Thursday, April 25, 2013

Music Reviews: After The Fact - "Limit Break"

After a short break and some line-up changes, Ft. Myers, FL ska band After The Fact are back with their most ambitious album to date, "Limit Break". The album features 9 tracks of skank inducing awesomeness that will get you on your feet and slamming and singing along within seconds!

The album kicks off with "Sick As A Dog", with it's mellow groove and softy horns before picking up the beat and setting the tone for the rest of the album. This is a tight track with a great chorus about missing your significant other. We can all relate to that, right? I gotta tell ya though, missing someone has never been this much fun!

"Take A Hint" is another big sing along with lots of energy. But it also has a loving feel to it. The guy in the song is stuck on his girl and wants her to know he'll "never ever walk away" from her. The band gel really well together on "Limit Break". Not that they weren't a good band before. But time has been very kind to this band of fun loving goofs. The songs are more mature, but not in a "old timer" way. These guys can still have fun and grow as a unit and write songs from the heart without going sappy. Pretty awesome!
The band, Tim Tim (Guitar/Vocals), Big E (Bass/Vocals), Paul Kalugdan (Trumpet/Guitar/Vocals), (Jason Melcher (Drums/Vocals), Bruce Stokes (Trumpet) and Mike Requena (Trombone), have truly made the album of their career with "Limit Break". Solid playing, top notch songwriting and great production have manifested itself in an album that will stand the test of time and sound just as fresh and exciting 20 years from now, as it does today! I can't say enough good about After The Fact. This band has found it's footing in the music world and I can't wait to see how the band evolves with time. Gentlemen, you really made a fantatstic album! Congratulations!
5 / 5 stars

Monday, April 22, 2013

Music Reviews: Mug - "Stacked"

Mug are a talented band from Enfield, England who's latest album "Stacked" is 12 songs filled with big chords, major sing-along choruses and and lots of heart.

The albums opener "Repeaters" starts out kinda mellow and laid back...but quickly changes direction with rolling drums, thundering bass runs and a mean guitar tone that'll get you up and moving in seconds. Add to that lots of "Whoa oh oh" singing, and you have a monster of a lead off track. Brilliant!

"Riot" is another solid track with it's bass riff with guitar kicking in at just the right times. It's a great tune about citizens rioting in the streets who are "smashing in windows, burning down factories" while playing "pirate'"! From the sound of this tune and the angst lead singer Mat has, I get the feeling these guys may have partaken in the festivities as opposed to just singing about it.

Along with Mat, the band, guitarist Mark, bassist Mikey and drummer Mike play like their lives depend on it. These guys have the chops as players and songwriters to bring the house down when they play. Song like "Le Clench" and "United Kindness" prove that with the power, passion and intensity of a band possessed. You can tell this band believes in what they write about and are not just going through the motions. And that is what's gonna set Mug apart from others.

"Bottled Up" closes out this album with activist style folk acoustics and somber lyrics that remind me of the best Against Me! songs. But make no mistake, this band is it's own entity. With so much rocking on the first 11 tracks, it's a nice way to end the album. It shows range and promise. I am pleasantly surprised at how well this album comes together and holds you until the final strum of the guitar brings it all to an end. I am excited to see what Mug will do next. All in all this is the best album I've heard so far this year.

5 / 5 stars

Friday, April 12, 2013

Music Reviews: Pink Smoke - "No Party"

If you read this blog from time to time, you'll know I'm a sucker for great garage rock. And once again, I got turned onto another amazing band, Pink Smoke, who's latest release is called "No Party" and is out now on Jolly Ronnie Records

The album, actually it's being released on cassette with a download card for all of you who don't have a tape deck, has 12 tracks of fast beats, amazing riffs and plenty of attitude. The album kicks off with "E.T. Boy" with it's sing along chorus and na na na's, it's a fun track and good way to kick off an album. There's even an organ solo to solidify the bands garage rock influence and upbringing.

Other tracks like "King Of The Night", "Kicks" and "Breakdown" keep the momentum going with three chord chugs and enough sass to make you believe in the power of punk rock. When music is done right, it can make you feel like dancing, shaking and getting lost in the moment. And this album brings all of that and more to the table. The energy and excitement really come out on "No Party".
"Brain Dead Kid" is one of the best tracks on the record...not my favorite, but it's damn close. It reminds me of old '77 style NY punk rock. In your face and to the point, it's pure punk rock that you don't see alot of these days. Sonny Vincent and The Testors could have recorded this tune, it's THAT good! "(No) What I Said", IS the real gem on this record. The opening riff alone is worth the price of admission. This song is as catchy as a case of the clap. Solid playing all across the board. And the guitar solo is one of the best I've heard in a while. Great job guys!
Despite a crazy name, Pink Smoke bring their A game on "No Party". This truly is a great record. I'm not sure if the band has anymore material out there...but I'm gonna find out and pick it up if there is! But in the meantime, I HIGHLY suggest you all pick up "No Party" and see for yourself how kick ass garage style punk rock should be played!
4 ½ / 5 stars

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Interview With Vatican Assassins

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass gang. For anyone new
to Vatican Assassins, can you give us a little history on the band and how you
got your start?

Joe: I started as a drummer back in Chicago where I’ve played in a handful of
bands since I was a teenager. After having little success with those bands I
decided to pick up guitar and start my own band and write my own songs. Vatican
Assassins is rooted in a band I started in Chicago called Spazz Attack. I moved
to Los Angeles in 2002 with Susie and after about a couple years forced her to
learn the bass so that we could start another band. In 2006 we recruited our
very close friend Scott to play drums for us and we started Pitch Black Murder.
Sadly, Scott passed away in 2008 and we were forced to reevaluate our situation.

