#Review: Pick It Up – Ska in the 90s

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Following the success of his previous feature documentary (Here’s to Life: The Story of the Refreshments), director, Taylor Morden – an on-and-off trumpet player in ska bands for over 20 years – has returned to the world of ska to help bring the story of 90s ska to the masses. With a very successful Kickstarter campaign, the documentary took full flight and could not have been better produced, more thorough or more interesting to watch. Here’s what we had to say about it…

Pick It Up! Cover

From the very start, there are some wonderful aspects to this film, that instantly jump out at the viewer. Firstly, there is the fantastic animation weaving its way seemlessly throughout the documentary – some of it flows over footage of the various interviewees and other sections are entirely animated – but it all works so well! Secondly, is the truly amazing cast of stars from the genre, talking about their experiences with anecdotes and opinions that  they lived through during the ska scene in the 90s. Lastly, is the fact that the film is entirely narrated by Tim Armstrong (best known as the singer/guitarist for the punk rock band Rancid, and before that, the ska band, Operation Ivy – considered instrumental for the genre, despite only ever releasing one album).

But, what is ska?
Well, a lot of the cast of the film, brilliantly sum it up as “fast reggae with horns”.

Near the beginning of the film, we’re treated to a journey through the origins of ska, back in the 1950s, with a beautifully descriptive piece about what nights of ska music would have been like in its native Jamaica and then how it made its way over to the UK, settling in places like Brixton, Notting Hill and Coventry and on from there. This whole segment is accompanied by that wonderful animation, to bring it to life. It’s also interesting to know that reggae music actually wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for ska music being slowed down, and that also two-tone and ska punk both found their origins in ska.

This is a truly engaging film that is easy yet interesting to watch. It’s split into sections, looking at specific aspects of the genre like “skanking” (the very limb-orientated dance); the horn section (in particular, how in magazine photos they would often hold their horns to show it’s a ska band); and the DIY ethic of the genre – from posters to merchandise, bands would do pretty much everything themselves, such as designing logos, posters for shows and more, as cheaply as possible.

It’s fascinating that many consider 90s ska to have been brought to the forefront of the mainstream market due to No Doubt signing to a major label (Interscope Records) and releasing their hit album, Tragic Kingdom – which interestingly wasn’t very ska in style but due to their roots in the genre, helped highlight it to the masses.

I can’t recommend this documentary highly enough – whether you’re into ska or not, if you’re interested in music, this is a film you can learn a lot from.

We also learn that others had a big impact on the genre – Goldfinger were entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for playing 385 gigs in a single year; The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ made an appearance in the cult movie, Clueless; and the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games introduced ska to a new generation too.

The film looks further into the “ska scene” and how instrumental live shows were, not only for bands and their friendships but the fans and creating shared experiences too. Additionally, despite touring extensively, money for ska bands was often in short supply due to the number of members in a band, but often small indie labels would release compilation CDs to showcase some of their band’s best work, to generate further interest in them. A lot of these smaller indie labels would operate as mail order services.

One of the most postive and interesting things about ska is the unity within the genre – black and white people would work in bands together, in harmony, so if anyone demonstrated any racism at shows, bands wouldn’t stand for it, however fights would frequently break out at shows as a result. This is one of the main reasons that the black and white checkers became a thing of ska. Also, there are a fair few women in genre and they address how these women would often have to hold their own with their strong characters and no-nonsense attitudes.

Unfortunately, by the turn of the millennium, as major labels had almost made ska a parody of itself, the ska bubble burst and the scene had become saturated with similar bands. As a result, people started to turn their backs to it and bands themselves started adapting to new sounds and dropping their horn sections.

There will always be a subculture for ska – just like with punk rock – but it’s not as mainstream as it was in the 90s. However, there is a bit of nostalgia resurge for ska at the moment (as well as 90s music in general), so whilst bands like Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish are making new music ,they have a lot of fans reliving their youths by coming to shows. That said, across Mexico, Japan and Europe there is still a lot of love for ska and there’s hope for a ska revival in the near future, as the world could use some positivity right now.

I can’t recommend this documentary highly enough – whilst I like ska, it’s not a genre I know tons about but whether you’re into it or not, if you’re interested in music, this is a film you can learn a lot from, not only about the genre and it’s origins but from first-hand accounts of the scene during the 1990s, in an engaging and humourous way. Plus, you actually find yourself absorbed in the music itself – in fact I’ve had the playlist from the movie (below) on repeat ever since!

