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Rise Against – House On Fire

Rise-AgainstChicago punks Rise Against have premiered a new song from their next album.  The track is titled “House On Fire” from the album, The Violence, which is set to drop on June 9, 2017 via Virgin Records.  The band last released The Black Market in 2014 via DGC/Interscope Records.

Listen to the song here.

Young Guns Post Video For ‘Speaking in Tongues’, Announce Headline Tour

Young-GunsUK alt rock outfit Young Guns have posted a video for their track Speaking in Tongues. The song is taken from their upcoming full length, Ones and Zeroes, due to drop on June 8th via Virgin/EMI Records. In support of the album, the band have also announced a headline tour across the UK.

Check out the video for Speaking in Tongues and the band’s upcoming tour dates below.

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Sick Puppies - Dressed Up as Life

Sick Puppies

Dressed Up As Life

Virgin Records
By

Rating: 4/5

 
 

 

 

In my review for Red Jumpsuit Apparatus‘ Don’t Fake It, I said that they were pretty good but didn’t think they had the skills necessary to really break through. The songs were pretty good, but slightly generic and very safe and I felt that they were jumping into the radio-friendly emo rock pool way too late. I didn’t think there was enough innovativeness in the album to create make a splash.

Boy was I wrong.

The album, and the band, blew up thanks to the highly successful radio single Hands Down and now they’re headlining high profile tours like The Take Action Tour. Now, almost a year later, Virgin Recordsseems to have been able to track down another band who will follow in the exactly the same footsteps. The band is Sick Puppies and the album is Dressed Up As Life and while I still don’t think it’s that innovative, if it gets the right radio push it will soar through the charts.

Dressed Up As Live is a predictable but nevertheless enjoyable album right down the same lines of Don’t Fake ItAsshole Father is a silky smooth radio friendly rock track with a catchy hook and intense vocals singing “But you don’t / and you won’t / go against your asshole father.” It’s a near replica of Red Jumpsuit‘s Face Down. Speaking about near replicas, the album’s first single, All The Same, bears a striking resemblance to the acoustic ballad Guardian Angel on Don’t Fake It. It follows a similar pattern vocally with introspective lyrics and a generally slow, emotional feel backing the song. The biggest change in the album comes in the final track, The Bottom, which starts off heavily ala Used but then mellows down and somehow reminds me of Zebrahead and Out Of Your Mouth, leaving the listener with a somewhat disjointed listen.

The rest of the album, while unique in it’s own way, is still comfortably familiar. It’s very slick, very smooth and very radio-friendly. Slightly heavier and darker than Don’t Fake ItDressed Up As Light is a guitar driven rock album. It has the right amount of breakdowns, the needed bridges, and they even throw in the obligatory screams every once in a while (see the final few chaotic seconds of Issues). So basically, it’s an album you’ve heard many times before. A few standout tracks here and there,a few forgettable tracks. Despite all of that, I still have a sinking sensation that I’d thoroughly enjoy myself if I saw them live. Predictable can be good sometimes.

Saosin - In Search of Solid Ground

Saosin

In Search Of Solid Ground

Virgin Records
By

Rating: 2/5

 
 

 

 

It must be tough emerging as the “it” band during a group’s debut.  Sure the spotlight probably feels great, but ultimately the thought of writing something even half as brilliant as a follow-up probably scares the crap out of such acts.  To put it simply, existing in the realm of writing catchy radio hits must be terribly stressful.  Thus is the case with Newport Beach’s Saosin. You couldn’t escape the buzz leading up to their 2006 debut regardless of which alternative scene you were part of.  And when it finally hit the streets, it became one of those rare releases that actually exceeded expectations on the sheer strength of its hooks and infectious rock sensibilities.

Fast-forward to 2009 and Saosin are working hard to cement their dominance at the head of the emo-rock genre.  Fondly remembering their debut, I felt pretty stoked when I learned I would be reviewing their follow-up, “In Search of Solid Ground.”  So I popped in the disc and took it for a spin.  But rather than feeling energized and alive right out the gate, something felt amiss.  Where were the soaring highs?  What had happened to the infectious hooks?  And why did I feel so bored?  Track after track In Search of Solid Ground left me unfulfilled and empty.

