Top 15 Rise Against Songs: Part 3 of 3

(Looking for parts 1 and 2? Over here and over here.)

I would’ve had this post up sooner, but the internet at my place decided to up and die on me. Because I’m completely useless with technology, it’s taken me until now to post this. Apologies.

Also, I realise that Black Market has been out for almost a week, and I’ve gotta say, it’s pretty damn solid. It’s got some crap songs, for sure (“Sudden Life”, anyone?) but songs like “The Eco-Terrorist In Me”, “People Live Here” and “Zero Visibility” would likely make this list if I actually took the time to do a little hard work and go back to update it. However, it’s unreasonable to assume that somebody who, as a kid, once spent an entire afternoon trying to determine if he could get high off of snorting “Sour Patch Kids” sugar would actually show initiative of any sort. Also, when I say “as a kid”, I actually mean “Last Friday”.

 

5. “Help Is On the Way ” 

Album: Endgame (2011) (Single)

Genres: Melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

An  intense, pounding melodic  punk song, “Help Is On the Way” not only has one of my favourite opening lines in music history (” I have my mother’s dreams/I have my father’s eyes/You can’t take that from me/Just go ahead and try”), but is also the band’s most commercially successful single, reaching as high as 2 on the Billboard Rock and Alternative Charts, and 89 on the Billboard Hot 100. Can you say “indie cred lost?”

 

“Maybe. Can you say: “gold-plated private jet?””- Rise Against

4. “Audience of One”

Album: Appeal to Reason (2008) (Single)

Genre: Alternative Rock

Written by: Tim McIlrath

I know it’s not exactly cool to like a song that is about as punk as James Cameron is subtle, but I guess I’ll just have to take up with my crust punk friends.

Or, realistically, I’ll just timidly agree with anything they have to say.

“Audience of One is pretty much a straight mainstream rock song, but it’s anthemic and really damn catchy. Elitists may roll their eyes at it, but it’s still the best thing to come out of what was kind of a mediocre album.

 

3. “Give it All” 

Album: The Sufferer and the Witness (2006) (Single)

Genre: Hardcore punk, melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

WE GIVE IT AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!

NOW THERE’S A REEEEEASSOOONNN WHYYYYY II SIIIIIIIIIIINNNG!!!!!

SO GIVE IT AAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!

AND IT’S THESE REASONS THAT BELONG TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

2. “Swing Life Away” 

 Album: Siren Song of the Counter Culture (2004)

Genre: Acoustic rock

Written by: Tim McIlrath

An introspective acoustic song (The only one on SSOtCC), “Swing Life Away” is just a really sweet, optimistic (How about that?) tune about reminiscing about the past while keeping an eager eye towards the future.  Fun fact: It’s the only Rise Against song to ever chart in the Billboard Pop Chart, at 95.

 

1.  “Prayer of the Refugee” 

Album: Appeal to Reason (2008) (Single)

Genre: Melodic hardcore

Writer: Tim McIlrath

Instantly recognizable thanks to its opening guitar rhythm and Tim McIlrath’s melancholy singing, “Prayer of the Refugee” is a fiery, fist-pump inducing call to arms for the downtrodden and the oppressed, and a furious denouncement of capitalism,  being the conversation between a refugee and his son, with the father recounting tales of the past prosperity of his people, their current misery, and finally encouraging his son to rebel against the oppressors and change the world for the better.

I may get into why this song means so much to me later, but the short version is this: My dad is a refugee from El Salvador who came to Canada fleeing a tin-pot military dictatorship (The default setting for Latin American countries). Being a highly opinionated political activist, who has always encouraged me to remember my roots and fight for my beliefs and for what’s right, in general. So when Tim is singing about “Singing through the day/Of the lives that we’ve lost/And the lives we’ve reclaimed” it kind of feels like my dad’s recounting tales about his home country and instilling hope in my cynical, jaded, know-it all mind.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Sour Patch Kids to inhale.

To be continued…

Top 15 Rise Against Songs: Part 2 of 3

(Looking for part 1? Over here.)

 

10. “Broken English”

Album: Revolutions per Minute (2003)

Genres: Punk rock, melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

Revolutions Per Minute is one of Rise Against’s better albums, but the thing is that it doesn’t have quite as much memorable songs as some of the other great RA albums (Specifically, Siren Songs of the Counter Culture and The Sufferer and the Witness). That said, this song is pretty damn amazing, and has a great, melodic sing-along chorus that ranks among the bigger crowd-pleasers in their repertoire. Or it would be, if, y’know, they ever played non-singles at their concerts.

 

9. “Rumors of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated” 

Album: Siren Song of the Counter Culture (2004)

Genre: Melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

One of the longer, better named songs in Rise Against’s discography, “Rumours”, is the second of four songs from Siren Song, their major label debut, to be included on this list. There aren’t much better ways to close out an amazing album than with this poppy, yet hardcore song.

 

8. “Ready to Fall” 

Album: The Sufferer and the Witness (2006) (Single)

Genres: Post-hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

Reflecting the slightly altered, less radio-friendly style of Rise Against’s best album, “Ready to Fall is a deliberately slow, pounding slow-burner of a song, that still manages to be very emotionally resonant. It’s very rare for me to actually enjoy screamed vocals as much as the rest of the song, but the “Wings won’t take me” verse that Tim screeches before the chorus is probably the best part of the song.

7. “Hero of War”

 Album: Appeal to Reason (2008)

Genre: Acoustic rock

Written by: Tim McIlrath

The closest thing to a “hippy song” that Rise Against have ever released, “Hero of War” is an acoustic ballad decrying all sorts of injustices during the idiotic war on terror, including manipulation of young men by army recruiters, prisoner abuse and war crimes committed by American troops, but its’ main focus is on the emotional toll that war inflicts upon the veterans. It’s an important, emotionally powerful song that ranks among my favourite acoustic songs of all time.