Rating
5


‘Pick It Up! – Ska in the 90s’ is out now and can be ordered/downloaded from the official website – https://www.skamovie.com/shop-1


Listen to the ‘Pick It Up! – Ska in the 90s’ official playlist on Spotify


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! Have you seen this SKAcumentary yet? What did you think of it? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


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#Review: Sum 41 – Order In Decline 💀

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Muzik Speaks Loves Hopeless Records - SmallerSum 41 are a Canadian rock band who first formed back in 1996. The band currently consist of members Deryck Whibley (lead vocals, guitar and keyboard), Dave Baksh (guitar and backing vocals), Tom Thacker (guitar, keyboard and backing vocals), Jason “Cone” McCaslin (bass and backing vocals) and Frank Zummo (drums). The band first enjoyed mainstream success with their 2001 debut album, All Killer No Filler, and from there have gone on to have a rather illustrious career and a few line-up changes. 2019 now sees the band releasing their seventh studio album, Order In Decline, through Hopeless Records. Here’s what we have to say about it…

Sum 41 - Order In Decline.jpg

One thing’s for sure, Sum 41 are a very different band now, to the band they started out as and have sonically changed a lot over the years. From a skate-rock band to being contenders for the pop-punk throne, the band have now transformed into a much darker, grittier and overtly heavier incarnation of themselves that is a far cry from their “Fat Lip” and “In Too Deep” days.

That said, there’s still something distinctly Sum 41 about Order In Decline, though that mostly lies with Deryck Whibley‘s instantly recognisable vocals. It was following a few line-up changes and a spell in hospital to recover from alcohol-induced illness, that the band rose from the ashes with 2016’s comeback album, 13 Voices – an album that further demonstrated their ability to create music that was edgy and more alternative (with the odd ballad thrown in). And now, Order In Decline yet further cements this evolution in the band’s sound.

From the sombre, opening piano notes of ‘Turning Away’, the album quickly kicks into high gear with an exciting and powerful, stammering riff, that by the end of the track, descends into audible chaos with an insanely intense guitar solo. The heavy energy is kept up with ‘Out For Blood’ – a track with elements from their skate-punk days and definite qualities of a Zebrahead song (with the distorted, scream-like backing vocals) plus another epic guitar solo.

As the record continues, ‘The New Sensation‘ takes us in a very different direction with a cleaner, synth-heavy and stadium-filling feel to it – like something you’d expect from the likes of Muse, especially with some of the melodies. ‘A Death In The Family’ is much more of a family sound; whilst it’s definitely heavier than they once were, there are definitely moments that nod to their origins.

Order In Decline is eclectic, exciting, intense and just friggin’ awesome!

‘Heads Will Roll’ is another interesting turn in the album, with a Subways, IDLES and Royal Blood-like vibe to it. ‘Eat You Alive’ is probably the most heavy metal track on the record whilst ‘The People Vs…’ is a much more typical punk rock track with rapidly chugging riffs and intense drums, sure to see the circle pits swirling at live shows.

Whilst the band don’t want to be politically-driven as such, it’s clear that Whibley has allowed his lyrics to be determined by the state of the world he sees around him right now – a world in which he sees division, racism and hate being accepted still. This is certainly evident in ’45 (A Matter Of Time)’, a track that by no coincidence, references the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, that he so marvellously calls out on a few things.

For all it’s intensity, Order In Decline sees a couple of moments when the pace changes and more personal lyrics come into play. ‘Never There’ addresses Whibley‘s absent father, growing up (and sounds like someone such as William Ryan Key had a hand in writing it), whilst ‘Catching Fire’ faces familiar themes of love and loss with wonderfully intricate layering, like something by The Dangerous Summer.

Order In Decline is eclectic, exciting, intense and just friggin’ awesome! And whilst Sum 41 are certainly not the same band they once were, there are undoubtedly qualities that still remain in their core, making them easily recognisable. However the continual evolution in their sound is exciting and impressive to watch and certainly adds to the longevity of their career. I’m already looking forward to hearing the next record!

Rating
4


‘Order In Decline’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/order-in-decline/1458053301


Order In Decline on Spotify

Out For Blood (Official Music Video)

45 (A Matter Of Time) [Official Music Video]

Never There (Official Music Video)

A Death In The Family (Official Music Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of Sum 41’s seventh studio album, Order In Decline? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


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#Review: Doll Skin – Love Is Dead And We Killed Her

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Muzik Speaks Loves Hopeless Records - SmallerDoll Skin are an all-female rock band from Phoenix, Arizona, consisting of Meghan Herring (drums/co-lead vocals), Sydney Dolezal (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Nicole Rich (bass/backing vocals) and Alex Snowden (lead guitar/backing vocals). The band’s sound is a blend of punk, metal, alternative rock & pop. In April 2019, Doll Skin announced that they had signed to Hopeless Records, to release their third album, Love Is Dead And We Killed Her. Here’s what we have to say about it…

Doll Skin - Love Is Dead And We Killed Her.jpg

There will undoubtedly be people who will compare Doll Skin to the likes of The Donnas or other all-female punk bands but Love Is Dead And We Killed Her is possibly one of the most exciting rock records I’ve heard this year. It’s fresh, enthralling and unique.

