Criminal Kids' first single, Outcast/Night, puts them firmly in the camp of Chicago punk bands more interested in an older style of rock and roll. Fans of Poison Boys and Black Bear Rodeo should keep their ears to the ground for more from Criminal Kids. Ripping guitar solos and vocals delivered with a deliberate swagger abound. Even the album cover (in a similar manner to Poison Boys' Headed for Disaster EP cover) calls to another era, with a photo of the band members that looks like it could have been taken decades ago.
The lyrics from "Outcast" call out the material things that separate people in society. Money, of course, is one of those things. In the parlance of this classic era of rock and roll, a switchblade is the great equalizer. The pinnacle of the song comes with the shout "I guess that makes me an outcast baby/I guess that makes me an outcast." It's a fun rumble of a jam and I'm looking forward to hearing more from this band. Check out the video for "Outcast" after the jump and stream the two-song single at their bandcamp page.
Sandra Malak has been running around the globe with a musical gang of anarchists known as The World/Inferno Friendship Society, for over ten years. The Brooklyn based band tends to get pretty busy toward the end of the year, which for them happens to fall on Halloween. This October has seen the band playing at bars, frat houses, cemeteries and even our All Hands on Deck festival here in Chicago. All this has been in preparation for the band’s 20th Hallowmas celebration for our gourd and savior, The Honorable Great Pumpkin. Ms. Malak, the band’s bassist, was nice enough to take a minute of her time to share with us a glimpse into what it’s like to be a part of this mischievous bunch during the busiest time of their year:
When was the last time you used a payphone? I asked myself this as I used a payphone in Newark Penn Station at 12:30am on October 20th of this year, and as I did this I wished I had been the person on the other end receiving the call. How honored I would feel if someone called me from a payphone! “You used your quarters for me instead of laundry? How sweet!” They’ve gone up to 50 cents, by the way. Additionally, on this particular phone there was a list of free calls one could make from it. Dial *12 for help finding a job. Dial *11 for the Social Security office. Dial *13 for the EBT office and the one that intrigued me most, dial *10 to get God’s Blessing and a Daily Prayer. Though I would have much preferred if there was a * some number that would dial the person I actually was trying to call, but since there was not, I dialed *10. The line rang a couple times then stopped and was followed by silence. I listened and listened…nothing. Not even heavy breathing. What a rip off. Even though I was feeling pretty good at that moment having not missed the last train back to Middle Jersey where I’d been hiding out in between Inferno shows, a daily prayer might have been nice, especially if it was going to be a nice little affirmation that wasn’t muddled up in any religious denomination. Something like, “You’re doing great, kid. Keep it up.” Ah, well.
I’d spent several days moving through Newark Penn Station in the weeks preceding Halloween and must say I was very saddened to learn that they closed the Blue Comet Lounge, which was the only bar in the whole station. I spent many waiting hours of my life sitting in that dank holding tank between New York and New Jersey and was looking forward to ordering an overpriced, flat gin and tonic, glancing at an episode of Judge Judy on a fuzzy television screen, and watching potential patrons wander in and out of the bar asking if they can pay for a bud light with a handful of pennies and paper clips. But it was no longer to be. When I first noticed the bar had closed, I let out a teary eyed “What the fuck!?!” (I actually did cry a little) then I texted Bill Cashman, the band’s current undertaker, and asked him to please let Jack know the sad news. Mr. Terricloth (who for a yet unexplained reason had recently blocked my number making it therefore impossible to reach him directly) and I shared an affinity for this hole-in-the-wall-under-track-1 (“This is great! I had no idea this place was here! This is my new favorite bar,” he said the first time I brought him to The Blue Comet.) Cashman wrote back to let me know Jack was distraught by the loss of this great and legendary dive bar. It would be a long somber ride from Chicago to Brooklyn for those boys. (I flew back. Had to be somewhere.)
October can be a great time for a record to come out. You’ve been waiting for a good chunk of the year from when it’s announced, so you’re stoked to finally hear it. It’s late in the year, so it’s fresh in our minds when it comes time to start thinking about the bracket. If it’s a grower, that sucks, cause it’s only got a couple of weeks to convince you. But if it’s one of those records that hits you immediately, you’re hooked when it’s time to start thinking about what goes on the bracket.
Such is the case with the Lillingtons first record since 2006, Stella Sapiente. I got into the Lillingtons through their classic – 1999’s Death by Television. We were hanging out in DeKalb somewhere when Henry Brawlins put it on—it had that sci-fi, somewhat spooky vibe, mixed with straight up fun Ramones-core and the distinct voice of Kody Templeman (of Teenage Bottlerocket). I was hooked, but I never really listened to any of their other records all that much. But when they released the first single off Stella Sapiente, “Insect Nightmares,” I knew this was gonna be a good one. There’s an ever more haunting vibe to this record—it just feels so dark, with its mystical lyrics focused on, as Templeman says “secret societies, astrology, and the occult.” But it was “Insect Nightmares,” which I immediately connected to Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, that drew me in. “In the dead of night I’m hiding in my bed / That’s when the bugs come alive creeping through my head / They say it’s just a dream and simply nothing more / But now it’s 2 AM I’m crawling on the floor.” It’s kinda creepy, but it’s incredibly catchy. Fast paced with a little bit of melody, “Insect Nightmares” was the perfect way to tease the new record.
The debut album from Chicago punks Sincere Engineer hit with a bang, coming out on the local punk mainstay Red Scare Industries, home of bands from the Falcon to the Brokedowns to Direct Hit! to Masked Intruder to Teenage Bottlerocket to the Menzingers and more. These are household names in punk and if Rhombithian is any indication, Sincere Engineer is going to be right there too. The catchy songs, gruff vocals and wry sense of humor are a good match for the pop punk label. The line early in the album about jumping into Lake Michigan and swimming in it certainly doesn't hurt on the Chicago connection front. What really makes this record exceptional, and fast, is adept lyricism.
Exhibit A: "Overbite," the third track on the album, deftly trades two lines that balance the album's main themes - anxiety on the one hand and a self-deprecating sense of humor invoking the minutiae of everyday life on the other. "I don't care about anything as much as I used to" is repeated a few times within the first minute of the song. Then, after another round in the second chorus, the line changes to "I still feel just about as dumb as I used to." The music speeds up in the last 30 seconds and the two lines trade off at the end of the track.
