Sunday, July 27, 2014

Song Of The Week: 7/27/14

Song: "Search And Destroy"

Artist: Soundgarden

Album: "Live On I-5"

Year: 2011

"Search And Destroy" is a cover song that was originally written and performed by Iggy Pop And The Stooges on their epic 1973 album "Raw Power". The song itself came to Iggy Pop from a Time Magazine cover which had the words "Search And Destroy" over a photo of military action in the Vietnam War. You get a sense the song is about the young American soldier who is a killing machine, a ticking timebomb, a walking path of destruction. But you also feel he is a tortured soul who is seeking help from someone, anyone. Though punk rock didn't come to life until 1977, you can hear it's direct influence in this Stooges classic. The version I chose here is from the band Soundgarden. It's a live version that was recorded back in 1996 but not released until 2011. Soundgarden formed as a band back in 1984, hailing from Seattle, Washington. The band featured Chris Cornell on drums and vocals, Hiro Yamamoto on bass and Kim Thayil on guitar. In 1985, Scott Sundquist joined the band on drums so that Cornell can focus on vocals, as well as rhythm guitar. 1986 saw the band appear on the "Deep Six" compilation which featured several underground Seattle bands. One of those bands was Skin Yard, whose drummer Matt Cameron would replace Sundquist on drums for Soundgarden. In 1987, Soundgarden joined legendary Seattle underground label Sub Pop and released the "Screaming Life" EP, which featured the songs "Hunted Down" and "Nothing To Say". In 1988, Sub Pop released the "Fopp" EP. That same year, Soundgarden signed on with SST Records and released their debut album "Ultramega OK". It's lead single, "Flower", helped Soundgarden get nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. The band also toured Europe for the very first time in support of their new album. In 1989, Soundgarden signed on with major label A&M Records and released "Louder Than Love". Thanks in part to the singles "Hunted Down" and "Loud Love", this album became the band's first to chart on the Billboard 200, peaking at #108. Hiro Yamamoto, unhappy with his role in the band, decided to leave Soundgarden at this time. Former Nirvana member Jason Everman filled in on bass for the rest of their tour but was let go from the band right after the tour was completed. Enter Ben Shepherd on bass. Shepherd ignited a new spark in the band, both with his playing and songwriting abilities. In 1991, the band released "Badmotorfinger". With singles like "Jesus Christ Pose", "Outshined" and "Rusty Cage" plus a spot on the 1992 Lollapalooza tour along with Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ministry, you could feel the music world begin to shift to this sound that was coming from Seattle. "Badmotorfinger", Pearl Jam's "Ten", Nirvana's "Nevermind" and Alice In Chains' "Dirt" would forever change the musical landscape. In 1994, Soundgarden reached their peak with the release of "Superunknown". This album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 charts and featured the singles "The Day I Tried To Live", "Spoonman", "My Wave", "Fell On Black Days" and probably their most popular song, "Black Hole Sun". This album won two Grammy Awards and has been certified five times platinum in the U.S. alone. In 1996, Soundgarden released "Down On The Upside". This album was really the band's first to feature the use of some acoustic guitars. While it had it's heavy moments, it was a little softer than the band's earlier material. This album featured the singles "Pretty Noose", "Burden In My Hand" and "Blow Up The Outside World". By 1997, internal tensions within the band caused Soundgarden to break up. They released a compilation called "A-Sides" to celebrate the band's history. The compilation featured the unreleased track "Bleed Together". From 1998 to 2009, all the members focused on their own musical efforts. Cornell released some solo albums and fronted the band Audioslave with members of Rage Against The Machine. Thayil worked with the likes of Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) and Krist Novoselic (Nirvana). Shepherd was in Wellwater Conspiracy and he worked with Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) as well. Matt Cameron worked with Wellwater Conspiracy and became the new drummer of Pearl Jam also. In 2010, it was announced through their website that Soundgarden was getting back together after 13 years apart. On April 16, 2010, the band played their first live show since 1997 at the Showbox At The Market in Seattle, Washington. They also headlined Lollapalooza once again. The band would release the greatest hits compilation "Telephantasm: A Retrospective" which featured the unreleased track "Black Rain". In 2011, Soundgarden released their very first live album, "Live On I-5". In 2012, the band offered their song "Live To Rise" to the soundtrack of the movie "The Avengers". This would be the first newly recorded song by the band since their reformation in 2010. 2012 also saw the band release a brand new album, "King Animal". This album features the singles "Been Away Too Long", "By Crooked Steps", "Taree" and "Halfway There". In 2014, Matt Cameron announced he would not be touring with Soundgarden that year due to his prior commitments to Pearl Jam. Ironically, Matt Chamberlain, who briefly played with Pearl Jam in the early 90's, would fill in for Cameron on Soundgarden's South American tour. Currently, the news is all good on the Soundgarden front. Their new album "King Animal" shows that they are still very relevant in the music world and that their sound is one that has been missing from the music world for too long. While bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were obvious influences on Soundgarden's music, Soundgarden, in turn, has been a huge influence on any heavy band that came out after the 90's grunge explosion. This band, in deed, is legendary!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Song Of The Week: 7/20/14

