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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

10 (More) Bands You Should Immediately Educate Yourself on the Existence of: Pt 1 (10-6)

In the six months since I did the original list, three of the bands I mentioned (P.S. Eliot, Hunter City Madness, and Attack in Black) no longer exist. With any luck, I've started some kind of curse. Anywho, here's another list of bands you should keep your eye on in 2012.

10. Pianos Become the Teeth

The only reason Pianos are this high on the list is because they're probably at least on your radar already. Once considered (by me, anyways) to be the red-haired stepchild of "the wave," these dudes came out of nowhere to release one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2011 in The Lack Long After. If you haven't heard the album already, do yourself a favour and pick it up. If the lyrics don't choke you up, you may have no soul. This band is right at the forefront of the whole "skramz revival" that's sprung up recently-- and for good reason. Nobody's doing it better.

9. Rain Over Battle

With the release of 2011's These Rocks in Our Bodies, the youngsters in Rain Over Battle have shown they're more than capable of nestling comfortably into a long lineage of notable Virginia punx. The album flew under the radar for the most part, but if ROB continue to perfect their blend of clever, catchy beard-core, expect to see their next album on a few top 10 lists. Their sound is one part Philly punk and one part mid-era Against Me!, blended together in the No Idea break-room and garnished with a healthy dose of Wonder Years-esque pop-punk. But instead of being a four-chord cliche, these guys are striving to write some of the most complex, textured tunes the genre's ever seen. Sometimes the band's ambitions get a bit lofty and they find themselves in over their heads, but I expect those bumps will smooth out with age and experience. I also expect these guys to blow up on Punknews any day now. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

8. Drug Church

In case you haven't noticed, I'm a bit of a Self Defense Family fanboy. Call a cop. Anywho, it always seemed a little odd to me that Patrick Kindlon, a dude who constantly professes his love for aggressive, moshy, sometimes ignorant hardcore, wasn't in an aggressive, moshy hardcore band. Enter Drug Church. The band's bio says it all: "No heavy trips about how you should live. No white guy slam-poetry about love. Just music you can push pit and stagedive to so you can forget for a moment that you have eczema and work at Pizza-Hut." These dudes dropped a very impressive demo last year, ("Visualize Latham" might have been the mosh-riff of 2011) and just recently signed to No Sleep. Expect their debut seven inch to make waves sometime later in 2012.

7. Loma Prieta

Holy fuck. January isn't even finished, and I've already got a few early contenders for 2012's album of the year. Loma Prieta have made their way into the conversation with I.V., a fierce, moody, monster of an album. The band perfectly blends noisy hardcore and noisy screamo for a very refreshing take on the whole "skramz revival" thing we've been seeing recently. If Kurt Ballou and Will Killingsworth somehow had a baby, it's band would sound like this (to be honest, I was surprised to find out I.V. wasn't recorded at God City). The band switches from catharsis to violence at the drop of a hat, oftentimes giving the listener mere seconds to breathe before pummeling them with a quick blast of pure vitriol. The album is relentless in it's approach, but more importantly, it's well written and unique. Expect to hear a lot more about I.V. -- and Loma Prieta-- in the future.

6. Joie De Vivre 

Rockford, IL's Joie De Vivre would have been on the last list I made if it weren't for the fact that they'd broken up earlier that year. With that in mind, I'm pleased to announce that y'all should check out Rockford IL's Joie De Vivre. That's right, they recently got back together, are about to embark on a Euro tour, and will hopefully be releasing a followup to their spectacular 2010 full-length, The North End sometime in the not-so-distant future. Joie is the epitome of the Midwest's current fascination with Mineral/American Football, complete with trumpets and all. But aside from being one of the most heavily indebted bands in their circle, they're also easily one of the best. For those of us who can't remember a time when "emo" wasn't a dirty word, Joie De Vivre is just as refreshing and effective as any of their predecessors.


So that's it for now. I'm gonna do some homework. Part 2 will follow within the next few days.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

A chorus of screaming idiots

There seems to be an unspoken code in politics and political journalism that any non-inflammatory or politically correct idea, regardless of how innately stupid it is, should be given credence.

Take for example, Rick Santorum's recently resurfaced opinion on contraception laws. Although he doesn't come right out and say it (politicians never do), it appears Santorum would like to see all forms of birth control become legally unavailable.  This is a bad idea on it's own merits, but when you consider Santorum's stance on federal funding for public education and social services, his position becomes laughable. As anyone with half a brain could figure out, the numbers don't add up across the board: an increase in the number of kids, coupled with a decrease of money in the pot for schools can only mean a decline in quality of education. Lower quality of education goes hand-in-hand with things like a higher crime rate, a lower GDP, a higher teenage pregnancy rate and an overall lower quality of life, which is something that nobody in their right minds would want for their country.

