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Album Review: Bundles – “Deaf Dogs”

Alright, I’m in a rare corner here. I get to review a band I’ve never heard of, like, ever— from across the country on the recommendation of a fellow Dying Scene writer (shoutout to my better, Jason Stone). The band is Bundles and the album is Deaf Dogs. Well, what does that mean to me? It means I have to put some words together.

Bundles is from Boston and as far as I can tell, Deaf Dogs is their debut album. And from a couple listens and onward, it’s a good one. What does it sound like? Muscular melodic punk from guys who probably dig Avail and the Gaslight Anthem, but probably more on the Avail side. Throat-shredding. Heartfelt. A little on the simple side when it comes to arrangements, driven mostly by bass heavy chugging and shoutalong choruses. I got a distinct street punk vibe here, there’s a certain shared spirit at work, but to be fair, they have about the same connection to a band like Arms Aloft too. Whether you see this as an extension of the working class anthems of street punk or an extension of the working class anthems of melodic punk, just know it’s music you could have a beer with.

The album opens with “Lorem Ipsum,” which stomps out of the stereo with a big verse hook that leads into an even bigger chorus hook. The vocals sound like they’ve been passed through a cheese grater, in the best possible way. In fact, this is where Bundles simple arrangements really benefit themselves. This is punk rock played like punk rock— it’s not reaching to push the boundaries of the genre or aiming for anything loftier than delivering good songs played with passion. With this creed in mind, rhythm, melody, and vocal performance step to the center stage.

Short is another key word for Bundles. Deaf Dogs is full of gloriously short songs. A good amount of the track list doesn’t pass the three minute mark, and a fair amount don’t push two. “TKC” uses its short run time for a raw and ragged singalong that almost reaches into hardcore territory, while, “The Dornishman’s Wife,” the longest song on the album at a whopping three minutes and twenty-eight seconds, slows the tempo but never loses the edge.

“Robots of the Uncanny Valley” is a stand out track that almost feels like an unhinged grunge tune before the whole scene shook off their punk influences to claim rock band status. It’s garage rock in its essence, the sound of people playing the sort of rock ‘n roll they idolize in their mind’s eyes. Inevitably, it comes out as loud and guitar-heavy, with plenty of opportunities for the crowd to singalong. “The State of Seattle” is the number two of the one-two punch, the next sequential track and another highlight of Deaf Dogs that flies by in under two minutes. The pendulum swings both ways though, and if I had to deliver a criticism of Deaf Dogs, it’d be one that a lot of albums like this attract— back to basics rock ‘n roll can only get you so far. Even with a good handful of great songs, a lot of them go by so quickly they’re hard to distinguish. For the most part though, the album survives the sameness sag, with songs like “Oh, Brazil,” and “The Glow” maintaining interest in the latter half.

Deaf Dogs is a strong album, the kind you won’t mind raising a beer and a fist to on any given night. It’s loud, personable, and defiantly minimalist. It’s back to basics punk rock by people who think that rock music should rock.


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EP Review: Goodbye Blue Monday – “The Sickness, The Shame”

I love finding new music. To this day, as a show-going, vinyl-spinning, vest-wearing punk— nothing beats finding a young band with chops to spare. Goodbye Blue Monday is the latest to enter my rotation, based on the recommendation of other internet punks, and I think I have to jump on the bandwagon. If anything, I’m downplaying it. Their EP, The Sickness, The Shame is fantastic. Three perfect pop punk bangers from a Scottish four-piece, sang with a mouth that might as well an open wound. The worst I can say is I wish there was more.

I think the key appeal of The Sickness, The Shame, at least for me, is its confessional nature. We’ve seen it before in bands like Against Me! and Off With Their Heads, where vulnerable lyrics reach a level of intimacy they force you into a recoil. Goodbye Blue Monday is in the same game, with similarly personal lyrics focusing in on frontman Graham Lough’s bipolar disorder. The concept isn’t approached as much as it is attacked, it becomes a pinata that needs to be smashed, or an effigy that needs to burned– by the time the three songs finish, it becomes a picnic savaged by wild animals. But, that’s punk for you. There’s an aggression here, a plaintive, angry cry shouting down mental illness, and it’s a thrill to join.

The songs themselves are excellent, and there being only three, a dud would stand out a lot more. The EP opens with “Fungus,” a hearty pop punk number whose first lyrics state, “If you stare at a blank wall long enough/ You’ll start to see patterns where there are none. Little flecks of paint or smears or dry rot/ Little stains of what you’ve become.” It’s extremely catchy, like all the songs on The Sickness, The Shame, showing that at the core of this misery-punk outfit, there are some real songwriting chops as well.  “Take Your Pills” would probably be the single of the bunch, propelled by its opening guitar riff and declarative, shout-along title. “Choke ‘em all down, choke ‘em all down!” is the sort of lyric you can imagine on the lips of a couple hundred kids, crammed to capacity in a basement.

