Categories
Music Reviews

The Forgotten

The Forgotten

Out of Print

BYO

Hyper prolific Californian punk rockers The Forgotten have been at it since the mid-’90s, gaining a cult following both at home and overseas through a series of short-format releases and three full-length discs. Out of Print is an attempt to gather those hard-to-find tracks culled from singles and compilations, and to clean the slate for future Oi!-infused mischief. Only two original band members and a series of line-up changes obviously make for some disparate performances, but it’s all the more satisfying to discover that the performances gain both energy and solidity as the band goes along. The four most recent tracks, all previously unreleased, are by the current line-up and in fact some of the best moments on here. But there’s a lot more to be heard too. Furious working-class punks with their boots planted in impassioned hardcore, The Forgotten carry their Mohawks with a sense of necessity and workmanlike ethic. Out of Print is a great bits-and-pieces career summary from one of the more engaging street punk bands out there today.

B.Y.O. Records: http://www.byorecords.com/

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Music Reviews

Sample This, Too!

Sample This, Too!

Various Artists

BYO

Back in 1982, a then-fledgling independent label debuted with the compilation Someone Got Their Head Kicked In. It was Better Youth Organization’s (BYO for short) vociferous proclamation that punk still had a pulse despite the words of detractors who espoused the form had met its maker several years earlier, sometime soon after The Sex Pistols exited the stage at Winterland. It was a gritty and honest compilation that featured early recordings of Youth Brigade, Social Distortion, Seven Seconds, and Bad Religion. Someone Got Their Head Kicked In represented an important moment in punk’s history. It was before punk become a convoluted — and eventually meaningless — moniker; before the form became polished and found a place on the shelves of suburban record stores, comfortable alongside Britney Spears and Eminem. In 1982, the emergence of BYO offered hope for the continuation of one of the most important post-modern cultural expressions. In the years since, the label continued its valiant mission, releasing some of the finest punk music from artists such as Youth Brigade, Seven Seconds, Aggression, and even some non-punk albums from the ska kings Hepcat and the swingin’ kids of the Royal Crown Revue.

Sample This, Too! is a celebration of BYO’s twentieth anniversary. Although a few of the album’s sixteen tracks have previously been released in the past year or so (including a Rancid song performed by NOFX and a NOFX song performed by Rancid and something from Filthy Thieving Bastards), most of the material offers a preview of forthcoming releases from Anti-Flag and Bouncing Souls (who will share a full length as part of BYO’s Split Series), Youth Brigade, One Man Army, The Unseen, and a handful of others. Unfortunately, this compilation falls short of the label’s admirable intention to disseminate some of the most brazen and uncompromising punk of the past two decades. It is an uninspired and stale release that betrays the ideals of Someone Got Their Head Kicked In. The message of Bouncing Souls’ “No Security” may be apropos, however, it is undermined by a song structure and perfomative style that corroborates the notion that many of the bands who sign to Epitaph inevitably sound like a feeble interpretation of Bad Religion, who have themselves in turn become a pathetic impersonation of Bad Religion. One Man Army’s “Victoria” is a blatant rip-off of The Clash. Even Youth Brigade sounds a bit flaccid when compared to what they were doing in 1982. While Anti-Flag’s “No Borders No Nations” insists that punk has not forgotten its politically confrontational roots, they become a little too didactic. Although Anti-Flag’s take on our nation’s dire situation (corporate greed, terrorism and a litany of other evilisms) seems more credible and less contradictory than inane ramblings of Zach de la Rocha, they need some new fodder. Well intentioned and necessary as it may be, “No Borders No Nations” sounds like almost every other song the band has performed. They are aware of the problems, but seem to have few solutions. The cities have indeed burned, and Anti-Flag is glad. But, what are we to do now?

Sure this compilation costs a measly $2.99 — reminding the listener that at least the dictum that punk is supposed be cheap has not been compromised. Yet, it is one’s time that is ultimately wasted listening to this pulseless drivel.