In Rotation: Won't Stay Dead - The Devil Was With Us
Phil Collins - October 27, 2017
If you are looking for some new spooky tunes this Halloween, check out the new 7 song horror punk EP from Chicago's Won't Stay Dead. The songs on The Devil Was With Us combine a love of horror movies (take another look at that Night of the Living Dead poster) and conventions of the horror punk and rockabilly genres. "Withered, Tempting" is my favorite track here - it starts with a meandering bassline before jumping up to the punchy verse. The song goes through another round of this and ends ahead of the two minute mark, leaving on a high note. "Withered, Tempting" has all the elements that make this EP so fun, from the rockabilly influence to the lyrics that sound like they're describing the plot of a horror movie. Still, if this release has a theme song, it has to be "The Devil of Bedford Street." The lyrics and song title sound like they come from a horror movie, the title of the EP is in the lyrics, and the first line of the chorus "Somebody put a cross on my head and it burned" lands right on point.
All Hands On Deck is only a day away! Join us at Cobra Lounge Friday and Saturday for a bunch of great bands to support an important cause. All proceeds will go to Planned Parenthood. Get your Friday tickets ($10), Saturday tickets ($20) or weekend passes ($25).
Many of the bands playing this weekend are bands we have covered in one way or another over the years at Change the Rotation. What follows is a roundup of that coverage with links to go read the full interviews and reviews.
The World/Inferno Friendship Society
The World/Inferno Friendship Society plays on Saturday at 9:15 p.m.
Danny (of Don't Panic Records and Distro) and I interviewed lead singer Jack Terricloth over Skype in July 2016, ahead of their show at Chop Shop. Here is an excerpt:
Phil: So I have to ask, I know you guys always dress up really nicely on tour and everything, which is great, and it’s fun when the fans dress up too, does that present any challenges touring, like, packing up the van with your suits and everything, is it a lot to lug around?
Jack: Would you like to see my suitcase? This is going to be a written interview, not a video, but I think you’ll enjoy this. Gentlemen, this is my suitcase. It’s ancient, I think it’s from 1930, it’s broken already, it’s held together with a bungie cord because it’s ancient, and now, dig this, it’s an actual “suit-case,” things actually hang in here. And I never load the van, so the rest of the band hates my guts.
Phil: You’ve got it figured out.
Jack: Now dig this, the suits actually hang, and if you go like this, they come out. However, yes, the rest of the band hates my guts. Oh I’m sorry, did we chase Alex out of here, that’s too bad. Yeah, we stink all the time like other punk bands, we just have more things that stink, so really, I guess we actually stink more. We occasionally have to stop for dry cleaning, but, are you guys musicians, have you ever toured?
Danny: Yeah, a little bit.
Jack: So you know, there’s never any time to stop for anything.
Danny: I have two very smelly T-shirts.
Jack: Yeah, well I have four very smelly suits. And there’s eight of us, nine of us, I can’t even keep track, so eight very smelly people in a lot more clothes than you guys wear.
Phil: Are we talking one van, two vans, eight or nine people, that could fit in one van, actually…
Jack: Sometimes we tour with two vans, but we somehow decided we wanted to make money, so now we’re all packed in one van. There was a point where we had two vans, and I was like, this is totally cool, but now it’s all of us packed shoulder to shoulder.
Where to start with The World/Inferno Friendship Society
Phil Collins - October 2, 2017
Sometimes you hear about a band and say "Hey, I should check them out." Sometimes you remember to go check them out. Sometimes you remember to add them to a mental list of bands to check out. Sometimes you forget what music is and what planet you are on. In fact, sometimes you wake up realizing that 20 years and half a dozen albums have gone by and you're still watching the clouds pass. It has happened to the best of us. So, without any judgment today I will tell you where I think you should start with The World/Inferno Friendship Society if you are late to the party. You can catch the Brooklyn-based cabaret punks at All Hands On Deck on October 14 at Cobra Lounge. See the full lineup and links to get your tickets here. All proceeds go to Planned Parenthood of Illinois. Read an interview we did last year with ringleader/vocalist Jack Terricloth here.
Start with Hallowmas Live at Northsix
I wouldn't often recommend beginning with a band's live album but hear me out. This is not just an introduction to World/Inferno's music but their whole vibe. Recorded at their annual Hallowmas show (their "Super Bowl" as Jack says on the album), Hallowmas Live at Northsix is as much a mission statement for the band as a glimpse at their live show. You'll hear the witty banter, song introductions and social commentary that mark World/Inferno shows; you'll hear some of the deep cuts that are only likely to come out at Hallowmas ("Pumpkin Time," "One For the Witches") and you'll hear a lot of the hits (perennial opener "Tattoos Fade" and many of the songs from Just the Best Party.) The album was recorded while Franz Nicolay was a member of the band. If Wikipedia is to be believed in these matters, Craig Finn of The Hold Steady was working A&R for DCN records at the time and arranged for World/Inferno to record the live album. Nicolay began recording with The Hold Steady shortly after this.
Back in 2014 Wasted Potential released their self-titled EP. It was awesome. It was arguably the best twelve and a half minutes of music in 2014. But Phil wouldn’t let it on the bracket because it’s an EP, and you know, rules and stuff. Whatever, I still made sure to tell you how awesome it was (you can read that review here if you so please). After a couple years, another EP, a pair of splits, and some other random recordings, we now get their debut full length, the cheekily titled, Living Up to the Name. (Wasted Potential. Get it?) Rejoice! It’s time to celebrate, as Living Up to the Name gives us…, uh, almost 19 minutes of music. Well, they’re calling it a full-length, so it’s bracket worthy now.
