I listened to two new albums today. Anti-Flag’s new album, “American Spring” and a new album by The Damned called, “So, Who’s Paranoid.” I’ve never been a fan of The Damned, not that I hated them, I just never really chose to listen to them. While Anti-Flag’s album was solid, “So, Who’s Paranoid?” by The Damned was surprisingly one of the best albums I’ve listened to this year and probably one of their best albums as well.
The Damned is one of those bands that is constantly changing their sound. With many bands, that can be a terrible thing, but for an iconic band like this, I think it’s the right move. Other pioneering punk bands of their era, like The Ramones (who I love) changed their sound slightly, but for the most part remained constant. What you end up getting is a discography of albums that rock, but sound the same. Not with The Damned. This album exemplifies the successful evolution of an ageing, yet legendary punk band.
The ghoulishly gothic vocals are in full effect on this album, starting strong with “A Nation Fit For Heroes.” I was expecting to turn this album on and have it turned off in less than a minute, but the dark new wave sound of this song had me hooked. Fully loaded with a rocking keyboard and corny rock guitar solos, this song kept that rare balance of being awesome, while slightly cheesy.
If you’ve never been a fan of The Damned, I urge you toss your opinions aside and check out this album. I was like you. Today I am forever a changed man.
Matt Skiba and The Sekrets have released their new album, “Kuts”, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Usually when I review an album, I listen to it twice, then I have a pretty decent idea how I feel about it. Not with this one. Even worse, I either love it, or I completely hate it. Is that crazy?
These days, when a veteran rocker releases a new album, I try to look at it from a different perspective. Is it just the same old stuff? Or is it true to its roots, while incorporating something fresh? Is it totally different, and if so, was it a huge mistake? Skiba has always been rather creative and has always continued to evolve his sound. If you are unfamiliar with his other band Alkaline Trio, start off listening to their album, “Maybe I’ll Catch Fire.” Now listen to the album, “My Shame is True”, which was released 13 years later. Its radically different, and with all the albums in between, you can literally hear them evolve slowly over that 13 year period. A truly awesome band to listen to.
After listening to this album twice, I’m not sure if Matt Skiba and The Sekrets have released anything that special here. One review that I read mentioned that the album had the sound of “a band no longer curated by a record executive with no actual idea of what makes good music.” I think this is a bit dramatic.
The first song on the album, “Lonely and Kold,” is surprisingly upbeat, sounding just like the later years of Alkaline Trio. It was a song I went back to and listened to a few times, and probably the best song on the album.
However, as the album progresses, it turns slowly into a very generic version of Heavens, another one of Skiba’s bands which only put out one album in 2006. Heavens was pitched more as a goth album, but every song on the album was humorously memorable. The problem with “Kuts,” is that nothing on the album is memorable. Most of the songs sound like rehashed versions of past songs, blended together to create a monotonous release not worthy of being a conversation starter. Listening to “Never Believe,” I almost found the song title fitting because I actually had a hard time believing this song wasn’t on a past album.
I’m not saying this is a bad album, because it’s not. When you have one of those days where you’re sick of everything in your collection, this is a decent album to listen to. Skiba definitely sticks to his roots with this album, but so much that “Kuts” fails to establish itself as anything more than “just another album.
I have a terrible habit of buying tickets to see shows, and then when the day finally comes I dread going. Maybe it’s my age? I guess I’m just easily irritated. About two weeks ago, I had read online that Face to Face was coming to a small venue here in Buffalo, NY. At that moment, I had decided that I needed to see this show. Face to Face is quite possibly my favorite band of all time, so I was interested in going for sure.
As the years have gone by, Face to Face has pretty much become a generational punk band like Bad Religion, minus roughly ten years. I had seen them a few times, but the last time I saw them I was around 20 years old. I oddly remember most of it, which is impressive considering the state I was in at the time. The show was in Rochester, NY and Dashboard Confessional was opening for them. I was keeping it real back then, with my hair dyed blonde (and totally falling out), studded bracelets, ripped jeans – the whole thing. I was also piss drunk and utterly disgusting. I remember there being a few times where I was rescued by a good friend of mine, from making out with some girl that I insisted was insanely hot. Without harping on physical appearances, let’s just say my judgement was way off.
Roughly 17 years later. After watering the flowers and taking out the trash, I cooked my wife and daughter planked salmon for dinner, changed my kids diaper, gave them both kisses, and headed to the show. I was still amazed that I wasn’t dreading having to go. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that it was mainly because I was going solo. I didn’t have to show up on time and if it was terrible, I wouldn’t have to stay. I could basically do what I wanted. I found this appealing!
The doors opened at 7pm, and I arrived around 8:30. It was being held at a smaller venue called, “The Waiting Room,” which was a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere. This means a lot coming from a guy who’s constantly uncomfortable. What was also awesome, was that they had a decent beer selection on tap. While they had Genny and Pabst for the kids, they also had some delicious craft IPA’s for guys like me. This made it easy for me to sit through the opening bands.
Face to Face came out to play at around 9:45. They looked great. Trever Keith is getting pretty heavy, but they looked like they had loads of energy. They played song blocks from their first three albums, and everything they played sounded incredible. The crowd was pretty amped up, and there were plenty of older dudes breaking it down in the pit. I understood. The songs were so good and they were being played so well, I actually had the urge to get busy, but I didn’t. Come on man, I’m 37 years old.
When they got to their self-titled album, Keith openly joked about not wanting to listen to people asking why certain songs weren’t being played, attributing it to the fact that they have so many songs, and how it would be impossible to play them all. To me this basically meant, they didn’t want to play “I Won’t Lie Down,” which was one of the more popular songs on the album (also featured on the Mortal Combat Movie Soundtrack Remixed.) I was correct in assuming that, as it was not played. I had no complaints though, the set list was phenomenal.
The encore was slightly embarrassing, but was saved by the fact that the band came out and mocked the shitty, unenthusiastic cheers they were getting to come back out. I hate encores. I think everyone does actually. I saw Louie C.K. a few years ago, and at the beginning of the show, he came right out and said that he wasn’t doing an encore. He basically said they were stupid, and that when he’s done with his act, he’s just leaving and we can all go home. I loved that. It should be no different with music. Nobody wants to sit there and beg for a band to come back out, in fact, most of the time it’s getting late and everyone’s annoyed that it’s taking so long. Aside from that, they ended the show with covers of “Painted Black” by The Rolling Stones, and “Bikeage” by The Decendents, which was incredible.
Face to Face was that rare show that actually took you back to your youth, that energized your soul, and that really made you feel like everything is alright. At an age where things can get pretty stressful, where the people in your life are narrowed down to a select few that you love more than anything, somehow the deafening sounds of those West Coast power-chords became the most comforting sounds on earth. They were just as good as they were 17 years ago, the only difference for me was that now during the opening bands, I sip craft beer at the bar and thumb through pictures of my wife and daughter on my phone.
Life is pretty damn good.
If you are reading this and never listened to Texas is the Reason, I highly suggest seeking out this legendary band. These guys were pioneers and way ahead of their time.