Thursday, September 19, 2013

Save Rock and Roll Review -- Fall Out Boy

I've been reading a lot of reviews of Fall Out Boy's latest album, Save Rock and Roll, and I have to say that I disagree with a lot of them. My humble opinion is that the popular music reviews, such as Billboard, Entertainment, etc., are swayed by a personal writer's prejudice that FOB is "too punk" or "too alternative" to work well in the popular scene. Meanwhile, the punk blogs writers have the opposite prejudice that FOB has SOLD OUT! They think FOB used to be so punk and so much heavier, and these critics demand to know what happened!

First of all, these men have never been that punk or that heavy. They have always lived on the pop side of punk, even from their first albums, their barely-produced, not-even-on-Spotify beginning albums. And here's the thing--maybe their album doesn't fit in any specific category, or maybe no one wants to accept them into their folds--but this album is good. It's great, even. FOB topped the charts with Save Rock and Roll, and rightfully so.

I would like to claim that I only listened to FOB in high school and that I'm totally cooler than that now and so over it. But the truth is, I saw them at Riot Fest last weekend and it was awesome. Songs like "Saturday" and "Grand Theft Autumn" took me back, and songs like "Alone Together" and "The Phoenix" brought me into the future.

The bottom line is that Save Rock and Roll is super listenable. Sure, those who are *only* in to hardcore or punk music probably won't like it...or will claim to not like it. But me, I'm not music prejudice, and I'll listen to any artist in any genre, as long as I'm impressed by the music. Few artists could write an entire album this catchy...few artists could write even one song as catchy as the ones on that album. I just need everyone to stop thinking for a minute about what FOB is or what category they fall into, and simply enjoy the poppy but not-too-poppy sounds coming through your speakers. Patrick Stump's voice has only gotten better, and while the lyrics have gotten more sugary, I don't think anyone will regret giving this album a chance.

So get out there, get on Spotify, and queue up Save Rock and Roll.  IF you can do so with an open mind and no prejudices about what you think Fall Out Boy should or should not be, I'm confident that it will be quite the enjoyable experience. And if you don't like it, at the very least, you will have some mid-road songs to play at parties that will satisfy the whole crowd.

I'll say it: damn, I'm glad that Fall Out Boy is back. Talent is talent, regardless of the genre. Thanks guys.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Warped Tour 2013 Review (aka My Summer Playdate with Thousands of Like-Minded People)

Warped Tour...the greatest day of the year for a great number of people. This year's line-up is stellar, and if you were wondering who to see, this is your lucky day because I am always here providing my (probably) largely-unwanted professional opinion. Logistically, the tour was run very well and smoothly as usual, and parents shouldn't worry about sending their kids out to play with the Warped masses.

The highlight of my day was The Early November. Not only did they have a great set, Ace Enders' stint in the Acoustic Basement was a day-maker. I think a lot of people are missing out when they choose not to wander over to see The Early November; this band is a classic, and there is so much to be learned from their songwriting and performance. I'm always impressed by how Ace can literally "ace" every note (hehe), and how well the rest of the band executes the technical aspects of performance, along with the energy of the band as a whole.

The Wonder Years were great as usual, and I felt that their set incorporated old tunes and new perfectly. Always enjoyable!

While The Early November made my day, initially I was most excited to see my new favorite, The Story So Far. I was overjoyed at the number of people who swarmed to the Tilly's stage for their set, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I must admit that they are not technically great live, but they are a young band with a lot of talent, and I have high hopes for them. They obviously put a lot of heart into their performance, with Parker Cannon leaving the stage before the end of the set and vomiting off-stage. It was an anticlimactic end to a performance that was overall enjoyable.

The surprise of the day for me was Reel Big Fish. I won't lie--I was inordinately excited to see this band, probably because I'm getting old but maybe because I had a feeling they would be awesome. Their set was easily the most fun I had all day; this band is so quirky and cool, and they are comfortable making fun of themselves. I would recommend not missing this set at all costs.

