Category Archives: A Kick In The Pants

A Kick In The Pants # 8 – Army Coach


While I suppose I could open with a line like “From the ashes of Team Stray” I don’t think that’s appropriate (albeit complimentary, as Team Stray released albums in my Top Tens of 2007 and 2008, respectively). The previous band never burned out, and Army Coach is already way beyond the flickering flames of a new act. Musically the group is rooted in 90s indie rock. Crunchy and amped to Dinosaur Jr./Superchunk levels, but catchy and accessible enough for college radio airplay. At various points Tom (singer and bassist) and Eric (drummer) nod to their past outfit, as the songs sometimes reach levels of speedy/poppy punk, but that’s just one facet of the overall sound. Take into account Andrew’s ripping mini-solos, the Steve Malkmus-esque lyrics with a John K. Samson delivery, and the production wash reminiscent of Hum and you’ve got a whole new beast. Ironically, the song that best encompasses what the band can accomplish is “I Am A Failure.” It’s off their digital EP which can be had for a mere 2 bucks via paypal direct from the band (armycoachband@gmail.com) – Mark H.

I Am A Failure

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A Kick In The Pants # 7 – Night Birds

NBFK

I pumped up the Night Birds at the end of last year with an early review of the Midnight Movies 7″, and then again when counting down the best releases of 2010. After seeing them splash, slice, and writhe through a set in some punk’s living room last month, and giving their latest release, the singles collection Fresh Kills Vol. 1 a few dozen spins, it’s time to kick you in the ass again, so that finally the message gets through.

I’ve already given the low down on the sound. 80’s surf punk that roars at you with menace and insanity. Like that crazy guy on the corner, hollering about the end of the world. He’s obviously nuts, but whether the warning or the performance intrigues you, you have to stop and listen. The songs albeit morbid are infectious, and before you hear the last resonating note of their cover of Eddie & The Showmen’s “Squad Car,” you’re ready to hear them all again. “Midnight Movies” and “Bad Biology” pay homage to B-movie icons while stirring up a catchy ruckus, “Killer Waves” isn’t too much on the nose of horror surf, and “Prognosis: Negative” is a hypochondriac’s worst nightmare. “Paranoid Times” might possibly be the most classic 80s punk track of them all – a scathing breakdown of our government, the military, and the fear mongered/mongering that surrounds us in this country. Overall, pretty scary themes that match the intensity of the music.

This disc will catch you up on everything the band has recorded so far, and will hopefully prepare you for the forthcoming full-length. The whistle has blown, the ride is about to begin. Grave Mistake will hook you up with boarding passes.

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A Kick In The Pants # 6 – Mike Faloon

hanging
Despite this being a music-focused site, I figured a book review could sneak into the BTID pages, make it’s mark (if only as a debut for this type of thing), and probably hijack an eye or two. I base this solely on the fact that Mike Faloon is “one of us.” Us writer/music nerds have a code or something, I think. Faloon has the ‘zine world’s stamp of approval: As writer, editor, and publisher of the pop culture ‘zine Go Metric!, he’s been getting the dish from all your favorite bands, writing succinct and sly music reviews, and in general providing the most intriguing creative writing seen in indie mags over the past dozen years. Simultaneously ridiculous and clever, Go Metric! is the standard for short attention-spanned aficionados of travel, movies, music, comics, and pop theories.

So, a collection of short stories comes together in his first book, The Hanging Gardens of Split Rock, and they do not disappoint. The writing itself is more than competent and very welcoming to those interested in a “light” read. His attention to detail is very casual, and the occasional digression about a certain character or setting brings people and places to life without any pandering or pretension. Faloon sometimes even eschews the “show don’t tell” writing rule because hey, sometimes two brothers making a bank job getaway in a donut truck is just that, and you’ve gotta call ’em like you see ’em.

Which brings me to the single most enjoyable part about the book. The characters and their personalities, in situations exciting or mundane, are such a joy to read. The father/board of education candidate/little league coach who has his son bean an autistic teammate during batting practice so he won’t have to field him during the game, the man who dreams of releasing a country & western opera album (not a rock opera album, this is totally different!), the list goes on for most of the 15 pieces here. You love the lovable underdogs, and you love the despicable antagonists, mostly because they provoke equal parts sympathy and laughter.

And of course, for the music geeks there’s some nuggets to gobble up. An article that waxes philosophic on the merits of arena rock and prog rock, an adventure at the jam band festival Camp Bisco (yes, even the wasted Phish-heads are likable), and finally the high school kids who try to win the battle of the bands. There’s a bunch more tossed into many stories, all of which once again reminds us that the author is truly speaking our language.

Pick up the book for 6 bucks at Razorcake.

Go Metric in web form.