This isn't my opinion, either, this is simple math: 1-1= 0. Everyone should know this. A lot of people do know this. So then why is nobody calling Santorum on his crackpot theories?

In a true democracy, that job falls to the public. Alas, the public doesn't have the tools or forum to do so -- and even if they did, it's safe to say that the majority of them either don't care or actually side with Santorum. As for his GOP opponents eyeing that same presidential bid? They're not going to bite on something like this. The primaries are shaping up to be a close race, and the candidates don't want to lose the "fringe lunatic" vote, especially when smacking Santorum around on this particular issue won't earn them any short-term success. For Romney and co., keeping quiet and silently hoping Santorum shoots himself in the foot is the only viable option right now.

With that in mind, the responsibility to expose Santorum's fraudulent ideas falls to us, the journalists. We are, after all, the faithful lighthouse keepers of democracy. It's our job to ensure the public stays informed of all pressing issues, and to encourage thoughtful, informed discussion in both the public and political arena. When frail, poorly strung ideas like this are brought up, it should be our job to strip them bare and expose the gaping holes in them.

So then why, time and time again, are journalists playing moral softball with rubes like Rick Santorum?

Right now, Santorum's ass should be roasting uncomfortably over an open fire. There should be a wall of microphones surrounding him, with people yelling stuff like "what about the spread of STI's, Rick?" or "how exactly are the states to enforce these laws, and what will the cost to the federal government be?" Instead, all Santorum had to face was some touchy-feely "it's not morally right to do this..." garbage from a few self-righteous TV personalities and BOOM, he was free to spout his deranged, dangerous rhetoric all over the rolling New Hampshire countryside. And it's not just Santorum and his ilk who get this treatment; every politician spewing some kind of ill-conceived bullshit, be it from the left or right, is given a few lame softball questions before they're allowed to continue bunging up the democratic process with their nonsense.

It seems to me that in a short time, political journalism (of the TV variety, in particular) has transformed itself from an democracy's sharpest tool into a(n often) vaguely leftist prescription drug pusher. Instead of blowing Santorum's bullshit clean out of the water, instead of attempting to hold the left accountable for their budget failures, instead of asking "why the hell are all these old people deciding the future of the internet without even understanding how to use it?" we continue to come back to these " public opinion" stories; this "who-said-what-and-how-the-public-feels-about-it" bullshit. We've failed, continually, to do the research and ask the questions that will hold politicians accountable. We've been quick to analyze and offer an opinion, but never on what actually matters; only on petty garbage.

So now, as a public, instead of having an informed discussion about how to change the course of a broken economic and political model, we're engaged in a series of ill-informed moral pissing contests. We're not solving anything. We're not getting any closer to the answers. We're just making loud noise from ivory towers while very real problems continue to affect all of us. Rick Santorum is very good at making noise. So are the people with the required lack of critical thinking skills to buy into his hackneyed plans. Noise isn't going to solve anything, only make more problems. Healthy discourse is the only way we can come closer to some sort of solution, and as anyone who's ever worked in a factory can attest, it's pretty damn hard to have a legitimate discussion when you can't hear a thing.

Watching our current state of political discourse is like listening to a really shitty choir. Everyone has a voice, but very few people actually care to use it properly. The talented, hard working, and faithful are being drowned out by the people who just show up for the sake of making noise. As journalists, we should be conducting, harmonizing the willing in an attempt to drown out those who care only to yell, yet at this point, the conductor is only concerned with being the loudest singer. Those with strong voices or just a desire to contribute are getting frustrated and are either leaving or starting to yell themselves.

So, it's come to this. At some point, the show has to end; and with a dwindling pool of willing and able contributors, and nobody to direct those who still care, it appears our swan song will be sung by a chorus of screaming idiots.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

End of a Year vol. 3: Music Revisited

2011 was an awesome year for music. Well, for my music anyways. Time for me to ramble about more arbitrary nonsense!

2011 Band of the Year: End of a Year Self Defense Family

When it boils down to it, music is about two things: art and entertainment. Nobody knows that better than this band. Artistically, SDF released a handful of splits, seven inches, and random Tumblr streams this year, most of it ranging from "interesting to hear" to "the best shit they've ever written". As for entertainment value, well, you probably won't find a more entertaining band in the entire history of bands. Whether on their Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, or other various social media platforms, this band has no shame in broadcasting their sometimes controversial, often insightful/hilarious and always entertaining opinions, without filter, for the world to hear. Whether or not you agree with them, you have to admit the way they maintain an open dialogue with their fans, journalists and other musicians just for the sake of fun is pretty admirable. Also, mad shout-out to Patrick Kindlon for being this blog's first interviewee.

