Friday, January 24, 2014

Interview with The Young Rochelles

Editors Note: Hot on the heels of their debut 7", "Cannibal Island", Rookie, Ricky and Ray Jay sat down with Critical Mass to discuss everything from songwriting, to their musical influences to recording their debut full length. I hope you enjoy, and help spread the word on this amazing new band.

Critical Mass:  Thanks for taking the time to talking with Critical Mass guys. For anyone who doesn't know who The Young Rochelles are, can you give us a little info on the band and a who's who as far as personnel?
Ricky Rochelle: I’m Ricky. I sing and play drums in the Young Rochelles. We began in January 2013 and we were born from the New Rochelles.
Rookie Rochelle: I’m Rookie Rochelle and I play bass.
Ray Jay Rochelle: I’m Ray Jay and take care of the six-stringing and backup singing.
CM: What separates The Young Rochelles from The New Rochelles? And what has the response been to the new band as opposed to the old band?
Ricky Rochelle: Different voices and songwriting separate the two bands. There’s a healthy interest in the Rochelles music. I’m happy with the positive attention the Young Rochelles have received so far.
Rookie Rochelle: The New Rochelles were Ricky, Rookie, and Ronnie Rochelle. The Young Rochelles are Ricky, Rookie and Ray Jay Rochelle.
Ray Jay Rochelle: In regards to the sound, Ricky, Rookie, and I have put what little minds we have together to write a catalog of originals that cover a lot of ground, but still stay exciting.
CM: The bands songs are very catchy and melodic. And you can hear a lot of different influences in your songs and sound. In your own words, who are some of your personal musical influences?
Rookie Rochelle: The Ramones.
Ricky Rochelle: Thanks!! I can’t get too specific because my influences are everything I hear.
Ray Jay Rochelle: The Ramones, Green Day, The Methadones, The Descendents, Teenage Bottle Rocket, and Anthrax.
CM: The band’s first ever released recording was a cover of "Less Than Zero" by The Methadones for the "Sorry to Keep You Waiting: A Tribute to the Methadones". Was that the first song the band recorded up till that point? Or were you already working on the "Cannibal Island" tracks?
Rookie Rochelle: We recorded “Less Than Zero” the same time we recorded the “Cannibal Island” EP.
CM: Speaking of "Cannibal Island", I have to admit that I was blown away at how amazing those tracks were even before you put ‘em out. Have you guys been picking up new fans since the release of this EP?
Ricky Rochelle: All right. Yes. Even my girlfriend says, “There had to be someone who’s heard a song since and become a fan. No?”
Rookie Rochelle: Hope so.
Ray Jay Rochelle: The response has been great and our merch is moving, so I would say so!
CM: The video for the first single, "I Need My Mommy to Do My Laundry", is so fun and great to watch. Any plans for a second video?
Rookie Rochelle: We’ve had some cool ideas for more videos, but we will probably wait until we record the next batch of songs before we film another.
Ray Jay Rochelle: There is a lot going on in regards to the EP already, so it will likely be for something off of our next release.
CM: When can we expect a debut full length from the band?
Rookie Rochelle: Hopefully soon, we’ve been writing for it.
Ricky Rochelle: Our focus right now is writing for a full length.
Ray Jay Rochelle: We want to deliver a record with nothing but winners, so when all the tracks are golden, we are going to hit the studio.
CM: Are there any plans for the band to hit the road in 2014? We would love to have you guys in Chicago in the coming months.
Rookie Rochelle: I’d love to get on the road a little more with this band. Hopefully 2014 brings us the opportunity to do so.
Ray Jay Rochelle: We have been offered a couple of opportunities, but it has to be just right. I could use a couple of weeks sleeping in a van with my LJ.
CM: What else can we expect from The Young Rochelles this year? Another EP? Possibly a split or another comp?
Rookie Rochelle: We have a whole crop of new songs. We are deciding now how exactly they’ll be released. Possibly a full length, maybe another EP and a split 7inch. But in 2014 we definitely have our version of The Ramones “Animal Boy” album coming soon.
CM: Are there any websites/is there a websites you guys would like to plug? Anyplace where fans can get a copy of Cannibal Island, get up to date news on further releases, merch and tour dates?
Ricky Rochelle: If you buy a t-shirt, we’ll consider a tour. Hey, at least we’re not asking for donations!
Ray Jay Rochelle: FacebookBandcamp, and  Storenvy.

CM: Guys, it’s an honor to pick your brains for a little while. I wanna wish you guys nothing but the very BEST in 2014. Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass!
Rookie Rochelle: Thanks bud!
Ricky Rochelle: Right on. Thank you.
Ray Jay Rochelle: Cheers!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Interview With Jamie Coville from Shock Nagasaki

Editors Notes: Due to unforeseen circumstances, the site that hosts this blog is not allowing me to upload photos. So, I will do my best to add plenty of link so you can hear Jamie's music via YouTube. Jamie is a pure talent, and NEEDS to be heard. I hope you folks will look him up and discover his musical talents. Thank you.

