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Record Reviews

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Champagne Dreams on a Beer Budget: CD
This was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. It looks like a cheesy emo rock, and At The Drive-In kind of thing in both album cover and band name. Wait a minute... There are some downright hilarious song titles here... “No You Shut the Fuck Up, Dad”? “This Company Has a Very Strict Bro’s Before Ho’s Policy”?... Could I be wrong? I got my hopes up as I popped the disc in my computer. It looks like I was right the first time... I guess humor is an emotion too, but it sure didn’t come across in anything but the song titles. –Ty Stranglehold (myspace.com/theandreadoriaband)

Abandoned Meander: CD-R
This guy used to play in The Slaves, then VSS, then Pleasure Forever. I saw The Slaves at a house party back in ‘99 in Tempe, AZ. I thought they ruled. They played spaced-out noise music that was almost danceable. I think they were even playing in the kitchen but my memory might be a little foggy. All that said, this is the noisy, space part of the band. The vocals and mix of acoustic guitar make it seem ‘60s-out. I’m sure this guy’s brain is partially composed of hash. I feel that he became inspired to write this record while studying the different Hindu gods and goddesses one night. This could be on the movie Felix the Cat, when he is getting totally baked in the bath tub and starts floating. –Buttertooth (Smooch, www.smoochrecords.com)

Candy, Cigarettes, and Cap Guns: CD
Take the political, acoustic, folk punk of Defiance, Ohio and strip down the sound more, take out the female vocals, and really ratchet up the sarcasm. They also have a tendency in this release to sometimes make so-dumb-it-must-be-smart lyrical choices worthy of their folk punk predecessors in the Dead Milkmen. Also, they really hate the hipsters—as expressed in one of their untitled songs—a sentiment I can totally share after going to the Detour Fest in Downtown L.A. –Adrian (No address)

Only God Can Judge Me: CD
If my CD player had a replay button, I would have pushed it. Instead I got off the couch on which I reside to press play over and over again. The album artwork is really great and features sketches of very cute little animals. It made me wish the cats with whom I share said couch were smart enough to appreciate that someone had written a song about them and their little mouse enemies. Maybe they would end the war, but then again we have Crass and look at us. Imagine early Against Me! (Crime-era) meeting Bright Eyes just to jam acoustic at the park over a couple of beers. The music is very sparse with usually just a stand-up bass and acoustic guitar, but this guy’s voice is so raw and real; it grips your attention and doesn’t let go. –Rene Navarro (Plan-It-X)

Can’t Maintain: CD
This recording shows Andrew Jackson Jihad playing a bunch of songs you’ve already heard if you’re a fan, but with a bunch of backing musicians. If you already love this band, you’re sure to love this as well. If you’ve been passing on it due to their strictly acoustic sound, this might be the album that wins you over with everything from blazing guitar to trombone and theremin. –Rene Navarro (Asian Man)

Knife Man: CD
Getting this in the mail was a strange experience. It took me back to my first Razorcake summer, to seeing these guys live in L.A., buying an EP, and submitting it in my first batch of reviews. I spent a week listening to all my AJJ material before opening this. In other words, I was able to put it into a sort of context as a definite fan. They slow down the tempo here and, while on some songs like “Reign on Me,” it takes them to a perfect place; on others they just get stuck somewhere in the middle. There’s a strange grey area in between folk music and straightforward rock songs where a few of these tracks reside. It’s also kind of long. The track “Sad Song (Intermission),” sounds so much like Bright Eyes it just blows my mind, though I must note I’m only referring to the actual recorded versions. Live, it’s a whole different experience, as AJJ mostly tour as a duo and take the songs back to their bare bones, for better or worse. To be quite honest, I didn’t really dig the production on this. It’s one thing to have a well-produced album with a full rock band instead of the usual acoustics (Can’t Maintain) and quite another to have one with songs that seem to reach for REM greatness via over-instrumentation and constant sound clips (this one). There are gems here, but there is also coal, which has never been the case with this band, as far as I’m concerned, so I am a bit bummed. –Rene Navarro (Asian Man)

