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Razorcake #79
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Grabass Charlestons, Ask Mark Twain LP
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No Idea Records

Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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HELLBOUND HEPCATS:
No. 2: CD
What decade did these two guys fall out of? They play rockabilly with the feel of the ‘50s and the early ‘80s renaissance mixed with a bit of country from when it was good. Ten really awesome songs that run the gamut of heartbreak, humor, and attitude across the album with a sense of love for this style of music. This is the kind of stuff you just don’t hear too often and usually it’s not done anywhere as well as these guys do it. I’m going to have to play this for my wife who loves ‘50s music. I think that she’ll dig this, man! I know that I really dug it. –Guest Contributor (Stomp, stomprecords.com)


HAZEL’S WART:
Together We Didn’t: LP
This Bay Area trio mix bombastic punk with the textures of shoegaze pop, coming up with alt-punk like No Age, or Sonic Youth’s most shimmering moments. The sound is huge, but the core feels hollow as the record flies by on atmosphere and big riffs instead of memorable songs. –CT Terry (skrotup.com)


HAND GRENADE JOB:
Self-titled: Cassette
Two-piece band making quiet songs salted with xylophone, bells, and other random instrumentation and percussion. Hand Grenade Job is tilling some reasonably adventurous post-punk ground here. I’d say about half of the songs personally come across as more of an exercise in patience, but when they’re on—as in the deceptively simple “It Gets Old,” a song made up entirely of bells and vocals—it’s surprisingly effective. The band reminds me somewhat of Bratmobile, at least in the vocal department, and should be applauded for their willingness to take risks. Definitely not for everyone, but something like this wouldn’t be out of place in the Dischord, Kill Rock Stars, or Simple Machines back catalogs. –Keith Rosson (Hand Grenade Job)


GREAT APES / KNOW YOUR SAINTS:
Split: 7”
Split single from two bands from California with both being punk, but different styles. Great Apes are a four piece from San Francisco who play punk with a more traditional sound and some nice gruff vocals on their two songs. Know Your Saints are a three piece from Oakland and their punk has more than a touch of alternative rock mixed in, kind of like bands from the ‘90s. Both are pretty good, but I think that Great Apes are the winners on this one for me. –Guest Contributor (say-10.com)


GRABASS CHARLESTONS:
Dale & The Careeners: CD
Serious gaps in their record collections/musical knowledge. Everybody’s got ‘em. Shit, I have a friend who couldn’t even name all the Beatles until this year. In light of that, it doesn’t look so bad that I was only marginally familiar with Grabass up to this point. Sure, I’d seen ‘em live once or twice, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got a burned copy of Ask Mark Twain lying around somewhere, but I hadn’t really let them sink in. (I know, I know, chill out—reference my opening sentence, goddammit.) They’ve always been on my list of bands to get to (And yes, that’s an actual physical list) but I’ve just never gotten around to it. It appears I’ve been missing out too, ‘cause this is good stuff. “Like Craig Finn’s singing, but not stupid.” (According to my roommate) (So, not like Craig Finn at all, I would argue…) I dig the subtle nod to “Sweet Child ‘O Mine” in the melody to “Fall Guy.” Apparently, this sounds different from the older tunes, and, yeah, upon further investigation, the older shit’s gruffer. The newer shit seems to be better-composed, with more thought-out melodies and parts. This isn’t the sort of record that catches you all at once, or has a stand-out “single.” But let me tell you, multiple listens are rewarded-s’good shit. One gap down. –Ryan Horky (No Idea, noidearecords.com)