BYO Records: http://www.byorecords.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Manifesto Jukebox

Manifesto Jukebox

Remedy

BYO

Manifesto Jukebox come roaring out of the gate with a sound that is immediate and visceral. This three piece goes for the throat with songs that convey outrage and cynicism yet blend a slight amount of hope in the mix to keep things from going over the top. Yet, like many of their ilk, Manifesto Jukebox never manages to weld their prowess with a strong sense of melody. This leaves their music, while powerful, somewhat robbed of any larger impact it may have had. A worthy listen, but not an indispensable purchase by any means.

BYO Records: http://www.byorecords.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Kosher

Kosher

Self Control

BYO

Well, I’m not sure why bands bother to play this kind of music anymore. It’s very cliche and generic. Kosher pretty much sound like The Queers or Green Day crossed with Dag Nasty or Husker Du, a formula many untalented bands choose to express their stories of pounding brewskis and gettin’ a little emo from time to time.

Let’s look at a sample of their very deep vocals: “If you could see what I see, Hypocrite Catastrophe.” Corn with extra butter. I’m guessing these guys are probably teenagers, because the lyrical content is typical of 16-19 year olds: very accusatory, angry, and confused.

On a good note, these guys do sound pretty good. They write pretty catchy melodies, the chanted choruses beg to be sung along with, and their delivery is very energetic. If you haven’t grown tired of punk in the vein of Kerplunk!-era Green Day, then you’ll probably love this record. I just can’t get into this stuff anymore. When I was 16-18, I would have loved it, but it’s just a very tired format of punk rock which really needs to be retired. I can see crust punks going nuts over this as well… they have a bit of an Exploited thing going with their vocals.

BYO Records: http://www.byorecords.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Filthy Thieving Bastards

Filthy Thieving Bastards

A Melody of Retreads and Broken Quills

BYO

Alas, if only there were more bands like the mighty Filthy Thieving Bastards. Comprised of the core members of Johnny Bonnel and Darius Koski from The Swingin’ Utters, on this, their first full release, they are helped by the likes of Greg Lisher (ex-Camper Van Beethoven) as well as fellow Utter, Spike Slawson. Yet it remains the core of Bonnel and Koski who set the Bastards’ agenda. While Johnny Bonnel still sounds like Shane McGowan, albeit with a few more teeth, this release finds their sound more fleshed out than their earlier release. The album opens up with the raucous “Death is Not the End.” The track from which the album gets its name and one that sets the album off to a good start. But, it isn’t until the second track that we see what changes have come in the Bastards’ camp. “Counterfeit Cassius Clay,” a catchy as hell singalong, sounds a bit like early Clash or a smoother Pogues. This song will stay careening around your head for weeks. Next up is “Mountain Tomb,” a classic song that sounds like a long lost folk melody from the homeland. Plaintive and full of yearning that conceals as much as it reveals in the lines, a fine song for a rainy day. For fans of alt-country or roots rock and even punk rock, Filthy Thieving Bastards are calling you. Not since Social Distortion discovered their roots has an American band combined the raw wail and energy of punk with the storytelling and elegiac qualities of folk music. Embracing their blue-collar roots and a class-consciousness, these Bastards are honest, relentless and full of more passion than a thousand of your local punk bands.

BYO Records: http://www.byorecords.com • Swingin’ Utters: http://www.swinginutters.com

Categories
Interviews

Youth Brigade

Youth Brigade

I’ve been doing interviews of bands I really like for a long time, but never have I been so excited about doing an interview as I was to do this one with Youth Brigade. Youth Brigade is one of the bands that introduced me to punk rock all of those years ago, and I’m still a fan. My excitement was compounded when I saw 7 Seconds a week before Youth Brigade. 7 Seconds were also a big, influential band in the early eighties, and they came back to play all songs off their first two albums. I watched Kevin Seconds pace back and forth on the stage with a barely controlled rage, and I couldn’t help thinking about the time I’d seen him just two and a half years ago, playing an acoustic set of bad folk songs, and the only rage that had to be contained that night was my own. Youth Brigade, on the other hand, has not vanished into bad music and irrelevance over the past fifteen years. I’d even go so far as to say that their most recent release, a split CD with the Swingin’ Utters, is their best music yet. When Youth Brigade played in Orlando in October, they played four songs off of that split CD, and their set was composed of a good mixture of music from all of their albums, and absolutely no posing. Eighteen years later, and I still can’t wait for the next Youth Brigade album.

