Sunday, March 30, 2014

Song Of The Week: 3/30/14

Song: "Science Fiction/Double Feature"

Artist: Me First & The Gimme Gimmes

Album: "Are A Drag"

Year: 1999

"Science Fiction/Double Feature" was written and performed by Richard O'Brien back in 1973. The song was featured in the musical "The Rocky Horror Show" and is the opening song in that play and subsequent movie. The song itself is a tribute to and sendup of various B movies and serials parodied in the show itself. Me First & The Gimme Gimmes covered this song on their 1999 "Are A Drag" album. Me First formed as a band back in 1995, all of the band members are from California. Me First is an all star punk rock cover band as they feature no original music. The band consists of Spike Slawson (Swingin' Utters) on vocals, Joey Cape (Lagwagon) on guitars, Fat Mike (NOFX) on bass, Chris Shiflett (No Use For A Name/Foo Fighters) on guitars and Dave Raun (Lagwagon) on drums. The band began by releasing a number of singles such as "Billy" (all Billy Joel covers), "Diamond" (all Neil Diamond covers), "Paul" (all Paul Simon covers), "Barry" (all Barry Manilow covers), "Shannon" (all Del Shannon covers), "Stevens" (all Cat Stevens covers) and "Elton" (all Elton John covers). In 1997, they released their debut full length album, "Have A Ball". This album's theme was singer/songwriters of the 60's, 70's and 80's featuring covers such as "Rocket Man" (Elton John) and "Sweet Caroline" (Neil Diamond). In 1999, Me First released "Are A Drag". This album's theme focused solely on show tunes and featured the songs "Over The Rainbow" from The Wizard Of Oz and "Tomorrow" from Annie. 2001 saw Me First release "Blow In The Wind", an album the focused on 60's classics such as "Blowin' In The Wind (Bob Dylan) and "Runaway" (Del Shannon). 2003's "Take A Break" featured covers of R&B classics such as R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" and the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There". In 2004, Me First recorded and released a live album called "Ruin Jonny's Bar Mitzvah". This album was recorded live at an actual bar mitzvah and featured songs like "Come Sail Away" (Styx) and "Take It On The Run" (REO Speedwagon). 2006 saw Me First get their country and western thing going with the release of "Love Their Country". This album would feature covers of Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again" and the Dixie Chicks' "Goodbye Earl". In 2008, a compilation of b-sides and old out of print 7" singles were packaged together in the form of a full album called "Have Another Ball". This album featured covers of John Denver's "Country Roads" and Elton John's "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me". In 2011, Me First put out two albums. First was an EP called "Go Down Under", which featured covers of Australian artists such as INXS' "Never Tear Us Apart" and Air Supply's "All Out Of Love". Secondly, the band released the album "Sing In Japanese". This album featured covers of Japanese artists with vocalist Slawson singing in the Japanese language. Currently, Me First is planning to release their new album "Are We Not Men? We Are Diva" in 2014. This album's theme focuses on various women "diva" vocalists and includes covers of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" and Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On". Even though Me First & The Gimme Gimmes is a side project for all the band members, it hasn't stopped them from pumping out new material every couple of years. They are a fun band who obviously does not take themselves too seriously. They take songs from artists that are so distanced from punk rock, such as Barry Manilow, and turn those songs into skate punk anthems! They are, quite literally, the greatest cover band of all time!!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Song Of The Week: 3/23/14

Song: "Something Like Me"

Artist: Staind

Album: "The Illusion Of Progress" (Japan version & Itunes Deluxe Edition)

