Random Records with Steve O

The Lillingtons - Stella Sapiente

Steve O - November 13, 2017

Stella Sapiente album cover

October can be a great time for a record to come out. You’ve been waiting for a good chunk of the year from when it’s announced, so you’re stoked to finally hear it. It’s late in the year, so it’s fresh in our minds when it comes time to start thinking about the bracket. If it’s a grower, that sucks, cause it’s only got a couple of weeks to convince you. But if it’s one of those records that hits you immediately, you’re hooked when it’s time to start thinking about what goes on the bracket.

Such is the case with the Lillingtons first record since 2006, Stella Sapiente. I got into the Lillingtons through their classic – 1999’s Death by Television. We were hanging out in DeKalb somewhere when Henry Brawlins put it on—it had that sci-fi, somewhat spooky vibe, mixed with straight up fun Ramones-core and the distinct voice of Kody Templeman (of Teenage Bottlerocket). I was hooked, but I never really listened to any of their other records all that much. But when they released the first single off Stella Sapiente, “Insect Nightmares,” I knew this was gonna be a good one. There’s an ever more haunting vibe to this record—it just feels so dark, with its mystical lyrics focused on, as Templeman says “secret societies, astrology, and the occult.” But it was “Insect Nightmares,” which I immediately connected to Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, that drew me in. “In the dead of night I’m hiding in my bed / That’s when the bugs come alive creeping through my head / They say it’s just a dream and simply nothing more / But now it’s 2 AM I’m crawling on the floor.” It’s kinda creepy, but it’s incredibly catchy. Fast paced with a little bit of melody, “Insect Nightmares” was the perfect way to tease the new record.

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Random Records with Steve O

Wasted Potential - Living Up to the Name

Steve O - September 14, 2017

Living Up to the Name album cover

Back in 2014 Wasted Potential released their self-titled EP. It was awesome. It was arguably the best twelve and a half minutes of music in 2014. But Phil wouldn’t let it on the bracket because it’s an EP, and you know, rules and stuff. Whatever, I still made sure to tell you how awesome it was (you can read that review here if you so please). After a couple years, another EP, a pair of splits, and some other random recordings, we now get their debut full length, the cheekily titled, Living Up to the Name. (Wasted Potential. Get it?) Rejoice! It’s time to celebrate, as Living Up to the Name gives us…, uh, almost 19 minutes of music. Well, they’re calling it a full-length, so it’s bracket worthy now.

And Living Up to the Name fucking rips. “Crusades” opens the record up with a bang, has a heavier feel than some of Wasted Potential’s other material, and has a fun woah section as things slow down, before a little bit of shred time. Since their debut EP Wasted Potential has learned that you don’t have to blaze through everything all the time—indeed, none of these songs go under the minute mark. The more mid-paced “Never Asked” totally has a sing-along vibe, and is pretty damn catchy. “East Enders” and especially “Turbo 90s” also hum along at a slower pace. They give the record the chance to breathe, and the transition from the blazers to these more relaxed numbers feels totally natural. None of these songs are longer than three minutes though, so this definitely isn’t going to be mistaken for a drone record. “Jazz Age” feels like one of the most spastic pieces in their catalog, while “Palm Mutes” maintains the breakneck pace from that debut EP. After a slow, heavy riffed build up, “Curt Murder Face Rip” absolutely, uh, rips. Some of these rapid-fire tracks feel heavier than their earlier material, like they’ve figured out the appropriate amount of crunch to put into these songs. Or they’re letting that metal influence creep in a little more. Danny Kidd’s vocals sound harsher and more aggressive here too, spitting a little more hot sauce on their pentagram pizzas. Closer “Weekend at Bernice’s” is one of the catchiest songs they’ve written. In the space of 19 minutes, we get spastic, heavy, and catchy as hell. In short, spinning Living Up to the Name is one of the best ways you can spend 19 minutes. Bravo dudes, looking forward to you getting down to the States one of these days.

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Random Records with Steve O

Whelmed - Whelmed

Steve O - July 6, 2017

Whelmed

Bloomington is famous for folk punk, thanks to the Ghost Mice/Plan It X history. But with Plan It X calling it quits, it’s about time to recognize some of the other fantastic new music coming out of here. Whelmed’s debut, self-titled EP is a good starting point. Though, to be honest, this isn’t exactly “new” in a sense; 2/3 of Whelmed also play in CTR faves High Dive. But Whelmed is full of 2-3 minute fun, catchy pop punk songs. Nothing groundbreaking, but here are four solid songs that remind you why you listen to this music and why punk is so important.