 

6.  “Savior”

Album: Appeal to Reason (2008) (Single)

Genre: Punk rock, alternative rock

Writer: Tim McIlrath

Admittedly, it’s less “punk-y” and was quite overplayed upon its release, but “Savior” is still an emotionally  urgent song that is one of the stronger points on what was, honestly, kind of a weak album. It’s not that I didn’t agree with it’s messages, it’s just that I can only take so much before it sounds like Michael Moore is screaming in my ear.

 

To be continued…

Top 15 Rise Against Songs: Part 1of 3

There is no way Tim McIlrath isn’t on the verge of bursting out sobbing in this photo.

On July 15, Chicago-based punk band Rise Against will be releasing their seventh full-length studio album, entitled The Black Market. The very act of a band that I follow actually releasing an album after a reasonable amount of years gets me excited in more ways than one, so I’m freaking out over here. It doesn’t help that I’m also going to see Rise Against (For the third time in three years) when they come to Edmonton for Sonic Boom at the end of August. So basically, I’m just going to be a big sloppy mess until September.

Although the quaaludes aren’t helping, to be honest.

Anyhow, in honour of this milestone, (Seven is a milestone, right?), I’m counting down the fifteen best Rise Against songs ever been released, with the only exceptions being songs that were released as B-sides (Because they didn’t make the list anyways), and live songs that haven’t been released as a single or on an album, although I must say that their acoustic cover of No Use For a Name’s “For Fiona” is the best thing that’s ever happened to anybody ever.

Well, almost.

Also, keep in mind, this is just my opinion. If you think that my list sucks because some of the songs are major label releases, or that Rise Against sucks because they’re vegan or something, that’s okay. You know what I always say about different people’s opinions: They always sound better when you’re wigged out on quaaludes. Oh, uh, I mean that they’re just that: opinions. Or something.

 

15.” I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore”  

Album: The Black Market (2014) (Single)

Genres: Punk rock, melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

The band’s latest single seems to indicate somewhat of a return to familiar territory for the band, as it’s been a while since one of their songs conveyed as much intensity, and even longer since they’ve displayed such an introspective song, in contrast to their normally heavily political lyrics. And hey, I’m not one to complain about them ditching the picket signs for the black eyeliner every now and then. This song is fucking intense!

 

14. “Architects”

Album: Endgame (2011)

Genre: Melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

I can tell you all from firsthand experience that this is a damn near perfect song to sing along to live, although I will admit that it’s kind of odd that the lyrics in the bridge are exactly identical to the chorus in Against Me’s “I Was a Teenage Anarchist.” It’s more or less impossible to care about potential plagiarism when thrashing about to this song, though.

 

 

13. “Paper Wings” 

Album: Siren Songs of the Counter Culture (2004) (Promotional Single)

Genres: Melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

One of the few songs on RA’s breakout record that isn’t spewing righteous left-wing vitriol, “Paper Wings” is a heartfelt song about a breakup. Not exactly the deepest subject, but Tim’s heartfelt, intelligent lyrics and the whole band’s tight, energetic instrumentation make it one of the better songs in one of their better albums.

12. “Everchanging”

 Album: The Unraveling (2001)

Genres: Pop-punk, melodic hardcore

Written by: Tim McIlrath

Let’s face it: As much as it’s deified by the anti-major label community, The Unraveling, Rise Against’s debut on Fat Wreck Chords, isn’t that great of an album. It’s not a bad album, by any means, but it pales in comparison to some of the later material put out by the band. That said, “Everchanging”, another apolitical song about a relationship in disarray, is another wonderful, well-written song, and is also one of the few songs I can play all the way through on my guitar.

And even then, I need a little outside help.

 

11.  “Blood-Red, White and Blue” 

Album: Revolutions per Minute (2003)

Genre: Hardcore punk

Writer: Tim McIlrath

Fuck that mopey emo bullshit, man! This song is straight up hardcore!!!

Rise Against hadn’t quite completed their evolution into a mostly political punk group, but Revolutions per Minute was definitely a leap towards that direction, and “BRWB” was the ultimate manifestation of a pissed off group of young men who were doing their best (And succeeding) to not only give their audience something to mosh to, but also to make them think when they were done moshing.

Or, y’know, keep up with the macho posturing. That shit works, I guess.

To be continued…

Musician Crash Course: Alkaline Trio

(And.. Once again, I wait an unexcusably long amount of time before writing another post. In my defense, discovering that FunnyOrDie is a thing isn’t helping my work ethic.)

If you were to look through every iPod ever sold, you would notice a couple similar patterns. First, everyone has at least two artists on there that they’re kind of ashamed of, but still enjoy listening too (Mine are Simple Plan and Fall Out Boy). There’s no shame in this. Every human being has the urge to rebel against something that society has deemed normal by allowing a little bit of badness in our lives.

Fight the power!

Another rule is that everyone would have at least around a dozen songs that just serve to help us cope with sadness. It’s not like anybody can listen to that relentlessly cheery crap on the radio every time they listen to music. Nobody’s that cheerful. Especially if they have internet access. Whether it be domestic problems, breakups, or just good old fashioned depression, these tearmongers prey on our human emotions in order to callously profit off our misery.

Adele: Seen here going for the jugular of her helpless, tear-stained victims.

Many diverse artists may fill this void for different people. Adele (Duh), Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Tears For Fears, Dashboard Confessional, My Chemical Romance, and, um, Black Veil Brides (Understand that I use the term “artist” loosely). Personally, My Chemical Romance is my go-to anti-depression method, but I’ve already written about them. So,  for this long-awaited edition of Musician Biography, I’ve selected another quasi-emo (For lack of a better adjective) band that I’ve been listening to since 7th grade (When I first got serious about collecting music). Ladies and gentlemen, give it up  for…

ALKALINE TRIO

Hometown: McHenry, Illinois

Active From: 1996-Present

Genres: Punk Rock, Alternative Rock, Pop-Punk, Emo

Legacy: Yet more disaffected teenagers who think that their favourite band are a group of mopey prophets because they sing about having their hearts torn out and dabble in Satanism.  When will the kids ever learn?

