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Aimless Again Vs. Blink-182

Anyone who is currently in their twentiess has, at least at one point in time, listened to Blink-182. The band’s combination of pop hooks, punk aesthetic, and general goofy humor endeared them to countless teenagers worldwide at the turn of the last decade. Whether you want to admit it or not, they were a big deal. And considering the amount of buzz their reunion tour and upcoming comeback album have generated, they still are. So with that in mind, our latest edition of Vs. brings you Aimless Again, a talented young group of musicians bringing their own take on pop punk to a new generation of kids.

OurStage's Aimless Again

Blink-182

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hailing from Long Island, Aimless Again use the same fusion of punk aggression and pop sensibility that helped Blink-182 achieve so much success. Their song “Flabbergast” is a perfect example of this balance. This song has all the elements of a great Blink song: punchy bass lines, fast and aggressive drumming, crunchy lead guitar lines and catchy vocals. They use the classic alternative rock dynamic of ‘soft, loud, soft’ to great effect here. Thunderous and energetic to start, the noise gets turned down for the verses to let the vocals take the spotlight. But once the chorus kicks in, the amps get turned to eleven and the drums pound away faster than ever.

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88 MPH: Goo Goo Dolls Are More Than Just Replacements

The Goo Goo Dolls have all the trademark characteristics of any generic, commercially-viable pop rock band: the numerous multiplatinum albums, the heavy radio play, the chart-topping monster singles. But behind these established markers of commercial success hides a specter from rock ‘n’ roll’s past. While the Goos have indeed become one of the most successful pop rock acts in the last twenty years, their sound is rooted in the influence of a band famous for its spectacular failure to gain widespread acceptance and its well-documented hatred of everything mainstream.

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Riffs, Rants & Rumors: The Mekons Rewrite History on ‘Ancient & Modern’

The Mekons have been around long enough to have a sense of history that matches their perspective as first-generation punks—Jon Langford and Tom Greenhalgh co-founded the band during punk’s 1977 Summer of Hate and are still sparking the Mekons’ mix of arty lyrics, provocative politics and punky attitude today. But even for a band with thirty-four years in the rearview mirror, the suffix of the title Ancient & Modern: 1911-2011—the Mekon’s latest album—sounds a bit ambitious in its scope. Since the ‘80s, the band has increasingly filtered its own punk-poet roots through traditional, rootsy influences like folk and country, and that sensibility serves them well as they cast their artistic eye to an era well before their own individual lifetimes.

According to drummer Steve Goulding, who has been manning the Mekons’ throne for over a quarter-century now, Ancient & Modern is concerned with “that last fading of one kind of way of life, and that descent into war…the end of the ninteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, the whole Edwardian era. It’s supposed to convey that kind of atmosphere. Pretty much everything in all the songs is concerned with that era. It’s an era of prosperity and ease of living that was fading away and descending into chaos. The trade unions are rising and there’s war all over the world, all the old certainties are slipping away.” He adds laughingly of the band members, who are now in their 50s, “In our case, all the old chords are slipping away too.”

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Exclusive Q&A: The Bronx Bring Mariachi To The Punk Masses

For the past three years, The Bronx have been living a double life as a hardcore punk band and a troupe of mariachi musicians.  After releasing three ferocious punk albums, the band took a decidedly different musical direction.  Their 2009 debut mariachi album proved that The Bronx was equally comfortable playing brain-rattling distorted power chords as well as intricate, authentic mariachi music. With the release of their second album as Mariachi El Bronx this August and a summer tour supporting the Foo Fighters, the band cements their relationship with mariachi not as a one-off gimmick, but as a serious musical passion. We sat down with frontman Matt Caughthran to talk about the personal draw of mariachi music, the band’s dining habits and how we can get our hands on their special brand of cologne.

OS: There’s a lot of old horror movie imagery in your album covers and merch.  If you could record the score for one movie, which would it be?

MC: Oh, wow. I would say Apocalypse Now. It’s my favorite. It’s very much the movie about the journey, you know? I kind of find a parallel with that movie and my own life. I feel sometimes like I’m going up this river to find whoever my Colonel Kurtz is, with all the chaos that happens along the way. It’s always struck a chord with me. It’s such a great story and it’s so easily relatable to anyone that’s ever been down a long, strange road.