From the anger-fuelled, scream anthem that is the opening track, ‘Don’t Cross My Path’ which sees the chanting of “This is a song for everyone I hate,” and “Throw your tantrum, meet my rage,” to the final notes of ‘Homesick’ – a track about returning home, to the people you have missed – this is a cyclical album with strong themes of karma, facing internal demons and broken relationships throughout.

There is plenty of metaphorical imagery intertwined too, such as the closing track casting thought-provoking scenes about finding peace, or single, ‘Mark My Words’, casting scenes about tattooing Sydney‘s words onto someone to tell of the hell she’s been through because of them.

It’s really hard not to write about every track for different reasons; from ‘No Fear’ with it’s captivating vocal melody and impeccably strong delivery or title track, ‘Love Is Dead And We Killed Her’, a payback track about karma catching up with their ex lover, through to ‘When They Show Their Teeth’ and its frantic drum intro with good old punk rock ‘na, na, nas’ (very much the kind of track you’d hear playing over the footage of a car chase scene with shaky camera shots, high-octane, skilled manoeuvres and even a crowd-pleasing, clap-along breakdown at the end too; there’s really a bit of something for every punk or rock music lover here.

There’s something exciting about the delivery throughout the record and a real sense of diversity in the production and tone of each track.

For me though, it’s the middle tracks of the record that really grabbed my attention. ‘Outta My Mind’ is possibly the strongest track on the record, instantly giving me goosebumps. It’s the kind of career-defining song that people come back to as a fan favourite with incredible gang vocals and and angsty but upbeat tone that is somehow also heavy at the same time.

‘Ink Stains’ has some lovely the half-time moments, a high-pitched, powerful vocal, with the cutting line, “You won’t be hearing from me any more,” and even a chaotic, half-spoken, half-sung breakdown, a bit like the one in Good Charlotte’s ‘Predictable’.

‘Nasty Man’ is a deep track, seemingly about a predatory man – someone promising a young girl what she wants and taking advantage of it, whilst ‘Your Idols Are Dying’ is an angst-ridden anthem about internal struggles, drugs and finding out that the people you admire and look up to most are not all they’re made up to be. There’s a perfect scream breakdown that goes right to the end of the track too!

‘Empty House’ is another example of a metaphorical track too, initially addressing being alone and screaming out for help, but it’s a progressive story that builds to a more positive ending, about learning to love yourself – it’s quite beautiful!

It’s actually funny how an album cover can mislead you – I wasn’t expecting to like this record quite as much as I did, based on the cover alone, but ended up thoroughly loving it. It’s a real testament to show that you shouldn’t judge an album by its cover.

Love Is Dead And We Killed Her is a truly exciting album that although wouldn’t always be my normal cup of tea, truly captivated me. There’s something exciting about the delivery throughout the record and a real sense of diversity in the production and tone of each track. Sure, there are certain elements that fall within the same vein as Paramore but they are also, so much more – it’s like they learnt to scream and got a whole bit heavier in tone.

I’m super excited to see what Doll Skin put out next, as this album is a banger, and you can bet these tracks will be incredible live!

Rating
4-5


‘Love Is Dead And We Killed Her’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/love-is-dead-and-we-killed-her/1459583026


Love Is Dead And We Killed Her on Spotify

Mark My Words (Official Music Video)

Outta My Mind (Official Music Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of this band’s third release? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


Enjoyed this? Check out some of our other reviews here:

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Matt – Muzik Speaks
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#Review: ONE OK ROCK @ Roundhouse, London – 10/05/19

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On Friday 10th May 2019, the massive Japanese band – ONE OK ROCK – arrived in London. It was only the second date on their EU leg, of the Eye Of The Storm World Tour and they performed at none other than London’s renowned Roundhouse. The band put on a night to remember, supported by British pop outfit, Anteros.


Anteros

The band took to the stage with their vibrant personas and glitzy 80s synths, further reinforced by lead singer, Laura Hayden’s sparkly red dress. This band are a wonderful blend of indie, pop and new wave – think Blondie meets modern-day contemporary pop; along a similar vein to Fickle Friends. There are certain punk-like trends to Hayden’s stage presence, with her almost “don’t-give-a-damn” flounces around the stage, equally met with gusto – it’s quite mesmerising. The music is good and their energy was captivating to watch.