And Living Up to the Name fucking rips. “Crusades” opens the record up with a bang, has a heavier feel than some of Wasted Potential’s other material, and has a fun woah section as things slow down, before a little bit of shred time. Since their debut EP Wasted Potential has learned that you don’t have to blaze through everything all the time—indeed, none of these songs go under the minute mark. The more mid-paced “Never Asked” totally has a sing-along vibe, and is pretty damn catchy. “East Enders” and especially “Turbo 90s” also hum along at a slower pace. They give the record the chance to breathe, and the transition from the blazers to these more relaxed numbers feels totally natural. None of these songs are longer than three minutes though, so this definitely isn’t going to be mistaken for a drone record. “Jazz Age” feels like one of the most spastic pieces in their catalog, while “Palm Mutes” maintains the breakneck pace from that debut EP. After a slow, heavy riffed build up, “Curt Murder Face Rip” absolutely, uh, rips. Some of these rapid-fire tracks feel heavier than their earlier material, like they’ve figured out the appropriate amount of crunch to put into these songs. Or they’re letting that metal influence creep in a little more. Danny Kidd’s vocals sound harsher and more aggressive here too, spitting a little more hot sauce on their pentagram pizzas. Closer “Weekend at Bernice’s” is one of the catchiest songs they’ve written. In the space of 19 minutes, we get spastic, heavy, and catchy as hell. In short, spinning Living Up to the Name is one of the best ways you can spend 19 minutes. Bravo dudes, looking forward to you getting down to the States one of these days.
All Time Awesome Record: Andrew Jackson Jihad - People That Can Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World
Phil Collins - September 11, 2017
We all have records that mean a lot to us individually, records that forever changed the course of our own personal music-listening experiences. There are those records, and then there is a small subset of those records which three people can sit down and agree upon, without reservation, that these records fall into this Earth-shattering category. This category is the All Time Awesome Record. In the spirit of Decibel magazine's Hall of Fame feature, Change the Rotation occasionally spotlights one record that isn't just good, isn't just a record that one of us thinks is important, but is a record we can all agree had a huge impact on us personally and on the music scene at large.
Andrew Jackson Jihad's People That Can Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World is the second record we have honored with this distinction. We named Against Me!'s Reinventing Axl Rose an All Time Awesome Record in 2015. We don't take these things lightly, so we don't do them terribly often. We wanted to get this one done in time to coincide with the album's 10th anniversary. AJJ play an early and late anniversary show at Subterranean tonight, both with Ogikubo Station. AJJ will play the record in full, as an acoustic two-piece, which is the way they toured for a long time before going full band electric. We talked about this transition at length back in 2014. However you feel about new school AJJ, I think we can all agree it is pretty awesome that they are celebrating this All Time Awesome Record with an acoustic tour.
Talking about the record today we have regular contributor Steve O. Check out Random Records With Steve O, where he reviews new records, old records and whatever strikes his fancy. We also have Danny Brawlins on hand from Don't Panic Records & Distro. Don't Panic put out an excellent 7-inch from local punks Fitness recently, as well as Holy Shit, the new Davey Dynamite record. Look for some exciting stuff from them later this year! We here at Change the Rotation are working together with Don't Panic and Friskie Morris & Friends to put on All Hands on Deck, a micro music festival at Cobra Lounge on October 13 and 14. The World/Inferno Friendship Society, Davey Dynamite & The Salt Creek Duo, Fitness, The Bigger Empty, The Cell Phones and more are playing the fest. Both days are all ages and all proceeds will go to Planned Parenthood of Illinois. See the full lineup and links to get your tickets here. Without further ado, let's talk about People That Can Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World.
Why does this record deserve to be an All Time Awesome Record (ATAR)?
Steve O: Along with Ghost Mice, Andrew Jackson Jihad are probably one of the most influential and important folk punk bands for a ton of people. And while Candy Cigarettes & Cap Guns was technically their first record, it’s the epically titled (and Vonnegut inspired) People That Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World that is most widely known. I remember seeing so many people cover songs from this record, which is a great sign of how universal an impact it had. If there were bands doing the ‘sad songs sung happily’ before, none of them did it as well as Andrew Jackson Jihad.
Danny: This album, along with Reinventing Axl Rose, which we reviewed last time, is another perfect example of folk punk. It’s a weird genre and sometimes it’s hard to explain to people. So when you have genre-defining albums like People Who Can Eat People, it makes it a little easier to talk about.
Phil: I’m really interested in what this record ultimately says about people. It is so dark in places but finishes on an incredibly positive note. This record also harkens back to the acoustic era of this band, a time I think we all have some nostalgia for, even those of us who are into their more recent full band material. Yet, there are so many instruments fleshing out People Who Can Eat People. I think we all agree that this is the band’s best work and a cornerstone of the folk punk genre.
Steve O: That People Who Can Eat People… turns 10 this year and every song on here I still consider incredible just proves how timeless these songs are. “No more racism / no more discrimination / no more fat dumb fucks keeping people out of our nation” from “No More Tears” is just as relevant now, if not more so, than it was 10 years ago. Which is a good segue to say that Sean Bonnette is a fantastic lyricist. Unbelievably creative, every song is packed with memorable lines and brilliant metaphors, revolving around topics such as dealing with anxiety and being kind to humanity. The alliterations at the beginning of “A Song Dedicated to the Memory of Stormy the Rabbit” is unmatched; I can’t recall ever hearing anything else like that.
Phil: This album harnesses the power of concise, powerful lyricism. It’s short on time but deep on meaning. Each song paints a picture and you might notice something different about it each time you take it in.
Danny: This is also an exemplary lo-fi and folk album. I think when you write an album that can be considered a classic in multiple genres ten years later, it deserves to be an All Time Awesome Record!
Announcing All Hands On Deck, a micro music festival benefitting Planned Parenthood of Illinois
Featuring World/Inferno, Davey Dynamite, Bombflower, The Cell Phones and more
Phil Collins - August 28, 2017
I am thrilled to announce All Hands On Deck, a micro music festival taking place at Cobra Lounge on October 13 and 14. All proceeds from the shows will go to Planned Parenthood of Illinois. Change the Rotation is working together with our good friends at Don't Panic Records & Distro and the Friskie Morris Sessions podcast to put on this festival. It is important to all of us to have our punk community's diversity represented in our lineup. Each year we will make a conscious effort to book bands with members of all races, genders and orientations. Each year, proceeds will be donated to a non-profit organization. Our aim is to encourage positive change from the ground up by bringing people together to support our community. Keeping that in mind, we also want everyone to be able to attend, so both shows are all ages. Here is the Facebook event page. Without further ado, here is this year's lineup:
Friday, October 13th (doors at 6, show at 7)
Davey Dynamite and the Salt Creek Duo (Punk/Folk Punk) Bandcamp
Interview with Celia C. Pérez, author of The First Rule of Punk
Phil Collins - August 16, 2017
Chicago librarian Celia C. Pérez releases her first book, The First Rule of Punk, August 22 on Viking Books for Young Readers. The story follows middle school student Malú as she struggles to find herself in a new school. From afar, her father advises her to abide by the first rule of punk: be yourself. Malú finds joy in punk music, zines and skateboarding. Zine pages are included in the book as part of the story. Being a Chicago librarian with a dedicated space to talk about punk, I wanted to ask the author a few questions and chat about the punk librarian life. We talked through email about getting published, punk as part of one's identity, zine collecting, and more.
