Guest Lists: The Best of 2016

Ian Tomele

Phil Collins - January 1, 2017

We have one more guest best of 2016 list before we reveal the results of Change the Rotation's best albums of the year bracket. That, in all likelihood, will happen tomorrow so keep your eyes peeled! Today we have a best of 2016 list from Ian Tomele, vocalist and bassist for Voice Of Addiction and main man at Wrecking Ball Productions. Voice Of Addiction has a full-length in the works for 2017. Stream five tracks they recorded live in Canada this year here. Ian's list follows (this list originally appeared on Rock in Chicago).

I was asked once again to list my favorite local and non-local releases of 2016. In no particular order here ya go:

*Sass Dragons - True Adventure
*Boilerman - Feel Ways About Stuff
*Brick Assassin - Bite the Hand That Feeds
*Squared Off - Call of the Road
*Beat the Smart Kids - Broke Again
*Top Shelf Lickers - Heartbreak City
*The Mizzerables - As I Am
*The Kreutzer Sonata - Fight Songs
*Butchered - Whatever, I Guess...
*Ribbonhead - Racing to the Bottom
*Welfare Beer League - Day Off!

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Guest Lists: The Best of 2016

Connor McNerney

Phil Collins - December 31, 2016

We continue the countdown to the release of our best of 2016 bracket with another guest list. This one comes from Connor McNerney, guitarist for Seasonal Men's Wear and mastermind behind IM Cunj. Stream Seasonal Men's Wear's 9xTOx5xCORE EP here. Stream IM Cunj's latest song, "Sickmas," here. Connor's best of 2016 list follows (this list originally appeared on Facebook.)

         Connor's best of 2016

It's only the beginning of December, and I am probably not even fit to be judging music (nor any sort of art in general), but this is what I enjoyed musically from this year of our lord, 2016. The first list is just an 11 Top Pop, followed by my Top 22 Local Albums & EPs. Neither list is in any kind of ranking, because, well, who am I to have priorities? A lot of good stuff, I encourage you to check out the links provided for the local list. Cheers!

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Guest Lists: The Best of 2016

Adam Kreutzer

Phil Collins - December 30, 2016

Our best of the year posts continue today with another guest list. This one comes from Adam Kreutzer, vocalist of local hardcore punk band The Kreutzer Sonata. Their latest release is a 7-inch split with Boston's The Union Boys. Stream it here. I selected The Kreutzer Sonata's Fight Songs 7-inch as one of my favorite EPs/other releases of 2016. Read about that and stream it here. Here is Adam's best of 2016 list:

1. Shitizen- S/T Cassette
-Feral sounding Chicago hardcore punk with an attitude and a message. Best played at loud volumes while wasted. Pick up the cassette and catch one of their notorious live sets.

2. The DUI'S- Nightcap (SBS Records)
-Milwaukee's drunkest street punks are also some of the tightest musicians out there. Anthemic songs to start a bar fight to. Melodic and powerful, and great dudes too!

3. On the Cinder- The Fight Against Ourselves (Between the Days Records)
-New full length from Buffalo, NY road dogs. Socially/politically conscious without any pretension and FAST AS FUCK! Pick up this LP. Guaranteed they will be in Chicago again soon, so catch them live!

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Guest Lists: The Best of 2016

Nick Cvijovic

Phil Collins - December 29, 2016

We here at Change the Rotation recently voted on our favorite albums of 2016 in a suspenseful, drama-filled battle of the fittest. Soon we will reveal the results of our annual best albums of the year bracket. First, we have some guest year end lists from people involved in the local music scene. Today, take in a best of the year list from Nick Cvijovic, vocalist and guitarist for Chicago punk/ska band Butchered. Listen to their latest EP, Whatever, I Guess..., here. Butchered plays at Brauerhouse in Lombard on Friday with Johnny Automatic, The Mizzerables and 80 Proof Preacher. More information on that show here. Here is Nick's list of the top music and what not of 2016.

Top Punk Albums:
1. PUP The Dream is Over
2. White Lung Paradise
3. Arms Aloft What a Time to be Barely Alive

Top Metal/Hardcore Albums:
1. Oathbreaker Rheia
2. The Dillinger Escape Plan Dissociation
3. G.L.O.S.S. Trans Day of Revenge

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Best EPs and other releases of 2016

Phil Collins - December 13, 2016

Friday the 13th Hysteria

Before we get to the voting on our best albums of the year bracket, which is exclusively comprised of full-length albums, I always like to take some time to go over my favorite short-form releases of the year. Don't forget, this year you can fill out a bracket March Madness style to win a prize pack from Change the Rotation. More information on that here. Today, here is a look at a handful of my favorite non full-length album releases of 2016.

Friday the 13th Hysteria

First off, the five-way split Friday the 13th Hysteria compilation. New tracks from five Chicago-area bands appear on this release - The Land Before Tim, Alley Slob Service, Ultrahazard, Davey Dynamite and Cellar Rats. This amounts to a fun snapshot of the variety of punk music coming out of our local scene. Hardcore, ska and folk punk are covered all in the space of 10 tracks. This was a nice early peak at a couple of the new Davey Dynamite songs that would land on Holy Shit, which is officially being released later this month. All the bands turned in solid tracks for this comp. It's a release that has stuck out in my mind since it came out in the spring. Stream it after the jump.

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Guess how our albums of the year bracket comes out for a prize pack

Phil Collins - December 8, 2016

Every year we here at Change the Rotation choose our 32 favorite albums and pit them against each other in a bracket to determine our album of the year. This year, we drew the bracket matchups early so you can take a shot at guessing how this whole thing is going to shake out. If you have the top scoring bracket (the closest to how ours comes out), you will win a prize pack from us which includes some music from Don't Panic Records and Distro, a copy of our limited edition Plan-It X Fest zine and some stickers. Here is a printable version of our 2016 albums of the year bracket. When you've made your picks, submit them to Hand-drawn brackets are encouraged! Submit brackets by December 28.

How does this work?

For the last three years, Steve O, Dave Anians and I have made lists of our favorite albums of the year and narrowed them down to 32. We then randomly draw them into a bracket and vote on each matchup until we have a champion. This is how we determine our site's album of the year. You can see how things played out in 2013, 2014 and 2015. This year differs in two ways. We usually draw the bracket on the same day that we vote on the matchups. This year, we drew the bracket early to try this contest. So, we have some more time to think about those first round matchups. Second, Danny from Don't Panic is in on the proceedings this year. Which means there may be a tie vote on some matchups. To decide tiebreakers, we each will assign points to the 32 albums ahead of time (32 for our favorite, 1 for our least favorite.) In the event of a tie vote, we will add up our points for the albums in question. This should break any ties.

Where can I hear the records on the bracket?

Here are links to stream each record:
PUP - The Dream is Over
Descendents - Hypercaffium Spazzinate
Bombflower - Sweeteater
Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression
Against Me! - Shape Shift With Me
Culture Shock - Attention Span
Trap Them - Crown Feral
NoFX - First Ditch Effort
The Falcon - Gather Up the Chaps
David Bowie - Blackstar
Beach Slang - A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
Antillectual - Engage!
Gouge Away - , Dies
Useless ID - State is Burning
The Coathangers - Nosebleed Weekend
Martha - Blisters in the Pit of My Heart
Head Wound City - A New Wave of Violence
Pkew Pkew Pkew - Pkew Pkew Pkew
Street Sity Surf - Things You May Have Wondered About
Audio/Rocketry - Audio/Rocketry
PEARS - Green Star
Weekend Nachos - Apology
Jeff Rosenstock - Worry.
The Taxpayers - Big Delusion Factory
Dog Party - 'Til You're Mine
Brutal Youth - Sanguine
Direct Hit! - Wasted Mind
We the Heathens - The Blood Behind the Dam
UGLYBoNES - Growing Concerns
The Murderburgers - The 12 Habits of Highly Defective People
AJJ - The Bible 2
White Lung - Paradise

How will bracket submissions be scored?

Any first round victories are worth one point and it doubles from there - second round victories are worth two points, third round victories are worth four points, semi-final round is worth eight points and if you correctly guess the champion that will get you 16 points.

How is the new Davey Dynamite album not on the bracket?

Between the four of us, we either are Davey, are Davey's label, are Davey's friend, etc. Too much bias all around to have it in the competition.

In Rotation: Strawberry Jacuzzi - Watch the Clock

Phil Collins - December 5, 2016

Watch the Clock

Chicago garage pop quartet Strawberry Jacuzzi return with their second full-length album, Watch the Clock. Shouty vocals over rumbling drums and bass, laced with sugary guitar licks make for fun, dancey Strawberry Jacuzzi songs. The band does slow down occasionally, but never stays quiet for long on songs like "Broken Tape Song." More often they are bouncing into space on songs like "Astronaut Girl" and "Pity Party."

The album's bookends - "Bitch Jam" and the title track "Watch the Clock" - are the top highlights here. "Bitch Jam" opens the proceedings with a catchy, fast-paced track marked by a deliberate count-in to the song's manic fits. "Watch the Clock" starts as a chill song and spins off into a fun instrumental a couple minutes in. The shouted bridge must be a great moment live.

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New track roundup: The Land Before Tim, Winter Classic, Meat Wave, Sons of Ra

Phil Collins - December 1, 2016

A few new tracks recently hit the web from our local Chicago scene. First up, ska punks The Land Before Tim released "Charlene," a single off a forthcoming album. This fits in the goofy fun ska tradition of Reel Big Fish or Save Ferris, with bright horns and lyrics about demons coming through a portal. Stream it below or head to the band's bandcamp page for a pay what you want download.

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In Rotation: The Audio Dead - From the Beginning

Phil Collins - November 21, 2016

From the Beginning

Chicago horror punks the Audio Dead released their debut album, From the Beginning, on Halloween. Of course, horror punk is best suited for those who celebrate Halloween all year long. The lyrics are full of curses, body horror and vaguely menacing proclamations like "your time will come." The themes and characters in these songs are the product of midnight movie watchers - definitely the 70s/80s slasher and creature feature branches of the genre.

The short songs "Deadlines" and "Counterfeit" are the more straight ahead hardcore entries on the album. "Re-ignited" and "Your Time Will Come" are the catchiest tracks. There are a couple local guest vocal spots on From the Beginning - Daryl Wilson of the Bollweevils on "The Last Laugh" and Dan Alfonsi of Still Alive on "I Cannot Let Go." This is a solid set of songs and an exciting first release from the Audio Dead. Stream it here or head to their bandcamp page for a download.

In Rotation: Davey Dynamite and Friends - Holy Shit

Phil Collins - November 10, 2016

Holy Shit

The songs on Davey Dynamite's new album are filled with a message we all need to remember right now. We are all human. We all share this space. We should treat each other with respect and dignity. This is not a political message. This is a statement about the human condition in a social world. It is not always easy to remember that the fuckheads referenced on "Man Enough" - the hateful brainless people - are the same fuckheads we need to work with and work for to make our society a place worth fighting for, as discussed on the song "Fuckheads." We have to value each other and that includes paying workers a decent wage, not 380 times less than the bigwigs. "Gods," the album's final song, reminds us that we are the ones who can make changes and mold society.

Holy Shit is the fourth full-length album from Chicago area folk punker Davey Dynamite. It is his second album to feature electric full-band songs. He is joined on this recording by Matt Wolek (Praise the Sinners) on bass and Jake Joyce (Seasonal Men's Wear, Brown Bear Records) on drums. Rigby Nix delivers powerful vocals on "Fuckheads." A few of these songs have already made their way into the live set, like "4th of July" and "Transitions." Acoustic versions of "4th of July" and "Fuckheads" appeared on the five band Friday the 13th Hysteria compilation, released earlier this year.

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Interview with Joe Vickers of audio/rocketry

Steve O - November 1, 2016

Edmonton’s audio/rocketry are releasing their first record in five years this week, and are following it up with a tour across Canada, with a stop down here in the States too. To celebrate the occasion, I talked to frontman Joe Vickers about the new record, the Midwest, music, travel, hockey, and dinosaurs. And more hockey. You know, normal stuff for any conversation I have.

Joe Vickers

Steve O: Hey, Joe. How’s it going in Edmonton?

Joe Vickers: Hey, it’s overcast and foggy. I farm with my dad; in the spring and summer we’re grain farmers. I grew up on this farm, and for the last 10 years I’ve been farming, that’s my main source of income. And this year, we’re still harvesting, which is wild. We’ve never been this late in the season ever before, but we had snow like two weeks ago and that set us back. I’m kinda stressed with the tour that’s happening next week and I don’t even know if we’re going to be done.

SO: Yeah, especially with you being that far north, this is really late into the fall.

JV: Yeah, normally we’re always combining end of August, September for sure, so when it stretched into October, that was kind of bizarre, but now it’s the 28th.

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What are your favorite albums of 2016?

Phil Collins - October 28, 2016

The end of the year fast approaches and we here at Change the Rotation are thinking about our nominations for our best albums of the year bracket. We want to know what your favorite albums of the year are so we can consider them if we have not heard them already. Fill out the form below during the next couple weeks and we will consider your choices. This year we are going to do something a little different with the bracket. As soon as we have our 32 nominations set, we will release the bracket for you to make your best guesses on the hard-fought matchups. There will be a prize pack for the highest scoring bracket. Hand-drawn brackets are encouraged. Here is how the brackets went down in 2013, 2014 and 2015 if you want to start studying now.

In Rotation: Bombflower - Sweeteater

Phil Collins - October 20, 2016


Bombflower returns with their second full-length album of ska punk jams with a social conscience. Liza features more prominently on vocals here than she did on the Waukegan band's first album. She did lead vocals on "Your Death" and "Die in Your Sleep" on Organic Mood Elevators. Since then, she has split vocal duties with guitarist Tic James at shows. On Sweeteater, her vocals lead most of the songs. "Justice For Some" and "Silent While They Profit" deride inequities in society. The two vocalists trade lines on both songs, creating an effective sense of urgency.

Acoustic guitar pops up on "Song Burst Through The Sky" and "Coozehound," giving the upstringing a warmer vibe. "Song Burst Through The Sky" might be the strongest song in this set. It starts off very laid back before jumping into a quick catchy chorus backed by the acoustic guitar upstringing. The fast/slow back-and-forth, paired with layered dual vocals and the change in texture brought on by the acoustic guitar make this a robust, dynamic song. Acoustic guitar also appears on the chill instrumental "Bitch N' Dub," featuring the Las Vegas band Bitch N' Dudes.

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In Rotation: The Kreutzer Sonata/The Union Boys split

Phil Collins - October 6, 2016

The Kreutzer Sonata The Union Boys split

Chicago hardcore band The Kreutzer Sonata tag team with Boston's The Union Boys on this split 7-inch released a couple weeks ago. The Kreutzer Sonata's three songs here exemplify their ability to switch between punishing hardcore and catchy hooks. "White Knuckles" opens the record with a slicing guitar riff and quick screamed vocals, balanced with a melodic chorus that kicks in about halfway through the song. The Kreutzer Sonata is back to playing shows after getting a new bassist. Their next gig is at Brauer House in Lombard on October 28 with One Way System, Total Chaos and The Horrids. They also have a show coming up at the Drunken Donut in Joliet on November 11 with Shitizen, Crazies and Texas Chainstore Manager.

The Union Boys call to mind the Dropkick Murphys of many years ago, when the band was more hardcore. "This Time" particularly captures that working class vibe. "Gone" makes for a laid back, catchy closer with some Bouncing Souls influence. The Union Boys come through Chicago from time to time - I saw them a summer ago at Archer Asylum with The Kreutzer Sonata and a ton of other bands. It's nice to see two great live bands on a release together.

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Bombflower, Double Feature, Ez Kebage, Super Roar release shows on Saturday

Phil Collins - September 30, 2016

Three solid local release shows are set for this Saturday. Time to get out there and take in some new Chicago-area punk tunes.

Bombflower releases their second album, Sweeteater at the Fallout in Chicago. Their first ska punk full-length, Organic Mood Elevators, made Change the Rotation's best albums of the year bracket last year. This is definitely an anticipated follow-up from the Waukegan punks. Bombflower will also be shooting a video at this show, so get camera ready. Alley Slob Service, UGLYBoNES, The Land Before Tim, Bad Timing, Switch Comb and Phase Order also play the release show. More information here. Listen to the first taste of the new album, the instrumental track "Bitch N' Dub," after the jump.

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Recap: Riot Fest 2016

Phil Collins - September 20, 2016

Another Riot Fest has come and gone, marking five years in its large outdoor form. There are plenty of places to read about what happened with The Misfits, et cetera. Here I will detail my five favorite sets of the weekend and share some other choice pictures. I saw about 32 bands during the three days in Douglas Park. My top five sets, in no particular order: War On Women, Leftover Crack, Fucked Up, The Specials and The Julie Ruin.

War On Women

War On Women at Riot Fest on Sunday

War On Women smashed up a Donald Trump piñata on stage Sunday, while playing their song "Roe V. World." They skipped most of the lyrics while bashing the Trump piñata, which was filled with condoms. Lead singer Shawna Potter got back to the mic in time to scream the final lines "I had an abortion" and the chant "Give us the pill!" The Baltimore hardcore band's performance had already been one of the festival's most punk, most fun sets. They leaned heavily on their self-titled album released last year on Bridge Nine Records. "Swagger" tackles privilege that pervades the lives of many people who do not seem to be aware of it. They closed with "YouTube Comments," a short blast that is lyrically made up of insufferable statements made on a computer.

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In Rotation: "Richardson" Richardson - White Lighters

Phil Collins - September 15, 2016

White Lighters

DeKalb two-piece "Richardson" Richardson returns with nine quick hits of bass-heavy punk. The band resumes its traditional stance - two bassists and programmed drums - after recording with a live drummer on their last release, 2014's Shit Lord EP. Snarled vocals favor getting high and chilling out on "Crucial Hangs". "Year of the Rat" and "Tour Jokes" offer a taste of life on the road, a taste that falls somewhere between thickburgers, old cheese nugs and coke. Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka takes a few shots on "F.M.D."

White Lighters is out on a run of 100 cassettes, which also allegedly include a cover of a certain retired Seasonal Men's Wear song. The album was recorded at DeKalb's DIY spot, the 7th Street space. Stream White Lighters here, or head to "Richardson" Richardson's bandcamp page for the cassette.

In Rotation: Lester and The Finks - So Fucking Bored

Phil Collins - September 9, 2016

So Fucking Bored

Fans of quick and dirty guitar riffs and snotty vocals will wear out So Fucking Bored, the debut 7-inch from DeKalb's Lester and The Finks. You can almost feel the freshly emptied can of Hamms while listening to the title track. The first two songs are garage rock rumblers. So Fucking Bored's B side features two hardcore tracks, split by "I'd Really Like to See Ya" - a standout track from the band's original demo, released a couple years ago. You'll have to pick up the record to hear the B side. It's not a bad way to spend five bucks. Manglor Records still has some copies of the limited edition version with screen printed covers, so jump on that.

Those familiar with the DeKalb music scene will recognize the man in the mask as Lester from the Phantom Scars. The band also has members who have played in Charles Bronson, Riverbilly Cousin Touchers, Pillage and the Gunshy. They know how to write some punk tunes. Stream the A side of So Fucking Bored here. Head to Manglor Records to pick up the 7-inch.

Scene report: Seattle

Danny Brawlins - September 1, 2016

We had the opportunity to check out the Seattle punk scene this past week. With a little help from the ever-resourceful Cascadia Punx, we found out about a few spots in town to check out. On our first day we headed over to Singles Going Steady, a punk-centric record store in the Belltown neighborhood. After digging through crates upon crates of crust records, we picked up a few and went to check out. The clerk chatted with us a bit and told us about the Black Lodge, a well-established DIY space in town. He did us a favor and jotted down directions to the space on the back of an old Sheer Mag flyer. We were in town a week too late to catch G.L.O.S.S. and a week too early to see RVIVR at the Black Lodge but we did manage to catch Urochromes from Massachusetts, Mommy from NYC and locals Mysterious Skin, Kid Chrome and the enigmatic Red Skull AKA Mr. Node.

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Oh My Snare! tour dispatch

Jorel of Oh My Snare! - August 29, 2016

[Our friends in Oh My Snare! are currently on a West Coast tour through September 1st . We asked them to keep a tour journal so we can all find out what these French Canadians are up to as they traverse the wild, wild west. They enthusiastically obliged. Keep checking in for more stories as they circle around out west. If you live on that side of the country, go see them and tell them how great they are. Tour dates are more info here: – Steve O]

Day 1 - Best Friends!!!

“What do you mean, you lost my luggage?” said Dan between two farts. As Canadians, flatulences are one of our preferred ways to deal with frustration, along with apologies and maple syrup binge drinking. Oh, after such a long flight, Dan could easily have lost his temper and yelled at the baggage claim guy, or sarcastically praised the stupendous efficiency of the airline he works for; but then again, that wouldn’t have been very Canadian of him, so he simply farted in disapproval, and Seb and I echoed his rear whisper to show our support. I tried to go for the seventh harmony, to which the attendant’s eyes immediately betrayed a blend of disgust and fascination. And off we went. Better things were waiting for us at the Denver terminal. Friends.

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Remembering Erik Petersen

Steve O - August 17, 2016

I am a leader but you will not follow me.
I ain't no preacher for I'm full of blasphemy.
See you in hell boys!

I don’t exactly remember how I discovered Mischief Brew, but I think it’s a pretty safe guess that it was through one of the Fremd kids that we hung out with all the time in high school. At our high school, there weren’t a whole lot of punk kids; Danny and me and a handful of others, so we hung out with a bunch of people from Fremd. So this was probably 2006, or maybe late 2005. So I’ve been listening to Mischief Brew for at least ten years now, and pretty consistently too. I remember listening to the four songs they had up on Myspace at the time. I think it limited you to four songs. That’s what bands did then because there was no Bandcamp and Facebook wasn’t really big for bands yet. “Nomads Revolt,” “A Liquor Never Brewed,” “Thanks Bastards,” “Devil of a Time,” were the 4 on there, I think. I remember hearing “Gratitude and Thanks,” “Coffee, God, and Cigarettes, ” and “Roll Me Through the Gates of Hell” really early too. Somehow I stumbled upon “For an Old Kentucky Anarchist” pretty early too. I remember listening to that song all the time, till I knew every word by heart. I think someone burned me a copy of Songs from Under the Sink, so I bought Smash the Windows on CD, cause vinyl wasn’t popular again yet.

I'd like to
Send gratitude
And thanks
To those who
Had the courage to defy the mighty ranks
Send it to the students who wave the banners
Who held flowers up to the tanks
And to the ones who are still fighting

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Erik Petersen’s lyrics had a pretty strong influence on my growing political outlook at that point in time. He was poignant in his praise of anarchist ethics, and his political songs were either structured in the folk tradition of telling a story, or the punk tradition of spitting venom. But he had a great touch for the deeply personal as well. Just look at some of the songs on his split with Robert Blake, Bellingham & Philadelphia. I fell in love with “Stuff’s Weird” shortly after seeing a somewhat-grainy Youtube video of him playing that at a show in New Jersey – years before it was released on The Stone Operation; the song has a strong personal touch while also examining the punk scenes. That duality was a special skill of Petersen’s – there’s just so much to take out of each and every song. Every line had so much heart and meaning in it. Just take a look at the sprinkling of lyrics featured throughout this story. As a lyricist, there were very few who belonged in the same class as Petersen.

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New Track Roundup: The Kreutzer Sonata, The Union Boys, Melomaniac, MUTTS, Big Eyes

Phil Collins - August 10, 2016

The Kreutzer Sonata/The Union Boys split preview

Chicago hardcore group The Kreutzer Sonata and Boston's The Union Boys each released a song from their upcoming split 7-inch. The Kreutzer Sonata's "White Knuckles" brings fast, relentless hardcore vocals and skate punk style guitar. The Union Boys' "This Time" reminds me of old school Dropkick Murphys. The 7-inch is coming soon from Don't Panic Records and Distro and S.B.S. Records. 200 copies will be on black vinyl and 100 copies will be on trasparent orange vinyl. Stream both songs below.