OS: Lucha libre is also an influence in The Bronx’s merch and videos.  If you were a luchador, what would your theme song be?

MC: Ooh that’s a good one.  Let’s see here.  It’d probably be “Short Sight of Nothing” by Los Lobos.  That’s my favorite Lobos song.  It’d be a good song to come out to, I think.  ”La Pistola y El Corazon,” too.  That’s a great Lobos song.  That would kind of get the crowd going.

OS: While you’re standing up on the turnbuckles and doing your thing?

MC: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly!

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GuacaMusic: Caracas Sunset

How would you describe the sunset? Is it a mix of sun and clouds? Is it a blend of colors? What if we told you that the best sunset in the world is the one that combines jazz, blues, funk, ska, rock, bossa nova and even some reggae?

Don’t believe us? Well, we are talking about Caracas Sunset, a band from Venezuela that has been getting rave reviews from Latin lovers on OurStage.

To quickly brief you on the band’s history, we will tell you that Caracas Sunset was born in 2006, when a group of friends decided to pursue their musical career dreams. A few years later, they recorded their first single and began a promotional tour in Caracas, where they scored some awesome opportunities. They had the chance to perform at the Circuito Unión Rock Show in 2009, a well-known music festival in Venezuela, and also got to share the stage with famous local bands like Desorden Publico, Los Mentas, Subsonus, Entrenos, Sonica, Los Mesoneros, AK 47, Charlie Papa, Andreazulado, La Pipa Freak, Skin, La Vida Boheme, Dame Pa’ Matala, Baroni One Time, De Khalafary’s, Bituaya and Caramelos de Cianuro among others.

In 2011, Caracas Sunset released another promotional single called  “Oye Chico”, and is currently working on producing a video clip for this song.

Awesome, right?

We think so too. If you love variety in music and a touch of Latin soul, then we are sure you will dig Caracas Sunset. Here on OurStage, you can play their song “Oye Chico” and familiarize yourself with their unique style. You’ll experience how a mixture of reggae and bossa nova can put anyone in the mood to party from dawn to dusk. Now there is a sunset we know and love. ¡Provecho!

 

88 MPH: Throwback Suburbia Channels Costello

Welcome to 88 MPH, musical time traveler!  Before we hop in the DeLorean and activate the flux capacitor, remember that even though you’ve got Hypemachine, your favorite blogs and an RSS feed that ranges from Pitchfork to Vibe, there’s a lot more music out there!  Tons of great bands from previous decades are in danger of fading from memory as new generations of music fans ditch their parents’ record collections in favor of what’s new and fresh.  88 MPH is here to show that current music hasn’t forgotten the past.  On the contrary, it actively draws on the past for inspiration.  This column will showcase OurStage and national acts that either pay homage to, or just plain sound like, older bands. Better strap yourself in, Marty.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride…

In the past few years, Throwback Suburbia have accomplished feats that most independent bands only dream about.  Opening for Rooney and The Gin Blossoms, receiving regular radio airplay on the legendary KROQ, and racking up endorsements from Pearl, D’Addario and Evans, the guys from Portland, Oregon have proved that being 100% independent doesn’t mean you can’t be 100% successful. These pop tunesmiths make no attempt to hide their retro influences, claiming they have “one mod-style boot planted in classic British rock.” Considering the group’s impeccable harmonies, chiming guitars and swirling organ sounds, that shod foot undoubtedly belongs to Elvis Costello.

The commanding sneer that stared out from the cover of Costello’s debut 1977 LP My Aim Is True said it all.  He had an attitude, a clearly-defined style and some fantastic tunes to boot.  Barreling out of the British pub rock scene of the mid ’70s, Costello mined the previous fifty years of pop music to create his own signature blend of reggae, punk, power pop and country.  Following his debut, Costello formed The Attractions, a backing band that greatly influenced the sound of his two subsequent albums.  Pianist Steve Nieve’s organ and synth parts took central roles in Costello’s songs, while Bruce Thomas and Pete Thomas played equally complex bass and drum fills that broke the stereotype of the traditionally staid rhythm section.  Topped off with Costello’s acerbic lyrics and signature Buddy Holly glasses, these first three albums became classics that influenced the look and sound of guitar-based pop for the next quarter century and beyond.