Women & Children First Bookstore in Andersonville hosts the book launch party for The First Rule of Punk on August 24 at 7:30 p.m. More information on that here.
Phil Collins: First off I want to say congratulations on the book. When did you start writing it and about how long did it take to get to the final product?
Celia C. Pérez:Thank you! I started writing a version of this character's story around 2012. At that time the protagonist, Malú, was a little bit younger than she is in the final book. I scrapped that and decided to rewrite her a little bit older. But it wasn't until late summer 2014 that I settled on the character as a twelve-year-old and wrote what became The First Rule of Punk. I signed with my literary agent in the summer of 2015, and the book sold to Viking last summer. In between summer 2014 and May 2017 there was a lot of revision and editing happening. So, in all, it took about three years from when I began writing this specific story to its publication date of August 2017.
PC: Were you working at your current library throughout the writing process? Was it hard to find time to write while having a day job?
CCP: Yes, I work full time as a librarian. I'm fortunate that I work at an institution where librarians are faculty. We have the same nine-month schedule as other faculty which leaves me with summers off, as well as student breaks like spring break and winter break. A lot of work got done during those breaks. It was still tough to write and work full time, especially once my manuscript was acquired and I was working with deadlines. A lot of work was done in the evenings after my son had gone to bed, especially zine work because unlike a manuscript that I can carry around and work on whenever I have a free moment, zine making for me requires space to spread out and a bunch of supplies all over the place.
The eponymous debut EP from Chicago hardcore band The Decayed is a fiery introduction. Everyone involved here is or has been in other punk/hardcore bands (Last False Hope, Failed Resistance, Break the Silence, Vile Display of Humanity) and it shows. This is a tight six song set that manages to cover more ground than its running time might suggest. We start off with the most straightforward, shortest song. People will quickly learn to sing back the title "Beaten and Battered". Lead vocalist Jahshie P, also of Last False Hope and Failed Resistance, delivers on point shouts throughout. The guitar riffage and shout along portions make this a good opener. "The Dream is Dead" plays out similarly until a little less than halfway through when we get a bass-driven interlude, hinting at some of the variety to come.
"Not This Time" really breaks the mold with a full out excursion into thrash metal crossover territory. Things continue to change up with crusty vocals from guitarist Jake Younberg on the EP's final two tracks. The Decayed EP does as well in its slower sections as in the more prevalent punched up parts. Overall this is a solid debut and I'm looking forward to hearing what's next for the band. Get out there and see them play live because they put on a fun show. Stream The Decayed EP after the jump.
Blystex offer shouty vocals with Spanish lyrics over fuzzy guitar riffs on their new EP Nasty Licks. The Chicago band run through six songs in concise fashion. This release is to the point in length and from what I can tell as someone who doesn't speak much Spanish, it seems to be to the point lyrically as well. "Peligroso" opens up the EP with the refrain "No me toques," or "Don't touch me." I like hearing lyrics in other languages because it does put forward a different sound than what we are used to hearing with so many bands singing in English. Other languages have different sentence structures and different ways of pronouncing letters, so there is an inherently distinct sound versus what you would get with English lyrics. It is also important to have bands singing in Spanish right now given the political rhetoric being thrown around on a constant basis these days.
I recently talked about this EP, along with many other recent local punk releases, on an Album Review Roundtable episode of the Friskie Morris Sessions podcast. Adam Kreutzer of The Kreutzer Sonata and Nic Campa of Oscar Bait and Otto Mann were also guests on the episode. Listen to that here. I mentioned during the Blystex segment that this band would be perfect to see in a basement doing a 20 minute set, to which Adam reminded me that we had seen them do just that earlier in the summer. The old memory just isn't what it used to be. In any case, check out this EP. Foreign Legion Records did a limited cassette run for Nasty Licks, which is already sold out.
In Rotation: Voice Of Addiction - The Lost Art of Empathy
Phil Collins - July 12, 2017
Chicago punk rockers Voice Of Addiction will release their second full-length album this Sunday. This band's name is always out there on show bills, local and on tour. According to their Soundcloud page, the band has done 1,200 shows in the U.S. and Canada during the last decade plus. So their first full-length record release since 2011 is an occassion to be marked (they have put out an EP and two live releases in the intervening years).
The Lost Art of Empathy is a solid set of 12 new songs. The band's sound bears some resemblance to Propagandhi, in terms of the gruff vocals, political lyrics, and quick guitar work. "Rustbelt" kicks the album off with a good idea of what the listener will get from the album - gripping punk jams with plenty of changes in them. "Unity" opens with the cathartic scream "I'm not your fucking pawn." "Corporate Pariah" features a surprise ska beat in the verses. "Eviction Notice" offers gruff vocal delivery and pointed lyrics laced with effective guitar. "Are We Even Human Anymore?" closes the album with acoustic storytelling.
Bloomington is famous for folk punk, thanks to the Ghost Mice/Plan It X history. But with Plan It X calling it quits, it’s about time to recognize some of the other fantastic new music coming out of here. Whelmed’s debut, self-titled EP is a good starting point. Though, to be honest, this isn’t exactly “new” in a sense; 2/3 of Whelmed also play in CTR faves High Dive. But Whelmed is full of 2-3 minute fun, catchy pop punk songs. Nothing groundbreaking, but here are four solid songs that remind you why you listen to this music and why punk is so important.