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In Rotation: Beat the Smart Kids - Broke Again

Phil Collins - August 8, 2016

Broke Again

The first full-length album from Chicago's Beat the Smart Kids continues to deliver on the fun, bouncy ska premise set up on their first EP. "Chemical Reaction" is one of the band's catchier songs. It is also one of their weightier songs lyrically, tackling gentrification. "Emoticons" flips into a horn-led, skank-inducing fervor in its second half, as the lyrics lament the technological fixations of modern society - a favorite theme of the band's. Beat the Smart Kids seem to prefer the animated future of 1980s Transformers cartoons on "Ruby Crystals." See also, the video for "Ruby Crystals."

"Go to Bread" offers the jokey qualities of ska bands like Reel Big Fish on a mostly instrumental song that spares words to name off types of bread. If you are looking for fun, two-tone style ska, Beat the Smart Kids have it down. With members from Still Alive, Waste Basket, The Damn Tracks and Indecisives, these guys have been around the block a few times. Their sound gets more fully explored through the 12 tracks on Broke Again. Keyboards show up more prominently than they did on Call in Sick, a welcome addition to the recordings.

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In Rotation: The Taxpayers - Big Delusion Factory

Phil Collins - July 24, 2016

Big Delusion Factory

The Taxpayers' latest album centers on piano-led excursions with on-point lyrics. This album continues to challenge what folk punk is supposed to sound like. Listening to the Portland band's last couple albums, we get another interpretation of The Taxpayers' niche. They embrace a jazzy noir feel on "Little Black Box." Jangly horn and piano lines flow through unexpected turns. "Brain Drain (Tunnel of Love)" instantly ranks among the band's most explosive tracks. "Roll Call" juxtaposes strings and distorted guitar hits. The lyrics on "Easy Money" are urgent and vital.

It was surprising when The Taxpayers suddenly released Big Delusion Factory last month. Their last album, Cold Hearted Town, came out in 2013. That does not sound like a terribly long gap between full-lengths, but consider that the group released something every year between 2009 and 2013. So three years without much activity from the band felt like a lenghty stretch. It is important then, that this album delivers the quality material it does. "Goodbye Balance" is exactly the kind of song I think of when The Taxpayers come to mind. They always sound sure-footed on uneven ground.

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CTR picks our top 22 PIX releases from 22 years of Plan-It-X Records

Steve O - July 20, 2016

Earlier this year the news broke that, after twenty-two years, Plan-It-X Records was calling it a day. Label co-founder Chris Clavin sites the difficulties in running a physical label in these digital times and the financial struggles involved, while also stating that “Plan-it-X is no longer needed.” Now I’m sure that last claim could be debated, but what is unanimous is that it is indeed a sad fact that Plan-It-X is throwing in the towel. Over those twenty-two years, Plan-It-X released over a hundred great records, played a large role in introducing folk punk to the world, had its own festival that raised money for charity, and perhaps most importantly, served as a communal network and aid to innumerable punks and bands. And so here, in the twenty-second and last year of Plan-It-X, and about a month before Plan-It-X Fest (as of this writing), we gather to recollect on those twenty-two years. Much like the passing of Gordie Howe brought beautiful recollections and tales of his hockey prowess and high character; we have chosen here to celebrate the achievements of Plan-It-X Records instead of mourning its retirement. We collectively determined our twenty-two favorite Plan-It-X releases, in honor of twenty-two years of the label, using a pretty legit and mathematical process. In what follows below, we tell you why these twenty-two records stand out and why Plan-It-X Records means so much to us. We all have fond memories of these bands; discovering them, telling our friends about them, seeing them play live. It’s purely speculative fiction to say this still would have happened without Plan-It-X. The fact is that Plan-It-X had a knack for being involved with sincere musicians, who were dedicated to the DIY ethic and made music with a positive and important message. So without further ado (and any more inane rambling), here it is. Change the Rotation’s twenty-two favorite releases, from twenty-two years of Plan-It-X Records!

Here, Not There

22) Heathers – Here, Not There

I can’t help but say that this one seems perfect to me. The pace and intensity is amazing. Even when things are soft, even when things are slow, it is impossible to not be swept into the rhythms and intensity of everything happening. On top of that, we have amazing rhythm guitar work. On top of that, we have the part that most people notice right away: Duo vocals! And beautiful/catchy melodies! And harmonies! And wise/relatable lyricism! Heathers represents so much of what folk music can be while not shying away from the pop elements that keep their songs in your head. Also: What else sounds like this!? God damn!! How is this only two people and one guitar?? — Dave Anians

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Interview with Jack Terricloth of The World/Inferno Friendship Society

Phil Collins - July 10, 2016

This Packed Funeral

Cabaret punks The World/Inferno Friendship Society embarked on a coast-to-coast tour last week. The band last released This Packed Funeral, which made the final four in Change the Rotation’s best of the year bracket in 2014. World/Inferno play Chop Shop in Wicker Park on Tuesday with Culture Shock and locals Voice of Addiction. More information on that show here. Lead singer Jack Terricloth sat down with us over Skype before World/Inferno’s show in Philadelphia on Friday. Jeff Young, violin player for World/Inferno, transcribed this interview. Jack talked with myself and Danny of Don’t Panic Records & Distro about life in the van, what’s coming up for the band and some Chicago memories.

Jack: Hey, how are you, my name is Jack Terricloth from that World/Inferno band.

Phil: Hey, doing pretty good, I’m Phil from Change the Rotation.

Danny: I’m Danny.

Jack: Danny, Phil, nice to meet you, what’s the good word?

Phil: Oh, doing pretty good, thanks for joining us, it’s a pleasure to interview you for the blog here, and we’re excited to have you coming to Chicago in a couple days.

Jack: Always love to be in Chicago. As you know, or maybe you don’t know, our baritone player is from Chicago, or lives in Chicago anyway. He was in that Deal’s Gone Bad band. Who were very good. I always thought it was a bad idea to have the word “bad” in your band name, but they did pretty well.

Phil: Well, here in Chicago we’re familiar with deals going bad, so it’s all right. So today’s day three of your tour, how’s it going?

Jack: Day three and no one’s punched each other yet. It’s all been a good time, I haven’t lost my voice yet, no, everyone’s fine, I would still like more sleep - you know, the first week of any tour, you’re still partying, and your body hasn’t realized that you should stop doing that, so as I just said to our friends in Culture Shock, by Seattle, we’re going to be great. The whole tour will be great, that’s just for me personally, I WILL be great in Seattle, but yes, everything’s cool.

Phil: Great. So Culture Shock, I’ve just become familiar with them myself, but we actually caught Subhumans a few weeks ago at the Double Door, fantastic show, have you guys toured with the Subhumans crew at all before this?

Jack: We certainly have, and I just have to mention that one of the members of Culture Shock is sitting across the room, so, anything I say about them will be sugarcoated- [whispering] terrible, god they can barely, they tuned - [all laughing] …Uh yeah, we’ve toured with Subhumans, god, for the last twelve years, an awful lot, and we toured with Citizen Fish once as well, so yes, old friends, old punk rockers, if they haven’t gotten along by now, they never will, but luckily, we have. Good guys.

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Recap: Direct Hit! record release show at Double Door

Phil Collins - July 6, 2016

Direct Hit!

Direct Hit! at Double Door on Friday

Direct Hit! played the last of their three record release shows for Wasted Mind at Double Door on Friday. They played many of the songs from their new album, released on Fat Wreck Chords a week earlier. They opened with the lead single, "Paid In Brains." They had a couple horn players on stage for that song's performance. "Was It The Acid?," "Do The Sick," "Promised Land" and "Hospital For Heroes" also made the setlist, along with songs from Brainless God and earlier releases. The crowd moved around plenty for the brand new songs.

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In Rotation: Direct Hit! - Wasted Mind

Phil Collins - June 23, 2016

Wasted Mind

Direct Hit! returns this week with their third full-length album, Wasted Mind. Fans of the Milwaukee pop punk band should be into this album from the start. The combination of catchy hooks, storytelling and a sense of humor that has propelled Direct Hit! for years remains the backbone of the band's sound. Horns are a welcome addition on "Paid in Brains" and "Promised Land." Keyboards show up on this release from time to time as well.

The band's previous album, Brainless God, got them a lot of attention in the punk world and rightfully so. Like that record, Wasted Mind is a concept album. This time it's about drugs and this time it's out on Fat Wreck Chords. The videos for "Paid in Brains" and "Was it the Acid?" show that the band is still having a good time out there. "Paid in Brains" is the most immediately catchy song on the album and is likely to become a live favorite.

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Recap: Subhumans, PEARS, FLAG and more around Chicago

Phil Collins - June 15, 2016

I found myself with a week off recently. What else would I do but go to a show nearly every night of the week? Here are some choice pictures from the shows around town. If you're on Instagram, you can find me there now doing Change the Rotation-y things like posting pictures from shows and selections from my record collection. Find me on Instagram here.

Road Report: Pouzza Fest

Steve O - June 5, 2016

So I spent the other weekend in the great city of Montréal for Pouzza Fest. While the weather was absolutely perfect for Pouzza weekend, it turned out that it actually snowed the week before. We lucked out there. The uniquely named Pouzza Fest is a portmanteau of pizza and poutine, that famously delicious Montréal cuisine of fries, gravy, and cheese. And yes, I did get vegan poutine in Montréal. I also went to 8 museums and walked all over the city. And then there were the 27 bands I saw throughout the Pouzza weekend. So let’s talk about that.


The Museum of the Day: Yeah, that’s right, there’s a museum of the day category. None more punk. Jardin Botanique, is the expansive and beautiful botanic garden. It might seem contradictory in a northern city with such long winters, but the Jardin Botanique is wonderfully well sculpted with different themed gardens throughout. While the Chinese Garden was closed, both the Japanese and First Nations Gardens exhibit both the plants, traditional architecture, and plenty of information to learn about their respective cultures. There’s an arboretum at one end, with trees grouped by family, and an Insectarium, a small museum focused solely on those ubiquitous critters.

Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden at Jardin Botanique

The Unknown Band You Gotta Hear: Okay, I guess we’ll talk about the music. Hopefully you’ve become familiar with Boston’s Trophy Lungs, since we featured their debut LP on our bracket last year, but if not, it’s a great time to reacquaint yourself. Playing that style of gruff pop-punk that’s so prevalent, and awesome if I say so myself, these days, Trophy Lungs blast out heartfelt anthems. Think of Dillinger Four if they were from Boston and shared the working class ethos of some of Beantown’s more famous names like Dropkick Murphys or Street Dogs. With songs honoring their working class roots and deceased friends, you know their hearts are in the right place.

Trophy Lungs

Trophy Lungs

Also worth checking out is San Francisco’s Cut Up. Playing at Theatré Sainte-Catherine, which sounds really classy but was basically about the same size as the Subterranean. Pop punk at a breakneck pace, they covered Latterman’s “Fear and Loathing on Long Island”, doing a spot on job in the process. If you dig that upbeat style, with a bit of grit on it, you’ll be into Cut Up. Fun and fast, I’d definitely recommend checking them out.

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In Rotation: We The Heathens - The Blood Behind The Dam

Phil Collins - May 30, 2016

The Blood Behind The Dam

We The Heathens bring a crusty folk punk sound to songs that could serve as a backdrop to an epic fantasy series. Violin, cello, mandolin, guitar and bass accompany throaty shouted vocals. All those strings often bring to mind a winding mountain road and an unescapable quest. Before their set at the Slaughterhouse started on Sunday night, We The Heathens warmed up with a little bit of the Game of Thrones theme song. The songs on The Blood Behind The Dam, We The Heathens' third full-length album, are no less epic or evocative. The opening violin riff on "Neurotic Decay" is the folk equivalent of a circle pit starter.

The songs have the most muscle when they build up slowly but steadily into a heated alchemy of strumming fervor and traded screams. Take a crust punk band and stir in a propensity for medieval style fables and you have an idea of what to expect from this release. We The Heathens, from Wasau, Wisconsin, share members with the ska/crack rock steady group Atrocity Solution. The Blood Behind The Dam features guest vocals from Jesse and Veronica of Escape From The Zoo on the song "Crooked Kings."

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In Rotation: White Mystery - Outta Control

Phil Collins - May 19, 2016

Outta Control

White Mystery goes for it on their seventh full-length album, Outta Control. The Chicago garage punk band is made up of frizzy red-headed siblings Miss Alex White on guitar and Francis Scott Key White on drums. The two go off the rails on the aptly named album closer "Thrash Time," as well as on "Finger," which features Francis spitting out some quick vocals. The album's sound more often favors a smooth poppy stroll with bright vocals from Miss Alex White, which is the case on "Cerebellum" and "Best Friend." This is the kind of music you want to listen to on a sunny day while walking down the Chicago streets, wearing big over-the-ear headphones and a denim jacket.

Things take a turn toward the unexpected on "Pacci," a mid-album epic featuring effected vocals from both parties. The guitar and vocals combine for a Middle Eastern kind of sound. The lyrics draw from a more dramatic romantic place than is typical for the band. "Sweet Relief" follows this with Francis delivering spoken word verses over a tight beat. Along with keeping up with a busy touring schedle, White Mystery has been releasing new music at an impressively steady clip. The band has put out a new album every year since 2010.

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New Track Roundup

Flesh Panthers, Beat The Smart Kids, The Grow Ops, Speedy Ortiz

Phil Collins - May 10, 2016

Flesh Panthers, Beat The Smart Kids, The Grow Ops and Speedy Ortiz all released new tracks in the last week. Listen to them all in one place right here.

Flesh Panthers - "Last I Heard"

Chicago garage rockers Flesh Panthers are back with new music in 2016. "Last I Heard" is the first single off their forthcoming album, Willows Weep, which is due out in September on Maximum Pelt. Flesh Panthers released NGC 2632 one year ago. That album made our bracket of the best albums of 2015. We will not have to wait long for the follow up. The first taste of that next record has a western/saloon kind of vibe. This is not the usual fare from Flesh Panthers, but it does not sound like a complete u-turn either. Piano and slide guitar from Joey Rubbish, of fellow local garage rock band The Rubs, give "Last I Heard" that western alehouse feel. Stream the new song below.

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In Rotation: Pessimist Prime - Grow Up!

Phil Collins - May 3, 2016

Grow Up!

The first demo from the Joliet group Pessimist Prime mixes nineties Smoking Popes-esque vocal delivery with intermittent ska riffs. I would not call this a straight up ska release, despite the song title "Skanye West," but there are ska sections. They tend to ride in under the framework of a darker, more pessimistic, if you will, base of fuzz and lyrics. "Delta" is defined by such a change. Midway through, it morphs into a ska song (this exact point is cheekily pointed out in the lyrics on bandcamp). "Delta" is the longest and most interesting song on Grow Up!, simply because of all the changes that happen through the song's 3 minutes and 45 seconds. If you are not paying close attention, you could easily mistake this for two separate songs on the first listen. "Skanye West" is a quick, catchy, upbeat tune. There are plenty of woah oh oh's here.

The opening lines to the closing track "Social Ardvark" really feel like a callback to nineties pop punk: "Do you wanna see something that we were never supposed to see?/All the terrible things that we do to our own bodies/Just to get by." The lines get partially repeated at the end of the song, over more lush instrumentation.

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Random Records with Steve O

Gouge Away - ,Dies

Steve O - April 25, 2016


,Dies. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of another record that features a comma in such a significant position. I supposed we could concentrate on it, but after 12 seconds of feedback, you’re immediately distracted by something else. The blazing fury of “Bleed,” the opening, bombastic 35 seconds of ,Dies. Gouge Away have created an incredibly intense and visceral debut record. It’s in your face from the second the feedback gives way and doesn’t let up throughout 13 aggressive and energetic spurts. This is hardcore that veers into the powerviolence and grindcore territories. Yeah, occasionally songs feel different, like the slower, almost muted feel of “Who Needs Language” or the uplifting, almost poppy, vibe of album closer (and longest song) “Wildflowers.” Otherwise, the Gouge Away crew are perfectly adept at holding nothing back in their attempt to annihilate you. Whether it’s the shouts of “Fuck off / Get out / Eat shit” at the end of “Exhibit: Closed” or the lyrical bluntness of “No White Flag,” ,Dies is uncomfortable in the best ways possible.

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In Rotation: PEARS - Green Star

Phil Collins - April 21, 2016

Green Star

Second albums are notoriously tricky affairs. When a band's first album hits it big, expectations are set unrealistically high for the follow up. You have your whole life to write your first album. The fans, the label and the people walking down the street want the second album right away. PEARS' first album, Go To Prison, finished second on this blog's best of the year bracket in 2014 (Against Me!'s Transgender Dysphoria Blues ran the table that year) and garnered plenty of attention in the punk world. That album was re-released on Fat Wreck Chords, which also released a 7-inch from the band last Fall and Green Star earlier this month.

I like this album more each time I listen to it. I know Go To Prison backwards and forwards, so it was hard to even compare these two records until I got to know the songs on Green Star a little bit. The first time I heard the poppy, tambourine-shaking opening of "Cloverleaf," I was looking around wondering what was going on. By the third listen, I was jamming that intro like it was 1999. It's the back and forth between this excessively poppy section and the screamed lyrics that follow that make it so enticing. The New Orleans hardcore band have always had a penchant for messing with the listener. This is perhaps best exemplified by the quick "Partridge Family" guitar lick followed by a screaming tirade that rivals any hardcore section on the album. PEARS can execute this type of gag with the precision, timing and tone it takes to pull it off.

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In Rotation: Crystal Gravy - Helicopter to Bang Mansion

Phil Collins - April 12, 2016

Helicopter to Bang Mansion

Crystal Gravy, the acoustic/keytar duo of Dave Green and Nikki Rice, hit a tone on this record that cannot be easy to get right. It approximates that kind of joking, right, but not joking, tongue in cheek, but completely straight-faced delivery found on songs like "Afternoon Delight." Helicopter to Bang Mansion's title track flows like a song from a medieval minstrel, regaling listeners with the tale of "a place where my baby's always got wood." The penultimate track, "Five Regrets of the Dying," also takes a storytelling approach, although it is a more serious song. This runs directly into the closing reprise of "Helicopter to Bang Mansion."

This is the DeKalb band's first full-length album, following up last year's Night Dinner EP. For fans of that release, this album builds on the harmonies, evocative lyrics and humor throughout the longer format. Centaur Nikki and Merman Dave on Helicopter to Bang Mansion's cover art give you a pretty good idea of what you are getting into here. We, the listeners, are like the cat looking on from the sun.

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Random Records with Steve O: The Falcon - Gather Up The Chaps

Steve O - April 10, 2016

Gather Up the Chaps

If you listened to us discuss the merits of every record on our 2015 Bracket, you heard me mention how I’m not a part of that group that deems everything Jeff Rosenstock does gold. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I fit into a different group, one that seems much more Chicagoan than New York’s Rosenstock. I fall into that demographic that is obsessed with everything Brendan Kelly puts out. The Lawrence Arms were my introduction to Kelly’s gruff voice, his lyrics which masterfully mix crude humor, pop culture, and literature with a somewhat depressing glance at life, and songs that hit hard and fast. But the man keeps busy, writing music or tweeting as a nihilistic fast-food chain (or as his humorous self).

Ten years ago, the Falcon released their first record, Unicornography. And now, here we are with record number two, Gather Up The Chaps. Just a couple of listens to Gather Up The Chaps really makes you wish records like this came out more often. Hopefully it won’t be another ten years til Kelly gets the band back together for another record. This iteration of the Falcon got together to play Red Scare Industries’ 10th Anniversary show back in October 2014. And it went quite well. (I was there and I can attest that it was a great performance.) And so, that team, consisting of Kelly, his Lawrence Arms bandmate Neil Hennessey, Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano, and the Loved Ones’ Dave Hause, have put out 2016’s record of the year. That’s right, bracket committee; I’m calling it in April.

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Recap: Savages at the Metro

Phil Collins - April 8, 2016


Savages at the Metro on Thursday

London post punk group Savages swung by the Metro on Thursday in support of their recently released sophomore album, Adore Life. The band's bass-heavy, striking sound made waves when their first album came out a few years ago, propelled on by their electric live performances. Savages lived up to that reputation Thursday at the Metro. The photo above shows lead singer Jehnny Beth walking out on top of the crowd during "Hit Me," a quick cut from Silence Yourself. The band played "Hit Me" for longer than the 1:41 running time on the record, while Beth walked out on top of the crowd and eventually dropped back to crowdsurf.

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In Rotation: The Kreutzer Sonata - Fight Songs

Phil Collins - April 5, 2016

Fight Songs

The Kreutzer Sonata's new 7-inch, Fight Songs, lives up to its name. Four hardcore haymakers swing through in about five minutes. If you did not already feel like punching something when you drop the needle on this one, your knuckles will surely be unrecognizable by the end of it. The Chicago band's trademark combination of ferocious hardcore vocals and interspersed melodic lines, which was on prominent display on last year's excellent album Austere, continues to prosper here.

"Excessive Pride" closes out the 7-inch with strong lyrics. Adam screams "People hate without knowing who you are; look down on you for where you're from/But if you're as weak as them to believe their lies, the bastards have already won." This is followed by two lines sneered out by Kat: "No better way to sound less significant, no better way to sound more irrelevant." Those lines are repeated at the end of the song, separated by terse ticking percussion. It is my favorite moment on Fight Songs and the fact that it comes right at the end of the B side underscores the idea that I cannot get enough of this band. "It's Getting Worse" opens the EP with a kick to the teeth. "No Empathy" features some charged up vocals and a cool bass breakout midway through.

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In Rotation: The Cheap Dates - A Thousand Year Flood

Phil Collins - March 30, 2016

A Thousand Year Flood

If you listened to The Cheap Dates' debut cassette, Piss Away Another God Damn Year, the follow-up represents the other side of the coin. Released less than a year apart, the uninitiated would be hard pressed to guess that these EPs came from the same band. A Thousand Year Flood is comprised of seven tracks of the Chicago band in their surfy, heavier incarnation. If you have seen The Cheap Dates live, you are already familiar with this dichotomy. Their first EP featured songs with Danny on vocals and Sean on guitar, while A Thousand Year Flood has Sean on vocals and Danny on guitar. For the sake of full disclosure, Danny is my brother.

The title track and "Crash & Burn" have been staples of the band's live show since the beginning. "Crash & Burn" closes the EP here - it has switched between opening and closing duties at a lot of their shows. It is one of their most invigorating songs, from the surfy instrumental opening to the chaotic ending. The bass lines on this track could start a fire on their own. "1000 Year Flood" showcases a straight up surf guitar riff and has some of the EP's best lyrics. Sean growls out "Surfing through this downward spiral/Counting the track marks on my soul/Life is getting cheap/And I really need some sleep/These hungry years they take their toll." A few songs that have not shown up in the live set appear here - "End Over End," "Coldbringer" and "Underground."

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In Rotation: Warrior Tribes - Warrior Tribes

Phil Collins - March 21, 2016

Warrior Tribes

For anyone who went to see Mischief Brew at Fizz Bar last summer, something has been in the air for the last five weeks or so. During that time, all three openers from the show - Warrior Tribes, Poison Boys and The Cheap Dates - released a new EP. I reviewed Poison Boys' Headed For Disaster EP last week. Stay tuned to this frequency for a review of the new EP from The Cheap Dates soon. As if these three EPs dropping in such close proximity wasn't serendipitous enough, Mischief Brew just today released the reissue of their album Smash The Windows. That show at Fizz Bar featured a Smash The Windows era reunion. The moral of the story is twofold: Fizz Bar needs to start having shows again and all these bands should play a show together again.

Warrior Tribes' entry in this quartet of releases is a quick burst of hardcore. Pointed, growled out vocals ride over raucous riffs and fast beats. Two members of this local trio split vocal duties on this EP, both offering "super masculine" shouts, according to their bandcamp page. Four of the songs here are minute/minute-and-a-half long bangers. Only the closer clocks in at longer than two minutes. "No Face" has to be my favorite track of the EP. It starts with a snappy riff and has a catchy shouted chorus.

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In Rotation: Poison Boys - Headed for Disaster

Phil Collins - March 14, 2016

Headed for Disaster

Remember sitting on the yards-long hood of your car in a gravel parking lot late in the evening? One denim leg strung over the side of the beast, leather jacket and sunglasses doing most of the talking. Glass bottles and cigarrette butts pollinating the terrain. Chicago locals Poison Boys' debut EP, Headed for Disaster, channels this generations-old drag of memory.