The EP ends with the title track. “The Sickness, The Shame” is a summation of the album’s concept, a grand rendering of life with bipolar disorder. It’s also just damn catchy, an ear worm that burrows into your brain with imagery from another life. One of the things I love most about this album, but also the title track in particular, is that these songs feel written. There are a lot of words here, and they explore their topics exceedingly well. The final product feels shaped by the words as their foundation, rather than just existing as a delivery system for a vocal melody.

The Sickness, The Shame is a triumph of songwriting as well as introspection. These are the types of bands that catch your ear and hold it tight, there’s a perspective here, something unique that can continue to grow and captivate. Goodbye Blue Monday is a band on the verge of joining the conversation, all they need now is more songs.


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Album Review: Great Wight – ‘The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life’

When it comes to emo, I like all the stuff that runs with the pack, but not necessarily what runs in its center. In other words, I like everything that gets swept along with the genre’s associations– Hot Water Music, Sorority Noise, Modern Baseball– but I rarely spin American Football, Foxing, or Tiny Moving Parts. Great Wight is another of those bands, one that could tour with emo bands, or sad-sack pop punk bands and straddle labels enough to spark arguments for the rest of their career. The truth is, Great Wight write catchy, confessional punk jams with an afro/queer focus. Their album, The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life is a tribute to punk rock’s continued (but under-realized) foundation as a genre for outsiders, as well as a showcase to Great Wight’s expert, emotive songwriting.

What captured me immediately were how easily the words formed melodies, maintaining an intimate and conversational tone, while still being musical. There’s something so effortless about the composition across The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life that you can’t help but feel you’ve already belted them out at show by the time the proverbial needle lifts off the last track. In this sense, they remind me of Sorority Noise, who have always excelled at that sort of easy, natural sounding cadence. Using this songwriting mode, vocalist Erik Garlington, talks about depression, the scene, being black, being atheist, and being queer. This may sound too specific to relate to on a larger scale, but as a straight white male, I found it had an immediate honest quality that made me think of the unsettling openness of early Against Me! It’s great stuff, that appeals to a common experience, all of the minutiae hanging under an umbrella labeled ‘Being Different.’

The songs are great all around, from opener “Curtain’s Up! It’s Showtime,” a beacon for like minds that cements a lot of Great Wight’s musical elements early on, to ending track “The Come Up,” a sort of spunky cowboy chord send-off where Garlington sings, “I hope I never have to write these songs again.” Good stuff, from start to finish. Authentic and vulnerable; sometimes confrontational in songs like “Not Black Enough,” a standout track that begins with “hey man, we need to talk,” and goes on to talk about the black experience, and what it does and doesn’t entail.

One of my favorite songs on the album was “Starring Michael Fassbender.” For how much punk likes to talk about sexuality, the genre clams up like an eleven year old having the ‘changing body’ talk when it comes to sex. “Starring Michael Fassbender” is presented as a sultry, unabashed, slithering conversation with a lover. There are so many great lines on this track, that I could probably quote the whole song, but it’s easy to imagine it as an intimate moment where two people begin to reach out of their repression and acknowledge, “what makes your back sweat and your fingers wet,” “….the things that won’t make your parents proud.”

The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life is a stunning debut. When an original voice like this comes out of nowhere, with such a developed songwriting talent to boot, one has to take notice. Great Wight has the potential to be spoken of in the same breath as all the other great emo bands of the day, and it’s hard to imagine a day when they won’t have just as rabid fans, packed into a club and hell-bent on transcendence. These are words meant to be sung back by the crowd, melody and lyrics joined in the holiest communion– the completion of a conversation.


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DS Interview: Erik Garlington (Great Wight) talks first album, outsider status, and what makes a good song

The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life is the sort of debut to turn heads. Yeah, it’s raw, vulnerable, and catchy as all Hell— but it comes with an under-documented perspective that serves as a breath of fresh air in a scene so often defined by its straight whiteness.

Enter: Great Wight, a three piece from the Big Apple playing emo tinged pop punk in the spirit of Sorority Noise and Modern Baseball with lyrics that explore what it means to be gay and black in today’s punk scene. It’s a killer album that pulls you in with big hooks and conversational poetics, and I liked it so much, that after my first listen, I did what all unpaid (but impressed) music journalists do— I reached out over Facebook and asked for an interview.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Erik Garlington via e-mail, where he told me about how Great Wight started, how he writes songs, and whether the punk rock scene is still a place for outsiders.

Check it out here.

First off, before we get to far ahead. Go ahead and introduce yourself and tell us what you do in Great Wight.

My name is Erik, I’m a songwriter, I play guitar, and I sing said songs!

I loved The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life. If I’m correct, it’s the band’s first album. Can you tell us a little how Great Wight came to be and the recording of the album?