Year: 2008

"Something Like Me" is a song that was written by Staind vocalist Aaron Lewis and was written about his two daughters. Basically, it's about the unconditional love they show their father and he's sometimes in disbelief that anyone could love him this way. It's that love they show that gives him his strength and gives him a sense of what life is really about. Staind formed as a band back in 1994, hailing from western Massachusetts. At first, Staind was nothing more than a cover band, playing songs from Pantera, Alice In Chains and Tool, but eventually they began to write their own material and in 1996, they released their debut album "Tormented", a really dark and heavy album that showed influences from bands such as Pantera and Machine Head. In 1999, the band signed with Flip Records and released their second album, "Dysfunction". This album was co-produced by Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst. Six months after it's release, the album peaked at #1 on Billboard's Heatseaker chart, thanks in part to the singles "Just Go", "Mudshovel" and "Home". 2001 was a major breakthrough for the band and it's release, "Break The Cycle". This album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 charts, featuring the singles "It's Been Awhile", "Fade", "Outside", "For You" and "Epiphany". "Break The Cycle" has sold more than 7 million copies worldwide, making it Staind's most successful album to date. 2003 saw the band release "14 Shades Of Grey". This album also debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 charts, but it also marked Staind's most mainstream album to date, as heard from the singles "Price To Play", "So Far Away", "How About You" and "Zoe Jane". In 2005, the band released "Chapter V". Thanks in part to the singles "Right Here", "Falling", "Everything Changes" and "King Of All Excuses", this album would go on to be certified platinum. In 2006, Staind released a greatest hits collection called "The Singles: 1996-2006. This album featured all of the band's hits as well as three live acoustic performances of Tool's "Sober", Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" and Alice In Chains' "Nutshell". In 2008, Staind released their sixth album, "The Illusion Of Progress", featuring the singles "Believe", "The Way I Am" and "This Is It". Further cementing the band's move towards the mainstream, Staind did tours with both Nickleback and Creed, a move they may not have made back in the "Tormented", "Dysfunction" and "Break The Cycle" era of the band. Thankfully, in 2011, with the release of "Staind" marked a return to their heavier roots, a welcome return in my view. This more aggressive style is definitely heard in songs like "Not Again" and "Eyes Wide Open". By 2012, the band decided to take a bit of a hiatus. They had pumped out new albums almost every two years and decided they needed a little break. Lewis took this time to focus on his solo material, which was geared towards country music. Currently, after two years away from each other, Staind announced they would be playing a few festivals in 2014, including Welcome To Rockville, Carolina Rebellion and Rock On The Range. No word as of yet about any new material being in the works.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Song Of The Week: 3/16/14

Song: "Change"

Artist: Candlebox

Album: "Alive In Seatte"

Year: 2008

"Change" was originally released as a single for Candlebox's debut self-titled album in 1993. The version I chose for my song of the week was taken from 2008's "Alive In Seattle". The song appears to be about finally ending a relationship and a sense of finally feeling free. The vocalist is no longer feeling chained down or trapped by all of the nuances of this relationship gone bad. He feels the change inside of him and that change is definitely for the better. Candlebox formed as a band back in 1990, hailing from Seattle, Washington. The band's original name was Uncle Duke, which they changed to Candlebox about a year later. In 1993, they became one of the first bands to sign to Maverick Records, which was owned by pop star Madonna. Candlebox's debut effort, "Candlebox", would go on to sell over four million copies thanks in part to the hit singles "Change", "You", "Cover Me" and perhaps their most famous song "Far Behind". The album peaked at #7 on the Billboard 200 charts. In 1994, the band earned a spot on the main stage of the Woodstock '94 Festival. 1995 saw the band release their second album, "Lucy". Behind the singles "Simple Lessons" and "Understanding", "Lucy" would eventually be certified gold. The band also contributed the song "Steel And Glass" to the album "Working Class Hero: A Tribute To John Lennon". In 1998, Candlebox released "Happy Pills". Though the album achieved only marginal success, in my opinion it features some of Candlebox's finer musical moments. As 2000 approached, Candlebox was in a bitter dispute with Maverick Records who would not let them out of their contract without completing a fourth studio album. After many arguments with the label with no resolution, the band decided to disband. Because of this, lead vocalist Kevin Martin was withheld all royalties from any Candlebox sales going back to 2001. Eventually, some issues were resolved and Martin is now receiving royalties from all Candlebox sales. In 2005, Martin fronted the band The Hiwatts but this proved to be a short lived project. In 2006, Rhino Records planned a "Best Of" compilation of Candlebox hits. This sparked a flame for the original line-up of Candlebox to do a three month North American tour to promote the record. In 2008, ten years after the release of "Happy Pills", Candlebox released "Into The Sun" through Silent Majority/ILG Records. The first single "Stand" would reach #15 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart. 2008 also saw the band release the live cd/dvd "Alive In Seattle". In 2010, the band performed five concerts for U.S. troops stationed in Kuwait and Iraq. In 2012, the band released their fifth album, "Love Stories & Other Musings". This album featured nine originals, five live recordings of past hits and two exclusive bonus tracks. Currently, Candlebox has been writing material for a new album with a tentative release date for sometime in 2014. Candlebox sometimes gets lumped into the grunge movement, mostly because of their origins from Seattle. Sometimes they even got bashed because they weren't grunge enough. I always looked at them as more radio friendly rock than that of the grunge bands. They definitely were not as dark as the grunge bands. I'd put them more in the category of the post-grunge bands that came out like Bush. I think as time went on, they tried to distance themselves more and more from the dreary sounds of early 90's grunge. I could see them going on tour with a 3 Doors Down more than a Pearl Jam or Alice In Chains. Not a bad thing, they just kind of got a bad rap for riding on the coattails of the Seattle scene when really, they were just their own band with their own sound.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Song Of The Week: 3/9/14