Hair metal riffs give way to short, hopping guitar solos. The vocalist draws out the vowels at the end of lines with old school rock and roll bravado. This is a record that sounds like it should be listened to outside, in or around a car. A car that has a name. Roll the windows down and cruise around, or park and sit on the hood. Either way, crank it up. The cover art of Headed for Disaster speaks to the era conjured by the music. The ropy, pink font and leopard print background give off that glam rock hair metal vibe. The black and white band photo shows little trace of the modern era. The Motörhead shirt, the leather jacket and the sunglasses hanging from a white shirt are all on point.

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New track roundup

Nervous Passenger, Swimsuit Addition, White Lung, Lester and The Finks and more

Phil Collins - March 5, 2016

New tracks from Nervous Passenger, PEARS, Swimsuit Addition, White Lung, Evil Empire and Lester and The Finks all came out within the last month or so. Listen to them all in one place right here.

Nervous Passenger - "The Slacker's Lament"

Local pop punk quartet Nervous Passenger released a split with The Normal Years a couple days ago. It's out on cassette (50 black, 50 white) via Artistic Integrity Records. The Nervous Passenger entry on this release is one 8+ minute song in five parts. That might make you think, hey, are you sure this isn't five songs in 8+ minutes? That sounds like a more likely scenario for a punk release. This is in fact one running thread that covers the A side. Stream "The Slacker's Lament" below and check out The Normal Years' half of the split here. Nervous Passenger also put out a hot sauce this week, so if you want to spice things up, look out for that. Catch Nervous Passenger live at Subterranean on March 26 with Fitness, Brickfight and Dog & Wolf.

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     Monthly Metal Mixtape

Steve O - February 29, 2016

Black Mark Production, 1984

While Venom named black metal and Hellhammer introduced corpse paint and lower than low-fi recordings, it is Bathory who were the best of the initial wave of black metal triumvirate. The brainchild of a Swede who called himself Quorthon, Bathory was a brilliant and creative band. Later stretching into the realm of epic Vikings, the early Bathory releases, beginning with 1984’s self-titled debut, were raw, energetic blasts of evil, old-school black metal. Quorthon’s raspy shriek, low-quality recording, buzz-saw guitars, constantly pounding, yet simple, drums, and those Satanic-obssesed lyrics not only laid the groundwork for an entire genre to come, but created a masterpiece of a record. You can hear years of the influence dripping through songs like “Sacrifice” and “In Conspiracy with Satan.” The solos sound rough and raw, instead of shining through, while Quorthon spits out verses like, “Hail satanic majesty / tonight we sacrifice / We drink our own blood / and blasphemy while / the moon is our only light,” in “Necromansy.” It’s a dark classic worth revisiting.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 29, 2016

Zombie Dogs

Z is for Zombie Dogs

Zombie Dogs

Self-Released, 2010

We made it. We finally made it! The letter Z was one of the toughest, because there’s not a whole lot of bands that start with the letter (duh). And also because I’m tired of this and I just want to be done. I’ve had it with the alphabet. Damn thing is overrated. Anyways… I’m finishing up with the Brooklyn band Zombie Dogs, who appear to have not existed for at least the past five years. It’s hard to find much info about them. I discovered them on the site Female Fronted Hardcore, which is a great place to discover some awesome new bands, and should give you an insight into Zombie Dogs. By all accounts, they were short lived and only released one record in their time, 2010’s short and sweet, Zombie Dogs.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 28, 2016

The Everlasting Greed

Y is for Yankee Brutal

The Everlasting Greed

Dying Scene Records, 2012

So Dying Scene is one of my favorite sites to go for punk news. In addition to being a great site to hear about tours and new bands and other news, they have a digital record label on bandcamp. There’s some good stuff on there, like the new Stray Bullets record, Texas hardcore punks Some Nerve, and New Mexicans Stabbed in Back. But my favorites are Sacramento’s Yankee Brutal. Playing punk rock on the heavier spectrum with some thrashy guitar riffs and pissed off vocals, Yankee Brutal have a political consciousness that hits as heavy as their music. Politically scathing lyrics, lightning quick guitars, some skillful riffs, and lots of whoas, Yankee Brutal remind me a lot of the heavier punk bands like Death by Stereo.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 27, 2016

For the Innocent

X is for xTrue Naturex

For the Innocent

Self-Released, 2008

It’s not cheating. The first letter in xTrue Naturex is X, so therefore this is a legitimate entry. The fact that you don’t pronounce it doesn’t disqualify it. It’s not like Tsjuder wouldn’t count for T just because you don’t pronounce the T. (Let this count as the only time Tsjuder will be mentioned with a vegan acoustic project.) So yes, X is oddly stacked thanks to every straight edge band who puts Xs around their names. So thank you for making this letter much easier than it would have been otherwise.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 26, 2016

Cruel Optimist

W is for Worriers

Cruel Optimist

Don Giovanni Records, 2013

Worriers' debut full length Imaginary Life came out last year and did pretty well on our bracket. If it was up to me, that wouldn’t have been their bracket debut. I would’ve given that honor to their 2013 EP Cruel Optimist. But, as you know, EPs don’t count, despite its longer play time than some records that have been on the bracket. I don’t remember how I discovered Worriers, but once I heard Cruel Optimist I was instantly hooked. I loved Lauren Denitzio’s voice, and the heartfelt, sincere lyrics meshed perfectly with the catchy pop punk. I was listening to this record all the time on bandcamp until I finally picked up the vinyl when they played in Chicago in 2014.

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February alphabet of records

Steve O - February 24, 2016


V is for Vreid


Indie Recordings, 2009

World War II as a topic has been beaten to death over and over and over again. Having worked at a library, where that particular section is beyond overflowing, and a bookstore, where I was in charge of military history no less, where WWII took up half the section, I feel I can say this with a high degree of confidence. It’s a topic that culturally we’re obsessed with, maybe for that idea of fighting the ultimate bad guy. It hasn’t worked its way into becoming a common lyrical topic for metal bands though (I don’t count NSBM), despite their obsession with violence and gore. Bands like Sabaton, who lyrically take on the whole of military history, or Eastern Front, whose lyrical focus should be somewhat obvious, are nowhere near as common as bands worshipping the lyrical stylings of Cannibal Corpse or Carcass.

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All day punk marathon on Saturday

Phil Collins - February 24, 2016

We get plenty of nights around Chicago in which there are two, three or four good shows to choose between. This Saturday is another breed of stacked. You can punk out all day and night, and you need nothing more than the Western bus to get between locations. Click on the map for more detail or just read the descriptions below.


8 a.m. sharp at Logan Hardware: Be an extra in Double Feature's first music video. The local pop punk group is shooting a video for "A Fistful of Quarters" at an arcade. Coffee and donuts will be provided and pizza at lunchtime. The shoot should last until noon. More info here.

1 p.m. outside Empty Bottle: Get ready for a "frozen" outdoor garage rock party. The Spits, Black Lips, Meat Wave and Muuy Biien play. It looks like we'll be back up to 50 degrees by Saturday, so you won't even have to freeze to see this show. More info here.

9 p.m. at The Mutiny: A ska punk lineup not to be missed at the Mutiny. Evil Empire, Alley Slob Service, Bombflower and The Grow Ops play. You have enough time to nap and eat between the outdoor Spits show and this one. More info here.

February alphabet of records Steve O - February 23, 2016

Time Stands Still

U is for Unleash the Archers

Time Stands Still

Napalm Records, 2015

I was super bummed when 3 Inches of Blood announced they were calling it quits. They were one of my favorite bands, Advance and Vanquish is one of my favorite records of any genre, and they were incredibly nice and cool people. I’ll never forget hanging out with them in the alley behind Bottom Lounge or that time guitarist Justin Hagberg wanted to trade with me for my too small Bathory shirt (regardless of the fact Hagberg is much larger than me). If there is any consolation to found in this vast void, it is the fact there has emerged from their hometown of Vancouver a band that is actually quite similar: Unleash the Archers.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 22, 2016


T is for This is Hell


Trustkill, 2006

Part of the fun of doing the Random Records is getting to go back and revisit records that I haven’t listened to as much recently. Sundowning, the debut record from Long Island’s This is Hell, falls into that category. Way back when this came out in 2006, I loved this record. I was super into hardcore back in high school and This is Hell masterfully straddled the line between viscously heavy and the melodically catchy, punctuated with gang vocals. There’s something about everyone shouting “If the good die young we’ll fucking live forever,” that’s cathartic, whether you’re just hearing it or shouting along at the top of your lungs. Whether you’re into the tough guy stuff or more classic youth crew, there’s something for you here.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 21, 2016


S is for Senmuth


Self-Released, 2014

So I missed yesterday because I went to the Milwaukee Public Museum to see a new special exhibit called Ultimate Dinosaurs, which is all about the dinosaurs of Gondwana, or the continents of the Southern Hemisphere. Those of you that know me are aware of my interest of paleontology, how much I enjoy talking about them, and pointing out all the pop cultures’ botches when it comes to portraying dinosaurs. I never grew up out of that 5-year-old-dinosaur-obssesed-kid stage. So you can imagine how excited I was to stumble upon Senmuth’s Mesozoic trilogy. For the uninformed, the Mesozoic is the Age of Dinosaurs, stretching 186 million years, starting with the greatest extinction event the planet has ever seen (the Permian Extinction) and ending with the most famous, which annihilated the non-avian Dinosaurs (known as the K-Pg, or K-T Extinction).

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 19, 2016

The Dangers of Standing Still

R is for Red City Radio

The Dangers of Standing Still

Paper + Plastick, 2011

So it was Change the Rotation’s own Davey who introduced me to Red City Radio in early 2011, probably not long after the release of The Dangers of Standing Still came out. And holy fucking shit! I fell in love with the band and record after that. The vocal combinations of Garrett Dale (the gruff voice) and Paul Pendley (the not-gruff voice) is perfect and the way the songs are written lines up perfectly with the incredible sing-alongs, which are present on every single song. Whether it’s just a bunch of ‘whoas’ or lines like “Together we can burn this fucking city to the ground” off of “Two for Flinching,” these are the kind of songs to sing along with. And when you see them live, you wanna be right up front, screaming at the top of your lungs, fist in the air, and not caring who is sweating on you doing the same thing. Back in 2012, we actually drove down to Bloomington-Normal to see them play at a pizza place. It was as amazing as it sounds.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 18, 2016

A Night at the Opera

Q is for Queen

A Night at the Opera

EMI, 1975

So I was debating what to do for the letter Q. It is far and away the letter with the fewest options. Yeah, there’s the Queers, but I’ve never been huge into them. Queensrÿche had some pretty decent stuff in the 80s. The first few Queens of the Stone Age records are good; I think Songs for the Deaf is a fantastic album. On my iTunes I’ve got a band called Qwertzuiop, an ambient band from Hungary. I could write about them and see if anyone checks out a random ambient noise band. But there really isn’t much choice. As obvious as the answer is, I gotta write about Queen.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 17, 2016

To The Nameless Dead

P is for Primordial

To the Nameless Dead

Metal Blade Records, 2007

There’s about 50 seconds of calm, before the storm hits, and A.A. Nemtheanga howls “A cold wind is blowing.” And so begins To the Nameless Dead, just one of the many flat-out fantastic records in the Dublin-based band’s catalog. Primordial have been around long enough and have such a distinct sound that they can be difficult to classify. There’s a definite black metal feel, and Nemtheanga has that blackened rasp down. There’s an epic, doomy feel as well. Excluding instrumental interlude “The Rising Tide,” not one song on To the Nameless Dead is shorter than five minutes. And Nemtheanga’s voice is melodic, yet haunting, enough to sound fit for the genre. In fact, he also sings in the band Dread Sovereign, who have old-school doom down pat. Then there’s the part that falls into folk metal, owing to their homage in their native Ireland in lyrics and melodies. Whatever you want to call them, Primordial are definitely their own, distinct beast. And they know that and they have it perfected.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 16, 2016

Oh My Snare!

O is for Oh My Snare!

Høyeste Gang

Say-10 Records, 2015

Oh My Snare!’s debut Høyeste Gang, not only made the bracket last year, but managed to win a round as well. Høyeste Gang was released in early 2015 and seemingly came out of nowhere (or Montreal). One moment, they were some random band I discovered online, and by the end of the year they released one of my favorite records. And in the sake of full disclosure, I booked them a show in Chicago. I messaged them and about a month later, they were playing in a Chicago basement. It was a great success.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 15, 2016

The War On Errorism

N is for NOFX

The War on Errorism

Fat Wreck Chords, 2003

I was well aware of NOFX by the time The War on Errorism came out. I had heard some of the more well-known songs, like “Bob,” “Linoleum,” and “Dinosaurs Will Die.” I really enjoyed them, but they never prompted me to dig a whole lot deeper into NOFX’s extensive back catalog. I was building on a foundation of AFI’s heaviness (remember, this was the early 2000s—I started with The Art of Drowning and worked backwards quickly), Anti-Flag’s sharp political commentary, and Alkaline Trio’s heartfelt sincerity. NOFX didn’t really have much of those elements, and I didn’t really get their sense of humor.

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Recap: The Lemons record release show at Bric A Brac Records

Phil Collins - February 14, 2016

    The Lemons

The Lemons at Bric A Brac Records on Sunday

Local sugar-coated retro pop group The Lemons put out their debut album on Burger Records this month. To celebrate, they threw a Valentine's Day Bash at Bric A Brac Records in Logan Square. Take a band on the rise putting out a full-length on a hot label, add in a nostalgia-heavy space in the middle of a music filled neighborhood and you have a packed house. Hello, We're The Lemons, out on cassette and vinyl via Burger, is full of minute-long sugary pop jingles. There are 28 of these ditties on the album.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 14, 2016

Let's Face It

M is for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Let’s Face It

Mercury Records, 1997

I am well aware that you and everyone you know—your mom, your neighbors, the people you work with, that weird kid you knew in grade school that had to drink everything out of a crazy straw—has heard “The Impression That I Get.” At least that’s the impression I get. So we’ll get that out of the way first. Yes, it’s a good song, it is extremely catchy, and the Bosstones got huge because of it. Their timing was perfect with punk and ska getting huge in the late 90s. But not only is Let’s Face It full of other great songs, the Bosstones had four records before this that are all equally fantastic. For those who only know of “The Impression That I Get,” they are missing out, not only on the rest of a great record, but also on one of the best ska bands.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 13, 2016

New Blood, New Songs

L is for Love and Squalor

New Blood, New Songs

Self-Released, 2007

I discovered Love and Squalor because of Henry Brawlins. More specifically, a Love and Squalor shirt that he had, with an otter or ferret or some other mustelid wearing a top hat and monocle, and holding a jug of booze, as seen in the design on this flyer:


(Side note: remember Ronny’s? That place was great. Anyone know if it’s still an empty building?) So thank you for having a shirt with an awesome design on it. We all have stories like that, I’m sure. It’s safe to say, the music is as awesome as that design. It’s straight up Chicago punk rock, in the same tradition of bands like Naked Raygun, 88 Fingers Louie, Alkaline Trio, and the Lawrence Arms. The songs are Chicago working-class: fast, heartfelt, and they get stuck in your head.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 12, 2016

Tales Along This Road

K is for Korpiklaani

Tales Along This Road

Napalm Records, 2006

Back in my late teens/early twenties, I was really into folk metal. It was like the ska of metal. The music was lots of fun, it was relatively light-hearted and not too serious, it used instruments not traditional to the genre (like strings, flutes, and accordion), and the live shows were full of energy. Korpiklaani, which translates to “Clan of the Wilderness,” is near the top of the genre. The music is fast, fun, and full of energy. There was a seriousness in the sense of incorporating Finnish folklore into the lyrics, but at the same time, when a band has lines like “Beer, beer! / I want beer, from beer I get really drunk,” in the aptly named “Beer Beer,” it’s clear they are having some fun with their music too.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 10, 2016

Valley Home

J is for Joe Vickers

Valley Home

Self-Released, 2011

I used my ‘A’ on Against All Authority, which was a good choice, but it means that I didn’t get to highlight Audio/Rocketry. Audio/Rocketry are one of my favorite folk punk bands, writing catchy sing-alongs about music, friends, and travelling over three full lengths between 2009 and 2011. They haven’t been as active lately, which is a shame, but that’s been mitigated a bit by frontman and bandleader Joe Vickers’ solo output.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 9, 2016

A Place Called Home

I is for Ignite

A Place Called Home

TVT Records, 2000

My introduction to Orange County’s Ignite was in 2006 or 2007, when I saw them play with Comeback Kid back at the old Clearwater Theater. I was previously unfamiliar with them, which comes as a real shock, cause I was really into hardcore in high school. Ignite play that melodic hardcore, nothing metallic here, full of sing-alongs and uplifting, call to action, lyrics. You might be familiar with them due to frontman Zoli Téglás' brief run with Pennywise (he recorded one album, 2012’s All or Nothing with them.) Ignite hasn’t been a very prolific band. Their newest record, A War Against You, was just released last month, a full decade after Our Darkest Days, which came six years after A Place Called Home. So if you’re keeping score at home, that’s three full lengths in sixteen years.

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In Rotation: UGLYBoNES - Growing Concerns

Phil Collins - February 8, 2016

Growing Concerns

Chicago hardcore punks UGLYBoNES put out their second album, Growing Concerns, in January. It is 10 songs of ripping, writhing, true to the template hardcore. Fans of their first full-length, Leave Me Alone and their short-form releases will find much to thrash to here. As is often the case with hardcore, UGLYBoNES' LPs are not exactly long. Growing Concerns sticks to the quick jabs and stiff riffs that have been the grain of the band's sound. The back-to-back hits of "Grown Up" and "Office Destroyer" account for less than 90 seconds between them but represent the most brutal section of the album.

UGLYBoNES are at their best when the vocals spin off into an old West coast hardcore style sneer. The best example of this comes in the album's final track, "Lazy". The lines "Thought I cared a lot/I thought I cared a lot/As it turns out" spin off into the sneered "Don't care about anyone". Oftentimes when lyrics are repeated on this album, they get a more jagged delivery the second time around. On "SUX", the second go-around of "Can't believe I see this every day/People walk around with clouds of shame/And for what? Because of them?/Because they don't try themselves?/To be better" is one of the highlights of the album.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 8, 2016

Infinite Darkness

H is for Hoth

Infinite Darkness

Self-Released, 2012

I missed the golden opportunity of writing about this record back in December, when it would have been posted in conjunction with The Force Awakens. Alas, that thought never entered my mind back then. Instead, I’m taking the opportunity to write about it now, when there is no snow on the ground and it is decidedly un-Hoth like outside. Poor planning part two!

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 7, 2016

Amor Fati

G is for Guerilla Poubelle

Amor Fati

Guerilla Asso, 2013

Fast paced, gruff vocals, and catchy as hell pop punk is a worldwide phenomenon. There are a lot of great bands playing this kind of music, and too often the international bands tend to get overlooked in favor of the bands playing down the street. This is not to disparage the local bands, and by all means, please go support your local bands, but since there are bands playing in Europe, or Asia, or Australia that rarely make it over here to play live, we tend to either not be aware of or pay the attention to some of these bands that they deserve. Guerilla Poubelle fall into that category. These Parisians put out their first record in 2005, but I had never heard of them until 2014, when I saw them play with Arms Aloft. Using borrowed gear, since the U.S. customs wouldn’t let them bring anything into the country, Guerilla Poubelle played a fast, tight, catchy set, of gruff pop punk (orgcore if you recognize that as a genre) and definitely left their mark as a band I needed to check out.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 6, 2016

It'll Get Worse Before It Gets Better

F is for Fucking Invincible

It’ll Get Worse Before It Gets Better

Atomic Action Records, 2014

Fucking Invincible. The name conjures forth an intensity and strength that cannot easily be matched. And so it is with Providence’s Fucking Invincible. Featuring members of Dropdead and Daughters, this is furious grinding powerviolence at a breakneck pace. It’ll Get Worse Before It Gets Better is the debut full length from Fucking Invincible, though flying through fourteen songs in fourteen minutes it barely qualifies as a full length record. That didn’t stop me from giving them a spot on 2014’s bracket, where they, perhaps not surprisingly, didn’t do too well. It’s angry and uncomfortable, an attribute that Fucking Invincible have on all their records. Just look at the title, or of their newest seven inch: I Hate Myself and Want You To Die. There is no happiness, no peace, no calm here. Just rage and vitriol, and a violent, intimidating, brutal grindcore.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 5, 2016

If you listened in on our 2015 Bracket discussion, brought to you by Brown Bear on the Air (, you heard me proclaim the February Alphabet of Random Records. Not one of my brightest ideas, but I’m on record of saying it, so I’m stuck.

So the idea is this: in the month of February, I give you a Random Record for each letter of the alphabet. We’ve got 29 days of February this year, so I get three days to be lazy. Three strikes and I’m out, if you will. The point of Random Records is to either write about records I love to highlight bands or records that might have escaped your attention. I try to do the latter more with the February Alphabet.

So, without further ado…


E is for Empyrium


Prophecy Productions, 2002

We’ve seen a lot of heavy and chaotic stuff lately, and we will again soon, so let’s take a short, nice, relaxing breather here with Empyrium. The German band started as doom metallers who had a touch for the symphonic and a deep interest in folk music. There are songs on their debut, A Wintersunset…, that are just dripping in symphonic doom, slow and melancholy. They kept getting moodier, resulting in the neofolk record Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays. This was followed by digging deeper into their roots, with the masterful Weiland, a 50-minute neofolk masterpiece, sung entirely in German, and the pinnacle of Empyrium’s career. For the unfamiliar, neofolk is darker than folk music, and often brings in more orchestral instruments. A lot of the imagery focuses on paganism, or, as in the case with Empyirum, nature.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 4, 2016

If you listened in on our 2015 Bracket discussion, brought to you by Brown Bear on the Air (, you heard me proclaim the February Alphabet of Random Records. Not one of my brightest ideas, but I’m on record of saying it, so I’m stuck.

So the idea is this: in the month of February, I give you a Random Record for each letter of the alphabet. We’ve got 29 days of February this year, so I get three days to be lazy. Three strikes and I’m out, if you will. The point of Random Records is to either write about records I love to highlight bands or records that might have escaped your attention. I try to do the latter more with the February Alphabet.

So, without further ado…

Aegri Somnia

D is for Direwolves

Aegri Somnia

Throatruiner Records, 2013

Part of the fun of Random Records is picking out bands that I don’t think any of my friends know. Sometimes it’s a miss and no one cares about it. Other times, it ends up being a hit. Look at the success Caves had in the 2013 bracket for an example of that. France’s Direwolves is another one of these bands who I have to shine the spotlight on. I don’t quite remember how I discovered Direwolves, but wherever it was, it was the name that drew me in. Dire wolves are more widely known now thanks to Game of Thrones, but my interest in looking into the band was born entirely of my paleontological obsessions. The dire wolf, or Canis dirus, was a large species of wolf that flourished during the ice age and is famous for its obscene numbers at the La Brea tar pits in California, where specimens represent over 4,000 individuals. The pack hunters were major carnivores during this era of megafauna, going extinct along with the rest of them around 10,000 years ago.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 3, 2016

If you listened in on our 2015 Bracket discussion, brought to you by Brown Bear on the Air (, you heard me proclaim the February Alphabet of Random Records. Not one of my brightest ideas, but I’m on record of saying it, so I’m stuck.

So the idea is this: in the month of February, I give you a Random Record for each letter of the alphabet. We’ve got 29 days of February this year, so I get three days to be lazy. Three strikes and I’m out, if you will. The point of Random Records is to either write about records I love to highlight bands or records that might have escaped your attention. I try to do the latter more with the February Alphabet.

So, without further ado…

Perhaps You Deliver this Judgement with Greater Fear than I Receive It

C is for Crusades

Perhaps You Deliver this Judgement with Greater Fear than I Receive It

No Idea Records, 2013

If you have been paying close attention, you’ll know that this record earned a spot on our initial bracket back in 2013. If you’ve been paying really close attention, you’ll know that members of the Ottawa (that’s Canada, eh) quartet haven’t been resting at all. In fact, they’ve been busy enough to earn a spot on both the 2014 and 2015 brackets with the Creeps and Black Tower, respectively. Now all three of those bracket spots were filled by my votes, so that gives you an idea of what I think of the work of Skottie Lobotomy (who appears on all three), Dave Williams, and Jordan Bell (two each) and company.