Motion City Soundtrack was, of course, a lot of fun to see, and I've always thought Justin Pierre connects very well with his crowd. They do a great job live, and if you like them I'd say this is another not-to-miss show. I also witnessed The Summer Set, another fun band with catchy, dance-inspiring tunes.  Hawthorne Heights was a throwback, and played older music to a great extent, which seemed to be crowd pleasing. I ran over to The Swellers for a bit as well, and the only thing disappointing about their set was that they were on the smallest stage and didn't draw a large crowd. I think The Swellers are a lot better and have more potential than people give them credit for; if you don't believe me, pull up their song "Runaways" on Spotify. The Swellers – Runaways

I also witnessed Chiodos' set, along with Craig Owens' Acoustic Basement performance. While I attempt to listen to Chiodos like any good new-school-punk loving soul, they have never been among my favorites, so you can trust that my opinion is not skewed when I say that they were very good. Craig Owens' voice is better than most, even live, and the whole crowd, including me, seemed to really enjoy their chosen set. They were a good choice for the tour this year because I think they pulled a big crowd, and roped in a few older people who may not have otherwise went.

Sleeping with Sirens overlapped The Early November and The Story So Far, but I truly didn't mind missing them--as much as I love their first two full-length releases, Feel leaves a lot to be desired, and thus I likely would have boycotted them anyway.

So, this is where I'll stop with my specific band reviews. Soupy Campbell had a little rant during The Wonder Years' set, stating how he is never going to put any bands down, but made it very clear who he thought we should be listening to. And not surprisingly, he was right on the money as far as I'm concerned. Regardless of the type of music a person enjoys, there is a great disparity between truly talented and well-intentioned bands, and other bands that seem to have no desires except shocking people as much as possible, often encouraging young impressionable kids to follow a lead that will likely take them astray.

Be yourselves and be punks if you want, kids, but remember the difference between right and wrong, and support the bands who also know the difference and take pride in making truly good and meaningful music. Go forth with this unsolicited advice, pack up some Gatorades, and get out there and rage at your nearest Warped Tour!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Wonder Years--The Greatest Generation Review

I read an interview with Soupy Campbell about a year ago, in which he commented that he plans for The Wonder Years albums to be progressive--to tell a story not only within each album, but within The Wonder Years' entire anthology.

Did this album live up to that? Lyrically, musically? Perhaps, I suppose, it depends what they were reaching for. In my mind, The Upsides was an album about being a kid. It was about starting to figure out who you are, but still reaching back for your youth and not being completely done growing up. This is portrayed not only in the lyrics, but in the overall feel of the album, the catchy choruses, and the upbeat, not-quite-punk-but-definitely-not-pop sound of the guitars, percussion, and vocals. Then, we had Suburbia, which quite frankly blew everyone else's album out of the pop-punk water and set the standard for the new generation of punk music. It didn't try too hard to reel you in with overtly catchy choruses--it didn't need to. It proved at every turn that yes, growing up was a rough time and we're still trying, but we decided we're coming out swinging, and we're going to pound relentlessly through until we make it. And pound relentlessly, the album does. And it does it in the best, sweetest, play-on-repeat-all-day, possible way.

And now The Wonder Years have given the world The Greatest Generation. Other critic sites have touted it as lyrically advanced, and indeed a fantastic progression for this band. Okay--opinions are what let us enjoy bands like this when not everyone in the world understands it. But this album left me a bit confused. Did they succeed? Did those kids we heard struggle in The Upsides and start to grow up in Suburbia move forward with their lives? I thought that with an album title like this one, the album would have screamed YES--those kids made it through, and I can too.

But this album is sadder than the last two. And not sadder in an angsty-teen way, but rather because they did grow up, but they aren't better. They apologize: "I'm sorry I don't laugh at the right times...I'm awkward and nervous." They're waiting for something bad to happen. They just want to "be enough for everyone." They ask, "If I'm in an airport, and you're in a hospital bed, what kind of man does that make me?"