“Empty Vessel” is a great opening track—simple with a super catchy chorus. It’s the kind of self-reflective punk song that we all need to sing along to when we’re having a rough day or a reminder that we’re all in this together. And goddamn, that chorus just begs you to sing along at the top of your lungs. “Slow Jam” is perfectly named as it is exactly that; a chill, slow-tempo reflective song featuring the brilliant line of “Shut your shit-storm of a mouth / Some silence helps you think.” The last minute picks up the pace, with the hopeful refrain of “Maybe we'll do better next time,” really adding to the reflective nature of the song. “Leech” closes the record out with the shortest song here with another self-reflective pop punk song, reminding us that it’s okay to ask for help when we need it. These are songs that are super easy to connect with; they’re all of the ‘we’re all in this together’ mindset of pop punk. It’s awesome and it’s supportive and it’s uplifting in its own way, especially when you’re afraid to read the news every day (dear god I don’t want to know what Trump did today).
Welcome to the fifth edition of Liner Notes, a feature in which I will talk about the production design, packaging, and process of buying a particular record. I am building a collection of vinyl. The look and feel of the record is important to me, otherwise I would be satisfied to have all my music solely in a digital format. People do not buy records because it is convenient. They take up a lot of space, they are fragile and they get dusty. Record collectors do not mind these drawbacks so much because of what we get in return: big artwork, full liner notes and the tangibility of vinyl.
Chicago Versus Amsterdam is a four way split between two bands from each city. Interestingly enough, this was put out by a record label in Van Nuys, California - Hopeless Records. They certainly picked their Chicago bands well - 88 Fingers Louie continue to be revered here and have a new album coming out this year. The Bollweevils have been popping up on shows a lot more lately. If you see them live, you won't forget it. This split came out in 1996, right in the primetime for both bands' recorded output. Most of both bands' discographies came out in the mid to late nineties. Their Dutch comrades Funeral Oration and NRA both seem to have folded, the former in the late nineties, the latter a little more recently although it is not clear when. They are fitting matches sonically for fans of the two stateside punk bands. The 7-inch includes one previously unreleased track from each band.
In Rotation: SHOTS FIRED SHOTS FIRED - Calles Sangriento
Phil Collins - June 22, 2017
The debut EP from Chicago hardcore band SHOTS FIRED SHOTS FIRED grapples with the tensions of the reality that we live in today in 2017. They start right off on Trump with the opening track "El Emparador Es Naranja," deriding his lack of respect for women and his constant self-aggrandizement. Lyrics switch between Spanish and English often on this release, in this case translating the song's title: "El emparador es naranja/The emperor is orange." Title track "Calles Sangriento" discusses the everyday violence that continues to grip Chicago. On "Be More Like Sean (RIP Sean McKeough,)" vocalist Paulie Think tells the story of the Riot Fest co-founder helping him get off heroin.
These seven songs gallop along, only pausing for sound clips from the orange one and the news. SHOTS FIRED SHOTS FIRED should not be missed live. I caught their first show at Quenchers earlier this year and they tore it up. You wouldn't guess it from the music, but vocalist Paulie Think just put out a hip-hop album called Dunny's Tamales. Check that out at the No Trend Records bandcamp page. Stream Calles Sangriento after the jump.
Chicago punks Fitness use dual lead guitars and crusty vocal hooks effectively on their new 7-inch, Puppet Show. They can channel the amped up party sound of FIDLAR, the soaring guitar leads of a bygone era and a crusty vocal delivery all in the same song. Basically, most of Puppet Show sounds like it would be well-accompanied by Old Style cans spraying all over the place. You will probably get some of the guitar hooks stuck in your head before you learn the words, most likely the guitar lead at the beginning of "Sin Bad." Whatever else stands out about this release, it fittingly begins and ends with those blasting guitar licks.
This is the second release from Fitness, following 2015's self-titled cassette. Puppet Show is out on vinyl via our brother organization, Don't Panic Records & Distro. It's out on a run of 300 copies with 100 on violet vinyl and 200 on black. Pick it up at the Don't Panic bandcamp page.
Finding out you work with someone who listens to the same music as you is awesome, especially when it comes to punk or metal. I mean, basically everyone listens to the Beatles, and these days it’s probably easy for people who listen to, let’s say Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift, to find each other within their working environment. But it is so much cooler when it’s something like, “you know Propagandhi?! Hell yeah!” It’s like that Slayer fan, you know. But maybe a little more subtle, like being a part of a secret group. You know about bands/records that are classics, which no one else in the office has ever heard of before.
And that’s how Torturess’ Kiss the Whip came to my attention. I work with bassist/vocalist James, guitarist of hardcore/noise punks Racebannon, who brought a bag of goodies to work one day. As opposed to the spastic hardcore of Racebannon, Torturess is a fuzzed out, sludgy, straight-up rollicking doom band, in the vein of 16, High on Fire, or that Georgia scene that brought out bands like Black Tusk or Kylesa. But with an extra emphasis on the low end. Because while all of those bands have some guitar work, and some pretty damn good stuff, Torturess eschews that classic instrument of rock and roll for another bass. That’s right, Kiss the Whip brings a wallop with a double bass attack. But you don’t miss the guitar; the basses hold down the rhythm and bring some pretty good leads as well, as in opener “Ravenous.” They basically use the bass in the way that most bands would use a guitar, so the songs have that deep, dark sound, without having to tune a guitar way the hell down to B or drop D or whatever.
Headspins' second full-length album is full of punchy vocals, hooks and harmonies. Highlights "KGB" and "What Is Wrong With You" capitalize on Ramones-influenced staccato shouts. They embrace a 80s punk sound, which goes well with a song like opener "KGB," which calls back to cold war times. Headspins get a lot of mileage out of traded male/female vocals and alternating quick and slow deliveries. They also have a palpable sense of humor. When "What Is Wrong With You" sounds like it has wound to a close, the band continues with a slow jam of the chorus followed by a last full-speed run-through. "Love Yourself," maybe the catchiest song on the album, has that 80s X-influenced sound. "I Told You So" is a fast punk banger that would surely be great live.
Burn That Bridge is the first release from Chicago's Headspins since 2013's Spinster. Catch Headspins at the Mutiny this Saturday with The Stay Alives, Deal Breakers and Evil Engine. More information on that show here. Stream Burn That Bridge after the jump.