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 2, 2016

If you listened in on our 2015 Bracket discussion, brought to you by Brown Bear on the Air (, you heard me proclaim the February Alphabet of Random Records. Not one of my brightest ideas, but I’m on record of saying it, so I’m stuck.

So the idea is this: in the month of February, I give you a Random Record for each letter of the alphabet. We’ve got 29 days of February this year, so I get three days to be lazy. Three strikes and I’m out, if you will. The point of Random Records is to either write about records I love to highlight bands or records that might have escaped your attention. I try to do the latter more with the February Alphabet.

So, without further ado…

I Hate Myself When I'm Not Skateboarding

B is for Bones Brigade

I Hate Myself When I’m Not Skateboarding

Fight Fire With Fire Records, 2003

Everything about this record should make it abundantly clear that Bones Brigade are a skate punk band steeped in glory days of the 80s. The band name, the record title, the record cover, songs like “Skate or Die” or “Trashin’ USA” just scream crossover skatecore, similar to bands like ANS or S.T.R.E.E.T.S. For your information, the Bones Brigade was a skateboarding team back in the 80s, featuring names you’ll know such as Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, Steve Caballero, and Mike Valley. Merging hardcore and thrash and blazing through 13 songs in 18 minutes, Bones Brigade do indeed, “All Go No Slow.”

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February alphabet of records Steve O - February 1, 2016

If you listened in on our 2015 Bracket discussion, brought to you by Brown Bear on the Air (, you heard me proclaim the February Alphabet of Random Records. Not one of my brightest ideas, but I’m on record of saying it, so I’m stuck.

So the idea is this: in the month of February, I give you a Random Record for each letter of the alphabet. We’ve got 29 days of February this year, so I get three days to be lazy. Three strikes and I’m out, if you will. The point of Random Records is to either write about records I love to highlight bands or records that might have escaped your attention. I try to do the latter more with the February Alphabet.

So, without further ado…

The Restoration of Chaos & Order

A is for Against All Authority

The Restoration of Chaos and Order

Hopeless Records, 2006

I’m sure I’ll get some shit for this, but The Restoration of Chaos and Order might be my favorite Against All Authority record. This should not be a statement against any of their other fantastic records. Seriously, the preceding three (1996’s Destroy What Destroys You, 1998’s All Fall Down, and 2000’s 24 Hour Roadside Resistance) are incredible records that you should listen to. And then listen to them again. The Miami-area band combines ska and hardcore punk with lyrical skill akin to bands like Dead Kennedys and Propagandhi to craft some excellent songs with some strong messages. And there’s something about the songs on The Restoration of Chaos and Order that keep me coming back to this incredible record.

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Monthly Metal Mixtape vol. 1

Steve O - January 31, 2016

Monthly Metal Mixtape

So we don’t cover metal much at all over here at Change the Rotation. A Random Record here or there, sliding bands like Iron Reagan into the bracket, and recently with Don’t Panic’s top black metal records of the year. Perhaps with no surprise, all of these are my fault. So, in an attempt to bring metal to the site a bit more regularly, I bring you the Monthly Metal Mixtape. At the end of each month, I give a short overview of some of the metal records I’ve been listening to lately. Black metal, death metal, doom, grindcore, thrash, just straight-up classic metal, whatever. It’s all here, so hopefully you’ll find something you’ll enjoy.

Season of Mist, 2016

So in case you haven’t been paying attention to the black metal gossips, Immortal is not… well, immortal. Abbath lost the rights to the name, even though he was essentially everything in Immortal, and differences with Demonaz and Horgh led him to creating his own, self-titled band. And right from the opener, “To War!” you can tell that’s what is going to happen. It shouldn’t surprise you to notice that Abbath sounds like Immortal. It has that same grimness, the same raspy vocals, the same breakneck pace that was common on Immortal records. Hell, it even has “Nebular Ravens Winter,” off Immortal’s Blizzard Beasts as a bonus track, (along with an awesome cover of Judas Priest’s “Riding on the Wind”). The best time to listen to this is while it’s still winter, so a January release was absolutely perfect. Get grim and frostbitten.

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In Rotation: Night Gaunts - Conversations With Creation

Phil Collins - January 28, 2016

Conversations With Creation

Night Gaunts deliver a solid set of spaced out ska stompers on their second full-length album. The New Zealand based band's bombastic combination of ska, hip hop and punk is perfect for fans of The Mad Conductor and The Stupid Stupid Henchmen. Night Gaunts bring together the skate/ska vibe and full band hip hop. Live beats make a big difference. In addition to the five people in Night Gaunts, a handful of other musicians stepped in on Conversations With Creation to play synths, melodica, trumpet and more. The band includes keyboards and horns as it is, so the instrumentation on this album has a rich sound.

"8 Dollars" and "Nights & Daze" carry over from the excellent split Night Gaunts put out with Days N' Daze last year. They might be from the other side of the world, but Night Gaunts toured stateside with Days N' Daze last year. Hopefully they will be back again soon to tour on this album. My first exposure to this band was at a show they played with Mustard Plug at Cobra Lounge several years ago, so they do get out here every now and again.

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Random Records with Steve O

Wombat In Combat - The Bro Show

Steve O - January 25, 2016

The Bro Show

A long, long time ago, when I was either still in high school or shortly out of it, I stumbled across a band with an amazing name and only 4 songs to their credit: the brilliantly titled Wombat in Combat. A name like that simply implores you to check out their music. It’s like Shark in the Park, or Bear-thing in a Boxing Ring, or Hippopotamus in … yeah, guess I backed myself into a corner with that one. Anyways, the name was intriguing enough to warrant giving them a listen. And if memory serves, they had some sort of connection to the Leftöver Crack / crackrock steady / Tompkins Park scene in those late 2000s. It was probably through browsing those highly intertwined bands that all seemed to have some lineage back to Choking Victim that the name Wombat in Combat popped up. And you cannot pass up an opportunity to listen to band with a name like that.

And the music verified that decision. With only 4 songs and 11 and a half minutes on their only recording (at least to my knowledge), The Bro Show, Wombat in Combat show quite a diversity given the short play time. (Look close at the wombat on the cover. It has a 666 on its forehead). “A.I.T.” is a minute-long, frenzied hardcore blast about AIT: Arizona Iced Tea. “Jump Jim Crow” alternates from a chaotic chorus to something akin to a southern twang during the verses. “Live by the Bike” maintains this chaos, while closer “My Bike Lock” is a chill closer, with a ska punk feel. Both extol bike riding and villainize driving cars.

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Steve O's Bracket Leftovers

Steve O - January 20, 2016

So you’ve seen the Bracket results by now, which have crowned Leftöver Crack’s Constructs of the State the record of the year. Have you ever wondered how we pick the records that end up on there? Well, I’m about to let you in on some Change the Rotation secrets here, so listen up.

Each November, Phil, Davey, and myself come up with a list of records from the year that we deem bracket-worthy. When we each have our initial list, we compare what we’ve got. Records that show up more than once get automatic spots on the bracket. The leftover spots get divvied out and we fill them up with records we individually thought were fantastic, even if they didn’t get wide approval. What follows are the records that I had on my long list that were unable to grab one of the coveted 32 spots on out bracket.

Gallows – Desolation Sounds (Bridge 9)

Dark hardcore is a good descriptor for the U.K.’s Gallows. But it goes so much further than that. There’s a weird and esoteric approach to their brand of hardcore. There’s some moments that seem simply like dark rock and roll songs. Other times there’s a metallic vibe to their hardcore. It’s a biting, angry record, with lines like “Even bad dreams are too good for you” from opener “Mystic Death” or “If desolation were a sound, I’ve heard it” from “Desolation Sounds.” Other times it is slow and atmospheric, almost plodding, as in “Cease to Exist.” In a way, Gallows kind of reminds me of Fucked Up. Both are based in hardcore, but stretch the boundaries so far it almost doesn’t sound like hardcore anymore. It’s just dark and angry music. Indulge in the desolation over here:

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Don’t Panic, It’s a Distro’s Top 10 Black Metal Albums of the Year 2015

Danny Brawlins and Steve O - January 14, 2016

Usually when we do anything with Don’t Panic, It’s a Distro, we like to focus on underground DIY punk bands, mostly from the Chicago area (what up DeKalb?). However, there’s a few other genres out there that we are really fucking crazy about that we never cover. One of those genres is black metal. It’s raw, emotional, lo-fi, underground and largely DIY; most of the things we love about punk… that and we couldn’t agree on a 2015 klezmer or avant-garde jazz best of list. These albums were handpicked by both Steve O))) and myself in a very precise, quasi-logical manner. If you feel someone got robbed, or think we missed a good album, or if you just wanna talk black metal find us on Facebook or drop us a line at

10) (tie) Striborg – This Suffocating Existence

I’ll be honest, I haven’t heard much of what Striborg has been putting out as of recently which is why I was a little surprised when I first heard This Suffocating Existence. Instead of the harsh terrifying noise and pained shrieks I expect from a Striborg album, there are melodies and song structures. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a fucking harsh and terrifying album but it kinda strikes me as Striborg’s version of a pop album. Take that as you will. I don’t know about you but I love this album. If you’re new to Striborg, I’d recommend Foreboding Silence over this. If you’re new to black metal, I’d recommend a different band altogether. – Danny (Razed Soul Productions)

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Albums to look forward to in 2016

Phil Collins - January 12, 2016

We have spent the first part of this month looking back at the music of 2015. We named Leftöver Crack's Constructs of the State our favorite album of the year after it won our end of the year bracket. We had guest year end lists from Jason Jerde; Sean Rafferty, Henry Brawlins and Jake Joyce; and Plus Sign and Danny Brawlins. Now let's take a look at what's ahead in 2016. Here are some albums known to be in the works that I am excited about. Most of these don't have an official release date yet, so whether they come out in 2016 remains to be seen.


Adore Life

I'll start with one that does have a definite 2016 release date. Savages will put out their sophomore album, Adore Life, out on January 22. Their first album, Silence Yourself, was among my favorite albums of 2013. It did not make it out of the first round in our bracket that year, but that will not stop me from nominating them again if I like this album as much as I liked that one.

Their energy is often left simmering in post-punk bassland until it erupts on tracks like "Husbands". Savages released a video for the first single off the new album recently and you can watch that after the jump. The song, "Adore", carries a restrained, subterranean vibe. The video features a lot of close-ups of the band looking directly into the camera without blinking. I guess they are looking life in the face.

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Change the Rotation's Best Albums of 2015 Bracket

Phil Collins - January 6, 2016

For the third year running, we here at Change the Rotation have pitted our 32 favorite albums of the year against each other in a bracket. The agony, the ecstasy. We love all these albums. There are many albums we loved that did not make the cut. Steve O, Dave Anians and I all submitted our nominations for the best albums of 2015. We then narrowed the field down to 32 full-length albums. Those albums were drawn randomly into the bracket. The three of us voted on each matchup until we came up with a champion, to be named Change the Rotation's album of the year.

Bracket region 1

Full Communism by Downtown Boys defeated Mischief Brew's This Is Not For Children to take region 1. Screaming Females put out a great album this year but fell in the first round Don Giovanni matchup with Downtown Boys. Tel Aviv's Not On Tour got a vote but couldn't overcome Mischief Brew.

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Guest lists: The Best of 2015

Jason Jerde

Phil Collins - January 4, 2016

Today's guest year-end list comes from Jason Jerde of Manglor Records and Lester and The Finks. Here is his list of 10 records you should buy:

1) Black Panties - Future 7” (Windian) - Black Panties had three 7”s released this year. This one on Windian, another on Lumpy Records and one on Total Punk. They are all fucking must haves, but I think the Windian release takes the lead by a hair. Look for a Black Panties 7” on Manglor Records in 2015.

2) C.C.T.V. - 7” (Lumpy Records) - This record is absolutely amazing. It features members of The Coneheads (Also on this list), but with female vocals. If you like Suburban Lawns and Devo, you will love this. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

3) Golden Pelicans - Oldest Ride, Longest Line 12” (Total Punk) - Golden Pelicans made the list, big surprise there. These guys unleash the most bad ass shit. Their second 12” record came this year on Total Punk and is not one to pass up. More importantly, if you get a chance to see them live, GO. Doesn’t get much better.

4) Cal and the Calories - Bastard in a Yellow Suit 7” (Total Punk) - Snotty as fuck. Lumpy’s (and the Dumpers) alter ego. Title track will be stuck in your head for days.

5) Gino and the Goons - Push Your Luck 7” (Pelican Pow Wow) Gino also came out with a 7” on Black Gladiator this year. I guess really it’s a toss up, so snatch them both up.

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Guest Lists: The Best of 2015

Sean Rafferty, Henry Brawlins, Jake Joyce

Phil Collins - January 1, 2016

Today we have another set of guests sharing their picks for the best of 2015. This time we hear from Sean Rafferty, Henry Brawlins and Jake Joyce.

Sean Rafferty

Sean is the guitarist and vocalist for The Cheap Dates and handles vocals, guitar and bass for Firing Squad. Here are Sean's picks from 2015:

Favorite Friend Jams of 2015, Y’all

Initially, when I started thinking about my favorite releases of 2015, new records by bands like Radioactivity, Vexx, Canadian Rifle, Blank Pages, and Royal Headache, among others, came to mind. Killer stuff. However, I felt like I didn’t have anything new to say about these releases that hadn’t already been said in MRR, Razorcake, or any other solid fanzine being cranked out by a menagerie of unkempt weirdos. So, instead, I decided to make a list of my favorite releases by friends’ bands. However, this isn’t just masturbatory, vacuous glad-handing. Yes, knowing the people who created this music probably endears it to the ol’ earholes that much more, but I have a genuine, abiding affection for these recordings and these songs. It seemed like every few weeks this year friends of mine were releasing something that blew my dick off. It’s hard to have your dick blown off that many times and not find it remarkable enough to surrender to myopia and give these recordings their due. So, in no particular order, here’s a list of some of my favorite friend jams of 2015.

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Guest Lists: The Best of 2015

Plus Sign, Danny Brawlins

Phil Collins - December 30, 2015

We will soon reveal Change the Rotation's best of 2015 bracket selections. First, we have some guest best of the year lists from people involved in the local music scene. Today, feast your eyes on picks from Plus Sign and Danny Brawlins.

Plus Sign

+ has released 17 albums and puts on fun, unique live performances. Check out + at Catch + live with Calvin Johnson and the films of Molly Hewitt on January 23 at Pinky Swear in Humboldt Park. Read Plus Sign's best of 2015 list after the jump.

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Long Live Lemmy

Steve O - December 29, 2015

For someone who’s been listening to Motörhead for about 15 years, I don’t really have many great Motörhead stories. I’d only seen them live once, at the large, and completely un-intimate, setting of the Aragon Ballroom. I won’t forget it though. February 2012, an (unsurprisingly) snowy night in Chicago. I remember the treacherous drive downtown and the difficulty finding a parking spot and the long walk in the snow to the show. I remember the commotion of thousands of metalheads converging in one spot. I remember the sheer number of Motörhead t-shirts being worn. I remember the extreme volume of their set, one of the loudest shows I’d ever been to where I wasn’t within ten feet of the speakers. I remember how their set completely blew away that of Megadeth’s, whose own, admittedly still very good set, followed Motörhead’s. I remember how their set brought in more crowd participation than Megadeth; everyone was simply enjoying themselves and that set. And I will never forget every single human in attendance that night screaming at the top of their lungs: “You know I’m born to lose / but gambling’s for fools / but’s that’s the way I like it, baby / I don’t wanna to live forever!”

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New Year's Eve Guide

Phil Collins - December 21, 2015

The end of the year approaches fast, followed closely by the beginning of 2016. The Chicago area is never short on options for things to do to bring in the new year. Here is a guide to some of the punk shows happening in the area on December 31.

NOBUNNY headlines the Beat Kitchen two nights in a row on December 30 and 31. The man behind the bunny mask delivers consistently entertaining performances featuring solid garage rock jams. The Rubs, who put out a great album this year called The Rubs Are Trash join him on New Year's Eve. Additional locals The Baby Magic play that show as well, along with Minneapolis' COZY. The Lemons and Varsity open the show on the 30th. More information on these shows here. Stream "Bye Bye Roxie" by NOBUNNY below.

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Recap: The Methadones, The Bollweevils, Lipstick Homicide at Cobra Lounge

Phil Collins - December 14, 2015

The Methadones

The Methadones at Cobra Lounge on Sunday

The matinee show carries a different vibe than the average punk show. Daylight is plentiful. You drank coffee not very long ago. A whole night remains ahead after the show concludes. The Methadones, The Bollweevils and Lipstick Homicide played a show starting at High Noon on Sunday at Cobra Lounge. The Methadones and Lipstick Homicide both fit in the Red Scare style pop punk area. The Bollweevils are more of an old school Chicago punk band, closer to bands like 88 Fingers Louie. A good crowd turned out, including some recognizable faces from other classic Chicago punk bands, despite the early start time. The Methadones brought up Joe Principe to play a song on bass (see the above picture). He was the band's orignial bassist and is now the bassist for Rise Against. Also in the crowd were Jeff Pezzati of Naked Raygun and Denis Buckley of 88 Fingers Louie.

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The Best EPs of 2015

Phil Collins - December 8, 2015

Haki's Big New EP

Steve O, Dave and I are getting ready to vote on our bracket of the best albums of the year. Every year we nominate 32 of our favorite albums to compete in a bracket to decide which album is named as Change the Rotation's top album of the year. We limit entries into the bracket to full-length albums, so EPs always get left out. Plenty of great releases are of the short-form variety. The following are my favorite EPs from 2015. Look out for the bracket toward the end of the year.

Haki - Haki's Big New EP

It might be a bummer to give the top slot to a band that does not exist anymore, but this EP is one of my favorite things that came out this year. A lot of Haki's material has an experimental feel to it. The band embraces choppy, halting rhythms while vocalist Kelsey Ashby-Middleton army crawls over them. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Primus are called to mind at times. "Fishtank," the most straightforward punk song on Haki's Big New EP, closes it out on a high. Haki draws you into a trance over the first six songs, then punches you in the face with the shouted count-in and piledriving bass/guitar combo of "Fishtank." I am supremely bummed that this local band broke up before I got a chance to see them live. Stream Haki's Big New EP here.

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All Time Awesome Record: Against Me! - Reinventing Axl Rose

Steve O - December 1, 2015

Show of hands, how many of you have ever read the metal magazine, Decibel? Oh, right, this is the internet. Anyways, they do this great thing called the Hall of Fame, which essentially tells the whole story of a classic metal record, from writing to recording to touring and what-have you. It’s one of my favorite parts of each issue, whether I agree with the record of choice or not. And it’s such an interesting topic to think about too. Is this a classic record, worthy of a Hall of Fame designation, or just pretty damn good?

Since I started contributing to Change the Rotation, I thought it would be fun to try something like Decibel’s Hall of Fame. Obviously, we can’t do the same thing. For one, they talk with everyone who played on the record, and a little blog like this doesn’t have the clout to do something like that. After much pondering the issue, I thought of something we could do: We can talk about some of our favorite records. Not just records one of us likes, or that we think are pretty good, or that we’ve been listening to a lot lately, but records that have stood the test of time and have had a meaningful impact on each of us. An All Time Awesome Record.

All Time Awesome Record

After more deliberation about how to do this and worthy records for induction, I am proud to introduce the new, hopefully somewhat regular, feature to Change the Rotation. A record that is at least five years old and has received unanimous support for induction from all three of us. A record that has had some meaningful, lasting impact on us. A record that is so good we recruited a friend to talk about it with us. A record that is so good it deserves the title: All Time Awesome Record.

Our first test subject, I mean guest, is our good friend Danny Brawlins. He’s the founder of Don’t Panic, It’s A Distro, an organization we work closely with. He’s the one who brings you all sorts of awesome shows and records in a shoebox. He’s also a Cheap Date. As in, a member of the band the Cheap Dates. You can, and should, check them out here: / And if you don’t already, keep up with everything Don’t Panic, It’s A Distro does over here:

Just about a year ago we named Against Me!’s newest record, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, as the best record of 2014. We all loved it, and it defeated some great records in its march to glory. It’s another tally mark on their great career, chock-full of great songs that join a catalog of great songs stretching back 15-plus years. And so with our initial All Time Awesome Record, we take a look at Against Me!’s seminal, 2002, full length debut, Reinventing Axl Rose.

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In Rotation: Leftöver Crack - Constructs of the State

Phil Collins - November 22, 2015

Constructs of the State

Leftöver Crack releases their third full-length album this week. It is worth the wait. The band's last album came out 11 years ago. That was the anarcho crust punk classic Fuck World Trade. Since then, the band has toured sporadically and released the mostly meh Deadline split with Citizen Fish in 2007. News has been scarce for Leftöver Crack fans for years. The band, after all, was formed as a way for frontman Scott "Stza" Sturgeon to get songs out there that were never recorded by his other bands. In 2015 it is again time to Beware The Wrath Of The Victim.

There is a lot to like here for fans of the crack rock steady sound. "¡Poliamor Fiesta Crack!" embraces this style with upstringing, gang vocals and sections that are airy and upbeat mixed with sections that are rough and rigid. "Corrupt Vision" and "System Fucked" are potent ska-core romps, the latter featuring Jesse Michaels of Operation Ivy and Classics of Love. "Slave to the Throne" is a metal-based thrasher. "Archaic Subjugation" takes on the task of replacing the Leftöver Crack theme song at the top of the album. Both of Leftöver Crack's first two full-lengths opened with a song built around the same guitar riff. "Archaic Subjugation" hits the mark with a short, fierce blast to kick things off. "Bedbugs & Beyond" is my favorite song on the album after a few listens. It features Houston folk punkers Days N' Daze. It gets an all out folk punk intro at the end of the previous track and carries on in an electric crusty folk fervor.

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In Rotation: Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre - 'Til Death Do Us Party

Phil Collins - November 17, 2015

'Til Death Do Us Party

Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre plays metal that crosses over into the punk world, territory well-trodden by the likes of Municipal Waste and Iron Reagan. Texas Toast throws as many 90s kid pop culture references into the mix as one can wash down with a can of Surge. The final track on 'Til Death Do Us Party, "Secrets of the Booze" could have wound up as the album's title track. It is a thrasher alluding to better days for Ninja Turtles fans.

"Michael Bay Ruined My Childhood" blasts the producer of the computer animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, who also brought us the metal in a garbarge disposal "Transformers" franchise. X-Men, Alien, Predator and KISS all show up on the album. "Pizza Monsters From the Planet Marz" is a standalone creature feature in itself.

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Liner Notes: Pigs Suck double 7-inch

Phil Collins - November 11, 2015

Pigs Suck

Welcome to the fourth 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.

I spent hours combing through the bins at Jerry's Records in Pittsburgh earlier this year. The majority of the store's collection is old, used vinyl. It is not the place to go for shrinkwrapped records by new bands. If you like sifting through an endless garage of LPs, this is the spot. This place feels like one big garage plus a couple offshoot areas, all filled with genre after genre of music. Classic rock, reggae, jazz, soundtracks.

There was not a section for punk, but I dug this out of one of the 7-inch bins. "Hardcore 2X7" Comp" definitely popped out at me, as well as the title. Two 7-inches, eight bands, 13 songs. I was not familiar with any of the bands beforehand. I wanted to give this one a try since the art definitely indicated the music would be in my wheelhouse. I have discovered many cool bands by picking up a random 7-inch. The back cover has a similarly blurby design, using the bands' logos instead of plain type. There are also blurbs about pig behavior and one blurb about Clean Plate Records and its founders.

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Recap: Cracktoberfest 2015 at Reggies

Phil Collins - November 1, 2015

Leftover Crack

Leftöver Crack at Reggies Rock Club on October 26

Leftöver Crack only come through town once every few years. The last time I saw them was at Riot Fest, when it was still held at the Congress Theater. I first saw them at the Metro a few years before that Congress show. Monday was my third time seeing them in about seven or eight years of listening to the band, and I do not think I have missed any Chicago Leftöver Crack shows in that time. The band seems to favor more one-off shows and short road jaunts. The upcoming release of their third full-length album, Constructs of the State, called for a full-out Cracktoberfest tour. Mid-set, Stza told the crowd that they did not normally play eight shows in a row and it was wearing on his voice, as he turned vocals over to guitarist Brad Logan for "Stop The Insanity," a deep cut from their first album Mediocre Generica.