Highlight: The high-energy end to the band’s set made for a chaotic last impression, certain to leave people wanting more.


ONE OK ROCK

The band have only played in the UK a couple of handfuls of times but it was clear from their loyal fan base, just how much their performances are looked forward too, with a queue that lined up all round the streets, prior to the show.

As ONE OK ROCK took to the stage, the crowd whipped themselves up into a frenzy as the Japanese band launched into their opening track, ‘Push Back’. This was a set that despite the relatively small stage in comparison, felt just like an arena show…complete with pyros!

The set was teeming with a few older hits, plus a whole bunch of songs from their latest record, Eye Of The Storm (<— review here) – all of which had the crowd singing at the top of their lungs! Their energy was truly infectious from start to finish.

I was particularly impressed by Taka’s live vocals – so often you can hear little flaws in a singer’s voice when they’re performing live, but the power and effort he put into his performance was virtually flawless…even if he did keep fiddling with his in-ear throughout the show.

The quartet know just how to put on a show though; from Taka’s ability to capture the crowd by holding a particular stance and Toru’s rocking out with his guitar to Ryota’s powerful bass moves and Tomoya’s face poking up over the drums, as he beats away at them effortlessly – this is a band that you need to see live. It’s clear that they have spent a long time practising and perfecting their set – there isn’t too much between-song banter, but instead just packing in the songs, to give the audience a great time.

It was my first time seeing the band live and I had an amazing time – it’s so often that the UK send great bands and artists over to Japan to perform but it’s great to see a Japanese band coming over to the UK for a change! I strongly recommend catching this band live, the next time they make a rare appearance in the UK – you won’t be sorry, I promise!

Highlights:

  • Taka’s effortless vocals and stage presence alone, made the show thrilling to watch.
  • Having not heard too much of the band’s back catalogue, it was great to hear a lot of tracks from their most recent album, Eye Of The Storm.
  • There was an instrumental break during which Taka left the rest of the band to rock out on stage, demonstrating just how talented these musicians are – it was nice to see him let some of the other’s in the band have some of the limelight for a while, particularly a little drum solo from Tomoya.
  • The sheer polished-precision with which the band delivered their set, showed just how much rehearsing must have gone in to perfecting their live shows.
  • The loyalty of the crowd, singing back every word of every song, showed just how far-reaching their fan-base is.
  • PYROS! Pyrotechnics just make a show even better! It was great because they weren’t overused, just boosted a couple of songs when you least expected it.

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 Setlist

Push Back
We Are
Taking Off
Unforgettable
Clock Strikes
Head High
Take What You Want
Stand Out Fit In*
(Instrumental)
Giants
I Was King
Change*
The Beginning
Jaded
Mighty Long Fall

Encore
Wasted Nights

These songs can be viewed in the YouTube playlist, below.


Finally, I want to say an absolutely HUGE thanks to Robbie Peacock for enabling this review to happen and to both ONE OK ROCK and Anteros for putting on a fantastic show.


Enjoyed this? Check out some of our other live reviews here:

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Matt – Muzik Speaks
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#TunefulTuesday: Lauv & Troye Sivan – ‘i’m so tired…’

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There’s something instantly gripping about Lauv and Troye Sivan‘s recent collaboration, ‘i’m so tired…’, meaning I just can’t get this song out of my head!

Maybe it’s the repetitiveness of the chorus, the brilliantly-used vocal distortion and electronic harmonies, used periodically throughout, or perhaps it’s the combination of a light guitar tied with the electro drum beat and sharp finger clicks that have created something wonderfully unique, resulting in the song living on repeat for me.

One thing’s for certain – this track is already one of my favourite songs of 2019 and the year has barely begun! I’d love to hear a collaboration album from the pair!

The video for the song is pretty cool too – I love how it’s stylised to be like an old 70s/80s camcorder capturing home video-style footage, such as Troye Sivan riding on top of a car, through the neighbourhood. Equally, the lyrics are brilliantly reflected, with Lauv performing amongst various couples, as though he’s not there; a great little storyboarding idea!

What are your thoughts of this incredible collaboration between Lauv and Troye Sivan? Do you have your own #TunefulTuesday track to recommend us? Please leave your thoughts or song suggestions in a comment or via social media.