Apparently, never.

One faithful day in December of 1996 (Consequently, also the month of my birth) in the Chicago suburb of McHenry, Illinois, a couple of twenty-something bike messengers, Columbia College dropout Matt Skiba and Glenn Porter, as well as visual arts student Rob Doran, got together to form one of the best punk groups of the Nineties: Alkaline Trio. Skiba took over guitar and lead vocals while Doran and Porter took over drums and bass, respectively.

After some forays into the Illinois underground scene, the Trio released a demo album and their first EP, entitled Sundials. Shortly after the release of the 1997 EP, Doran left the band to focus on visual arts. He was replaced by Dan Andriano, formerly of the Operation Ivy-inspired ska-punk band, Slapstick. A second EP followed shortly, 1998’s For Your Lungs Only, which garnered interest in the punk scene, and led to their signing with the independant California-based Asian Man Records label. The attention obtained from FYLO prompted the release of their first studio album, later that year: Goddamnit.

Goddamnit, and the subsequent EP (1999’s I Lied My Face Off) and studio album (2000’s Maybe I’ll Catch Fire) all achieved critical praise from underground media, showcasing Alkaline Trio’s inventive brand of punk that incorporated emotional, introspective lyrics to go with the band’s aggressive pop-punk style. It also proved to punks that love songs didn’t have to be terrible. I guess punks never listened to Elton John.

In 2000, Porter left the band and was replaced by Mike Felumlee, formerly of the Smoking Pipes. However, he left the band during the supporting tour for their 2001 album, From Here to Infirmary, released on their new record label, Vagrant RecordsWith a decidedly more mainstream sound than its predecessors, it received more mixed reviews from critics, but was also the band’s most commercially successful album to date. The album’s two singles, “Private Eye” and “Stupid Kid”, reached 51 and 53, respectively, on the UK Singles chart while the album itself reached #199 on the Billboard Hot 200 and #9 in Top Independent Albums. Prior to releasing a well received split EP with Hot Water Music, the band hired former Suicide Machines drummer and Face to Face guitarist Derek Grant to play drums. With the addition of Grant, the current lineup for the band was solidified, and the new-found stability really showed  on their fourth album, 2003’s Good Mourning. “Bigger, deeper and rawer”, according to Skiba, the album was praised by critics and reached #20 on the Billboard 200 chart. The two singles off of the album, “We’ve Had Enough” and “All on Black” both charted in the UK, with the former also becoming the first single by Alkaline Trio to chart, reaching number 38 on the Modern Rock chart. The mainstream success surprises me, considering the dark lyrical content of much of their music, occasional satanic overtones and the gruesome imagery depicted in songs such as “This Could Be Love.”

Step One: Slit my throat/Step Two: Play in my blood/Step Three: Cover me in dirty sheets and run laughing out of the house/Step Four: Stop at lake Michigan and rinse your crimson hands.

You took me hostage and made your demands./ I couldn’t meet ’em so you cut off my fingers one by one. 

One by one…” 

Yikes. Tipper Gore would have had a field day with that one.

Anyways, any punk street cred gained by the band with Good Mourning was lost instantaneously with the release of their 2005 album, Crimson. I don’t want to say that the album is their most radio-friendly record, (That would be From Here to Infirmary) but I find that the tone of the lyrical content was toned down from suicidal instability to serious depression.  The three singles, “Time to Waste”, “Mercy Me” and “Burn” all did well commercially, and displayed a more experimental style, which isn’t all that surprising, considering that the album’s producer, the late, great Jerry Finn, also produced experimental albums for Blink-182 (2003’s Blink-182) and AFI (2003’s Sing the Sorrow and 2006’s Decemberunderground), but I digress.

While the album was critically praised my major publications, including AllMusic, Rolling Stone and Kerrang!, I, personally, felt that the album got boring around the second half. the singles are all great, and the couple of songs that follow them on the track listing, “Dethbed” and “Settle for Satin” are just as good, but after that, the album succumbs to the typical problem with straight-up alt-rock albums, which is that it it seems to try so hard to be great, that it ends up being completely pedestrian. Then again, I thought that Dark Horse by Nickleback was a great hard rock album until a couple years ago, so don’t let me stop you from listening to Crimson.

Their next release was 2007’s Remains, an aptly titled collection of B-Sides and rarities that was well-received by critics. Following this, the band left Vagrant and signed with major label subsidiary Epic Records. Their first album in the big leagues was 2008’s Agony & Irony. This is probably my favourite album by the band. it has the Trio toning down the alternative rock sound of Crimson and becoming more of a straight emo/pop-punk band. It isn’t quite as intense as their early work, and the lyrics are relatively free of references to Satan or throat slitting, replacing the gore with self-loathing (“Love Love, Kiss Kiss”) and straight-up rock ballads (“Help Me”, my favourite Alkaline Trio song).

In May of 2009, the Trio quit Epic Records and announced, during a tour with Saves the Day, that they would be releasing their next album, This Addiction, on their own label, Heart & Skull. The album was released on February 23rd as a joint venture between Heart & Skull and Epitaph Records (Along with Bad Religion, Millencollin, Propagandhi, Pennywise and Social Distortion, Alkaline Trio is one of the last serviceable Epitaph bands left).

Seen here: Epitaph’s current flagship band.

This Addiction reached number 11 on the Billboard 200 and number 1 on the Rock, Independent, and Alternative charts. The album’s lyrics  focused heavily on the member’s personal lives, addressing themes such as Matt Skiba’s divorce and more general themes, such as love, addiction (Duh), death, suicide and war. Musically, it was a return to their roots, with much more of a punk-y sound than Crimson or Agony & Irony. My favourites on this album include the title track and single, “This Addiction”, and “The American Scream”, an ode to a veteran who came back from Afghanistan only to blow his brains out on his mothers’ grave. It was an unusual turn for the normally apolitical band.