The exact problem though is hard to pinpoint.  On the one hand Saosin still sounds like Saosin.  Lead vocalist Cove Reber’s vocals remain familiar and quite capable, and the band hasn’t strayed too far from their altrock roots.  But now everything just sort of blends together, and by the end of each track I found myself at a loss for pointing out memorable and defining moments.  Ask me the difference between sequential tracks like “I Keep my Secrets Safe” and “Deep Down” and I really couldn’t tell you.  To make matters worse, when the band tries something new it comes off feeling like a forced attempt at offering up variety.  For example, in “Changing” Reber’s speed talking during the verse should feel fresh and unique, but instead comes across disjointed and out of place.

Occasional moments of a former brilliance occasionally shine through, but they’re a tough find.  “The Alarming Sound of a Still Small Voice” sounds remarkably deep during the choruses thanks to Reber’s emotional delivery and strong backing vocals, but the track is clearly the exception rather than the rule.

Ultimately In Search of Solid Ground is momentarily satisfactory but offers very little substance once the music stops.  It’s not that these tracks are poorly written – the boys clearly still have talent – but they seem to have lost their touch.  Catchy mainstream emo-rock needs memorable, uniquely defined hooks for success.  Saosin may have started out with a firm foundation a few years back, but as far as In Search of Solid Ground is concerned, the boys seem to have lost their footing.

You Me At Six -Sinners Never Sleep

You Me At Six

Sinners Never Sleep

Virgin Records
By

Rating: 2/5

 
 

 

 

You Me At Six seems to have the same mistaken understanding about what it takes to “mature” as musicians as most flashy pop-punks coming to terms with shifting trends and aging realities.  Someone needs to tell these bands than simply reducing their tempo and blasting the bass shouldn’t be equated with maturity.  And while You Me At Six needed to grow up from the start, simply switching gears from Fall Out Boy to Twin Atalntic isn’t enough to make me care about the Weybridge, Surrey quintet.

Their latest album, Sinners Never Sleep, is a case of too generic for radio, and not hooky enough for their existing fan base.  All the right elements are there by any producer’s standards, but they largely lack any sort of impetus to make their audience care.  Since the band doesn’t seem to put forth an effort on their part, why should I?  So I’m going to borrow a sentence from my first You Me At Six review and plunk it down right here since it’s as true now as the first time it was written: “The whole affair feels so bland I could barely even single out tracks for this review.”

Some might cry foul, pointing to the obvious shifts in tempo between a few landmark tracks.  I’ll fire back pointing out that the difference between the energetic “This Is The First Thing” and the slowly accented “No One Does It Better” is superficial.  True, they both come from different cookie cutter molds, but they’re formulaic through and through.  The former lands hollow hooks that I’m at a loss for remembering without having the song blasting directly from my headphones, and the latter fills a quota for that quintessential “introspective” breakup track that relies on its slow pace as a defining crutch.

For those who make it through the album’s first half, one song does stand out as worth pulling from the mix.  “Little Death” finds a middle ground between the push and pull of tempos, using sonic shifts to develop the album’s only memorable chorus.  “We are not your lovers, we are not your friends” cries Josh Franceschi with a climaxing “oomph” absent from most.  It’s catchy without ever reaching excess, and retracts back to the shadows for the comparatively low-key verse.   “Little Death” achieves balance, which is something I can’t say for the remainder of Sinners Never Sleep.

Has You Me At Six changed their output from their beginnings?  The simple answer is yes, but that shouldn’t be confused with exhibiting musical growth.  To borrow a phrase from “Crash,” Sinners Never Sleep is “meaningless routine” born in the producer’s box as radio-friendsly business as usual.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus - Lonely Road

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

Lonely Road

Virgin Records
By

Rating: 0.5/5

 
 

 

 

A few years ago The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus jumped onto the scene with their massive anti-family violence single, Face Down. Their album, Don’t You Fake It, was a generic pop-emo album but was strong enough to catch the ears of millions of fans anyway. It may have been predictable but people still ate it up. In the years since that release the band wants you to believe that they’ve improved and matured and that all of that growth has been funneled into Lonely Road. The sad thing is that they haven’t improved or matured, in fact they have taken a step back and Lonely Road is one of the most bland, cliche-ridden and over produced major label flops I’ve heard in a long time.

After having listened to the record almost a dozen times, I’m still unable to really recall any enjoyable moment of the album. 95% of the album slips into the background and becomes forgettable while I wish the other 5% would join it. The band hasn’t necessarily left their little soundscape that they’ve cultivated for themselves with Don’t You Fake It but they’ve expanded on it, trying to make the sound much bigger than they actually can.