Thank you so much! And, yes, that is correct. This is our first album! This one’s kind of a long story but I’ll try to paraphrase: I’ve been writing songs and performing for about a decade now but as for Great Wight, it started with me moving to New York 3 years ago. I started in metalcore bands and had my MySpace pop side project, which evolved into a folk punk project, which evolved into the current genre we’re in now. I spent about 4 years in Kansas City, Missouri and just ended up fed up with life and trying to be an artist in the Midwest. Not to step on any toes but their music scene is… lacking.

It felt like every show was a competition and every accomplishment was an act of aggression. I just couldn’t do it anymore so I quickly made the decision to leave and start fresh. I was so excited about living in New York that I spent the first 2 years in a honeymoon phase taking in the city and not actually doing any work towards assembling a band. At the start of year 3 a friend tells me she knows a drummer looking to join a band, Eli. The guy had a ridiculous amount of patience and spent the entire year working at my glacial pace, recording the album, and missing deadline after deadline. We recorded at SpeakerSonic Studio on the border of Queens and Brooklyn and just took our time recording in pieces over the course of probably 5 months. The entire time I kept all this a secret from my friends and family too so everyone found out the day we released it. By that time we got lucky and found Natasha to play bass.

What kind of music did you like growing up? How did you get into punk?

I grew up with hip hop, soul, r&b, radio pop, and the like but when I was 12 my dad, for some reason I can’t even remember or understand, gave me a copy of Countdown to Extinction by Megadeth. That opened me up to a whole new world of music and after that it was hours trying to learn how to play At the Drive-In, Coheed & Cambria, and whatever prog rock/metal I could get a hold of on Limewire. I actually never had a pop punk/punk phase growing up. Progressive metal and rap are still my 2 defining influences. Even though I write punk music I couldn’t name a single influential punk band without really having to think about it for an embarrassing amount of time! I listened to emo pop and metalcore when those waves hit but even to this day I’ll still end up staying up waiting for the new Protest the Hero album to drop.

The lyrics across The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life talk a lot about the concepts of blackness and queerness. Obviously, punk has always been a genre that claims outsider status, but looking at a lot of participants, the majority are typically straight, white, and male. Do you think punk rock is still a viable vehicle of expression for true outsiders? What makes it remain attractive to you?

Sadly, I don’t. I see more and more people of color reclaiming punk and otherness but it’s already in the masses minds that punk is ‘white music’. The band/artist in the forefront of the movement is always going to be straight white men talking about straight white men topics. The true outsiders will still be there of course but I don’t see it ever changing in our favor. I guess what makes it attractive to me is the freedom to be or dress different and know that there’s a community of people that won’t bat an eye at it. Gotta take the good with the bad.

One of the things that struck me most about the album was the song content. It was so refreshing to hear angst that I’d never heard before in song, delivered in such a way that it inspired instant empathy. Would you care to share some of your own experiences regarding the inspiration for your songs?

Thank you! That’s a compliment I get often but I think a lot of people would be surprised to know that when I write a song what inspires me isn’t even anything from my life. Going back to my love of prog rock and metal, this is how my song writing process is: I’ll be listening to a song and hear a chord I’ve never heard before, or a key change, or something as simple as a song with a 5 part harmony. I’ll hear that and think, “I’ve never wrote a song with that in it. I should do that!”.Take our song, ‘The American Way for example’. That entire song was inspired by a You Me and Everyone We Know song where they went from a G to a G7 chord. I came up with a chord progression to use that G7 chord in, started humming a melody, and then writing a line to fit in that melody. Once that’s done, I’ll write the rest of the words and put it all together.  

I love the conversational style of your lyrics, it feels immediate and intimate. What makes a good song to you, and how did you develop your own style?

There’s no way to say this without sounding pretentious but a good song to me is lyrics that aren’t about love and failed relationships. That’s really all it takes to win me over! I just feel like there’s so much more to write about in life. I myself started out writing about love and failed relationships so I’m not without sin but even then I felt like I could do better. I felt like there were more people like me out there that might need to hear that they aren’t alone. To tack on to the last question, my experiences were always so public yet so discouraged from being talked about that most times all I could do was write about them. I figured I couldn’t be the only one going through it but maybe these other people I’d imagine weren’t in a place to express it and needed someone to.

There’s been more and more awareness in the punk scene regarding diversity in the last couple years. What do you think the majority can do better in this regard?

More inclusive bills all the way. The amount of times I see show/tour announcements where every act is nothing but straight, white men I can’t help but roll my eyes. It’s just too easy to say you’re an ally without doing any actual leg work.

What bands working today inspire you?

I have a habit of still listening to the bands I loved when I first started out so Say Anything and Kanye are still my all time top inspirations. I also tend to gravitate towards bands/artists whose main selling point is lyrics. I’m listening to mewithoutYou, The Wonder Years, Corbin, Chance the Rapper, and Lydia like it’s still 2012.

Do you have any plans to tour?

Yes! We actually just announced our tour to SXSW today! We’re doing an 8 day run through the midwest with a great band called Summerbruise!