Hinds, a four-piece garage pop group from Madrid, came through town, playing a packed show at the Empty Bottle Thursday night. By all appearances, Hinds have always come off to me as four friends who decided to kick around some tunes together and wound up touring the world before anyone knew what had happened. The band has one catchy, critically acclaimed album: 2016's Leave Me Alone. There is always more to the "overnight" success story and indeed, Hinds has existed in some form since 2011. They blew up last year with Leave Me Alone and its opening song "Garden." Their reach was apparent Thursday night. If memory serves, the last time Hinds came through Chicago, they played Thalia Hall in Pilsen. So when they played the Empty Bottle as part of the Red Bull Sound Select series, a venue roughly 10 times smaller than Thalia Hall, it was packed from front to back. The show sold out and there were plenty of hopeful RSVP-ers lined up outside the venue after the start of the show.
The band - Carlotta Cosials, Ana García Perrote, Ade Martín and Amber Grimbergen - appear just as energetic and loose on stage as they sound on the recordings. Hinds' set naturally drew heavily from their sole album, but they did break out a couple new songs. They are recording a new album that should come out later this year. The band warned the audience that one of the new songs had just been written in the studio a couple weeks earlier and had not been properly rehearsed. The crowd soaked in the new songs with vigor.
Interview with Jahshie P of MoonRunners Music Festival
Phil Collins - April 17, 2017
MoonRunners Music Festival brings together country, roots and punk for the fifth year running, May 5-6 at Reggies. This year's lineup includes country and roots mainstays Shooter Jennings, Scott H. Biram, Pearls Mahone, Jesse Dayton, The Hooten Hallers and punk bands Escape From the Zoo, Evil Empire, Still Alive, Won't Stay Dead and more. I talked with Jahshie P, founder of the festival, recently on Skype. He also plays in the local punk bands Last False Hope and The Decayed, both of which play this year's fest. We talked about the origins of the fest, MoonRunner's fifth year and how roots/country fans respond to punk and hardcore.
Phil Collins: Congrats on year five of MoonRunners Music Fest.
Jahshie P: Thank you.
PC: Yeah, absolutely. How, can you just take us through how this whole thing got started and have you been at Reggies all five years?
JP: Yeah, it’s been at Reggies all five years. It actually started, me and my friend Shooter Jennings had a website called moonrunnerscountry.com. It was a news website, reviews, show reviews, just random posts, stuff like that. That ended up going under, it got hacked by somebody, something went wrong and the site crashed. I started a music festival right around that same year so I decided to take the name from the website and move it along to the festival so there’s still the MoonRunners name going on.
In Rotation: Death of Self/Bad Timing - Bomb the Burbs
Phil Collins - April 4, 2017
Two Chicago area punk bands match up on the Bomb the Burbs split. The release features two new songs from Death of Self and Bad Timing, along with each band covering one of the other band's songs. Death of Self kicks it off with fast hardcore tracks laced with furious guitar solos. The vocals on Death of Self's songs here remind me of the singer from the Worcester, Massachusetts folk punk collective Speaker for the Dead. Their voices have something in common, but here that sound runs over guitar driven hardcore instead of brassy folk punk.
Bad Timing's opening track, "Rant," is exactly what it sounds like. The song is a tirade against the system, starting over deliberate, funky bass and careening off into hardcore punches before swinging back to the slower pace. "Kill Your TV" occupies the ska punk territory that is more typical of Bad Timing songs. These songs fit well together with Death of Self's half of the split to make this well worth listening to for fans of ska, punk and hardcore.
The first track off So Pretty's new album features many of the characteristics that make Suck it Up such a fun, surprising release. Dual vocals that lie in stark contrast to each other from Rachel Manter and Ashley Holman, a straight-faced commitment to every joke and a grunge punk backing that will reverberate in your mind for a while after listening. An ostensibly rich person callously orders around staff on "Comfort Service" in a mocking way that could only be pulled off with that firm commitment and timing. The slow, melodic vocals and ukulele that immediately follow this on the opening of "Think Again" then sound just as surprising when listened to in sequence. It doesn't take long for a scream and distorted guitar to cut in. These playful changes in tone and texture make the album vibrant throughout.
"Blueberry Blues" and "Manhandler" offer more straightforward shouted punk blasts, the latter landing on a telling off of a lame dude who won't shut up. Everyone in the band adds vocals somewhere on the album, building on the variety already present with two lead vocalists.
Time’s a weird thing. Like how I can cross an imaginary line and all of the sudden, it’s 2 o’clock instead of 3? Or how we just “spring ahead” an hour which has me getting home at 4 in the morning instead of 3. What the hell? Sometimes though, time works out so absolutely perfectly.
It was a Friday when I was talking to Joe Vickers of Audio/Rocketry and he mentioned he was going on a European tour to open for Mobina Galore. The name was familiar, because I remember seeing that they were opening for Against Me! in Palatine. Unfortunately, that show practically down the street from my parents’ house sold out before I could get tickets. The next Monday at work, I check out Mobina Galore’s new record, Feeling Disconnected. Then I spent a good portion of the week listening to both that record, and their 2014 full length debut, Cities Away, unable to shake the impression that they were totally fucking awesome. That weekend I was going to be back in Illinois, and, coincidentally Mobina Galore were playing in Milwaukee on Saturday. In the span of less than a week, I discovered an awesome new band and got to see them live. Making all of this even more perfectly coincidental is that they’re from Winnipeg. What are the odds? Now that’s good timing!
Don't Panic Records Interview with John Olivier of Ghost Bath
Danny Brawlins - March 8, 2017
After releasing their critically acclaimed second album, Moonlover, Ghost Bath has been nothing but busy. In 2016 alone, the band signed with Nuclear Blast, started touring, and recorded a new album. 2017 is shaping up to be a big year for the band as well. Just last week they released “Thrones,” the first single from their upcoming album, Starmourner, which the band will be touring on in the coming months. I managed to track down guitarist, John Olivier, for a brief email interview ahead of their DeKalb show at the House Café this Friday because 1) we love the House Café and 2) Moonlover came in third place on Don’t Panic Records & Distro’s list of top ten Black Metal albums of 2015.
How has touring been? What do you like most about it, what do you like least? Any towns stand out as your favorites so far?
