Posts Tagged ‘music’

Retrospective (III): Code Orange Kids

This is another review I never actually gave to anyone. This one was just for me but I’m sharing it here. If you’ve never heard of this band, get on it quick before they get huge and sell out. (A side note: Code Orange Kids recently changed their name to Code Orange, much to the chagrin of die-hard fanboys who threw hissy fits on Twitter about the change. Get over it, guys. If everyone got this irritated by a band’s name-change, Self Defense Family – formerly End Of A Year, End Of A Year Self Defense Family, Self Defense Music, AND Self Defense – wouldn’t have any fans left.)
Code Orange Kids, The Star and Garter, Manchester, March 2014
Some school kids formed a punk band in Philadelphia, PA, they got signed by the biggest label in hardcore and became millionaires by the time they were 21. Sounds ridiculous, no? Sounds like a pipe dream you talked about with your mates in the back of a Physics lesson, doesn’t it? But it’s totally real.
Code Orange Kids formed when the band members were in middle school back in 2008. By the time they signed to Deathwish Records in 2012, their average age was just 18. Their EP ‘Cycles’ brought them to the attention of Converge’s frontman Jacob Bannon, which lead to the signing, and the band went on to release their first full-length, the excellent, shoe-gazing, intensely visceral ‘Love Is Love // Return To Dust’ in 2012, to mass critical acclaim.
Not bad going for a band who famously weren’t allowed into some of their own gigs because they weren’t old enough to enter the venues.
This year sees the release of Code Orange Kids’ sophomore LP ‘I Am King’ (September 1st) and, with the band being incredibly mysterious about what exactly fans are going to hear, I’m intrigued to see what they’re going to come out with at this gig. Drummer Jami Morgan has set up a website dedicated to the new record but the quartet has been very secretive. It has been a busy year elsewhere for the band too, with three of the members forming another band, Adventures, and Morgan teaming up with Self Defense Family’s Patrick Klindon to create Harm Reduction Records, which will release records by Drown and Torn this year.
Beginning with Cycles, the gig kicks off to a brilliantly no-holds-barred start, one kid spinning and kicking and floor-punching with excitement as the tension in the song builds and breaks. As the band dive into the vicious, filthy riff which begins the track Nothing (The Rat), a kid in a Disgrace t-shirt attempts to join in the pit and is instantly floored. There is nowhere to hide (unless you’ve been lucky enough to secure a place on a raised area next to the wall) and track after track rain down on the crowd. It’s a short set, only seven tracks long, but it’s so worth it. Vocalist Reba Meyers shows off her trademark screech for the beginning of Liars // Trudge before bringing forth her quiet, soft, almost-whispered singing for the end of the track. That she is able to replicate this change in her voice so expertly at a live show is testament to her incredible talent.
New track Slowburn is played next, and it’s the song the crowd’s been waiting for, new material to scare the neighbours with. It’s different from other Code Orange Kids material but still recognisably intense, still as captivatingly dark and burning. Finally, the closing track Flowermouth (The Leech) is played, Meyers screaming the lyrics through her veil of messy red hair. It’s been almost impossible to see her face the entire gig because she’s been masked by hair, head-banging while playing guitar and staring at the floor during the slow parts of songs.
What’s so brilliant about Code Orange Kids is, they’re not big-headed. These guys are set to become one of the biggest acts in hardcore. They’re touring with the likes of Bane and Killswitch Engage this year, and last year toured with Every Time I Die and Title Fight, and they’ve established a fan base that includes members of some of the biggest bands in the business, but they’re so humble. It’s this attitude, this passion for what they do and doing it well, that makes them such a pleasure to watch.
See the I Am King video.
Set list:
Cycles (The Days Get Longer)
Nothing (The Rat)
V (My Body Is A Well)
Liars // Trudge
Worms Fear God // God Fears Youth
Slowburn
Flowermouth (The Leech)

