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Record Reviews

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AESOP ROCK:
None Shall Pass: CD
Look, I totally understand that the current situation with people posting full albums for download on the internet is a problem, especially when said album hasn’t even been released yet. As a serious music fan, I totally agree it’s a fucked up situation, not only for the smaller indie labels but also for the artists creating the music in the first place (and for those who think that someone being paid for their work is somehow not “punk rock” or somehow synonymous with “selling out,” allow me to offer a sincere, heartfelt fuck you). Here’s the thing, however: when a label sends a copy of a release for review, the fuckin’ thing should at least be listenable. In this case, the copy of this disc that was sent carries with it a “conditions of use” sticker that says, “This promotional CD is unique and traceable. The copyright owner is able to monitor its use and identify the source of any unauthorized copies.” How, you ask, are they able to do this? Apparently by placing individualized spoken identifications (in the case of this copy “This disc belongs to Jimmy Alvarado”) through every track, sometimes smack-dab in the middle. While this may, indeed, deter the uploading assholes who score a copy from the label from posting the copies they receive, it also so distracting that it effectively renders the CD unlistenable for those who actually are trying to do a legitimate review and will ultimately not get played more than once. That said, anyone tuned into hip hop’s underground knows who Aesop Rock is, and this latest release stands toe-to-toe with the best of his preceding albums. He employs a rapid-fire vocal style to deliver dense rhymes sick with metaphors that appear wholly abstract until one digs a bit deeper. This is thinkin’ man’s hip hop, a continuation of a tradition of rap-as-art that is too often overshadowed by the mainstream’s insistence on throwing money at the bottom of the barrel. Aesop Rock deserves all the accolades he receives, and this album will easily secure a place within hip hop’s top five releases for the year, but this particular copy of the album is an embarrassment coming from a label with enough experience with the genre to know better. Ah, but then you all now know about the disc, the label has its review, and I’ve got a new beer coaster. –jimmy (Definitive Jux)


AESTHETICS, THE:
Off: CD
Imagine a lo-fi, less Arab-influenced Savage Republic or Flipper with a smidge more musical ability. –jimmy (Mental Telemetry)


AFFLICTIONS, THE:
The Peotone: CDEP
Hey, I’m punk enough to know that the saxophone does not an unpunk record make! (See X-Ray Spex!) And a farfisa is, of course, many garage bands’ delight! But these instruments have combined here to produce something that is only okay. A lot of the songs sound the same. Sorta that slowish garagey feel. I wish everything was a little faster and had a little more energy. Come on! More craziness! I can take it! If this were a cereal, it’d be regular Cheerios. Could someone pass me the sugar, puh-lease? –Maddy (Captain Spazz)


AFI:
Sing the Sorrow: CD
I figured by the time this review is out, most of you will have been bombarded with information regarding this release. I’m listening to this right on the day of its national release and I have read a ton of articles on the band, so I decided to pass on format information that I got from the fine folks at Punknews.org. There are three versions of the CD. The main version has black/red artwork while the other versions are black/silver and black/black. A vinyl release is slated from Adeline/Mordam as a double 12”. Afterwards, a special bound, book version will be released with an additional DVD. The European pressing will have two extra songs not included in the US mass release. What do I think of the new release? I don’t know why, but I’m thinking Rush meets Triumph. I like it and I believe many will. It’s probably the best straight-up rock record that the majors will put out this year. You have to approach it from a perspective that this is not the punk band you once may have remembered. –don (Dreamworks)


AFI:
The Art of Drowning: CD

A very anthemic, almost Misfits y punk sound with a little more metal than is good for them thrown in. –jimmy (Nitro, 7071 Warner Avenue, F PMB 736, Huntington Beach, CA 92647)


AFI:
Decemberunderground: CD
To have this sent for review directly to me is sort of strange. I could understand when they were on Nitro that I would receive stuff. That was a small label that fitted the scope of this here rag. But to be on some large database for a band that needs no support anymore from the little guy and is covered by all the major magazines. I’m shocked that I got this CD. In fact, I didn’t receive the previous major label release. But I did get contacted by some big publicity company for the last album to do a live review and they overnighted me the tickets. I hope it’s thanks for supporting the band early on. I am not a hater of the band. I am still a fan. I went out to the store and bought the CD on the day it was released. I like it and listen to it often. But I do feel I don’t have to actually review it. AFI has their fan base and that base will influence new listeners. They already have been introduced and put in the work to be where they are today. Also, MTV is going to be more influential in recruiting new fans than what I write here. –don (Interscope)


