Punk Rock

All posts tagged Punk Rock

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Artist: Idle Shades

Album: The Time is Now

Release Date: 3/3/17

Rating: 9.5/10

For nearly a decade, Youngstown punk outfit Idle Shades have been carving a unique niche across the scene and beyond. With several high-profile performances across the region, opening for national acts such as The Atom Age, Koffin Kats and former Misfits leader Michael Graves to name a few, the punk power trio have successfully won over a wide audience that’s continually expanding. By delivering a classic Punk sound with hints of Alternative and Post-Punk influence ever-present, they have latched onto and perfected a much-varied sound with broad appeal. Now, heading in 2017 at full throttle, Idle Shades are ready to unleash their sophomore full-length album, The Time is Now!

With a knack for infectious hooks, and a sound encompassing the strongest elements of 90s So-Cal Punk, combined with the occasional bouncing Psychobilly rhythms or The Damned-esque Post-Punk atmosphere, Idle Shades truly stand apart not only among the Punk scene, but the greater regional scene as well. The Time is Now is proof of this. It’s a collection of 12 meaty tracks that clearly indicate a band not only owning their finest qualities found on their debut, Picture Perfect, but pissing all over what made them great before, and taking it up several notches.

The Time is Now is a cohesive yet varied collection of material from a band continually reaching new creative peaks. Opening with the rousing “Prove Me Wrong,” a driving yet sparse riff leads the verse before building into a massive hook-heavy chorus. From there, the somewhat gothic sounding riff of “Dream” opens one of many of the album’s standout tracks, full of thumping bass, slick riffs and more massive hooks.

From there, tracks like “Listen,” “Worst in You” and lead single “Greater Picture,” find Idle Shades in familiar territory, combining personal and heartfelt lyrics, accompanied by a sonic attack that drives the point straight to the listener’s gut.

Idle Shades left to right: Bassist/Vocalist Angelo Scordo, Drummer Anthony Rapone, Guitarist Josh Wakeford. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

By The Time is Now‘s mid-point, more shining gems surface. “Problems” features a mean riff with a slamming rhythm, while “Walking Away” and “Turn and Run” provide more Punk fury, with… you guessed it… more hooks that will stick with you for days! The album concludes with the driving “Moving On” and climactic “Losing Hope,” were vocalist/bassist Angelo Scordo sings a message of urgency: “We never really take the time for the things we need the most, for the people, time keeps passing by and can’t help but start losing hope, until it’s too late.” This type of urgency concludes a general theme found across The Time is Now.

All in all, The Time is Now is the sound of band not only feeling comfortable in their own skin, but taking themselves to new heights. Idle Shades have successfully delivered an album that not only engages the listener, but demands repeated listens as well. It also feels like a natural progression for a band on a trajectory. Standout tracks include “Dream,” “Worst in You,” “Problems” and “Losing Hope.”

Physical copies of The Time is Now will be available Friday, March 3, as the band will be taking the stage at Cedars West End in Youngstown, OH for it’s official release party. An early digital release can be purchased and streamed via Idle Shades’ official Bandcamp.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Artist: Nervous Aggression

Album: This is Ragecore

Rating: 9/10

A great amount of noise has been made down in East Liverpool, Ohio. A group of punks have been studying their surroundings. And through the power of their ferocious, gut-punching music, they have turned their rage outward, aiming at a society on the verge of collapse.

Nervous Aggression are such punks up for the challenge. With their latest release, This is Ragecore, they carrying the old school Hardcore ethos as a badge of honor, while raising a voice for a new generation of disenchanted punks ready and willing to take a stand!

Clocking in at around only 10 minutes, This is Ragecore is a straight kick-in-the-teeth through six tracks. From beginning to end, the EP is an unrelenting blast of rage and, oddly enough, hope. Kicking off with a blast of Hardcore Punk found on opener “Attack” and leading into “Your Band Sucks,” Nervous Aggression quickly establish a raging declaration of independence from a scene that seldom has the balls to engage current events with such unflinching intensity.