Leftöver Crack is now comprised of original members Brad Logan, Stza (Scott Sturgeon), and bassist Alec Baillie, as well as newer members on drums and guitar. The New York City crust punk band is known for their commentary on politics, government, police and religion. They carry on the crack rock steady sound started by Choking Victim, a previous band that Stza and Baillie were members of, along with former Leftöver Crack guitarist Ezra Kire. They played a few Choking Victim songs on Monday: "Crack Rock Steady," "Infested" and "500 Channels." They played a few songs from the forthcoming Contstructs of the State, which sounded promising.

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In Rotation: Meat Wave - Delusion Moon

Phil Collins - October 19, 2015

Delusion Moon

On Delusion Moon, Meat Wave's second full-length album and first for SideOneDummy Records, the Chicago band has added depth to their hard party sound. The band glammed it up from the start in years past on songs like "I've Got Ants," "Panopticon" and "Brother." On Delusion Moon they haven't lost the glam, they are just coming in for a different approach. Songs start with a faraway gaze before spinning off into a riptide.

"Witchcraft" is one of the strongest songs in the set. It starts off with drifting guitar licks and a rolling bass line bordering on post-punk. It hinges on the line "I never meant to throw your computer out the window," which first appears about a minute in. Given the tone of the album and the imagery, the words feel more surrealist than literal. When the line is repeated around the 2:30 mark, the subsequent lines lead into a big guitar riff that takes over the remainder of the song. It is a surprising, satisfying turn in the song's arc. This would be a real fun jam to see live.

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In Rotation: Night Birds - Mutiny at Muscle Beach

Phil Collins - September 30, 2015

Mutiny at Muscle Beach

A lot of the song titles on Mutiny at Muscle Beach sound like they could be episodes of a cartoon show. "Son of Dad," "Left in the Middle" and the title track could engender outsized characters getting themselves into some wacky situations. Which makes Night Birds the out-of-frame but in-universe band ripping a diegetic soundtrack to our heroes' antics. Not to mention "King Kong" and "Golden Age of TV," which directly reference the screen.

Mutiny at Muscle Beach is a fast, fun ride through the waves. The band keeps the tone tongue-in-cheek throughout the album. "In the Red / In the Black," the title track and "Miskatonic Stomp" are heaviest on the surf front. The latter is an instrumental surf track, which is good news for fans of their all surf instrumental EP Monster Surf. This is the fourth full-length record from New Jersey's Night Birds and first full album on Fat Wreck Chords.

If you are into high enery music that does not take itself too seriously, this album is for you. Mutiny at Muscle Beach comes out on Friday. Stream the full album over at Impose. Catch Night Birds at Double Door this Friday with Dillinger Four and The Brokedowns. Watch the video for "Mutiny at Muscle Beach" after the jump.

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In Rotation: Still Alive - Choices

Phil Collins - September 25, 2015


Still Alive seamlessly blend ska and hardcore at a breakneck pace. Fans of The Suicide Machines should be all over this. Choices, released last month, leans more heavily toward the hardcore side although there is still time for skanking. This is the Chicago four-piece's second full-length album and first release on Jump Start Records. Still Alive includes members from Waste Basket, Young Til We Die and Trike, so their output has been solid from day one.

Metal guitar licks come through on "The Televangelist," an early ripper on the album. "The Park" also opens with some circular guitar work that calls metal to mind before giving way to a ska section and one of the catchiest choruses on this record. "Along the Way" offers melodic verses over punishing rhythms. "Actors & Puppets" is the most ska'd up song on the album and serves as one of the best examples of the band flipping the switch back and forth between ska and hardcore.

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Recap: Riot Fest in Douglas Park

Phil Collins - September 22, 2015

88 Fingers Louie

88 Fingers Louie at Riot Fest on September 11

Riot Fest threw its annual three day outdoor punk/rock/ska/hip-hop/etc. festival in Douglas Park for the first time earlier this month. Douglas Park is about three to four miles south of Humboldt Park. Douglas Park is the furthest south in a series of three large Chicago neighborhood parks (Humboldt Park and Garfield Park are the other two). The three parks were designed by William Le Baron Jenney in the 1870s and were improved upon by Jens Jensen in the early 1900s. In modern history they have not been places where major festivals have been held until Riot Fest took up residence in Humboldt Park in 2012.

Last year Riot Fest expanded its footprint in Humboldt Park by including the southern half of the park in its layout, significantly increasing the size of the festival. Much has been made of what happened between last year's festival and this year's event and I will not present a blow by blow recap here. What I will do is tell you, as a festival goer who has been to Riot Fest nearly every single day that it has been held outdoors (I couldn't make it Sunday this year, lay off), how the experience this year compared to previous years. The layout in Douglas Park was much closer to the original, smaller size of the festival in Humboldt Park. They still managed to squeeze in seven stages, as they did last year. They fit the stages in a much smaller area this time, which made it a lot easier to get around than it was last year. A quicker walk from stage to stage is a big deal when good bands have overlapping set times. It was easy to get to Douglas Park via the pink line, as the California stop is a short walk from the festival grounds. Getting back on the pink line after the festival let out at the end of the night felt like a bunch of miscreants getting herded back to the neighborhoods or suburbs we belonged in, but it ultimately did not take that long. I stayed at the festival until 10 each night and was on a train by 10:30.

Let's get to the music. 88 Fingers Louie did Chicago proud with one ripper after another. I was definitely late to the game getting into this band but I have seen them a couple times now and they always get the ground rumbling. Whenever their guitarist had a moment to spare, he would fling his instrument around his body and give the crowd a menacing look.

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Random Records with Steve O

Cobra Skulls - American Rubicon

Steve O - September 15, 2015

American Rubicon

So I’ll admit it, I was a little late getting into Cobra Skulls. I remember friends trying to talk me into going to see them, being a little baffled that I didn’t really listen to them. “I’m surprised you don’t like them,” I remember being told. It even took a while after seeing Cobra Skulls live before I got hooked in. And it was largely due to their second record, 2009’s American Rubicon.

After the slow delay of “Time and Pressure,” we come upon a stretch of smart, quick, and catchy songs that highlight the lyrical skills of frontman Devin Peralta. “There’s a Skeleton in my Military Industrial Closet” explores the big business that is the modern military-industrial complex; “Muniphobia” is a minute-long blast about public transportation, done Dead Kennedys style; while “Overpopulated” is a ska-style jam about, obviously, population pressure. In the second half of the record, we get “Bad Apples,” calling out the violent, hardline, straight edge scene, opening with the brilliant, not-so-subtle lines “I don’t think that Ian / Would approve of what I’m seeing / The substance you abuse / I call another human being.” And despite all the serious political messages bandied about, there’s still a sense of humor here. Example A, the title of the instrumental track in the middle of the record: “I Used to Like Them When they put ‘Cobra’ in the Titles,” referencing debut record Sitting Army, in which the word “cobra” is in every song title.

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In Rotation: Butchered - Butchered

Phil Collins - September 9, 2015


The four songs that comprise Butchered's new self-titled EP won't take much of your time to listen to and if you are into punk and ska, this is how you should spend your time. Opening track "Doesn't Matter Anymore" has summer firestarter written all over it. "Cut Me Off" might be the strongest song here. It will get you skanking and it has the pop punk vocal hooks to plant the tune in your head.

These are songs to crank up and enjoy, but perhaps more than that these are songs to catch live. Butchered, from Chicago, puts on the energetic performance that ska/pop punk songs like this need. If you have not seen them yet, you can get a taste of it by listening to the set of live songs they released a few months ago on their bandcamp page. Those recordings come from their session on the Friskie Morris & Friends podcast.

By the time Butchered wraps up, I'm left wanting more, which has led me to several repeat listens. Vocalist Nick Cvijovic says "I'm the Chicago Cubs of doing well" on "Cut Me Off," but hey, those Cubs just might make the playoffs this year. Stream Butchered here or head to their bandcamp page for a pay-what-you-want download.

In Rotation: The Grow Ops - The Grow Ops

Phil Collins - August 31, 2015

The Grow Ops

Imagine turning a corner onto a block party where the 90's never died. The Grow Ops' eponymous album, released at the beginning of August, sounds like it was recently discovered in a time capsule. Buried for 20 years and unearthed and guess what? Nineties pop punk can still be the life of the party. Crank this up and let the nostalgia flow as you listen to new music that sounds very familiar.

When a band induces a strong wave of recognition like this, they clearly know what they are going for and they are hitting that note with precision. The 12 songs that comprise The Grow Ops were recorded over the last five years. The band had help on the technical end from people who have been around the block before. Mass Giorgini, who worked with Screeching Weasel, The Queers, Smoking Popes, Groovie Ghoulies, The Lillingtons and many more during the 90s, mastered The Grow Ops. The Screeching Weasel comparisons abound here (even the logo on The Grow Ops' bandcamp page resembles the Screeching Weasel logo).

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Random Records with Steve O

Cattle Decapitation - The Anthropocene Extinction

Steve O - August 23, 2015

The Anthropocene Extinction

The Anthropocene. As a geological epoch, I’m rather hesitant and skeptical. As a method to explain the damage humans are doing to the environment on such an extreme and planetary scale, I think it’s a useful tool. Anthropocene Extinction sounds much more menacing than the Holocene Extinction (many will recognize the prefix anthro-, few can tell you what holo- means) and the Sixth Extinction doesn’t have the same vibe because, well, five other ones came first. And if you know one, it’s the K-T (or K-PG), the one that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs. (Side note, that one was nothing compared to the Permian Extinction, the one which led the way to the dinosaurs, and proceeded to wipe out over 90% of the species on the planet in the process).

The Anthropocene Extinction, the newest record by death metal/grindcore, pro-animal rights band Cattle Decapitation is the very menacing soundtrack to the dire situation with the planetary ecosystem. Opening track “Manufactured Extinct” spends about a minute building up, like the slow process of Homo sapiens diverging from their chimp-like ancestors. When Travis Ryan’s vocals kick in, it’s at a steady death metal pace, perhaps comparable to the slow but steady expansion of Homo erectus like peoples across the Old World, their technology moving at the slow rate of taking a million years to strike both sides of a stone to create a sharpened edge. When Ryan grunts out “Technology defines the ages,” we’ve reached the emergence of our own species. (Phil, can I have a column about paleontology/geology/evolutionary biology?) The lull after that is Homo sapiens going through a bottleneck, the one that reduced our genetic diversity and nearly led to our extinction. Then the blast of an exceedingly fast shift, from agriculture, to the Industrial Revolution, to today; the merest of fractions of a second in the grand sense of geologic time.

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Recap: Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room, Jeff Rosenstock

Phil Collins - August 7, 2015

Jeff Rosenstock

Jeff Rosenstock at Double Door on Tuesday

The tour Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room and Jeff Rosenstock are on right now is a culmination of the recording of the former's new album. Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room just released Party Adjacent, the second album from the Alkaline Trio bassist/vocalist's side project. The album was produced by Jeff Rosenstock and some of the band that backs Rosenstock played on Andriano's album as well. This made for an incredibly tight knit evening of music as Rosenstock and his band stayed on stage after concluding their set to back Andriano for his set. The crowd was rowdier for Rosenstock's set, which was full of more mosh-able music. His second solo album, We Cool?, came out earlier in 2015. "You, In Weird Cities," "Hey Allison," and "Nausea" were the biggest crowd-stirrers. "Beers Again Alone" is a cool slow jam to see them play as Rosenstock pulls out the harmonica. They also played "Get Old Forever" and "Darkness Records" off We Cool? and went back to the first solo album for "Snow Charges."

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Recap: Mischief Brew at Fizz Bar

Phil Collins - July 29, 2015

Mischief Brew

Mischief Brew at Fizz Bar on Sunday

Philadelphia folk punk stalwarts Mischief Brew stopped by Fizz Bar on Sunday night. They are on tour supporting their new album This Is Not For Children, released last month on Alternative Tentacles. The album continues down the path the band set out on with The Stone Operation four years ago, favoring full-band electric rompers over stripped-down acoustic sing-a-longs. This Is Not For Children ranks among my favorite albums of the year so far. True to form, Mischief Brew played just two songs off the new album, spreading their setlist across their career.

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Change the Rotation chats with Fed Up Fest

Phil Collins - July 21, 2015

I had the chance to chat with Fed Up Fest tonight on Twitter. This is Fed Up Fest's second year featuring queer and transgender talent through music and workshops. The fest will be held in Bridgeport at the Co-Prosperity Sphere on Friday and Saturday, and at Benton House on Sunday. Check out the full line-up on their Facebook event page. Read the full chat for more information about the festival and what it stands for in the punk scene.

In Rotation: The Cheap Dates - Piss Away Another God Damn Year

Phil Collins - July 20, 2015

Piss Away Another God Damn Year

Driving really is the scourge of the punk community. It's bad for the environment, it forces the driver to regularly support big ugly corporations and those are not even the worst parts. There sure are a lot of stupid people on the road. Driving other cars, looking at their phones, walking right out in the middle of the road like they own the place. The Offspring told us about this in 1994 on "Bad Habit." Chicago's The Cheap Dates open their debut EP by siding with Dexter in a much less cutesy way on "Daily Commute." The refrain "daily commute killing spree" is a 9-to-5-core anthem (ahem).

The Cheap Dates started up last year, bringing together three members of The Stockyards and one member of Firing Squad. Full disclosure for any readers who are unaware, my brother is in this band so there is a forecast of moderate to severe bias in this review. The band released a set of demos last year, which included two of the songs that appear on Piss Away Another God Damn Year. Those songs - "I'm Staying Here" and "She's In Love With A Rock N Roll Girl" - benefit from the re-recording. This release is much more polished in its recording quality. It is also getting a physical release in the form of 100 piss yellow cassettes.

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Recap: Shitty Weekend, Magnus Honey at the 2040

Phil Collins - July 9, 2015

Magnus Honey

Magnus Honey at the 2040 on June 24. Photo by D. Brawlins.

Portland goofpunx Shitty Weekend came out to the 2040 on Chicago's south side at the end of June for a rollicking DIY show. Including members of the Taxpayers and Transient, Shitty Weekend combine bouncy goofpunx horn lines with hardcore sensibility. Their debut album, Shit Week, made the Sweet 16 of Change the Rotation's best albums of 2014 bracket. The album struts confidently between horn-driven songs and straight-up hardcore songs. Their live set leaned decisively in the hardcore direction. "Employee of the Month," which opens Shit Week, was the highlight of the night for me. It's 56 seconds of exploded pent-up energy on the album and that is exactly how it came off in a basement full of people. The band's sense of humor was apparent in their banter between songs and in their cheeky determination to finish a cover of "Crazy Train" after the sound on the lead guitar went out mid-shred. The crowd was quick to egg them on into starting the song over from the beginning, which they did with amusing results. If you haven't heard Shit Week yet, stream it after the jump.

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Recap: Bad Religion at the Metro

Phil Collins - June 29, 2015

Bad Religion

Bad Religion at the Metro on June 22

It has become so commonplace for a band to play one of their albums in full at a live show that the whole idea has lost the element of surprise. I still like when bands do it. It gives fans a chance to see some deep cuts off a classic album that might otherwise never be included in a setlist. Sometimes bands play the album from the first track to the last, exactly as it appears on the album while others approximate the effect of throwing a disc in the CD player and hitting the shuffle button. Bad Religion took a different approach to reminisce on their formidable career at the Metro last week. They played the venue (Bad Religion started about two years before the Metro opened) on two consecutive nights. The first show featured songs released in the 20th century and on the second night they played songs from their 21st century releases.

In the photo above, look just to the right of the drummer to glimpse the unfurled scroll of a setlist, which hung lower than is visible in this shot. Bad Religion played more than 30 songs each night. The conceit of the engagement dictated that not a single song be repeated between the two evenings. Lead singer Greg Graffin told the crowd the band only attempted this feat in about eight cities around the world and would not be attempting it again, in part because he did not think he could remember 60-plus songs without the use of a teleprompter.

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In Rotation: Bombflower - Organic Mood Elevators

Phil Collins - June 17, 2015

Organic Mood Elevators

Oftentimes after listening to Organic Mood Elevators, the debut full-length from Waukegan's Bombflower, I get Sublime's guitar riffs woven into the Bombflower shrapnel popping into my head. They both inhabit a hazy stoner ska range. Although only one of Organic Mood Elevators' songs is lyrically about smoking, the sentiment pervades the album. Bombflower is at their strongest in the deliberate mid-tempo jams like "Your Death." The song leans heavily on melody and the intertwining vocals of Tic James and Liza Lionheart. "Die In Your Sleep" is another melodic, mid-tempo highlight.

The band does kick it into a quicker gear on album opener "Bloodsuck" and "Structure On Fire." Those songs explore the punk end of the spectrum with driving guitar and shouted vocals. All in all, album closer "Jihad Broadcast" might be the first song to really get stuck in your head. Bombflower released this first album and started playing their first shows in June, but you may recognize guitarist and vocalist Tic James from The Atrocities, who have been on the scene since 2005.

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Random Records with Steve O

Black Tower - The Secret Fire

Steve O - June 5, 2015

The Secret Tower

So you’re all familiar with the band Crusades, right? Their last record, Perhaps You Deliver this Judgement with Greater Fear than I Receive It, earned a place on our initial Best of the Year Bracket. Brilliant atheistic tomes, repeated enough that it was impossible they would not be stuck in your head, with some of the most recognizable vocals in punk. It should come as no surprise then, that some of the same individuals responsible for those vocals showed up again the following year, placing the Creeps record, Eulogies, into our Bracket. So, that brings us to this year. Let’s make it a hat trick for these Ottawa natives.

Skottie Lobotomy, present on both Crusades and the Creeps, brings fellow Crusades member Dave Williams into this year’s entry, Black Tower and their debut record The Secret Fire. Joining them is the forceful and dominant voice of Erin Ewing, who also played with Lobotomy in the Visitors. Her voice carries the lead here; with her melodic tones meshing well with Lobotomy’s distinctive timbre. But her varied vocal cords command this record in its darker, heavier, and more evil sounding moments as well. She veers into black metal-esque shrieks masterfully, demanding your undivided attention, to hear of the horrors she has to tell us. “Unquiet souls trapped in the black / A call from the dark; they’ve broken the pact.” Dark stuff indeed.

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Local ska showcase at the Burlington Bar on Friday

Phil Collins - May 28, 2015


Ultrahazard at Bric-a-Brac Records on Record Store Day

Get ready to skank to some of Chicago's best local ska bands at the Burlington Bar in Logan Square on Friday. This is the official release show for the debut Beat the Smart Kids EP, Call In Sick. Featuring members of Still Alive, Waste Basket and The Damn Tracks, these aren't exactly newbies to the scene. More on Call In Sick here. On Your Marx released their second full-length album, Shock Up the System, earlier this year. More on that album here. Run and Punch headline the show and Ultrahazard open. This is your chance to catch four fun local ska bands in one night. The show starts at 9 p.m., $8 at the door, 21+.


In Rotation: Bottle Kids - Be Cool

Phil Collins - May 18, 2015

Bottle Kids

The last song on the new Bottle Kids EP, "Worst Case Ontario," seems destined to be one of my songs of the summer. That catchy pop punk bass riff is sticking in my head after just a couple listens. As the cover of Be Cool implies, this is not epic music. This is chill-in-your-backyard-drinking-beers-with-your-friends music. That is a universal summertime sentiment. There must in turn be something universal about the name Bottle Kids. There are at least five bands sharing that name. One from Montreal, one from Cleveland, one from upstate New York, one from Atlanta and our good ol boys from Chicago.

Be Cool squeezes a few pop culture references into its four songs. "Worst Case Ontario" is a reference to Trailer Park Boys. The opening track, "Serenity Now," is a reference to the great Seinfeld. Most fun of all is a lengthy, instantly recognizable soundclip from Billy Madison.

Bottle Kids play at Liar's Club on Tuesday night with Butchered, Crab Legs and Welfare Beer League. Stream Be Cool after the jump or head to their bandcamp page for more.

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Road Report: Mikey Erg at The Dougout in Washington, D.C.

Phil Collins - May 5, 2015

When I unloaded my bag after returning from a week in Washington, D.C. I immediately noticed an unfamiliar slip of paper on top of everything. It was a notice from the TSA, informing me that my bag had been randomly searched. Locks would be broken if necessary. National security. The TSA would not be liable for any broken locks. Children. The TSA would not be liable for any damaged items. Hot dogs. America. Et cetera. They may not have had to break any locks and they may not have damaged anything, but it gave me no small amount of pleasure to know that the first thing the TSA would have seen upon opening my bag was this fine piece of merchandise from American Television.

American Television middle finger merch

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Recap: The Suicide Machines family at Reggies

Phil Collins - April 21, 2015

Break Anchor at Reggies Rock Club on Friday

The Suicide Machines came through Chicago on Friday night to play their classic album, Destruction By Definition, in full and they brought their whole family of bands with them. Derek Grant, who was The Suicide Machines drummer during the Destruction By Definition era, sat in on drums with the band during this tour as their current drummer could not make it. Derek Grant, of course, now drums with Alkaline Trio. In addition to his duties with The Suicide Machines, Grant played a solo acoustic set. He released his debut solo album, Breakdown, in January.

Break Anchor, a pop punk band featuring The Suicide Machines' lead singer Jay Navarro, also opened. This show was full of Detroit love. Bastardous, featuring The Suicide Machines' bassist Rich Tschirhart, played third on Friday night. This is the newest band of the bunch, having formed in 2013. They have a couple songs up on bandcamp.

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In Rotation: Seasonal Men's Wear - 9xTOx5xCORE

Phil Collins - April 12, 2015

9 to 5 Core

Sometimes, more and more often in fact as the years go on, I'm heading out to shows directly from work. I'll send e-mails, search records, download documents, answer the phone, update web pages, eat a sandwich, print out forms, smile politely, set up displays, evangelize the F5 key, send more e-mails and get in the car. I then shoot down the road to a bar, a basement, a garage or a park to hear the band of the moment. It gives me some satisfaction to sweat through the same clothes I just did research in mere hours beforehand.

I think this qualifies as 9xTOx5xCORE.

Seasonal Men's Wear had a self-titled EP out last year, but 9xTOx5xCORE is like a self-titled release in spirit. If you can imagine, the band's spirit animal would surely be Sasquatch wearing a striped tie and glasses. That makes 9xTOx5xCORE a spirit-titled EP. "Higher Learning, Stomach Churning" chronicles the innate fear of hard work being rendered pointless. "Conversations in The Kitchen" opens the EP with a quintessential Seasonal Men's Wear guitar lead. The EP closes with a re-recording of the long-running SMW theme song, "Theme Song For a Quarter-Life Crisis." The song, lyrically, is a natural fit for this release. It also benefits from the re-recording as the sound quality on this EP is the sharpest in the band's catalog to date.

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In Rotation: Crystal Gravy - Night Dinner E.P.

Phil Collins - April 6, 2015

Night Dinner

The four songs on Crystal Gravy's debut EP, Night Dinner, above anything else display the band's ability to conjure a moment. The lyrics and vocal harmonies between Dave Green and Nikki Rice are often visually evocative of a particular scene. When they belt out the line "Barrelin' down the highway" on "License to Drive Me Crazy," I can feel the wind blowing through the open windows and I can see the sun setting ahead on a desert road. That is "anthemic duetism" at its finest (the band's facebook page lists anthemic duetism as its genre.)

Opener "One Round" slides down like a whiskey on the rocks after a long day. If you didn't catch this from the name, Crystal Gravy has a sense of humor, too. This is most evident on "Bang It Out," which is literally about banging out the details of a relationship.

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Recap: Andrew Jackson Jihad, Jeff Rosenstock at the Metro

Phil Collins - March 31, 2015

Andrew Jackson Jihad

Andrew Jackson Jihad at the Metro on Friday

Midway through Andrew Jackson Jihad's set at the Metro on Friday night, the three members of the band added in recent years stepped off the stage, leaving original members Sean Bonnette and Ben Gallaty by themselves. Their performance of "Sense and Sensibility" was a reminder of the Andrew Jackson Jihad shows of years ago. Sean on acoustic guitar, Ben on stand-up bass. Upbeat rhythms behind scathing lyrics. The sound of fans screaming out the lyrics carrying as loud as the music itself in those small spaces. The fanbase grew steadily, the band has grown with new members and an evolving sound and the stage has grown to accomodate it all.