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Jamie. I've been a fan for over 14 years, so this is pretty exciting. You've played in the bands Libertine and Shock Nagasaki over the years. What are you up to currently?
Jamie Coville: Thank you! Well, I JUST got back from Spain; I spent some time over there working on some music & catching up with a few close friends BUT the best part was checking out some of the new music coming out of there right now. Really cool sort of Spanish lo-fi death rock scene going on which I'm digging right now. Also, Metadona Records out of Mallorca is putting out a ton of great KBD style punk rock. It was actually quite a surprise because I wouldn't have thought that on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea that there would be so many people that are really keyed in to some great underground music. Definitely had a few great nights just taking turns spinning records in the bar & the place would be rocking on all kinds of crazy shit. Some of the old Spanish stuff is KILLER too. But other than that man, a new Shock record will be happening sometime over the next couple of months. I think we're gonna do it in Berlin & I think there's gonna be a lot of people playing on it. The process should be a bit looser this time around; the sessions I've been around for at the Radio Dead Ones studio in Berlin have been controlled chaos with like, 20 people at all times & enough German beer to fill a swimming pool, so that sounds to me like a recipe for a good record.
CM: When I hear your songs I automatically hear your style of playing. Some people just have a sound that you instantly recognize as being their own. Who were some of your personal influences growing up?
JC: Anything that has heart can be influential. That's the main thing; I can get into anything that's real. You can't fake that. But for me, I started out with the obvious stuff, & then started digging deeper & your mind really gets blown when you realize just how many bands happened between '77 & '82- I mean before & after that as well, but there's a point in the 80's to my ears at least, where records started to sound different. They just didn't have that gritty, lo-fi, shitty sound that's so good. So late 70's/early 80's is sort of that sweet spot where almost anything sounds good to me. In EVERY town, in EVERY country, someone, somewhere started a band, & maybe only did 1 single & were gone forever. But there's a few of us out there that go to great lengths to find that stuff, haha. In fact, when I travel, I always make it a point to get area specific. For example, when I started getting into 80's Japanese punk/hardcore, it was like fuck this shit- I'm going to the source; forget about looking all over NYC for an Aburadako or Stalin record. And then you come back from Nagoya & Osaka with a suitcase full of the stuff, haha. Kind of like if you live in Syracuse, you might be able find an album by one of the greatest bands of all time: The Penetrators- (& then send it to me, hahah!).
CM: How old were you when you first discovered music and picked up the guitar for the first time?
JC: I started playing around 12ish. I kind of just got into music on my own. You'd have to go on straight intuition because there were no computers then, so there was a lot of winging it & hopefully not getting a raspberry. I bought the first New York Dolls album strictly based on the fact that Johnny Thunders was the coolest mother fucker I ever saw; had no idea who they were or what it sounded like; I just KNEW. I was always pretty dialed in; most of what I liked back then, I still like in some capacity. But I think the first couple of punk records I was exposed to were some Dead Kennedy's stuff &, haha, I remember clearly my parents thinking the DK record was the most fucked up thing ever because of the lyrics, & maybe the name of the band itself, haha. Actually, I just remembered this, but in elementary school, I had this art teacher who told us one day that her nephew's favorite band was called "Black Flag" & she proceeded to show us a bunch of Pettibons art & it was so colorful & just left an impression. I just met him recently & I should have told him that story, haha. I mean for a little kid to see "Slip It In" & just "whaaaat" ?! But the British stuff for me was mind blowing & still is. These days, I'm so far down the wormhole & I'm still invested in that era, but I've been paying attention to new stuff too, which I never did before. I had this thing, that if it came after '83, I wouldn't even bother, haha. But there is some good stuff out there if you look in the right places.
CM: Let's go back in time. As I mentioned earlier, you were in the band Libertine back in the late 90's and put out some solid releases like the "Rise Above" EP, "Guttersnipe Glamour" 7" and "See You In The Next Life" album. How did you guys get together? And what was it like playing in a band with Belvy K? (who people may remember as being in 7 Seconds for a short time and an original member of D Generation)?
JC: Well, let's see…I was up in Syracuse at the time. Young & pretty green around the edges as far as never having been out on any tours or even having to be somewhat responsible within the confines of a "professional" band. I used to hang out at this joint called Styleen's Rhythm Palace; they used to have some really good punk/alternative type nights in the early days. I knew this crazy chick who kept showing up with this dude who looked like he could have been in D-Generation, ya know with the hair & shit. Turns out he WAS in D-Gen, haha, but anyway, I think we must've drank a bunch of times before one of us idiots finally put 2 & 2 together & realized that we both played & needed a band. Why he was in Syracuse in the first place- I think he was taking a little rehabilitative leave of absence from New York City & getting himself healthy. There's not quite as many distractions in Syracuse. I think while upstate, he'd started planning something out with Bobcat (those guys used to play together in The Catatonics, an early hardcore band that did an EP in '84 called "Hunted Down" right before Belvy bailed to join 7 Seconds). Then somehow or another I came down to sit in with 'em & they kept me around. Then we just started rehearsing & recording all the time & trying to jump on any show we could. We toured with U.S. Bombs when "War Birth" came out which, I think that must have been the apex of Duane's insanity. I've seen some legendary U.S. Bombs shows & legendary Duane Peters antics as well. We played with The Misfits, Peter & the Test Tube Babies, Warped Tours. We did so many stupid fucking shows too, but regardless of what it was, they'd book us on anything. Belvy was an absolutely amazing drummer; that's what he did in D Gen & 7 Seconds. He did an old U.K. Subs record too. But he was singing in Libertine.
CM: People may not realize that there has been song bites from the tracks "If Wishes Were Horses" and "See You In The Next Life" used over the years on MTV shows like Cribs. Did you guys give them permission to use your songs? And have people come up to you in the past and said "Hey, I heard your song on MTV"?