The thing that I have always and will always appreciate about The Wonder Years is the honesty in their lyrics, somehow making the simplest, most honest words sound smart and relatable. Honest lyrics abound in this album, but I don't feel like they hit the right spot as much as they normally do. This is a good album, but not what I was expecting from their progression and the album title. Maybe that's the point--we expect all the problems in life to go away as we age, but we really just end up with different problems.

High Points: The overall darker feel of the album, the 4-5 outstanding songs, the progression of Soupy's voice and the musicality of the band. Additionally, the fact that they stayed true to themselves, and made the album they wanted to make. 

Low Points: Though not often, some of the lyrics feel like they're trying too hard to provoke a sad reaction rather than just letting us feel it naturally. Also, the soft/slower songs don't necessarily fit in as well as expected. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Warped Tour 2012

I think the last time I seriously went to Warped Tour before this year was 2007. I was in high school--the age in which you are supposed to go to Warped. This year, though, the lineup was way too good to pass up, so haters can hate all they want, but I'm raging at Warped while they're at home judging. Highlights abound below!

Taking Back Sunday. One of the great loves of my of my great romances, if you will. Finally got to meet them for the first time in St. Louis! I got my Tell All Your Friends album signed along with a poster of Adam swinging his mic. The show was fantastic, somehow landed second row and raged hard until Cute, when too many people were falling on my head so I had the bouncer pull me out. I don't know how these guys bring it for every single show; actually I don't know how any band does it on the strenuous journey that is Warped Tour, but TBS doesn't leave you wanting for anything at the end of their set...except, of course, for a longer set.

The Acoustic Basement. Okay, I'll admit it, I really only went to the Basement (aka miniature tent...) to see John Nolan of Taking Back Sunday. I know what I like, and I like thirty-something hipsters who used to sing for Straylight Run. I found a random folding chair to the side that I commandeered and had a great view of Mr. Nolan's performance. "Done to Death," and "Mistakes we Knew We Were Making," were definitely highlights, but hearing "Existentialism on Prom Night" was a defining moment in my love affair with music, reminding me why music is so important and potentially life-altering. His voice is so much better live than on any of his recordings, by the way.

Yellowcard. Duh. One of my favorite bands from high school who recently wiggled their way back into my good graces with their latest album release. I got to meet them too, and told them how much I love them. I hope they know they still have a loyal following out there, even though it might seem like people have forgotten about them. Oh, and thank the Lord above they started playing "With You Around" live instead of "Hang You Up," the respective best and worst songs from their latest album. From the first time I heard "With You Around," that was my jam. Glad they finally caught on, I should probably be hired as their manager or something. Now if only they'd play a little something from "One for the Kids.."

New Found Glory. I had lost some of my affection for NFG a little while ago when I read an article in AP including some not-so-nice comments about Mark Hoppus (why? why would you EVER do such a fool thing?!), and then they released their album "Radiosurgery," which let's be honest is not the greatest. Unlike Yellowcard, I had a blast during their set simply because of their older music, and I told Chad Gilbert just that at their tent later. "Head-On Collision" is, has been, and always will be, my favorite NFG song. (It makes no difference to me that All Time Low got their name from that song; in fact, it makes it better because all the teenyboppers in love with ATL have no idea they started in such a good place...) They also played some other older songs which I greatly enjoyed and raged to, and I readmitted to myself my love for NFG was still strong.

The Used. I love The Used. I do. I don't know why, but I really, really just love The Used. That being said, I don't think I would enjoy being spit on by Bert McCracken,which he quite frequently does, but that's just me. Not superfan status, I guess, and I'll just have to live with it. Their set was out of this world, and starting off "A Box of Sharp Objects" with the intro to Nirvana's "Teen Spirit" came off without a hitch. I know! Even reading that sentence back to myself, I wouldn't think it would work, but it totally did. I had such a blast during their set, I cannot even describe. And McCracken's voice is still in fine shape, in case anyone was wondering.