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Recap: Off With Their Heads and PEARS at Brauerhouse

Phil Collins - March 24, 2015


PEARS at Brauerhouse on Saturday

Off With Their Heads and PEARS stopped by Brauerhouse in Lombard on Saturday as part of a week and a half long tour of the Midwest. PEARS is one of the best new bands around, so if you have not gotten around to listening to their debut album Go To Prison, drop everything and listen to it right now. It placed second in Change the Rotation's best albums of 2014 bracket, only finishing behind Against Me!'s Transgender Dysphoria Blues.

PEARS' live performance on Saturday was phenomenal. They have been touring relentlessly in support of Go To Prison, so naturally they are super tight right now. During set-closer "Grimespree," lead singer Zach Quinn dropped to the ground during the song's quiet, foreboding interlude. He pitched and dipped and writhed up and down like a serpent as the music gradually picked up in inensity. It is telling that a band that specializes in fast hardcore songs can make a slower jam one of the top highlights of their performance.

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In Rotation: On Your Marx - Shock Up the System

Phil Collins - March 16, 2015

Shock Up the System

Chicago's On Your Marx release their second full-length album of ska/reggae jams this week. Shock Up the System embraces the reggae side of the genre, veering closer to first wave ska than third. The band's lineup features a full horn section (two saxophones, trombone and trumpet) and keyboard - a setup poised for the old school sunny island vibe.

Opening track "Snapshot," "Bus Stop Bandits" and "Know Better" stand out as prime examples of the band's tight grasp on smooth reggae. There are plenty of chances for upbeat skanking as well, especially on "Lightning" and the mostly instrumental "Stop That Wookie." Vocals from lead singer Lailah Reich and Kathleen Irion shine through on "Voila" and the aforementioned "Bus Stop Bandits," which may be my favorite track on the album.

This is the first release from On Your Marx in nearly five years - their debut album Resound came out in late 2010. My first exposure to this band came when someone gave me a hand-spraypainted demo after a show, which must have been longer than five years ago now. I still think they have one of the best band names out there. Stream Shock Up the System after the jump, or pick up a copy at their record release show with The Slackers and LVDP Soundsytem at Reggies Rock Club this Saturday.

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In Rotation: Beat The Smart Kids - Call In Sick

Phil Collins - March 11, 2015

Call In Sick

The debut EP from locals Beat The Smart Kids nicely soundtracks the warmer weather finally rolling into the area. Call in Sick was released right at the end of February, just as Chicago began kicking winter's ass out the door. Ska is happy, summer music and this is straight-ahead bouncy sunny day ska. The band is made up of members of Waste Basket, Still Alive, The Damn Tracks and Indecisives, so they know the genre.

The songs on Call In Sick share a lyrical thematic thread: not knowing something. The first person narrator in the first and third songs lacks certainty. In "Off The Grid," he does not understand why people stay constantly connected to their devices, writing status updates and sending friend requests to strangers. In "Me Vs. Uncertainty," the narrator repeatedly declares "I Don't Know!" For the second song, "Rudie," the lyrics flip to second person and the narrator is very sure that not everyone dressing up as rude boys are actually rude boys and thus they do not know themselves.

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Random Records with Steve O

Casey Jones - The Few, The Proud, The Crucial

Steve O - March 8, 2015

The Few, The Proud, The Crucial

If I was born about 20 years earlier, and in D.C., I would’ve been one of those kids X’ing up and going to every Minor Threat show. As it happens, I discovered Minor Threat around the time their Discography was re-released, in 2003. But as profound of an impact as Minor Threat had on me, and let’s not mince words, there are very, very few bands that can be spoken in the same breath as them in terms of influencing my life, they were old. And a SteveO starting high school wanted something current. Yeah, you had the straight edge back in ’81, I’ve got it now, but does anyone else? Or I am just wanting to live in the past, identifying with something that doesn’t really exist anymore?

But then, lo and behold, I discovered, around that same time, Casey Jones. Blatant and unapologetically straight edge. Their debut, The Few, The Proud, The Crucial, was released back in 2003, and probably showed up on my radar because it featured members of Evergreen Terrace, chief amongst them Josh James (currently plying his trade in Stick To Your Guns,) who traded in his guitar for the microphone. Featuring short songs that barely push two minutes, with plenty of gang vocals and sound clips (the Family Guy ones date the record today) interspersed among songs like “Know This X” and “If You’re Smoking In Here You Better Be On Fire,” Casey Jones were the modern Minor Threat I was looking for. Every one of their three records features some variation of the “I am proud to be drug free” line. Mixed with a slight sense of humor amongst the seriousness, (you know what you’re getting into with a song called “Dead Kid? Try A Nice Memorial Tattoo,”) Casey Jones were the Minor Threat for me to grow up with, along with the likes of Bane and Champion.

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Recap: Swimsuit Addition vinyl release; Oh My Snare! stop by on tour

Phil Collins - March 2, 2015

Swimsuit Addition

Swimsuit Addition at The Hideout on Saturday

This weekend featured an abundant choice of shows in and around Chicago. Swimsuit Addition played a vinyl release show for their 2014 album Wretched Pinups at The Hideout. That album made it onto Change the Rotation's best albums of 2014 bracket. Wretched Pinups was released on cassette and digitally last June. Saturday's show at The Hideout was the party for the vinyl release of the album on Berserk Records. The house was packed to see the locals play their last in-town show for a little while (they have some road shows coming up and are recording their next album.) Swimsuit Addition played Wretched Pinups in its entirety Saturday night, bookended by a few new songs at the beginning of the set and a handful of older tunes at the end.

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In Rotation: The Kreutzer Sonata - Austere

Phil Collins - February 24, 2015


I consider myself a proponent of the album. The album both as a tangible, physical package and as a cohesive piece of music. The larger cultural shift toward buying songs individually makes me uncomfortable. The listener is missing something if he is only ingesting one or two songs that are part of a whole. They don't say it explicitly but I think there is enough in The Kreutzer Sonata's new album, Austere, to suggest that the band feels the same way.

The album, the first full-length from the Chicago hardcore trio The Kreutzer Sonata, demands to be listened to from front to back. Songs roll right into each other at a breakneck pace. The tracks on Austere flow like movements of one work. On the album's penultimate song, "Cringeworthy," the line "I hate my fucking generation" comes up again and again, repeated with force. I think this discussion of the proper way to listen to music falls into the realm of what the band is getting at with the line "So take your fist off your phone and raise it for a fight on society."

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Frontwoman Fest releases mixtape ahead of show Saturday

Plus new music from The RPMs, After the Fall, My Pizza My World

Phil Collins - February 19, 2015

Frontwoman Fest Mixtape

Frontwoman Fest brings 12 bands to Chicago's Burlington Bar this Saturday. The all-day event features, as its name suggests, a lineup of bands with female lead singers. Haki, Bleach Party, Soddy Daisy, Strawberry Jacuzzi, The Baby Magic and more play the fest, starting at 2 p.m. If you are not familiar with all the bands, or if you just want to get pumped up for an awesome show, Impossible Colors has released a mixtape featuring songs from the full lineup.

Impossible Colors is doing a limited physical release of the mixtape on cassette. Stream the mixtape after the jump. Buy the cassette or a download at the Impossible Colors bandcamp page. Proceeds from the cassette and the show on Saturday go toward Girls Rock! Chicago, a non-profit organization providing music education for girls. The mixtape has a healthy variety of musical styles. I already knew how fun Haki, Bleach Party and Soddy Daisy are and this is the kind of release that is sure to turn me on to new bands as well. The Baby Magic and Strawberry Jacuzzi immediately caught my ear. Check it out for yourself after the jump:

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Stream new music from Dead Drugs, Melomaniac, Evil Empire, more

Phil Collins - February 9, 2015


A handful of fresh soundwaves lit up the radar recently, so it's time for a roundup of new songs to stream. Fire up your modems! Leading things off we have the first tracks from Melomaniac. This may be a brand new band but you may recognize two thirds of its members from local crust group Ultrahazard. Violet Staley handles drums and vocals for Melomaniac and Saffron Panda does bass. They are joined by Jessica Ruiz on guitar. They released two songs last week: "Think Before You Say" and "Withered, Tempting." Ultrahazard fans will find plenty to like here although the band carves out a distinct sound. Horror punk leanings feature prominently on "Withered, Tempting." Stream that track below.

Dead Drugs released the first song off their upcoming 7" due out on Manglor Records this spring. "Pillow Talk" is a gravelly blast of garage rock. Dead Drugs can kick up an impressive noise smog, especially considering it's one guy on guitar, vocals and percussion. Dead Drugs, of Lake in the Hills, fit in with Manglor's releases so far. Look for the band at the 7th Street Space in DeKalb on March 11 with Brain Tumors and Minimum Wage Assassins. Stream "Pillow Talk" after the jump.

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Seasonal Men's Wear/Davey Dynamite mini-tour

Dave Anians - February 3, 2015

Me and Seasonal Men’s Wear just got finished with a three show trip around Illinois for the weekend. Sadly, our fourth show got canceled due to snow, but we’ll reschedule that for sometime soon hopefully!

Here are the cool acts we played with!

Chicago at Quenchers Saloon

Richardson Richardson

"Richardson" Richardson

RR are our (heh heh) good buddies from the West Suburbs and DeKalb area. Their setup is two loud distorted heavy bass guitars and a drum machine and their mix of punk/metal/hardcore is badass. Short blasts of songs and an excellent sense of humor in between face-meltings.

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Recap: Evil Empire, Beat the Smart Kids at Quenchers Saloon

Phil Collins - February 2, 2015

Evil Empire

Evil Empire at Quenchers Saloon on January 30

Evil Empire headlined an all-ska lineup at Quenchers Saloon on Friday night. The local ska-core band has been playing shows again on a sporadic basis for the last couple years. It sounds like this lineup is getting tighter as they play more shows together. Evil Empire released the excellent album Does This Genocide Make Me Look Sexy? in 2006. Their lead singer moved out of state a little later but the band continued playing shows with the lead singer from Agents of Change for a time. They are now playing shows with a new singer, who brings an active presence and some Spanish lyrics to the stage.

The band recorded a few songs with the current lineup, which you can stream after the jump or download from their bandcamp page. They played these new songs on Friday, as well as old classics "Scam," "Kill Me Please," "Turn the Gun," "Cult of Domesticity," "Cross This Line" and "Support Your Local Police State." I've seen Evil Empire twice now with their current lineup. The crowd at both shows seemed to be a mix of people who remember the songs from the old days and people who are more familiar with the new material. More importantly, the crowd has been into it both times: skanking, moshing and singing along. I'm just happy Evil Empire is playing shows again.

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In Rotation: 30 Second Theater - Horrible Things

Phil Collins - January 26, 2015

Horrible Things

Suburban Chicago family band 30 Second Theater releases their debut full-length album, Horrible Things, on January 28. The pop-punk four-piece most frequently calls to mind bands like The Offspring, with driving guitar riffs and melodic choruses. After a handfull of listens, I am having the most fun imagining Glenn Danzig singing "Graveyards." That's not to say that vocalist and guitarist Robert Rzepka is affecting a Danzig-ian timbre on the track. It is simply a horror punk song that is closer to The Misfits than anything else on this album and I can easily imagine the lyrics rolling out of the throat of the dark one himself.

Robert Rzepka is joined in the band by his brothers Peter and Mark Rzepka and their cousin Daniel Budzioch. Together, they have released two demo EPs and a single. Now they have a full album on the board. Highlights include "Distiller," which is strongest in its full-throttle final 90 seconds or so; "Angels," which joins "Graveyards" as a thematic and sonic departure from the rest of the album; and "What You Do," which you can listen to after the jump.

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In Rotation: Meat Wave - Brother

Phil Collins - January 25, 2015


Chicago's resident arbiters of gleeful power-punk slid us another slab of the good stuff with last week's release of Brother. Meat Wave are at their best when fully slathered in glam. "Sham King" and EP closer "I've Got Ants" sparkle prominently on the seven song release. The band has been around for a few years. They are continuing to pick up steam as they play a lot of shows around town. Meat Wave is now on a string of not-so-local shows across the pond in the United Kingdom.

Brother is getting a limited physical release on red 12-inch vinyl. Meat Wave has the digital release up for purchase on their bandcamp. Stream the full EP after the jump. Meat Wave is part of a couple stacked local lineups coming up soon. They play the Empty Bottle on February 18 with Mr. Ma'am and Nervous Passenger. They open for The Brokedowns, who also put out new music recently, on March 1 at Beat Kitchen. Canadian Rifle and Foul Tip also play that show.

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In Rotation: Haki's Big New EP

Phil Collins - January 20, 2015

Haki's Big New EP

Listening to Haki's music, all released during the last couple years, feels like a trip down the rabbit hole. Experimental musings pervade the terrain. I'm not always sure where Haki is headed next, but I'm strapped in for the ride. On Haki's Big New EP, released earlier this month, the ride detours through a few punk subgenres. "Shoot," the EP's first song following the intro, starts things off firmly in post-punk territory. By the time the raucous closer "Fishtank" rolls around, we are in no-frills hardcore land. In the interim falls the goofball jam "Spliff." No two songs sound the same. Haki's Big New EP reads more as a short story anthology than a traditional tome.

Haki, a Chicago four-piece, released their first full-length album last April. They had two EPs out in 2013. For the (big) new EP, the band recorded with Nate Amos of the local DIY venue Grandpa Bay. This band is coming up in the local scene and is likely to continue to attract a growing following. Their next show is January 31 at the Fulton Street Collective. In addition to music, there will be an interactive multimedia showcase. OBY, The Malskys, Crude Humor and Zoe Wilkerson also perform. Stream Haki's Big New EP after the jump or visit them on bandcamp for a pay-what-you-want download.

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Liner Notes: Fugazi and Bikini Kill's first demos

Phil Collins - January 19, 2015

Fugazi's first demos

Welcome to the third 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.

This installment of Liner Notes focuses on a pair of records recorded at Inner Ear Studios near Washington, D.C. This is the studio in which most of Dischord Records' releases were recorded. One of these records is a Dischord release: Fugazi's First Demo, recorded in 1988 and just released in November. Fugazi is of course the seminal post punk band fronted by Ian MacKaye, who is also the founder of Dischord Records. The second record in the pair is not a Dischord release but was recorded by MacKaye: Bikini Kill's eponymous EP of early demos.

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Albums to look forward to in 2015

Phil Collins - January 11, 2015

We Cool

It seems we just finished voting on the best albums of 2014 only moments ago, but it is never too early in the year to look ahead to the exciting releases ahead. Jeff Rosenstock recently announced the details of his second solo album. We Cool? is out on SideOneDummy Records on March 3. Best known for his work in Bomb the Music Industry!, Rosenstock has put out just as high quality material since that band dissolved. His new band with Chris Farren, Antarctigo Vespucci, released two EPs in 2014. He was also heavily involved with the 2014 incarnation of The Bruce Lee Band, which put out some of my favorite music of the year.

We Cool? features John DeDomenici of Bomb the Music Industry!, Kevin Higuchi of The Bruce Lee Band and Mike Huguenor of Hard Girls. This is the first album Rosenstock recorded outside of his apartment since the last BTMI! record, Vacation. The album's first single, "Hey Allison!" is already stuck in my head and is likely the first thing I will say to any Allisons I meet in the foreseeable future. An acoustic demo of "Naseua" appeared on the 2013 release Summer +. Listen to "Hey Allison!" after the jump. Jeff Rosenstock heads out on tour with labelmates Andrew Jackson Jihad and The Smith Street Band. They stop at the Metro on March 27.

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Change the Rotation's best albums of 2014 bracket

Phil Collins - January 4, 2015

Another year has come to a close and it has been another great year for music. Change the Rotation's three writers (Dave Anians, Steve O and myself) spent the month of December narrowing our favorite albums of the year down to the 32 that competed in this bracket. Those 32 choices were drawn randomly into the bracket. We then spent the better part of four hours hashing out our emotions about each record. Some of these matchups were a 3-0 sweep, while others were grueling 2-1 ordeals. Ultimately I think the right album prevailed, although that final vote was not unanimous. One note: nominations for the bracket were restricted to full-length albums. Check here for some other releases Dave found worthy of checking out this year, here for Steve O's championing of Wasted Potetial's EP as one of his favorite releases of the year and here for some of my top EPs and 7-inches of 2014. Without further delay, Change the Rotation's selections for the best albums of 2014:

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Some Stuff Worthy of Checking Out From 2014 (SSWoCOF, 2014 edition)

Dave Anians - December 31, 2014

Well, everyone’s making lists and Phil, and Steveo, and I are doing our year-end bracket extravaganza soon, and I’m learning how to have fun with this stuff instead of being all serious and artsy fartsy about it. So, to continue the fun, here’s some stuff you may have missed this year that you should check out! I’m definitely missing things, so just go ahead and read this and then listen to everything created this year and you’ll catch whatever it is this list is leaving out.

Ryan Adams- 1984 EP (80s alternative/college/punk rock)

Alongside a really really well done album put out a few months ago, Ryan Adams released this 15 minute gem. For fans of bands like The Replacements or Hüsker Dü, 1984 doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a complete homage to such an inspiring era. The energy is high, the songs are short as hell (there’s 11!), and this is hands down one of my favorite releases of the year. Best listened to as loud as possible.

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Random Records with Steve O

Wasted Potential - Wasted Potential

Steve O - December 29, 2014

Wasted Potential

So when Phil said that it was time to start compiling our lists for the Best of the Year Bracket he laid down one ground rule: no EPs. Seems like a good call; after all, how can you compare a short 7 inch to one of those packed longer players? Well, I have to take issue with it this time. It has cost one of my favorite pieces of recorded music from this year its place on the bracket: the debut, self-titled 7 inch from London, Ontario’s Wasted Potential.

With 8 songs in 12 minutes, it doesn’t take long to give this record a spin (and the vinyl edition omits the last two tracks). And many a spin I have given it. In addition to being one of my favorite records this year, it is easily one of the most listened to records of the year as well. Legitimate competition with Against Me! and the Lawrence Arms. And in those 12 minutes, there is no let up, at all. All go, no slow. Fast paced, not powerviolence fast, but old school hardcore punk fast. Their Facebook lists the band members as “dudes,” and two of those dudes sure can fucking shred. In addition to being super-fast, the songs are laced with some fantastic guitar leads, weaving in and out of the main riffs. And from the opening scream on “Two Pumps and a Quiver,” you’re going to want to sing along too. There’s even the classic “woahs” for when you realize the vocals go by too quickly to catch all the words. On the whole, Wasted Potential is fast and catchy, a perfect combination.

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Top EPs and 7-inches of 2014

Phil Collins - December 22, 2014

Plain Words

The last days of 2014 are quickly dissolving, so it is time again to look back on the year in music. What we have here is a collection of some of my favorite EPs and 7-inches from 2014. I am not going to attempt to rank these or to hit any magic number. By the way, we have our 32 choices set for the best albums of the year bracket. The matchups will play out in a few days and you will see the outcome sometime in the next couple weeks. Keep your eyes open for that one.

Dead Work - Plain Words

First up is Plain Words, the second EP from Boulder, Colorado's Dead Work. This release builds on the band's earlier work. The band's sound fits into the folk punk genre with ska influences occassionally bubbling to the surface. Plain Words shares some elements in common with its predecessors. "Eternal Oblivion" and "Thrall" were previously released songs for one. Here they were re-recorded with a full band. Dead Work was mostly a one-man operation before this release. The EP's screen printed, spray painted packaging carries on the attention to physical detail that was so evident with the release of Scabs. In an era of streaming music, these are releases you want to hold in your hands. That being said, you can stream the new songs, the old songs and a welcome Bomb the Music Industry! cover at Dead Work's bandcamp.

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Side One Dummy tour showcases a wave of smart signings

Phil Collins - December 8, 2014

Hey Allison!

Today's announcement that Andrew Jackson Jihad, The Smith Street Band and Jeff Rosenstock will tour together in the spring indicates that Side One Dummy Records knows it has made some smart signings lately and wants to showcase them.

The three artists have something in common other than their new label. They all have worked extensively with Asian Man Records in the past. Side One Dummy has wised up by mining Asian Man Records' arsenal of talented bands. Side One has gained something of a reputation over the last several years for being the place where bands land after leaving a larger label. Now the label has courted bands from Mike Park's smaller, DIY operation. This is going to help cement Asian Man Records' reputation as a tastemaker if that is not already common knowledge.

Andrew Jackson Jihad is on the upswing in fanbase growth. Their album Christmas Island, released earlier this year on Side One Dummy, is among my favorites of the year. The band has released their entire discography up to this point on Asian Man Records, as far as the full-length albums go (Candy Cigarettes and Cap Guns was a re-issue, but I'll count it.) The Smith Street Band, of Australia, recently released Throw Me in the River on Side One Dummy. Enthusiasm for this band only seems to be growing. They released their previous three full-lengths on Asian Man.

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Sleater-Kinney and Screaming Females release new songs

Phil Collins - December 2, 2014

No Cities To Love

Sleater-Kinney and Screaming Females each released a new song today. The two bands have new albums slated for release early next year. They represent two of my most hotly anticipated albums for 2015. Sleater-Kinney, of course, has been broken up for most of the last decade. Their last album was The Woods in 2005.

Today the band released the song "Surface Envy" off their new album No Cities To Love, which drops on January 20. Stream the new song below. Sleater-Kinney plays a sold out show at the Riviera Theatre on February 17.

Sleater-Kinney is a hugely influential riot grrrl band from Olympia, Washington. They released seven albums in the mid to late nineties and early 2000s. Since the band's dissolution, guitarist and vocalist Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss played together in the band Wild Flag. That band put out one excellent album in 2011 and now appears to be finished. Brownstein is one of the driving forces behind the IFC show Portlandia, which satirizes hipster culture in Portland, Oregon. Vocalist and guitarist Corin Tucker has released two solo albums since 2010.

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In Rotation: This Obsession - Cheers To Regret

Phil Collins - November 25, 2014

Cheers To Regret

This Obsession's first full-length album, Cheers To Regret will sound like familiar territory for fans of Alkaline Trio and The Lawrence Arms. The Chicago three-piece embraces the sound of the pop punk Godfathers of their hometown scene. Perhaps there is no doubt that this is the niche of the punk sphere the band is aiming for because This Obsession is hitting that chord so well.

Their most recent EP, Songs To Sing To While Driving Drunk, made it clear they have the bite to kick through pithy pop punk jams. Cheers To Regret treads similar ground and keeps the quality level high through the longer format. There are some surprising moments in the album, for instance, the ska section that closes "These Vultures." The chorus of "Help! I Need Alcohol" was the first thing to get stuck in my head off this album, which was surprising to me because the song starts off like a joke live song about a singer more interested in someone buying him a beer than in playing the rest of the song. The catchy chorus is indicative of what grabs me about this band - it's fun, it's not too serious yet it's well put together. Chad I Ginsburg of CKY mastered the album.

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What are your favorite albums of 2014?

Phil Collins - November 23, 2014

We here at Change the Rotation are beginning to get our bracket of the best albums of 2014 together. In case you forgot, this is what it looked like last year. Before we finalize the whole thing, I want to give you a chance to tell us about your favorite albums of 2014. I'm not saying it will definitely make the bracket, but it will be considered if you fill out the form below within the next week or so. Have at it!

Green Dot Sessions featuring Stephen DeFalco

Dave Anians - November 15, 2014

Hoo boy! So it’s been awhile since one of these has happened. Green Dot Sessions has also been around for over a year. This is #7, and it’s with a real cool dude.

Stephen DeFalco is the singer of Chicago punk rock band Turbo Vamps and the main brain behind Friskie Morris and Friends, the awesome band/podcast. With the podcast, he interviews Chicago punk bands and labels/distros. It’s always a lot of fun to listen to and the bands are always badass.