AFI:
Self-titled: CD
Believe me, I am still a fan of this band. I have enjoyed their music for years and I like the current major label release. So I find it weird that this release is even in my hands. This is supposed to be a retrospective of the band while on the Nitro label. I know the label invested a lot of money trying to promote the band before they departed. But to release songs that are still in print and readily available? Most of the tracks that are termed rare are not even that rare. Yeah, they are B-sides and bonus tracks. Woopie. Those releases were pressed in the thousands. Rare is what people pay for: the Dork 7” or the other three 7”’s and splits that were released before the Nitro era. In my mind, I believe they are trying to take advantage of the band’s new release and to recoup money by bringing on more interest on their available back catalog. A special note from the bands website: To any of our fans who may have bought Nitro Records’ AFI anthology, we would like you to know that the decision to create this compilation was made solely by Nitro Records. While we are extremely proud of our body of work over the years, we would like you to know it was not the band’s decision to compile, create or promote a “retrospective” at this point in our career. If you should enjoy it or hear something you’ve been unable to find elsewhere then great, but please understand it was conceived and sold without our input. We are much more focused on creating our new record for our fans and seeing you all on tour next year. If you are a fan of this band, you will already have these songs. If you are now just discovering them, go buy the actual records. This is a waste of money. –don (Nitro)


AFI:
The Art of Drowning: CD
A very anthemic, almost Misfits‑y punk sound with a little more metal than is good for them thrown in. –jimmy (Nitro)


AFTER LAUGHTER:
Said and Done: CD
Polish punk rooted in ‘80s D.C. with a decidedly ‘90s California bent and vocals that remind of Russ from Good Riddance. Elements of pop punk and hardcore melded together with fairly generic lyrics and melodies; decent stuff but not quite there yet. In the past, this would have been a good demo from which build off of instead of what amounts to a pretty mediocre album.  –Chad Williams (Pasazer)


AFTER THE FALL:
Presents Fort Orange: CD
Musically, this has the sound of Fat Wreck-era Rise Against. It has that really fast and complex- sounding (but not really technical) skate punk type of thing going on. There’s a hint of the later Propaghandi too because of some melodic bits floating here and there. So this is kind of like No Trigger or Crime In Stereo. Musically, this album does kick a fair amount of ass. As for the vocals… hmm, not bad but they lack oomph some times. Hard to describe how exactly, but it’s like they need a little more grit to really grab ahold. Lyrically, these guys seem to be pretty conscientious dudes, but the one line in the song “Thomas Philbrick,” where the dude sings “Do you remember that Millencollin record?!” sticks out like a sore thumb and always ends up being the only thing I can remember. So this is actually pretty good modern melodic hardcore, but I just know this album is doomed to go down in my mind as “The CD where the guy gets really heartfelt about Millencollin.” –Adrian (Raise Your Fist/ Ass-Card)


AFTER THE FALL:
Eradication: CD
Another solid melodic hardcore release from this band. I think the band managed to overcome the problem I had with their previous album, Presents Fort Orange, which was the vocals lacking a certain degree of balls-outitude. Musically, it’s clear these guys have been studying at the feet of Propagandhi’s Today’s Empires... and Strike Anywhere’s Change Is a Sound. Overall, a solid chunk of pissed-off, progressively political punk. Plus, did I mention it’s fourteen songs in twenty-five minutes? I appreciate the brevity. –Adrian Salas (Mightier Than Sword)


AFTER THE FALL / TRANSITIONS:
Split: 7”
After The Fall: I’m not quite sure what to make of this band. The first song is melodic hardcore straight outta the late ‘90s/early ‘00s. It reminded me of Reach The Sky with a tap on the shoulder from Fat Wreck. Anyhow, the second track is hardcore, nothing melodic. It has a pretty driving intro that doesn’t seem like it’s going to let up, but then it goes into some youth crew revival complete with breakdown. The two tracks sound like they could have come from separate bands, but they were recorded at the same time and space. Transitions: Three short blasts of late ‘90s East Coast youth crew revival played excellently appear on this side. Do you miss Floorpunch and In My Eyes? Did you never really get the big deal with American Nightmare? Well, if you answered both of those questions affirmatively, then this is a definite for you. It comes complete with rad bass line intros, breakdowns, gang vocals, and a song about friendship. I’m a total sucker for this kinda shit. Fucking awesome! –Vincent Battilana (Raise Your Fist, raiseyourfistrecords.com)


AFTER THE FIGHT:
No Brownie Pie, Same Old Shit: CD
First bad sign: an empty roll of toilet paper on the cover. Next bad sign: the word “Shit” is censored. I think if you’re writing the word “shit” on the surface on which it normally goes, you are more than justified to leave it uncensored. Last bad omen: in their thank yous, they claim to have “constant rock star attitudes.” Sigh. This is sluggish and inconsistent pop punk, and while I’ve heard worse, it’s nothing I haven’t heard before. Is Drive-Thru Records still around? –Will Kwiatkowski (Bone, www.bonerecordschicago.com)


AFTERNOON NAPS:
Parade: CD
Afternoon Naps like Orange Juice and The Three O’Clock a whole hell of a lot more than me. I hate Edwyn Collins’ music quite a bit. Absolute pap. The moments on Parade that resemble the better parts of C86 (i.e. The Wedding Present) and the Paisley Underground (i.e. the sublime Rain Parade) are not quite evident enough to save this CD from white funk riff-raff. (On the subject of C86, be sure to check out the Shop Assistants’ Will Anything Happen. Top-notch stuff that’s definitely underappreciated.) –ryan (Happy Happy Birthday To Me)


AGADOR SPARTACUS:
Agadorable: CDEP
Agador Spartacus, from Germany, describes itself as “Epic Destruction Rock.” I can only assume one of two things: 1) Their English isn’t great or 2) They’re joking. This is neither epic, nor destructive. I suppose it’s rock, but anymore, who can say? Is this style of generic emo pop rock the new “alternative”? What does “alternative” even mean anymore? It all sounds the same to me. I suppose there are nuances and unique angles Agador Spartacus is playing on these five songs, but I don’t really care enough to dissect them in depth. After a dozen listens, I will admit they’re catchy, but so are a lot of bands. Nothing new here. Next, please.  –kurt (Self-released)


AGADOR SPARTACUS:
Agadawesome: CD
Time and time again, I’m easily impressed by elaborate packaging. Agadawesomehas certainly earned praise for its layout. These Hamburg-area musicians refer to themselves as post-hardcore, but it’s much more straight forward and catchier than that. It’s well recorded and tight as fuck.  –Steve Adamyk (Self-released)


AGAINST ALL AUTHORITY:
The Restoration of Chaos & Order: CD
The songs have clever breakdowns and catchy choruses and the CD has fun cover art but despite such positive aspects to this album I’m not liking it as much as I liked All Fall Down when that LP first came out. Another interesting point to make as well: kind of like how Hopeless Records’ Falling Sickness began life as a band playing straight up ska and then evolved into something of the hardcore variety, their label-mates seem to be going through the same progression. Save for some horns here and there (just because songs have horns doesn’t mean it’s ska) this album is more akin to AAA’s most recent offerings. Not sure if you read that as a good thing or a bad thing (because let’s face it, third wave ska was horrid), so take that info as you will and go with your first instincts. Always. –mrz (Hopeless)


AGAINST ALL AUTHORITY:
Nothing New for Trash Like You: CD
This album is a collection of AAA seven inches and songs from comps. Stuff like the four songs from their first seven inch, a cool song from a cool but long lost comp put together by one of the Voodoo Glow Skulls, and a cover of a Pist song from a split seven inch AAA did with them. I’m a pretty big AAA fan, so I have most of these songs already. Still, it’s nice to have them all together on one piece of plastic and not have to flip it every three minutes. Plus, I realize that most people don’t have most of this music and it’s not really readily available. Since it’s a Sub City release, part of this album’s profits go to charity. This album benefits the Radiation and Public Health Project, a group that does research regarding cancer from radioactive pollution (the program that AAA refer to at the end of their last album “24 Hour Roadside Resistance”). It’s a worthy cause and a good collection. –sean (Sub City)


AGAINST ALL AUTHORITY/COMMON RIDER:
Split: CD
I might not be a huge, devoted fan of both bands, but I do own some 12"s, 7"s, and CDs of both bands. The Against All Authority stuff is pretty good. Makes one wonder what their upcoming full-length will be like. Still, their split benefit CD with the Criminals had better songs than the ones featured here. I hate to say it, but the Common Rider songs are horrible and you can totally tell these were outtakes—the songs too sucky to leave on Hopeless the full-length. It is nice to see Hopeless returning from the land of metal/emo and which-major-wants-to-buy-my-band-now music to do conventional punk once in a while though, like the good old days. –mrz (Hopeless)


AGAINST ALL AUTHORITY/COMMON RIDER:
Split: CD
Back in the late ‘90s ska had its big revival (again). You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing someone playing ska/punk, punk/ska or skacore or whatever. At the start, I thought it was fun. Later, it was excruciating. At that same time, Against All Authority was getting lumped in there. Sure, they had some ska riffs, but they were pure punk rock. They were among the only bands from that era that held any interest for me and I’m pleased to report that it hasn’t changed. The tracks here rock. AAA isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. In fact, they have no problem ripping your skull open to tell you. I think this is the best stuff I’ve ever heard from the band. One track sports the ska vibe, but, as usual, they do it better than the glut of other bands that were doing it. Solid. The whole ska thing brings me back to Operation Ivy as well. I was never a fan. The only reason I have one of their records in my collection is because a friend of mine had two copies and he was right pissed off that I didn’t have it. I don’t hate it, but it sure as hell never worked me like it did for others. I’ve never bothered to listen to Common Rider until now just because I was never an Op Ivy fan. I would have to say that the songwriting has gotten better and having guys like Dan Lumley and Mass Giorgini in your band can only help. Yeah, I could see myself listening to this some more. Good split, but AAA are definitely the winners here. –ty (Hopeless)