In 2011, AT released another fucking album, this time a well-received compilation of fan favourites redone on acoustic guitar entitled DamnesiaThis album means nothing to me except just another way to waste my valuable time, when I could be getting some much-deprived sleep, but hey, it’s all for the love of writing, right?

Because that logic works out for everybody…

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Aside from Alkaline Trio, the band members have contributed to many other bands and side projects. Dan Andriano is a member of The Falcon, a punk supergroup which includes members of Lawrence Arms. he also has a solo project, entitled Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room, and has released one album under this moniker.

Derek Grant is an accomplished touring drummer, having filled in for The Gaslight Anthem, the Vandals and Good Charlotte, for some reason. He, along with Skiba, did a concert with Greg Corner and Johnny Radtke of Kill Hannah entitled Them Crooked Vulvas. Who says these guys are bummers?

 

Matt Skiba,the most prolific of the three, has played one-shot concerts with Kevin Seconds, Chuck Ragan, and, er, Them Crooked Vulvas. In 2004, he formed a short-lived Indie band with Josiah Steinbrick of F-Minus entitled Heavens, which ended in 2007 and has also done a couple albums with Atom Willard (Formerly of The Offspring and Angels & Airwaves). His most recent project is his solo work. He released an album entitled Demos in 2010 and, in 2012, a sophomore effort named Babylon with his band, Matt Skiba & the Sekrets, which includes Hunter Burgan of AFI and Jarrod Alexander of My Chemical Romance.

However, Alkaline Trio is far from over. Last April, they released their eighth studio album, My Shame is True and its’ accompanying EP, Broken Wings. While the musicianship is tight as ever, the lyrical content is considerably lighter then anything since Crimson. Also, the songs suffer from the same problem which has plagued alkaline Trio throughout their career: They’re not all that interesting. Even the one with Tim McIlrath of Rise Against, which broke my heart.

However, the album is steadily growing on me. And it does include two great songs in “She Lied to the FBI” and the stalker-riffic “I Wanna Be a Warhol”.

Plus one million points for including Milla Jovovich in the music video for the latter.

The Written Confession of a My Chemical Romance Fan, and why People Hated Them

Hello internet. It’s me, Kenny Rollins. You may remember me as the guy who rambles about superheroes, baseball and douchebags. That is, if you’re one of the ten people who MIGHT read each one of my posts. Otherwise, you likely stumbled here by accident and don’t know shit about me.

For the record, I look like this.

Anyways, one thing that you may/should know about me is that I’m a huge music fan. I’ll listen to anything as long as it’s relatively dubstep- and auto-tune– free. However, my preferred genre is punk rock. If ever I get a Wikipedia page (Unlikely) for being the front-man  for a successful band (EXTREMELY unlikely), my listed influences will be a veritable compendium of classic 70’s punk, 80’s hardcore, 90’s pop-punk and skate punk, and present day melodic hardcore.

Also, Eminem, because why the hell not?

However, since my band will likely be known as an unflinching melodic hardcore quartet that remains hard-rocking while retaining pop sensibilities, there would be one band that may come as a surprise to some. This band is My Chemical Romance, and yes, I am a fan.

No, really.

Now, understand that when I write the word “confession”, I mean just that. “Something that is confessed.”

I’m not ashamed of being an MCR fan. Rather, I’m apprehensive of why the majority of people don’t care for them. Before beginning my essay though, I’d just like to defend my love for the (now defunct) band.

Now, let me be the first to admit that some of MCR’s music was total shit. Specifically, their debut albumI Brought You My Bullets, You Gave Me Your Love. For the life of me, I cannot understand why people gave this album positive reviews, but skip ahead a couple albums. Have you listened to The Black Parade? It’s pretty fucking good. Sure, it’s overblown and pretentious, but I’m willing to look past that  if it includes songs like “Welcome to the Black Parade” and “Famous Last Words.” Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys was almost as overblown and not as good, but c’mon. Listen to “Na Na Na.” That song is catchy as fuck. You can’t not like that song, but more on that later..

Also, the video included this, whatever it may be.

Anyways, I’ve narrowed the various reasons people hated MCR down to three. First off, the low quality of some of their music. Secondly, The rabid fangirls associated with pretty much any fanbase.  Finally, The ever-damning “emo” label, which has plagued the band since their inception.

To begin, I’m gonna get one of the more obvious ones out of the way: Some of MCR’s music really sucks. Shocking, right? The band that co-headlined the 2005 Warped Tour with Fall Out Boy put out some bad music.

I find it hard to believe that anyone imagined Patrick Stump with sideburns and thought it was a good idea.

Take their first album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. With the exception of the initial single, “Vampires Will Never Hurt You“, and the initial instrumental guitar piece, there is nothing notable about this album. The rest of the songs range from extremely forgettable (“This is the Best Day Ever” and “Skylines and Turnstiles”) to pretty bloody awful (See: “Drowning Lessons” and “Our Lady Of Sorrows.”). Oh, the critic were fairly positive, calling it “unique” and “convincing“. Convincing, I get. Lead vocalist (And cartoonist) Gerard Way pours his  heart and soul out through mostly intense screaming about vampires, drugs and suicide.

Insert Twilight joke here.

But “unique”? Um, maybe. I couldn’t tell because the music really shortchanged me in the “gripping” department. I’m not one to dismiss music as being a mass of mindless screaming…

Usually.

… But that is really all I got from a good part of the album.

Now, the second album, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, was an improvement, but the lyrics somewhat deteriorated into, well, average territory. They plummeted into straight up atrocious territory on the awfully titled Top 100 single, “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”. Really. I can’t stress how awful that title is.

The final two studio albums (The Black Parade and Danger Days: The True Lives Of the Fabulous Killjoys) and the Conventional Weapons compilation were all large improvements, but they failed to erase the following two problems, one pf them being…

Hint: They drew this.