Costello’s enduring influence shines through in the opening seconds of Throwback Suburbia’s “Same Mistake” (listen below). A vintage organ riff floats above jangly, sustained guitar chords, echoing the intro section to Costello’s “This Year’s Girl” (above). When vocalist Jimi Evans sings “this feels so do or die,” the resemblance to Costello is so close that the elder rocker might as well be guesting on the track. Evans matches his slightly nasal vocal style perfectly and delivers the same type of self-conscious but aloof lyrics that Costello writes so well.

Though Throwback Suburbia are clearly admirers of Costello’s sound, they’re not slavish interpreters.  By combining Costello’s vintage sound with modern pop sensibilities, the band deftly retains their own individuality. Throwback Suburbia are currently in the studio recording their new album, which is due for mixing in the fall.  Check out their in-studio video diary to see what they’ve been up to!

Neuman’s Own: In Defense Of Amy Winehouse

It’s been two weeks since Amy Winehouse had to cancel a twelve-city European tour following a now-notorious meltdown in Belgrade, which one Serbian newspaper deemed to be the nation’s “worst concert ever.” Amy Winehouse continues to be the most polarizing figure in the music industry, eliciting more anger than anyone in the post-Michael Jackson universe. Expressions of anger usually fall into one of three categories.

The first category attacks her looks. Certainly, some of this is par for the course for high profile songstresses (Fergie, Britney, Courtney), but Winehouse’s propensity for having her looks attacked is simply without parallel in the music word and perhaps the world of celebrity. She has been publically called out for looking like: a man and/or tranny, a horse, Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter movies, an alien, Dr. Frankenfurter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a vampire, Bette Midler, Death, a martian, the Bride of Frankenstein, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Howard Stern, Marilyn Manson, SS-Standartenführer Reinhard Heydrich (Google it), and perhaps most frequently, a train wreck. She has been a popular Halloween costume and the subject of a porn parody.

The second category attacks her health. Winehouse has been summarily diagnosed (by people who have never been in the same room with her) as suffering from herpes, anorexia, emphysema, tuberculosis and chronic thumb sucking. Winehouse’s “sickness” is frequently cast in opposition to her relative “health” when she burst onto the scene as a white, Jewish girl from the London suburbs. And we’re not just talking tabloids. In it’s 2007 cover story of Winehouse, Spin said of her: “Three years ago she was an innocuous, girl-next-doorish, virtually tat-free, full-figured neo-jazz crooner with middling sales and no American distribution—now she’s Sid Vicious.” Even when Winehouse looks healthy the public still manages to find occasion for insult: After returning from a trip to the Caribbean, for instance, she was described as looking like “a cast member of the Jersey Shore.”

The third category of Amy-hating points to her behavior. The 27-year old’s battles with heroin, alcohol, cocaine, ketamine and marijuana are well chronicled (in fact, she’s chronicled many of them herself in songs), but the mocking scorn that accompanies their depiction is without parallel. The photograph of her wandering the streets in just her bra in 2007 became her icon’s fait accompli, the way Nick Ut’s photo of a naked Vietnamese girl in 1972 became the symbol for all that was wrong with the US’s actions in the Vietnam War. There was, of course, the cell phone video in which she appeared to be smoking crack and, of course, the video of her singing racist words inserted into a children’s song.

Since when aren’t rock stars supposed to be dangerous? The same three criteria above—bad looks, bad health, bad behavior—have been aired as protests against some of the most important musical acts of all-time—Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Bob Dylan and The Stones. They were the arguments against the value of the early punks and the forefathers of hip hop.  In an era in which artists shill to their fans on MySpace and Twitter as if they were friends, isn’t there a place for one performer in the world who isn’t pussy enough to say she doesn’t give a fuck if we like her? Even ballyhooed subversive Lady Gaga—last seen giving Scotty McCreery tips on how to hold a microphone on American Idol can be bought and sold like Coca-Cola. Meanwhile, that grainy video of Winehouse with her trademark flopping over to one side, painfully mumbling through songs on a Belgrade stage communicates more in one unfinished song about the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll than Gaga could summon from inside her GRAMMY egg vessel in a lifetime.