This tour has been incredible so far. We all just really enjoy being on the road, away from the normal "comforts" of life at home. Some of the drives on this run have been pretty long, but all in all this tour has been nothing but good things. It’s hard to pick a favorite city, every place is so different, but I think my favorite venue so far was in Madison, WI.
Have you developed any tour rituals over the past few months? I for one like to find a good dive bar and record store in every city I visit.
We all typically do our own thing, but me personally, I like to drink some whiskey and smoke weed before we play. Not a copious amount by any means, just enough to clear my mind.
Crusades - This is a Sickness and Sickness Will End
Steve O - March 6, 2017
The third Crusades full length is a little different beast from the ones that preceded it. While previous releases had strong trappings of satanic, atheistic, and anti-deistic imagery, they’ve brought a slightly different vibe on This is a Sickness and Sickness Will End. It is, however, just as dark and foreboding as everything the Ottawa quartet has done up to now. The record revolves around the death of loved ones, a trend we’ve been seeing more of lately (recent releases by Touché Amore and After the Fall come to mind). It’s a topic that is a lot easier to find a relationship with, than say, the life and death of Giordano Bruno, the man who was burned at the stake for vocally and publicly supporting Copernicus’ heliocentric theory and the subject of 2013’s fantastic Perhaps You Deliver this Judgment with Greater Fear than I Receive It.
But it’s not just a lyrical shift that makes This is a Sickness… stand out. There’s a metal influence found in all of Crusades’ music. Previously that’s been rooted in the Mercyful Fate/In Solitude realm, sans the falsetto, but it had that upbeat pace and satanic imagery. There’s some of that here, see opener “1590 (Sickness Never Ceasing),” or “1866 (Porch and Portal),” but you get the feeling they’ve been listening to stuff like Neurosis, post-metal, and maybe a little funeral doom slightly more than the King (Diamond, not Elvis…come on) when composing these songs. “1828 (Father of Waves)” and “1940 (Whirr and Chime)” are both slower paced ballad-eqsue haunts, clocking in over five minutes, while the latter and “1846 (Once Drinking Deep)” feature some haunting keyboards and strings, while songs like “1713 (The Scorching Fevers),” and majestic closer “1657 (Black Curtains Draw)” blend both worlds.
The new EP from Chicago's Dead Split Egos is comprised of eight songs of heavy, dark punk. They take advantage of mid-song tempo changes, more often going from faster to slower and only getting heavier as the pace decreases. Throw in an effective use of multiple vocalists and the band has something that really stands out. "Guilt" has quickly become one of my top songs of the new year so far, due to its tag team vocals on the repeated last lines of the song as the tempo slows down. A different vocalist tackles these lines one after the other as the song spirals to a finish: "Hungry for publicity, reputation, and fraud/Bolstering corruption dodging exposure for who you are/I don't subscribe to your bullshit/So please stop acting like you're not a fucking hypocrite." It's a moment that grabs attention on the first listen and only gets better when you get to know it.
Opening track "Dead Skin" kicks off on a deliberate pace, then slows things down further a couple minutes in, while simultaneously getting crunchier and heavier. A minute later a second vocalist comes in to sing along with the screamed lyrics. This kind of variety paired with strong lyrics decrying the patriarchy and the status quo make Ecdysis a must listen.
So here’s a record that probably should’ve ended up on our end of the year bracket. It’s the day after Christmas, and I’m sitting on the couch in my parents' living room. We’re meeting up to vote on the bracket later that day, so I should be finalizing my list. Instead, I randomly remember this band that I’d been hearing about were supposed to have a record coming out that I wanted to listen to. And so, I play Petrol Girls’ “Restless,” with its bombastic opening line of, “I’ll give you motherfuckers restless.” There’s no turning back now. I’m listening to the whole record in the living room. Sorry, Mom. Bad timing?
Petrol Girls’ Talk of Violence is largely a full-frontal, blazing hardcore attack, with enough melodic noodling and breaks in the pace to make that post- prefix feel appropriate (still don’t get why/how that’s a thing). Lyrically, it’s basically all radical gender politics and feminism. No matter how deep your head is in the ground, you can’t miss it. And it’s fucking awesome. Album opener “False Peace” proudly proclaims that: “We will disturb the false peace / Expose the violence that they / Teach in the way that they designate gender / Code our expression and sexual behavior / We're not a binary.” Along with the aforementioned “Restless” and the explosive “Touch Me Again,” these three songs not only bring the hammer down musically, they are blatant in their feminism. “Touch Me Again" is particularly brilliant. A line like “My liberty my body as the base of my autonomy,” just seems like such a definitive statement. And listen to the end of the song where all the music drops out, the intensity and emotion are simply harrowing. “Treading Water” has all sorts of fun dynamics, with some clean vocals. “Deflate” also has a similar vibe, while “Fang” has more of a rock and roll vibe at times.
The three songs on local garage/grunge band Black Bear Rodeo's new EP have enough hooks to latch onto memory after one listen. Of course you're not going to remember all the words after a single stream, but you might be able to recall the shouted "Hey, you better get away" on "Girl X" or the taunting "Here piggy piggy piggy piggy piggy" on "Piggy Piggy." That shouted line on opener "Girl X," undercut by some woos, has the ring of a big summer jam. A searing guitar solo seems like it will ride the song out until it drops for one more chorus. "California" and "Piggy Piggy" bring keys into the equation for some more breadth.
Bunk was recorded by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio and Barrett Guzaldo at Treehouse Records. It is Black Bear Rodeo's second release, following their debut album Garble. Fans of Archie Powell & The Exports or even the Black Keys should find plenty to enjoy here.
New track roundup: Dead Split Egos, Welfare Beer League, IM Cunj, The Tossers
Phil Collins - February 13, 2017
There are a handful of new local punk tracks to talk about so let's get right into it. Dead Split Egos have two songs up from their upcoming release, Ecdysis. "Guilt" and "Solace" are streaming on Bandcamp now. Dead Split Egos play dark hardcore in the vein of Refused. "Guilt" features tag team split vocals from members of the band and Rob Tomasek of local hardcore/metal band LUCA. "Solace" is a quicker track that can be summed up with the line "self acceptance is not self love." I saw Dead Split Egos play at the Other Side Tattoo shop on Saturday night and they put on a memorable show. Definitely check them out live if you get a chance and look for the release of Ecdysis this Friday. Dead Split Egos play a release show on March 4 at Royal Skate & Apparel in Lansing with LUCA, Grieve, Backbone, Ghost of a Dead Hummingbird, As We Once Were and Will Apgar. More information on that show here. Stream "Guilt" and "Solace" after the jump.