GRABASS CHARLESTONS:
Dale & The Careeners: CD/LP
I have to admit that I don’t know much about the Grabass Charlestons. I’m sure that for many Razorcake readers, they are a well-known favorite. All I knew of the band was that they were a punk band on No Idea Records from Florida. I expected them to be silly, juvenile, and write equally immature songs. But I like it when my expectations are broken for the better. The Grabass Charlestons have put together twelve songs for thirty-six minutes of solid punk that shows that they are capable of writing songs that can bear some sort of message and include an array of influences beyond their punk rock base. While Dale & The Careeners is certainly a punk-influenced album, I keep hearing a slight bit of country influence as well as some southern rock through a number of the songs. I’m sure some may say Will Thomas’s voice sounds just like this or that guy, but it seems wholly original to me and made the band stand out from the morass that can often exist in punk rock. While it may seem that Dale & The Careeners is a concept album, as the band has said, it’s more a take on the American condition. The songs seem to often deal with a guy named Dale and his situation with drugs, working at the Flying J, and baseball, amongst other things. Other songs don’t mention him at all. So, I’m not sure what to make of the lyrics, but they certainly aren’t juvenile. Dale & The Careeners shows a mature band that knows what they’re doing and isn’t afraid to move past stereotypes that may have held some bands back from achieving an album that they should be proud of. –Kurt Morris (No Idea)


GRABASS CHARLESTONS:
Dale & The Careeners: CD
This CD has a definite theme to it. The character of Dale is in about half of the songs, and his lady Cassandra is in a couple as well. The album is dedicated to the life and memory of Lynnae Hottinger, a friend of the band. The music is easy on the ears, with all of the instruments holding their own. Will’s voice is that of a storyteller’s, and he spins some good yarns, with lyrics about real life shit. My favorite song is “Dale Is a Raindog, Too.” It is about the Tampa Bay Rays winning the American League Wild Card in the last game of the regular season in 2011. The Cardinals did the same thing that year, in the National League. I can relate. This disc features guest vocals from the likes of Chris Wollard, Isaac Thotz, and Neil Hennessy, to name a few. This is a very good CD. –Nighthawk (No Idea)


GRABASS CHARLESTONS:
Dale & The Careeners: CD
Florida punk staple adds some rootsy, Springsteen rock’n’roll to their gruff punk for a rock opera about a junkie couple named Dale and Cassandra. The Charlestons are ripping off The Hold Steady all over this album, but it’s hard to complain when it results in their catchiest batch of songs yet. Here’s to romance: “Cassandra’s not the type to weather the winter and Dale’s a nice guy with a good space heater.” –CT Terry (No Idea)


GRABASS CHARLESTONS:
Dale & The Careeners: CD
Blown away. There is really not much else to say after one listen to this disc. The Charlestons have taken such an evolutionary leap as a band that it is hard to put into words what is going on here, but I will try. While I would be hesitant to call this a concept album, it would be fair to say that it is certainly thematic. The disc’s twelve tracks tell the tale of Dale and Cassandra—two fringe characters who find themselves in the midst of opiate addiction, clean up slightly, and relapse again once the cold days of winter return. In the end, there isn’t really any redemption. This is a painful, harrowing and yet beautiful musical journey totally worth taking. On past releases, I always felt that the Charlestons played it a bit safe but this release really takes them to the next level. Every song on here is a minor masterpiece. Everything here is literate, well written, and performed to a level that I wasn’t expecting. Get this, like right now. –Garrett Barnwell (No Idea)


GRABASS CHARLESTONS:
Dale & The Careeners: CD
Being the first full length in seven years, Dale is a game changer. Here, Will Thomas trades in his sticks for a stab at the guitar. Markedly different from what you associate Grabass with: pop punk persuasion with a Southern slant, Dale takes a turn onto straight up rock. The Charlestons have opted for coasting instead of barreling down the highway at full throttle, as evidenced right out the gate with “Stormy Weather.” A few tracks like “If Dale Were You” and “Apocalypse Whenever” harkens back to their previous work, but after a few play throughs, this grows on ya like a fungus. While this may throw off fans of their older sound, this could also snag the band some new ones. Recommended. –Kristen K (No Idea)


GODSPEED 209:
Live on KDVS: Cassette
Noise-enveloped, dirty-sounding grunge punk owing a lot to bands like Pissed Jeans and Slices. Each side of this cassette features a different live-on-the-radio show with most of the songs repeating, so I’m having a hard time justifying how necessary it is to hear both sessions. The recording is pretty solid but the enthusiasm just doesn’t raise my eyebrows. I’d like to think that they come alive in front of a crowded room and demand people’s attention in a live setting. But so far, I’m just not hearing that here. –Juan Espinosa (Squirmy)


