A Little Less Put Together
Animal Style Records
Release Date: March 24, 2017
Arizona’s Sundressed is comprised of songwriter/vocalist Trever Hedges, drummer Garret Tretta, guitarists Forest Walldorf and Justin Leal, and bassist Justin Portillo. Apparently, the band was formed as an outlet and support for Hedges as he fought the battle to stay sober. The real story here is that these fine lads debut, A Little Less Put Together, is gonna make a damn fine mark on the Pop scene.
“Of Course” opens the album on a pretty low-key, yet enjoyable note. It’s an even-keeled little ditty that will make you instantly bob your head along and is topped off by a big, catchy chorus that makes you want to sing along. Another great moment here is “A Frankford Night” which starts out with an almost bluesy sway and builds into a classic-sounding Pop gem. The latter half of the songs features some nice vocal harmonies as well. Meanwhile, “Until We’ve Got Nothing” musically feels like a happy-go-lucky Emo song that features lyrics that make you feel like Hedges has opened his journal just for you. The best part, for me, is that Hedges can get his points across without ever sounding whiny or preachy about whatever it is he has to say at that moment.
Normally, this would be more up Rob1340’s alley than mine, but I stole it out from under him because I can’t stop listening. These are some talented dudes. Sundressed have a knack for offering catchy Pop tunes that make you feel hopeful and positive and satisfied, all the whole backing it up with solid musicianship. This album makes me feel a lot like I did the first time I heard Weezer, The Rocket Summer, and All-American Rejects.
Reviewed by mark1340
Life of Agony
A Place Where There’s No More Pain
Release Date: April 28, 2017
For the unfamiliar, Life of Agony is one of NYC’s premiere bands. Maybe their record sales don’t reflect that, but I dare you (the triple dog kind) to find any musician in heavy music that wouldn’t acknowledge their importance and their brilliance. Although the bulk of their work came in the nineties, the band has been on again/off again throughout the new millennium and their latest meet-up has given us A Place Where There’s No More Pain, the loooong-awaited follow up to Broken Valley.
“Meet My Maker” kicks of the album in classic LOA style. That NYC city bounce that Joey Z. is so good at (invented even?), immediately rises to the forefront as Caputo’s voice slithers around it. The same rings true for the title track as the band gets a little heavier. The rhythm section pushes the song along as Caputo’s voice soars over the top of it all before the hardcore leaning bridge leads you to the explosive chorus that you are salivating for! The title track, in my opinion, is the “Weeds”/ “How It Would Be”/”River Runs Red”/ “Love to Let You Down” of the album. It’s that standout track that you will ALWAYS come back to.
The driving “Bag of Bones” is another highlight here, offering a bit more of a straight up Rock bent and some of Caputo’s best vocal work to date. It’s a bit bluesy and very, very emotional. “Song For the Abused” is another standout track. I wouldn’t say it’s one of my favorite tracks, but it manages to set itself apart with some more commercial sounding guitar work and some layered vocals that give it a slightly different feel from the rest of the album. The near-ambient “Little Spots of You” takes the album out on an odd note, featuring piano and Caputo’s canned sounding, almost spoken word vocals. It’s very similar to some of Caputo’s solo work and, while I don’t dislike it, it feels very out of place here.
I must admit that this one took a minute to grow on me. Truth is, I had gotten used to the rockier sound of Broken Valley over the years. A Place Where There’s No More Pain is sort of a mix of Broken Valley and Ugly and the more I listen the more enjoyable it gets. As with any LOA album, this just isn’t the kind of music that you can relegate to the background. It commands your attention and Mina Caputo’s emotional and honest lyrics need some time to sink in.
Reviewed by mark1340
Release Date: March 31, 2017
Vancouver punk outfit Gnash Rambler’s debut rocks with the tight power of a veteran group. Maybe it’s because these guys have been around the block already as members of bands such as Betty Kracker, the Pet Fairies and Facepuller. Their powerful no frills rock pulls influences from notables such as the Misfits, Husker Du, Motorhead, and Canadian kings of punk rock DOA, all of which are displayed proudly. The quartet serves up twelve songs of aggressive rock that are sure to bring new fans into the fold.
“No One Gives A Fuck” opens this album with a Misfits style verse that’s reminiscent of the lighter side of the Earth AD album, and smoothly transitions into a Husker Du influenced chorus that would make Bob Mould proud. The nods to classic punk bands start early, and continue throughout the release. “Dues and Don’ts” brings to mind DOA and Screeching Weasel. “Buick Spider/Beyond Our Means” summons the ghosts of the Ramones and Motorhead, with a bit of southern rock flair thrown in. Rock and alternative influences run through these songs as well, with “Jello Mold” owing a bit of its swagger to Sublime, and “Bad Karma” being a perfect rock track. Gnash Rambler walks the line between punk rock and post punk rock n’ roll, executing both genres impressively.