Split: 7”
The Mitch Clem artwork on this is great; front and back equally rad. I’m glad that instead of lyrics they had each band explain why they chose to cover the song. The first time I heard this record, I thought Andrew Jackson Jihad had actually written “Two Headed Boy,” since I’d heard them play it live. It definitely feels theirs. They have made me commit to buying that Neutral Milk Hotel album, and to filing it with my Andrew Jackson Jihad stuff, for personal reasons now public. The Cobra Skulls, whom I’m new to, cover “Subterranean Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan. It sounds the way I assume any rock outfit would sound if they covered that song and didn’t really change anything but the musicians. –Rene Navarro (Suburban Home)

Split: CD
Andrew Jackson Jihad is doing more of the acoustic protest music with a huge dollop of sarcasm. Ghost Mice’s take on the acoustic music is bit mellower, and they have dual male and female vocals. Honestly, at times, Ghost Mice get to be a little too treacly for my taste, especially on the six-minute “Cementville” song, about the magic of being little kids and playing nice with each other. While Andrew Jackson Jihad sounds a little more raucous, Ghost Mice is prettier. The problem is that Ghost Mice also sounds like they would be most at home playing in the back of a stationery and inspirational book shop frequented by middle age ladies. Also, both bands tend to border on sounding overly self righteous. At least the bands have convictions. –Adrian (Plan-It-X)

Split: 7”
While I really enjoyed the recording of Andrew Jackson Jihad’s Can’t Maintain album, I feel these songs somehow lack the raw, crucial, heart-on-sleeve dynamic of their earlier recordings. To be honest, I was really hoping for a return to their acoustic form, if only for this one 7”. Usually, their songs get immediately grafted into my psyche, but these songs slip out faster than math equations. When you flip this record, you flip the energy level as well. The Gunshy sound a lot like the Pogues with cool horns and strings. It’s cool that their second song is called “Only Sean Can Judge Me,” in reference to an awesome Andrew Jackson Jihad EP. –Rene Navarro (Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club)

Untitled: CD
Well-calculated yet frenetic dance punk with a nice thundering sound. This comparison might be way off the intended mark, but it reminds me of a faster version of the angriest work of Hella (with the addition of vocals). Don’t sand off the rough edges, let the music get grimier, and this stuff could be really good. –Guest Contributor (Self-released, no address)

Broken Hearted Love Songs for Sensitive Tough Guys: CD
These guys sound a lot like Karp with a healthy splash of Wrong-era Nomeansno. I have been in love with this kind of stuff lately, so I’m stoked on getting something newer in the same vein. Basically, you take a ridiculously heavy punk power trio that alternates between sludgy and frantic and add some incongruously non-heavy lyrics. (At least not heavy in the standard apocalyptic imagery way a lot of extreme punk and metal tends to work with.) In this case, most of the songs are actually about relationship breakups. (There’s even a song that’s called “Bad Breakup.”) There’s also a random song about Daniel Johnston called “Daniel Johnston.” Most of the twelve songs on here are under the two-minute mark, but when you can get your point across with some tuneless—but scruffily compelling—shouting, why fuck around? Also, one of the guys in the band sounds scarily similar to Rob Wright of Nomeansno at times. My only critique is that the production comes off a bit underwhelming sometimes and leaves some of the songs flatter than they should be. I would love to hear these guys after hitting the studios with someone like Steve Albini, who knows how to really let music like this breathe. All in all though, Android Hero is a welcome addition to my collection. Hell, this is the kind of stuff I would play if I were in a band at the moment. –Adrian (Algerbay and Mustard Pack, algerbay@hotmail.com)

All God’s Children Have Shoes: CD
When Petty lets his guitar/banjo/whatever do the talking, the music is fine minimalist American roots music. When he starts singing, however, things go downhill fast. Though he can hit the notes fine enough, his voice lacks enough conviction or feeling to make the songs work. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.voodoorhythm.com)

