The Bouncing Souls and the Lawrence Arms have quite a few similarities. I'm not just talking about a stubborn adherence shared by fans to use the article "the" when stating their band names. There's something deeper, some sort of poppy instinct within the body of each band's work that shines through in a sonic onslaught on listener's ears.
You can't really hear the similarities between the two bands quite as clearly on their recordings, but I had an alcohol induced revelation at this past weekend's Riot Fest. TLA and TBS are perfect bed...err, stage-fellows...?
The House of Blues is really an extraordinary venue, but a surprising place for a punk show of this calibur. Simply put, the HOB is pretty well kept and clean in terms of Chicago venues, and the audience that attends Riot Fest is generally...not. So it wasn't exactly a surprise to see the pop-sensible punk rock fans had a dominating "one-up" status on the old school punkers.
When TBS took the stage, I was pretty excited for their set, as I'd seen them at Warped a few years before and absolutely loved them. Still, although I'm decently knowledgeable when it comes to TBS' repetoire of songs, I found myself fidgeting throughout the hour-plus set. I got mad love and respect for TBS, but one word I would not use to describe them is "versatile."
So what did I learn? There might be a few other bands I've only seen play at Warped Tour that I should avoid going to see in a regular concert setting.
When you get fidgety at a show, you turn to the bottle for support, which made at least half of the crowd a little jazzed for the Lawrence Arms by the time it was their turn to rock the HOB.
And then it was their turn.
As usual, Brendan Kelly kept the crowd laughing with his drunken antics, Neil Hennessy was a blur of hands and fingernails, and Chris McCaughan brought the ladies to their knees with his sexy pot-voice. They played songs from every album and even surprised the crowd with "Quicentuple Your Money," a fan favorite that doesn't get dragged off the shelf too often. The energy level was amazing and the crowd was slightly out of control.
Take it from a guy who has been to a lot of shows: the Lawrence Arms have some of the best fans in Chicago.
Oh, you were dragged in by the headline and you're waiting for the point, huh?
When my attention started waning during the Bouncing Souls set, I ran into Hennessy and chatted things music. Kelly's wife just had a baby, which has pushed plans for a new album off into the unforeseen future. So, from what I gathered, it appears talks with Fat Mike have developed the possibility of a 7" series, in the tradition of other Fat bands. Hennessy mentioned that, since the band members have been busy with other things, Fat Mike suggested that they record songs as they write them. Then, he'll release a few here and there as 7"s.
Hennessy didn't mention that there was anything specific in the works as of yet, but that it was an idea being bounced around. Let's hope something gets moving shortly, huh? I feel like I'm starved of new Lawrence Arms material.
"I never tried that / I never tried that / I never tried that / but I know I don't like it."
- Brendan Kelly, "The Devil's Takin' Names"
I always feel like I'm sitting at the bar of some small club sipping a whiskey when I listen to Dillinger Four. Albeit you could draw that conclusion directly from each album's production quality -- but I really meant how the music makes me feel. It's like the band has something wiser behind it than the pop-punk powerhouses spewing out the same catchy chord progressions and hooks, yet something more playful than a lot of today's political punkers. The band succeeds in blending the raw with the - for lack of a better term - marketable.
I've been a huge Dillinger Four fan since the first time I listened to them -- back when they were the centerpiece for Hopeless Records' Hopelessly Devoted to You compilation series. Those comps were truly historical collections for 90s punk, showcasing respected now-veteran scenesters like Mustard Plug, Against All Authority, Guttermouth, the Queers, Funeral Oration, the Weakerthans and Samiam; defunct or still unknown but truly spectacular bands like 88 Fingers Louie, Digger, Fifteen, and Scared of Chaka; even Thrice, Avenged Sevenfold, Break the Silence and Atom and His Package on more recent compilations. Ever since I first heard those comps, Dillinger Four became a band whose track record I've followed religiously for several years.
Dillinger Four hasn't shown a significant musical progression over the years, but the quality of their tunes hasn't diminished either, which is something only the finest punk bands can demonstrate. Let's be honest; punk rock isn't really about complicated riffs and musical progression anyway.
The band's newest recording, C I V I L W A R, stays true to Dillinger Four's hook-laden chord progressions, formulaic but catchy. You can feel a slightly different quality to the music; in an interview posted on AP.net, Erik Funk summed it up nicely:
"Now that it's done, I think it's more heavy on the pop side than our other records."
Which isn't to say that D4's signature rawness is gone -- it's just a little more subtle. After all, Fat Wreck Chords wouldn't promote a band that had gone soft, would they?
There's not much else to say about this recording. I love it. You either love 'em or hate 'em. D4 is straight-up, in-your-face pop-punk. They've got nothing to hide. So if you dig D4's other recordings, you're sure to like this one. If you don't like the old stuff, then stop reading this damn post.
Oops, too late. It's already over.
"I am not unforgiving / but I won't take the fall / Let the ashes surround us / I am not gonna crawl through / broken glass and razor wire."
- Dillinger Four, "Noble Stabbings!!"