JC: Yeah, I would actually get that all the time- "Hey, I heard this song or that song on MTV" or whatever. I was probably the last one to find out that they were using that record in the editing room on so many shows. A couple of years after we split, I just started receiving royalty checks in the mail. After a while I didn't even bother to see what it was being used on. I don't watch that shit anyway, & the list got pretty long with all of these ridiculous shows- "Pimp Your Mom" or "Date My Ride" or whatever the fuck they do. I still get 'em so apparently that record is still kicking around over there. Is MTV even on anymore? I remember a song or 2 being used for a movie around that time as well. Fucking God awful movie with Steve Zahn, but Belvy was in it for about a 1/2 a minute maybe, haha. When the Shock record came out, TKO got a song on some other show too. It's a bunch of crap & I have no idea who watches that stuff, but when the mailman comes by & all of a sudden you've got drinking money, it's hard to complain, haha.
CM: In 2000 you guys did a split CD with American Heartbreak called "You Can't Kill Rock N Roll". Again, solid material from both bands. But you guys split up not long after that release. Was the split on good terms? And do you still have contact with your former band mates?
JC: It wasn't on good terms, haha. I think we'd done a U.S. Tour that year & then went to Europe for a month. And then we were supposed to come back & hop on the Warped tour & the pressure cooker just finally exploded & it was like me & Belvy yelling in each others face. That was it really. Someone contacted me later about the remaining tours that we'd committed to, but at that point I had no interest in going thru the motions. It's like what I was saying about the "heart & soul"; it was a meaningless, irrelevant band & it needed to be taken out back & put out of it's misery. That whole thing was just a vehicle to play & go on tours & have fun, but I had no heart invested in Libertine. I usually don't even acknowledge that band when I'm talking about music with people. Shock Nagasaki was my deal & I'm still proud of that.
CM: As you've mentioned, after Libertine's split you were in Shock Nagasaki. You guys put out the album Year Of The Spy some years back. Was this the only release the band put out? Or is there more material out there?
JC: "Year Of The Spy" is the only record we did. TKO put that out in the States & we had another label out of Holland do a Euro release which included a press of 300 white vinyls. There's some 7"s & we were on a, shit ton of comps, but all stuff was pulled from that record, except for 1 old version of Palisades that turned up on a comp.
CM: Is Shock Nagasaki still around?
JC: It's around in the sense that I've never stopped writing songs & that there was never a decision made to end it. I've always just kind of looked at it like some weird art project. Anything aside from the piece of wax on the turntable is incidental. I don't care about how it's done, or who get's involved, or even if anyone knows what the band looks like or anyones names even, haha. To me, that stuff, in a lot of cases detracts from the music anyway. Ya know, take Rudimentary Peni; I love the fact that you could Google Nick Blinko, & there are no pictures to be found, haha. Maybe there's 1 or 2 bigfoot style photos, but it really lends itself to the music, because you don't have those distractions, & your imagination can just run wild with it. That & the fact that I personally don't have any interest or patience for that whole world of self promotion. A Shock record will end up right where it belongs, because the right people know about it, & the wrong ones probably don't & I'm perfectly content with that scenario. It's not really about getting bigger; it's more to exist to be discovered now or 20 years from now just like 98% of the shit I would be spinning on any given day. If you want to talk about Libertine, that went against everything I'm saying here, so it wasn't a hard decision to bail. Some people can't resist taking a bite of out the forbidden fruit. That's fools gold. Give me a bottle of wine & a guitar and as far as I'm concerned, I'm wealthy, haha. I'd rather make an album that retained a bit of credibility & garnered a bit of respect over time than to jump on the fast track to nowhere. The money will go away. The record will exist long after you cease to exist. And besides, there are some people- I'm one of them- that couldn't do it that way if they tried. I love music too much to cheat.
CM:  With the music you've put out over the years, what do you feel is your greatest musical achievement?
JC: It doesn't exist yet
CM: What can we expect from Jamie Coville in the near future? And new releases or tours on the horizon?
JC: Well, the Shock Nagasaki record; It's funny because I really started writing in Kreuzberg after that tour in 2006. Instead of getting on my flight back to the States, I shacked up in Berlin & the plan was to not slow down, & to stay there & write & demo out a bunch of songs for a new record. Some of the guys came back & hopped on other tours filling in, etc. & we never did get to the 2nd record. But a lot of that stuff from back then will be on this record. The good ones are just as great as when I was working them out years ago, so it's like, just getting to this point where your going, it's got to be born sooner or later. It'd be a shame to just never get around to recording it. And actually, I was out in Berlin earlier this year with the whole crew & my buddies band "The Uprising" was doing an EP, so we're all in the studio drinking beers & doing backup vocals, & I said to myself- grab a bunch of the guys & we'll hole up in there for a while & knock out a couple of these Shock tunes for a single, just totally on the dl, & press 'em up. But we just didn't have the time then & also, I'd like to see a whole record happen, not just a single. It's gonna be good man; I feel like, it's been so long since the first record came out, but all of that time in between- it really gives you the space to just let the songs happen when they're ready to happen. Even now, after 7 years, I'm still thinking to myself- I'm so glad we didn't record this a few years ago, because something just came to me this morning & it kills, & we wouldn't have had that line or that riff back then. I'm cool with doing a record every 10 years if it's great, not just good. And the first one, I would've done some things differently listening back. So I feel like this new one has got to be spot on. The songs are fucking ace though
CM: Jamie, it's been an honor to be able to talk with you. Your music has given me so much joy over the years and I thank you for the gift of music you've give the world. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. I greatly appreciate it.
JC: Cheers & thanx !