Matt – Muzik Speaks
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‘i’m so tired…’ can be downloaded from iTunes now – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/im-so-tired/1448700180?i=1448700185


#Review: ONE OK ROCK – Eye Of The Storm 🌪

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ONE OK ROCK are a Japanese rock band who formed in Tokyo, in 2005. The band currently consists of Takahiro Moriuchi (vocals), Toru Yamashita (guitar), Ryota Kohama (bass), and Tomoya Kanki (drums). Since forming, the band have played many different styles of music, from alternative rock to emo and even post-hardcore to their most recent, pop rock style. In 2016, the band signed to Fueled By Ramen, releasing their eighth studio album, Ambitions, featuring collaborations with Avril Lavigne5 Seconds Of Summer and Alex Gaskarth (All Time Low). This year, (2019) sees the release of their ninth studio album (although only their third US release), Eye Of The Storm. Here’s what we have to say about it…

one ok rock - eye of the storm

From the very start of Eye Of The Storm, it’s clear that ONE OK ROCK have made a conscious departure from the previous, emo, alternative rock and post-hardcore incarnations, favouring a much more pop-led sound. That’s not a bad thing though, as this is a brilliantly-crafted pop powerhouse of a record, that is sure to further cement their position as one of big players in the pop rock genre (alongside label mates like Panic! At The Disco and Against The Current. In fact ‘Eye Of The Storm’ and ‘Worst In Me’ are almost an obvious transitioning from their old sound to their new, blending their alternative rock roots with their new, more synth-driven pop elements.

There’s a real passion and raw talent to singer Takahiro “Taka” Moriuchi‘s vocals throughout the record too, as he explores the full extent of his vocal range, pulling off some stunning falsetto notes, intertwined with soaring choruses and exquisitely long-held notes.

‘Stand Out Fit In’ is testament to this – it’s very much an anthem about embracing people’s differences, with the goosebump-inducing, falsetto lines, “They yell, they preach, I’ve heard it all before. Be this, be that, I’ve heard it before.” It’s definitely a track that’s going to capture the hearts of many!

It’s actually very hard to pin-point just a few favourite tracks but ‘Push Back’ is wonderful for its gang vocal harmonies, like a modern-day Queen track. The descending melody echoing throughout the song is truly captivating too. ‘Wasted Nights’ is all about making the most of your life and enjoying each other’s company and the line, “Let’s live like we’re immortal, Maybe just for tonight, We’ll think about tomorrow (yeah), When the sun comes up,” is poetic, conjuring up nostalgic imagery and the underlying gospel vocals are stunning. The video only makes the track even more epic too (see below)! Even ‘Change’ – there’s definitely something a little boyband about the song (like 5 Seconds Of Summer meets One Direction), with the synth-sounding guitar lines, but the melodies are passionate and the message is poignant, positive and uplifting, “Hey, You know it’s not too late for us to make a change, You gotta listen to your heart what does it say? No matter how much we might bend, we will not break.”

It’s great to see that after nine albums in thirteen years, a band can still find ways to push themselves to adapt and grow, and be completely unafraid to try new directions.

That’s not to say there aren’t other special moments throughout the album; ‘Head High’ is definitely a pop track and whilst there isn’t much depth behind the lyrics or songwriting on it, it’s certainly catchy! ‘Letting Go’ really stands out for being so unique to the rest of the record – a calm little, acoustic-led track that is so beautifully understated, dealing with getting over a relationship and coming to terms with it. ‘Unforgettable’ has some definite dance music vibes to it, with the intense drum beats and whistling in the chorus, but with guitars thrown in. It’s quite a unique blend of genres.

‘Giants’ leads from delicate verses into a big chorus and has a strong Take That vibe to it, whilst ‘In The Stars’ adds a little vocal diversity with Kiiara featuring on the track, accompanied by a military-style beat.

‘Grow Old Die Young’ is a perplexing track though; it has a strong melody in the chorus but certain elements of it are very mediocre – a synth sound which doesn’t really fit the song and then there’s the lyrics, “I want the cause of my death, to be amazing sex,” which is honestly pretty cringe!

The album actually draws to a powerful close with ‘The Last Time’, led by a really strong chorus melody, topped off with a raspy, scream-like vocal that just knocks the record out of the park, right at the last second.

Eye Of The Storm is an interesting release for the band, as it’s their most commercial-sounding release to date, meaning it’s very palatable, for a broad range of listeners and is certainly bound to pick up a lot of new fans along the way. However, it could be argued that elements of depth and sincerity about their songwriting have been somewhat lost, rendering some of the tracks a little forgettable.

The drastic change in sound is definitely going to be felt by fans of their previous release, Ambitions, as some of the more emotive lyricism and raw instrumentation, has been exchanged for top-rate production values but at its heart, it is clearly still a ONE OK ROCK album.

