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Sunday, 14 August 2011

The ONLY band EVER!!! (SOTD: Alexisonfire- Accidents)

Warning: I use homophobic slurs (ironically) to show what a mongo I once was. If you can't handle that, go suck a dick or something.

I remember playing some kind of shitty online game involving emo bands. Although I don't exactly remember the premise of the game, a bit of cut-scene dialogue sticks out in my head as memorable. I'm paraphrasing here, but essentially the game stated that members of all "emo" bands (with the exception of HWM and ATDI for some reason) had ovaries, which made it impossible for these bands to put out more than three good albums before putting out a shitty one, imploding, and breaking up.

With that in mind, today's SOTD is by Alexisonfire. They officially broke up a couple of days ago (weeks now I guess, god I'm lazy) and since they were the band that got me into hardcore/punk/music with screaming, I feel obligated to say something. So here goes.

When I was in Grade 8, my friend Sean showed a 'screamo' song he was really into called "Accidents." Being heavy into bands like Guns N' Roses and AC/DC at the time, I immediately dismissed Accidents as "gay screaming bullshit" and most likely began jokingly questioning Sean's sexuality as Grade 8's do. Three-ish years later, when my musical tastes had become slightly more progressive (Pantera, The Afghan Whigs) I heard "Boiled Frogs" by a band called Alexisonfire on CFNY (Toronto's alternative radio station), and was immediately conflicted. On one hand, I knew that screaming music was "queer and shitty", but on the other hand, there was something about this "Boiled Frogs" song ; I actually kind of liked it! At first I decided to play it safe and dismiss the song, but after a few more radio listens, it became inescapable. That song was damn good. I had to download it. After downloading and listening to the shit out of a couple songs off Crisis (Limewire days), I decided that I needed more AOF in my life. So, one day, I went to HMV, bought Watch Out!, then proceeded to get high as shit and listen to it.

I can still remember the way the first track, "Accidents", gripped me. Never in my life had I heard something so fast, explosive, or unrestrained. There was an energy to this music even the hardest rocking Tragically Hip or Pearl Jam songs (my then favourite bands) didn't hold a candle to. I was used to dark, brooding angst with brief moments of emotional release - "Accidents" was dripping in pure fucking anger. Watch Out! became simultaneously the single most challenging and refreshing piece of music I'd ever heard.

As I listened to Watch Out! more and more, it became somewhat of a crutch for me. Musically, the whole album was a punch in the mouth to the way I thought about structure, instrumentation and dynamics. Emotionally, however, it felt more like a warm hug from an old friend. At the time I was going through a rough breakup, not getting into the college I wanted, a bunch of beef with my parents, and all that other bullshit that seems insurmountable when you're 17. Along with a few Tragically Hip records, Watch Out! became the soundtrack to my life. Angry, aggressive, emotionally charged, and most importantly, hopeful, the album gave me a place to turn when I felt I'd exhausted all other options. To this day I listen to at least part of that album once a week.

It always seemed to me that AOF got a bit of a bad rap. Not only were they dismissed by Pink Floyd shirt kids like myself as being "gay screamo bullshit", but by the old guard for being, essentially "gay screamo bullshit". They were always unfairly lumped in with not-entirely-dissimilar sounding bands who came out around that time. You know, the ones that dyed their hair stupid colours and sang pop songs about getting bullied in high school. Alexis was a different breed. They were fast, challenging, sometimes violent and always fraught with emotion. There was nothing lame about this band, the haters never got it because they never cared to.

Say what you will about this band, but if you're in the 18-25 crowd, listen to punk/hardcore, and live anywhere near a 400 series highway, AOF is in your blood. You get an adrenaline rush every time you hear the first two notes of ".44 Caliber Love Letter". You know all the words to Dallas' parts in Watch Out! and probably most of Crisis. If you don't own that poster with them on the school bus, one of your close friends does. I guarantee you know somebody with that heart-skull logo tattooed on them. We pretty much grew up with this band, and seeing them break up is like closing a chapter in our lives. I mean, the first time you heard these guys you were probably still getting bullied and wouldn't see second base for another two years. And when you couldn't handle all of your own spastic, pent up aggression, you listened to a band that seemed to thrive on whatever the hell you were feeling. Now, that band has broken up, and you have a degree, a job, tattoos, a girlfriend, a phone bill and responsibilities that your 15-year-old self could have never fathomed.

I guess we're just not the kids we used to be.

Saying "RIP" to six dudes who are all still alive and well seems like an odd thing to say. So I guess I'll just say good-bye Alexisonfire. Thanks for the music and the memories.


Saturday, 6 August 2011

10 Bands You Must Immediately Educate Yourself on the Existence of pt. 2 (5-1)

What's up kids? Sorry It's been so long since my last post - I've been busy smoking reserves, banging foreign girls and scooping pickles off the floor for a living (no, seriously). Anywho, back into the swing of things. MORE BANDS!