Pierce the Veil. Oh, God of all that is holy, do I love Pierce the Veil right now. I mean, I was a fan before seeing them live, but after seeing them twice now, I can truly say I love them; I bought their latest album, "Collide With the Sky" before hearing any of the tracks, and let me tell you, that is NOT something I take lightly. Their set was incredible; I'm old, so I like their first album best and they don't play much from it, but I'll go to a headlining show to see that, I suppose. Their guitarist impressed me, and they can cover Kellin Quinn's and Jeremy McKinnon's guest vocals quite well when those boys aren't around. Vic Fuente's voice is great live, and they pull everything off without a hitch. Incidentally, theirs were also the loudest shows I went to...or maybe after I saw them everything else just sounded duller. Who could say?

Senses Fail. It had been a not-so-short while since I'd listened to Senses Fail, and I think it's a little sad they're not on a mainstage, but who am I to judge? We caught them accidentally, but after the show I was immensely glad we did. Come on, "Calling All Cars", and "Can't Be Saved"?! We got so excited for "Buried a Lie" that we made our way to the front row and moshed a little bit. Pretty hardcore for two small girls, but totallly worth it.

Mayday Parade. Obviously one of the best live bands of this genre/generation. I'm so sad I didn't get to see more of their set; I had to pick between them and Pierce the Veil, and I'd seen a Mayday headlining show before, so I couldn't bring myself to miss PTV. But Mayday is phenominal live, and I will never understand how they get the crowd so pumped and so involved with their brand of pop-punk. It's more pop than punk! Until I saw them live, I wasn't even that big a fan! They've got such a big following with older kids too; maybe it's because they pull so much heart and soul into their music. Gah, and let's be honest, the boys of Mayday Parade leave nothing to be desired in the eye candy department...

Four Year Strong. I'm a big fan of FYS' album "Enemy of the World," and I'm really glad I got to see them live. They've been around, making good music for a little while now, and it was really important for me to know they're not too bad live. Had to leave their set early to go meet Adam and the boys of Taking Back Sunday, but I don't think anyone could blame us for that.

We the Kings. Uhhh. I blogged on here once about how much dislike I had for their newest album, "Sunshine State of Mind," but that doesn't change how awesome they are live. Literally probably one of most technically sound bands on Warped this year. It might be because they have what seems like an excessive amount of guitars for the type of music they play, but I'm not complaining. And those guitarists are in the same league as the boys of Mayday Parade. I have a blast to songs like "Skyway Avenue," then just objectify the guitarists during the songs I don't like.

Rise Against. Okay, they were only on one date of the tour that I went to, and I used to be a huge Rise Against fan, but The Used were playing at the same time and I'd already seen Rise Against a couple of times live. So, I skipped a part of their set. Sue me. I was listenting to them back in the days of "Everchanging," and no amount of kids claiming to be huge RA fans now will ever change the fact that I listented to RA exclusively during my freshman year of college way back in 2008. As always, I had a great time listening to their set and they played fantastically.

Twin Atlantic. They deserve a mention because they actually have some pretty great music and there were only about 30 people watching them. Sad! A lot of people could get into them.

So, those are my Warped Tour 2012 far. In the words of a great band, When You're Though Thinking about whether to attend (about being too old, or having to work, or whatever other excuses you might be contemplating), Say Yes to going to Warped Tour this year. (I see you Yellowcard.) I also found some really neat charities represented there, many for saving arts in schools and the like; personally, I gave my donation money of the day to the Wishbone Foundation, which supports art in group homes--check them out at their website. I don't know what the URL is, just Google it you lazy punks. I'll definitely have my signed copies of "Tell All Your Friends" and "Ocean Avenue," along with the photo of me and John Nolan, hanging on my wall for years to come, commemorating some of the best days of my life.