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Music Reviews: Red Novella - "Failure By Design"

It's been a long couple years for Red Novella. The band has been working hard on their recently released debut full length, "Failure By Design", and playing shows to let people know they're still around after some internal issues saw a small line-up change occur. It was definitely worth the wait for the new album! The band is better than ever, and ready to unleash their fury on the world! But the question remains...are YOU ready for Red Novella?
"Failure By Design" kicks things off in high gear with "Won't Back Down". Intact are the twin guitar assault of Emo Manuel and Jay Lovell who flesh out each track with precision and accuracy. "Won't Back Down" is definitely a calling card for anyone that doubted the band's return as the leading force in the Chicago metal scene. This is a
great song to kick things off.
"Pieces" is another stand out track letting everyone know this is a new beginning and a fresh start. I can't help but feel that this whole album is coming from a healthy place...mentally, physically and emotionally. When singer Mike Perez sings the line "pick up the pieces and move on. No one wants to hear all your excuses." I wonder, is this a kiss off to a former friend? Maybe a lover? Maybe a former bandmate? The band leaves it open for interpretation. So we can make it what we want it to be. But it's a powerful track through and through.

With 2 maniac shredders in Manuel and Lovell, and a singer with the versatility and range of Perez, it would be easy to be lacking in the bass and drums. But that's simply not the case with Red Novella. This band has one of the tightest backbeats around in the form of drummer Jeremy Feinberg and bass player Jeremy Hooley. True meat and potatoes players who bring their A Game to this album, especially on the track "Ashes Fall". These 2 gentlemen are the glue that holds all the pieces in place and give just as much crunch and tenacity as the rest of the band. It's a true group effort in the highest regard.

If I could change one thing, and it's a small detail, I would ask for a more tracks. 8 songs left me feeling less than full. This has always been an issue with me when it comes to full on solid releases. It ends too soon and leaves me wanting more. Sure, I'm a greedy bastard...but I can't help it. When it's as solid and polished, both musically and lyrically as "Failure By Design", I want MORE! But, like the bands 3 song EP from a couple years ago, I think that great things are on the horizon for Red Novella...and like "Failure By Design", the wait will be, once again, well worth it.

5 / 5 stars

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Interview with Jamie Yorke and Dec Fox of Blame Bilston

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass guys. So, the new album, Yesterday Again, is officially out in the U.K. and will be out shortly here in the states. How has the response been to the new album? 

Jamie: I think the response has been great. We've had a lot of people sending us messages sharing their thoughts on the album and so far it's been really positive, so we're really pleased and we hope it continues. We just want to find a way of getting the album to reach more people!!

Dec: I think the response has been great, people close to us have a commented on how much they enjoy the album but also it seems to have brought new people in who appreciate our music to, which is really nice.

CM: How do you feel this album is different from your last release? 

Jamie: Well, I'd say the album is different to our previous release for a few reasons: 
It's better quality, better songs and since "Ta-ta For Now" I've recruited Dec on bass, who has written some amazing bass lines and we mesh really well. And we bounce off of each other, but before with "Ta-ta For Now" that was pretty much just me, so this time around it's been more fun! And overall I'd say the attitude towards the album was to record it at our pace
and not to cut any corners.

Dec Fox: I enjoyed Ta-ta For Now as I could see what Jamie was trying to achieve and I think with this album we're both pleased with the quality of recording and as well as the range of styles we've incorporated. For example, going from songs like Sunshine, Silly Little Black Bird, Strange Girl and Adolescence 

CM: I can still hear some old school alternative influences in your songs. Bands like Alice in Chains and especially Nirvana come to mind. Do you still look at those bands as major influences when it comes to songwriting?

Jamie:  When it comes to influences we often get branded for just sounding like a "Nirvana" rip off by people who obviously didn't listen to a lot of the "grunge movement". We have many, influences and yes it'd definitely fair to say Nirvana and Alice In Chains are a big influence, but we also have many others. We try to create a sound mixed with a lot of different elements from a lot of different genres such as Psychedelic, "Grunge", Punk Rock ( E.g The Germs ), and Hardcore punk. 

CM: Speaking of songwriting, do you find it easier to write songs now as opposed to early on? And do you feel you've both grown as a songwriters? 

Jamie:  For me, writing songs, is neither easy nor difficult. for me it's a release, if I didn't have that I think I'd probably implode haha. In an average week I write between 3-5 songs in that time span. and I think I've definitely grown, especially by having a full band behind me, who are all very competent musicians.

