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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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VCR:
Self- titled: 7"
Vice City Rockers hail (hailed?) from Glen Rock, NJ and play spectacularly sloppy, disheveled rock’n’roll that falls somewhere between the Hipshakes and Black Lips on the underground musical spectrum. The drummer is the standout of the band, bashing away with lunatic intensity, holding the tunes together by the thinnest of threads. “Strictly Business” is a holwlin’ wolf of a long lost Teenage Shutdown track. So is “Gamblin’ Man.” “Code C” is dark and foreboding and Rocket From The Tombs-ey. Apparently, Die Slaughterhaus had some trouble putting this 7” out due to the band members being difficult to get a hold of. If any of you are reading this, when’s the next record coming out? –benke (Die Slaughterhaus)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Wrecktrospective: Twenty Years... And Counting!: 3 x CD
Twenty years!? The early years of the label, I was all over their stuff. I was so happy when I started writing for Flipside again. I got on some list that I got almost everything! I fell off that list with the demise of Flipside. Once Razorcake started, yippee!, I was back on that list! I do have to admit that I haven’t payed as much attention the last few years, especially when they stopped sending physical releases. I’m a music nerd. I want the full deal! But, also, many of my favorites broke up: Good Riddance, Wizo, Hi-Standard, Snuff, The Soviettes, and Tilt. Some others only did one release and moved to other labels. The newer bands didn’t pique my interest, as my tastes had changed. If I saw a new release for review, I have been passing it on to someone else I knew would appreciate doing the review. But this collection did feel like going back in time. I haven’t listened to a lot of bands on this release in a long time. I popped in Disc 1, which is titled Fattest Hits and wondered, “How does one determine a hit punk song?” There are no punk charts. How do you gauge something that is basically under the radar? Just a weird thought when I saw it. The whole gamut of bands are represented on disc 1. What I really loved was disc 2. It’s a compilation of demos that I’m sure the majority of us never heard. My favorite tracks came from Good Riddance, The Soviettes, The Epoxies, Rise Against, and The Dickies. Disc 3 is the Fat Club 7”‘s that I actually never got a copy of. I think Todd was the sole recipient of our crew. Bummed I didn’t get the Strike Anywhere one. Overall, this is one motherload of a package. Congratulations Fat! You have hung in there, doing it with integrity. –don (Fat )


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Nardcore 30 Years Later: LP
Wow, this is some beautiful packaging! Gatefold sleeve, splatter vinyl and thirty-two page zine/book are included in this deluxe package. Features Ill Repute, Dr. Know, Retaliate, Rat Pack, The Kilz, Blasting Concept, and many more. Twenty songs by twenty bands will satisfy even the most ardent Nardcore fiend. Good solid compilation: sound quality is nice and all the bands rage. If you like this sound at all, you can’t go wrong with this top-notch compilation. This was an obvious labor of love and I am sure it was a long time in the making. Great job on this release; would love to see more like it. –todd (Burning Tree)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Dead Broke Rekerds: Sampler ‘09 vers. 2: CD
This is a compilation from Dead Broke Rekerds out of New York. The CD came in a clear sleeve with a paper insert. The cover of the insert has a fuzzy picture of the Banana Splits on it (The Banana Splits Adventure Hour was a TV show with both live action and animated segments that ran from 1968 to 1970. The Banana Splits were a band—Barry White was one of the studio musicians!—and they actually released an album in 1968.), which would be nicer if it were in color (although I do understand the difference in cost between color and black and white copies!). The back of the insert has the list of bands and songs typed out and a weird picture of a frog with a hand coming out of its mouth, apparently cut out and glued or taped to the paper and then copied. Evidently a low budget, DIY production, which I can appreciate. More importantly, there are twenty-three songs on the sampler for people to check out. The recording levels are a bit inconsistent. Unfortunately, there were not many songs that I got very enthusiastic about. Standouts for me included Bad Blood Revival (heavy, slowish stuff that was probably one of the more “weird” songs on the comp), The Closet Fairies (energetic and very short, with a kind of whiney, annoying voice that I like), Iron Chic (two songs by them on this comp—one that had an intro that reminded me of the Marked Men—rocky and punky; the singer has a voice that reminds me of the guy from Hagfish), Dragonzord (a more sparse song; it almost sounds like it could be just one guy with a nice voice playing guitar and singing on a street corner), and Shang-A-Lang (a noisy, delightful mess that didn’t necessarily sound like but yet reminded me of the energy of the Bananas or this Bike Is A Pipe Bomb). I think that most of the rest of the stuff on the comp is just not the type of music that really gets me going. Many of the bands are clearly very competent, some probably have fun and enthusiastic live shows, and there are definitely a few that I know have a good following and diehard fans (Onion Flavored Rings being one), but to me there didn’t seem to be much that seemed very fresh or atypical. One or two songs in particular I actively disliked. A few verged into hardcore a little, and one had some vocals that were a little crusty, but mostly the songs did not go in that direction. Disappointed (not with Dead Broke, just in general) at the complete lack of female singers on the record (although one song had a woman and a man singing, and on another there might have been a female singing back up). Actually made me ruminate about the emergence of punk and the varied styles that came with it versus where punk as a genre is going these days. Although not super into it, I still tip my hat to Dead Broke for putting the energy into it to get it together –Jennifer Federico (Dead Broke)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
At Both Ends: 2 x 7”
Holy shitballs. Okay, there are four bands on the 2 x 7”, which accompanies the final issue of the slick hardcore zine At Both Ends. However, this review is going to lean very heavily on one of these four bands. It’s unavoidable. Let’s start with the other three first. Unrestrained are a good, newer band who play ‘90s style heavy hardcore, and I’m sure they’re pretty pumped to be on a comp with these three other bands. Grade has new songs on this record, which is weird, and not surprisingly, they’re not very good. Bane is one of my favorite bands in the history of bandkind, and these songs are awesome. One is even a re-recording of “Struck Down by Me” from their masterpiece It All Comes Down to This. Wicked. Okay, okay… Between Earth And Sky… Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for this? DO YOU?! This is Greg Bennick from Trial’s new band. And as I’ve mentioned in many of my reviews in the past, Trial are the finest hardcore band that has ever existed. Are These Our Lives? is, in every way, perfection. So when I found out that Greg Bennick had a new band with Alexei from Trial/Catharsis on drums, I was crazy-stoked… but that was like, a decade ago. Since then, my “Trial fever” has only worsened and become incurable, and while I would regularly check in on what Greg Bennick and Between Earth And Sky were up to, I’d begun to lose hope of this band ever truly materializing. And then this record arrived at my door. After squealing like I’d just unwrapped a Cabbage Patch Kid on Xmas morning, 1983, I ushered my confused wife out of the way and excitedly fired up the record player. And the world made sense again. Bennick’s voice, both soothing and infuriating (in a good way) obviously garners Trial comparisons, and, musically, these two songs aren’t too far from ATOL?, but the presence of more intricate guitar melodies and other such subtleties add a uniqueness that I’m absolutely thrilled about. The lyrics are total Bennick fare, so brilliant, desperate, pleading, and hopeful. I can’t believe I have this in my possession. Please put an LP out soon. Fucking incredible. –Dave Dillon (At Both Ends, atbothendsmagazine.blogspot.com)