And oh, yeah. It's hot out there! It's 105 degrees in the shade in the midwest, but we're not complaining, so suck it up and bring plently of water! The day is totally worth the exhaustion, and this is America--we could all stand to lose a couple calories. And while you're out there, check out the newer bands, that's what Warped is all about. I'm just too old for the new scene--Ronnie Radke literally scares me, it actually makes me nervous to be in the same vicinity as him. See? OLD.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Wonder Years Tour w/ The Early November Review

I'm really behind on updating this blog, but in May I had the exciting opportunity to see The Swellers, The Wonder Years, and The Early November at Irving Plaza in New York City. Now, I think we've established that The Wonder Years are my current fave, so I could not have been more pumped to see how they performed live.

We got to the plaza a little too early, but I like live music in general so watching the local opening band was fine with me, although I don't remember much about them. The Swellers were up next; I had downloaded a few of their songs prior to the concert, and found out I actually enjoy their music. I wasn't running to load up on shirts at their merch table or anything, but I could easily sing along and be into their set. Then again, I rarely visit merch tables...there comes a time when you're just too old to be sporting band tees everywhere you go.

The Wonder Years came out and put on a spectacular show. I was singing along with every song, although I held back because the friend who went along had never been to an indoor punk show before and I wanted to hold in my secret weirdness. The crowd went crazy for songs like "Melrose Diner" and "Local Man Ruins Everything," and also "Coffee Eyes," which surprised me because it really hadn't been one of my favorite songs by them. They closed with "Came Out Swinging," and I finally went all-out. I pushed my way to the second row and sung along loudly. It was one of the best concert experiences of my life when the entire crowd sang the soft part towards the end, and then the harder part came in, the lead singer jumped into the crowd, and everything went banana-sandwich crazy. I happened to be close enough to make my way over and support the lead singer in his crowd-surfing endeavors, but unfortunately most of the crowd had the same idea, and everyone fell over as a group. After a few desperate seconds trying to get back up, I finally accepted death-by-trampling as a certainty and my life flashed before my eyes' I barely had enough time to think, I'm too old for this shit. Then, some kind, large, soul grabbed me under my arms and pulled me out of the crushing mob before it was too late. I quickly composed myself by pulling my shirt back on--not sure how it fell off--and found that I had lost an earring and nearly a shoe. Oops. I made my way back to my friend and acting as if nothing had happened. I should really go into acting.

We then went upstairs to find comfortable seats in which to watch The Early November. I liked this band a lot, and still do, although I'm not one of Ace Ender's fangirls. We didn't end up staying for the whole set, and unfortunately I can't give the excuse that we wanted to avoid traffic. It's New York, we were walking, bitches. We were just old, tired, and hungry. However, the half-set I saw was pretty great. The crowd wasn't as enthused as they were for TWY, but then again November isn't exactly the moshing kind of band anyway. All in all, I had a spectacular time watching these three bands at Irving, and I'd recommend going to see any of them, if you like them...because sometimes concerts suck if you don't know the music. Or maybe you should start listening NOW so when they come to your town you can avoid this problem. Just a suggestion.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Wonder Years: Suburbia, I've Given You All Review

Last year right before Christmas break, I went into my local mall to look for old used records and CDs at the music store. I stumbled upon a new album by a band I had vaguely heard of (thanks to New Found Glory) for the fair price of $6.99. I mulled it over: was it worth two beers?

I bought the album but didn't listen to it for a couple of weeks. I finally forced myself to put it in the CD player on my trip back to school, and immediately was interested. The first song on this album is "Came Out Swinging" and that's exactly what the album did. This is still my hands-down, holding nothing back, favorite song by The Wonder Years. "I spent the winter writing songs about getting better, and if I'm being honest...I'm getting there." Next came "Woke Up Older", and after listening to the first verse and chorus of this song, I was almost crying crocodile tears of happiness and illegally whipped out my cell phone to tweet about how much I already loved this band. And I am not an impulsive person.