So, yeah, I was a bit star-struck meeting Shawn Stern, the lead singer of Youth Brigade. I know he’s just a guy who writes and plays music, music that most radio stations and people in general don’t know about, but music that has consistently inspired me throughout my youth and adulthood. I was actually apprehensive, worried that he’d come off like a star and make me feel foolish for holding his music in such high esteem. Instead, I found him to be more candid, open, and enthusiastic than most bands that haven’t accomplished even one-fourth of what Shawn Stern has. After a few beers, we sat down on a curb in downtown Orlando and had this conversation about Youth Brigade and their record label, BYO. And, again, Shawn Stern continued to inspire me.

• •

It’s been eighteen years since Another State of Mind came out, and at that time, no one was really putting together record labels on their own. I mean, there were punk rock record labels, but it was you [BYO Records] and Dischord who started it.

Yeah, and Epitaph had started around that time, but they didn’t put much out. Well, they pretty much just put out Bad Religion. And there were some other early ones that were mostly started by business people who may have been fans, but they weren’t, really.

When you first started to do BYO, what were some of your apprehensions? What did you fear as a musician?

You know, the thing is, we never really thought about what we were doing. Everything came out of necessity. If we needed to play a show, it wasn’t a matter of options. If we wanted to do a show, we needed to do it ourselves, because there weren’t any other possibilities. It was the same thing with putting out a record. We didn’t think, “should we try to get on a major, should we check out some of these other labels?” ’cause there really weren’t any other small labels. We never really thought anything except, “we’ll do it ourselves.”

Why did you guys release the Sound And Fury twice, with different remixes and different songs so close to each other, and a different cover on each?

In 1982, we decided to start the label, and we decided to do a comp to start it off. And then we decided to do the tour. That was the Someone Got His Head Kicked In tour and…. We figured, “all right, it would be smart to put out an album out before we did a tour.” So we ran into the studio and rushed out an album. We recorded it at Mystic.

After we had recorded it–we pressed out a thousand copies or eight hundred copies, I think–we went on the road, and by the third show, we had a copy of it, and we sat down and listened to it and it sounded like shit. Just the quality of the recording sounded bad, and we thought the production was really bad. We liked the songs. But when we listened to it, we said, “Fuck, this is lame.” We called back to LA where we’d made the stupid deal with Mystic to distribute the first thousand copies. We said, “Stop. Don’t press any more of this Youth Brigade album. Don’t sell any more.”

So when we got back [from the tour], we just said, “Fuck, we’ve written a bunch of new songs. Let’s go in and record it. We’ve taken some time, we know what works and what doesn’t.” So we re-recorded it. We recorded it with Thom Wilson, and we recorded a bunch of new songs, and we liked the new songs better. And, uh, people kept bugging us to re-release that [first version]. And when we actually pulled it out and went in and [Youth Brigade drummer and partner in BYO] Mark remastered it, we found out that it wasn’t the recording that was bad, it was just the master. And if you listen to Out Of Print, which is basically that [first] album with some out-takes from over the years, it sounds fine. And the songs are good, we like the songs, but they’re just different songs that we never bothered to re-record because, by that point, we were just so sick of those songs, and we’d written a bunch of new ones. We’d written “Sink With California” and “Men In Blue”, which weren’t on that first album. We kept the ones we liked; we dumped the ones we were sick of, and that’s how it happened.

I was thinking before the show that you had that song about Ronnie [Reagan] and his merry men…

“Jump Back.”

Have you thought about redoing that, modernizing it, making it appropriate for the next President, whoever he may be?

No, I never thought about it. I used to love playing that song live, but Mark hates it. He’s a big baby so…

You know, the thing I loved about that second version of Sound And Fury is that it had a sense of humor. There were a lot of fun moments on it that we captured. It was very spontaneous. We would be recording a song, and I would say, “I got this idea. Let’s just do this.” And Mark would… Mark’s kind of… Mark’s kind of just sometimes a party pooper. But we did it [“Jump Back”] after recording “What Would the Revolution Change.” You know, “I am an individual” and all that sort of stuff. That was totally improvised. And I just said, “Follow me. I’m going to try this thing, like a Marines sort of thing, rah, rah, rah.” We did it and it came out pretty cool. “Jump Back,” I mean. We pretty much wrote that in the studio. I think I had a seed of an idea a long time ago. I don’t know. That was eighteen years ago. Jesus Christ. But I kind of remember… there were a few songs where we’d do that. You know, I’ve got an idea but it’s not really fleshed out, and we didn’t really work it out in the studio–I mean in the rehearsal studio–and then we got in the studio, and we start recording, and we just start playing with it, and it comes out great. That’s the fun thing about Thom Wilson: he was really open to that. When we went to record in the beginning, we didn’t really have anything worked out. After about two days, he said, “You know what, you guys aren’t ready to record this album. I don’t think I can work with you on this because it’s not ready.” We didn’t have enough songs. But that record, it was fun, really a learning process, and it worked out well. I think it’s one of the best things we ever did.

Looking back over all this time of being independent and putting out your own stuff, what different things has that allowed you to do musically? I know you’ve had a number of offshoots and smaller bands that you’ve each been in and put out different kinds of albums. What kind of freedom…

Well, actually, Royal Crown Revue (a swing band which featured Mark and Adam Stern from Youth Brigade), in the beginning, we couldn’t give that record away. Nobody knew what the fuck it was. People would love them live and buy the records at the shows, but I couldn’t get distributors to do anything with it. But then when it all blew up, after my brothers weren’t in the band any longer, we sold a shitload of that record. It was crazy. We made a lot of money off that record. It was cool.

All in all, it’s pretty amazing that we’re able to do what we love to do, which is play music, and we pretty much make a living off of it. It’s pretty cool. I’m pretty happy about it.

So what are you guys doing next? What’s the next thing after the split with the Swingin’ Utters?

Uh, we’ve been talking about making an album, so I guess I need to write some songs.

Or just go into the studio with Thom Wilson.

Thom Wilson gets a lot of money now. He did all the early Offspring stuff. He’s a millionaire. I mean, we’ve worked with him. He mixed our To Sell the Truth record. And we love working with Thom, but we can’t afford the guy anymore. We work with Steve Kravac. Like the split we did with Steve. We did it in just a few days. It came out really good. We’re really happy with it. We figure if we could make a record like that split, we might as well make a full-length. So we’ve been talking about it. Hopefully next year we’ll have one. I got to write some songs.

Categories
Music Reviews

Leatherface

Leatherface

Horsebox

BYO

This full-length CD is Leatherface’s follow-up to their comeback split CD with Hot Water Music last year. Leatherface is to emo sort of like Fugazi is to straightedge, the revered Yoda band of the genre still going out and kicking butt in the clubs and other shows to the amazement of kids half their age.

As someone who is usually the oldest person in the clubs I’m either playing or spectating in (with the exception of these guys themselves, when I saw them touring with HWM last year!), I can respect that. This is good stuff too, fortunately, midtempo rock with some elements of punk and indie thrown in. As always, vocalist Frankie Stubbs sounds like he has been out drinking all night after shouting himself hoarse on the terraces at a football match. It can take some getting used to, and frankly I’m still working on it. But the material is really fine, including a great cover of Nick Cave’s “Ship Song” and a surprisingly effective take on “True Colors” (yes, the one that Cyndi Lauper did).