What can we expect from Great Wight in 2018?

A lot of touring, a couple festivals if we’re lucky, and probably some new music if I’m not too lazy!

Lots of thanks to Erik for talking with me. Check out The Suburbs Have Ruined My Life on bandcamp.


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DS Staff Picks: Carson Winter’s Top Albums of 2017

For us list-making, taste-making, coffee-drinking, taco-devouring, unpaid-punk-curators— end of year lists are a time to shine. We spend a lot of time listening to the hottest, freshest tracks and occasionally liking some of them too. 2017 was no exception, and for me actually, I thought it was one of the better years in recent punk history. Old bands I loved released new material, I found new bands I’d never heard, bands I thought I didn’t like released music that I did. It was a varied, interesting, and eclectic year for punk rock. And at the same time: almost too varied, interesting, and eclectic. Unfortunately, being spoiled for choice goes hand in hand with writing articles that shouldn’t take that long to write. Oh well, as said by a million tattoos and a guy named Vonnegut, “So it goes.”

Without further ado, here are my top ten picks for the best punk of 2017.

10. Direwolves – The Great Year

Like any straight white male with a beard and an affection for sad-sack melodic punk, I also have an inexplicable love for crust. When bands do it right— make it big, raw, and emotive, couple it with dirty guitars and soaring leads— it can be transcendent. Direwolves is one of those random revelations I discovered this year. The French crusties do something with the sound I haven’t heard anyone else do. They combine the emotional vomiting that makes bands like Touche Amore so captivating with the big neo-crust riffs of Tragedy and The Fall of Efrafa. With a sound like that and the songs to boot, The Great Year is a fitting name.




9. Iron Chic – You Can’t Stay Here

Is it weird to say I never really got into Iron Chic? You’d think they’d be right up my alley. Big choruses, self-reflective lyrics—the kind of stuff beardo-punk dreams are made of. But for one reason or another, they just never caught with me. Well, I gave them the ol’ college try with You Can’t Stay Here, and what do you know? This time it stuck. Iron Chic had some of the best singalongs of the year and getting to see them live really helped put the hype in perspective. This is a drunken, singing with friends sort-of band. All this time I was just waiting to know the words. With You Can’t Stay Here, Iron Chic brought me into the fold.



8. Deforesters – Leonard

I hadn’t heard of Deforesters before this year, but they’ve become household names for me since. This is the type of no-nonsense melodic punk that most everyone can get behind. Yeah, it’s got a bit of that heart-on-the-sleeve mentality (Remember when Against Me! Was big and every reviewer ever was saying shit like this? I’m bringing it back.), but it never becomes an exercise in pure confession. Leonard is all about big, fat melodies and meaty instrumentation. It hits hard, has fun, and has been spinning the entire year.


7. Throw – Real, Real Nice

I like local bands the way I like local beer. I can get a Bud Light anywhere, but something handcrafted and down the street will always taste better. Throw is a band from Portland who surprised me this year with an amazing record. They sound kinda indie, kinda punk, a little snarky, and very catchy. Their album Real, Real Nice captured that punk spirit of doing what you want, as weird and personal as you can make it. It sounds like brutal honesty, low ambition, and an ache of the soul.


6. Crusades – This is a Sickness and Sickness Will End

Everything Crusades does is breathtaking in its vision. If you want an album that feels like a whole, look no further than these intentionally difficult, poetry quoting masters of cohesive punk rock. This is a Sickness and Sickness Will End brings some new sounds to the table, as well as emphasizing some old ones. This time, the ‘satanist pop punk’ has settled into something darker, heavier, and more intense than its predecessors. For bonus points, I got to interview frontman Dave Williams for one of the best pieces I’ve ever been a part of. Check it here.


5. Sorority Noise – You’re Not As _____ As You Think

Emo isn’t a genre I really engage in, but it is one I keep an eye on. You won’t see me at a Foxing show, but you might be able to find me reading comments on Reddit about Mom Jeans. The truth is, while the sounds don’t necessarily capture me, they inspire a lot of intrigue. There’s an intense and quirky youthfulness to a lot of the music coming out from the self-described emo. And for me, a person who likes to see punk rock pushed to its limits, I’m not sure anyone else is doing that with the same glee and determination as the latest wave of emo devotees. Sorority Noise’s output is more along the lines of pop punk than other, more noodly contemporaries, but they’re lyrical content does all the heavy lifting. Speech-like cadences lend themselves to melodies, purple lyrics become anthemic rallying cries, big electric guitar riffs make it all sound so urgent, you can’t help but wonder if it’ll be the last thing you ever hear.


4. Hot Water Music – Light It Up

I love Hot Water Music, and still, when it came time to listen to Light It Up, I kept my expectations in check. This is their, what, eighth album? How many punk bands stick around that long, let alone release new material that’s worth more than a courtesy listen? Not many. But, Hot Water Music managed to do something I didn’t think they could do– they wrote an album that I’d be happy to hear mixed in with the rest of their catalog. Light It Up references their earlier sound, but doesn’t copy it, it instead represents perfectly where they’ve been, and where they’re going.