“Empty Vessel” is a great opening track—simple with a super catchy chorus. It’s the kind of self-reflective punk song that we all need to sing along to when we’re having a rough day or a reminder that we’re all in this together. And goddamn, that chorus just begs you to sing along at the top of your lungs. “Slow Jam” is perfectly named as it is exactly that; a chill, slow-tempo reflective song featuring the brilliant line of “Shut your shit-storm of a mouth / Some silence helps you think.” The last minute picks up the pace, with the hopeful refrain of “Maybe we'll do better next time,” really adding to the reflective nature of the song. “Leech” closes the record out with the shortest song here with another self-reflective pop punk song, reminding us that it’s okay to ask for help when we need it. These are songs that are super easy to connect with; they’re all of the ‘we’re all in this together’ mindset of pop punk. It’s awesome and it’s supportive and it’s uplifting in its own way, especially when you’re afraid to read the news every day (dear god I don’t want to know what Trump did today).

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Random Records with Steve O

Torturess - Kiss the Whip

Steve O - June 5, 2017

Kiss the Whip

Finding out you work with someone who listens to the same music as you is awesome, especially when it comes to punk or metal. I mean, basically everyone listens to the Beatles, and these days it’s probably easy for people who listen to, let’s say Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift, to find each other within their working environment. But it is so much cooler when it’s something like, “you know Propagandhi?! Hell yeah!” It’s like that Slayer fan, you know. But maybe a little more subtle, like being a part of a secret group. You know about bands/records that are classics, which no one else in the office has ever heard of before.

And that’s how Torturess’ Kiss the Whip came to my attention. I work with bassist/vocalist James, guitarist of hardcore/noise punks Racebannon, who brought a bag of goodies to work one day. As opposed to the spastic hardcore of Racebannon, Torturess is a fuzzed out, sludgy, straight-up rollicking doom band, in the vein of 16, High on Fire, or that Georgia scene that brought out bands like Black Tusk or Kylesa. But with an extra emphasis on the low end. Because while all of those bands have some guitar work, and some pretty damn good stuff, Torturess eschews that classic instrument of rock and roll for another bass. That’s right, Kiss the Whip brings a wallop with a double bass attack. But you don’t miss the guitar; the basses hold down the rhythm and bring some pretty good leads as well, as in opener “Ravenous.” They basically use the bass in the way that most bands would use a guitar, so the songs have that deep, dark sound, without having to tune a guitar way the hell down to B or drop D or whatever.

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Random Records with Steve O

Mobina Galore - Feeling Disconnected

Steve O - March 16, 2017

Feeling Disconnected

Time’s a weird thing. Like how I can cross an imaginary line and all of the sudden, it’s 2 o’clock instead of 3? Or how we just “spring ahead” an hour which has me getting home at 4 in the morning instead of 3. What the hell? Sometimes though, time works out so absolutely perfectly.

It was a Friday when I was talking to Joe Vickers of Audio/Rocketry and he mentioned he was going on a European tour to open for Mobina Galore. The name was familiar, because I remember seeing that they were opening for Against Me! in Palatine. Unfortunately, that show practically down the street from my parents’ house sold out before I could get tickets. The next Monday at work, I check out Mobina Galore’s new record, Feeling Disconnected. Then I spent a good portion of the week listening to both that record, and their 2014 full length debut, Cities Away, unable to shake the impression that they were totally fucking awesome. That weekend I was going to be back in Illinois, and, coincidentally Mobina Galore were playing in Milwaukee on Saturday. In the span of less than a week, I discovered an awesome new band and got to see them live. Making all of this even more perfectly coincidental is that they’re from Winnipeg. What are the odds? Now that’s good timing!

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Random Records with Steve O

Crusades - This is a Sickness and Sickness Will End

Steve O - March 6, 2017

This is a Sickness and Sickness Will End

The third Crusades full length is a little different beast from the ones that preceded it. While previous releases had strong trappings of satanic, atheistic, and anti-deistic imagery, they’ve brought a slightly different vibe on This is a Sickness and Sickness Will End. It is, however, just as dark and foreboding as everything the Ottawa quartet has done up to now. The record revolves around the death of loved ones, a trend we’ve been seeing more of lately (recent releases by Touché Amore and After the Fall come to mind). It’s a topic that is a lot easier to find a relationship with, than say, the life and death of Giordano Bruno, the man who was burned at the stake for vocally and publicly supporting Copernicus’ heliocentric theory and the subject of 2013’s fantastic Perhaps You Deliver this Judgment with Greater Fear than I Receive It.