5. Attack in Black

To be honest, this band would be higher on the list if I could figure out whether or not they were still making music. Judging by the number of solo projects they have going on, it looks gloomy. Despite their status as a band, these guys make the list just for their back-catalouge. Their album Marriage is, simply put, a fucking masterpiece. These guys started off as a balls-out hardcore band, but as they matured, so did their sound. Attack in Black's existence could be lifted from the plot of a cheesy science fiction movie – Neil Young, Black Flag and The Arcade Fire all mixed perfectly together in a test tube to create a monster that was too earnest, too brash, and too versatile to really exist in a world that clings to scenes and resists change. Heartfelt indie rock rooted equally in punk sensibility and strong musicianship, Marriage and the two EP's that came before it were too weird to live, yet too good to ignore. Lyrics are also brilliant. If you like punk, indie, or music in general, I urge you to check these guys out.

4. Form and File

As you may remember, I went mental about this band in one of my first posts. Well, my love for these guys has yet to dwindle. There are so many bands in the current punk/hardcore scene that try to emulate mid/late 90's post-hardcore bands like Small Brown Bike or Hot Water Music. Unfortunately most of these bands end up sounding more like The Gaslight Anthem or a shitty American Football ripoff. Form and File is one of two bands I've heard (the other being Title Fight**) that can actually pull this style off. Sure, it's obvious these guys listened to their fair share of Jawbreaker, but they also bring a level of unpredictability and skill that pushes their sound beyond the archetype and into something that ends up being quite forward thinking. Form and File aren't trying to recreate an old style, they're trying to move that style forward.

3. Trap Them

I don't always listen to metalcore, but when I do, I prefer it to be blazing fast and brutally violent. Trap Them hit that nail right on the head. A Frankenstein's monster combination of hardcore, grind, metal, crust punk, d-beat, and any other Black Flag influenced genre that will never be commercially acceptable, Trap Them have been toiling in the under-underground for nearly a decade. Their latest release, Darker Handcraft, has seen them take their game to a whole other level. It's fast, powerful, drenched in feedback and driven by blast beats, but (because of good musicianship/songwriting) lacks the sloppiness/overbearing brutality that turns most people off grind or extreme metal. On top of that, some of the songs on Handcraft are actually quite catchy. Listen to the album three times, and then on the fourth time, try not to sing along with “The Facts” or “Every Walk a Quarantine”. Go ahead, I dare you. Unfortunately, Darker Handcraft doesn't seem to be getting the attention it deserves, which is a damn shame, becase it's top 5 of 2011 material in my opinion.

2. Tigers Jaw

Tigers Jaw were originally supposed to be number one, but after I wrote the description for the (former) runner-up band, I had to change the order. That's no knock against Tigers Jaw – these guys are still really, really fucking good. If you took all the best parts of indie rock, emo and pop-punk and shot them all together in the world's most awesome fission generator, this band would emerge. I've never been to one of their concerts, but I would assume there are a lot of cute girls in plaid shirts crowd surfing and push moshing, which is an apt description of their music. This band has the whole Nirvana-esque “we're only punk because we suck at playing our instruments but we don't actually suck at playing our instruments” vibe going on, which is interesting because if I had to pick a band to go all Nirvana and come out of nowhere to make a lot of money, I'd pick these guys. Shit, my parents like them, that has to say something. So let's review, shall we? Catchy, affectionate, but still punk as fuck? Check. Quality songwriting and musicianship? Check. Huge crossover appeal? Check. Cute female keyboard player? Check. I'd say we're good to go.

And the weiner is........

1. End of a Year/Self Defense Family

Self Defense Family, End of a Year, Funny and the Jokes; whatever you want to call them, this band is a force to be reckoned with. In a matter of years, these guys have gone from sounding like something off Dischord circa 1987 to being one of those rare bands that can do literally whatever the hell they want and still pull it off. What seperates good bands from great bands is the ability to strip off all pretense, give a firm 'fuck you' to everyone's expectations, and focus on writing the best music possible. End of a Year have made it perfectly clear: they don't care about labels, they don't care about alienating fans, they don't care about the “rules” of the scene; hell, they don't even care about their band name – all these guys want to do is make good music. And they're succeeding at doing just that. Their last album, You Are Beneath Me was nothing short of spectacular, and if “I'm Going Through Some Shit” is any indication of the “heavier” direction they've been hinting at, their next release will be even better. It's not very often you get to see a band transcend “hardcore” in a way that pushes the genre forward. These guys are set to do just that. Watch out.

** I'm assuming you know who Title Fight are. If not A) they win, B) stop living under a fucking rock and C) you're welcome. Also, I'm assuming you've heard of La Dispute and Defeater. If you haven't, then fuck. And if you haven't heard of Polar Bear Club, pressing F8 will take you straight to their Myspace.