BYO Records, P.O. Box 67A64, Los Angeles, CA 90067; http://www.byorecords.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Cadillac Tramps

Cadillac Tramps

Live!

BYO

The Caddy Tramps are known for their brand of catchy rockabilly, and here we have a collection of some of their best songs. Their past recordings are mostly upbeat and easy to sing along to, and this live set is no different. Starting off with full speed songs and slowing down the tempo for some so-so grooves. A good primer for the wanna-be Tramp fan.

BYO Records, P.O. Box 67A64, Los Angeles, CA 90067; http://www.byorecords.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Leatherface/Hot Water Music

Leatherface/Hot Water Music

Split CD

BYO

Last year at the Hardback Cafe in Gainesville, Hot Water Music played a show that was meant to be a final good-bye but turned quickly into a reintroduction to hundreds of fanatical worshippers. The show was recorded for posterity, and one of the standout tracks was a cover of a British band, name of Leatherface. Cut to half a year later, the two bands have released on a split CD on BYO records. For Leatherface, this CD represents another split CD (see the Your Choice Live split with Jawbox) to gain more popularity in America and a fond hello again to fanatical lovers of their almost punk, almost Oi! sound. For Hot Water Music, it is an opportunity to lend a hand to a band that has inspired them. Both bands came out winners on this one.

Leatherface has some real standout tracks; my favorite so far is the mid-tempo groove of the fourth track, “Punch”. Those of you inspired by punk will enjoy “Eat Her Face” (L eat her face=Leatherface, get it?) and those of you more of the post-punk school, well, this whole disc should do you right. My only complaint with this portion of the CD is that Frankie’s vocals could be a little higher in the mix… not a usual complaint for me, but Mr. Stubbs is very much a focal point of the band. Nevertheless, check this out, and don’t just buy this CD and skip to song number 7, which starts Hot Water Music’s set.

If you haven’t been living under the punk rock for the past years, you know who Hot Water Music are. You know the power and glory of this amazing band, so I don’t need to tell you all about them. You may have even seen them live and seen the union they create in people at their shows and the energy they give off. These five songs show a little more of HWM’s growth process. These songs have taken a lot of people I know more time to get into than earlier works, a sure sign of progress to me. Turn it on and listen up, it’s the band you know and love. Within a few listens, I guarantee you’ll be ready to chant along and take each song as a personal battle cry against societal pressures. Listen to this CD from track one through to track eleven, you won’t be disappointed…

BYO, PO Box 67A64, Los Angeles, CA 90067

Categories
Music Reviews

Leatherface/Hot Water Music

Leatherface/Hot Water Music

BYO Split Series # 1

BYO

UK’s Leatherface contributes 6 songs and Gainesville’s own HWM 5 songs for just over 33 minutes of tunage. Emo heaven, I suppose. Leatherface, however, are sort of a forerunner of the genre, being an early ’90s band that broke up suddenly after several popular Brit albums, but before most on this side of the pond had heard of them. Their songs on this outing are considerably darker in tone than HWM’s, but share the same type of introspective connect-the-dots lyrics (don’t expect any rhymes or linear storytelling here) with HWM and others generally lumped in the “emo” category.

There are a couple notable differences between the bands, despite that HWM are big fans of their Limey predecessors (they cover them on their Live at the Hardback CD). For one, HWM use more major chord patterns, making their music subliminally more listenable. Second, although both bands use throaty shout-singing, Leatherface’s vocalist gives new meaning to “throaty.” His voice is a rasp that makes Dickey Barrett sound like lead alto for the Vienna Boys Choir. You can tell that the HWM vocalist can sing when he’s not shouting; I’m not sure Leatherface’s could even talk.

Good production throughout, nice to see HWM using Rob McGregor’s hometown studio (listed as “Goldentone,” though that was Rob’s label’s name; guess the “mistake” was because the studio is, or was anyhow, called “Turd”).

BYO Records, P.O. Box 67A64, Los Angeles, CA 90067; http://www.byorecords.com