Don’t pity Amy Winehouse. She wants you to hate the way she looks. She wants you to think of her as sick. She wants you to notice her fucked-up behavior. While some have speculated that Winehouse’s latest crash and burn has made it possible for Adele to assume her abdicated throne as the reigning British queen of soul, I doubt it. Amy Winehouse has already lived and died in that throne a hundred times before: “The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.”

Riffs, Rants & Rumors: The Fleshtones Are Too Wired To Retire

These days, every other band with a fuzzbox and a copy of Nuggets can cop the garage-band tag; at this point, there’s plenty of precedent established for assimilating the spartan-but-searing sounds of ’60s garage rockers and spitting it back out with your own idiosyncratic slant. But when The Fleshtones began recording in 1979 (much less when they first came together three years earlier), being a rough-and-tumble, Standells/Seeds-worshiping band was a lonely occupation. Nevertheless, the New York-based band persevered through boom and bust, from one era to the next, going in and out of fashion until the concept became meaningless. Over the course of their three-and-a-half decades together, they’ve brought their ’60s-inspired blend of R&B, garage-punk and pure, party-starting rock ‘n’ roll everywhere from the sweat-soaked stages of small, gritty grottos to American Bandstand. Their latest album, Brooklyn Sound Solution, finds them still tirelessly following their chosen path, putting some new twists in along the way, with none other than Nuggets compiler/Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye adding his guitar to most of the tracks. Fleshtones frontman Peter Zaremba took some time out from the band’s European tour to reflect on where the band has been as well as where Brooklyn Sound Solution finds them now.

Zaremba reveals that the album’s title was the idea of guitarist/co-founder Keith Streng. “Most of the band has been centered in Brooklyn for a long time,” says Zaremba, “and he figured the name had international cachet. It does imply something cool happening!” The album’s grab-bag of cover tunes and original material, instrumentals and shout-a-long rockers, came about organically, says Zaremba. “We had come into the project with several diverse ideas. One—or two—of them was an all-instrumental LP, or an all-R&B record, or both. [Producer] DJ Phast Phreddie had heaps of material that he wanted us to consider, and Lenny, who was integral to the whole thing, also had a bunch of tunes that he always wanted to cut but the Patti Smith Group did not allow the scope for. We, of course, had old blues tunes that we would toss off while jamming live but never properly learned. So, there was lots of stuff to choose from.”

Having an itch for some extracurricular activity outside the Patti Smith Group wasn’t Kaye’s only impetus for participating in the sessions, of course. “He’s also been a fan of the Fleshtones for many, many years, and had always wanted to record with us” explains Zaremba, adding self-deprecatingly “guys like the Fleshtones and Lenny Kaye can use modifiers like ‘many, many’ when it comes to years.’” The admiration was mutual, though. “We have been fans of what he’s been doing since the release of that [Kaye-produced] Eddie Cochran compilation in the very early ’70s [1972's Legendary Masters: Eddie Cochran]. Phast Phreddie is a good friend of Lenny’s and put us together. We recorded with another mutual friend, [former Richard Hell & The Voidoids guitarist] Ivan Julian.”

The album seems to open with a solid statement of intent, via the swinging, minor-key mod-blues instrumental “Comin’ Home, Baby.” “It certainly sets a different mood than a vocal,” says Zaremba, “And we did want to set a different mood for this record, and state right away that it was a different sort of Fleshtones album.” So are The Fleshtones after something very different than what they achieved with classic ’80s albums like Hexbreaker! and Roman Gods? “Roman Gods and especially Hexbreaker! were very aggressive efforts,” says Zaremba. “We felt we had to make it clear what kind of music we were making and set it apart from all the stuff we hated. I remember us agreeing that we wanted Hexbreaker! to frighten people. I think we just wound up frightening ourselves in the process of recording it! But all our records have an impulse in common, and ‘heart’.”