From there, the protest anthem “No Justice No Peace” directly reflects the times, with its title being chanted in protest over and over by the track’s end. “Offensive Noise” perfectly sums the band’s growing reputation toward “the man,” while “Heroin is Ugly” confronts a dark epidemic plaguing much of the band’s home turf. Featuring a rather rousing guitar solo smack (no pun intended) in the middle of the song, climaxing with “Why have all my fucking friends died!” giving a real glimpse into an issue faced by the loved ones of the disease.

Nervous Aggression concludes This is Ragecore with the sonic blast that is “We All Go.” A track that hints at resistance, and that resistance is hope.

All in all, This is Ragecore leaves you foaming at the mouth, wanting more. Despite it’s shirt runtime, it feels like stepping in the pit and sharing the rage with your brothers and sister. It’s pure adrenaline! And a must have for fans of classic Hardcore Punk like Black Flag, Bad Brains and Circle Jerks. Standout tracks include “No Justice No Peace,” “Heroin is Ugly” and “We All Go.” The EP can be purchased via Nervois Aggression’s official Bandcamp.

Where's Winona Now? left to right: Ryan Augustine, Lucy Sawyer, Connor Lane and Tyler Toporcer. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

Where’s Winona Now? left to right: Ryan Augustine, Lucy Sawyer, Connor Lane and Tyler Toporcer. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

As the seeming endless pool of unique original talent continues to pour out of every corner of the Mahoning Valley, one quartet is bringing the raw intensity of unrefined punk rock to the forefront.

Where’s Winona Now?, a fresh-faced teenage punk rock outfit, is carving quite the niche into the local scene. With memorizing high-profile performances throughout the area including Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts in Youngstown, Dave Grohl Alley in Warren and the Outpost Concert Club in Kent, as well as a slot on one of 2016’s most-hyped events, Revive Arts and Music Festival, the band continue to steamroll their way onto the scene, picking up fans at every turn.

Through heartfelt and empowering lyrics, partnered with powerful music, the band are set to lead the next generation of the Steel Valley music scene.

Consisting of vocalist Lucy Sawyer, guitarist Tyler Toporcer, bassist Ryan Augustine and drummer Connor Lane, Where’s Winona Now? formed out of friendship, and a general love for music. The band’s sound is primarily in the vein of punk rock, with the influence of the fuzz-soaked alternative scene of the 1990s.

“Lucy is into a lot of Nirvana and Bikini Kill, Ryan likes Nirvana, Green Day and classic rock, Connor is into more metal bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Metallica, and I’m all over the place,” said Toporcer of his influences.

Despite coming from a much younger generation, Sawyer said that growing up, classic rock radio was a staple in her home.

“Definitely! My dad was always playing non-stop music,” said Sawyer.

“My dad listened to a lot of Metallica, and we’d listen to Rock 104, and I got into music that way,” added Lane.

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Much like the band’s key influences, Where’s Winona Now? connect with their audience through deep personal lyrics that reflect where they are in their lives. Through long jam sessions, the band carefully sift through their music and piece together each song.

“I write all the lyrics. Definitely about personal events, relationships and not-so-good relationships. They jam and I pick out the parts that I like,” explained Sawyer.

One of the recurring themes through the band’s songs is the idea of embracing imperfection and being comfortable in one’s own skin.

“I think the point of [the band] is that we’re not perfect. And we want to reach people like that, we want to make sure everyone knows they have somebody,” said Sawyer.

“It’s a nice thing to relate to,” added Toporcer. “Not being pressured to be perfect, just be yourself.”

This is a sentiment that Sawyer said is lacking in popular music today.

“It’s just really general stuff, and I get that. But there’s not much that’s real personal that makes you feel that way too,” said Sawyer.

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The members of Where’s Winona Now? all agree that they are at their best in a live setting, where the end result is greater than the sum of its parts. Original songs such as “Tell Me Why,” “Bad News” and “Her Song” capture the raw emotion the band conveys through both their music and lyrics. And with a slew of noteworthy, attention-grabbing live performances already under their under their belt, the band has successfully hit the ground running.

One area the band have most successfully carved a niche into is the revived downtown Youngstown music scene, where the band feel most at-home.

“I definitely think it’s better that the scene is coming back here, because we had to drive up to Kent and Akron to play shows a lot,” said Sawyer.