The Great Sabatini – Dog Years review

This review was originally hosted on and written for Manchester Rocks, and is reprinted here with permission.
Over the years, Canada has produced some absolutely brilliant punk. Propagandhi, Comeback Kid and Fucked Up have all taken the world by storm and remain some of the best-selling acts out there. There is, however, a small sub-section of the genre that, unfairly, contains bands which are not as well-known (or perhaps that should read well-received) as they ought to be. One particular example of this is Ontario noisemakers Single Mothers, who, having been refused entry to the US earlier this year and consequently having had to cancel an entire US tour just days before it started, seem set now to only ever play in Canada. Another such relatively unknown band is The Great Sabatini, a quartet of brothers from Montreal who write loud, sludgy and occasionally quite morbid punk songs.
And so, to business. Dog Years is actually the band’s seventh release (that’s basically one per year since their formation in 2007 – never accuse a punk band of being lazy), their second full-length after 2009’s Sad Parade of Yesterdays, and is easily the most unusual album I’ve heard all year. Beginning with the rip-roaring The Royal We, which cracks out of the speakers like a blister oozing metal pus, there’s a sense here that influences are so wide and varied, you could be fooled into thinking these guys are trying too hard to cram everything into one song. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. What starts like your standard Metallica-style riff quickly dissolves into all-out punk war, drumming going from standard beat-keeping to technical, complex, cymbal-bashing noise which complements the frantic screaming of the vocals perfectly, before reaching the sludgy, doom-esque, slowed-down climax of the song which sounds like it could have been written by Code Orange at their most volatile. And the brothers pull it off without a hitch.
Things carry on in much the same vein for Guest of Honour, a minute-long rumination on the social classlessness of death (‘It’s a long way down from ivory towers / You’ll be in the ground pushing up flowers’) and continue on for the next couple of tracks, so it’s only by the fifth song, Reach, that the listener realises The Great Sabatini is actually doing something very, very clever with this record. Yes, it’s punk, yes, it sounds like punk, but it’s a record that plays with people’s perceptions of what punk is. Reach is slow-burning, angry but very much different from what’s happened so far on Dog Years. It contains actual singing, and guitar solos that emanate a certain beauty. This beauty reaches further, into the song Aleka, which is a very calm, acoustic track, again containing only singing.
Of course, this still calmness lulls the listener into a false sense of security, because the next track, Munera, while adopting the sludge and slow-burning style we’ve encountered before, does so with a vicious, slowly building ferocity which remains throughout the rest of the album. The standout track, for me, is Pitchfork Pete, a song containing quite possibly some of the darkest lyrics and most bone-chilling sounds to be encountered in a piece of music, the lyrics all delivered in a drowsy, chanted monotone accompanied by chilling background screams that wouldn’t be out of place in an asylum. Brilliant.
Like every album, it has it’s flaws – there may be a touch too much reliance on the slow, doom-y breakdowns and long instrumental outros for some tracks, but overall this is a solid punk record that will grip the listener and dazzle them with a special brand of dark, unsettling music. This is intensely original and will stay with you long after the final note.
 