Florida hardcore punk band Gouge Away was the surprise winner of Change the Rotation's 2016 best albums of the year bracket. , Dies is their debut album and admittedly, we don't know a whole lot about them aside from the fact that we all held that record in high esteem last year. If at the beginning of 2016 you looked at what albums on the horizon would probably do pretty well on our end of the year bracket, surely you would think of the Falcon, Against Me! and PEARS. Well, Gouge Away took down all those bands on their way to the championship. Now that the dust has settled, we thought it would be a good idea to see if we could find out a little bit more about this band and their future plans. Lead vocalist Christina Michelle talked with me via email to fill us in on what is happening in the world of Gouge Away. If you haven't heard , Dies yet, stream it at the end of the interview. You can also read Steve O's original review of the album here.
Phil Collins: I remember when we first announced the 32 records on our best albums of the year bracket a month or two ago, you commented that you didn't really understand what that meant. Now you've won the whole thing. Do you get it?
Christina Michelle: Yes it makes more sense now.
PC: Did you get hooked on any albums in 2016?
CM: Yea! 2016 was the year for music. There were a lot of awesome releases but the ones that stuck for me are Lemonade by Beyonce, Stage Four by Touché Amoré, Peach by Culture Abuse, and I'm lucky that A Seat at the Table by Solange snuck in there last minute.
Assassination Squad packs an impressive amount of variety onto a six song EP - rockabilly on "Evil Eye," surf on "Busted" and gruff orgcore on "Welcome To Atlanta." The strong vocal melody over rollicking lead guitar on "Ass Cherry" reminds me of something I can't quite put my finger on. While Assasination Squad tackles various styles of punk on this EP, they have their own distinct approach. This band started in Seoul, South Korea but has been local to Chicago since 2015. This is the last set of songs from the band's Seoul lineup, according to the release's bandcamp description.
The title track closes this EP out with a surfy guitar led instrumental. This is a surprising, fun end to the EP, especially the (SPOILER ALERT) saxophone solo in the second half of the song. It's the kind of thing that smacks you on the side of the head if you haven't been paying attention.
Don’t Panic Records & Distro’s Top 10 Black Metal Albums of 2016
Danny Brawlins and Steve O - January 23, 2017
Black metal is an interesting genre. On one hand, it gets a rep for being extremely traditional, for having to stick to established parameters. The trve kvlt doctrine if you will, where if it deviates in any way, then it ceases to be black metal. On the other hand, the one we clearly favor, black metal is potentially the most variable metal genre out there. You can take some basic elements, such as the blast beats, the tremolo picking, or the raspy, shrieked vocals, and apply them just about anywhere. It’s like your ear bones. If you’re like me, you’re a human and those bones (the malleus, incus, and stapes) form a part of your ear. But if you’re a bird or reptile, those bones are a part of your jaw. If you’re a fish, you’re looking at an element of your gills. Too abstract? Maybe, but since a bunch of these records don’t sound like each other, yet we can still categorize them alike, maybe there’s something to it. Regardless, there’s a bunch of records here that cover the whole spectrum that we call black metal. Dig in and enjoy.
10) Skeletonwitch – The Apothic Gloom [Prosthetic]
The responses to this new era of Skeletonwitch have been divided, as The Apothic Gloom marks the debut of new vocalist Adam Clemans, whom you may (should) know as the vocalist of Wolvhammer. Clemans brings a different feel, but honestly, these four songs bring a bit of a different feel, and this should be taken as a whole package, not just a judgement on the new vocalist, as many that have been wont to do. So what do these nearly 21 minutes bring us? A Skeletonwitch on a more epic and grandeur scale – album opener “The Apothic Gloom” would stand as the longest Skeletonwitch song if it weren’t for the epic closer “Red Death, White Light.” Ending with the grand chant, “ignite / the flame / born anew,” which combined with the escalating sense of urgency in the music and the perfect delivery by Clemans (which they also pull off live to an incredible effect), reinforces the idea. This is a new era of Skeletonwitch, darker and grimier, and they’ve gone charging into it masterfully. Can’t wait for the follow up. -SteveO)))
We are mostly done looking back at all the great music that came out in 2016. You can see our best albums of the year bracket here, my list of the best EPs and other releases of the year here and guest best of the year lists from Nick Cvijovic, Adam Kreutzer, Connor McNerney and Ian Tomele. Now it is time to look to the year ahead. Here are some albums on the horizon to get excited about.
Nervous Passenger debut album
Local punks Nervous Passenger announced their first full-length will come out in 2017. They have released a handful of EPs and splits during the last six years or so. Last year's split with the Normal Years made it onto my list of the year's best EPs and other releases. I'm definitely looking forward to a full album from these guys. Nervous Passenger plays at Quenchers on January 21 with Archie Powell & The Exports, Boss Fight, Snort, TurboVamps, Otto Man and Eradicator. Stream their acoustic EP, released a few weeks ago, after the jump.
Here we are with the fourth and possibly most dramatic installment of Change the Rotation's best albums of the year bracket. Every year we choose our 32 favorite albums and throw them into a March Madness style bracket to determine our site's album of the year. Steve O, Dave Anians and I were joined by Danny Brawlins to make this a four-person bracket committee for the first time. This meant matchups could result in a tie, and a fair number of them did. Thus the extra drama. We had an iron-clad tie-breaking procedure in place. We all individually assigned points to each album (32 points for our favorite, 1 for our least favorite.) In the event of a tie, the four scores for each album were summed up to determine the winner. This couldn't possibly still produce a tie. Could it? Read on and you will see just how close that came to happening at the bracket's decisive moment.
The bracket started off with a heated matchup between PUP, who are on the rise in a big way right now, and punk stalwarts the Descendents. This one went to a tie and PUP came out ahead, to the utter shock of half the bracket committee. PUP went on to the quarterfinals, where they lost in a tiebreaker to the winner of region one, Against Me! Bombflower v. Iggy Pop and NOFX v. Against Me! also needed tiebreaking votes in this region.