But it’s not just a lyrical shift that makes This is a Sickness… stand out. There’s a metal influence found in all of Crusades’ music. Previously that’s been rooted in the Mercyful Fate/In Solitude realm, sans the falsetto, but it had that upbeat pace and satanic imagery. There’s some of that here, see opener “1590 (Sickness Never Ceasing),” or “1866 (Porch and Portal),” but you get the feeling they’ve been listening to stuff like Neurosis, post-metal, and maybe a little funeral doom slightly more than the King (Diamond, not Elvis…come on) when composing these songs. “1828 (Father of Waves)” and “1940 (Whirr and Chime)” are both slower paced ballad-eqsue haunts, clocking in over five minutes, while the latter and “1846 (Once Drinking Deep)” feature some haunting keyboards and strings, while songs like “1713 (The Scorching Fevers),” and majestic closer “1657 (Black Curtains Draw)” blend both worlds.

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Random Records with Steve O

Petrol Girls - Talk of Violence

Steve O - February 25, 2017

Talk of Violence

So here’s a record that probably should’ve ended up on our end of the year bracket. It’s the day after Christmas, and I’m sitting on the couch in my parents' living room. We’re meeting up to vote on the bracket later that day, so I should be finalizing my list. Instead, I randomly remember this band that I’d been hearing about were supposed to have a record coming out that I wanted to listen to. And so, I play Petrol Girls’ “Restless,” with its bombastic opening line of, “I’ll give you motherfuckers restless.” There’s no turning back now. I’m listening to the whole record in the living room. Sorry, Mom. Bad timing?

Petrol Girls’ Talk of Violence is largely a full-frontal, blazing hardcore attack, with enough melodic noodling and breaks in the pace to make that post- prefix feel appropriate (still don’t get why/how that’s a thing). Lyrically, it’s basically all radical gender politics and feminism. No matter how deep your head is in the ground, you can’t miss it. And it’s fucking awesome. Album opener “False Peace” proudly proclaims that: “We will disturb the false peace / Expose the violence that they / Teach in the way that they designate gender / Code our expression and sexual behavior / We're not a binary.” Along with the aforementioned “Restless” and the explosive “Touch Me Again,” these three songs not only bring the hammer down musically, they are blatant in their feminism. “Touch Me Again" is particularly brilliant. A line like “My liberty my body as the base of my autonomy,” just seems like such a definitive statement. And listen to the end of the song where all the music drops out, the intensity and emotion are simply harrowing. “Treading Water” has all sorts of fun dynamics, with some clean vocals. “Deflate” also has a similar vibe, while “Fang” has more of a rock and roll vibe at times.

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Random Records with Steve O

Gouge Away - ,Dies

Steve O - April 25, 2016

,Dies

,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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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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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

Milorg



V is for Vreid

Milorg

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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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

Sundowning



T is for This is Hell

Sundowning

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

Jurassic



S is for Senmuth

Jurassic

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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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:

                     Ronny's

(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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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 (http://brownbearontheair.blogspot.com/2016/01/change-rotation-guest-episode.html), 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…

Weiland



E is for Empyrium

Weiland

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 (http://brownbearontheair.blogspot.com/2016/01/change-rotation-guest-episode.html), 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 (http://brownbearontheair.blogspot.com/2016/01/change-rotation-guest-episode.html), 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 (http://brownbearontheair.blogspot.com/2016/01/change-rotation-guest-episode.html), 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 (http://brownbearontheair.blogspot.com/2016/01/change-rotation-guest-episode.html), 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Random Records with Steve O

Fall of Efrafa - Owsla

Steve O - November 9, 2014

Owsla

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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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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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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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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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.