Song: "Returning Empty Handed"

Artist: Underoath

Album: "Survive, Kaleidoscope"

Year: 2008

"Returning Empty Handed" appears to me to be a song about a near death experience. There seems to be the constant in and out of consciousness, the carnage and disaster (possibly visiting hell) and the bright light (seeing or feeling heaven). You get the feeling that the vocalist is going through this experience until ultimately he wakes up at the end. Some have said it's about struggling with drugs and addiction as well and I can see that as well. Either way you feel that the vocalist has an epiphany at the end. "Returning Empty Handed" originally was released on Underoath's album "Define The Great Line". For my Song Of The Week, I chose the live version which appears on the band's "Survive, Kaleidoscope" release. Underoath formed as a band back in 1997, hailing from Florida. Most of the members were in high school as well as being members of each other's church. Underoath was very much a Christian band and their religious beliefs definitely molded them as a band as well. In 1999, the band signed to Takehold Records and released their debut, "Act Of Depression". In 2000, the band would add keyboards to their sound and release "Cries Of The Past". In 2001, Takehold Records was bought out by Tooth & Nail Records, which signed Underoath to their subsidiary label, Solid State Records. 2002 saw the band release "The Changing Of Times" which featured the single "When The Sun Sleeps". In 2003, the band was invited to perform on their very first Warped Tour, but that was short-lived as lead vocalist and founding member Dallas Taylor was asked to leave the band. Underoath eventually replaced Taylor with former This Runs Through vocalist Spencer Chamberlain. With a new singer, the band's style began to change a bit from metalcore to a more post-hardcore or melodic hardcore style. It also brought the band it's greatest successes. In 2004, Underoath released "They're Only Chasing Safety". This album sold over 100,000 copies in it's first week of sales and was certified gold by 2005. The album spawned the singles "Reinventing Your Exit" and "It's Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door". In 2005 Underoath officially became a headlining act. 2006's "Define The Great Line" debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 charts and was certified gold in less than a year, thanks in part to the singles "In Regards To Myself" and "Writing On The Walls". In 2008, the band released "Survive, Kaleidoscope", a CD/DVD documentary of the band which featured plenty of live footage. That same year Underoath released "Lost In The Sound Of Separation". This album debuted at #8 on the Billboard 200 and featured the singles "Desperate Times, Desperate Measures" and "Too Bright To See, Too Loud To Hear". They conducted their first tour of South America in support of this album. In 2010, drummer Aaron Gillespie left the band, making him the last original member to leave Underoath. The band went on to release 0 (Disambiguation) that year and struck a deal with Roadrunner Records to distribute the album outside the U.S. and Canada. In 2012, the band released "Anthology: 1999-2013", a career spanning compilation album. They also embarked on a farewell tour, the last official show being January 26, 2013. Original drummer Gillespie jumped on stage to perform three songs at this final show. Currently, Underoath officially disbanded in 2013. The book appears to be officially closed on this Christian metalcore/post-hardcore outfit.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Song Of The Week: 3/2/14