Song: "Version 2.0"

Artist: Staring Back

Album: "On"

Year: 2002

"Version 2.0" is a song that appears to be about the vocalist wanting to make a better version of himself. He wants to be motivated by creativity, not fearful that what he creates won't live up to expectations. He wants to stand up for himself and man up to confrontation, not shy away from it and be content to be in the same place all the time, the safe place. He basically doesn't want to be afraid to grow, to evolve. Staring Back formed as a band back in 1997, hailing from Goleta, California. There's not a whole lot of information out there about this underground pop/punk band but here's what I do know. In 1999, Staring Back self-produced their first EP, "The Mean Streets Of Goleta". This EP caught the ears of Lobster Records who worked out a deal with the band to distribute the album. In 2000, Lobster Records would release Staring Back's debut full length album, "Many Will Play". After a few line-up changes, mostly due to guys going back to school (the guys formed the band in high school, at this point some guys decided to go to college as the band was really making hardly any money), Staring Back released "On" in 2002. It was at this point that the band secured a spot on one of the small stages on the Warped Tour that year. The band filmed a video for the song "Version 2.0" off of "On", my song of the week! Currently, Staring Back doesn't appear to be making a comeback anytime soon. Since 2004, the band has been inactive and they did announce their break up on their PureVolume page. Their style was that of a pop/punk band, mainly in the same vein as bands such as Yellowcard, Riddlin' Kids and No Motiv. The band never quite crossed over as a band like Yellowcard did, nor did they have at least one credible hit as the Riddlin' Kids did. They just were another band in the pack that kind of got swallowed up. Some band members have found homes in other bands, most notably Yellowcard and Bayside. Other than that, the book is closed on Staring Back.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Song Of The Week: 7/13/14

Song: "Seems We're OK"

Artist: Chuck Ragan

Album: "Covering Ground"