Self-titled: 7”
Catchy retro-new wave is the order of the day here, dripping with pop hooks and slight ‘50s undertones. Perfect for your next KROQ Flashback Weekend get-together. –Jimmy Alvarado –Jimmy Alvarado (Tic Tac Totally, tictactotally.com)

Self-titled: CD
Musically, it’s sorta reminiscent of Underground Railroad To Candyland: bounce-happy songs, with fun time keys and percussion, while, at the same time, the guitar sounds kinda sad, adding some emotional depth. Vocals are more on the gruff, blown-out side, however, making the songs a bit more urgent than URTC’s with Todd C’s slackadaisical singing style, though sometimes the vocals sound a little too much like Tom Gabel for me. Otherwise, this is a fine release. –Jeff Proctor (AMCR)

The Mt. Holly Sessions: CD
This guy is like a punk rock Tom Waits, but with more folk and less blues. Raucous and stripped-down acoustic folk-punk with a sense of humor and some demons in the closet. Sarah Shay –Guest Contributor (Afterbirth Casserole, no address)

Split: 7"
Andy The Doorbum: The first song’s a pretty decent little folk punk (acoustic guitar with a beard—what else can you call it?) indie rockin’ ditty about taking too much medication. I kinda dug it and thought to myself, “Hey, maybe this won’t suck.” The second song sorta sucks. Can’t win ‘em all, Andy. Yardwork: (Or is it Yard Work, two words? I have no clue.) Eh...it’s okay. Sorta indie-ish in that lazy Pavement way. (Y’know, good at their instruments with decent melodies but too cool to really make it hang together right or play tight.) I’m sure there’s a better comparison to make here in 2011 but I’m probably the wrong guy to make it. The more I listen, the more I can enjoy the tunes but I wouldn’t see myself going back to this once I’m done reviewing it. It’s just not my thing. –Ryan Horky (Self Aware, selfawarerecords.com)

Dying to Live: 12” EP
Powerful and heavy hardcore that sounds like a mix of Deadguy and Gordon Solie Motherfuckers. Aneurysm Rats features members from Paint It Black, None More Black, and others. They expand on their musical past with more potency and darkness. The songs are a mix of speed and mid tempos that somehow create a chaotic din when they throw it into fourth gear. The vocalist sounds a bit like Tony Erba as well. I like how they sequenced the songs on this album to run into one another, which allows them to create a mood throughout: one of disenchantment, confusion, and other feelings of abnormality in a fucked-up and diseased world. –Matt Average (Assassinated, assassinatedrecords.com)

David James and Port Wine Authority: CD
At first, I sort of dug this in that whole "this has nothing to do with Razorcake's normal music it reviews, but what the heck?" way, but when it got to the sixth track and it started to sound like Dave Matthews Band, I knew it was time to pull the plug. -Kurt Morris –Guest Contributor (Sling Slang, www.slingslang.com)

Deadrose Junction: CD
Being on Sailor’s Grave and having the Wild West tattoo flash style graphics abound, I was sure that this was either going to be some kind of rockabilly or greaser rock or something… Let’s just say I wasn’t expecting what I got. No, I wasn’t prepared for the second coming of cock rock, and I’m not too sure that anyone should have to. Seriously, Angel City Outcasts sound like some ridiculous combination of Poison, Great White, and the rest of their ilk with the only distinction being that they may have slightly better production. I managed to listen to the first four songs in their entirety while walking to work. After that, I had to start skipping them after the first verse, and by the time I got to the shop I was hearing the melancholy strumming in the intro to what I can only guess was the token power ballad. My gag reflex forced me to turn it off. I hate the smell of denim and spandex in the morning… It smells of weakness.   –Ty Stranglehold (Sailor’s Grave)