3. The Homeless Gospel Choir – Normal

I saw The Homeless Gospel Choir open for Anti-Flag forever ago. I was enraptured by the performance. Just a dude, a guitar, and some songs. Derek Zanetti made my balcony position feel just as intimate as a front row mosh pit. He was funny, clever, and when he finished you wanted more. To this day, I can’t think of a better opener. He played “Everyone” that night, a song that shows up on Normal amongst a lot of other perfect folk punk songs. For awhile, I wondered if I’d ever hear that song again. Lucky for me, Normal was worth the wait.



2. Dead Bars – Dream Gig

What can I say about Dead Bars that I haven’t already said? Dead Bars are my favorite Northwest punk rock band. They’ve got grit, heart, and great songs. What else do you need? Dream Gig is their first album, but it feels like the latest in a long line for fans who’ve been following their EPs and singles. Dead Bars make slices of life feel as big as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, whether it’s sharing an earplug, walking home sad, or just trying to make it in this world. Minimalistic, catchy, and so goddamn scrappy– Dead Bars is everything you’ve ever felt pushed through an amplifier.


1. The Menzingers – After the Party

I’m pretty sure I knew this would be my number one album of the year the moment I listened to it. Other albums come and go, a lot of them stuck, but when it comes to the Menzingers, few of them compare. In 2017, this was my event release. Mark the calendar, buy the pre-order, anticipation and despair— all that jazz. When it comes to punk rock storytelling, the Menzingers can do things other bands only dream about. With the new album, they continue down the road they’ve been traveling and deliver a bunch of great songs made for screaming along to with new friends in sweaty pits. While I’ve got a couple years to ponder what I’ll do when my twenties over, I already know the Menzingers will continue to travel along-side and a little ahead, providing the soundtrack every step of the way.


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Album Review: Guerilla Poubelle – “La Nausée”

When I first heard that Red Scare– perhaps the best and brightest in the world of melodic punk labelship– was signing French political punks Guerilla Poubelle, I couldn’t help but think: perfect. I was taken back to my high school days, when I, a teenaged francophile, used to listen to “Mon Rat S’appelle Judas” constantly in an attempt to immerse myself in the French language while nurturing my love of gritty, catchy punk rock. A decade later and I still don’t speak French, but I do still love punk. Seeing the name Guerilla Poubelle brings me back to the good ol’ days, and the fact that it’s attached to my favorite punk label is just icing on the cake. La Nausée is as good a reintroduction as any, and along the way manages to be, uh, very bon.

If you haven’t heard Guerilla Poubelle before, you might be surprised at how familiar the keywords happen to be. Raw, aggressive, throaty, melodic, catchy, pop punk, political. Think of all the stuff that grew out of Gainesville, the gravel inflected punk with the big choruses. Chunkier and less spritely than Against Me!, harder and less emo than Radon. As political as Propagandhi but nowhere near as musically ambitious. They sound like Dead Bars, if Dead Bars sang about existentialism and laid off the pure rock ‘n roll worship. Guerilla Poubelle is loud, fast, and philosophical.

It goes to say, this is a tough album to review. Despite my lifelong interest in the language and culture, I do not speak French in any actual productive way, so the lyrics are mostly lost on me. The bits and pieces I can understand (or glean from the titles/google translate) point to a rabble-rousing politi-punk album steeped heavily in Sartre’s existentialism. A short trek to their bandcamp page shows the band explaining (in English) the inspirations for their songs. Opening track, “Je ne possède que mon corps,” which translates to “I have only my body,” was inspired directly by a passage from Sartre’s La Nausée. Others were created in response to speeches by French president Emmanuel Macron, and others, like “Identité rigide” are more personal– but still very political– exploring the crushing weight of gender expectations. Reading through what the band has to say about their own music points to a group very aware and adept at finding their muses through current events. As a literature nerd, I find La Nausée especially interesting– to see a group name their album after a book by Sartre is weird, cool, and maybe even a little  pretentious, but I can’t help but be charmed by it. Guerilla Poubelle are the bohemian artist-types that have been sadly missing from the shout-along punk world. The heady subject matter and lit pedigree make the songs feel like heavier, more intensely intimate creations.