Brooklyn Sound Solution is, among other things, the first album the band has unveiled since the release of the Fleshtones documentary, Pardon Us For Living, But The Graveyard Is Full, which gamely chronicles the ups and downs of the band’s long career as well as following them around on the road. “I joked with the director that I would have made The Fleshtones [look] more successful if I had directed the film,” laughs Zaremba. The famously frenetic frontman adds, “Oddly, after all these years, I was a bit self-conscious during some of the filming. Strange…” One of the statements made in the documentary is that the only way to get the true Fleshtones experience is at a concert. If that’s true, how does the band go about trying to recreate that onstage magic in a recording studio? “Well, it’s no use trying to downplay the importance of our live shows,” reckons Zaremba. “But transferring that magic to record is hard to tell you the truth, maybe impossible. We’ve always looked at records as very different animals than what you see and hear live. But some live records can be pretty definitive; Kick Out The Jams [by the MC5] and [The Yardbirds'] Five Live Yardbirds certainly prove that. Maybe we need a narration of what’s going on,” he jokes, “‘Now Streng is doing this, Zaremba is climbing that…’” After returning from their European jaunt, eternal road dogs The Fleshtones will be preaching the garage-rock gospel stateside throughout the summer, raising roofs from coast to coast, so don’t deny yourself an opportunity to experience that famous Fleshtones fire in person.

[Photo credit: Phast Phreddie Patterson]

 

Q&A With The Bouncing Souls

There are plenty of ways to commemorate a successful career: compilation albums, tribute concerts, limited-edition merch…and if you aren’t a musician, probably an office party with ice cream cake. But the Bouncing Souls are one-upping everyone this summer, playing through their entire collection of studio albums in a slew of four-night punk extravaganzas in cities around the world. We sat down with Souls frontman Greg Attonito to talk about why the time was right for this eight-city tour, the ability to stay relevant for more than twenty years and how even in the digital age, the Jersey-based four piece is still repping the DIY lifestyle.

OS: While a lot of bands who have been together as long as the Souls would choose to commemorate their career with a retrospective album, you guys decided to do a tour where you played through all of your albums. What was the inspiration behind that?

GA: We have been talking about playing all our records live for years so it was just a matter of time. This year at our Home for the Holidays shows in Asbury Park, we decided it was time. It was a lot of memory work re-learning a lot of songs we haven’t played in years, but it really paid off. It ended up going over really well for us and for the audience I think. So…Why not take it on the road! So that’s what we decided to do.

OS: You’re playing in just eight cities, but the tour is taking you all over the world. What determined the lucky eight tour destinations— were they places that held some significance to the band?

GA: We chose cities that we have had consistently good shows in over the years. We also wanted to work with promoters that were enthusiastic about the idea. So… those are the Lucky eight cities!

OS: The Souls and Chunksaah have always had a very DIY attitude—you had to be resourceful and creative about touring in the pre-Internet age. What does that DIY attitude translate to in 2011?

GA: In more difficult economic times I think we are forced to become more DIY in all parts of our lives from the food we eat to the music we make. Most of us are working more and earning less so we really have to be more practical than ever…but I think its good for all of us because most of us have been living pretty wasteful lifestyles. So I’m glad we as the BS family have learned how to be as DIY as we can. We need that knowledge and attitude now more than ever.

OS: How do you feel about the industry now? Did you prefer the days when you got the word out about shows through flyers in record store windows, or are you a fan of doing that online through social networking?

GA: It feels like industry is in labor right now about to give birth to a new way of doing things, so it’s a trying time. I don’t want to repeat the past but I do sometimes miss how simple things were when we first started. The challenge is to carry that spirit on! I’m not a fan of social networking but I do have a Facebook page and I appreciate how convenient it is to inform people about new music/live shows etc. I’m not into it enough to Twitter and I’m also not interested in posting my every life movement. Overall though the Internet is a great thing for all of us to communicate quickly and for free!

OS: What about your fan base? It seems like you’ve stayed relevant to fans who span several generations. Why do you think your music is as popular with forty-somethings as it is with pre-teens?