Year: 2011

"Seems We're OK" is a song that appears to be about reflecting back on a life with someone that has been filled with pain, heartaches and regrets. I get a sense, however, that it is not a negative song, more like it is telling how no matter how bad those times were and the pain that they have been through, they are still here today, in the present. Now they can reflect on what they've been through and perhaps appreciate more where they are today. Chuck Ragan has been active in the music industry since 1993. Hailing from Gainesville, Florida, Ragan is probably best known as the frontman and guitarist for the band Hot Water Music. Hot Water Music has been active since 1993 and to date have released seven full length albums, three compilations, two live albums and more than twenty EP's and splits. Their most recent release was 2012's "Exister". Ragan got his first taste of the acoustic/folk buzz back in 1998 when he, Chris Wollard (also of Hot Water Music) and Samantha Jones released a series of EP's under the moniker Rumbleseat. All of these EP's and 7" recordings would be compiled into a cd called "Rumbleseat Is Dead" which was released in 2005. 2005 also proved to be a year of change for Ragan as Hot Water Music decided to go on a little hiatus from recording or touring. It was during this hiatus that Ragan really buckled down and focused on his solo career. In 2006, Ragan began releasing a series of singles, one per month which became known as "the 7-inch club". No Idea Records would eventually release all these singles in a compilation entitled "The Blueprint Sessions". Ragan also self-released a live album called "Live At The Troubadour that year as well. 2007 saw Ragan strike a deal with Side One Dummy Records and release his debut full length album "Feast Or Famine". That year he also released yet another live album called "Los Feliz". In 2008, Ragan released an album with Austin Lucas called "Bristle Ridge". Ragan's second studio album, "Gold Country", was released in 2009. That very same year saw Ragan appear on a split EP with Anderson Family Bluegrass as well as another live album called "Live From Rock Island: The Daytrotter Sessions". In 2010, Ragan appeared on yet another split release with Darren Gibson. 2011 saw Ragan release "Covering Ground". This album featured the single "Meet You In The Middle" which is a duet with The Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon. Ragan would appear on a four way split that year as well featuring himself, Sam Russo, Jimmy Islip and Helen Chambers. 2012 was a year that the focus and dedication was put back on Hot Water Music as the band released "Exister" and toured in support of that album. Ragan would get back to his solo thing by 2014, however, with the release of "Till Midnight". His fourth studio album would feature the singles "Something May Catch Fire", "Non Typical" and "You And I Alone". Currently, Ragan is doing several shows supporting "Till Midnight". Though I'm not sure if Chuck Ragan is the first punk rock vocalist to trade in his electric guitar for an acoustic and begin writing folksy, roots type songs, I'd argue he just does it the best. His raspy, powerful voice just lends itself to this new folk/punk genre that has seemingly been the new thing to do for punk vocalists lately. He is also the brain behind "The Revival Tours" which have been going on since 2008. Along with Ragan, some other notable artists that have appeared on these tours over the years have been Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!), Dave Hause (The Loved Ones), Brian Fallon (The Gaslight Anthem), Dan Andriano (Alkaline Trio), Kevin Seconds (7 Seconds) and Tim Barry (Avail) to name a few. The shows are like being at a campfire as several of the artists get on stage together during each other's sets making it a cool, sing-a-long type atmosphere. Whether with Hot Water Music or as a solo artist, Chuck Ragan is well respected in the punk rock world.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Song Of The Week: 7/6/14

Song: "3/4 Tango"

Artist: Polar Bear Club

Album: "Clash Battle Guilt Pride"

Year: 2011

"3/4 Tango" is a song that appears to be about wondering whether you made the right decisions in your life. Are you looking back on life and finding more and more that it's not what you thought it would be, or wanted it to be? The vocalist definitely harbors some regrets while reflecting on these things. At the same time, however, he or she does not appreciate others who try to tell them how to live their life or those who make comments on their situation. Those people that do that, to take advantage of someone else's problems, are the one's who need to look at themselves in the mirror instead of criticizing someone else's actions or inactions. Polar Bear Club formed as a band back in 2005, hailing from upstate New York. After recording a five song demo, the band caught the attention of Triple Attack Records who signed the band in 2006 and released the EP "The Redder, The Better". A buzz was being created by this demo and EP and in 2007, Polar Bear Club signed with Red Leader Records and released their debut full length album, "Sometimes Things Just Disappear". This album earned the band supporting slots on tours with The Gaslight Anthem, American Steel and A Wilhelm Scream to name a few. In 2009, Bridge Nine Records signed Polar Bear Club and released their second album, "Chasing Hamburg". This album featured the single "Living Saints". In 2010, Polar Bear Club earned a slot on the Hevy Music Festival in the United Kingdom. 2011 saw the band perform for the first time in Australia where they earned a slot on the famous Soundwave Festival. In 2011, the band also released their third full length album, "Clash Battle Guilt Pride". This album featured songs such as "My Best Days", "Killin' It" and "Screams In Caves". 2012 saw the band play both the Leeds and Reading Festivals in England. The band also released their very first live album, "Live At The Montage". This album was a live acoustic performance that was recorded for release. In 2013, the band released their latest album, "Death Chorus". This album featured the songs "WLWYCD", "Blood Balloon" and "Upstate Mosquito". Fans of the band may notice that on this album vocalist Jimmy Stadt's vocals are less raspy and more clear. Due to straining his voice on the road over the years, Stadt was forced to sing cleaner in order to hit certain notes and more importantly, to save his vocal chords. Currently, Polar Bear Club finished up 2013 on tour supporting "Death Chorus". There has been no talk as of the past couple of months that the band is working on new material or not. The band is pretty active though, so I suspect it won't be long to hear some new Polar Bear Club music in the near future. For fans of bands like The Gaslight Anthem, Lifetime, Hot Water Music, The Flatliners and The Menzingers, Polar Bear Club is a punk band with lots of similarties to those bands I've mentioned. Really solid band. I do wish Stadt's voice can get back to what it was before "Death Chorus" though. Only time will tell.