Fangirls! (And fanboys, I don’t discriminate)

Now, I’m sure everybody reading this  knows of the idiocy of Justin Bieber’s tween fanbase/private, devoted zealot militia, the Beliebers, whose crimes range from being run-of-the-mill dumb preteen girls to insulting people that would rather not get run over by some flash-in-the-pan tween-pop bitch or sending death threats to the girl unfortunate enough to date their idol instead of them. Sure, considering he’s over eighteen, that’s pedophilia, but goddammit, it’s meant to be!

Yep, nothing that would land him on an FBI watchlist here…

But sometimes, we focus so much on the Beliebers of the world (And the Little Monsters…And Juggalos…) that we forget that decent rock groups have insane fan bases as well. The first that come to mind are the Beatlemaniacs , one of which showed their devotion and love for the band by murdering John Lennon. And you’re dreaming if you think MCR was free of near-insane fans. They’re not so much like Mark David Chapman though. More like somewhat annoying religous fanatics who may be obnoxiously loud, but are easily drowned out.

Apparently, they’ve never heard the Ramones.

“MCR saved my life” is a recurring statement on MCR’s comment boards. On one hand, it’s nice that young fans have found a band to call their own . On the other, I humbly call bullshit.

Shh…. Don’t cry…

To those that insist that they would have slit their wrists and passed away if MCR hadn’t come along: Have you heard their fucking lyrics?!!!

“The amount of pills I’m taking counteracts the booze I’m drinking.”

“I think I’d love to die alone.”

“I’ll end my days with you in a hail of bullets.”

Also, the entire Black Parade album, which is literally about death by cancer. How exactly is that a life-saving aid and not the guy, looking up at the guy about to jump of a building, yelling “Do it! Do it! Do it!”

Of course, I am in no way endorsing the Daily Mail’s opinion of My Chemical Romance, which is that they inspire an emo suicide cult.

“Oh sorry, you’re not a cult, you’re an….army? Does that make it better or worse?”

The word “emo” was in the early 21st century what the word “hipster” is today. A broad, catch-all term for a subculture widely despised by the mainstream.

This dude is surprised when he is told that 'Coachella' means 'stupid white guy'

Mostly for good reasons.

The band themselves have rejected the genre, with Gerard Way having this to say about it:

Basically, it’s never been accurate to describe us. Emo bands were being booked while we were touring with Christian metal bands because no one would book us on tours. I think emo is fucking garbage, it’s bullshit. I think there’s bands that unfortunately we get lumped in with that are considered emo and by default that starts to make us emo.”

Quite true Gerard, but, again, when you co-headline with Fall Out Boy in the Warped Tour, you can’t be exactly surprised when they start lumping you in with that crowd.

So, to conclude, the main reasons that the only tears that were shed over MCR’s demise were eyeliner stained “MCRmy” tears were some of the lackluster quality of their early music, some annoying fans and the “emo” label.

However, before any angry MCRmy members (What a stupid fucking name) comment angrily, I want to stress that I love this band, and Black Parade ranks among my favourite albums. And I will defend myself against anyone that says I’m not a “real punk” for liking them. So I call for peace.

So can’t we all just pick something to agree on?

Like how much Falling in Reverse sucks ass?

Musician Biography: 30 Seconds to Mars

There are a few things that are certain in this long, painful life that we lead. Specifically, death, the failure of the Chicago Cubs, shitheads on YouTube (Comment sections or otherwise) and celebrities who enter musical careers only because they once played a musician in a movie.

Ahem.

But it also seems that there’s at least a few exceptions to the aforementioned afflictions. Some people seem to cheat death against all odds including, but not excluding, Christopher Lee (Awesomely) and Fred Phelps (Unfortunately). People get out of paying their taxes all the time. Of course, by people, I mean the good people at heartless companies like General Electric. If you look past the commentators, YouTube has some good stuff on it (SourceFed, Vsauce etc.). The Cubs had that one championship more than one hundred years ago.

This seems as good a time as any to declare Fred Phelps to be an asshole again.

The exception for the last category (That is the actors turned celebrities) is the subject of today’s “Musician Biography”. Ladies and Gentlemen, give it up for:

30 SECONDS TO MARS

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Active From: 1998-Present

Genres: Alternative Rock, Neo-Prog, Space Rock, Experimental Rock, Hard Rock, SynthRock, Post-Hardcore (Early)

Legacy: The flourishing of Jared Leto’s musical career and the continuing public indifference to his film career. Also, making teenage girls buy into the misguided belief that the success of this band means prog’s cool again.

Teenage girls are into musicians for the quality of their music, right?

As you may or may not no, Jared Leto is an actor from Louisiana who has appeared in several moderately well-known movies, including Requiem for a Dream (In which he plays a heroin addict and dealer), Fight Club (In which he gets the shit beaten out of him by Edward Norton), American Psycho ( In which he is ax-murdered by Christian Bale) and Alexander (In which he plays Colin Farrell’s gay lover). He started 30 Seconds to Mars as a small family project with his brother, Shannon Leto. In 2001, the brothers recruited Matt Wachter to play bass and keyboards, and Solon Bixler on guitar. Bixler eventually left and was replaced by Croatian-American guitarist Tomo Milicevic.

Because the Leto family is, y’know, rich, they were able to get in the studio and start recording an album in 2001. In July, the band released their first single, “Capricorn (A Brand New Name)”. On August 27, 2002, they released their first, self-titled album, in which Jared played guitar, vocals, bass guitar and synthesizer. The album (Influenced in part by the science fiction novel, Dune) was received warmly by critics, who praised the lyrics, themes and musicianship. Personally, I though the album to be pretty fucking boring. On the plus side, Leto is a great songwriter and musician, but on the other hand, perhaps aside from “Capricorn”, the album is pretty nondescript and doesn’t grip me at all, but eh, what do I know?

