Review Roundup: Go Rydell, Gold Standard, Derek Jordan, Montagna and the Mouth to Mouth, and New London Fire
There are two distinct sides to hardcore punk; first, the fucking heavy, pissed off stuff that the genre is known for; second, the posi-hardcore scene, which is characterized by (usually) happier chord progressions, and (always) positive lyrics. Go Rydell fit into that second category, but use a mix of progressions that are more common in heavier hardcore, making for an experience more akin to Kid Dynamite and Shook Ones. This bodes well, considering that a lot of posi-hardcore bands often border on pop-punk a lot of the time – Go Rydell don’t cross that line, keeping their hardcore-ness in tact.
The Golden Age is ten tracks of one-or-two-minute anthems that begs for a live experience – loud singalongs and all. On record, everything comes out nice and crisp, but despite being a distinctly posi record, could use a bit of that live grit and messiness. Despite the upbeat vibe of the record, it isn’t till “Suck Brick Kid” that the band really gets going. It’s not to say that the first half of the record isn’t strong, but – aside from the odd track – it really does paint Go Rydell as a must-see live band.
It is too bad that The Golden Age isn’t more of a five-track teaser EP, as the record does start to blend together after a bit. Still, The Golden Age is a fun record that is a perfect transition from heavy hardcore to posi hardcore, and makes Go Rydell a band that deserves to be heard in a tiny venue.
Instrumental bands always beg one question: would they be better with a vocalist? Gold Standard – George Asimakos on guitar, bassist Chris Ware, and drummer Lee Corum – is an instrumental outfit that immediately answer this question, replacing the possible dynamics of vocals with enough tempo changes and intricate rhythms to excite fans from straightlaced indie rock to tech-metal heads that prefer instrumental shredding over everything else.
While Gold Standard are technically gifted, it is that the band does an excellent job of composition as well that makes them special. The tightness of the band is exemplified by the way each member feeds of one another, flawlessly using all three instruments to shift any – and all – of the dynamics in their music. Centrepiece “Blues” is perfect representation; the trio fiddles with one central idea for a good portion of the song, Corum adding and subtracting beats and ideas, Asimakos and Ware following suit, before the entire song breaks down, slowly piecing together a beautiful counterpoint to the beginning of the track. “Church Bells” and “Motor Skills are Hard to Control” do the same, in more compressed timelines, also trying out distorted, more aggressive sections.
Gold Standard are hard to pin down exactly, but if this EP is any indication, they could be on to something very special. No vocals necessary.
I really want to like Derek Jordan, I do. On Humanist, he experiments with all sorts of guitar ideas and sounds. His style resembles the different phases System of a Down experienced through their entire career, but all compressed into individual songs.
If you know anything about System of a Down, you can guess that Humanist produces mixed results. It is at times quite enjoyable, but often makes you forget those moments with the childish lyrics and attempted “quirkiness” on each track.
I don’t know what else to say – Humanist could be enjoyable, but trips over its own feet too much in the process. If Derek Jordan can strip down his sound, and figure out exactly what he is trying to be, future releases may be worthwhile. Humanist, however, isn’t so lucky.
Rarely do two-track EPs make an impact, but everything from Montagna and the Mouth to Mouth‘s Ultrapolyamorous – from the band and EP name to the layered sound – makes an immediate impact.
Sounding like a less-membered Broken Social Scene – but featuring just as much instrumentation and variety – Montagna’s two tracks, “Ultrapolyamorous” and “At Full Speed”, are less than three-minutes each, but pack quite a punch. The title track is fairly noisy, but contains beautiful backing vocals and some more futuristic sounds that sound more akin to The Flaming Lips. “At Full Speed” is dominated by female vocals and an indie pop sound, providing a perfect contrast to its Side A, reaching into Best Coast territory.
Ultrapolyamorous is a solid set of two tracks, providing a perfect teaser for other releases from Montagna.
New London Fire – Happiness Through Radios and Wires
“When we went to do this record, I wanted to incorporate everything I loved about pop music as a kid.” Singer and guitarist David Debiak said this about Happiness Through Radios and Wires, the second album from New London Fire.
He did a good job; Happiness is full of catchy melodies, bringing back sounds from the 60s (“Water Park”, “Lonely”), as well as featuring more contemporary indie pop tracks (“Happiness”, “Long Shot”), often placing one of each after each other. It provides great variety, but also makes the record feel like it was recorded with two different bands. The more modern stuff actually plays backseat to the 60s doo-wop tracks, that would be great at any old-school themed prom or wedding. The second half of the record also features some acoustically-driven numbers that also add some flare, but interrupt the flow of the first half.
All in all, Happiness succeeds at being a great pop record, even if you want to put a select few tracks on repeat the whole time instead.