Sunday, April 29, 2012

Song Of The Week: 4/29/12

Song: "The Devil's Takin' Names"

Artist: The Lawrence Arms

Album: "Oh! Calcutta!"

Year: 2006

"The Devil's Takin' Names" appears to be a song about trying something that you either never had a need to do or never quite thought you would actually ever try. It almost has an attitude of don't knock something unless you've tried it. The Lawrence Arms are a punk band that formed back in 1999 and they are very much a staple of the Chicago punk scene. The band features the dual vocal threat of Brendan Kelly and Chris McCaughan on all of their releases. The band's first two releases, 1999's "A Guided Tour Of Chicago" and 2000's "Ghost Stories" were both released on Asian Man Records. Through these two albums as well as tours, The Lawrence Arms caught the attention of NOFX's Fat Mike who would recruit the band to sign on his Fat Wreck Chords label, where the band remains to this day. The band would release three more full lengths on Fat Wreck, 2002's "Apathy And Exhaustion", 2003's "The Greatest Story Ever Told" and 2006's "Oh! Calcutta!". Between constant touring and their five full length albums, The Lawrence Arms also managed to put out four EP's, a compilation album and also appeared on several various artist compilations as well. The band's last official release was an EP entitled "Buttsweat And Tears" which dropped in 2009. From the mid 2000's till the present, The Lawrence Arms were not quite as active as in their beginning years. Most of this was due to working on side projects. Chris McCaughan formed an acoustic band called Sundowner while Brendan Kelly teamed up with Alkaline Trio's Dan Andriano on a band called The Falcon. Kelly also started working on some acoustic stuff as well. A lot of focus began to be put on these side projects but The Lawrence Arms was never in danger of breaking up. They, in fact, recorded a live show at The Metro in Chicago in 2009 on their tenth anniversary and the video of the performance would be released by Fat Wreck Chords a few years later in 2011. Currently, there is no word on The Lawrence Arms working on any new material out there, with members probably still focused on the solo acoustic stuff as of now.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Song Of The Week: 4/22/12

Song: "Sea And Sand"

Artist: The Who

Album: "Quadrophenia"

Year: 1973

Without getting into the whole story that is the mini-opera called "Quadrophenia", I'll just say that "Sea And Sand" is a time of reflection for the story's main character Jimmy. Jimmy would go to the beach to gather his thoughts and reflect on his inadequacy in love as well as his inability to fit in at home or with the Mod subculture that he so much wanted to be a part of. "Quadrophenia" was really The Who's masterpiece, specifically Pete Townsend's. Townsend called this album the greatest piece of music he ever wrote and the best he ever will write. The Who formed as a band in England back in 1964. To separate themselves from the already successful Beatles and Rolling Stones, The Who would feature a bombastic live show, complete with smoke bombs and destruction of instruments. Early hits like "I Can't Explain", "My Generation" and "I Can See For Miles" put The Who on the map and they would never look back. Lead singer Roger Daltry had a thunderous voice and unmatched stage presence. Bassist John Entwistle took you on a ride with his slick basslines, never staying in one spot for long, always moving. Keith Moon, the band's drummer, was insane to say the least. His drumming was unrivaled and he managed to turn total chaos into a thing of beauty. Lead guitarist Pete Townsend was the mastermind of the band. A creative genius who would almost bring himself to nervous breakdowns while creating some of the best music of all time, then would let out his pent up frustrations on stage, on his guitar and on the audience's ears. I'd say the real "golden era", if you want to call it that, for The Who was between the years 1969 and 1979. During this span, the band released the following hallmark albums, "Tommy", "Who's Next", "Quadrophenia", "The Who By Numbers", "Who Are You" and "The Kids Are Alright". These albums, along with unforgettable live performances, most notably the Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock and the Isle Of Wight, would propel The Who to legendary status, easily securing a spot right next to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones as one of the best rock and roll bands of all time. The Who would sell about 100 million records worldwide during their illustrious career. All wasn't always perfect for the band however. Tragedy would strike not once, but twice for the band. In 1978, drummer Keith Moon died of an overdose right at the height of The Who's reign on the rock world. They would continue on as a band, but very sporadically. Mostly, they would get together for benefit festivals and stuff like that. In 2002, bassist John Entwistle passed away of a heart attack leaving only Daltry and Townsend as the surviving members of The Who. The two did put out a new studio album in 2006 entitled "Endless Wire" but touring was again sporadic, mostly due to health issues involving Townsend. Still, the band always makes it a point to perform at the Teenage Cancer Trust benefits concerts that are held yearly at Royal Albert Hall in London. Currently, word has it that Townsend has been writing new material for a supposed Who record in the future.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Song Of The Week: 4/15/12

Song: "Pop Song For Us Rejects"

Artist: Silverchair

Album: "Sounds Like Teen Screaming"