Dec Fox: I feel I have definitely grown as a song writer as me and Jamie both understand  the creative mindset behind each others songs, so we are able to make each others songs better, also now being in a band where we play a lot it has improved me as a musician and its made me work harder and be more willing to branch out into other styles

CM: You have some really powerful songs on this album in the forms of Alien Whore and RaPe ApE dEbAtE. Can we expect more heavy hitters like this on upcoming releases? 
Jamie: Definitely. "RaPe ApE dEbAtE" is literally the most metaphorical song on the entire record, its angry but at times, I think it's sweet. (Hear me out) It's gentle in an aggressive way. "Alien Whore" is a funny one, as when I wrote it, I had two ideas in my head a softer version or a hard punky version. After showing the song to Dec, we went with the heavier version and he wrote the bridge to that song as we felt it was lacking something. and we enjoy writing these heavy songs just as much as we enjoy writing our softer songs, so there fore we want to always incorporate both of our styles.

CM: You also have a pretty controversial track in What If God Were Gay. Here, in America, Homosexuality is more accepted than ever...except in the eyes of the Government who try and keep same sex marriages illegal. Personally, I have no issues with it. Where do you stand on same sex marriage? And how different is it in your native country as opposed to here in the states?
Jamie: "What If God Were Gay?" That's a track I've been asked about a few times and I don't do this often, but why not haha.  The song is literally me (and I'm sure the rest of the band word agree with me) just being pissed off with how homophobia can still be found in our current society. It's ridiculous. People are people, why can't we just let them be happy? And we are all for same sex marriage and over here they "say" it's fine. But we live in a very.."secluded" area in England, where racism and homophobia is still very prominent, which we are fully against.

CM: You have a lot to say in your music. And it's pretty deep material, which I find refreshing. Do you try and stay ahead with the times as far as socially conscience goes? Or do you just write from the heart?

Jamie: Every song I've ever written and will ever write is from the heart. It can be me dealing with a personal 
issue, or me just being pissed off about certain things in this world and example used before "homophobia". But it's not always about the lyrics. I like the music to reflect how I'm feeling as well. I personally like writing lyrics that are either metaphorical, or sarcastic as you can still say what you want to say, but no one knows which way to perceive it.

Dec: although I do not write vocals or lyrics the tone of the song I write tends to reflect the mood I am and it just comes naturally.

CM: With the release of Yesterday again, will we see Blame Bilston hitting the road for some tour dates in the near future?

Dec: Well we cannot wait to start playing regularly, but first we're sorting out a few logistical issues that are holding us back. We're also moving to a city with the band so at the moment this is taking up most of our time. But we're still playing a few local shows and then come January we'll be on the move up and down the country! 

CM: Will there be any new material by years end? And will we see any singles from the album released?

Jamie: It's hard for us not to release something instantly as all we do is work on songs together and so we'll definitely be releasing at least and EP or two before the years end. With regards to singles, we're currently trying to sort out a video for Adolescence and we did shoot a video for "Silly Little Black Bird" however we're still toying with the idea of releasing it.

CM: As always, it's been nothing short of a pleasure talking with you guys. The new album is amazing and I wanna wish you guys all the best in the future. Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass guys.

Jamie: The pleasure has been ours, thank you for listening to the record and for taking the time to speak with us. We look forward to the release in the states! Peace & Love - Jamie/Dec

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Music Reviews: "Sorry To Keep You Waiting: A Tribute To The Methadones"

Editors Note: Recently my record label, Infested Records, put out a compilation CD to pay tribute to one of Chicago's greatest punk bands, The Methadones. All the bands featured on this CD put their heart and soul into capturing what was so great about this band and their music. My old friend Teresa Spann asked if she could review the CD for Critical Mass. Without hesitation, I agreed. After all, she's the bands biggest fan and number one supporter of all things Dan Schafer. So, here it is! Enjoy!


A proper introduction might be nice.  My first tribute album was for the Kinks called “Give the People What They Want.”  I bought it because of the Briefs not knowing much about the Kinks.   The Briefs killed it and because of that album, I love the Kinks!  I’m not into most of the other bands on the record but the music made me want to know what the Kinks had to offer.  It’s was a good precedent for me for what a tribute album should be, good enough to like the bands on it and good enough to find out about the original band.

The Methadones were the first band that I loved.  I’m talking about the kind of love that makes you find their first album, and read the liner notes to see who they thank.  This love then has you buy the albums of those bands to see if they returned the thanks.  It’s a consuming love that has you hop in your car for what you think is a 2 hour drive to some never before ventured city which turns into a 4 hour drive into the middle of America but not bat an eye because it is your opportunity to see them live for the 2nd time that year after just meeting and seeing them play 8 months earlier (true story). When they recognize you when they walk in the venue a tear forms in your eye, then that love is validated and justified.

The Methadones music speaks to me and I’m listening to every single note so intensely that my ears hurt.  Dan’s sugar money voice, Pete’s metal thumping bass, Soucy’s maniac drums, and Mike’s sweaty guitar combine to into this artistic experience that challenges you to live better and be better at everything!  Starting as a side project with an original lineup that included B-face and Lumley, several albums had been recorded down the street from my place.  Although I complained often about residing in Indiana, I really didn’t mind living in Lafayette, because the Methadones had recorded here.  