GA: It’s a cliche, but we “strike a chord” that goes beyond age I think. Our music is for the heart, and it helps us all remember we are not alone and we are here in life to enjoy ourselves and live for each other. Why wouldn’t people come back for that? That’s why all of us band members keep coming back.

OS: You guys don’t reinvent yourselves as often as some musicians do, but there have been some significant changes in The Souls’ music over your career. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve gone through over the last two decades?

GA: We have intentionally tinkered with our writing styles over the years by including producers in the process. It has been great in some ways and not so great in some ways but we have learned a lot throughout. All that we have learned we are putting into the new songs we have been writing. The main focus is to enjoy ourselves every step of the way.

Since you mentioned re-inventing ourselves it might be a good time to let you know about my new solo record! Its called Natural Disaster and will be coming out on Chunksaah records this summer. It was fun for me to get completely out of the Bouncing Souls writing dynamic, get a fresh perspective and see what happens. The record sounds great and I have a renewed attitude toward creating new BS music. It will be fun to see how people respond to it because its not like BS music.

OS: Now that you’ve been together more than twenty years, do you have any advice you wish you could give your teenage selves? Anything you wish you did differently?

GA: No. I wouldn’t do anything differently. I would probably tell me teenage self not to be so stressed out, be honest with yourself and take the time to learn how to be comfortable with just being myself…Thats probably it. But my teenage self probably wouldn’t have listened to my forty-year-old self! [Laughs]

Interested in catching the Souls as they play through all their albums this summer? Check out the band’s Web site for a list of the upcoming tour dates.

Neuman’s Own: How Did Cancer Become Punk Rock?

Ten years ago, a bed-stricken Joey Ramone, secretly suffering from complications from the lymphoma he had been battling since 1996, decided to plan a huge blowout for his 50th birthday. Sadly, Joey died a little over a month before the celebration could go down, but his mother Charlotte and brother Mickey knew that the show must go on. The party, which would benefit Lymphoma research, was held at the Hammerstein Ballroom on May 19, 2001. Debbie Harry, Richard Hell and Legs McNeil attended what would become an annual downtown ritual ever since.  This year’s birthday bash, scheduled on what would’ve been Joey’s 60th birthday, will be held at Irving Plaza this week.

In retrospect, the Joey Ramone Birthday Bash proved to be a turning point in a larger punk rock community increasingly gravitating towards cancer as a cause. Certainly, the trend is affecting the culture as a whole as the response generated by Stand Up to Cancer, LiveStrong and The Truth can attest. But the punk spirit, long wary of causes, seems especially up for this one as cancer benefits are popping up all over the punk landscape: On June 7, Main Man Records will be donating a portion of the proceeds from Take It or Leave It, a two-disc tribute to The Runaways in honor of band member Sandy West, who lost her fight to cancer in 2006 and on July 15 and 16, Music 4 Cancer, originally a music compilation of punk and ska artists, will  participate in the Vans Warped Tour. And when an iconic punk musician like Ari Up! of the Slits succumbs to cancer, it’s almost expected that a tribute concert benefiting cancer research is soon to follow.

If punk and cancer are increasingly finding themselves colliding against one another in the mosh pit, more often than not it’s in order to raise money for a local, insurance-less personality afflicted with the disease. The Fuck Cancer Benefit at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC was held in honor of beloved band manager Jackie Farry who found herself insurance-less when she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. In Florence, SC it was for scenester E. Allen Johnson. And in Chattanooga, TN it was in behalf of musician John Johnson, who had been recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

To be sure, cancer is being embraced throughout the musical world: from pop to country, but something has clicked with punk, it’s rebellious posture (or “conversation of negation,” as Greil Marcus might put it) has long been looking for purpose in a post-industrial America in which all of its signifiers have been co-opted by the mainstream (American Idiot, anyone?)…. Inherently unglamorous, intractable and utterly raw and real, cancer and punk fit like deranged puzzle pieces.  It’s as if the punk universe is saying to the larger culture: “Try turning this into a commodity!”

 

 

 

 


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