But make no mistake, La Nausée has bangers. Yeah, it’s a smart punk album about how the world is going to shit, but it’s doing it through some straight up punk anthems. First track “Je ne possède que mon corps,” starts with nothing but  some guttural vocals and a persistently strummed chord. Soon, the drum and bass come in, and then the backing vocals, and when it all comes together, it’s easy to imagine the kind of singalongs that happen on Guerilla Poubelle’s home turf. “Ceux Qui Ne Sont Rien” maintains the momentum with a big gang vocaled chorus, and “Identité rigide” brings the mosh. My favorite song on La Nausée comes late in the album, titled “Les fils et les filles des sorcières que vous n’avez pas brûlées.” An incredibly badass title, translated to: “The Sons and Daughters of the Witches You Didn’t Burn.” In the band’s own words, the song “…is a tribute to the feminists who fought for women’s rights. There is a reference to the “Manifesto of the 343 Sluts”, a statement signed in 1971 by 343 notable women admitting publicly that they had an abortion when it was still illegal in France, exposing themselves to criminal penalty of course. It was followed by a manifesto signed by doctors claiming “We want freedom of abortion. It is entirely the woman’s decision. We reject any entity that forces her to defend herself, perpetuates an atmosphere of guilt, and allows underground abortions to persist” This led to the abolition of criminal prosecution for voluntarily terminating a pregnancy.” It’s a great idea for a song, but before even knowing it’s context, I was taken away by the strength of its gang vocaled melody. Even without the translation, it sounds like a rallying cry in a world that could take a little more rallying.

If there’s one thing I love, it’s punk albums that feel conceived. There’s a lot of rock ‘n roll out there that comes together as a collection of individual songs, written to be written and nothing more. With La Nausée, there is purpose. It feeds on ideas, as well as personal experience, to create art that has been forged in the fires of political strife. When we talk about art imitating life, or life imitating art, we talk about them like they are simply mirrors of each other. As if they are two distinct elements of existence that can’t aspire to anything more than reflection. With La Nausée, I feel those mirrors melting, intertwining. It’s a punk album as concerned with ideas as Sartre or Camus– the writers who fit their philosophies onto the bones of novels, now being referenced by a punk band who fit their ideas onto the bones of an album. It’s the marriage of art and life, as well as a celebration of intertextuality. In the end, whichever La Nausée you prefer, I think we can all agree there’s only one with which we could singalong.

4/5 Stars

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DS Exclusive: Sid Broderius and The Emergency Exit premiere video for “The Last Time”

Sid Broderius and the Emergency Exit is an outfit from Spokane, but also from Texas, made up of a frontman who can’t seem to stay in one place, backed by whatever desperadoes happen to be around. Today, they have released a new video to support their latest single “The Last Time.”

For those not familiar with the group, the name ‘The Emergency Exit’ came from the fact that frontman Sid started the band knowing he’d have to leave the Northwest. In his new homestead, he recruited local players from the Rio Grande Valley and recorded the single we bring you today. In his own words, “it’s about friends beating addiction.”

The song itself is filled with giant walls of crystalline woahs, Fat Wreck-style attitude, and an occasional foray into ska. It’s an amalgam of 90s punk rock with the emotional rawness of acts like The Flatliners. Check out the video below, and if you like what you hear, pick it up on their bandcamp.

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Album Review: Direct Hit!/ Pears – “Human Movement”

Splits are an underrated release. Too often they get lumped in as inessential marketing tools, rather than legitimate installments in two band’s sagas. They’re overshadowed by full-lengths, but make no mistake, a good split has the potential to go down as a classic. Think of the iconic Faith/Void release from Dischord, or all of those amazing BYO Records releases (especially the Leatherface/ Hot Water Music one)– there’s a rich history in regards to the punk rock split and it offers a unique experience. This is the place where bands can try new things and experiment, and maybe that’s just because of the nature of the split, but the truth is: sometimes it’s easiest to be weird when you think no one’s looking.

Human Movement is split between pop punk darlings Direct Hit! and nouveau-skate animals Pears. Their common language is hardcore and choruses– the former that encroaches on Direct Hit!’s sugary concept albums, and the latter that punctuates Zach Quinn’s machine-gun bursts of syllables. Together, they bring together both and play off each others strengths, making Human Movement one of those rare splits that can follow the conversation between Green Star and Brainless God.

Direct Hit! opens Human Movement with the hardcore banger “You Got What You Asked For.” While Direct Hit! has always been adept at the genre, usually throwing one or two screamers in per album, here they deliver on the intensity– with quick stabs of guitar, high tempo drums, and pissed-to-hell vocals. Immediately proceeding, in a moment of minor perfection, they switch gears into the opening of the next song, “Blood on Your Tongue,” with sugary sweet bell synth and pop punk melodies. It’s one of those tangible moments on the Direct Hit! side of Human Movement where you can see the fun the bands are having, and as the record spins, it becomes infectious– from the big melodies of “Open Your Mind,” the new classic “Shifting the Blame,” and their cover of Pears’ “You’re Boring.”

The latter deserves special attention, as one of the best parts of any split is hearing the bands cover each other songs. Direct Hit! attacks “You’re Boring” with so much gusto, you’d swear they were trying to claim it for their own. It stays pretty close to the original, with the biggest difference being some extra pop punk zeal on the chorus. To close out their side of the split, Direct Hit! strike straight hardcore again with “Nothing,” a fast shout-along track with an intense and dreamy bridge.