I could prattle on about the Methdones, and I haven’t said hardly anything since they called it a day.  I lost my first love.  Nothing will ever replace it and talking about it is like pulling the scab off a wound trying to heal.  It hurts, makes it messy, and doesn’t heal quite right leaving a scar that isn’t pretty.  A tribute album for one of my most beloved bands isn’t going to be fair or objective.  These are terrible qualities for a review of something subjective.  It can’t be.  Messing with my heart is a dangerous undertaking and I will protect it with the utmost security but as long as you can appreciate where I’m coming from you know that it’s honest.  That’s what I think a good review should be at the crux.

I am thankful that I’ve seen at least five of the contributing bands live and was excited to see their names on the track list.  For some reason, Dan’s voice is the right pitch to make my insides melt with joy.  I love just about every single band that he’s been a part of and his musical quality is, for me, on level that’s really really hard to match.  Because of this, I didn’t hold back on some of the songs.   Please keep this in mind, because I’m am aware if you “don’t start none, there won’t be none.”  I volunteered to do this, but as their self-proclaimed biggest fan, I’m going to be the harshest critic.

Track by Track:

Solitude by the Fairmonts is choice start.  It’s the first song on Ill at Ease, the first album.  It’s a decent start.  Definitely makes me want to hear their stuff.

The Promdates are from Norway and I got to see them last summer when they were on tour with/as the Parasites.  I like these guys, their stuff is really good.  When I saw their name on the list I was stoaked because I talked to them about the Methadones.  I usually talk to everyone about the Methadones.  They did a good job.  Mess We Made is from Not Economically Viable; the lead singer said that this was his favorite album.  I’ve heard another band cover this song at a live show, this I like better.

Hygiene Aisle from Ill At Ease is my favorite Methadones song (if I had to choose) followed very closely by Ugly Things About You. I’m also aware that the person who contributed this song has been known as a racist.  I don’t want to people to think that I’m coming from predisposed criticism.  I don’t like this song, I think it sucks that this person decided to take a song that punches you in the balls by turning it into an acoustic wet willy.  Aside:  The Specials said it best: “If you have a racist friend, now is the time, now is the time for your friendship to end.”

On the Clock by Back Alley Riot, has the right amount of anger for this song from the Methadones/Copyrights split (the last album) and puts a smile on my face!

I just got to see the Young Rochelles at Insub this year for the first time and I think they are cool.  I hadn’t seen a singing drummer before in a pop punk band.  I don’t count the Jetty Boys because he does mostly backing vocals.  Their version of Less Than Zero from Not Economically Viable is exactly how a tribute song should be done!  

I was fortunate enough to start 2013 at a show where the Manges played this live.  It almost made me cry.  I love this song and the Manges!  I remember having my friends call me on the phone asking me why the Methadones were on MTV when Say Goodbye to Your Generation from Career Objective opened up some show that had nothing to do with music.  I was so proud!

Okay, there really can’t be enough said to how jacked it was that the DeeCracks couldn’t get into the US to tour.  A permission slip to do something you love is the dumbest thing ever!  I know plenty of people with a college degree that are complete idiots!  A piece of paper shouldn’t have that much power, yet we live in a world where it does.  It sucks and blows!  Yes!  I love that the DeeCracks played I’m About to Crack from Career Objective.  It’s like you knew it was coming, it’s in their name, duh.

Transistor Radio is my favorite song off of Not Economically Viable.  Jason Duarte’s cover is not bad.  I knew that is wasn’t bad when I instinctively started to sing along upon my first listen of the album.  I recently just met him as well (didn’t even know it either, I’m that person), what a nice guy!

Falling Forward came off of This Won’t Hurt was covered by Deyv Dee and Alex Rose.  This is my own bias, I didn’t like this song.  This song was on This Won’t Hurt and I was in denial about the end of the Methadones being an actual possibility.  The band had changed and I wasn’t going to admit that the break was coming.  This Won’t Hurt did hurt, liars!  The album has some really good songs on it, but in retrospect this was my own stubbornness ignoring the inevitable.

I don’t like the last Methadones album.  I would have been happy with the split with the Copyrights being the end.  It had some fantastic songs.  A nice sending off, but there were still some songs that needed to be put out.  The last album is untitled/self-titled and seems like it was one last hook up that was drunk and sloppy where you want to forget but you’ve got a gross rash that won’t go away so you can’t ever forget (not a true story, but you get what I’m saying).  Not to say that Braceface didn’t do a good job.  I just can’t be objective.

Far Away from the Skunk Muffins, makes me want to make sure I have a band tee with their name on it.  They did a really good job.

I love that in being a Methadones fan, I got to be exposed to other fans that love the Methadones as much as I do.  I get why Arielle is spelled two ways.  It’s a sweet tribute to a sweet lady.  I want to listen to original work by the Heartaches and Hangovers.  This song is pretty complicated with heavy vocals.  They did tried and did alright, but Dan has that sugar money voice so any comparison to the original wouldn’t be fair.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to plenty of Methadones shows where Dan didn’t seem to have a full bank on that sugar money, usually it was made up for by Mike jokes.  This song was just not that great.