Year: 1996

"Pop Song For Us Rejects" appears to be a song about dealing with someone in your life who is dealing with addiction. It appears that in order for the vocalist to move on in his own life and achieve the goals that he wishes to achieve, he must first sever ties with the addicted person who has been nothing more than an anchor to him. You get the sense he still feels for the person, as in the second verse when it seems that he is happy that the person is starting to do better, yet he still can't get too close. The roller coaster ride of addiction is too much, even for those who are close to the person who is trying to fight his demons. This version of the song was taken from a bootleg that was put out there back in 1996. The song was recorded live in Amsterdam on March 5, 1996. "Pop Song For Us Rejects" would see an official release almost a year later on 1997's "Freak Show". Silverchair formed as a band back in 1992. The three Australian schoolmates, guitarist/vocalist Daniel Johns, bassist Chris Joannou, and drummer Ben Gillies would win a national competition with their song "Tomorrow". "Tomorrow" would be the song that garnered interest in the band and would get them their very first recording deal. In 1995, at the tender age of 15, Silverchair released their debut album, "Frogstomp". Early on, they were lumped in with the grunge movement and like many bands that came out after the Seattle giants, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, Silverchair would have to live with the constant comparisons and especially the hard aspect of trying to be just as great as those bands, very hard for any band, let alone a group of teenagers to go through. While "Freak Show" saw the band stay in that post-grunge/alternative rock phase, it was their third album, 1999's "Neon Ballroom" that saw Silverchair evolve a bit with their sound. While still having heavy elements, the band began exploring the use of keyboards and orchestration, giving them a more grown up sound. By the time of Silverchair's next recording, 2002's "Diorama", experimentation was in full force. Some saw this album as extreme growth for the band while it left a lot of the early fans of the band feeling somewhat alienated. Silverchair took a bit of a hiatus during the years between 2003 to 2005 where the members all worked on side projects. The band got back together in 2005 for a fund raising concert called Wave Aid which benefitted those affected by the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. It was during this show that the band felt the undeniable chemistry that made them a band in the very first place. Eventually, in 2007, Silverchair released their fifth studio album, "Young Modern" which contains, what I feel, is one of their best songs to date, "Straight Lines". If you were looking for a "Tomorrow" or a "Freak" on this album, you definitely came to the wrong place. The band was still very much in experimental mode on this album. While the band's popularity in the United States probably reached it's height after the band's first three albums, their success never waned in their native Australia, where they have been one of the most successful bands in that country. Where in the U.S., they are somewhat of an afterthought, in Australia, all five of their albums have peaked at number one on Australian rock charts. In 2009, the band began to work on what would be their sixth album. After two years of off and on work, the band decided to go on what they would label an "indefinite hibernation". Currently, the band members of Silverchair are all working on solo projects and it appears that they may only get together to perform at benefit shows and stuff like that. After twenty years together, the book may be officially closing on Silverchair.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Song Of The Week: 4/8/12

Song: "Post-War Breakout"

Artist: Anti-Flag

Album: "The Terror State"

Year: 2003

"Post-War Breakout" is a song that was originally composed, lyrically, by legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie. Guthrie, however, never committed any musical arrangement for the lyrics so Anti-Flag would create the musical backround for Guthrie's words. The song itself is a anti-war song but especially focusing on veterans of wars fought and how they are being called heroes and all that, yet they usually come home from war with little to no money from their government for which they have fought for as well as dealing with all kinds of post-war syndromes and shock from the battles in which they've engaged. Anti-Flag originally formed back in 1988 when singer/guitarist Justin Sane and drummer Pat Thetic decided to form a band. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the original formation of Anti-Flag was short lived as by 1989, they broke up. In 1993, Sane and Thetic decided to reform Anti-Flag, this time the band would persevere and grow into one of the most political punk bands in the music world today. Early on, Anti-Flag would be a band that would wear it's leftist views on their sleeve. Though there was a misconception that Anti-Flag meant anti-U.S.A. or anti-patriotism, the band itself said that it stood for anti-war and all things political or social that were set up to hurt the people, especially those who's voice was not being heard. 2003's "The Terror State" came out at a time in U.S. history that was very tense. Just a few short years after the 9/11 tragedy, this album was definitely against any war that we were entering as well as being critical of the Bush Administration and especially their foreign policy. It took a lot of balls for any artist at that time to make the statements that bands like Anti-Flag were making after 9/11. Some people would alienate artists like that for being too controversial or even un-American at that time. What these people failed to see, is that the debate and conversation that these people demanded was the most American thing to do in those terrifying times post 9/11. Anti-Flag would never back down from their beliefs during the history of the band. A history which has included nine studio releases, four EP's, one compilation, and eight splits. They have been both independent label punk and major label headliners. They still find time to support various groups such as PETA, as well as supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement. Currently, the band is embarking on a tour in support of their most recent album, 2012's "The General Strike". After some 24 years, Anti-Flag is still being a voice for the voiceless!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Song Of The Week: 4/1/12

Song: "Just Like Silk"

Artist: Strata

Album: "Strata"

Year: 2004

"Just Like Silk" appears to be a song about having someone or something in your life that gives you hope or that gives your life some semblance of meaning. It's something that's perfect and that makes you strive to be better, but it's also something that the vocalist seems to chase away at times. It's almost like a battle of overcoming one's personal demons and having someone or something to help you get past those demons, yet it's hard not to keep getting trapped by your own personal struggles. Strata formed as a band back in 2000, hailing from California. Originally called Downside, they released one EP entitled "Sleep" under that moniker. In 2003, they changed their name to Strata and released their second EP, "Now The Industry Is Outnumbered. The Factories Are Burning Down". Eventually Strata would sign with Wind-Up Records and release their first full length album, 2004's "Strata". This album began to establish the band's sound which is similar to rock acts such as Trapt, Chevelle and fellow label mates Creed. In 2007, however, with the release of their second album, "Strata Presents The End Of The World", Strata began to move away from that nu-metal/post grunge sound with something that was a little more atmospheric. It was during this time that the band also embarked on it's first co-headlining tour. That small taste of success was not enough, however, to keep Strata together as a band. In 2008, lead vocalist Eric Victorino decided to leave the band and subsequently, Strata decided to call it quits. Strata was a band that clearly never separated themselves from the musical pack and were nothing more than an under the radar type of band so the members probably didn't see a sustainable future by staying together. Currently, while the book is apparently closed on Strata, many of the band members are keeping focused on new projects, most notably are Beta State and The Limousines.