Apparently, not too much, as the album zoomed to the top of Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart and hit 107 on the Billboard 200. “Capricorn” ended up peaking at No. 31 on the American Rock Charts while a post-relese single, “Edge of the Earth” hit No. 5 on the UK.

After touring for the album concluded, the band recorded and released another single, “Attack”, which critics and fans (And me!) adored, mainly because it showcased Leto’s amazing vocal talent. It isn’t often that an actor starts a musical career and actually has a passable voice, much less a good one.

Right, Bruce?

The following album, A Beautiful Lie, which was recorded over four years on Leto’s various film sets, was released in August of 2005 and was praised by critics (And me!) except for AllMusic, which surprises me, and Rolling Stone, because well, duh.

When you have to present terrorists in an attractive fashion on your albums to get some attention, then your musical opinion can be taken with a grain of salt, I think.

The album, which abandoned the prog metal of their first album for emotionally charged alternative rock, reached No. 22 on the Modern Rock Charts (And No. 1 in Canada!) and was eventually certified platinum, while a post-album single, “From Yesterday”, hit No. 1 on the Modern Rock Tracks (Though, to tell you the truth, I kind of hated it).

Having achieved mainstream success, the band embarked on the “Welcome to the Universe” tour, which lasted two years and solidified their rock star statuses. During the worldwide tour, they championed environmentalism (Of course they did) , shot the first ever American rock music video in the People’s Republic of China and had Matt Wachter leave the group to spend more time with his family and, eventually join Angels & Airwaves. He was replaced by Tim Kelleher, who is still with the band, but only as a touring member.

But wait a minute. What’s missing from the picture here? Hmmm…. Oh, that’s right, the obligatory dispute with an asshole record label? How could I be so foolish?

In August 2008, Virgin Records sued the band for a whopping $30 million lawsuit, claiming that the band failed to deliver the five albums that they were obligated to deliver. However, under California law, nobody can be bound to a contract for over seven years. Virgin, realizing that they hadn’t done their research in their quest to wring every last drop of money out of their bands, dropped the lawsuit and the band re-signed with them, for some inexplicable reason.

Although Jared Leto did make a documentary about the lawsuit, so maybe it was all for the purpose of an elaborate “fuck you.”

Fun fact: at the preview of the above-mentioned documentary, someone may have tried to kill Jared Leto. Could the labels have made their way from bullying and intimidation to murder? If so, then I have some potential targets that I think everyone can agree on.

Yes you, bitch.

On December 8, 2009, 30 Seconds to Mars released their third studio album, This is War. This would prove to be their most successful album yet, hitting No. 18 on the Billboard 200 charts, number 4 on the Rock charts and number 2 on the Alternative charts. In addition to this, three of the singles, “Kings and Queens”, “This Is War” and “Closer to the Edge”  got in the Top 10 pf the Billboard Alternative Charts, with the first two tracks hitting 1st place.

The album received  positive reviews as well. It is my personal favourite album on the 30STM catalogue, if only for the fact that “This is War” is on this album. Anyways, the resulting supporting tour won the Guinness World Record for “Longest Concert Tour by a Rock Band”, playing a total of 309 concert shows in just over two years.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Um, pretty much the same place as always. Their latest album, Love Lust, Faith and Dreams, showcases the bands full musical talent/pretentiousness, with elements of symphonic rock edging out a large amount of the hard rock edge. Still, it was both critically and commercially successful, hitting number 6 on the Billboard 200. Personally, I’d rate it as better than the self-titled album by far, but not as good as A Beautiful Lie. It’s just too damn pretentious for me to take completely seriously. Also, it has one of the ugliest album covers known to man.

As a rule, album covers should note make you think of Connect Four.

Musician Biography: Dead Kennedys (Part 2)

(This is a continuation of this post.)

In the first part of this inaugural edition of Musician Biography, I have been reviewing the Dead Kennedys career, from their humble beginning in the Bay Area punk scene to their rise to underground stardom and finally, the lawsuit which effectively ended their run of excellence.

The story of the Dead Kennedys does not end with their breakup though. I wish it had, but it wasn’t to be.

After the split, the Kennedys went their own separate ways.   Drummer D.H. Peligro joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1988. He helped write some songs for their Mother’s Milk album before his drug and alcohol issues led to his firing. Bassist Klaus Fluoride focused on his solo career, releasing three albums on Alternative Tentacles. East Bay Ray participated in several obscure musical projects, while Jello Biafra formed an industrial band called Lard.

Yeah, I can believe that.

Biafra also did an excellent collaboration album with Canadian punk legends D.O.A. entitled Last Scream of the Missing Neighbours. In 1991, he released an album with another Canadian punk band, NoMeansNo, called The Sky Is Falling and I Want My Mommy. He also released several spoken word albums.

However, this fairly amicable breakup did not last. In the late 90’s, the band members discovered that they were not receiving their allotted share of royalties from Alternative Tentacles. Despite the fact that everyone agreed that it was an accounting mistake, Ray, Fluoride and Peligro decided to blame Jello for not  informing them of this. Biafra claims that their lawyers had told him only to correspond through lawyers and not directly with the band, as the conflict over payment had apparently arisen before the accounting mistake was discovered. This little spat eventually led to a lawsuit, where he was found liable for the royalties and was ordered to pay damages of nearly $200 000, inculding $20 ooo in punitive damages to Ray, Peligro and Fluoride.

All this was bad enough, but then it just got plain uglyDuring the trial, claimed that the band wanted to license the song “Holiday in Cambodia” for use in a Levi’s Dockers commercial. The other band members deny this, though Biafra was able to give specifics about said advertisement, including the advertising agency. Interesting…

I also mentioned in the previous entry that East Bay Ray had pushed for the band to sign with a major label. Is it really so much of a stretch to imagine that he might be unopposed to using a hit song in a corporate advertisement. Talk about forgetting your roots.

Seen here: Punk Rock!!!