It’s nice to play shows where people around here are excited to hear us rather than try to get 20 people to pay for tickets to drive up to Kent to see us,” added Augustine.

Sawyer said that she believes it’s very important to have a strong scene in a central location such as that of downtown Youngstown with all of the great culture and talent that surrounds it.

“I think it’s important just because locally it feels like we were culturally starved for a little bit, especially after the Wickyards shut down,” said Sawyer.

As the downtown Youngstown scene continues to expand and rebuild, Where’s Winona Now?, along with a handful of their peers, find themselves smack in the middle of an exciting new movement.

While band look to hit the studio for their first proper recording in the near future, they have a few high-profile performances to keep fans satisfied for the meantime.

“We’ll be at the BuzzBin Arcade and Music Ship in Canton on June 3 and Revive Arts and Music Festival in downtown Youngstown on July 16,” finished Toporcer.

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The Gaslight Anthem circa 2014. Photo courtesy of buffablog.com.

The Gaslight Anthem circa 2014. Photo courtesy of buffablog.com.

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

After putting out five albums in 10 years, most bands would probably feel like they’ve “made it.”

Though they have accomplished a lot in the past decade, The Gaslight Anthem feel they still have a lot to do in order to cement their place in Rock ‘N’ Roll history.

“I feel like, bands that think they have settled into some sort of groove, or that they have mastered this whole music thing are the ones that usually become stale pretty quick,” said drummer Benny Horowitz in a recent interview with The Raw Alternative.

“Being complacent can be an artistic curse, not just in music, but with pretty much anything from a painter to a film director. We are critical of our own work and we push ourselves to do better with every album and every performance.”

The quartet did indeed push themselves on their latest effort, Get Hurt, which was released in August and peaked at number four on the US billboard 200 chart.

Their fifth album is perhaps their best to date as it displays the bands growth and maturity more than anything else they have released in the past.

Recently, lead singer Brian Fallon said that Pearl Jam’s No Code was a huge influence on this album and after giving it a listen, you can see why.

It’s no wonder, as Pearl Jam is one of those rare bands that continue to change and evolve.

“Brian sometimes pulls influences into his songwriting and we all kind of pull from Pearl Jam,” Horowitz said. “Pearl Jam has a lot of records and they have changed and taken chances throughout their career. No Code represented a change for them, just like Get Hurt does for us, we need to keep expanding.”

Eddie Vedder and company is not the only band that Horowitz is into. He also stated that he likes bands such as the openers on the tour, the Northcote and the Scandals, as well as some hip-hop. Another well-documented influence has been Bruce Springsteen, but gone are the days of fans chanting “Bruuuuuuuce” at the band, expecting to hear a cover of the fellow New Jersey native.

Finally fans and critics alike are starting to see the band for what they are: Themselves.

“Sure, it got old hearing those chants and we struggled a bit creating separation, but it turned into something that we took as a compliment. To be lumped in with one of the greatest musicians of all-time really isn’t a bad thing,” said Horowitz.

The Gaslight Anthem's fifth album, "Get Hurt," is out now via Island Records.

The Gaslight Anthem’s fifth album, “Get Hurt,” is out now via Island Records.

New Jersey has a rich tradition of great music. From Springsteen to the Misfits and Frank Sinatra to Ricky Nelson. The question is: Will the Gaslight Anthem ever be mentioned amongst those greats?

“If we’re lucky, yes,” Horowitz added. “It’s cool to think about, especially growing up a Rock ‘N’ Roll fan. Actually one of the coolest experiences for me, so far, was after we released our third record (American Slang) we officially started being cataloged at record stores.

“It doesn’t seem like much, but I use to work at a record store and I remember the rule of thumb is, once a band has three full-length albums they get their own tag with the band name on it. It was a feeling like ‘hey, we made it,'” said Horowitz.

Though the band is happy with the way Get Hurt turned out, Horowitz said they are still hungry and want to expand their music in ways they have not done yet. Though it’s tough, for any band, to predict how the future will turn out, or even if they will still be a group, Horowitz also indicated that he doesn’t focus too much on the future.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that you can only control what you can control. The stuff I can’t control I don’t even worry about. Right now we are focusing on touring and the whole creative process,” said Horowitz. “In a perfect world, I would hope that 10 years from now we would still be relevant and making albums and it would be the same four members in the band.”