There’s a lot to like on Gnash Rambler’s debut. Every song is shows an expert execution that belies the album’s status as an initial release. The vocals are clear and powerful, and the band never lets the energy falter. While most of the songs mine the best of punk gone by, there is a steady current of straight-ahead rock that flows through every track. The end result is a riotous set of songs that sound mature, rehearsed, and the perfect mix of punk chaos and slick rock. Gnash Rambler’s self-titled release is an incredible slab of punk rock that will take the world by storm.
Reviewed by Jim 1340
Art of Anarchy
Release Date: March 24, 2017
Formed in 2011, Art of Anarchy got off to a complicated start. Comprised originally of brothers Jon and Vince Votta, Disturbed’s Jon Moyer, and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal alongside vocalist Scott Weiland, their debut album was met with mixed reaction largely due to Weiland’s public denial of his role in the band. While I initially felt that we had heard the last of this supergroup, they returned with The Madness, and new vocalist Scott Stapp. And what a return. What a return.
The Madness is not at all what I expected. Right from the start, it’s got that huge, crisp sound with just a little bit of edge that I am a total sucker for. Where Weiland took the songs on the first album into darker, more alternative territory, Stapp does exactly the opposite here. Stapp helps these songs rise up into anthems. “Echo of a Scream,” “A Light in Me,” and “Dancing With the Devil” are as anthemic as they come and you can’t help but smile and sing along.
This album is far from a one trick pony though. The brilliant guitar work on “Won’t Let You Down” takes you from technical to riff heavy seamlessly, while “1,000 Degrees” is a heavier-edged stomper with a headbanging chorus.
“Changed Man” and “The Madness” are the highlights here in my opinion though. They are both spectacular lyrically and it makes them really easy to connect with. “Changed Man” is a desperate plea for reconciliation that comes in the form of a big, Creed style, arena rocker. It’s an emotional roller coaster that you’ll say you don’t like and then secretly listen to over and over. Meanwhile, “The Madness” seemingly deals with Stapp’s very public battle with his mental health. It’s a brave tune that is brought to life by some fearless guitar work and a rhythm section that would make the Scorpions jealous.
Everything about this album is inspired sounding, from Stapp’s powerful, perhaps career defining, performance to the musical void the songwriting fills. The Madness is an easy contender for Album of the Year and goes a long way in reminding fans how great of a vocalist Stapp can be and how underutilized Thal was in GNR, among other things. The songs here are very intimate lyrically and the deeper it gets the more the songs soar. If you love anthems then this is an album you do NOT want to miss.
Reviewed by mark1340
Tokyo Motor Fist
Tokyo Motor Fist
Release Date: February 24, 2017
Tokyo Motor Fist is the new project from Danger Danger’s Ted Poley and Trixter’s Steve Brown alongside the rhythm section of Chuck Burgi (Rainbow, Blue Oyster Cult, Joe Lynn Turner) and Greg Smith (Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Rainbow). If you have ever wondered what a cross between Danger Danger and Trixter might sound like, the answer is right here.
First off, I’d like to note the superb production here. Now, younger fans may disagree with me but the eighties had some really well-recorded albums that sound unique to this day. Production wise, and somewhat in the songs themselves, this is sonically in line with old Bon Jovi, Ratt, and Def Leppard records. It’s got front and center guitars with just enough grit to be legit, huge vocals, and a timekeeping rhythm section giving some backbone to it all. I’m pretty neutral when it comes to production value (different strokes for different folks) so the fact that this makes me drool all over myself says a lot!
Hands down, my favorite track here is “Put Me To Shame.” It’s got screaming guitar work, a spectacular vocal performance, and a great Rock and Roll hook. It’s got the same kind of edge that made Def Leppard’s pre-Hysteria records so amazing. Listening to it makes me feel like it’s 1986 again, and honestly, I could feel that way forever. “Done To Me” follows it up with another edgy rocker that focuses on explosive vocals, an arena style rhythm section performance, and big ol’ guitar riffs that make you want to dust off your air guitar. “Shameless” is another highlight in my opinion. It shows a little bit of the more radio-ready aspect of the band with a big, bright riff, positive lyrics, and a chorus that will stick with you long after the song is done. Folks, they don’t make many like this anymore.
I truly dig this record. I enjoy Trixter and Danger Danger both, but this is a whole other level for these guys. Ted Poley really takes Steve Brown’s riffs over the top and I can’t help but compare it to pre- New Jersey Bon Jovi, pre-Hysteria Def Leppard, and the last couple Ratt records. Everything is just big, bright, and absolutely pristine- from production to performance. If you hate/hated the eighties then this is not for you, fortunately for the rest of us Tokyo Motor Fist is exactly what we didn’t know we needed!
Reviewed by mark1340