The jury, however, did not give one flying fuck, seeing as how Levi’s wasn’t the enemy.

Well, in this case, at least.

And, completing their devolution into traitorous scumbags, Ray, Fluoride and Peligro also got their grimy hands on the DK’s entire discography (With the sole exception of the “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” single), which they swiped from Alternative Tentacles, and gave to the independent Manifesto label, who reissued the albums without giving a dime to Biafra.

In one of the most retarded ways to bury the hatchet after swindling somebody out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, Ray, Fluoride and Peligro invited Biafra to reform the band with them. Biafra, who has long expressed his disdain for nostalgia, essentially told them to go fuck themselves. Incorrectly assuming that it’s still the Dead Kennedys without Jello Biafra, the band was reformed with a new lead singer, Brandon Cruz. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Mr. Cruz played Bill Bixby’s son in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.

Seen here: Someone who can really kick ass in the hardcore scene.

Now, to be completely fair, I can’t rag on Brandon Cruz too much. He wasn’t one of the people who betrayed Jello. Also, it’s not like he had no punk credentials. He was the singer of the Nardcore punk band Dr. Know. However, that’s not truly effective consolation for someone who just got his ass replaced by a goddamn ex-child actor.

The DK Kennedys (As they called themselves before reverting back to Dead Kennedys.) proceeded to destroy everything that the old DK stood for, appearing at corporate-sponsored music events, distributing advertising posters falsely portraying Biafra as still being in the band, and not recording any new music whatsoever. NOT. A. SINGLE. GODDAMN. SONG. The only vague whiff of new music from the retooled lineup was when they altered the lyrics to “MTV Get Off the Air” to make the shitty, terrible “MP3 Get Off the Air.” I guess that’s what happens when you kick out the only person in your band who could actually write a half-decent song.

 WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

The Faux Kennedys (As I decree that they be called) are still touring and have no plans to release new material. They dumped Brandon Cruz in 2003 and replaced him with 25 year old Jeff Penalty, who was almost half the age of his new bandmates. He described this as “the realization of a dream [he] never even dared to have.” However, he parted ways with the group in 2008 in what has been described as a non-amicable split. This presumably occurred after he discovered that his former heroes were now huge dickbags. They replaced him with some dude named “Skip”, whom even their website’s members page does not give one shit about.

Jello Biafra is still operating Alternative Tentacles, which has since moved to Emeryville, California. AT has distributed albums by Alice Donut, the Dicks, D.O.A., NoMeansNo, Subhumans, Pansy Division and Star Fucking Hipsters, as well as spoken word albums by Noam Chomsky, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Jello himself. Since being stabbed in the back, Jello has released a ton of spoken word albums, and occasionally does a show on YouTube entitled “What Would Jello Do?” He also released two albums with the Melvins, Never Breathe What You Can’t See in 2004, and Sieg Howdy! in 2005. He is also a Green Party politician, and was a potential presidential candidate in 200, though he lost to Ralph Nader.

In 2008, he formed a new band, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine. They have since released two very solid albums, 2009’s The Audacity of Hype and 2013’s White People and the Damage Done. The latter of which I have just received in the mail, and cannot wait to listen t- wait, what the…

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Musician Biography: Dead Kennedys (Part 1)

First off, let me apologize for going all this time without a post. I had final exams last week and was not only distracted by studying, but also by the worst case of writer’s block you’ve ever seen. This is the kind of writer’s block that leads to movie producers to exclaim “Fuck it, let’s just get somebody to blow shit up.”

File:Michael.bay.png

Come on, don’t act like you didn’t know where this joke was going.

On an unrelated note, if Michael Bay fucks up the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, let’s all agree to burn him at the stake, okay?

Anyways, I’m back and with a new feature, which I’m gonna call “Musician Biography” until I think of a better name for it. (I’m open to suggestions.) In this feature, I take a look at a musician or band’s career and examine it in depth (Or, y’know, as in depth as I get.). Since I’m a big punk rock fan, it will usually be an artist or musician from that genre, but I will make attempts to diversify. I was going to kick it off with 30 Seconds To Mars just so I wouldn’t start with a punk band, but I gave in and decided to go with what may be the most influential American punk band not named the Ramones. Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for…

DEAD KENNEDYS

Hometown: San Francisco, California

Active From: 1978-1986, 2001-Present

Genres: Hardcore, Punk Rock

Legacy: Truly politically aware punk music, Jello Biafra’s godliness and a steady job for Brandon Cruz.

The Scene: San Francisco. The Time:1978. Twenty year old Raymond Pepperell, an ex-guitarist for a rockabilly band, attends a ska-punk show at Mabuhay Gardens. Apparently favourable of the music, he promptly advertised for bandmates in a classifieds newspaper. Answering the call to arms were twenty year old Eric Reed Boucher, a UC Santa Cruz student from Colorado, twenty-nine year old Geoffrey Lyall, an ex-bandmate of Billy Squier’s, and Bruce Slesinger, who nobody seems to know shit about.

Probably figuring that their real names were not what you would expect from a dangerous punk band, they decided to adopt some kick-ass stage names. Slesinger became, um, Ted and took over on drums. Lyall became Klaus Fluoride and picked up a bass. Pepperell took the name “East Bay Ray” and took guitar. Boucher was left with the mic and took the name “Occupant.” After realizing that it wasn’t 2012 in Wall Street yet, Boucher took the name Jello Biafra, referencing the clear relation between horrifying genocides and tasty gelatin desserts.

Oh, the humanity!

Along with the four mainstays, the band also recruited Carlos Cadona (6025) as a second guitarist.

The band itself took the name “Dead Kennedys” in order to “Bring attention to the end of the American Dream.” Considering that Ronald Reagan’s dual-terms as president were coming up, this seems almost prophetic now. Given the provocativeness of their name, they had to go under pseudonyms, including “The DK’s”, “The Sharks”, the “Creamsicles”, and the “Pink Twinkies.” Their first show was July 19, 1978 at Mabuhay Gardens.