That said, it’s equally great to see that after nine albums in thirteen years, a band can still find ways to push themselves to adapt and grow, and be completely unafraid to try new directions, and for that, this album should be admired. It’s a great record, with some banging tunes on and I can’t wait to hear what the band do next!

Rating
4


‘Eye Of The Storm’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/eye-of-the-storm/1441817576


Eye Of The Storm on Spotify

Stand Out Fit In (Official Video)

Wasted Nights (Official Video)

Change (Official Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of the band’s ninth studio album, Eye Of The Storm? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or join the conversation via our social media.


Enjoyed this? Check out some of our other reviews here:

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Matt – Muzik Speaks
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#Review: Reel Big Fish – Life Sucks…Let’s Dance! 💃🏽


   

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Reel Big Fish are a ska punk band from Orange County, California. They have had many members over the years, with Aaron Barrett (lead vocals, synths/keyboards and guitars) being the only member left from the original lineup. However the sextet also comprises of John Christianson (trumpet & backing vocals), Derek Gibbs (bass guitar & backing vocals), Matt Appleton (saxophone & backing vocals), Lucky LaPenta (trombone & backing vocals) and Edward Larsen (drums). Since their debut album in 1995, the band have been through a major label (Jive) and come out the other side, to establish their own independent label, with a heap of album releases in between. Now, the end of 2018 marks the release of the band’s 9th album, Life Sucks… Let’s Dance! Here’s what we have to say about it…

Reel Big Fish - Life Sucks...Let's Dance.jpg

There are some albums that you can just stick on and relax to, lie in bed and get lost in, or have an easy Sunday morning with. Not this one! Reel Big Fish have crafted another hugely successful record that just begs to be skanked out to!

Life Sucks… Let’s Dance! sets a much happier tone than their last release, Candy Coated Fury (2012), and there is even a sense of a renewed purpose to the band, evident across the record. The song subjects are generally quite tongue-in-cheek, ranging from the bizarre and witty (‘Bob Marley’s Toe’) to the sarcastic and even outright cheeky (‘Bleached Thang, Baby’). One thing is for certain; their outlook on life seems pretty damn chirpy and while listening, all you want to do is dance along from start to finish!

Good vibes run throughout the album and the songwriting, brilliantly diverse instrumentals and top-notch production result in a record that you can’t help but fall in love with.

Barrett states, “Recording the album with this line up was really fun, we all get along really well these days and everybody was excited to make a new record. Everybody had lots of great ideas and really got creative with everything and I really think it shows.” And he’s right; it does! The excitement they felt about recording this album, clearly emanates through to the listener.

Their outlook on life seems pretty damn chirpy and when listening, all you want to do is dance along from start to finish!

It’s so damn hard to narrow it down but some of the best tracks on the record are, ‘Pissed Off’ for its humour and incredible overlapping vocals at the end, ‘Tongue Tied And Tipsy Too’ with its frantic, grungy and very punk guitar riffs, making it a massive moshable anthem and ‘Bleached Thang, Baby’ which is a sassy track with sexy guitar licks throughout – it’s very skankable, chaotic and just makes you want to let loose. The guitar riff at the end is sensational too!

That’s not to say there aren’t other hugely loveable tracks too, the title track, ‘Life Sucks… Let’s Dance’ is a big-hitter; ‘You Can’t Have All Of Me’ has some stunning vocal harmonies at the end, ‘In Love Again’ contains country-like vocals and guitar slides; ‘Another Beer Song’ is a humorous account of getting drunk to get over someone; ‘Ska Show’ is just a damn good song and ‘Walter’s Highlife’ is an uplifting instrumental track that brings the album to a close nicely.

When you hear their first record (released back in 1995) you can hear just how much this band have evolved, to become the well-loved, polished party anthem machine they are today! Regardless of whether you are a long-term RBF fan or new to the genre, there’s no way you will be able to stop yourself dancing manically to this record and easily picking up the lyrics to sing along with! 23 years and 9 albums later, this band are still going strong and showing no signs of stopping…bring on album 10!!!

Rating
4


‘Life Sucks…Let’s Dance!’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/life-sucks-lets-dance/1442723388


Life Sucks…Let’s Dance! on Spotify

You Can’t Have All Of Me (Official Music Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of Reel Big Fish’s latest album? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


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#Review: Against The Current – Past Lives 👁


   

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Against The Current are an American pop rock band from New York, who formed in 2011. The band is made up of Chrissy Costanza (lead vocals), Dan Gow (guitars) and Will Ferri (drums). The band are notable for regularly posting covers on YouTube as well as delighting fans with original tracks too. In 2016, after signing to Fueled By Ramen, the band released their debut album, In Our Bones. Now, 2018 sees the band releasing their second full-length record, Past Lives. Here’s what we have to say about it…

Against The Current - Past Lives.jpg

This stunningly diverse and charming record opens with the almost haunting ‘Strangers Again’, dealing with getting over a relationship and cutting ties. The guitar line is dreamy and the vocal breakdown towards the end is a rather quiet and personal moment that really draws you in. It’s a brilliant way to open a record; it doesn’t go in all guns blazing but instead captivates the audience with its beautiful soundscapes.

