Sunday, September 29, 2013

Song Of The Week: 9/29/13

Song: "Unthought Known"

Artist: Pearl Jam

Album: "Backspacer"

Year: 2009

"Unthought Known" is a very uplifting song. It appears to be about being cognizant of how your decisions affect those around you. It's about overcoming negativity and really taking a step back to appreciate your surroundings, whether that is those you love or just the beauty of the environment itself, the sky, the stars or the ocean. The song vibes of positive energy, maybe something Pearl Jam was incapable of doing in years past. Pearl Jam, of course, was part of the grunge explosion of the early 90's. They formed in Seattle, Washington in 1990 out of the ashes of Mother Love Bone, which was the band that Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament were in before their lead singer Andy Wood died of a heroin overdose. After some healing from the tragedy, Gossard, Ament and guitarist Mike McCready began to jam. They gave a demo tape to former Red Hot Chili Peppers' drummer Jack Irons, who then sent the tape to Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam was born. In 1991, the band release the landmark album "Ten". Thanks in part to hit singles "Alive", "Evenflow" and "Jeremy", "Ten" reached #2 on the Billboard charts and proceeded to stay on the charts for more than two years making it one of the highest selling albums ever. To this date it has gone platinum 13 times! 1992 featured some prominent shows for the band including the all acoustic performance on MTV Unplugged as well as joining bands Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ministry on the upstart Lollapalooza Festival. In 1993, Pearl Jam dropped "VS". This album sold 950,378 copies in the 1st week, outperforming all other entries in the top 10 that week combined! This proved to be a record for 1st week sales up until 1998 when country act Garth Brooks finally broke it. "VS" spawned the singles "Go", "Animal", "Daughter" and "Dissident". In 1994, Pearl Jam embarked on a long battle with Ticketmaster over service fees they charged which made the ticket prices go too high. This battle became more of a fiasco for the band as it proved to be way too hard to tour by alternative methods, playing alternative venues. This was a difficult time for the band no doubt. You wouldn't know about the tensions within the band when "Vitalogy" was released to record sales however. The single "Spin The Black Circle" won a Grammy but cracks in the armor were beginning to show. The first being the firing of long time drummer Dave Abbruzzese over philosophical differences. In 1995, the non-Ticketmaster tour almost killed the band entirely. Fan bases were not happy that the band was playing venues out of market and the tour was mostly a failure. The band, minus Eddie Vedder, backed up Neil Young on his "Mirror Ball" album and subsequent tour. PJ did manage to drop the EP "Merkin Ball" that year which featured the songs "I Got Shit" and "Long Road", the latter which featured Neil Young on pipe organ. 1996's "No Code" was a clear departure for the band. They were pulling back the reigns and the style of that album was much more subdued. Though it debuted at #1, it quickly fell down the charts. 1998 was somewhat of a rebirth for the band. They released "Yield" which was a more collaborative effort, all members bringing material to the table, not just Eddie. The band also reluctantly decided to work with Ticketmaster again and finally embark on a proper tour to support the album. The tour was a major success for the band and is highlighted on their "Live On Two Legs" album that dropped in '98 as well. In 1999, Pearl Jam had unexpected success when they released the obscure J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers cover, "Last Kiss". This song became their highest charting single to date. In 2000, PJ released "Binaural". This was the 1st album to feature Matt Cameron on drums, who replaced Jack Irons, who replaced Dave Abbruzzese. It was also the first album not to be produced by Brendan O' Brien and the 1st PJ album not to reach platinum status. PJ began releasing all of their live shows through "official bootlegs" at this time to offer the fans the highest quality recordings while keeping the price at a respectable level. At one point, Pearl Jam had 72 albums debut on the Billboard 200 at the same time, an official world record! On June 30, 2000, tragedy befell the band once again as 9 fans were trampled to death during their performance at Denmark's Roskilde Festival. On October 22, the band performed their 10th anniversary show at the MGM in Las Vegas. The band also released the "Touring Band 2000" DVD documenting some of their live performances during that tour. 2002 saw the band release "Riot Act", the 1st album to feature B3 organist Boom Gaspar, a friend of Eddie's from Hawaii. The band also received it's first real political backlash with their anti-George Bush song "Bushleaguer". 2003 saw the band leave longtime label Epic Records. They released a 2 disc b-sides and rarities compilation "Lost Dogs" and also a live dvd, "Live At The Garden" which was the band's July 8, 2003 perforance at Madison Square Garden in New York. 2004 saw the band embark on the Vote For Change tour, which featured other acts such as Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty to name a few. The tour was in support of getting Bush ousted from the Presidency in the upcoming election. The band also released the all acoustic live album, "Live At Benaroya Hall" as well as "rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991-2003), their last official release through Epic. In 2006, the band performed a short live set at Easy Street Records and released the performance exclusively to independent record stores. At this time the band signed to Clive Davis' J Records to release their self/titled album "Pearl Jam". The single "World Wide Suicide" was the band's 1st #1 single since "Who You Are" in 1996. The band would go on to headline the Leeds and Reading Festivals that year as well. 2007 saw the band cover The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" and release their powerful version of the song as a single. The band would headline the rejuvenated Lollapalooza Festival that year as well as release the dvd "Immagine In Cornice" which documented that band's Italian shows from 2006. In 2008, PJ headlines the Bonnaroo Festival and also appeared on VH1's Rock Honors in tribute of The Who. They performed "Love Reign O'er Me" and "The Real Me". In 2009, not only did the band re-issue "Ten" with all kinds of bonus material, they also released their 9th studio effort "Backspacer". This album was the first since "No Code" to debut at #1. Brendan O' Brien was also back as producer of the album as well. This album was probably the most positive album ever released by Pearl Jam as evident in songs such as "The Fixer" and "Unthought Known". On October 31, 2009, the band played the last official performance at the Philadelphia Spectrum, which was torn down soon after. 2011 saw the release of "Live On Ten Legs", a live compilation of songs from tours between 2003 and 2010. It also marked the release of the Cameron Crowe directed "Pearl Jam Twenty", a documentary about the history of the band. On Labor Day weekend of that year, Pearl Jam played a festival in East Troy, Wisconsin to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Both nights featured a Temple Of The Dog reunion, as long time friend of the band Chris Cornell appeared at the event. Currently, Pearl Jam is about to drop their 10th studio album, titled Lightning Bolt, on October 15, 2013. They have already released the hard, punk edged single "Mind Your Manners" as well as the big, pop ballad "Sirens" from the new album. They plan to tour in support of "Lightning Bolt" in October and November and in 2014 will headline the Big Day Out festival in Australia and New Zealand. Pearl Jam has become one of the biggest American bands ever. Their influence reaches far and wide and you hear it in post grunge acts such as Seether and Staind as well as newer punk edged bands like The Gaslight Anthem. Along with fellow Seattle bands Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, they forever changed the musical landscape back in the 90's and they are still very much relevant today.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Song Of The Week: 9/22/13