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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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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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Random Records with Steve O

Good Riddance - Operation Phoenix

Steve O - October 21, 2013

Operation Phoenix

So I think of Good Riddance as one of those legendary 90s, Fat Wreck bands. And yes, I’ll admit the fact that singer Russ Rankin is vegan, straight edge, and a huge hockey fan might have something to do with why I love this band. Now that that’s out of the way, they were doing the political, melodic hardcore thing years before Rise Against got huge doing the same thing. They were prolific, releasing 7 records in 11 years. They broke up in 2007, but reformed in 2012 playing the occasional show. 1999’s Operation Phoenix stands as my favorite of their releases. It has blazing political songs like “Indoctrination”, “Shit-Talking Capitalists”, and “Winning the Hearts and Minds” along with more melodic numbers like “Letters Home” and “The Hardest Part”. The longest song, “Article IV” peaks at 3 minutes, but it sandwiched with sound-clips, giving it some extra length. The record is full of sound-clips, which personally I’m a big fan of, adding a different feeling to the songs. It also has a sweet cover of Black Flag’s “My War.” Check out Operation Phoenix in full.

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Random Records with Steve O

Hanson Brothers - Sudden Death

Steve O - October 2, 2013

Sudden Death

In honor of the start of the NHL season this week, Random Records is all about hockey. Which means the Hanson Brothers! Now would be a good time to mention that if you haven’t seen the movie Slapshot, drop what you are doing right now and go watch it. The Hanson Brothers obviously take their name from that movie. It’s the side project of the guys from Nomeansno, playing Ramones-core all about hockey and beer. Sudden Death was their second record, released in 1996.

It should be pretty obvious what kind of music you’ll find on Sudden Death. While Nomeansno tend to have rather intellectual songs, the Hanson Brothers are juvenile. Musically, they sound like every Ramones-core band. Lyrically, it’s beer, girls and hockey. The best part of the Hanson Brothers is all the hockey references. Sudden Death features songs like “Stick Boy,” “Third Man In,” “Rink Rat,” “Danielle (She Don’t Care About Hockey),” “He Looked a lot Like Tiger Williams” and their version of “The Hockey Song” (see below). Yeah, hockey’s great.

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Random Records with Steve O

The Sainte Catherines - Fire Works

Steve O - September 26, 2013

Fire Works

So the next Random Record is the last one released by Montreal’s the Sainte Catherines. Fire Works was released in 2010, while the Sainte Catherines called it quits in 2012. Their full length prior to this one, was 2006’s Dancing For Decadence, released on Fat Wreck Chords. I stumbled across it at Record Breakers, before they moved to the city, I thought it looked cool and the fact that it was released by Fat Wreck was all the convincing I needed. That ended up being a great decision, as Dancing For Decadence is fucking amazing and definitely one of my favorite records of any genre. But I’m not gonna rave about that record here. I’m gonna talk about the follow up, which I had huge expectations for…

…Only to be let down. I was totally bummed the first time I heard Fire Works. Dancing For Decadence was this blazing fast, catchy punk record. Fire Works slowed down and didn’t seem very catchy. Yeah, there were some good songs and it has Hugo Mudie’s awesome gravel voice, but it wasn’t like Dancing For Decadence, which didn’t have a bad song on it. But I persisted and kept giving another try after another try. And it took a while, but I came to love Fire Works for what it was. Some of the songs on here have become my favorite Sainte Catherines songs (i.e. “No Friends,” “Reinventing Ron Hextall (I Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye),” and “D’You Guys Wanna Fuckin’ Party After This? No.”). They seem much more heartfelt, more meaningful, more sincere. More hockey references! Both of these are records I still listen to regularly.

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Random Records with Steve O

Antillectual - Perspectives & Objectives

Steve O - September 22, 2013

Perspectives & ObjectivesSo Phil had told me he was starting up his music blog again and asked if I wanted to contribute to it. And I’ve finally come up with a worthwhile way to participate. Random Records with SteveO! I’ve got more music on my computer than I know what to do with and I seem to spend a good amount of time listening to it. The point is to highlight a record or band you might not be very familiar with (or even know at all) and just have a short write-up about them. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your new favorite band.

So for the initial Random Records… I bring you Perspectives & Objectives, released just last month by the Dutch band Antillectual. I saw these guys last year in Albany while they were on their way down to the Fest. They put on a great show with lots of energy, which was made more impressive by the fact that the energy was missing from the crowd. I bought a record and talked to them for a while after the show, about vegetarianism, what it was like touring in another country, where they were going next. They were super friendly guys and were willing to chat with people despite with their accented and limited English.

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