In March of 1979, 6025 left the group, mainly because a) he wanted to play prog-rock for some inexplicable reason and b) he and Biafra hated each other’s guts. In June, after a year of playing in and around the Bay Area, the band released their first single, titled “California Über Alles“. (Try to avoid the comments section, if at all possible.) The single was released on Alternative Tentacles, an independent record label formed by Jello and Ray.  The song, sung from the perspective of then- and current governor of California, Jerry  Brown, depicts a hippie/fascist California of the future, where uncool people are killed by the “suede denim secret police” with “organic” poison gas chambers. In retrospect, the Tea Party would have misunderstood the shit out of this song.

The song was a great early example of the menacing and tense mood of the DK’s music. Militaristic drumbeats, a gradually increasing speed, and Biafra’s sneering vocals casually commenting on how “you’d look nice as a drawstring lamp” (Which is, essentially, a lamp with a lampshade made out of human skin.). After the release of the single,  the Kennedys embarked on a successful east coast tour.

Also, around this time, Jello Biafra ran for mayor of San Francisco. Out of a field of ten, he finished fourth.

With their star rising, (you know, as much as a hardcore band’s star can rise) music industry bigwigs started to take notice. On March 25, 1980, the band was invited to perform “California Über Alles”  at the  Bay Area Music Awards along with major label acts in order to give the event “New Wave credibility.”

Seen Here: New Wave.

Instead of playing “California’, the Dead Kennedys , dressed like this…

‘These guys look like they would be down with major labels, right?”

…took the stage, but about 15 seconds into the song, Jello proclaimed “Hold it! We’ve gotta prove that we’re adults now. We’re not a punk rock band, we’re a new wave band.” They then performed a new song called “Pull My Strings“. A stroke of musical genius that viciously attacked the musical industry. You really have to hear it to appreciate it, but to give you an idea, this was the chorus:

“Is my cock big enough? Is my brain small enough for you to make me a star? Give me a toot. I’ll sell you my soul. Pull my strings and I’ll go far.” 

Needless to say, they were not invited back.

In May 1980, the Kennedys released a second single entitled “Holiday in Cambodia.”  Another underground masterpiece, the song was a dual attack on both Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia and, essentially, hipsters. On September 2nd, the band released their first studio album on Alternative Tentacles, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. This is the closest the DK’s got to a perfect record. There is not a single disposable track on the entire album, and it is widely thought to be a punk rock classic. Not only that, but it remains pretty damn relevant. Have a listen to “Kill the Poor.” Doesn’t it sound like a present-day Republican (Or present-day Democrat, for that matter) campaign promise?

In January 1981, drummer Ted decided he wanted to leave the band to pursue a career in architecture. He helped the Kennedys find and hire his replacement, a massive young black kid from St. Louis named Darren Henley, who took the name D.H. Peligro. On an unrelated note, how many other punk bands can you name that have black members? (Not named the Bad Brains, I mean.)

“Well, there’s Yellow-“
“I said PUNK, asshole.”

Around this time, in a preview of what was to come, East Bay Ray started pressuring the band to sign with Universal Music subsidiary Polydor Records. The idea was nixed by Biafra, who threatened to leave the band if that were to happen. Polydor Records grew uninterested in signing anyways after the DK’s revealed that their next single was entitled “To Drunk to Fuck.”

The election of Ronald Reagan in January of that year served inspiration for the Kennedys, as seen the In God We Trust, Inc. EP. From attacks on the religious right (“Moral Majority”), Neo-Nazis (The excellent “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.”) and the Gipper himself (“We Have a Bigger Problem Now”, which was essentially a re-tooled version of “California Über Alles”). In 1982, their second studio album, Plastic Surgery Disasters was released. While not as good as Fresh Fruit, PSD was still a very well-received effort that started straying from traditional hardcore and started experimenting with psychedelic and jazz music.

With the release of Plastic Surgery Disasters, and the subsequent touring of the States, Europe and Australia, Dead Kennedys became one of the biggest underground rock groups in the world.  The Alternative Tentacles record label flourished as well, with bands such as D.O.A., the Dicks and the Butthole Surfers signing on.

In 1985, the band released the excellent Frankenchrist album, which explored in more depth the Kennedys’ musical range. While still not as good as their debut album, Frankenchrist is a close second, with songs like “Soup is Good Food” and “Stars and Stripes of Corruption”   attacking, once again, the US government while songs like “MTV Get Off the Air” and “Jock-o-Rama” poking fun at American social dynamics.

Unfortunately, the album was also the beginning of the end for the Dead Kennedys. You see, on a poster included with the album was a painting by H.R. Giger (The guy who designed the aliens in Alien) entitled, rather descriptively, Penis Landscape. This was racy enough, but even more unfortunately for the band, this was the era where the PMRC and the religious right were trying to stamp out any form of  “harmful matter” in music. Long story short, the band survived without penalty, but Alternative Tentacles was driven to near bankruptcy. Here’s hoping Tipper and her faux-Green ex husband stay irrelevant. On the other hand, maybe something would be done about Nicki Minaj.

I, for one, suggest a targeted assassination.

After that whole debacle, the Dead Kennedys grew disillusioned not only with society, but also with the hardcore scene itself, which was attracting, among others, thugs, racists and homophobes who were only there to act tough. Frustrated, California’s most iconic hardcore band called it quits in February of 1986, though they did finish recording their fourth and final album, entitled Bedtime for Democracy. While it was subversive as ever, it kind of seemed, well, dull. With no real standout tracks, the only message that this album conveys to me is a “fuck this shit” mentality. Never would one think that Jello Biafra would display that idea, but there you go.

So, this seemed rather cut and dry, right? Band forms, becomes good, breaks up, end o’ story. There can’t be much more to it, right?

Nope.

Stay tuned, dear readers, the tragedy of the Dead Kennedys is far from over.