Next is probably the best track on record, ‘The Fuss’. With Daft Punk-esque, 80s synths, funky guitar rhythms and one hell of a catchy chorus, this is a track you will just want to play really loud and dance like mad to!

Other significant songs include: ‘I Like The Way’ – a track all about new love that almost reaches EDM territory with its strong piano line. It’s something you might expect from the likes of Sigala‘s Easy Love or Sweet Lovin’; ‘Voices’ is a slightly more grungy offering about being self-conflicted and trying to ignore the internal voices (which is reflected perfectly with whispering backing vocals) – it’s very Paramore meets Fickle Friends, whilst ‘Scream’ is a rather floaty and dreamy song – for some reason it evokes images of the perfect all-American family from the 1960s (no idea why!) It’s an uplifting yet subtle track; I keep finding myself going back for more.

‘Personal’ has a Taylor Swift-like quality to it and the production is incredible – the vocal harmonies sit beneath the rest of the production in the chorus, but it’s truly enchanting. ‘P.A.T.T.’ (short for Pretty All The Time) is an out and out female empowerment anthem – it’s fast-paced, punchy and relatively simplistic but the message is fun and powerful about girls feeling like they should be allowed to be themselves without having to look “pretty all the time”…calling all, “Girls!”

It’s an impeccably well-crafted record which has very successfully merged the boundaries between dance, pop and rock music, with a sprinkling of 80s vibes on top.

Lastly, ‘Friendly Reminder’ is another notable song, it’s certainly an album track rather than a potential single but the use of a phaser effect on the vocals and an epic clap-along chorus towards the end make it really stand out…again, there’s a big 80s vibe to it.

What Against The Current manage to do so well throughout, is take you on a journey with them; when they’re soaring high, you’ll feel all the sparks of excitement with them brought about with big synth sounds, intense beats and tons of reverb but equally when melancholy reigns, you’ll feel their heartache too.

Whilst I could say something about every track on the record, I won’t – you just need to experience it for yourself. I really can’t recommend this highly enough…the only reason it didn’t get a 5 is because there are one or two less stand-out, album-fillers but even those are pretty damn good. It is very much an album which marks a band that have found their feet; they’ve created something wonderfully catchy yet utterly credible with sincere lyricism, interesting melodies and top-notch production.

It’s an impeccably well-crafted record which has very successfully merged the boundaries between dance, pop and rock music, with a sprinkling of 80s vibes on top; it’s difficult to pigeonhole this band…in a good way! It’s a truly exciting time for the band; this will certainly make waves in the genre and undoubtedly pave an exciting path for their future!

Rating
4-5


‘Past Lives’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/past-lives/1425108766


Past Lives on Spotify

Almost Forgot (Official Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of this band’s sophomore release, Past Lives? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


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#Review: Now, Now – Saved


   

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Now, Now are an American indie duo originally from Blaine, Minnesota (USA), now based in Minneapolis. The band now consists of founding members, KC Dalager (vocals/guitar/keyboard) and Brad Hale (drums/backing vocals) after a recent departure from their line-up. To date, they have had two, somewhat heavier albums and this, Saved, will be their third, full-length release. Here’s what we have to say about it…

Now, Now - Saved.jpg

It’s been a decade since their more thrashy, emo-esque debut album, Cars, was released (back when they were called Now, Now Every Children) but since then, Now, Now have clearly been working hard on mastering the art of slick production.

This is an album that successfully merges emotive, thought-provoking lyricism based upon relatable topics, with warm, summery production; it’s credible songwriting with certain mainstream, pop sensibilities.

Saved is a stunning record. It has everything from catchy choruses and atmospheric synths to chugging guitars and heavy beats.

It kicks off with the acoustic-led, summer tune ‘SGL’ (short for Shot-Gun Lover) which would be the perfect road trip track, through the open roads of America. From there, you’ve got the captivating ‘MJ’, which makes reference to Michael Jackson‘s ‘Billie Jean’ topped off with a galloping beat (somewhat similar to MJ‘s ‘A Place With No Name’ from 2014’s Xscape)

Another significant track is ‘Window’, with its shimmering synths and manipulated vocals, that continually ascend. It’s a song about desperation for someone;“Every night I’m at your window, Wonder when you’re gonna let me in.”A truly atmospheric track.