I just saw the Parasites perform You Don’t Know Me Anymore live two nights ago.   It was way better live, like most music.  Parasites should have their own tribute if they don’t already.  Fantastic!

Whole Lot of Nothing by CHaMOMILE was a hard initial listen.  After a few more go rounds,  I liked it and was singing along.  This band should be good live, I have a feeling.

Suddenly Cool is such a good song.  I can relate to the lyrics and it’s loaded with pop!  The Piniellas did good work!

Already Gone by the Shallow Hearts was a decent effort but came up short relative to the other songs on the album.  By far, it was the weakest entry.  The beauty of the Methadones was that a song seemed simple but had lots of musical layers that weak vocals and soft drums will expose and make you feel kind of bad like a pedo in a trench coat.

I believe was kind of a surprise on This Won’t Hurt.  This song definitely gave way that a transition was already underway within the band.  The start was so angry with the middle finger to society and your boss but then the heart’s exposed and made you listen twice or three times to make sure that all that anger and unhappiness doesn’t mean that you don’t want to be loved and happy.  Frank Makak’s I believe definitely made me listen at least 3 times to make for sure, it’s good.

At first I was disappointed that there were no ladies that seemed to share my love for the Methadones, but Girlcrush gave a great rendition of Far Away.  It rocks just as well as the first and doesn’t leave any regret that this song is on the album twice.

Past Mistakes by the Aquaholics was by far the icing on an otherwise decent tribute album.  I like that it was instrumental; it meant I didn’t have to make the harsh vocal comparisons.

The album should make you want to check out the original Methadones, and definitely the bands that contributed!  I just hope that the Methadones know that they are well deserved of a tribute album and all the work done by everyone to make it came from a place of love and respect.  I love and miss the Methadones!
4 / 5 Stars

Monday, July 22, 2013

Interview with Back Alley Riot

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass guys. Can you give us all a little history on Back Alley Riot and how you got your start?

Back Alley Riot: Well, Danny, Matty, and Mike started playing together in a band called Graveyard Ruckus which was shortlived.  Graveyard Ruckus started as a side project of a band called Rosedale and eventually both bands ended and Back Alley Riot was formed after.  A couple bass players came and went due to commitment issues, but we finally found Russ and became a real family after.

CM: The bands latest release, "My Girlfriend's A Serial Killer", is an amazing EP. Just packed with so much attitude and amazing playing. How do you feel this EP compares to the bands first album, "Dead End Wine Mixer"?

BAR: Our first album was a blast to record, but it was before Russ joined the band.   Russ brings so much more to the table and we feel our sophomore release "My Girlfriend's A Serial Killer" is much stronger as a result.  Before the recording of MGASK we started our own studio and really got to take our time to achieve the sound we really wanted with that release.  We are aiming to achieve the same thing when we go back into the studio.
                    B.A.R. L-R Matt Jankiewicz (drums), Russell Katzenmaier (bass/vocals), Mike Nakis (vocals/guitar) and Danny Starks (guitar/vocals)

CM: When I saw you guys play live I was automatically blown away at how much energy and excitement goes into your performance. But once I listened to your CD's I have to admit you guys have a sound all your own. It's got a hint of outlaw country, a splash of rockabilly and plenty of punk rock excitement. So, I have to ask you guys who are some of your personal musical influences?

BAR: We have so many influences when it comes to writing music that it's tough to just pick a few, but the most influential ones probably would have to be Johnny Cash, Mike Ness, Tim Armstrong, Lars Frederiksen, Matt Freeman, and Johnny Ramone.

CM: When it comes to songwriting, is it a group effort or is there a primary songwriter in the band?

BAR: When it comes to writing our songs it is an open door policy and anyone can bring something to the table.  The majority of our songs are written by Mike as a country/rockabilly song, which is then brought to practice and everyone puts their own stamp on it.  The rest have either been written by Danny or co-written by Danny and Mike.  However on the upcoming release there will be songs written by each member and we feel they are some of the best tunes yet.
CM: The band has a brand new video for the track "Whiskey Over You". It's a really fun video and a great tune! Can you give us a little insight into the video shoot and how you guys chose this track to become a single?

BAR: Well, we have been approached at many shows by fans new and old stating that Whiskey Over You is their favorite tune and since we are avid whiskey drinkers it just made sense to make a music video for that song.  In fact we even have a fan who comes to shows and buys each band member a shot of whiskey after we play that song.  Now if we just wrote a song about ham sandwiches, we would be all set.
The video was a blast to shoot.  We got a bunch of our friends to come out (at 9am on a Saturday mind you), and we pretty much drank all day.  Danny and Matty had quite a few ideas they used for the video along with suggestions from Mike and Russ and a few friends who were at the shoot that day.  All in all it was a great collective effort on the whole bands part.  Both Danny and Matty have more ideas, so expect to see more videos from Back Alley Riot in the near future.

CM: The first 2 releases were independently put out by yourselves and sold at shows. But you recently signed on with my label Infested Records, and we will be re-releasing the first 2 releases in the coming days. Is there any new material in the works for either later this year or early next year that you wanna talk about?

BAR: We have about 6 new, unrecorded tunes or so that we've been alternating through at our recent shows and we have several more up our sleeves.  We are hoping to be back in the studio this summer/early fall to record a full length that we are hoping to release by the end of this year.