Currently on tour, the band will make a stop at Cleveland’s House of Blues on Wednesday for what will undoubtedly be an energetic show. Canadian band, the Northcote, as well as fellow New Jersey punk rockers the Scandals will be opening as mentioned earlier. The Gaslight Anthem will be switching up the set list every night and sprinkling in new songs, with all of the classics to keep things fresh.

Horowitz added that the entire band loves playing in front of their fans and hope that all that come can enjoy themselves and leave all of their troubles at the door and just have a good time.

Tickets for the Cleveland show are $36.00 and $42.50.

Off! left to right, Dimitri Coats, Mario Rubalcaba, Keith Morris and Steven Shane McDonald. Photo courtesy of alternativepress.com.

Off! left to right, Dimitri Coats, Mario Rubalcaba, Keith Morris and Steven Shane McDonald. Photo courtesy of alternativepress.com.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Cheif)

Punk outfit Off! can easily be described; simple and powerful. In an era of bloated production and YouTube stardom, Off! provide a minimalist blast of fresh air. Their intensity and DIY attitude say it all, and no where is this more prominent than on their latest release, Wasted Years.

Formed in 2009, Off! is comprised by punk legends Keith Morris (Black Flag/Circle Jerks), Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), Steven Shane McDonald (Redd Kross) and Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket From the Crypt, Hot Snakes). Their vintage punk rock sound incorporates elements and ascetics of early 80’s hardcore, proving refreshing in a moden musical climate.

Many in the punk community can attest that the national scene has been in decline since the rise of corporate punk-pop acts like Blink 182 and Good Charlotte in the late 90’s and early 00’s. The punk revival of the mid-90’s had taken a backseat, as emo/screamo, punk-pop and quasi-hardcore acts rose to dominance over the last decade. However, the punk scene, like a plague of cockroaches, refused to die off despite how popular and commercial said genres became. However, as a sign-of-the-times, Off! are at the center of yet another resurgence, and an even more grassroots punk rock movement.

Off! released their second album, Wasted Years, in April 2014 to overwhelming positive reviews. Fans of the members’ previous projects are been embracive, as the sound varies little, yet stands on it’s own just enough to allow Off! a unique and memorable sound.

Wasted Years is in many ways a very complex record. Although all of the tracks don’t meet or barely meet the two-minute mark, the range of emotions vary. Lyrically, the album travels into dark territory, particular near it’s closing. Leading off with tracks “Void You Out” and single “Red White and Black,” Wasted Years comes out swinging offering no apologies. Tracks like “Legion of Evil” and “No Easy Escape” represent the tried and true classic punk ethos of nonconformity through constructive angst.

Lyrically however, more personal themes come into play with mid-album tracks like “It Didn’t Matter to Me,” “Death Trip on the Party Train” and “I Won’t Be a Casualty.” The honesty and emotional depth of the original hardcore movement becomes more obvious as the album soldiers forward. Finally, Wasted Years takes a twist of darkness on closing tracks “Time’s Not on Your Side,” “Meet Your God” and “Wasted Years.”

Wasted Years comes at the right time in music. As corporate rock continues to take hold, spouting out endless reunion tours of many acts prematurely past their prime, or a slight oversaturation of rock bands who are still making great music (Arcade Fire, Foo Fighters and even Queens of the Stone Age), Off! find ground not common settled in recent years. Their underground buzz has continued to grow, and mainstream attention is not far. Perhaps a little of that attention would not be so bad; to shed light on a new raw movement. The attention comes and goes. What remains consistent, is the pure intensity and raw emotion that is Off!

Entering the mid-2010’s, the influence of real punk and hardcore is as evident as ever. As long as fans are still pissed, still have something to say, still have something to believe in and still know a machine to rage against, Off!, as well as the subsequent movement, will always have a place among leather and spike-clad punks and hole-in-the-wall dive bars. And what better place to be!?

Idle Shades, left to right: vocalist/bassist Angelo Scordo, drummer Anthony Rapone and guitarist Josh Wakeford.

Idle Shades, left to right: vocalist/bassist Angelo Scordo, drummer Anthony Rapone and guitarist Josh Wakeford.

