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First Impressions: Bad Books II
09/24/12 at 06:41 PM by Gregory Robson

Well I've given it five listens and here's my ten cents. Also, as a closing note, I really haven't paid much attention to Triple Crown Records since As Tall as Lions went asunder. This release has renewed my vigor for the label.

"The After Party" - Ethereal and airy. Hull's inimitable voice. He really sounds his best in this kind of atmosphere. So hard to dislike or ignore. Lamenting how much he "hates to be alone." Driving/searing guitar dives into something dense, thick, meaty.

"No Reward" - Autumnal and breezy. Moves into hazy and distorted and weird. Seems like the kind that would take no prisoners live and win legions of new fans.

"Forest Whitaker" - My favorite lyrics of the year. "I started a band that was cool for awhile but it turned pretty bland. I started a fight with a neighbor next door and his pesky wife. You started a job that you hate when you're sober and hate even more when you're not. I know you hate me too, you always say you do." Buzzy, bright. Easily one of my favorite songs of the year. Andy Hull is a rare talent that is criminally overlooked by those that should pay attention.

"It Never Stops" - A quiet opening. Quintessential Kevin Devine song. Damn fine. Autumnal, mid-tempo. Just wow. A great freaking song. Woah.

"Pyotr" - Placid and ruminative. Super deep and cerebral. A paean to fidelity. When he writes songs like this, it feels like listening to a living legend at work.

"Friendly Advice" - Nirvana-esque opening. Gritty. Hull doing his best to be visceral, meaty and impassioned.

"No Sides" - A buzzy and bright Devine track, "I'm nobody's slaughtered lamb," drips with religious overtones. Not much of an impact. Just kind of ehhhh.

"Petite Mort" - Devine sings a subdued, mid-tempo effort. At this point, it feels like the album may be losing its appeal.

"42" - Andy Hull solo acoustic. Freaking amazing. Why did Hull bring his A game to this effort but Devine didn't?

"Lost Creek" - Hull again. "My dad and Russell running through the woods of Lost Creek. It's a shame Jessica never got clean." Why is it that Hull sings about nostalgia like very few of his peers? God this is just cinematic and magical stuff. What a home run.

"Ambivalent Peaks" - A quiet Kevin Devine affair that is timid and temperamental. Considering he got outshines by Hull for most of this album, this is a pretty towering effort.
Tags: bad books, kevin devine, andy hull, first impresisons
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Disenfranchised With Say Anything
04/30/12 at 06:49 AM by Gregory Robson
I'm not quite sure I get it anymore.

Having listened to their music casually for the last ten years, I was anxious and excited to see the pop-punk kingpins Say Anything last Thursday at The Beacham in Orlando. Songs like "Hate Myself," "Shiksa," "Belt," and "Alive With the Glory of Love," all have a special place in my heart. The night opened strong with captivating live sets from both Kevin Devine and Tallhart, and a tepid, if not mediocre set from Florida's Fake Problems. The hope was that Say Anything would keep the positive vibes going forward with an astounding and undeniably impressive live show. Unfortunately, anything but that happened.

Whether it was the venue, the band or strange concoction of both, the entire set felt bombastic, brash and obnoxious. Nothing felt fluid, nothing felt harmonic, nothing felt polished. The set was raw, in-your-face and pompous. Sure swagger is a good thing, but all swagger and no polish makes for an uncomfortable listening experience. And maybe it was that Tallhart and Kevin Devine were so engaging and compelling, few if any bands could have put on a set that would have kept the night moving forward. But something about Say Anything's set felt off. It didn't feel genuine.

And yet nowhere in the venue did anyone seem to mind. Vocalist Max Bemis belted out lyrics with wanton abandon and hundreds of awestruck fans bobbed around with wonder. Even on punchy singles like "Shiksa," and "Hate Myself," the entire thing felt forced, feigned and over-the-top. If the band deserves any credit, they most certainly played to their fans, performing a slew of crowd favorites and older material and kept the caffeinated masses happy.