GIRL GUTS:
Victoria: CD-R
The internet gods say this band hails from Washington; given said gods’ accuracy, I can’t vouch for the veracity of that information. What I can say is they dole out some tasty, gruff indie rock with a punk core. The sound dynamics are a bit rough overall, ostensibly to give it some punk edge, but the diversity in evidence from one song to the next and overall structures make it clear they know their way around the whole songwriting thing. Normally not my thing, they definitely do what they do well enough that I can’t help but say the finished product is impressive. –Jimmy Alvarado (Girl Guts, facebook.com/GirlGuts)


FOKKUM:
Notice Yourself: CD
Tin can drums and recycled ‘80s hardcore riffs played at demo quality, yet, it’s this Dutch band’s sixth CD-R. You’d expect the band to have stepped up their game by this point. Each song sounds pretty much exactly the same—banana riffs with the lead singer speak/shouting the lyrics with the rest of the band coming in, here and there, to back him up. However, I can’t be too hard on it. All in all, it’s not great, but there is an appeal to it, a level of passion that I can get behind. Take the lyrics to “Fake Brains: “Wake up and live your life / but try to fix your sight / born with real brains / held down by chains / washed by power games / change your fake brains, live!” Most of the lyrics are of this socio-political nature, covering stuff like feminism and vegetarianism, but mostly resistance to capitalist alienation and living for yourself, like the title track, “Notice Yourself” (which is put in context on the CD cover, the words emblazoned over a huge aerial shot of a dense city)”, in which, the lyrics go “it’s in your mind, it’s in your soul / It’s your own mind, it’s what you sow.” Yeah... notice yourself! All the songs might sound exactly the same and it reminds me of a whole bunch of so-so albums I bought in the nineties when I was a punkling and hocked for cash long ago, but there’s an appeal to it all the same. –Craven (fokkum.nl)


FERAL FUTURE:
Come Out Swinging: 12” EP
Sounds like some lost artifact from the early ‘90s, a bit like Babes In Toyland. The playing is raw, and there’s a lot of attitude in the vocal delivery as well as the overall execution of the songs. I would imagine their live shows have more energy than the recorded material. This isn’t bad, but it doesn’t really grab ahold of your attention either. “Fughandi” sounds like two songs smashed together, with only one that should have been fleshed out more, and the other allowed to die in the rehearsal room. The ending of the song, where they sing: “You take and take and take...” is good, and I thought it was a new song. The part before that was meh. This record would have been more effective as a single. –Matt Average (Western Medical, westernmeds.com)


FATAL FIGURES:
Caterwaul: LP
This album has a big, sloppy sound reminiscent of The Birthday Party. I appreciate what they are doing, but the album never fully takes off for me. “Party Girl” has a jumpy beat that makes it a standout. “Break Me” also got me nodding a bit, highlighting good party floor tom beats and a solid yelling range by the vocalist. He has good instincts when the album is moving, but the songs plod too many times for my taste. The last song on the album, “Get Out,” combines the best strong beats of the band with the energy of the vocalist. There might be a live factor with this band that doesn’t translate on the record. They sound like they might be fun in a basement. –Billups Allen (Big Neck)


EYEHATEGOD:
New Orleans Is the New Vietnam: 7”
Awww snap. Anyone at all familiar with EHG knows what to expect here. Filthy, venomous, deeply pained swamp-metal that simply reeks of hard living and self-abuse. While I wasn’t blown away by 2005’s Preaching the End Time Message, this new track sounds like a band reinvigorated, on top of showcasing both their clearest and most suitable production to date. If this is a sneak peek at a forthcoming LP, then we’re in for a goddamned doozy. –Dave Williams (A389)


EXCITEBIKE:
Self-titled: EP
These dudes are from Australia and play fast, catchy punk rock that would probably fit well in the collection of your average Fat Wreck Chords fan. I also hear quite a bit of Revelation Records type posi-core influence in these five songs. While they’re not breaking any new ground, this is done well. –Mark Twistworthy (excitebike.bandcamp.com)


ELWAY:
Hence My Optimism: 7”
A pretty good single from this Fort Collins, CO four piece band. They play melodic punk with some good production, good musicianship, and really nice vocals. The band plays their hearts out on here with a lot of energy. They make this something that you can sing along to and make your parents unhappy because of the bad words in the songs. –Guest Contributor (Red Scare, redscare.net)