Our good friends Sandy and Jason from Las Vegas volunteered to help us get back
on our feet and that is where Vatican Assassins were born. We played with Sandy
on drums and Jason on lead guitar up until 2011 but due to the long distance
relationship we found it best to part ways. In 2012 we found our current drummer
Armando and that is where we are today.

Susie: Well I don’t know if I was “forced” to play bass necessarily, haha! It is
true that I had never played bass before but had some experience on guitar and
piano. It was pretty interesting in the beginning, but I really fell in love
with playing it.

Joe: Susie really has become a solid bass player.

CM: How would you describe the band’s sound as far as musically and lyrically?

Joe: Musically I'd say we have an old school punk sound. It’s pretty simple rock
and roll. Nothing too flashy. Lyrically there is a lot of reference to politics,
life, all the things that piss us off or that we are passionate about.

Susie: I have a hard time coming up with a description of our songs and style
for people. I usually just tell them to have a listen. Joe usually writes about
some pretty serious stuff, I try to squeeze in some silly things sometimes when
I can get away with it.

CM: Who are some your personal musical influences and do you think those
influences come out in the bands songwriting?

Joe: We're influenced by punk rock pre-1990 mostly. Especially bands like Husker
Du, Naked Raygun, The Misfits, The Clash, The Jam, The Buzzcocks... I could go
on but it starts to get complicated. I think you can definitely hear those
influences in our music.

Susie: Well I like a lot of different music it is really hard to make a list.
Some of my favorites are the same as Joe’s and I also love the Subhumans, The
Damned, PIL, Rudimentary Peni, The Smiths, The Briefs, and a million others. I
am sure that what people listen to always influences what they produce.

Armando: Some of my personal influences would have to be such bands as Swingin’
Utters, One Man Army, The Clash and a lot of 77’ punk rock. These bands have
influenced my drumming style greatly.

CM: Speaking of songwriting, when it comes to writing and arranging the songs,
is it a group effort or is there a primary songwriter?

Joe: I'll usually bring a partially worked out song to the band and we will play
around with it as a group for a few weeks at least and work out the structure. I
pretty much handle the lyric writing myself but there's been some solid input
lyrically from the others on various songs.

Susie: I would say Joe always starts things out, I would say he is definitely
not taking enough credit for his input. We contribute, but I think that Joe is
usually the one with the song ideas, then we do our parts. We do all give each
other feedback and discuss the arrangement for sure.

Armando: Joe primarily writes all the songs. As a new member of the band I look
forward to having input in some future song writing.

CM: The bands new self-titled EP is coming out soon on Infested Records. Is this
the band’s first release or is there more material out there?

Joe: Officially this will be our first release but we practically recorded a
whole album with Sandy and Jason that never saw the light of day. Some of those
songs were re-recorded with Armando and some went to the song graveyard. There's
also an abundance of recordings from the Pitch Black Murder days and from my
Spazz Attack days that relate to Vatican Assassins but I doubt any of that will
ever see any form of release. I'm going to keep those to myself and maybe create
a mystique or something.

CM: The name Vatican Assassins is in itself cool. How did you come up with this

Joe: Jason and I were brainstorming on some band names. I wanted to tie in my
Catholic school upbringing, which is where the Vatican part came from and the
Assassins part was pulled out of the dictionary. It just sort of hand a magical
ring to it as far as I was concerned. We also found it intriguing that while
searching the internet to make sure there were no other bands using the name, we
found a conspiratorial book by the same name. Considering Jason and I were
conspiracy nerds, we found the name quite fitting. Then, years later, Charlie
Sheen went crazy and called himself a Vatican Assassin and before you know it we
are getting hits on our Facebook page from people all over the globe. It’s
actually really funny, we've been friended by a monk and someone from Morocco or
something who's a Muslim. The name seems to attract all sorts.

Susie: That was all Jason & Joe.

Joe: Yes, Susie wants to have nothing to do with being credited for our band
name. She dreams of being in a local SoCal band called “Codename Hardhat”.

CM: Outside of local shows, do you get out and tour much? And are there any
plans for a mini tour in the near future?

Joe: We haven't really played outside the L.A. area except for some trips to Las
Vegas but we would love to start venturing out to nearby states. We've talked
about maybe trying to pull off a mini west coast tour and maybe some weekend
jaunts up to Northern California or something but our families and jobs don't
make it very easy. It’s a goal of mine to head out east and play in Chicago in
front of my family and friends. I've never really performed for any of them and
it would really seem like an accomplishment to me. Maybe we could open up for
Naked Raygun or someone (wink wink)

Armando: I really want to schedule a mini tour in Texas. I don’t know why I just

Joe: Maybe because you secretly want to be a cowboy.

CM: Is there a website you guys would like to plug where fans can get up to date
news on the new EP, get show dates and pick up some merch?

Joe: We have our Facebook site which is where we do most of our interaction
 but we also have a website that we are trying to keep updated. We are pretty diligent
about posting upcoming shows and we will be posting soon about the availability of
the EP and some stickers, t-shirts and other merch.

CM: Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass. I'm really stoked to get the
new EP out there for the world to hear. All the best to you 3 in the future!
Thanks again guys!

Joe: Thanks Chris. We appreciate you taking interest in our band.

Susie: Thanks Chris! Take care.

Armando: Thank you.