I suppose in the end, that's all anyone can ask for.
Tags: say anything, tallhart, kevin devine,
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Thoughts on Brand New at Nassau Coliseum
11/30/09 at 05:58 AM by Gregory Robson
Managed to catch the much talked about Brand New show at Nassau Coliseum this past weekend. It was a neat show. Started off at the side stage seeing Robbers acoustic. I had seen them play at Music Hall of Williamsburg while opening for Brand New (see review of that show in an August entry on this blog) and have to say they've gotten better. I think I like them better acoustic. The richness of the lead vocalist's voice is really front and center and that helps. He has a nice timbre to it and it's a big addition to their sound.

Headed over to the main stage to see Kevin Devine. He was phenomenal. Totally consumed the main stage and acted like he totally deserved to be there. An absolutely stellar performance and easily the best show he's put on in the eight or nine times I've seen him. His set list was:
1. Just Stay
2. Carnival
3. Another Bag of Bones
4. Cotton Crush
5. Brother's Blood

Another song might have been played, but I can't think right now.

Shortly thereafter K. Dev, Manchester Orchestra took the stage and really put on an absolutely impressive show. I've always contended that the band doesn't need to sound as loud as they do, but on a big stage like this, the tactic worked well. While I am not a fan of much of their repertoire, I do enjoy "Shake it Out," "I Can Feel a Hot One," and "I've Got Friends." That being said, I've never gotten into I'm Like a Virgin, Losing a Child and if that makes me a minority on this site, so be it. My opinions aside it was probably the best set of the night. They were cohesive, crisp, dense, polished, rich, just very strong. Songs played included: "Shake It Out," "I've Got Friends," and "I'm Like a Virgin, Losing a Child." The best song of the night was probably, "Where Have You Been," which ended the set and featured Kevin Devine on backing vocals. It also went into seven or eight minute territory and just roared until its finish. The band's biggest asset is its drummer who absolutely destroys his kit and is one of the more ferocious and awe-inspiring drummers to watch. I'm still not sure what Chris ____ adds to the band and his weirdness and strange gestures on stage is just kind of disturbing. And for as much as may dislike them, its hard to argue with Andy Hull's lyrics, which are as strong as anybody out there today. I also will never understand why he chooses to be so unkempt and grizzly. It's really just disturbing.

Thrice was next and I just could not get into it. They played the opening and closing song off of Beggars and those were by far the best of the night. They also played two songs from The Artist in the Ambulance, one song off of Vheissu and one off of The Alchemy Index. It was a decent set, but all of it felt so dated. Listening to them just sounds like listening to any average scene band. There was not much that separated them from the pack and they seemed quite ho-hum and average to me.

Glassjaw was next and while its not my thing by any stretch, Daryl Palumbo commands attention, is an incredibly charismatic and engaging performer and really knows how to work his way through a non-screaming song (i.e. "Ape Dos Mil," which was executed perfectly). They played about 30 minutes, much like the rest of the bands and left to an absolutely thunderous ovation.

As for Brand New. Kinda interesting set. No encore, no longer than an hour, just a quick set with little talking. They had a screen with black-and-white images during most of their songs and it was a neat tactic that I kinda enjoyed. It wasn't the best I've heard them. Of all the songs played, "Limousine," and "You Stole," were two of the best. I also thought "Luca," was strong. Hadn't heard that song in quite awhile. I really loved "Welcome to Bangkok," opening up and thought it was the best version I've heard of it. Both "At The Bottom," and "Bought a Bride," were really tight. I mean hands down stellar. Jesse pushed his vocals and basically growled and yowled through many verses and refrains that didn't really need such forced intonations. He's at his best when he's even-keel and smooth. He was far from that during the duration of the set. Why he chooses to do this, I'll never know. The set list is as follows. There may be one or two wrong, so forgive me for that. By memory, this is how I remember it going down

1. Welcome to Bangkok
2. Sink
3. You Wont Know
4. Okay I Believe You...But My Tommy Gun Dont
5. Sic Tranit Gloria...Glory Fades
6. Limousine
7. Vices
8. Gasoline
9. Sowing Season
10. You Stole
11. Luca
12. The Archers Bows Have Broken
13. Jesus Christ
14. Bought a Bride
15. At the Bottom
16. Play Crack the Sky
17. Seventy Times Seven
Tags: live review, brand new, thrice, kevin devine, glassjaw, robbers, manchester orchestra
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