2011 Record Label of the Year: Rise Records

Sorry B9, Run For Cover and Count Your Lucky Stars, but it takes more than putting out kick-ass music to top this category. In fact, if you look at what Rise actually released last year, that may not be a criteria at all. Rise earned this "coveted" award by topping the headlines with some of the craziest/most interesting/most hilarious punk-related stories of 2011. Most noticeably, they shocked the punk(news) world by signing a certain best punk band ever and a whole bunch of other bands who sound just like them, which kicked off their transformation from "joke label" to "legitimate player" in the world of orgcore. It also pissed off a lot of swoop-haired kids, which is hilarious. Speaking of pissed off swoop-haired kids and hilarity, Jonny Craig, crack cocaine, Emarosa, prison. That is all. This reminds me, I have a Twitter page for this thing. I'm also selling Macbooks on it, so check it out.

2011 Best Show: Every Time I Die/The Chariot/food band/Hunter City Madness in Ottawa

I went to a bunch of awesome concerts last year. From getting groped by a hot girl on my birthday at Protest the Hero, to my first two step to Title Fight, to a PWYC/BYOB jam in Kitchener with The Reptilian, to seeing Hot Water Music for the first time and beginning my Chuck Ragan shrine, 2011 was filled with memorable concert moments. This one, however, takes the cake. The night started off with watching my boys in Hunter City Madness tear it up in front of their heroes in ETID. Then, some shitty band came on and the lead singer rubbed the mic on his ass, so I went to get food. After that, The Chariot played. If you've ever seen them, you'll know that's all I need to say. I'm not a huge fan, but god, they rock hard. Then, after some scary, border-related delays, ETID came on and brought the whole place to the ground. As soon as they started playing, an urge to kill rose from within me, taking hold of my whole body and rendering me helpless to it's power. The next 35 minutes are tough for me to recall... I just remember flashes of violent push mosh and sweaty bodies. I have a court date next week. Damn good show.

2011's Most Overrated Album: Fucked Up- David Comes to Life (Matador)

What's worse than listening to a mediocre song? Listening to that song twice in a row. What's worse than listening to a mediocre song twice in a row? Listening to it 18 times in a row. Don't believe the hype.

2011's Most Disappointing Album: Protest The Hero- Scurrilous (Underground Operations)

This was a hard one. Protest the Hero are the only band from my hometown worth talking about, ever, so I feel kinda bad shit-talking them. Also, there was some serious competition in this category (USS put out a straight bomb of an EP, and those Glassjaw releases were all terrible). Alas, Scurrilous sticks out in my mind as the biggest disappointment, if only because how excited my friends and I all were. Sure, "C'est La Vie" was one of my top 10 songs this year, and the rest of the album isn't that bad, but still... It seems like the band traded all the interesting aspects of their songwriting for shredding, shredding, and more shredding. If I wanted to hear fast guitar playing without any discernible focus, I'd listen to Yngwie Malmsteen. Also, Arif needs to stick to being the primary lyricist. Sorry Protest, but this one just didn't stick. If it's any consolation, the artwork kicks ass.

Best Part of Music in 2011: Friends!!!!

It's some sappy bullshit, I know, but 2011 wouldn't have been half as good a year for music if I didn't have the best people in the world to share it with. For the first half of the year, I pretty much lived in a punk house, except it was clean (thanks, Chris), the people there didn't smell weird, and we were all in school/employed. I guess it was less a punk house and more a house where a bunch of dudes who liked punk/hardcore/metal constantly hung out and engaged in shenanigans. Through this place, I met so many cool people, heard so much cool music, and did so much cool shit that I don't even know where to start. Then, in September, I started school in a new city. I also started a band, which is really a glorified excuse to hang out with my best buddy and make fun of crabcore/listen to The Hip. I then joined another band, which is also filled with cool dudes and fun times. Both these bands are currently in the process of writing/tuning up our material, which I shall shamelessly promote on this blog when the time comes.

When I first made the conscious effort to immerse myself in independent music two years ago, I thought the most rewarding aspects would come from listening to the music itself. But while it's an undeniably amazing experience to hear a song that gives me goosebumps, discover an album that blows my mind, or watch a band pour their hearts out on stage, the most rewarding part of being a music fan has been the relationships I've made. It's amazing how many random people on the street you can have a meaningful conversation with just because of the shirt you're wearing. It's amazing how you can have an immediate connection with a new friend after a drunken conversation about music. It's amazing how easy it is to reach out to somebody you admire, and how humbled and willing they'll be to just chat with you for a little bit. It's amazing how many talented, interesting people there are out there combining their love of music with their other skills and passions to put out records, promote shows, take pictures, write stuff, do artwork, or the tons of other things that directly contribute to the music scene. It's amazing how much fun it is to create something with your friends. It's amazing how an inaccessible, aggressive, derivative form of music can bring so many different people together under one roof to enjoy a common experience. That is the beauty of punk rock.

Keep it real.


So, that does it for now. I plan on doing some non-music related year end stuff, as well as a look ahead to 2012, so if anyone's actually paying attention, stay tuned.