Song: "Angry Days" (acoustic)

Artist: Joey Cape

Album: "Liverbirds" Split EP w/ Jon Snodgrass

Year: 2010

"Angry Days" is a song that appears to be how some people still try to hold on to ideals that they held back when they were young. The teenage angst or anger you felt as a 16 year old should probably dissipate over time. Usually, your life changes from being a teenager to when you are in your 30's. Your priorities change. This song is about the person who is so stuck in the "angry days" of his youth that everyone he considered a friend has grown up and drifted away from him. Time for him to grow up too! "Angry Days" was originally released in full punk form on the band Lagwagon's debut album, 1992's "Duh". Joey Cape is, of course, most famous for being the lead singer of skate punk icons Lagwagon. Hailing from California, Cape's musical career started back in 1989. The decade of the 90's saw Cape basically focus on Lagwagon. To this day, Lagwagon has released seven full length albums, four EP's, one box set, one live album and one compilation. In 1995, Cape, along with Spike Slawson of the Swingin' Utters, Fat Mike of NOFX and Chris Shiftlett, then of No Use For A Name and current Foo Fighter, created the all star cover band Me First & The Gimme Gimmes. Cape would play guitar for that band. In 2000, Cape and former Lagwagon drummer Derrick Plourde formed Bad Astronaut. This project was the first to feature the softer side of Cape as several songs focused on acoustic settings. Bad Astronaut released three full length albums and one split album but in 2005, Plourde committed suicide which basically ended that band for Cape. 2005 also saw Cape further his interest in acoustic sets when he and No Use For A Name lead singer Tony Sly released a split album which featured mostly acoustic renditions of Lagwagon and No Use songs. In 2008, Cape released his first solo full length album through Suburban Home Records entitled "Bridge". In 2009, Cape announced that he was working on his second album. He also joined The Revival Tour, which is an all acoustic tour created by Hot Water Music frontman Chuck Ragan and features several line-ups featuring punk vocalists such as Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem, Dave Hause of The Loved Ones, Chuck Ragan, Frank Turner and Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, just to name a few. In 2010, Cape release one song a month. The culmination of these twelve songs would be the 2011 album, "Doesn't Play Well With Others". 2010 also saw the split release "Liverbirds" with Drag The River and Armchair Martian frontman Jon Snodgrass. This is the album that features the acoustic version of "Angry Days" which is my song of the week! Cape and Snodgrass would work together again, this time with Tony Sly of No Use and Brian Wahlstrom to form the band Scorpios. This was yet another acoustic project who released one album and have often toured together all over the world, especially in recent years. Though the members of Scorpios still go on tour together, tragedy befell the band and the rest of the punk world when Tony Sly passed away in his sleep in 2012. Before Sly's untimely death, he and Cape released "Acoustic: Volume Two". Like their first album together, this one featured more acoustic takes on No Use and Lagwagon material. Ever the busy man, Cape also formed the band Joey Cape's Big Loud. They released one album which basically featured full band, rockin' versons of songs that appeared on "Bridge" and "Doesn't Play Well With Others". Currently, Cape has shifted his focus back on his main band Lagwagon. They have been touring since the latter part of 2012 and in October of that year, Cape has stated that the band has never been playing better and he hopes to have a new Lagwagon album out sometime in 2013. Regardless, whether it's shows with Lagwagon, tours with Me First & The Gimme Gimmes or small solo acoustic tours, Joey Cape always seems to be hard at work on something. That same hard work has made Cape one of the most respected and influential figures in the skate punk scene for more than 20 years.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Song Of The Week: 9/15/13