I had been aware of and seen Turbo Vamps for quite a while, but I only met Stephen recently. We both have similar histories of the whole suburban white kid finding punk rock at a young age thing, but there are some cool differences as well. I had a lot of fun picking his brain and you’ll have a lot of fun reading about it.

Turbo Vamps:
Friskie Morris:
Friskie Morris Sessions (podcast):

Dave Anians 11/3, 12:10pm

hey dude! we'll get started now if that's cool. if you need to ask any questions or interrupt at any point, that's fine. ill edit it out. other than that, this is super laid back. take as much time as you need for answers, there's no deadline or anything

that being said, please fill in the banks:

Hey! My name is __________________________ and I _________________.

Stephen DeFalco 11/3, 12:50pm

Hey! My name is Stephen DeFalco (Friskie Morris) and I am D, all of the above.

Dave 11/3, 1:20pm

Rad! what's your favorite thing about music?

Stephen 11/3, 1:42pm

Aw man the answer is kind of two fold for me. The therapeutic effects it can have and the ability to bring people together. With the therapeutic effects I mean if you look at most Friskie Morris/Turbovamps songs there are no ex-girlfriends being written about or love songs...they are all personal stuff that's got a darker side to that I wouldn't really open up and talk to someone about so I use music. There is something about screaming all the shit at the top of my lungs that is exhilarating. It's that music as therapy idea that has kept me sane these last 10 years lol. The second being the ability to bring people together directly puts me at a soccer match; I played since I was 4 all through school and a little in college. Even simple musical chants just brings chills up and down my spine. I'll never forget walking into the Fulham Futbol stadium in England and just feeling the ground shake because everyone was singing together the same tune and it just took my breath away. Only music can bring people together like that.

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In Rotation: Speaker For The Dead - The Ballad of the Undercrust

Phil Collins - November 11, 2014

The Ballad of the Undercrust

Speaker For The Dead's debut full-length, The Ballad of the Undercrust, is a testament to the power of DIY recording and distribution. According to the band's bandcamp and tumblr pages, Speaker For The Dead is an "almost collective." What does that mean? It means their lineup is as fluid as a river and their default location of Worcester, Massachusetts acts as more of a base of operations than a hometown. The group has members all across the country, so their lineup constantly grows and shrinks as they tour.

This loose, amorphous arrangment suits their style of music well. Speaker For The Dead play a brass-based large-scale folk-punk that at times resembles Neutral Milk Hotel. The big band instrumentation on the recordings makes it easy to see how the band could expand outward exponentially on a tour, adding percussion here and horns there. It is no small wonder that a band of this gelatinous demeanor got into the studio to record a full album.

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Random Records with Steve O

Fall of Efrafa - Owsla

Steve O - November 9, 2014


So this could be the nerdiest random record post ever. Why so you ask? What’s so nerdy about a crushing, doomy, epic crust band with a funny name? Well, let’s examine that funny name. Fall of Efrafa. Any guesses what Efrafa is? Hint: it’s a literary reference. From Richard Adams’ fantastic Watership Down, Efrafa is the warren (home territory) of a police state run by a violent, dictatorial rabbit. Yes, that’s right, rabbit. As in what’s up doc. Fall of Efrafa existed for three records (and a couple other songs); a trilogy that is loosely based on Watership Down and its mythology, while also channeling their own political critiques, into a metaphorical storyline. The three records are a continuation of the same story; running in reverse order, i.e. their first record, Owsla is the end of the cycle. The records show a progression, as the finale (and story-starter), Inlé, leaves out much of the crusty, d-beat influences in favor of a slower, gloomier, doom and post-metal (how can you be post- something that isn’t time?) vibe.

Owsla, while being the end of the storyline, is Fall of Efrafa’s debut record, released back in 2006. Owsla is one of the words Adams invented for his novel, and refers to the strongest rabbits in the group, who form a sort of police/security force for the head rabbit. In the novel, the Owsla of Efrafa forms what is essentially a paramilitary unit, keeping strict control over their own group and violently forcing any encountered outsiders to join or die. I’m not making this up, honestly.

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Recap: Burger Records Caravan of Stars and Red Scare Fest

Phil Collins - October 29, 2014

Cherry Glazerr

Cherry Glazerr at the Logan Square Auditorium on Friday

Three days. 20 bands. This was a festival weekend of sorts with the Burger Records Caravan of Stars pulling into town on Friday and Red Scare Industries' 10th Anniversary festivities happening on Saturday and Sunday. For reference, I saw 27 bands at Riot Fest this year. So this weekend, known as Industry Weekend (by me,) stacked up against any major festival.

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Industry Fest Weekend

Phil Collins - October 22, 2014

It's a three day weekend for me and this is one of those glorious times in which that also means it's a three show weekend. Since those three shows are all record label showcases, this weekend is being referred to (by me) as Industry Fest Weekend. First up, on Friday is the Burger Records Caravan of Stars.

Burger Records Caravan of Stars

The Caravan of Stars lineup for the show at Logan Square Auditorium on Friday is The Coathangers, Together Pangea, Cherry Glazerr, AJ Davila & Terror Amor and Mozes & the Firstborn. Burger Records is probably best known for their proclivity for putting out cassettes; they were the driving force behind this year's Cassette Store Day. I personally do not hold the same romanticism for cassettes as I do for vinyl, but I do get it from a DIY perspective. Cassettes are cheap to produce, so the barrier to entry is lower both from the producer and consumer standpoint. I will grant that they are more attractive than CDs and immensely more appealing than the faceless MP3 format. Tactiles aside, Burger Records puts out some high quality music. I was first turned on to them with Cherry Glazerr, a catchy, cheeky female-fronted indie pop group. I am now just as excited to see Together Pangea, whose 2014 release Badillac is endlessly fun listening.

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Shows in Chicago this weekend

Phil Collins - October 16, 2014

From time to time, living in the Chicago area, a night comes around when the ability to be in two places at once would still leave you in a real spot when deciding which shows to go to. Tonight is one of those nights. This is a pretty good weekend for shows in Chicago overall. So is next weekend, but more on that later.

First up for tonight's shows: The Gaslight Anthem, Against Me! and Cory Branan at the Aragon Ballroom. Gaslight is touring in support of their 2014 album Get Hurt. They have a good record when it comes to choosing openers for their shows. When they came to town during their previous album's tour cycle, they had Bouncing Souls with them. Cory Branan opened that show as well. This time they have Against Me!, who are supporting their best album in a long time. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is among my favorite albums of 2014 so far. Check out the shadow puppet video for "Black Me Out" below.

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Staff picks: CTR writers choose our 17 favorite albums

Phil Collins - October 12, 2014

How can a lifetime filled with music at every opportunity be boiled down to just 17 top albums? It was not easy, but targeting a number forces the writer to cut it off somewhere. Why 17? 17 is not really any more random than a nice round number like 10 or 20. For this list, I chose the albums that had a big influence on me that I still listen to today. In no particular order, here are my 17 picks:

1. Streetlight Manifesto - Everything Goes Numb (2003)

Ska is not typically known for its complexity. Streetlight Manifesto's debut album embraces the energy of third wave ska while lacing it with sophistication in the music and lyrics. I played this album into the ground during 2007, to the point that I couldn't listen to it for a while after that. Now I can listen to it without it becoming a full on relapse. Everything Goes Numb remains my favorite album by one of my favorite bands.

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Staff picks: CTR writers choose our 17 favorite albums

Steve O - October 10, 2014

So I believe that this is something that’s been going around on Facebook. Not being very Facebook active, it made no sense for me to post this list on there. It made perfect sense, however, for it to be a special feature for Change the Rotation. Instead of just having a list of favorite records (which honestly probably changes every day), this is a combination list of favorites and some of the most influential records. Also, what’s up with limiting this to 17? Anyways, the list:

1) AFI – The Art of Drowning (2000)

The Art of Drowning

So back when I was first getting into punk in 7th grade, it was 3 “A” bands: AFI, Alkaline Trio, and Anti-Flag. AFI are the representative of that era to make it onto this list. I love the way they mix a hardcore vibe into these melodic songs, all marked by Davey Havok’s distinctive voice. There’s a dark overtone to the whole record, but it’s still insanely catchy. 13 years after hearing it for the first time I still know every word.

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Staff picks: CTR writers choose our 17 favorite albums

Dave Anians - October 8, 2014

So for my list, I tried my best to stay away from bands with more than one competing album in my mind. This means I left out some of my favorite bands, which was pretty fun to try. It’s also in autobiographical order, in case that kind of thing is cool to you. These mean a bunch to me, so thanks for reading what I think about ‘em!

Also, this list deserves a shout out to Ryan and Corey B, who got me into punk rock in the first place. Whether or not that’s a good thing is still to be decided.

1. The Clash- The Clash

I think this is the first CD I ever bought. The Clash is my favorite band, and while I don’t listen to them nearly as much as I used to, they will probably remain in that spot indefinitely. The self-titled is their first album, and while it’s hard to say I love it more than some of their others, I can’t deny (“Deny!!”) the way that the attitude and hooks of this album molded my pre-teen brain.

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Recap: Suicide Machines at Reggies

Evil Empire returns

Phil Collins - October 5, 2014

Suicide Machines

Suicide Machines at Reggies Rock Club on October 1

Suicide Machines shows, as rare as they are these days, are going to start getting a reputation for having stacked lineups. Suicide Machines broke up in 2006, but have been playing sporadic shows since 2009. As lead singer Jay Navarro told the crowd at Reggies Rock Club on Wednesday, he had a few days off work so he booked a few shows. When they do get a chance to play, the bill is getting loaded with talented bands. They played at Reggies about a year ago and the lineup included hardcore supergroup Dead Ending, Detroit ragamuffins The Goddamn Gallows and the head-turning Portland crust punks Dirty Kid Discount. This time around, the bill included New Orleans hardcore group PEARS, skacore locals Still Alive and the metamorphosed suburban skacore legends Evil Empire.

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Recap: Fishbone at Martyrs'

Phil Collins - September 30, 2014


Fishbone played two nights back-to-back at Martyrs' in Lincoln Park on September 19 and 20. I was there for night two. Fishbone, a Los Angeles ska band that has been around since 1979, has earned repeated acclaim over the decades for an explosive live show. They played for longer than two hours at Martyrs' and looked like they could have kept going until sunrise if they didn't know any better. The band's biggest hits come from their first release: a six song self-titled EP released in 1985. "Party at Ground Zero" and "Lyin' Ass Bitch" are the two songs most people would know by Fishbone. They produced some of the biggest reactions from the crowd that night. Fishbone also played "Another Generation," a deep cut from the same EP, if EPs can have deep cuts.

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Tales of a Riot Fest Dropout

D. Brawlins of Don't Panic, It's a Distro - September 27, 2014

I’d like to say I didn’t go to Riot Fest this year for some profound reason like my concerns over the gentrification of Humboldt Park, or because corporate sponsored events don’t belong in punk rock or that I didn’t go because it’s been a threat to the DIY community in years past. Although these are all pretty big concerns of mine, I was really just too underwhelmed with the line up to justify shelling out the cash. Instead, I decided to see what else Chicago had to offer.

Friday night, I did not see NOFX, Offspring or Slayer; I went to someone’s basement… although I’m not sure if anyone actually lived there… and saw the vegan power violence band, Punch. First off, I asked the wrong punk for the address and ended up in Little Village, leaving me to walk a mile in the rain to the right house. When I arrived, there was a dude in a studded denim vest smoking a cigarette on the stoop; I gave him a nod and he motioned for me to come in. I went down to the dark and musky basement, looked around and noticed people were drinking, “cool,” I thought to myself. I went back out in the rain and picked up a six pack, tall boys of course. Got back to the show to catch the openers which was a similar experience to being repeatedly hit in the head with a brick, only with more positive results. The opener that really stood out to me was a poppy hardcore band called The Wrong, who had a fierce trans front woman with the loudest and most beautiful scream I ever heard. She was very aggressive and brought a ridiculous amount of energy to the crowd.

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Riot Fest Chicago 2014 recap: Day Three

Phil Collins - September 25, 2014

The Menzingers

The third and final day of Riot Fest began at 11:45 a.m. sharp. The ground had miraculously hardened in most areas overnight. The muddy patches were few and far between. The Menzingers, supporting their new album "Rented World," were first up. Sometimes at festivals the crowd is light in the early going, but a considerable number of people got up early and showed up in time to catch The Menzingers. The Philadelphia punk rockers got the crowd moving right away with their new single, "I Don't Want to be an Asshole Anymore." That song has a hilarious video, which you should probably watch now if you have not seen it yet. The Menzingers played mostly newer songs, including the best two songs off 2012's "On the Impossible Past" ("Good Things" and "The Obituaries.")

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Riot Fest Chicago 2014 recap: Day Two

Phil Collins - September 21, 2014


The skies had cleared but the residue of the rains from the night before remained apparent. It was, after all, 14 short hours after Friday night's festivities concluded that Saturday's began. So, it was no wonder that the sun shined down on muddy, messy fields. It would be another sloppy day in the pit. The cheesy songs of The Pizza Underground could be heard on the way in through the North Avenue entrance and by 12:25, one of my most anticipated bands of the day kicked things off on the Rise stage. Anti-Flag, pictured above, played a fairly even spread of songs spanning their 20-plus-year career. They closed their set with "Power to the Peaceful" off 2003's "The Terror State." Drummer Pat Thetic set up in the crowd for the last song and was joined by the rest of the band for the most energetic part of the set. Anti-Flag also played "Fuck Police Brutality," "Die For the Government," "This Machine Kills Fascists," "Cities Burn," "Turncoat," "I'd Tell You But..." and "Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington D.C." They opened with "The Press Corpse" and played two songs off their excellent 2012 album "The General Strike": "Broken Bones" and "This is the New Sound."

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Riot Fest Chicago 2014 recap: Day One

Phil Collins - September 20, 2014


Riot Fest hit Chicago last weekend and this year it was markedly bigger. The festival moved from the south side of Humboldt Park, its home in 2012 and 2013, to the north side of the park. This gave Riot Fest roughly double the amount of space to sprawl out on. The number of stages increased to seven. The number of ferris wheels increased to two. The number of conflicts in set times increased to ... a lot. Naturally with more bands, more stages and a longer walk between stages, there were more opportunities for set times to conflict. Nevertheless, I saw 27 bands in three days, almost exactly the same amount of bands I saw last year. I had a blast. ALL, pictured above, kicked things off on Friday evening. This is the offshoot of Descendents that formed when Milo had too many professional commitments to play with the band regularly. I listen to Descendents a lot more than I listen to ALL, but I thoroughly enjoyed ALL's set. Their more hardcore songs were the best ones, without a doubt.

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In Rotation: UGLYBoNES/Step Right Up split

Phil Collins - September 9, 2014

UGLYBoNES/Step Right Up split

Chicago hardcore bands UGLYBoNES and Step Right Up released their split yesterday on bandcamp. This is uninterrupted, uninhibited hardcore. Three songs each. Less than 10 minutes total running time. Several stabs in the face and get outs. An unexpected rager of a guitar solo on "No One Talks" wraps up the UGLYBoNES half of the split. That is followed quickly by Step Right Up's circle pit ready "Nine To Five." Those two songs back to back are the breadwinners.

UGLYBoNES and Step Right Up play a split release show on September 27 at Fallout in Chicago. Flagass, Dead Split Egos, The Pervert Preachers, Alley Slob and Davey Dynamite round out the bill. The new songs will make energetic additions to both bands' sets. This is the second release of the year for both bands. UGLYBoNES put out "Wrong Goods" in January, while Step Right Up released "Brass Knuckle Lullabies" in April. Stream the full split below:


The Falcon, RVIVR, World/Inferno release new songs

Phil Collins - September 8, 2014

The Falcon, RVIVR and The World/Inferno Friendship Society each released a new song in the last week. The Falcon's release marks their first new song since their 2006 full-length, "Unicornography." The song, "We Are the Bald," will appear on the Red Scare Industries 10-year anniversary compilation. "Red Scare Industries: 10 Years of Your Dumb Bullshit" will be released in full on September 9. The label will host a 10-year anniversary party at the Metro on October 25, featuring performances by The Falcon, The Lillingtons, The Methadones, Elway, Masked Intruder, Direct Hit! and more. Red Scare Industries was co-founded by The Falcon and The Lawrence Arms frontman Brendan Kelly. He is joined in The Falcon by Lawrence Arms bandmate Neil Hennessy and Alkaline Trio vet Dan Andriano. Listen to the new track below:

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Random Records with Steve O

Kid Dynamite

Steve O - August 26, 2014

You like Kid Dynamite, right? Of course you do, that was a dumb question. As one of the best and most influential hardcore bands in recent times (a great tribute record can be found here, Kid Dynamite crafted a sound of their own. And when you’ve worn out their too short discography and want to listen to something else (wait… that happens?), check out some of these similar bands.

Brutal Youth

Gotta start with the best, right? Honestly, Brutal Youth probably deserve their own Random Record instead of sharing with these other bands, but they fit the theme wonderfully. Short, fast, to the point, and energetic as fuck, these Canadians are right at the top of the best hardcore bands today. They’re fantastic live, with singer Patty running all over the place, and they’re super nice people too. 2013’s Stay Honest earned its place in our Best of the Year Bracket. Give it a listen here.

Brutal Youth

Highlight(s): “xPiss&Winex” and “Albatross”. Songs about friends and one of the best articulations about being straight edge (and not having m/any straight edge friends – something Patty and me share) that I have ever heard. If these songs don’t get your toe tapping or bring a smile to your face, check your pulse, you might not be alive.

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Recap: Propagandhi and RVIVR at Concord Music Hall

Phil Collins - August 23, 2014

It was a stacked lineup at Concord Music Hall on Wednesday. Propagandhi, the veteran vegan punks from Canada, headlined the show. They do not tour the States very often, so their appearance alone was cause for excitement. They brought RVIVR on tour with them. RVIVR's 2013 album "The Beauty Between," of course, won Change the Rotation's album of the year bracket last year. War on Women were also on the bill, with fresh copies of their excellent 10-inch, "Improvised Weapons." Chicago locals La Armada rounded out the lineup for this final show of the tour.


The show started so early that I got there just in time to catch RVIVR. They started their set not five minutes after I walked in, and it looked like our group was not alone in this situation, as the room continued to fill as RVIVR's set blasted along. It was a bummer to miss two great bands, but I am so glad I was in there in time to see RVIVR's full set. They opened with the first three songs off "The Beauty Between," in order. The vast majority of their set was comprised of songs from that album, the band only detoured for a couple other songs from their catalog. That was just fine with me, as "The Beauty Between" remains my favorite release of thiers. From the deliberate buildup of guitars in the first half of "The Seam" to the eyebrow-raising delivery of vocals from Erica Freas on "Spider," those songs have been staples for me since the album's release.

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In Rotation: Ritual Control: No Affinity 7-inch

Phil Collins - August 19, 2014

No Affinity

This is a promising early release from the Bay Area hardcore group Ritual Control. Four quick, engaging tunes comprise "No Affinity," the first vinyl release from the band. Ritual Control is female fronted hardcore at its best: these are unrelenting, memorable songs that you can't help but envision being screeched out in a basement somewhere.

Chicago based Residue Records put this 7-inch out in January. They pressed 100 copies on dark yellow vinyl, 100 copies on lime green vinyl and 400 on standard black vinyl. I stumbled upon this recently at Reckless Records and picked it up on a whim. It was described as female-fronted hardcore, which immediately sounded appealing to me. I had heard about the label's two night showcase at Township that weekend, so I was ready to hear more of the Residue's music.

Ritual Control did not play that showcase and it does not appear that they play many shows. They are a fairly new band and while I can find their bandcamp page, I cannot find many other official traces of them online. They put out their first demo in 2013, followed by "No Affinity" in January. "Inoculation," their upcoming EP, comes out in November. Hopefully a tour follows, because I want to see this band thrash through a 20-30 minute set in a basement somewhere. Or a bar. A bar would be fine. Download "No Affinity" at Ritual Control's bandcamp page, or stream it in full below.


In Rotation: "Richardson" Richardson: Shit Lord

Phil Collins - August 9, 2014

Shit Lord

The new "Richardson" Richardson EP is hardly more than five minutes in length, but that is all the time it needs to leave an impression. Fans of the band will immediately notice something different about this set of songs. The band recorded these three tracks with a live drummer. This is a big deal for a band known for having three bassists and no drummers. So, what do DeKalb's denizens of doom sound like with live, rather than programmed, percussion?

They sound like they are at the top of their game. "Shit Lord" is comprised of three quick hardcore songs that must barely outlast the snapchat used as the album cover. Its brevity ultimately leaves me wanting more, which is exactly what hardcore should do and is exactly what the EP format should do. The title track is the strongest of the three, judging from early exposure. The concluding chant "I'm the shit lord, I'm the shit lord, I'm the shit lord" is likely to become a live favorite. The EP is available on "Richardson" Richardson's bandcamp page (pay what you want for the download.) Stream the full EP below.


Point/Counterpoint on Andrew Jackson Jihad as a full band

Phil Collins and Steve O - July 28, 2014

Steve O and I have both seen Andrew Jackson Jihad several times during the last handful of years. During this span of time, the band has transformed from a two person acoustic live show to a full band electric live show. Their recorded music, in turn, has followed a trajectory moving away from pure folk punk and toward indie rock territory. In this point/counterpoint, I detail the merits of this change and Steve O discusses the reasons why AJJ is better as a two-man enterprise.

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Liner notes: The Priceduifkes/Direct Hit! split 7"

Phil Collins - July 16, 2014

Priceduifkes/Direct Hit! split 7 inch

Welcome to the second 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.

This is a quick and dirty split between two of today's exciting pop punk bands: The Priceduifkes from Belgium and Direct Hit! from Milwaukee. The split 7" features a new song from each band and the bands doing a cover of one of each other's songs. The split was just released this summer with a 600 copy run (250 blue on Say-10 Records, 250 red on Red Scare Industries and 100 green available through Interpunk). I was lucky enough to get one of the translucent blue copies directly from The Priceduifkes when they were here in Chicago, supporting Masked Intruder at Beat Kitchen. In fact, I got the last copy of this split they had on them. I had never heard of The Priceduifkes before that show, but I was hooked on their sound right away. Naturally, a new split with a pop punk powerhouse like Direct Hit! is going to attract my attention.

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Road Report: Plan-It-X Fest

Steve O - July 7, 2014

So I was lazy and put this off for too long, so let’s hope I remember something correctly about Plan-It-X Fest. But it was fucking awesome and a ton of fun, so let’s see how well this memory works about two weeks after the fact.


Friday was the only day to bring any rain, which occurred right when it was time to set up the tent. While that was a bummer, it did cause the temperature to drop, which was a plus. Friday was the short day, with bands starting at 5, and ending with a series of short films around 1 in the morning.

Ghost Mice

The Highlights: Ghost Mice ( played to a packed barn. If you’ve seen Ghost Mice before, you know they usually play to a packed living room. So with an exponentially larger crowd there were that many more punks to scream “Up the Punks.” It made for quite an experience. The rest of the Ghost Mice set were set-list standards, including “The Good Life,” which wasn’t played at either recent Chicago or DeKalb show. On the topic of singing along with Chris Clavin, Operation: Cliff Clavin ( played for the first time since 2004 (according to Chris), and closed with “All We Got Is Each Other,” resulting with another epic sing-along.

The Surprise: I saw Spoonboy (a.k.a. David Combs – a couple years ago play in a living room. He had everyone sit down and played a pretty chill set. So it was surprising to see Spoonboy do a full band set this time. (This was a bit of a trend over the weekend.) Also surprising was the number new songs he played, I didn’t see that coming. Either way, it was a great set featuring awesome songs like “Stab Yer Dad” and “Sexy Dreams.” Just as much fun electric as acoustic.

The Unknown Band You Gotta Hear: Rubrics ( are described by the PIX Fest guide as “A political crust pop band (think Crimpshrine meets Propagandhi) from Greenville, SC.” Sounds awesome, right? It sure as hell was and that description is spot on. They were the one of best bands of the day and definitely stood out as one of the heavier bands over the weekend. Don’t Panic, It’s A Distro picked up some of their 7”s, so if you want a copy get a hold of the Distro.