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A Kick In The Pants # 5 – The Dopamines

A while ago I heard that Cincinnati, Ohio’s the Dopamines were retiring some of their crowd favorite/”hit” songs. It’s understandable that a band tires of playing the same song every night on tour for years, and if you’re a smaller band, you’ve actually got the luxury of getting away with it (unlike big-time money-making professional acts that are obligated to please the crowd) so I don’t blame them for taking advantage of it. However, in the back of my mind I was thinking “With barely two albums out, do they really have enough great material to start nixing the old stuff?” After spinning Expect The Worst, their latest LP on Paper + Plastick, I can honesty respond, “What old stuff?”

The album contains more than enough bouncy beer-blast gems to satisfy both the east coast poppers and the midwest basement punkers. “Public Domain” and “3244” are # 1 hits with a bullet in a just world, but I dig the gravel and grit shoveled out in “My Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Night Vision Goggles.” All pistons firing with unrelenting vocals – reminds me of the lyrics and delivery of “survive yourself” Henry Rollins. Another great thing about the track (and “October 24th” as well) is the verses melodically spill out a whole, vivid, story’s worth of words, and the when the catchy and ALL TOGETHER NOW chorus hits you get energized by the sing-along and jolted by the obvious shift in gears. It’s a great feeling. Contemporaries like the Copyrights, whose harmony/unison vocals are a fairly good point of reference for the Dopes, follow a similar formula, but their sound seems brighter and lyrics more vague in comparison. The Dopamines bring the noise and funk(y odors), stubble, sweat, and all the other images one associates with authentic DIY punk rock.

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A Kick In The Pants # 4 – Dead Mechanical


After listening to this Baltimore-based indie/punk outfit for 3+ years, I’ve finally realized why the band is a trio. Frontman Lucas Carscadden’s voice is the 2nd guitar. I’ve always enjoyed Dead Mechanical’s music on a superficial level – it’s catchy bash and pop like Jawbreaker and Superchunk and other stuff that throws indie rock hooks and punk blasts into a blender. After this “vocals as guitar” revelation though I feel like I understand things on a deeper level, and I guess in some way that leads to a more well-rounded enjoyment of the music. Allow me to elaborate: Carscadden’s voice has an intense, loud quality. Every line is amped up and exhaled like an electric strum, the melody arm wrestles with volume with neither one pushing the other to the table. It’s rough and fuzzy, but still vibrant and full, like a smoker that refuses to be reduced to a hacky rasp by sheer power of will. Another part of the Dead Mechanical dynamic that seems to confirm my point is the songs that drummer Matt Dorsey sings. Excellent in their own right, but with Cascadden’s vox out of the mix they sound treble-heavy and almost a little hollow by comparison.

It all comes together in brilliant fashion on their latest, Addict Rhythms. 12 tracks of alt-punk that bream with experience and sincerity (and geography). Lines drawn from New Jersey’s punk pop, DC’s Dischord output, and Chapel Hill, NC’s 90s scene all intersect here. Punk rock has traditionally carried a message in it’s lyrics, usually about some political or social ill that incite the songwriter in some way. 99% of the time the result is dumbed down diatribes or vague (and yet predictable) chants – slogans that do nothing more than provoke empty sing-alongs. These guys thankfully occupy the other 1%, and this album is marching firmly into my top 5 records of the year. Check out “Film At Forever” for a small taste of all they have to offer, and head on over to Traffic Street for the goods.

Dead Mechanical – Film At Forever

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A Kick In The Pants # 3 – Mixtapes

Cincinnati, Ohio’s Mixtapes fall in the “immensely hard to Google band names” slot, so I thought I’d bring the good stuff right to your doorstep.   Their album Maps from earlier this year is one of my new favorite discoveries, and the more recently released Thought About Growing Up EP has proven the band’s debut was not a fluke.  “Recently” allows us to slide easily into the Mixtapes chemistry: Maura’s voice starts off adorable, soft, and almost cracked. Ryan’s voice joins in for a lower harmony that still exudes a feyness; a complimentary combo that hasn’t been heard since the glory days of Kindercore.  Yet, as the band shifts into a higher gear with “Morning Sex and AM Radio” the vocals get stronger, the indie pop gets a healthy dose of punk, and the mixture comes together like a packet of sugar being absorbed in a bead of sweat.  The late 90s surge of catchy rock that was (erroneously?) dubbed emo seems to be a influence, and more happy punk pop comes in the form of “Sprinkles,” but the deal is forever sealed when the band does a kick ass cover of the Kung Fu Monkeys “Pop Rocks And Coke.”  It’s a stellar version and a perfect choice for a band that once again makes me want to invent a new genre called basement bubblegum.  The band has put up all their material online for free, so check those links above and your ear’s sweet tooth will thank you later.

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