Song: "Song 13"

Artist: The Vacancies

Album: "Gutpunch"

Year: 2004

"Song 13" reminds me of a guy doing his best to win over a girl, especially if the setting is a bar or club or something along those lines. The vocalist is trying to tell her to take a chance on him and he promises to show her the time of her life. Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, The Vacancies formed as a band in 2004. It was in that year that they released their debut album, "Gutpunch". While on tour in support of Joan Jett, The Vacancies so impressed the rock icon that she signed them to her own label Blackheart Records in 2005. Their first release under Blackheart was "A Beat Missing Or A Silence Added". This album was praised by most who were paying attention and, in fact, won Best Hard Rock Album at the 6th Annual Independent Music Awards in 2007. 2007 was also the year that The Vacancies released their latest album, "Tantrum". With their style rooted in punk rock, they do have a little "garage-y" feel to them as well. They are also a band that doesn't shy away from standing behind various social and political issues that they hold dear to their heart. While they never achieved headliner status, The Vacancies have supported some major acts in the punk world including Social Distortion, Joan Jett, The Buzzcocks, Adolescents, Street Dogs, Pennywise, Rise Against and The Casualties. They also have played on some of the biggest festivals in the world including The Warped Tour, Bamboozle Festival and South By Southwest Festival. Currently, there doesn't seem to be much going on inside The Vacancies' camp. Since 2008, they've been pretty much off the radar, especially when it comes to releasing studio material. A five year layoff is a long time, however, especially for a band that was still very much trying to find itself and it's audience. While there has been no word that The Vacancies have broken up, it doesn't look good that they've been basically dormant since 2008.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Song Of The Week: 9/8/13

Song: "Lulu"

Artist: Rancid

Album: "Let The Dominoes Fall"