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Random Records with Steve O

Ramshackle Glory - Live the Dream

Steve O - June 22, 2014

Live the Dream

So two of the Change the Rotation team (Davey and myself), will be at Plan-It-X Fest in Bloomington, IN this weekend. To celebrate there’s three Random Records, highlighting one of the bands playing each night. In addition to placing the spotlight on some great folk punk records, it’ll be a three day story of my relationship to the genre, through three of the more influential acts. So check in throughout the weekend for some good music (definitely) and good reading (hopefully).

While Ramshackle Glory is a newer band than both Ghost Mice and Andrew Jackson Jihad, its origins lay in Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains, who, much like Ghost Mice and Andrew Jackson Jihad have laid much of the foundation for folk punk today. Johnny Hobo led to Wingnut Dishwashers Union, which in turn led to Ramshackle Glory. The constant throughout was the voice: Pat “the Bunny” Schneeweis. Both Johnny Hobo and Wingnut had a sense of nihilism, self-destruction, and despair. While I really enjoyed it for a period of time (say, 2007-2009), it got old. Ramshackle Glory brings a completely new feel. Instead of despair there is hope, instead of nihilism there is a sense of wonder and acceptance with the world.

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Random Records with Steve O

Andrew Jackson Jihad - People that Can Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World

Steve O - June 21, 2014

People that Can Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World

So two of the Change the Rotation team (Davey and myself), will be at Plan-It-X Fest in Bloomington, IN this weekend. To celebrate there’s three Random Records, highlighting one of the bands playing each night. In addition to placing the spotlight on some great folk punk records, it’ll be a three day story of my relationship to the genre, through three of the more influential acts. So check in throughout the weekend for some good music (definitely) and good reading (hopefully).

Where to start with this one… I guess let’s start with the name: People that can Eat People are the Luckiest People in the World. Interesting, eh? It just so happens to be a Kurt Vonnegut reference. Well now that we’re talking about awesome things, let’s talk about the awesome music contained on People that can Eat People… The root of Andrew Jackson Jihad is Ben Gallaty on upright bass and Sean Bonnette on acoustic guitar and together, along with a cast of additional characters, they play sad songs sung happily. Look at the opener “Rejoice” for example. “Rejoice despite the fact this world will year you to shreds.” Yeah, that’s uplifting. Or how about their derivation on Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson”? “In fucking fact, Mrs. Robinson, the world won’t care whether you live or die. In fucking fact, Mrs. Robinson, they probably hate to see your stupid face.” But they aren’t sung with any hint of despair or depression. And the simplicity with which the songs are played and the slight lunacy in the lyrics gets them stuck in your head.

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Random Records with Steve O

Ghost Mice- The Debt of the Dead

Steve O - June 20, 2014

The Debt of the Dead

So two of the Change the Rotation team (Davey and myself), will be at Plan-It-X Fest in Bloomington, IN this weekend. To celebrate there’s three Random Records, highlighting one of the bands playing each night. In addition to placing the spotlight on some great folk punk records, it’ll be a three day story of my relationship to the genre, through three of the more influential acts. So check in throughout the weekend for some good music (definitely) and good reading (hopefully).

We wouldn’t be here without Ghost Mice. Besides the obvious fact of Chris Clavin running Plan-It-X Records and curating Plan-It-X Fest, Ghost Mice are one of the bands who can claim to have a hand in starting modern folk punk as we know it. For many, it was likely 2004’s The Debt of the Dead that served as their introduction, both to Ghost Mice and possibly folk punk in general. (Their split with Saw Wheel served as my introduction to both. While originally released in 2003, I stumbled upon it probably sometime in 2006.) The Debt of the Dead is classic Ghost Mice, with live staples such as “Figure 8” and “Up the Punks,” underappreciated and uplifting songs such as “The Road Goes on Forever” and “Alas Babylon,” and an awesome cover of the Smiths “There is a Light That Never Goes Out.” Like most Ghost Mice records, the booklet is full of Chris Clavin’s distinctive art and handwritten notes describing each song.

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Recap: Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine at Reggies

Phil Collins - June 15, 2014

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine

Jello Biafra is rightfully considered to be among a class of legendary performers in punk rock history. The long-time San Fransisco activist and musician is best known for his work with the seminal punk band Dead Kennedys. It feels wrong, though, to merely discuss him as an important figure in the punk encyclopedia after witnessing him throw down with his current band, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine. The band recently released their third album, "White People and the Damage Done." Like the recorded works of JBATGSM that came before it, the new album is a familiar yet fresh kick in the face. They played a number of the new songs Saturday night at Reggies Rock Club, including "John Dillinger," "The Brown Lipstick Parade" and "Shock-U-Py!," which was originally released as a 10-inch. These are fiery, acidic anthems that bring to mind Jello's former band but, more than that, make me glad this guy is still writing new material.

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Recap: Hellmouth at Township

Phil Collins - June 10, 2014

Hellmouth at Township

Detroit hardcore outfit Hellmouth played a rare show at Township on Friday night. There are rare shows, and then there are shows at this elevated level of infrequency. Hellmouth is the project of Jay Navarro, founded after the breakup of his most well-known band, The Suicide Machines. That band still plays the occasional show and I have managed to see them twice in the last few years. Navarro told the crowd the last time Hellmouth played in Chicago was about four years ago at Beat Kitchen. The band formed in 2008 and the last time they played here was 2010. Now that is a rare show.

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Green Dot Session with Billy Mack

Dave Anians - May 24, 2014

Billy Mack travels around the country and plays songs for all kinds of people in all kinds of places. He sings about his life with a small six string ukulele that allows him to travel on megabus for most of his touring. He plays fun/weird/driving/excellent songs about excellent things. Somehow I’ve known him for less than a year and have already played with him like 4 or 5 times. That’s pretty cool. He’s cool. We talked about interesting stuff because he’s an interesting person. So come read about it! Please…

His newest album is out now! It’s really good:


Here’s a vid of him playing a song with a bunch of Folk-O-Rama friends in DeKalb:

Read the full interview here

Green Dot Session with Travis Zohfeld

Dave Anians - May 9, 2014

Gina, from Constantine (Travis and Ian) are two super cool dudes who play fun/catchy/inspiring folk punk. Even though we’ve only known each other for over a year or so now, they’re quickly becoming one of the bands I’ve played the most shows with. We have a lot of similar ideals when it comes to music and we’re now part of a quickly forming group of Chicago area folk-punk bands (a scene, if you will, oh my).

They have a new album in the works and (as I’m writing this (5/4/14)) tomorrow we’re playing with one of our favorite bands Ghost Mice. Things are really cool.

I talked to Travis about the usual stuff and it was fun and now please read it, thanks!

Read the full interview here

Random Records with Steve O

Propagandhi - Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes

Steve O - April 28, 2014

Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes

So I’ve been all over the place here lately, what with the 5-records-guess-the-connection thing and playing the classical music card (you gotta admit though, Seasons was pretty appropriate). Well, now let’s get back to the regular programming. With a band of vegans, singing about radical politics, and mixing punk and metal. Oh, and they’re huge hockey fans. Not sure if there’s a band I’d want to hang out with any more than the almighty Propagandhi.

Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes, released in 2001, was Propagandhi’s transition album. The preceding ones were heavily borrowing the NOFX punk rock formula. From this point on there were more and more metal influences, particularly thrash elements (just check out some of the guitar work on Supporting Caste for proof). Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes documents that shift. Songs such as “Fuck the Border” and “New Homes for Idle Hands” highlight the hardcore elements, songs like “Today’s Empire, Tomorrow’s Ashes” and “Natural Disasters” contain a modern punk vibe, while the fantastic album closer, “Purina Hall of Fame,” displays the technical guitar work that would appear on later records.

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Andrew Jackson Jihad release video for "Temple Grandin"

"Christmas Island" out May 6

Phil Collins - April 26, 2014

Phoenix folk punkers Andrew Jackson Jihad are set to release their fifth full-length album, "Christmas Island," May 6 on Side One Dummy Records. The band has released a music video for one of the new album's tracks, "Temple Grandin." Watching this is just as quirky an experience as you might expect from watching an Andrew Jackson Jihad video.

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Davey Dynamite full band set at Gnarnia

Phil Collins - April 18, 2014

Davey Dynamite's much anticipated full band set is this Saturday at Gnarnia in Chicago. A number of musicians will join Davey to play his songs with full live instrumentation for the first time. Click on the flier for more details. Many of us have been looking forward to the prospect of a Davey Dynamite full band show for a long time. Below are a few of Davey's electric songs that are making us geek out about this show.

Davey Dynamite full band set

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Random Records with Steve O

Antonio Vivaldi - The Four Seasons

Steve O - April 13, 2014

The Four Seasons

Wait a minute, this isn’t punk rock! Well, thank you Captain Obvious. Did you know the first hominin-made tools are from around 2.5 million years ago? They were rocks with one side stuck to create an edge. It took about a million years for someone to turn the rock over and hit the other side, creating a bi-facial tool. A million years. Think about that. I think you’re needed back there Captain Obvious.

[Captain Obvious walks off, dejected, to his time machine.]

But I digress. Antonio Vivaldi is probably most well-known for this work, The Four Seasons. You probably know some of these melodies without realizing it. Melodies in the first movements of “Spring” and “Winter” are some of those classical melodies that are known in popular culture for some reason or another, kind of like Beethoven’s Ode to Joy or Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King. You know it without knowing you know it. How’s that for mind bending?

Anyways, I highlight The Four Seasons because it’s the time of year where you can get weather that feels like all four seasons. Last week I went out wearing my winter coat. Today I went for a bike ride wearing shorts. The weather is unpredictable. So Vivaldi gives us a feeling for all four seasons. From the uplifting spirit of “Spring” to the melancholy of “Winter”, this has it all. “Summer” has those relaxing moments where you’re just lounging around followed by sudden bombasts (like at the very end of the first movement), just like an arriving afternoon thunderstorm.

And that’s one of the coolest things about classical music. The dynamics. It can get so soft and calm you have to turn the speakers way up to hear it, and a split second later it can be so overwhelmingly loud, that you rush back to those same speakers to turn it down. It’s dynamic element, those sudden bombasts of noise and furor are just like punk music. Just listen to Night on Bald Mountain (also known as the best part of Fantasia) or anything by Wagner (Kill the Wabbit anyone?) for proof. Captain Obvious might have missed that. But Captain Subtle Observation sure caught it.


Recap: Against Me! at Durty Nellies

Phil Collins - April 7, 2014

Friday night Against Me! headlined a show at Durty Nellies in Palatine. The band is on tour in support of "Transgender Dysphoria Blues," the excellent new album they released in January. This album is significant on two fronts, the first being that this is the first album Against Me! has released since lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out as a woman. Second, the band released "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" on their own Total Treble Records after putting out their last two albums on Sire, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Records. So, this album cycle marks a new era in Against Me! history, likely the fourth era (pre-"Reinventing Axl Rose," "Reinventing Axl Rose" and the Fat Wreck Chords years, the Sire years, and the current era.) There seems to be more positive buzz from the punk community around "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" than there has been around the band for quite some time, and for good reason. The album is catchy, incisive and angry. It embodies what excited so many people about Against Me! in the first place. They played the majority of the album at Friday's sold out show, opening with "FUCKMYLIFE666" and blasting through "Unconditional Love," "True Trans Soul Rebel," "Drinking with the Jocks" and "Transgender Dysphoria Blues." The album's closer, "Black Me Out," was a raging anthem toward the end of the set. The band recently released an interesting shadow puppet video for that song. Check that out below.

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Kettle Rebellion (proto-Mischief Brew) stream long-lost album

Phil Collins - March 26, 2014

Kettle Rebellion

Folk punk enthusiasts: Mischief Brew have unearthed a long lost album from the band's earliest days, when they were called Kettle Rebellion. The eight song album will be released April 1 on Fistolo Records (250 copies, Oxblood vinyl.) The album was recorded in 2002 and the masters were promptly lost or stolen. According to the story circulating around the web today, some tracks leaked online over the years. Eventually, Mischief Brew found that they did have these recordings in bits and pieces and were able to reassemble them for this release. Kettle Rebellion was formed in 2001, toward the end of The Orphans' run. After the Kettle Rebellion recordings went missing, the band decided to pursue other interests but soon got back together as Mischief Brew.

This is not the kind of finding that happens every day, so enjoy it. There have been many exciting releases so far this year, but at 12 years, this is by far the oldest. Punk News has the album streaming in full so there is no need to wait one more day to hear these songs. The songs sound like Mischief Brew in their full-out electric form, which makes sense if they were written while The Orphans were still active. Mischief Brew is currently working on their next studio album, "This is Not For Children." Earlier this year, they released a career-spanning collection of demos called "Thanks, Bastards!" Stream or download that release for free on their bandcamp page.


Reel Big Fish don't stop skankin at Durty Nellies

Phil Collins - March 25, 2014

Reel Big Fish, one of the banner bands of the third wave ska revival in the 1990s and still one of the most fun ska bands around, brought their Don't Stop Skankin tour to Durty Nellies in Palatine on Sunday. They played songs spanning their 20-plus year career, from their classic sophomore album "Turn the Radio Off" through their most recent release, 2012's "Candy Coated Fury." The crowd at the sold out show responded just as well to the newer tunes, especially "Everyone Else is an Asshole," the opener of "Candy Coated Fury." The band opened with two songs from "Turn the Radio Off," still the album they are best known for and one of the staples of mid to late 1990s pop culture. They started with "Everything Sucks" followed by my personal favorite song of theirs, "Trendy."

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Liner Notes: The Bruce Lee Band- "Community Support Group" 7"

Phil Collins - March 22, 2014

Community Support Group

Welcome to Liner Notes, a new 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.

First up is The Bruce Lee Band's "Community Support Group" 7-inch released on Jeff Rosenstock's Really Records in January. Rosenstock, of Bomb the Music Industry!, appears in this iteration of The Bruce Lee Band on bass, organ, saxophone and vocals. Mike Park, founder of Asian Man Records, is on vocals as always. This time out the band also includes Mike Huguenor on guitar and vocals and Kevin Higuchi on drums. The band has included different members on each of its three releases. Mike Park has been on vocals for each release, backed by Less Than Jake and RX Bandits, respectively, on the first two releases. "Community Support Group" contains the first new songs from the group since 2005. I bought this one online directly from Really Records, which is now sold out of the limited pressing. The label says there is a full-length on the way this summer.

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The So So Glos release animated video for "Blowout"

Phil Collins - March 15, 2014

Brooklyn punk outfit The So So Glos released this fun animated clip for the title track from their 2013 album "Blowout." The song itself is a rolling bundle of firecrackers. It is mostly instrumental, with periodic shoutouts. The animation style matches the goofy enthusiasm that is integral to the song. The album, the third full-length from The So So Glos, is frenetic from front to back.The band is now wrapping up a week of shows at SXSW in Austin, where they seem to have become a staple.


Road Report: The Lawrence Arms in Rhode Island

Steve O - March 9, 2014

The Lawrence Arms

So I realize that while I usually write about random records, I’ve done a couple of what I feel like calling Road Reports. The last Streetlight Manifesto shows in New Jersey and Good Riddance in Cambridge, MA. Well, now let’s add the Lawrence Arms in Pawtucket, Rhode Island to the list. (What a stereotypical New England name, right?)

Yes, I drove almost three hours to see a band that I’ve seen so many times I’ve lost count. Crazy? Likely. But it was also a great time, as every Lawrence Arms show is. This one had the added bonus as I was able to cross Rhode Island off the list of states I’d been to. It was the last holdout on the east coast until you get all the way down to South Carolina.

The show also featured Elway and the Copyrights. Despite having seen the Copyrights a bunch, I don’t really know their songs too well. But they’re all fast and catchy, and they played songs like “Shit’s Fucked,” “Sleepwalker,” and “Charlie Birger Time,” so I was happy. As for Elway, I’ve been getting into them a lot lately. Kinda like Chris-only Lawrence Arms. They were great live, and pretty funny too. Their debut record, Delusions, has some great songs, off which they played “Passing Days,” “It’s Alive!” “Whispers in a Shot Glass,” and “Kristina’s Last Song.” Check them out, especially if you dig the Lawrence Arms songs starring Chris.

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When Flying Feels Like Falling release new song

Album due out this Spring

Phil Collins - March 3, 2014

Chicago punk band When Flying Feels Like Falling released "Class War," the first taste of their upcoming debut album. It is exciting to hear a studio recording from this band. I have played their excellent live album into the ground. Will the new album contain studio recordings of tracks from that album, which was recorded at Reggies, or will it be mostly new tracks? It will likely be a mix of both. "Class War," in any case, is a new catchy number. This band writes the choruses of pop punk songs while retaining the influence of the crack rock steady and crust punk scenes. Enjoy "Class War" and catch When Flying Feels Like Falling at the 7th Street Space in DeKalb this Saturday with Davey Dynamite, Praise the Sinners, Butchered and Morphine Squirtgun. They also have a Chicago show this weekend, at Reggies Rock Club on Sunday with Burndoubt, Nick Van Horn and Lasers.


Green Dot Session with Henry Brawlins

Dave Anians - February 17, 2014

Hey, here’s a new edition of Green Dot Sessions! It’s been a bit, but this is a good one.

Henry Brawlins (Kevin Sawa) is a songwriter/poet/drummer/singer/photographer. He writes and plays for The Stockyards and Sleeping is my 9 to 5. He’s got a lot of passion and a lot of things to say. His work is very real and really good.

We talked about art and music and punk and drumming and you can just read it.

The Stockyards:

Sleeping is My 9 to 5:

Read the full interview here

Random Records with Steve O- Nasum's Helvete

Steve O - February 14, 2014

So we’re gonna try something a little different for Random Records this time. Five records that sound nothing alike, but there’s something connecting all of them. See if you can figure out what it is.

In 2012, during the same weekend NATO was in Chicago, so was Nasum. One of those things is awesome, the other… well, not so much. Quite obviously, Nasum is the one that falls into the awesome category. They also fall into the list of bands I never thought I would get to see live, with founding member Mieszko Talarczyk passing away in the tsunami of 2004. But 2012 brought them on a short tour with Rotten Sound’s Keijo Niinimaa handling vocals.

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Random Records with Steve O- Mayhem's Live in Leipzig

Steve O - February 13, 2014

So we’re gonna try something a little different for Random Records this time. Five records that sound nothing alike, but there’s something connecting all of them. See if you can figure out what it is.

This is the second live record on this list. Both are from highly influential musicians, but on quite different levels. Regardless of that, Mayhem had as much to do with the rise of black metal as Pete Seeger did with folk music. This was one of the few records to feature the legendary Dead (a.k.a. Per Yngve Ohlin) on vocals.

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Random Records with Steve O- Dio's Holy Diver

Steve O - February 12, 2014

So we’re gonna try something a little different for Random Records this time. Five records that sound nothing alike, but there’s something connecting all of them. See if you can figure out what it is.

After leaving Black Sabbath after two albums, Ronnie James Dio started his own band, giving a new outlet for his distinct voice and mythical storylines. Holy Diver, in 1983, was the debut, and probably receives little debate for being the best Dio record (though “Last in Line” deserves a mention). I think it's hands down the best, and might be Ronnie James Dio’s best (though Heaven and Hell, his debut with Black Sabbath, and Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow are both amazing records).

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Random Records with Steve O- Queen's self-titled album

Steve O - February 11, 2014

So we’re gonna try something a little different for Random Records this time. Five records that sound nothing alike, but there’s something connecting all of them. See if you can figure out what it is.

I love Queen. They wrote some awesome songs and Freddie Mercury was a great vocalist. And guitarist Brain May is an astrophysicist. How fucking cool is that? Queen had a huge influence on a lot of genres, one of which was giving metal an alternative to blues based guitar structure. And their 1973 self-titled debut was where all of that started.

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Random Records with Steve O- Pete Seeger's We Shall Overcome

Steve O - February 10, 2014

So we’re gonna try something a little different for Random Records this time. Five records that sound nothing alike, but there’s something connecting all of them. See if you can figure out what it is.

So I found out Pete Seeger died, at 94, in quite a shitty way. I made a rare trip onto Facebook, to send a friend a couple questions for my thesis. The first thing I see? A Pete Seeger memorial post that Davey made. I found out that Lou Reed died in a similar way. Now you know why I rarely ever go on Facebook.

Anyways… Pete Seeger was a phenomenal musician who had some wonderful things to say. There is nothing that I’ll write here that is better than the memorial Davey has written. So let’s talk about Seeger’s 1963 live album, We Shall Overcome, recorded live at Carnegie Hall.

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Pete Seeger and Me: Some YouTubin and reminiscin

Dave Anians - February 6, 2014

The news of Pete Seeger’s death came through a random tumblr post I managed to catch right before going to sleep. Right away, so many different feelings came into my head in a way that may not happen again, from initial shock to sadness to happiness to inspiration. While I have only known of Pete and his work for about four years, the mark he has left on my psyche and soul is something to always hold close. Written are just a few different aspects of Pete that I find inspiring and contribute to the person I try to be (and hopefully never stop trying to be).

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Recap: Screaming Females at The Hideout

Phil Collins - February 2, 2014

Screaming Females at The Hideout

Going to so many shows over the years, you would think it would only be a matter of time before one of those shows got recorded. I don't mean recorded and put on the Internet. I mean recorded professionally for a proper release. Friday's Screaming Females show at The Hideout is the first such show I have been to. A couple times a band has recorded a show on the same tour that I saw them, so the set list was similar and the recording felt close to home. This was my first time being part of the actual moment of the recording of a live album.

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January is a big month for record releases

Phil Collins - January 26, 2014

Transgender Dysphoria Blues Metropole Can't Contain It Community Support Group

We just finished talking about the best albums of 2013, and here we are in the midst of a month full of high profile releases. A couple of 2014's most anticipated albums in punk are out in January. One month into the year, we already have some likely frontrunners for the end of the year bracket.

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Random Records with Steve O

Boysetsfire - While a Nation Sleeps...

Steve O - January 14, 2014

While a Nation Sleeps

So the other night Change the Rotation voted on the best records of the year. We had a bracket with 32 contenders, randomly arranged. This resulted in some interesting matchups and some early outs for a few heavy hitters. The biggest upset? (Well, it upset me at least.) Boysetsfire’s new record falling to Stomp, the new Big D & the Kids Table record.

While a Nation Sleeps… is the first record from the reformed Boysetsfire since 2006’s The Misery Index: Notes from the Plague Years. I had the privilege to see them in April 2013 in a small bar in Newburgh, NY. This was the only time I’ve ever met anyone else that liked this band, something I never understood.

At their roots, Boysetsfire are a melodic hardcore band. However, their sound ranges from raging blasts like “Everything Went Black” and “Far From Over” to melodic sing-alongs like “Never Said” and “Closure.” Lyrically, BSF cover radical politics (“The system’s dead and we spit on the grave / Let it fucking rot until nothing remains” – from “Until Nothing Remains”), though with a touch of hope, as illustrated by songs like “Reason to Believe” and “Never Said.” Adding to the songs are sound-clips of Charlie Chaplin’s phenomenal speech from The Great Dictator. They provide interesting transitions, especially since the sound-clips are not arranged in the order of the speech.

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Change the Rotation's 2013 albums of the year bracket beatdown

Phil Collins - January 12, 2014

During the last month of 2013 and the first couple weeks of 2014, the Change the Rotation staff put our heads together to come up with our favorite albums of 2013. Steve O, Dave Anians and I each submitted our top picks. We narrowed that list down to 32 and bracketized it to see who would come out on top in a March Madness style throwdown. OK, the real inspiration for this came from that episode of "How I Met Your Mother" when Barney puts the names of all the women he has wronged into a bracket to figure out who is sabotaging him. We drew the 32 albums completely at random, resulting in some painful first round matchups. Some albums may have made it farther than they did with a different draw, while others benefitted and made it farther than they otherwise would have. In any case, I think we ended up with a winner that would have been hard to beat however the matchups came out.

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The Lawrence Arms share video for "Seventeener (17th and 37th)"

Phil Collins - January 6, 2014

Chicago's pop punk titans, The Lawrence Arms, shared a video for the track "Seventeener (17th and 37th)." This is a song off their upcoming album, "Metropole," out January 28th on Epitaph Records. This is their first full-length album since "Oh, Calcutta" came out in 2006. The band played a hometown show on New Year's Eve with Masked Intruder, Downtown Struts and Direct Hit! They will tour the East and West coasts during the next couple months.

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