One of my favorite indie releases of the last few years was AAA Battery’s Corrosion of Buddha. A cross country, file swapping kind of project, the project held up as an homage to the corrosion of the human spirit. Musically, it was a blend of alternative sensibilities with progressive rock leanings – kind of like Neil Young meeting Tool. AAA Battery’s Fred Jeske rang me up back in June to tell me about his forthcoming project – Conduit of Humanity. It sounded really ambitious – a group of 20+ individuals getting together to create reality bending music that could change hearts and minds. But isn’t that what the best music does? We made plans to get together in Seattle in August at his band’s performance and…my life took a left turn. Instead of catching up with Fred and taking in his band, I found myself driving across the USA on the very same day I had made plans with Fred. Sorry Fred! His new project – Conduit of Humanity – has recently released their debut album, The Zen Cage. And I can tell you, it is an album that lives up to it’s ambitions.
Southern California’s Ten Foot Pole are stalwarts of the scene’s pop punk sound and scene. The band began as Scared Straight in the early 80’s and were associated with the Nardcore movement which helped them make a name for themselves. The 90’s saw them working as labelmates with The Offspring, Rancid, and NOFX on the Epitaph label. Through the years the band has seen quite a bit of members come and go, with the one constant being Dennis Jagard on guitars and vocals. Escalating Quickly is the band’s 1st full length containing all original material in 15 years and along with Dennis Jagard, features Scott Hallquist on guitars & vocals, “Lil” Joe Raposo on bass guitar, and Sean Sellers on drums. It is a stunning return from these industry vets.
Bruce Springsteen has been a busy artist these past few years, though his discography doesn’t quite bear that out. He’s written an autobiography, had a one man show on Broadway, and released a Netflix special and accompanying album documenting that Broadway show. In fact, his last album wasn’t even an album at all in the traditional sense. 2014’s High Hopes was a collection of strays, covers, and re-recordings with the E Street Band along with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Prophets of Rage on a little more than half the album. Real album or not, I loved it. Western Stars is a 180-degree turn. In fact, you’ve probably never heard Bruce sound like this before.
Paul Den Heyer deserves to be more widely known. He made his first splash with Fishmonkeyman in the 90’s – who’s If I’ve Told You Once was a memorable Britpop hit in the early 90’s. From there he’s played with and produced many memorable bands – two of them very dear to my heart. I’m talking about the summer drenched tunes of Sunstack Jones and John Lever’s project The Red-Sided Garter Snakes – whose two albums showcased several artists influenced and inspired by John and his work with The Chameleons and The Sun and the Moon. It was a last influx of creativity before John passed away and it left me wondering what would come next from these artists, chief among them Paul Den Heyer. I didn’t have to wait long, as Paul’s been in touch with me letting me know about his solo work and sharing snippets over the “world wide web”. And now that it is here, how does it stack up? Does it live up to everything I had hoped?
Silver Screams are a punk band hailing from Boston, MA that offer up no frills, 70’s style punk rock. Their latest offering is a 3 song EP that clocks in at about 6 1/2 minutes. It hits hard, fast, and leaves the listener wanting for more. The band is comprised of Niff on guitar & vox, Earthdog on bass, and Pete on drums. At least two of those names may be stage names. The sound of the EP is raw – this could have been recorded anytime within the last 40 years or so. And I absolutely fucking love that – this is a masterful EP. Alive In The Afterlife kicks things off in high gear. Sung / shout vocals with an incessant guitar riff that leads into a classic punk rock chorus. Stitches Up has a killer intro bass line that is quickly overwhelmed by the full band instrumentation. It doesn’t quite quite have the pop appeal of the opener, but it is a worthy cut. Understand is a Government Issue cover and ends things on a high note. D.C. punk by way of Boston suits Silver Screams just fine. Overall, this is a short EP that is worthy of your time and attention. You can pick it up here and check out their updates on The Social Network.
Verdict: Punk Classic
For Fans of: The Clash, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Warsaw, The Jam
Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.
2006 saw the release of Sean Lennon’s 2nd album, Friendly Fire – a full 8 years after his debut, Into the Sun. On this sophomore release the genre exercises were gone. Instead, listeners were treated to a song cycle detailing his relationship with Bijou Phillips and the loss of his friendship with Max LeRoy (who was killed in a motorcycle accident before they could reconcile). It took a long, long time for this album to connect with me – it seemed redundant to me for Sean Lennon to put out a John Lennon type album. Silly me. Every song is stunning, but the 3rd track Parachute is probably my favorite. Pain spills from Lennon’s voice, the piano and instrumentation swells around him, all leading to a heartbreaking chorus. It is simply perfection. “Cause if I have to die tonight / I’d rather be with you / Cut the parachute before you die / Baby don’t you cry / You had to bring me down / We had some fun before we hit the ground”.
New York City’s The Electric Mess return with their 4th album chock full of blistering rock ‘n roll, punk anthems, and garage rock freak outs. The band’s been at it for over a decade and this familiarity with each other bears stunning fruit on The Beast is You. The band is led by frontwoman Esther Crow with Dan Crow (guitar), Oweinama Biu (keyboards, vocals), Derek Davidson (bass) and Alan J. Camlet (drums). That lineup is mostly the same as it was on their last record, with a change on drums. Alan J. Camlet fits within the band’s framework nicely, providing a propulsive, steady backbeat. Hard to believe it has been over 4 years since I’ve reviewed this band (and this review is long overdue) – but holy hell, it was worth the wait. The Beast is You is my favorite album by the band to date.