!  The message is simple!  Get sloshed and let’s get rad at the show!  The next song Reading Between the Lines is perhaps my favorite.  As the drums oscilate back n forth between a steady mid-tempo and a fast double-time groove, the guitar shows a lot of diversity incorporating some cool chromaticism between verses, a well phrased melodic solo, and a very unexpected clean/jazzy bridge at2:20.  …and what’s not to like about a song that sarcastically questions CNN as a credible news source?  PunchCard continues on with a total of 6 tracks in the same vein!  They wrap it up the release with an unapologetic and appropriately titled song All We Are in which they drive home the message

all we are is what you see, we have come this far without help…from anybody!

Review by T-Money
October 7

Castoff – Acquisition

San Diego melodic punkers Castoff have recently released their sophomore effort titled Acquisition. Castoff is known for their dueling guitars, thought provoking lyrics, and tempos that are great for knocking the dust off of your skateboard and hitting the streets. Acquisition does not disappoint when it comes to this. The 8 track album starts with a right hook to your ear holes with Anytown, Usa and continues throughout to the title track Acquisition.  There is a certain beauty to the short and sweet songs on this album. They are to the point and make you feel like you have experienced an 8 minute epic of a song within 2 minutes of punk rock riffage.

Castoff - AcquisitionThe guitar playing of Bill and Adam is on point and creative. They work well together and fill the space that should be filled with guitars nicely. Brian’s bass playing brings back memories of a Punk in Drublic era Fat Mike. Mixing chords and turnarounds to show how a punk rock bass player should sound. Pete holds down the beat and keeps the blistering pace up throughout the album. The melody and cadence of Bill’s lead vocals are great and a huge step forward from Castoff’s last release.

My favorite track on the album would have to be Hubris of the Victorious. The track starts off with a killer bass line consisting of strummed chords, and when the verse drops, a gang of chanted oooh’s and aaah’s fill the speakers. The guitars are playing a cool harmonized riff and the drums are pounding away. It is a great track with a great message behind the lyrics.

If I had to nit pick, the only real complaint with this album is that I wish the bass was a little louder in the mix. Other than that, Acquisition is a solid album from top to bottom. If you are a fan of bands like Propagandhi, A Wilhelm Scream, or DC Fallout, you will absolutely love Castoff. They do a great job of capturing the energy of their live performances with Acquisition. I highly recommend picking up a copy.

Review by Loons

October 7

Worst Human Being on the Planet (split)

By A Minor Revolution and The Digs

I have to say, I was caught off guard by this release in more ways than one.  First, I was under the impression that I was reviewing a local San Diego band.  It was presented by an individual who let it be known that “they” are playing a show on October 11th at The Bancroft (a San Diego venue).  As it turns out, this release is not only non-local, but it is a split with two different bands:  A Minor Revolution from New Hampshire, and The Digs out of Boston, each band contributing two songs each.

Worst Part Of Being HumanWhen the first track Analog came on, my knee jerk reaction was that of, “meh, I can tell this is going to be weak”.  The recording quality was notably poor, and the lead vocals were WAY too hot in the mix.  As I continued to listen, I quickly learned (at 49 seconds) that my initial impression was wrong again.  Anticipating a boring straight forward and repetitive punk song, I was pleasantly surprised by some very nice ska grooves, tastefully-riffing horns, and a series of beat changes and vocal trade offs that made the song anything but boring!  In fact, it was rocking to the point that I pretty much forgot about the recording quality.   The second track titled Foaming at the Palm borrows heavily from The Clash… more specifically, Guns of Brixton.  Fans of The Clash will immediately recognize the tempo, the rhythms, and the familiar vocal melody.  AMR puts their own spin on it all and incorporates harder edged elements for another solid track!  What can I say?  Good is good, and the A Minor Revolution are officially on my radar!

The following two tracks by The Digs are a decent continuation.  If you took A Minor Revolution, removed the ska elements along with the beat changes, you’d be left with The Digs!  This band is very straight forward.  They are not trying to be flashy or go out of their way to get technical.  Instead, they drive the mid-tempo pop punk car straight down the middle of the road.  While that statement does hold some implications of mediocrity, the songs are very organized and the band plays them well…there’s nothing sloppy going on here!  The vocals are borderline greasy (not snotty) with a fair amount of bends that chug line-for-line and rhyme-for-rhyme over the top of bash-n-go power chords.  This would be a fun band to wander in on during a visit to a random dive bar.  Part of me wishes that they were playing with AMR at The Bancroft on October 11th.  These two bands pair together very nicely on this split!  …by the way, I too have “an uncle that looks like Chewbacca”!

Review by T-Money

October 7

The A​-​bortz – Self Titled

A-BortzIt feels like lazy writing to call this and old-school punk album, but it is hard to think of a better way to open the review.  Distorted power chords and a very gravely voice. Unlike a lot of bands in the genre, you can understand every word that is sung. There are guitar solos, and occasional riffs, but the heart of the album is simple song structures, with lots of energy. Some songs, like LDS on LSD have strong vocal hooks in the chorus.

The drummer is tasteful. He isn’t a one trick pony, or a one beat drummer. I like what he is doing on this album. Like a lot of strong punk songs, the musical structure of each song is a simple 3 or 4 chord progression, which is carried by expressive drumming.

As for the subject matter for the album, it is funny, gutter punk. Songs about

Fuck you and your grocery store harassment
I wont sign your petition
My food and beer is my intention

This is the closest they come to a political message, and it is brilliant. Other topics include:

  • Anti-religion
  • hot dogs (euphemism for male anatomy)
  • zombies
  • sluts

The album was recorded by Jeff Forrest over at Doubletime Studios. It sounds good, like most of the albums do that come out of Doubletime. It does not have the “recorded in my bathroom sound”. The toms could sound a little better, but that’s my only real complaint. The mix is perfect.

Overall Impressions

There are 2 or 3 songs on the albums with vocal hooks that can get stuck in your head. The rest of the songs rely on being loud and sung at full volume. In other words, it is a good punk album. All of the songs are creative and well executed. I can see a mosh pit starting for all of them. If you are in the mood to scream out some aggression, this is a very accessible album. It is worth a listen, if you like old school punk.

Review by Nick

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