Song: "Stained Glass And Marble"

Artist: Rise Against

Album: "The Unraveling"

Year: 2001

"Stained Glass And Marble" appears to be about how organized religion uses fear and seclusion to maintain their followers. By only reading and following "the book", you tend to put yourself in a box, unaware of other opinions or beliefs. I think what the vocalist is trying to say in this song is that true faith or spirituality comes from within. And the beauty of the nature around us is like heaven on Earth. It definitely seems as though the song prefers spirituality over organized religions. Rise Against formed as a band back in 1999, hailing from Chicago, Illinois. The band formed out the ashes of 88 Fingers Louie and Baxter. Originally, the band was called Transistor Revolt and in 2000, they self-released the "Transistor Revolt" EP. In 2001, Transistor Revolt changed their name to Rise Against and were signed by legendary punk label, Fat Wreck Chords. The band released their debut album "The Unraveling" that year as well. In 2003, Rise Against released "Revolutions Per Minute". At this point, the band was slotted as opening act for such groups as Sick Of It All, NOFX, No Use For A Name, AFI and Strung Out. The band also played it's very first Warped Tour. By the end of 2003, Rise Against would sign with major label, DreamWorks Records, which would be bought out by Universal Music leaving Rise Against on Geffen Records. In 2004, they released their major label debut, "Siren Song For The Counter Culture". This would be Rise Against's 1st album to crack the Billboard 200 charts and would eventually be certified gold. In 2005, the band earned slots of the Taste Of Chaos Tour as well as the United Kingdom's Reading and Leeds Festivals. 2006 saw the band release "The Sufferer & The Witness". Thanks in part to the singles "Ready To Fall" and "Prayer Of The Refugee", this album would peak at #10 on the Billboard 200 charts. Rise Against was officially a headlining act from this point on. In 2007, the band released the "This Is Noise" EP in Canada. This EP would be released in the States in 2008. The band's fifth full length album, "Appeal To Reason" would officially claim the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 charts, making it Rise Against's highest charting release to date. Though the album marked the band's most commercial success, critically, it did catch some flack for moving too far away from the band's hardcore punk roots. A support tour for "Appeal To Reason" lasted for almost two full years, culminating with the release of the live dvd, "Another Station: Another Mile" in 2010. Never a band to shy away from political and social views that they hold dear, Rise Against turned up the heat with their 2011 release "Endgame". For instance, a song like "Help Is On The Way" directly spoke about the tragedies in the Gulf States like Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill while "Make It Stop (September's Children)" dealt with homophobic bullying, which led to some teenage suicides. While supporting the album on various headlining gigs, Rise Against also won the opening slot on the Foo Fighters tour in 2011. 2013 saw the band release the compilation "Long Forgotten Songs: B-sides & Covers (2000-2013). As it says in the title, Rise Against amassed a pretty big b-sides collection over the years, as well as doing some cover songs as well. This album put all of those rare tracks on one single disc, a huge treat for any fan of the band. Currently, bassist Joe Principe has stated that Rise Against should have a new album out some time in 2014. Singer Tim McIlrath has also confirmed as much. He stated that the band feels rested and recharged and ready to work on some new material. Rise Against's roots are in hardcore punk. Through the years, they have added huge melodic elements and sing-a-long choruses to their repertoire. They are everything I love about a band. Their songs are hard charging punk with lyrics that are deep and offer insight to various causes whether you agree or disagree with their views. I'd say Rise Against is definitely a top 10 favorite band for me, possibly top 5 if I gave it more thought. Can't wait for the new album!!