Tag Archives: pop-punk

Indian School – “The Cruelest Kind” [NEW MUSIC]

I was late to embrace Audio Karate, one of the fieriest bands to come out of the late 90s/early-aughts pop-punk scene.  By the time I was getting into their kind of raw, full-throated, vocals and live, loud, imperfect production, the band was almost broken up.  I had no idea that was the case when I stumbled across “Nintendo 89” on a Warped Tour compilation, and if I had, I would’ve begged them not to.  Listen to this beast:

The first thirty seconds are one of the most epic builds in pop-punk.  The guitar tones are perfect, the drums won’t stop, and when it all drops out to introduce those main power chords – ugh.  There’s more energy in those thirty three seconds than a six-pack of Red Bull.  I can only imagine the reaction it got live.

Anyway, these dudes went their separate ways around ’05 and left the world with two albums, Space Camp, and Lady Melody.  Buy ’em, love ’em, play ’em loud, and then check this out:

They came back!  They have a piano player, mainlined The Strokes and changed their name, but the songwriting and singer Arturo Barrio’s distinct pipes are as solid as ever.  I miss the throat – rupturing rawness of their earlier work, but hey, that’s growth.  Space Camp didn’t have a single instance of saloon style piano playing either, but “Elvis” features it heavily and it works.  It’s a give and take.

Whip-crack opener “Rob Your House” comes closest to capturing the groups free-wheeling energy of old, with the titular phrase serving as an anarchic refrain that’s gonna feel good to shout out with a group of drunken buddies at a show or before a night of debauchery.  At the same time, it also sounds the most “Strokes”y, complete with synths and – unless I’m crazy – a hint of a vocal effect.

The middle pair of tracks, “High Low” and “Wind You Up” form the backbone of the new sound: slower tempos, catchy choruses, and the addition of some acoustic strumming and clean piano sounds.  EP closer “Elvis” is the track that sounds the least likely to work on paper, but is executed with aplomb.  The aforementioned saloon piano kicks in early in the track and is mixed low, but shines in the chorus.

Over the course of the four tracks, the moment I keep going back to, the one that draws the line in the sand is two and a half minutes into “Wind You Up.”  Like the opening of “Nintendo 89” it’s another beat where everything drops away, but instead leaving space for the hell-raising guitar from that track, it’s just Art’s vulnerable croon and a piano.  Does it make me want to pogo my way into a pit  Not really, but it makes me damn excited for what Indian School does next.

UPDATE: Thanks to Eric and Lucy for pointing out I overlooked a fifth track that can be found here: http://soundcloud.com/indianschool/tracks  Enjoy!

Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles |@Chris_Cullari | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC |

Transit – “Long Lost Friends” [VIDEO]

Narrative: None.

Performance: In front of friends at a recording studio.

Song: The reason I’m posting this.  “Long Lost Friends” is the single from their upcoming album Listen and Forgive, a release that just might be the next big thing.

Why You Should Watch It: There are days I wish I was back on the East Coast, basking my bones in the chill of fall and spending most of my time wandering around clubs and basements in search of my next music fix, and there are days where I have to stop myself from packing up and moving.  The day I first heard this track was one of the latter.  Hailing from Boston, Transit has been peddling their hardcore influenced grown-up pop-punk for a few years now and I’ve been a casual fan ever since I heard the bar-burner “Please Head North” on their split with Man Overboard in 2009.

Still, through two more LPs and a two track EP, they never telegraphed this kind of maturation in sound.  Where they once favored pure fire and grit, they ‘ve focused and tightened their emotion and energy into mathy guitars and round, thick production.  It’s so crisp, so clean, so…American Football.  With hooks.  And catchy melodies.  Like The Early November meets American Football.  You don’t know American Footabll?  Come, child:

I dare you to get that riff out of your head.  Just kidding, you can’t.  You can only listen to every other track they’ve ever released and wish they’d recorded more.  They released one EP and one LP, both self-titled and both worthy of their own individual posts.

Oh, back on topic, Transit covered that song!

Also, because they’ve got giant balls, they covered “Born In the USA”.

Did The Boss’ sense of melody and scale take hold of their young minds?  Did they get locked in a room with “Never Meant” and the Goo Goo Dolls’ discography on repeat?  We may never know the truth, but the album drops Oct. 4th and features a guest appearance from Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy.  If it packs the same punch as the single from end to end, I think I’ll have my soundtrack to fall 2011, and a whole lotta kids are gonna have a new favorite record.

Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles |@Chris_Cullari | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC |

The Wonder Years – “Melrose Diner” [VIDEO]

Narrative: Backyard wrestler The Lone Wolf must defeat the The Evil Kraag to get his title and his girl back.

Performance: The band plays in the ring.  Singer Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell performs from the audience and in closeup.

Song: Top shelf pop-punk from one of the best bands in the scene.  If you haven’t heard The Upsides, buy it here immediately.  No one’s more relatable, honest or hardworking and the songs are instant classics.

Why You Should Watch It:   The band is amazing and the effort is noteworthy – it’s a great example of applying a record’s themes (never giving up, victory through persistence) to a video concept and having some fun with it.  The video’s just a little too scattered to be a classic.