ELSINORES:
Demo 2011: Cassette
Half fuzzy Ramones-core with a keyboardist, half garage rock. This is the third tape I’ve heard by the Elsinores and they show no sign of wearing thin. Their songs are simple, but reliable, delivering the same kind of from-home charm that a worn-out VHS tape used to have. What I really enjoy is the sludge that echoes throughout the pop elements of the record—the thickness of the guitar combined with the fuzz of the format. Thick, delicious, endlessly enjoyable. –Bryan Static (Self-released)


EL CAMINO CAR CRASH:
Demo: Cassette
Taking the name of their band from a Swing Kids song, this band from Austria play a brand of hardcore which pays homage to both the chaotic mid-‘90s hardcore scene, of which the Swing Kids were a member of, as well as other ‘90s hardcore bands like Unbroken and Botch. I’ll be interested in seeing where their next release takes them as they progress into their own sound. –Mark Twistworthy (Take It Back, takeitback.bandcamp.com)


EAST END RADICALS:
Carry On: CD
This four piece band from Montreal, Quebec has their debut CD out and it’s really good! You get twelve songs that run the gamut of punk, street punk, to a Celtic song on the end of the album that turns into a Celtic punk song halfway through. They do remind me of the Dropkick Murphys a bit, but without the bagpipes and a bit more anxious. They have some great oi going on in some of the songs and you also get the lyrics in the CD to sing along with. This was a really cool album and I think that this will be going into the car for the long ride to work. –Guest Contributor (Stomp, stomprecords.com)


DRY HUMP:
Self-titled: 7” EP
Loud, fucked up, and don’t give a fuck. Never a bad thing when that’s what comes to mind before the first song is even over, and it stands true as the last song—the EP’s sole thrasher—puts a bow on things. Trashy hardcore that ain’t afeared to be obnoxious, don’t care about marketability, and couldn’t be less concerned about the effect listening to it loud will have on your hearing. –Jimmy Alvarado (Cowabunga)


DRY HEAVES:
Medicated Youth: 7”
This record fucking rules. Simple riffs, fast beats, clean vocals… but all played at a frantic beat and with a really crisp recording. I hear old U.K. melodies in the vocals, old American hardcore in the guitar, and rock’n’roll in the drums. This is punk rock by weirdo British kids who drink 40s and skateboard and just want to play shitty tours for no money in other people’s basements. The product is simple, but so organic and unpretentious that it’s hard to even describe the sound. It’s like early Black Flag mixed with the Buzzcocks with a dose of modern party thrash thrown in because they don’t care what you think. Buy this if you think all the early Fucked Up singles were overrated and you still have fun getting drunk at Municipal Waste shows. –Ian Wise (Zandor, teamzandor.co.uk)


DROSE:
A Voice: 7” EP
Artful dirge rock with agonized vocals and the minimalist of guitar parts largely consisting of deliberate strums and single note sustaining/tweaking. At times, it comes across like an avant-garde mash up of the Melvins and Tool. Though, as much as I appreciate and enjoy unconventional approaches to music, this is one of those records I can’t help but feel slips right through my fingers. –Juan Espinosa (Self-released, thedustinrose@gmail.com)


DR. MANHATTAN / DORMLIFE:
Split: 7”
In some tremendous effusion of high concept cerebral-ness incomprehensible to the layman, this alt-pop split consists of a song called “Hot Sauce” on one side, and a song called “Weak Sauce” on the other. Not surprisingly, Dr. Manhattan’s “Hot Sauce”—which sounds kinda like a cross between an American version of the Jazz Butcher and some other alterna-twat songwriter like Beck or whomever—is far superior to Dormlife’s “Weak Sauce.” Truth in advertising, dude. BEST SONG: Dr. Manhattan, “Hot Sauce” BEST SONG TITLE: Dormlife, “Weak Sauce” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: I got this record—replete with Watchmen reference—just hours before I sat down and watched all 325 minutes o’ the Watchmen motion comic. Fearful symmetry indeed. –Rev. Norb (Duck Phone/Alarm Clock Revolution, duckphonerecords.com, alarmclockrevolution.com)


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