Pears open their half with “Hey There, Begonia.” It’s on the catchier side of their core sound, with the same fast moving riffs you’d expect and an interpolation of System of a Down’s “Chop Suey.” Again, Human Movement is about bands having fun, and they work it into the bones of their music.

“Mollusk’s Mouth” is a faster song with a lighting fast harmonized lyric section that caught my ear. It alludes to one of the best things about Pears– their creativity and ambition in punk rock is so often realized through the collective talent of their members. These guys can play, they can sing, and they can write songs like no other. Riffs fly, vocal rhythms change from hardcore spitting to soaring melodies, but it never leaves the realm of adult playtime. In “Misery Conquers the World” they incorporate “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” with a chorus of children booing. Pears is the sound of goofing off.

Pears cover Direct Hit!’s “The World Is Ending” off Brainless God— well, kinda. What they do is actually a lot cooler. They meld in “Buried Alive,” the other hit from Brainless God as well as Masked Intruder’s “Heart-Shaped Guitar.” It’s surprising, weird, and hilarious, and shows Pears in all their glory– showing off and having a little fun. “Never Now” opens with some heavy-ass dissonance before transforming into the sort of thing the band is primarily known for: fast flying lyrics and a singalong chorus. It differentiates itself with the chugging breakdown, showing Pears once again swallowing up more genre influences like a fat and hungry punk rock anaconda.

Human Movement is the sort of the split you want to see released. How often do you get two high profile bands doing this sort of thing anymore? Not very often. Both Pears and Direct Hit! represent the finest of a certain kind of modern punk, established acts who continue to take risks and try and make their music as interesting as possible, all while playing in the chords and melody sandbox. Human Movement is a testament to catchy-punk devotees, a monument to all the wonderful things you can do with rhythm, melody, and words. But, it is also fun, plain and simple. Pears and Direct Hit! play well together, but when they compete, they both win.



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Album Review: Throw – “Real, Real Nice”

I saw Portland’s Throw open for Alone in Dead Bars (the solo version of Dead Bars). I’d heard a couple songs off their bandcamp and had a couple people say Real, Real Nice was a pretty damn good record. So, I went, I watched, I nodded along, and spent hard-earned cash on a cassette. And guess what? Yeah, Real, Real Nice was, well, basically what the title says.

Throw is a melodic punk band in the vein of Jeff Rosenstock, PUP, and a little Joyce Manor. They’re kind of hard to pin down, but if you had to apply a subgenre to them, you could probably be safe with indie punk. There’s a little emo in there too, but for the most part the songs are fast singalongs with a bit of a lo-fi aesthetic. So, put Pavement, Mom Jeans, and your favorite emotionally volatile punk singer and you might have something close to Throw. Opener “Corner Store” is filled with throat-shredding melodies and emo revival fretwork, the drums sound like firecrackers and it all coalesces into controlled demolition. Throw has energy to spare, with enough texture to their sound to hearken back to all of the bands who used punk as a springboard to greater creativity. The big choruses, driving rhythm, and instrumental sections of “The Floor” are a great example of Throw’s songcraft, continually building and releasing tension.

The songs are funny, and don’t last too long. That’s about the level of criticism you get included with a Big Mac, but it still stands. Writing songs is an art, but it takes an awareness of both what you want to do and how your audience will respond. Throw puts together quick songs with a lot of energy and some ear catching lines. My favorite track on Real, Real Nice is the finale, “Brunch Burrito,” which opens with the tattooable couplet: “I want you to cum on my face, I’ve had the worst fucking day.” Strong evidence for Throw knowing how to capture an audience’s attention.

Also, how refreshing to see a full fledged album that is just eight good songs. It surely could’ve been pushed a little further, but with this, and the aforementioned Dead Bars releasing shorter, succinct albums, I feel like this could be one of the best trends in DIY punk in years. Nothing wrong with keeping it short and sweet, and Real, Real Nice feels all the more cozy for it.

Throw is a cool band and if you like cool bands you haven’t heard of before, well, shit– you might like these guys. Twenty-something sad sack angst, riffs, twinkles, and big, meaty choruses, all delivered in an album that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. Real, Real Nice is the sort of album you hope comes out of your local scene– creative, honest, and catchy.


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Show Review: Punk in Drublic (9/16/17 – Tacoma, WA)

The Punk in Drublic logline is the sort of thing that makes a Pacific Northwest punk a little misty-eyed: craft beer + punk rock. It sounds so simple, yet until now, it hadn’t been done. Fat Mike has managed to combine the unique atmosphere of a punk rock show with a brewfest. As Langston Hughes said, “Hold fast to dreams.”

The tour stops are cities most likely missed on regular circuits. I arrived at the Tacoma stop with the thought, as I’m sure did everyone else: why the fuck is this in Tacoma? The question is probably the answer. NOFX is a band that has been around forever and toured about everywhere you can think of, doing a weird tour of less-sought American cities seems right up their alley. Sometimes the only reason is why not?