Just listening to this album, puts you in an instantly good mood due to its stunning production and uplifting vibes.

‘Powder’ is a massive tune and a superbly powerful and passionate close to the album; it has a catchy, fun start with delicate guitars and subtle synths but as it goes on, descends into a very interesting and heavy breakdown with gritty synths.

There are certainly a lot of resemblances that can be made across the album too: ‘Can’t Help Myself’ has whispery vocals, somewhat similar to Geowulf; ‘Knowme’ is a house-like track with calm, electronica vibes, with elements of Chicane to it; ‘Set It Free’ makes cheeky reference to “wandering hands” and has a certain something about it that reminds me of a cross between The Cardigans and Sixpence None The Richer; ‘Drive’ has a beachy, Lana Del Rey vibe and ‘Holy Water’ is a song which I find merges MUNA with early Dido (with the use of industrial-like sounds) – it’s beautiful and euphoric. That’s in no way saying that they are copying other artists but perhaps making a nod to them; if anything it just goes to show what an eclectic record they have managed to create, with a little something for everyone.

As far as albums go, this is diverse and interesting with a real excitement about it. Just listening to it, puts you in an instantly good mood due to its stunning production and uplifting vibes. They have managed to craft a sound that is somewhere between airy beach-pop and grungy rock, evoking nostalgia and varying emotions throughout. This is fantastic record that is sure to be the soundtrack to many people’s summers this year.

Rating


‘Saved’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/saved/1365088448


Saved on Spotify

AZ (Official Video)

SGL (Official Video)

Yours (Official Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review; what do you make of this band’s latest album, Saved? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


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#Review: Hawthorne Heights – Bad Frequencies


   

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Hawthorne Heights are an American emo/rock band from Dayton, Ohio, which formed in 2001. The band currently consists of JT Woodruff (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Matt Ridenour (bass guitar, backing vocals), Mark McMillon (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Chris Popadak (drums, percussion). To date, the band have released 5 studio albums and been through a variety of line-up changes but now, in 2018, the band are releasing their sixth studio album, Bad Frequencies, through Pure Noise Records. Here’s what we have to say about it…

Hawthorne Heights - Bad Frequencies

This is certainly an album of two mindsets; on the one hand you’ve got a new sound that sees the band edging ever closer to pop punk commerciality and on the other hand they are sticking to their more screamo roots. However you look at it, the band are diversifying and growing their sound at the same time as keeping hold on some of what the fans love.

‘In Gloom’ launches the album with a slow, heartfelt intro from vocalist/guitarist JT Woodruff, but after the first minute, we are thrust into the sound of the full band, making their triumphant return.

The nostalgia continues as first single, ‘Pink Hearts’, reflects on past relationships you carelessly work your way through in your younger years.

An exciting balance of old and new, Hawthorne Heights have made a triumphant return!

More old-school, classic Hawthorne Heights can be heard on tracks such as ‘Crimson Sand’ and ‘Just Another Ghost’ with bassist, Mark McMillion’s, screams coming through in full force.

Meanwhile, ‘Edge Of Town’ and ‘Starlighter (Echo, Utah)’ show us the newer, more pop-punk driven sound that moves this record, and indeed the band, forward.

Possibly one of the most stand-out tracks on the record is ‘Pills’; the song deals with the loss of someone you care deeply about but it demonstrates brilliantly, how the band have grown and continue to push their songwriting and sound; where in the past this might have been a heavy, scream track or an altogether more simplistic affair; a great way to finish the album by showing off where the band’s future lies.

That’s not to say the band that people know and love is gone; there are emo lyrics throughout record and still the occasional screaming, it’s just the instrumentation is slicker and more intricate and in places, JT Woodruff uses falsetto in his vocals; something new and interesting for the band’s sound.

There’s no doubt about it; this band know how to write catchy hooks, tying together some of the heavier, more chaotic parts of the record. Armed with a whole load of history and self-reflection plus a strong sense of where they are heading, this record is definitely representative of both their past and the future for the band. An exciting balance of old and new, Hawthorne Heights have made a triumphant return!

Rating


‘Bad Frequencies’ can be ordered here – http://smarturl.it/HawthorneHeights or downloaded from iTunes, here – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/bad-frequencies/1351452415


Bad Frequencies on Spotify

Just Another Ghost (Official Music Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review of Hawthorne Heights’ new album! What are your thoughts of it? What would you rate it? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or chat to us about it, via our socials.


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Matt – Muzik Speaks
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