AGAINST EMPIRE:
Destructive Systems Collapse: 7”
A band that I have kept track of now for a few years. Starting with their first release, a split 7” with Holokaust, followed by their LP The One Who Bear the Scars Remember. They did another split after that I have yet to pick up with Iskra from Canada. I have also seen the band live through the years, so it is great to see firsthand this Los Angeles crust band grow and develop. On their latest release, a two-songer, they focus more on the music instead of just blasting it out. With songs in the four to five minute range, the band is showing more cohesion and displaying greater musicianship. That doesn’t mean this band is getting soft. They continue to play metallic crust that charges forward like a pack of bulls on a rampage. You get the drive to rock out to, hearing the chunky guitars force their way out the speakers. Growled, guttural, yelled vocals ensure that nothing pretty is going on. Drumming that is tight and pounded out with force. On this recording, I like how the bass was recorded: punchy and bright while still bringing forth the bottom end. If bands like Hellshock, Bolt Thrower, or Amebix fit your musical palate, I would believe this band would slide right into your tastes.  –don (Threat To Existence)


AGAINST EMPIRE:
Thieves and Leeches: LP
To see a band in their early stages, go through line-up changes, and still continue to stay together after a good amount of time warms my heart. Not many bands make it past the one or two year point. Many others don’t even make it out to play beyond their local scenes. This band has accomplished more and can add U.S. and European tours under their belt. I think the first time I saw the San Fernando Valley-based band was back in 2005 as a five piece. Currently, they are a trimmed-down force as a three piece. Musically, they used to fall into a cross of crust and anarcho punk, but this time around their sound has strong leanings of ‘80s hardcore. It’s a more direct approach in sound that takes the music into higher energy territory than in the past. The songs are precise, yet played with a bit more speed, which adds gusto to the music. The complexity is now in the chord progressions and work with more layers that gives the songs the epic feel. Production is on the clean and bright side of the spectrum, which better suits the new direction of the music. Clarity helps define each element. Lyrically, they continue on with their social political commentary of what disturbs them. They also add in a cover of Crucifix’s Another Mouth to Feed. As much as I love this new record, I am even more proud of what the band has accomplished. –don (Profane Existence)


AGAINST EMPIRE / AUKTION:
Split: 7”
Against Empire: More of a live feel and a bit cleaner sound from what I have heard in the past from these SoCal punks. The included songs are more in the d-beat vein and I like that they are a bit faster and have more of a rocking feel to them than we have heard in the past. Previously, they incorporated crust and black metal elements. This has a more direct, slap-in-the-face appeal for me. Knowing them, I’m proud that they keep progressing and growing with each release. Auktion: From Sweden. Unfortunately broke up recently. I had heard they were going to come to the states to tour. I was hoping the singer would have finally gotten me my shirt he had promised to buy for me a few years ago and never came through. Two tight d-beat numbers of their own that blast through in maximum efficiency. They too add a rock feel to their sound, not swaying to metal. –don (Threat To Existence)


AGAINST EMPIRE / ISKRA:
Bring the War Home: CD
Against Empire: The lyrics read like an anarchist band, but the music sounds like poor man’s thrash metal. Iskra: The lyrics were strong, and I totally empathize with their championing of the first nations’ cause. Their music, however—part metal, part Conflict-inspired noise punk—was pretty much a chore to listen to two minutes into the first song, and it didn’t get any better. –jimmy (Rodent Popsicle)


AGAINST ME!:
Sink, Florida, Sink b/w Unsubstantiated Rumors: 7"
For the fans: two alternate versions of songs from the Fat full-length. For the collectors: the cover is a die-cut demented piece of work. Imagine if you will: Gingerbread Man 1 appears to be hugging his counterpart, Gingerbread Man 2. As you begin to open the cover to get at the music, you see that GM 1 has actually punctured GM 2's stomach and that because of your meddling, his hand is prematurely pulled back revealing the large wound. As you open the cover further, GM 1's hand is released (you can see the 7" at this point) and out of the gaping hole of GM 2's stomach spews his candy guts, all over the place in a rainbow upheaval of epic piñata proportions. Fuck yeah. –mrz (No Idea)


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