I got to the venue early enough to walk around and take in the sights. It kind of reminded me of a mini-Punk Rock Bowling, but without the oppressive desert heat. In fact, the green grass and cool air were a welcome change from my past festival experiences. If there’s anyone listening out there: the mild climate of the Northwest is perfect for this type of thing. People were drinking beers and chatting, hyping themselves about the last time they saw NOFX or Bad Religion; decked out in Fat Wreck gear and comparing tasting notes. It was a cool vibe, definitely a unique festival experience. I had the pleasure of trying out Stone’s NOFX collaboration beer– a hoppy lager called Punk In Drublic– and am happy to report it tastes about how you’d expect: a big earthy bouquet of lager maltiness with a strong dose of hops. Pretty damn good, if you ask me.

The biggest problem with the beer side of the operation was that there wasn’t enough. There were ten-thousand punks in Tacoma that night, and they drank all the beer.

Photo credit: Evan Olszko

Impressively, it wasn’t even cheap beer, we’re talking ten-bucks-a-pop festival cups here. Fat Mike got his I-told-you-so in on the mic at the end of the night. For next time, they’ll have to remember that the crowd that goes to see a craft beer/ NOFX show aren’t the one-and-done types. Besides the beer running out into the middle of the final set, the festival went pretty smoothly, excepting for the long beer and merch lines. It’s hard to be too upset, allowing for inexperience with this sort of event. If they do it again (and God, I hope they do it again), they’ll need twice the kegs and the volunteers to go with them.

For the music of the day, I’m happy to say all the bands killed it. Tacoma darlings, the Hilltop Rats opened the show, obviously honored to be in the company of such a strong lineup. They played fast and aggressive skate punk with tons of melody and banter. They were there to get the fest started off right, and they were there to have fun along the way– what else can you expect from a band who played a song called “Jell-O Shots”?

Not to beat a dead horse, but the lines for beer were getting gargantuan by the time the music started in earnest. Unfortunately, the beer line predicament kept me in line for the entirety of Bad Cop/ Bad Cop’s set. From where I was though, they sounded great. Warriors is one of my favorites of the year, and I was happy to hear them play and harmonize with expert precision.

Goldinger was up next and if I had to name a song of their’s to save my life, I would have to gracefully accept a bullet. But, when they came on stage, I was in total awe. Those guys have energy to spare. They were bouncing up and down, kicking out muscular riffs that had folks dancing and singing along. Ska isn’t usually my thing, but man, I had to admit– Goldfinger kinda rocked it.

Less Than Jake had a bunch of energy too, and gave a bashful “Thanks, Fat Mike,” for putting on the punk beer fest. If there was a running theme through the night, it was that the band’s were as enthralled with the novelty of the event as the fans. They opened with “All My Best Friends are Metalheads,” which means, if I had to name one song of Less Than Jake’s to save my life, I could do exactly that.

The gateway band that I can’t shake is Bad Religion. Yeah, there were other bands I listened to when I first got into punk, but Bad Religion is the one that I always come back to. What can I say about them that hasn’t been said? Their set at Punk In Drublic was one of the best I’ve seen from them, they sounded great (especially their harmonies) and opened with “American Jesus” and ended with “Fuck Armageddon… This is Hell.” In between those two, they also played “No Control,” “Do What You Want,” “Generator,” “Los Angeles Is Burning,” and a bunch of their other hits. As he is apt to do, Fat Mike jumped on stage for the bridge of “21st Century (Digital Boy).” At Punk Rock Bowling, he took over bass for “We’re Only Gonna Die.” If there’s one thing Fat Mike likes to do (besides drugs), it’s help Bad Religion keep their set exciting. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again, but it always brings a smile to my face.

I’d only see NOFX once before, but knowing how the band follows whims (you know, like pulling off a punk beer fest in Tacoma), I always figured their sets could be pretty distinct. As per usual, there was the trademark banter, which for a NOFX fan is as much a part of their set as well, you know– songs– but, it was funny and entertaining. Fat Mike riffed on event coordinators not having enough beer and then proceeded to play a lot of classic tracks, changing words for laughs along the way. Seeing NOFX in their element with an audience of ten-thousand was a sight to see. You don’t get many opportunities to sing “Bob” with a choir that size. Everyone was really into it, singing and circle pitting– whether in the pit or not– and I was pleasantly surprised to hear them play one of my favorite deep cuts, “I’m a Huge Fan of Bad Religion,” maybe just because I can relate to the title.

All in all, Tacoma’s Punk in Drublic was a unique spectacle of good beer, great live performances, and some logistics that could stand to be improved. But, as Fat Mike celebratorily said, “This is a punk rock festival for ADULTS!” And it certainly was. There was beer and there was a music, and not a fucking kid in sight.

Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?



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