Year: 2009

On the surface, "Lulu" could be seen as a tribute to the women of soldiers who have to hold down the homefront while their husband's are overseas fighting wars. I think the song goes a little deeper than that. To me it appears "Lulu" is about how America is being lost or better yet, stolen by warmongers and corporations that work to snuff and stifle the middle class or the working people. Lulu represents what America is all about. The people who work and labor and try to provide for their families while bigger powers that be try to basically squash them, their hopes and their dreams. Rancid formed as a band back in 1991. Hailing from Berkeley, California, Rancid formed out of the ashes of legendary punk/ska outfit Operation Ivy. Former Operation Ivy members Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman toiled around in a few other bands until finally forming Rancid along with Brett Reed on drums. In 1992, Rancid released an EP through Lookout! Records. This caught the attention of Epitaph Records who went on to sign the band and released their self/titled debut in 1993. Around this time Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day co-wrote the song "Radio" with Armstrong and was even asked to join the band as a second guitarist but he declined the offer to focus on Green Day who was about to explode. Lars Frederiksen would ultimately join the band as second guitarist and vocalist. In 1994, the band released "Let's Go" which featured the song "Salvation". This album was the band's first to reach the Billboard 200 charts. It was also sparking interest from major labels as well, most notably Epic and Maverick, which was owned by pop star Madonna. The band decided to remain underground and stayed with Epitaph Records. In 1995, Rancid released the classic "...And Out Come The Wolves". This album would reach #45 on the Billboard 200 charts and in 1996, was certified gold, thanks in part to singles such as "Roots Radicals", "Time Bomb" and "Ruby Soho". In 1998, Rancid released "Life Won't Wait". This album is sometimes called their own personal "Sandinista", which was recorded by legendary punk band The Clash. Rancid dove into several different genres on "Life Can't Wait" such as punk, ska, reggae, dub, etc. Stylistically, it was their most diverse record. In 1999, Rancid signed with Tim Armstrong's own label, Hellcat Records which was basically a sub-label of Epitaph. Their first release on Hellcat was a second self/titled album in 2000. This album saw the band go back to their hardcore punk roots and offered less ska or reggae influence. In 2002, Rancid and NOFX released a split which featured both bands covering each other's songs. 2003 saw the band release "Indestructible" which was distributed by Warner Bros. records. At #15, this was Rancid's highest charting album to date. From 2004 to 2006, Rancid went on a bit of a hiatus and most members focused on various side projects, most notably Devil's Brigade (featuring Armstrong, Freeman and Reed), Transplants (featuring Armstrong), The Bastards (featuring Frederiksen) and Armstrong's solo material. In 2006, Reed decided to leave the band and was replaced on drums by Branden Steineckert, formally of The Used. 2007 saw the release of the compilation "B Sides and C Sides". This album featured mostly rare tracks and compilation songs over the years. 2009 saw the band release "Let The Dominoes Fall". In the late 2000's, Rancid began taking longer and longer between album releases. Between 2009 and 2012, the band did do extensive touring but also focused on their many side projects as well. In 2012, some three years after the band released anything, they offered a free download of a new song titled "Fuck You". The band also offered a box set of all their albums and compilations titled "Rancid Essentials". Currently, Rancid began recording their new album in February of 2013. In June of 2013, Frederiksen announced that the album should be out in either late 2013 or early 2014. For more than twenty years, Rancid has become one of the most influential and respected punk bands that are on the scene. Though they release music more sporadically than in the past, between their plethora of side projects and their own material, it's quite easy to get a fix if you're yearning for all things Rancid!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Song Of The Week: 9/1/13

Song: "The Vulture (Act I & II)"

Artist: Gallows

Album: "Grey Britain"

Year: 2009

Usually I try to interpret the lyrics of my song of the week by saying a little about what I think the song may be about. But with "The Vulture (Act I & II)", I'll write exactly what the songwriter, Frank Carter, said it is about. Here's Carter's quote regarding "The Vulture (Act I & II)", "I was thinking about all the forgotten children who die before their parents, and this song is about one of those poor bastards becoming Death's apprentice". There ya go!! Gallows are an English hardcore punk band that formed back in 2005. In 2006, the band released their debut album, "Orchestra Of Wolves". This album caught the attention of Bad Religion's Brett Gurewitz, who also owns Epitaph Records. Gallows and Gurewitz worked out a deal for the album to be distributed in the United States by Epitaph. Gurewitz went on to say that "Orchestra Of Wolves" was the best hardcore album since the Refused's "The Shape Of Punk To Come". 2007 was a year that Gallows worked the festival circuit hard. They appeared at the South By Southwest festival, the Warped Tour, Download festival, Taste of Chaos tour and the Reading festival all in that year. The band's single, "Staring At The Rude Bois", a Ruts cover, was the band's first UK Top 40 single. In 2008, the band made the song "Gold Dust" available for free download through their MySpace page. This song was not set to appear on the band's next album. 2009 saw the release of "Grey Britain". This album was released by Warner Bros. marking it their major label debut. Their relationship with Warner Bros. would only last one album however as the band and the label parted ways some time after the release of "Grey Britain". "The Vulture (Act I & II) was the first single released off of this album. Gallows wound up doing some support tours for acts such as AFI and Rage Against The Machine while supporting "Grey Britain". In 2011, lead vocalist Frank Carter decided to leave the band amid conflicts about the musical direction of Gallows. If you've heard Carter's later project, Pure Love, you can sense that he wanted his music to be more accessible and radio friendly, but maintain a certain garage feel. Gallows was a hardcore band, plain and simple, and the other members wanted it to stay that way. Carter played his last show with the band on July 23, 2011 in London. The band decided to replace Carter with former Alexisonfire frontman Wade MacNeil. His first recording with the band was a forty second track entitled "True Colours" which was a free download. In December of 2011, the band released a four track EP called "Death Is Birth". In 2012, the band released the full length "Gallows", the first full length album to feature their new vocalist. This album was distributed in North America by Bridge Nine Records. Gallows are very well respected in the hardcore music scene. Time is going to tell how well the band will be received after the departure of Frank Carter. He was an intregal part to the band's sound and songwriting and you can tell when you compare their first two albums to their third. By saying this, I'm not saying that the band is a disappointment with MacNeil on vocals, I'm just saying it's not the same. Currently, there's been no new updates as to whether Gallows is at work on new material at this time. I'm sure they are still doing some shows in support of their 2012 self/titled release.