Thrown haphazardly throughout the record are random guitar solos that have no relevance or come at inopportune times. Ronnie Winter’s vocals have become more irritating. He’s left the screams behind completely and gone for a higher arena-rock sound but with an annoying high pitched twinge to it. You hear it right from the start of You Better Pray, which kicks off with an unnecessary guitar solo and then Winter’s “ohhhhhhhhss!” before he topples into a high pitched squeal that is just annoying. That’s the first song, the most memorable moment of the album, and it is annoying and bland.

Lonely Road falls victim to every single cliche of the major-label over produced rock album. They try and build it up by piling in additional instruments in hopes of creating a sort of epic or atmospheric sound; but it fells all too forced and all too fake. There’s no passion or sincerity in it anymore. Just listen to the pitiful closer, Godspeed to see it in all it’s horrendous splendor. When they cut back all that crap and just try for a more straight forward pop-rock song like they do on Senioritis then it becomes bearable. It’s still not really that good, but at least there’s some intensity and energy in the song which makes it much better than everything else on the record.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus were clearly a one-hit wonder. They had no idea what to do with a follow-up and just followed the blueprints laid out before them. The label may try to get them to spit out another album but after that they should be gone for good, and I, for one, can’t wait.

 

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus - Don't you Fake It

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

Don't You Fake It

Virgin Records
By

Rating: 2.5/5

 
 

 

 

In today’s overcrowded pool of new music and new bands, it is sometimes hard to make a splash and stand out as a new band. That’s why you need a hook to grab the listener’s attention immediately, before they even hear the music. Imagine for a second walking down a CD aisle in your favorite store, looking for a new band – the things that jump out are you are either A) great artwork B) a random promotional sticker slapped across the front or C) an innovative and memorable name. The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus have that memorable name to grab the passer-by’s attention. Right there, the band has a foot in the door, and the instant you throw in Don’t You Fake It you have a comforting feeling of familiarity – which both hurts and helps the album at times.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus are attempting to jump into an already overcrowded pool of forgettable pop-punk/emo bands. Arriving a little too late to make a giant splash, but strong enough to make a ripple. It’s an album you feel you’ve heard a million times before thanks to labels like Victory or Warcon with a tinge of the Triple Crown flock.

Still, it seems as if Red Jumpsuit Apparatus knows that the pool is getting crowded, so on top of the necessary screams and the melodic yet hard hitting guitar riffs that is so important in today’s platinum-selling albums, they are able to put enough of an unique spin in their songs to make the listener keep coming back to it. Even if it’s only for a few songs at a time. There’s the slow, piano-driven ballard Cat And Mouse along with the moving, acousticGuardian Angel to slow the album down a bit, showing that Ronnie Winter is able to do more than one thing with his voice. After all, they are a big leap from the heavy Silverstein-like Atrophy and In Fate’s Hands. Still, Face Down takes the perfect ten on the album with a tense beat, keyboard melody, and the best hook on the album in the chorus “Do you feel like a man, when you push her around? / Do you feel better now, as she falls to the ground?

Don’t You Fake It is a promising, if albeit slightly predictable album. The biggest fault in the album is just that they were a little late in jumping into the pool. What would’ve been held as innovative and creative a few years ago is now just generic and repetitive; still, the Florida natives have made an album that is able to ripple the waters and if the emo trend continues for a few more years and the band hones their writing skill, I’m sure their follow up will be making a splash to remember.

Over It - Step Outside Yourself

Over It

Step Outside Yourself

Virgin Records
By

Rating: 4/5

 
 

 

 

While Over It have never made it to the mainstream or become overly popular, the band has always been a staple in the underground music scene. Releasing two albums on Negative Progression and two albums on Lobster Records, the Virginian turned Californian band has constantly been a talked about band in the independent scene; loved by fans and critics alike, the band was constantly labeled with the slogan “the next big thing” and while it’s taken them a few album, with Step Outside Yourself, the band is finally ready to become “the big thing.”

Over It has always been able to please the critics, myself included, with their uniquely polished pop-punk sound, but they have somehow managed to take their sound to a brand new level on their major-label debut. Step Outside Yourself takes everything that put Silverstrand on the map and improves on it, hell, they even re-recorded the single Siren On The 101 for it. Everything sounds so much more defined, the guitar work, the bass lines, the drumming, and of course, Peter Munters’ perfectly smooth vocal style that is unmatched in today’s scene is still roaring to be unleashed. Add the spectacular production work by Mike Green, and you can’t go wrong.