“Melrose Diner” seems to want to make up for its lack of flash by overloading it with content. The video starts as a wrestling promo, then briefly takes on the feel of a movie trailer before going into the song and Lone Wolf’s battles.  The action is frantic, but moves so fast it’s hard to follow until the final fight.  The video’s flat, unlit look is spiced up with filters throughout, and it works with the back to basics energy of the song but isn’t a highlight.  So why the recommendation?  It’s a perfect example of what friends can do with some perseverance and camaraderie – just like the album itself.  Everyone involved is clearly having the time of their lives, and that goes a long way.

Also, you’ll want to know these guys before they blow up.  They’re readying a new release, “Suburbia, I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing,” that’s shaping to be as much or more of a touchstone than “The Upsides.”  Check out one of the new tracks below:

“Local Man Ruins Everything”

Honest, hooky punk, an album named after a Ginsburg poem, and a Simpson’s reference as a track name?  Sold.

Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles |@Chris_Cullari | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC |

Half Hearted Hero [MUSIC]

Oh, pop punk.  Dearest friend, cruelest enemy, my poison, my mainstay, my first love and my mistress still. I’ve been writing almost a month and still have yet to disclose the nature of our relationship to the people.

The first time I heard “What’s My Age Again?” I was slain.  It was hands down the catchiest song I’d ever heard.  I probably should’ve been put off by how much of my mom’s old “Boston” records I heard in it, but, alas, I was too young to recognize cheese.  Doesn’t matter.  Even if I had I don’t know if it would’ve made a damn bit of difference.  Anthony Bourdain craves his street food, I crave those double time drums, shouted vocals and pogo pits (also, Troma movies and gummi bears – but that’s a blog for another time).

This craving lead me to NOFX, Green Day, Bad Religion, Lagwagon, New Found Glory, Jawbreaker, upward and onward into the early ‘aughts, emo, and acne.  Now I’m twenty-four and my horizons are broad, but I’m always looking for my new fix.

Enter Half Hearted Hero.  Right off the bat: minor quibble, but they’re losing points for the name.  I know, picky, picky, but c’mon- it kinda sounds like they’re playing a high school talent show, and nothing could be further from the truth.

How this band is not buzzed into space by now is one of the great mysteries of our time.  Did aliens crash at Roswell?  Where’s Jimmy Hoffa?  Who cares.  The real question is why haven’t we given these dudes the pop-punk crown and a nice big steak.

I know, I know, we’re in the midst of a pop-punk renaissance, what with The Wonder Years, Yellowcard, Man Overboard, Set Your Goals, Four Year Strong, and maybe even Blink (!) releasing albums at some point this year, there’s a lot of strong competition.  Many of these artists bring a fresh musical perspective to a tired genre, infusing it with elements from hardcore or indie (similar to what’s happening in rap, though there’s a good argument that rap itself never really got tired – just its hitmakers), but for my money, no one’s doing it as well as Half Hearted Hero.

Their new EP, Running Water, blasts through six tracks on the back of necksnapping drums and splintery, complex guitar leads, all held to earth by bass playing cast in concrete.  It’s a cocktail of Rufio’s intricate catchiness cut with Moneen’s passion and earthy emotion.  The back-to-back bullets of tracks four and five – “The Wheels” and “Mirrors” – capture the best of what HHH brings to the table.

“The Wheels” opens with one of the most angular, pleasurably syncopated riffs I’ve heard all year and never lets up – though I don’t know which guitarist Clinton Lisboa or AJ Mills to thank.  Vocalist Anthony Savino belts intelligent lyrics with passion (“Another empty page and I wonder what to lay upon it/Maybe an apology/A declaration of remorse”) and the acoustic outro lets the listener gulp some air before the band drops the mammoth jam that is “Mirrors.”

Holy.  Crap.

If Blink 182 are the big, shiny, mindless Michael Bay of pop-punk, Half Hearted Hero are Werner Herzog, blazing headlong into the wilderness with a passionate cry.  Call bullshit on the genre if you want, but turn this track up – even on some cheap headphones – and try not to get lost in the first twenty seconds.  The climbing riff, the pulverizing stomp of the kick twelve seconds in: it’s heavy music for light people.  The guitars don’t stop, but they never feel lost.  Bands that play this technical style of pop-punk often find themselves careening through songs lead by a handful of guitar parts that are repeated ad-nausea.  Not so much of that here –Lisboa and Mills play each note with precision and purpose, building on what came seconds before and driving the piece to one epic guitar solo and at least two climaxes.

Some would argue that this aversion to repetition will keep the band from crafting the hooks needed to get to the next level in their career.  For pop radio that relies on an unwavering verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure (and let’s face it, leans rather heavily on the “chorus” part of that equation) that’s probably true, but there are moments in each song that will wrap around your brain and not let go – see the outro of “Five Points” or :25 into “Start Where You Are.”

Catchy as their peers?  Maybe not.  Bad name?  Sure, but if those are the two biggest knocks against a band with this much skill, passion and intelligence they’re barely knocks at all.  Wherever Half Hearted Hero go from here (barring “hiatus”) I’ll be following.

Buy the album here!

By: Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles | @ChriswithMWL|Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC