Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Dillinger Escape Plan with Mike Patton - Irony Is A Dead Scene (2002)

In late 2001, up-and-coming experimental mathcore band The Dillinger Escape Plan found themselves without a vocalist when founding member Dimitri Minakakis suddenly parted ways with the band because of their rigorous touring schedule. While they looked for a full-time replacement for Minakakis, the band recruited several of their friends to handle vocal duties on tour. Among these friends was the legendary Mike Patton, who they had met when Patton asked them to come on tour with Mr. Bungle. There must have been some sort of apparent chemistry between the group, because Patton later agreed to help produce and contribute to an upcoming EP. By the time Irony Is A Dead Scene had been recorded and released, the band had already been touring with newly-found vocalist Greg Puciato for over a year.

Patton's vocal style is actually very well complemented by the spastic style of The Dillinger Escape Plan's music, which is frequently on the verge of total chaos and destruction. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that there isn't structure and melody here, however. The first two tracks, Hollywood Squares and Pig Latin, are the obvious standouts of the EP and do a good job of showcasing some of Patton's unique vocal acrobatics. The only weak moment to be had here is the underwhelming cover of Aphex Twin's Come To Daddy, which they still manage to do a surprisingly good job of considering the circumstances. Irony Is A Dead Scene isn't an easy listen, but The Dillinger Escape Plan and Mike Patton manage to play off each other's strengths very well, despite the highly experimental nature of the artists involved. This ranks up there among some of my all time favorite EPs, and is a must listen for fans of DEP and Mike Patton, or just fans of experimental/hardcore music in general.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Strike Anywhere - Change Is A Sound (2001)

Hardcore-punk revivalists Strike Anywhere have a consistent and raging attack with just enough palatability to make Change Is A Sound a great album. Formed in Richmond, Va in 1999 Strike Anywhere had a strong presence in the local hardcore scene. They released the Change Is A Sound EP in 2001 then issued the album version on Jade Tree later that year.

There is nothing genre breaking or redefining here, but everything is done well. The pace set is nothing short of relentless and the punk attack is vicious through out the whole album. The repetitiveness that can plague many punk bands is hardly and issue here. Songs stay fresh by changing on a dime without losing their liquid flow and hectic pace. Bridges, intros and breakdowns seem to come out of nowhere and give the songs a unique feel. To call the lyrics political would be an understatement. Strike Anywhere is staunchly critical of American culture and politics but their lyrics are always engaging and rarely heavy handed some bands out there (Choking Victim anyone?).

It may not be as thrashy or angry as some hardcore fans would like it to be however. A good dose of melody, occasionally powerful hooks, oozin' awes (and one Oi, oi oi!) and tiny hints of pop do make appearances, but is that really a bad thing? One of the most remarkable things about this album is the degree of palatability it has while maintaining an unabashedly hardcore revivalist sound. They didn't reinvent the wheel, but they definitely set the bar damn high for every other punk act out there. Anyone looking for 29 minutes of non-stop sonic energy are in luck because Strike Anywhere delivers in a huge way with Change Is A Sound.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Bad Religion - Into the Unknown (1983)

I've been told that objective listeners consider Into the Unknown a masterful and pioneering piece of American prog-rock, but I'm not an objective listener. It sucks.

After three years in the LA underground punk scene, BR guitarist Mr. Brett decided to buy singer/songwriter Greg Graffin an electric keyboard. Graffin wrote and produced the entire album in an effort to break out of what he considered an increasingly close minded LA scene. Lyrically not much had changed, but ITU sounds nothing like any of BR's previous work aside from Graffin's distinctive vocals. The BR Page.net has a whole host of BR member retrospective reactions to the album that make for a good read. ITU is often credited with destroying the LA hardcore scene and almost destroying Bad Religion's career.

Slower tempos, acoustic guitars, wood blocks (really guys?) and that goddamn keyboard ooze out of every track. Nothing here even resembles punk-rock or Bad Religion except the complex and intellectual lyrics that fans expect. If it didn't have "Bad Religion" written across the top, Into the Unknown would be considered innovative and pioneering. But because of the time and place of it's release it is forever remembered as a collectors piece and nothing more. BR fans need to check this out, but only as a glimpse into one of the most infamous fuck-ups in punk history.

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