The thing that truly makes the album remarkable though is how much the band has been able to make each song distinctively different while keeping the album flowing. There’s the near rock track Too Much InformationEnergy, the soothing ballad with Sean Mackin of Yellowcard, and even a near dancy Mister Serious. Amongst all of that you get the more pop-punk oriented tracks like Dishonor, Disorder(featuring Mike Herrera of MXPX) and the soothing Where The Sky Begins (which features some of the best lyrics on the album). Of course, it is the acoustically led closer, Like Satellites which really finds a way to blow your mind with introspective lyrics and a string arrangement. It is the perfect release point after the cumulating of emotion and energy throughout the album.

Over It fans will rejoice, because they have taken everything you’ve come to love and improved on it tenfold. It flows perfectly, it is emotional, and able to catch a chord with the listener. It is the natural progression the band needed to make, and even though it is far from revolutionary or innovative, it does everything you want to happen in one album. Beware, because now Over It won’t only be the talk of the underground.

Jersey - Generation Genocide

Jersey

Generation Genocide

Virgin Records / Stay Gold Records
By

Rating: 4/5

 
 

 

 

The name “Jersey” may not ring a bell with you right away. New Jersey? Nah. It’s the four punk rockers from Burlington, Ontario is what I’m talking about. Remember their smash hit Generation Genocide? The song that took the country by storm a couple months back? Well this is that album, their third one and first on a major label.

Fourteen tracks of oi/street punk for your listening pleasure. Fans of Rancid will definitely fall in love with these young Canadians as lead vocalist Greg Taylor bears a striking resemblance to that of Tim Armstrong from Rancid. The same harsh, scratchy, well-worn, punk rock voice that Rancid fans are accustomed to gives you a safe escape from the pop-punk of MTV. The songs cover a wide selection of subjects such as death, self-destruction, partying, armed robbery and just stories of life and all the trials and tribulations that comes with it. Each song has a certain punk-rock flare. The Tim Armstong-esque vocals with backup vocals at the exact right moments all supported by catchy harmonies which slow down and speed up with perfect accuracy and timing; making each song complete.

My advice to you regarding Generation Genocide is quite simple. Head down to www.jerseyrock.com and check out the media player. Listen to some of the songs, start singing along (you know you will) and if you like it, go down to your local record store and support these guys by buying a great street-punk album.

AM Taxi - We Don’t Stand A Chance

A.M. Taxi

We Don’t Stand A Chance

Virgin Records
By

Rating: 3.5/5

 
 

 

 

When The Gaslight Anthem unleashed The 59 Sound upon an unsuspecting world, critics, fans, and contemporaries praised the album as an unmatched display of working class honesty, and an ode to the timeless power of gritty American rock n’ roll.  But that landmark release also opened the doors for others looking to bring back a sense of sincerity to today’s glossy, sugar coated soundscape.

It was under this climate of heightened appreciation that the small, Chicago based trio, AM Taxi (formerly American Taxi) released their debut EP two years ago.  Thanks to a combination of merit and Gaslight mania, major label Virgin Records took note, promptly snatching up the band for their official full-length debut, We Don’t Stand A Chance.  Now five members strong thanks to the addition of a keyboardist and second guitarist, AM Taxi stands poised to deliver a career defining performance to an audience hungry for a nostalgic taste of modern America.

And very few will find anything to be disappointed with here.  We Don’t Stand A Chance is like receiving a present you didn’t know that you wanted until you opened it.  Most listeners won’t know much aboutAM Taxi until they stumble upon a single or rogue track, and end up tuning in to any one of the album’s eleven anthems.  Thanks to a captivating combination of Springsteen inspired vocals, humming keyboard, and heartfelt, dirt-simple chords, ears are sure to perk.  Throw in an intentionally rustic production value, hopeful, streetwise choruses, and Gaslight fans are sure to quiver with joy.

As for highlights, AM Taxi has the most fun when working towards replicating what is sure to be a killer live show.  Focal points include album opener “Dead Street,” which through escalated layers of handclaps, Street Dogs-like backing vocals, and a simple organ hum, generates an inspiring rallying cry for living hopefully in challenging surroundings.  Others like “Thanner Boyle Vs. The Seventh Grade,” retreat into reserved verse only to blossom into an uplifting melody that places emotional grievances into worldly perspective.  These are tracks that move and inspire, and while arguably not as lyrically articulate as Gaslight mastermind Brian Fallon, aspire at connecting with listeners on a personal level.