By Frank Meyers (Opinion Nation)

I just got a chance to sit down and take a listen to Idle Shades recent album release Picture Perfect. and I first want to say way to go guys. The Idle Shades are one of the few bands still around that I remember from when I first started going downtown to local shows. I have plenty of memories watching them open shows for Johnie 3, who as we all know is no more. I can honestly say that over the years they have done a great job at fine tuning their material and working their way into their own little thing. Their live shows are high energy and non stop rock, so I was anxious to see how that transferred over to CD.

From the opening chord on the first track, “Leaving Me Behind,” to the final chord of the 11th track, “Tomorrow,” Idle Shades put together a very tight and great sounding record of straight up rock and roll. The music is upbeat and energy driven, the vocals are very fitting for what they are doing, and the lyrics are well written and for the most part give the feeling of real thought and a sense of sincerity to some extent. There are moments in a few songs where I can catch a slight reminder of old school Bad Religion vibes in there, which I really enjoyed. All around this album was worth the wait.

I am glad to see that another great band from Youngstown has put out some take no prisoners rock and roll and didn’t conform to anyone else’s standards but their own!! The music scene in Youngstown is looking up people, and the Idle Shades have been working their asses off for years now and are a big part of what is going right in it, and Picture Perfect is definitely an album that is right there at the top and will be in my playlist for years to come. So, I just want to say thanks to the band for their hard work they put into what they do for our listening pleasures!!

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

It has been over two decades since the world last heard from Cleveland alternative rock pioneers, Death of Samanatha. The band became one of the key players of the 80’s college rock movement, craving out a unique niche in the scene. But by the later part of the decade, at what seemed as the height of the group’s success, they disbanded and have remained relatively quiet for more than 20 years. Now they’re poised for a comeback with a long-awaited reunion disc spanning their short-lived but highly influential career.

Formed in 1983 by singer and guitarist John Petkovic, guitarist Doug Gillard, bassist David James and drummer Steven Eierdam, Death of Samantha took the scene by storm, becoming one of the first notable alternative/indie rock frontrunners in Cleveland. The infamous first gig at a Ground Round family restaurant has become that of legend. With bizarre stage antics, puck rock ethos and sound primed and ready for college radio, the band quickly rose to recognition, and caught the eye of Homestead Records in 1986.

At the time, Homestead Records, based out of New York, was home to some the biggest names underground rock had to offer at the time, including Sonic Youth, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Dinosaur Jr. The full length debut for the label, Strungout on Jargon, brought the band on the national underground scene. They continued to tour the latter half of the 80’s alongside big names such as The Replacements, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Sonic Youth, Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins.

Death of Samantha supporting Sonic Youth in the mid-80's.

Death of Samantha supporting Sonic Youth in the mid-80’s.

Sadly, as their aforementioned touring partners caught major label deals and broke out onto the early 90’s MTV scene, they never stuck it out long enough to ee their break. Following the release of Where the Women Wear the Glory and the Men Wear the Pants in 1988 and Come All Ye Faithless in 1990, Death of Samantha called it quits. A small reunion was attempted in 92, but never got off the ground. The band, whose influence can still likely be heard on rock radio via post-grunge/post-alternative acts (think Bush, Everclear, and perhaps Green Day).

In recent years, the original lineup of Death of Samantha have remained active musically, playing a handful off one-off reunions such as at the Beachwood Ballroom in Cleveland and 4th and 4th Fest in Columbus, Ohio. As of late last year, the have recorded an 18-track double album titled If Memory Serves to be released on Feb. 11 via the band’s St. Valentine Records. It will be their first release in 24 years.

If Memory Serves is comprised of re-recordings of old material. In an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Petkovek said that the two-disc retrospective has gotten the band’s creative juices flowing, as they are planning more endeavors for the coming months.

“…a lead-in to a tour and a record of all-new material in 2015,” said Petkovek.

With a wealth of 80s indie rock acts such as My Bloody Valentine, The Replacements and the Pixies reuniting and releasing new music, there is no doubt that the time is right for Death of Samanatha to return to the scene and pick up where they have left off. Perhaps nostalgia for some, and a new chapter, new era or even a new beginning for many others.