CM: The band recently made a trip up to WI for a show. Was this the first time out of town? And will we be seeing anymore out of state gigs in the near future?

BAR: Yes, we recently played Franks Power Plant in Milwaukee with the Wiscoholics and it was our second time playing that venue.  FPP is a great venue, the staff is awesome, and we love playing there.  As far as out of state gigs, we have played a few and we are ramping up to do many, many more.
CM: Is there a website that you guys wanna plug where fans can get some merch, news on upcoming releases and show dates?

BAR: Our website is where anyone can get ahold of us, find out about upcoming shows, or hear our most recent music.  We are currently looking into some redesign ideas to offer merch on, but we have quite a few items available at our Bandcamp page as well.

CM: Gentlemen, it's been a blast picking your brains and I'm stoked to see you play live again. Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass! I really appreciate it!

BAR: We appreciate you taking the time to talk with us and we're looking forward to everything in store for us at Back Alley Riot.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Concert Reviews: Rush live at The First Midwest Bank Amp, June 28, 2013

Rush is one of those bands you either love or hate. There's really no in-between. They've been compared to Led Zeppelin with their debut self titled album before going prog on us with their second album, "Fly By Night". Fast forward a few years, and the band went a little more mainstream with 1980's "Permanent Waves" and '81's "Moving Pictures". All the while they picked up die hard fans, mostly in the form of teenage boys and young men, who have stuck with them through all the highs and lows and highs again! So, it was no surprise to see a rather big turnout for the bands return to the First Midwest Bank Amp in Tinley Park, IL on June 28th on the second leg of the Clockwork Angels tour.

Going into this tour I was a little apprehensive. The band had let it be known that they would be bringing a string section on the road with them to play on select tracks from last years monumental concept album "Clockwork Angels", and I was a little nervous. Anyone remember Metallica's "S&M" album? Yeah...'nuff said. But at the same time I was kinda interested to see what other tracks they would pull out of their vast catalog of nearly 40 years of music, and how the strings would compliment the songs.

As the day grew closer I got more and more excited. Not sure what to expect from the 2 sets and nearly 3 hours of music by one of my all time favorite bands in the world. Let me tell ya, that first set was AMAZING! The band hit the stage at around 7:40 to a short intro film before going into 1982's masterpiece "Subdivisions", and off we were! The bands playing is just as tight and precise as it was 25 years ago. Rush is a band that always said that if they couldn't play at top performance, they would hang it up and call it a day. Glad to see that nearing 60 years in age, these guys still have their witts and chops about them.

This set featured mostly deep cuts and fan faves, which made me grin from ear to ear for the duration of the set. "Grand Designs", "Territories", "The Pass"...all personal faves of mine. But the real show stopper for me was "Analog Kid" from 1982's Signals album. A track that I have loved for as long as I can remember, but never had the chance to see them play it live until that night. The guys knocked it out of the park all the way. Geddy Lee sang and played his bass with a fierce intensity. Alex Lifeson's guitar riffs were spot on as always. And Neil Peart....well, what can you say about Neil. He's a master of his craft and consummate professional from start to finish.

There was a very brief intermission to get ready for the string section and a good chunk of CA in round 2. As the second set started, another short intro film was played to coincide with the CA tracks. After the film the band went right into "Caravan" and the blood started pumping again. The strings were not as bad as I was expecting. They gave a certain beefiness to the tracks, I must admit. And the string section really seemed to be enjoying themselves between songs as well.

"The Anarchist" and "The Wreckers" were stand out tracks for me at first. But once they went into "Headlong Flight" it was like a second wind for everyone involved. The band played with so much heart and passion that it really transcended into the audience and we were feeding on the energy in the place, full throttle!

As if all this manic energy in the room wasn't enough, the band surprised everyone when they brought out The Stanley Cup that the Chicago Blackhawks brought home earlier that day. I'm not a hockey fan, but I really thought that the band taking the time to share that moment with us was super cool! Geddy, Alex and Neil all took pictures with the cup before going into the classic instrumental "YYZ" complete with string section. YouTube footage can be seen HERE!

Closing out the night were 2 stellar encores in the forms of "Tom Sawyer" and "2112: Overture/Temples Of Syrinx/Grand Finale". We left that night with renewed energy and continued belief that Rush are still one of the greatest live bands to ever grace the stage. After nearly 40 years as a recording band, finally being inducted into The Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame earlier this year, and releasing possibly one of their greatest conceptual pieces with Clockwork Angels, I am STILL honored to be a fan of this band. And I hope we can keep them around for many more years to come.

Set list 1:
Video Intro (Gearing Up)
The Big Money
Force 10
Grand Designs
Analog Kid
The Pass
Where's My Thing (with drum solo)
Far Cry

Set list 2:
Video Intro (The Appointment)
Clockwork Angels
The Anarchist
The Wreckers
Headlong Flight (with drum solo)
Halo Effect (with guitar solo intro)
Wish Them Well
The Garden
The Percussor (drum solo)
Red Sector A
(Clockwork Angels String Ensemble exits)
The Spirit of Radio

Tom Sawyer
2112 Overture/Temples of Syrinx/Grand Finale
Video Outro (Office Of The Watchmaker)