We Don’t Stand A Chance is an album that just hits the right notes.  Every listen is satisfying, with my experience drawing parallels to the pleasant surprise that was stumbling upon Jesse Malin’s recent solo offering a few months back.  And while in both cases I’m guilty of abusing Gaslight Anthem references, I make no apologies since today’s audience will surely experience Malin, and now AM Taxi, through that lens.  If AM Taxi’s tuneful melodies characterize the status quo for those following Gaslight’s lead, then I can’t wait for this movement to really take hold.

Thirty Seconds To Mars - This Is War

Thirty Seconds To Mars

This Is War

Virgin Records
By

Rating: 2.5/5

 
 

 

 

I always used to write off Thirty Seconds to Mars.

To me, Jared Leto was an actor – and a damn good one at that; I just couldn’t take him seriously fronting a rock band. Then the way they promoted A Beautiful Lie, with Leto covered in dark eyeliner, just cemented that idea in my head and I, quite unfairly, wrote them off despite hearing that they were impressive live and moderately enjoying The Kill.

When they came out with This Is War I once again wrote it off until I heard the single Kings and Queens. There was something there in the atmospheric stadium rock. It was big, it was grandiose, it was a bit cheesy but it was good. Leto’s voice was strong, the type that makes you want to close your eyes and throw your hands out as you sing along. The drumming was interesting and the addition of a children chorus really propelled the song forward. This was good and intriguing enough for me to give them a second chance.

The rest of the hour long record pretty much builds on top of what Kings and Queens started, delivering progressive and stadium rock songs one after another; offering a serious nod to Pink Floyd and a more rock-oriented version of Angels and Airwaves. Leto’s voice is consistently strong, ensuring that perhaps I’ll finally allow him to be a singer and an actor (but he’ll always be an actor in my books).

This Is War sees Thirty Seconds to Mars offering some very interesting tracks that bear repeating. The six-minute Hurricane drags on a bit too long but has a chorus that just blows you away built on varied instrumentations and a powerful vocal delivery. Listen to the title track and the anthemic chorus will give you chills, particularly contrasted against the sparse verses.  Night of the Hunter blasts through with a fast French introduction before thunderous drums come in along side synth melodies and Vox Populi is the de-facto atmospheric stadium rock song that would make Tom DeLonge green with envy.

The album, as a whole, sees some interesting musical structures, sometimes stadium rock, sometimes slightly industrial, sometimes atmospheric with strings and expansive orchestration. The problem This Is Warruns into is that they do it all too much and too often. By the halfway point you feel like you’ve heard it all before. The strings are a nice touch but were good on the last three tracks too. The children chorus adds a little extra something but loses credibility when it’s done at least three times in the same album – maybe more as they tend to blend together after a time.

That is the main detractor of the album: while it may be good, it’s all been done before and at an hour long, This Is War starts to drag. This feeling makes the final few songs filler as they fall into the background; only on L490 do they finally grab your attention again, unfortunately it’s a painful amount of feedback that does it and the feedback remains the only memorable moment of the closing track which seems very out of place in the album.

As I said before, This Is War is strong enough to convince me that Leto can have a career outside the movie industry; but it’s not strong enough to keep me playing it over and over again. A few songs here and there, but that’s pretty much all; and for an album that seems to be focused around one central theme, it’s odd that they didn’t bother supplying any lyrics in the booklets.

AM Taxi – New Solution

Chicago’s AM Taxi has released a brand new song.  The track is titled “New Solution” and is the first new material since their full lengthdebut, We Don’t Stand A Chance, released last year on Virgin Records.

Stream the track here.

Stream AM Taxi's Upcoming Debut

Chicago’s AM Taxi has uploaded their upcoming album, We Don’t Stand A Chance, to their myspace in its entirety.  The album was recorded in Austin, TX, with renowned producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Patty Griffin,…And  You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead).  The album is set for a June 8, 2010 release through Virgin Records.

Sample We Don’t Stand A Chance here.

Videos: AM Taxi Premier "Fed Up"

In anticipation of their upcoming full length, We Don’t Stand A Chance, Chicago’s AM Taxi has released a new video for the track “Fed Up.”  The album was recorded in Austin, TX, with renowned producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Patty Griffin,…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead), and will be available through Virgin Records on June 8, 2010.

Check out the video below.

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