2,000 Pints and Going Strong!: CDEP
Like with all catchy oi, you’ve gotta check the lyrics, lest you realize halfway through singing along that you’re singing “God bless America the Great! Boot to the black man’s face!” So I went on their website, and I discovered the lyrics to a song called “Popeye in Afghanistan.” This song isn’t on the CDEP, but the lyrics give you a good reason why you’d probably not like this band. The song is about a US soldier in the Middle East. Here we go. “Then he came upon a caravan/Trying to get across to Pakistan/When the evil one had showed his face/Our hero put him in his place/Let that be a lesson now/To all our enemies on the prowl/When you mess with the best the great US/You’ll end up in a world of stress.” First of all, that last rhyme has to be one of the lamest I’ve read in a long time. (A “world of stress”? Come on!) And second…well, do I even need to say it? If this were a cereal, it’d be United We Stand-Ohs. –Maddy (Self-released)

Something to Do with Death: CD
Weird one, this is. I guess it would be considered “screamo,” but to me it approximates what the Cocteau Twins would sound like if they were into Marshall stacks and had Dan from Die Kreuzen shredding his vocal chords for ‘em. Can’t say I dig ‘em, but they get points for making me invoke the names of two of the most disparate bands imaginable in the same sentence. –Jimmy Alvarado (Underground Communiqué)

And for a Roof a Sky Full of Stars: CDEP
Dense, brooding, scary music from this Chicago band. There are only two songs, but they total twenty-seven minutes. Dark, moody, and, overall, pretty cool. The band’s website is vanfuckingcleef.com. I guess they are way more into Ennio Morricone than I am! Warning: don’t put this on late at night if you are home alone. You could get scared. –Sean Koepenick (Underground Communique)

Split: 7” EP
Six String Jets: Loud, overdriven, and full of swagger. Angel Sluts: Their side isn’t as sonically overbearing as the Jets, but the tunes are filled with just as much attitude. Good stuff. –Jimmy Alvarado (Wrecked ‘Em)

Hot Teen Action: 7"
I got to admit, the concept of bands with dopey names like “The Angel Sluts” and dopier record titles like Hot Teen Action and even-dopier-than-that record covers depicting (presumably) their (female) fishnet-clad background-vocalist-slash-tambourine-players from the waist down is not what i would consider to be a fresh one. But, that said, the record itself is pretty cool, and, ultimately, that’s what matters, so, like, who gives a fuck if the bass player’s name is “Tommy Torture” and the inner sleeve portrays a fat dude from the neck down with “THE ANGEL SLUTS” written across his gut which isn’t all that impressive when you remember that there was that Poison Idea record cover where the fat dude pictured from the neck down had actually carved the phrase “KINGS OF PUNK” into his gut with a fuckin’ RAZORBLADE??? This doesn’t sound like the Reatards outright, but it sounds enough like the Reatards (dirty guitars, trashy sound, Radio Shack™ microphone vocals) that anyone who picks up records from Memphis bands in the hopes that they sound like the Reatards won’t be disappointed, i’m guessing. Actually, it sort of sounds like a cross between the Reatards and all those guitar bands that defined the Sympathy for the Record Industry sound about fifteen years ago. Oh, what the hell, we all love the first Saints album here, let’s drink. BEST SONG: “5 and Dime” BEST SONG TITLE: I’ll say “5 and Dime” again, because new Razorcake regulations indicate that i am required to spell that phrase “FIVE and Dime” and i like to stick it to The Man. FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Record contains an insert depicting a silhouetted pole dancer coupled with the phrase “I SUPPORT SINGLE MOMS,” which, as someone that deals with strippers/ escorts/you-name-its on a daily basis at work, amuses me to no end—so i’m taping it to the top of my computer monitor until my boss tells me i have to take it down. –Rev. Norb (Wrecked ‘Em)

Designer Heat: CD
Amped-up, dirty, blazing garage punk is what this band plays. This is a band that would have been very much at home on Junk Records a decade ago and on stage opening for the Candy Snatchers or the Hookers. Fans of everything from Electric Frankenstein to Stiletto Boys to the Bodies and Stitches will find a whole lot to like on this disc. –Mike Frame (Wrecked ‘Em)

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