Retrospective (I): La Dispute

I write for two excellent weblogs, Manchester Rocks (who you can also follow on Twitter here) and Get Your Rock Out (who you can also follow on Twitter here), and the below review was first submitted to GYRO back in May.
La Dispute and O’Brother and Eugene Quell, Gorilla Bar, Manchester, May 20th
Brighton outfit Eugene Quell opens this gig with a blistering fifteen-minute set filled with tight, vital energy and excellent stage presence, rattling through their set laden with well-rehearsed hooks and catchy lyrics. They’re certainly set for bigger things and this opening slot will do wonders for increasing their fan base.
Atlanta’s O’Brother are up next, combining iLiKETRAiNS-style ambience with soaring vocals reminiscent of ‘Showbiz’-era Muse, their driving, building riffs blending with the vocal sound to create a soundscape worthy of Bossk or Caspian. It’s technically perfect, and while this reviewer feels more facets could have been added to the vocal, this is a solid and interesting support choice and I feel sure O’Brother will make many more appearances on our shores. Check them out.
Michigan’s quartet La Dispute are not exactly known for doing easily accessible, straightforward rock music. Their propensity for long, wordy lyrics and songs that deal with really quite disquieting situations is fast becoming legend on the post-hardcore scene, stretching right back to the band’s inception in 2004. They have ever delivered hard-hitting poetry on their records, and while they released several EP’s back in the couple of years after they formed, really it was 2008’s ‘Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega And Altair’ that put them firmly on the map, with songs like New Storms For Older Lovers, part of a trilogy of songs about an infidelity that catastrophically destroys a relationship, and The Last Lost Continent, a 12-minute epic about death and love and where the human race is going.
The band then went quiet for three years (besides doing splits with Koji and Touché Amoré) before emerging in 2011 with the excellent 50-minute full-length ‘Wildlife’, an album about the band’s hometown with songs so emotionally ruinous and intense that it is still a struggle to listen to the whole record in one go. Tracks such as King Park, about a drive-by shooting that goes wrong, Edward Benz, 27 Times, about a man who is nearly murdered by his schizophrenic son and I See Everything, which charts a mother’s struggle to cope with the fact that her seven-year-old son is dying of aggressive cancer, will all leave the listener gasping for breath with tears in their eyes, such is the emotional impact. (A side note: vocalist/lyricist Jordan Dreyer famously has said that the above three songs from ‘Wildlife’ are all based on true stories.)
Heart-wrenching stuff. So, expectations were high for their new record, this year’s ‘Rooms Of The House’. It did not disappoint. The album depicts in minute detail the slow disintegration of a relationship, the ‘motions of ordinary love’ as Dreyer soulfully puts it in the track Woman (In Mirror), and coldly juxtaposes this with a tornado touching down in Hudsonville, Michigan, resulting in the collapse of a bridge which carries one of the city’s major highways at rush hour.
Opening with the first two tracks off the new record, Hudsonville, MI 1956 and First Reactions After Falling Through The Ice, it doesn’t take long for Jordan Dreyer to descend into one of his now-legendary onstage freak-outs, stamping and flicking his head from side to side and twirling as he shouts the lyrics. This energy, pent-up in the crowd for the first tracks, suddenly catches and is released for the third song played, The Most Beautiful Bitter Fruit, which sends the assembled flock of fans into a whirling, frenzied mosh pit (during which two young men actually nearly get into a real fight, much to the amusement of those around them). Two more fast tracks follow, one of which is the second single from ‘Rooms Of The House’, and then Dreyer and the rest of the band decide to slow things down a little by playing Woman (In Mirror) and then A Letter. The band then perform Andria, from their 2008 record and then blister through five more tracks before closing out the main set with Woman (Reading).
The guitarist and drummer both remain onstage at the end of the song and deliver a nice little instrumental duet before the stage lights go down and they walk off stage, but there’s still a buzz in the air, still something that feels unfinished, a thirst unquenched. About a minute later, Jordan Dreyer comes back onstage followed by the rest of the band and amid joking calls for them to play songs by other bands, Dreyer calls a huddle so the band can decide what to do for the encore.
There are three songs played, one of which is A Broken Jar (a song which serves as a kind of accompaniment to A Letter and A Poem) and then, with barely a pause, Dreyer looks the crowd straight in the face amid kids screaming song titles and announces: ‘King Park’. This song is a fan favourite and the perfect way to end a perfect set. I will admit a slight shiver crawled coldly up my spine when the entire crowd (myself included) screamed that final set of lyrics, those devastating words spoken by a kid with a loaded gun, alone in a locked hotel room with no hope left and his family scrabbling at the door:
‘Can I still get into heaven if I kill myself?’
Set list:
Hudsonville, MI, 1956
First Reactions After Falling Through The Ice
The Most Beautiful Bitter Fruit
Stay Happy There
St Paul Missionary Baptist Church Blues
Woman (In Mirror)
A Letter
Andria
For Mayor In Splitsville
All Our Bruised Bodies And The Whole Heart Shrinks
The Child We Lost 1963
A Poem
The Castle Builders
Woman (Reading)
You And I In Unison
A Broken Jar
King Park