The third song is "Local Man Ruins Everything," which is also super catchy and just all together amazing. The next few songs I also like, one being slower, another having a super catchy chorus, and all of them just being awesome in general. "I Won't Say the Lord's Prayer" was an interesting one for me, because I am fairly religious; however, it didn't turn me off, it actually made me think. It's not really about religion, or maybe it's not just about religion. It's about thinking for yourself, and about not believing in something simply because you've been told to believe it. It's a great message, however it's presented. "Don't Let Me Cave In" is one of the lead tracks from the record, and it is pretty great, but I think there are better songs on the album. My second favorite song comes in at second to last track-wise, "Hoodie Weather." The lyrics ring true to me, and the chorus is so, so catchy. "And Now I'm Nothing" is also very catchy and finished off the album nicely.

When all is said and done, if you are a fan of punk, alternative, or pop punk music and you're not listening to The Wonder Years, you're making a mistake. It's taken me a while to write on this blog since my last post, and that's because it was becoming more of a hassle than a joy--I was listening to some bands I really didn't like, and then recommending them because they weren't necessarily bad. Now I'm back, and I'm telling the world that I love The Wonder Years. Not to be confused with the 90s television show starring Fred Savage...

Their latest album is not only spectacular music, but listening to it as a whole can be truly thought-provoking if you let it. Go. Buy Suburbia, and while you're at it, buy "The Upsides," the album that preceeding this one. Top recommendations from both albums if you're just starting to get into them: "Came Out Swinging," "Logan Circle," "Melrose Diner," "Hoodie Weather," "Local Man Ruins Everything."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Blank Pages EP Review

This is probably the newest and most unknown band review I've done yet, and maybe will ever do. However, these guys stuck out to me because I'm from Indiana, so their Indianapolis-base makes them kind of seem like hometown boys to me. Not only that, but maybe it's because they are hometown boys who have the confidence to do what I never did: actually believe in myself enough to start a band and try to make it in the big, bad, over-saturated world of pop-punk.

So, I went to the Blank Pages facebook page and played the five songs from there. Let's just get it out there right now that you'll never see my review a band or an album of which I'm not at least fond, to some degree. I know that doesn't seem like equal journalism, but why would I want to spend enough time listening to a band or an album that I didn't like just to be able to review it? And anyway, I'm not going to put a band down just because I didn't like them--everyone has different tastes. Unless we're talking about Nickelback or Hinder in which case they are terrible. 

I liked the sound of this band right off the bat. They caught me enough on the first time through the album that it made me want to listen again and actually "get" the album, and that's the first step. They have a kind of early/mid-blink sound, but softer, that comes off right away on the first song, "Goodbye." I really liked how they ended this one. Next up was "Reach For the Stars," which is my favorite of the five songs. The chorus is really catchy, and it was definitely this song that brought me back for the second time through the album. If I chose one song to download from the album, this would be the one. Next is just a clip of the song "Always," which I also liked, at least what I heard of it--seems like it might be an overall softer song. "Just Fine" is good; I'm really down for the dual voices, as always--my second favorite. "Everything and More" is also just a short clip, and it seems okay. It's not my favorite, but I like the lyrics.

All in all, I'm rooting for this band. I really like their sound and I hope that in a few years I can say I reviewed them back when. My advice to this band would be to explore the vocals--the back-up on "Just Fine" sounded like he had a pretty good voice too, so possibly give that voice a few more parts. I'm only saying this because while the current lead has a good voice, it sounds like any other pop-punk band's lead singer at this point. Not necessarily a bad thing, it just doesn't set you apart right away. Do a few more change-ups with the song order, like the bonus lines at the end of "Goodbye." Those are my opinions, take it or leave it.

Check out the band and get the album, which is apparently on iTunes, if you like them. The link to their facebook page is!/blankpagesband. And to Blank Pages, good job guys. If you ever need another review, opinions on new songs, or whatever, hit me up on twitter, @noiseaboutmusic.