No Idea Records
Well, it was bound to happen. This is the first time I’ve reviewed three albums by the same band. That it’s Defiance, Ohio is probably not a coincidence. Though they don’t remember I am sure, I actually had the privileged of opening for them a few years ago. I didn’t know anything about them at that point, a friend of mine put on the show (The Max Levine Ensemble also played and that was really cool too). The kids loved the hell out of them. I was confused about this whole “folk punk” thing, but gave them the benefit of the doubt, traded my CD for theirs (The Great Depression) with their merch dude (a local of DC) and went about my merry way. Five years later, Defiance Ohio are pretty fucking popular with the kids and I still have about 20 copies of my first EP and don’t play shows anymore.
For what it’s worth, The Great Depression is one of punk rocks finest moments from the first decade of this, the last century. And when Defiance, Ohio followed it up with the flawless The Fear The Fear The Fear a year later I knew this was a great band of immeasurable talent. And they fucking rock. I just saw them play last night to a packed, but intimate crowd here in Washington DC and the place was going ape shit. Kids were singing along, bouncing off each other (and me) and the band was spot on. Certainly they are more punk than folk, but mostly, they are just a great band with a unique sound.
So, I’ve had Midwestern Minutes for less than 24 hours now and above all I can say this, it is their most intimate, soothing album to date. Dare I say, this is their least punk album to date. While they have embraced instruments and arrangements closer to country, the approach has always been more inline with three chord punk anthems. They just sounded more friendly on acoustic guitars and banjos. But Midwestern Minutes is more Bright Eyes then Black Flag. When “The Reason” rolls pass, it’s hard to imagine the musicians are the same from days past. This is a band that has always given a shit about their songs for sure, but now they sound all grown up.
This album has great potential to reach a wider audience outside the DIY punk kids. But it’s all on musical merit alone. Defiance, Ohio aren’t doing anything differently then they’ve ever done. Midwestern Minutes sounds more like Defiance, Ohio then they have ever sounded. But the core remains. By albums end, the touching, sad “Everyone Else on the Other Side” is as pure a song as ever could be written. This sorrowful ballad about mental health speaks of madness, compassion and loss. It speaks from position of experience and an understanding that these experiences are not under the sole authority of the individual. Defiance, Ohio is a band for the people. They’ve never been inaccessible in any way, even when bashing it out. But once again they’ve graduated beyond anyone’s expectations. The songs are made by the band, but they belong to everyone.
Eyes and Nines
Trash Talk Collective
Trash Talk is a popular band that seems to be hated by hardcore purists. But, if I have come to understand anything from trudging along in the ghettos of punk rock and hardcore for the better part of 15 years, it’s one thing. Purists don’t know shit about music. They have latched on to a genre, and glamorize and exhalt the worst examples of said genre for the sake of “being down” or “being true” at the sake of fidelity and listenability. And it’s preposterous at best and exudes a deep suspicion of insecurity from a total fucking poser.
My relationship with hardcore started in 1995 with Damnation AD’s No More Dreams of Happy Endings. For my ears this was the first time that hardcore lived up to its name. The album was heavy, dark, pounding and sonically awesome. Before I heard this unsung gem from DC’s straight edge boys I found hardcore mostly jocular and pathetic. Bands either wanted to be Minor Threat (which they weren’t) or they wanted to be Metallica (which was boring as fuck). Damnation AD was both and the record sounded great. In fact, they were kind of fucking scary. The album cover was all weird and dark, the guitars were disjointed but cutting. The album was fantastic. And for the longest time, I tried to get into other hardcore bands, but nothing sounded good. In fact the only album that even came remotely close, and I mean this in the loosest sense, was Texas is the Reason’s Do You Know Where You Are? which was influenced more by Jawbreaker and Jawbox then Youth of Today or Judge (two bands whose albums sonic fidelity leave so much to be desired I fail to see how this genre ever even got off the ground).
So when people hate on Trash Talk and their new album Eyes and Nines I think they’re just a bunch of fucking pussies. This album is heavy as shit and sounds fucking excellent. Why? Because it was recorded in a state of the art studio with working equipment. It’s heavy as Sabbath wanted to be, as fast as Minor Threat was, and as pissed off as Converge’s Jane Doe. The fact that this album is made by four stoners from Sacramento, California is stunning. What is even more stunning is that these pot head thrash freaks have also created this buzz by being the hardest working band in America’s hardcore scene. Armed with a relentless tour schedule, Trash Talk self releases their own records and has had the brilliance to create a web store ordering presence the rivals most major labels. Dear stupid kids in shitty bands, you want to make it in this day and age? Take note of Trash Talk and do the following: 1) Write good songs and then make them better by actually thinking about them. Don’t just recycle the recipe add yr own shit to it. 2) Tour Everywhere, Always. Forget girlfriends/boyfriends , your parents, a place to live, your record collection. Everything. Buy a van, some decent equipment and never come home. 3). Do what you do better, louder, faster, heavier and more dangerous and evil then anyone else around. 4) Don’t give a fuck what anyone has to say.
Eyes and Nines clocks in at 17 minutes in 10 songs which actually manages to be three minutes longer than their last “album”. And while they don’t go crazy with weird shit, there is enough spice to make this more exciting and palatable then 99.99% of all other “hardcore” being made. Some of it is simple creativity in mixing. Some of it’s just concise song writing. It’s not much really, a bit of a wah-wah pedal here, maybe some flange there and some good layered vocal performances make Eyes and Nines the most promising hope for hardcore. It’s palatable, but it doesn’t lose it’s edge. Sure, suburban punks can swallow this down, it’s clean and cutting. But Eyes and Nines is still an explosive, battering display of hardcore goodness.