VACANT STATE:
Internal Conflict: 7"
I’m assuming that this band hails from Vancouver, BC, based on what I could find on their lyric sheet. But what popped into my mind was that they love early ‘80s East Coast hardcore, especially Negative Approach. There are four charging punk numbers on the A side that shows that they really pay homage to their forefathers. The B side is one long-winded number that clocks in a hair over five minutes that reminded me something of the likes of the Germs’ “Forming” or some later period Black Flag. Based on the A side, I hope to hear more to come. –don (Deranged)


USED KIDS:
Yeah No: LP
The Used Kids themselves call what they do “kind of an extension of the Modern Machines.” As a listener, that’s a fair description; as toward the tail end of that band their releases started to mild out a bit. On Yeah No, Nato found his knack for taking the raw, visceral, and confessional songwriting of Modern Machines’ heyday album, Thwap!, and plugging it into a slightly slower tempo’d old school rock song format. It’s definitely a lo-fi endeavor compared to some of Used Kids members’ former band releases—Modern Machines and The Ergs!—but what this album lacks in production, it more than makes up for in great tunes. My favorite song, “Midwest Midsummer,” is a great example of what the Used Kids do so well throughout this record. Musically, it’s a dynamic song buoyed with blues riffs and a hard-hitting rock beat. Lyrically, it’s got some great imagery such as: “icy November” and “riding bikes under thundering rain.” This is one well-done, good old-fashion rock’n’roll record reminiscent of The Jam. –N.L. Dewart (Salinas)


UNBORN S.F.:
Charge on Northern Boys!!!: CD
Finnish punk legends Unborn-SF continue forging on with this melodic oi album. The vocals are almost identical to the RAC band Landser, but Unborn-SF is far from shady. Upbeat, happy, bouncy melodies are countered with a raw, thick voice. It’s remarkable that a band like this one can exist for over thirty years yet still remain relatively unknown outside of Europe, but those into street sounds have been keen on these chaps for years. Gargle with something with stinging power before trying to sing along, shave your head, and find some damn boots. Or just sit back and enjoy the spectacle of old men remaining true to form. Brilliant. –Art Ettinger (Alternative Action)


U.X. VILEHEADS:
First: EP
Sounds like this was done by a bunch of fourteen-year-old kids living in the middle of nowhere circa 1982. However, U.X. Vileheads consists of ex-members of the Vicious, DS-13, and Regulations. Seems this crew has it wired when it comes to nailing the sound and feel of early hardcore. What’s the secret? Do you guys only listen to the old stuff and nothing else? A pact with Satan? Seriously, many out there try to capture the sound and fall short. These fuckers never fail to deliver, no matter what band they’re in. It’s pure hardcore that’s equally tuneful and thrashy. Imagine if the Offenders had relocated from Texas to DC in the early ‘80s. It would sound something like this. “Shut Down” reminds me of “I Hate Myself” in tone and delivery. In fact, lyrically, these guys are definitely not all smiles and looking to the brighter side of life. Instead, it’s all a world of self-destruction and embracing the inevitable ugly ending. Being their debut, you get four quick blasts of nihilism in the form of three chords, crashing percussion, and a slightly belligerent vocalist. Throw yourself into the gaping maw of hell and get this on the way down. –Matt Average (Deranged)


TV GHOST:
Cold Fish: CD
Sounds like music that washing machines play in the background to intensify the mood of scariness when they’re telling washing machine ghost stories around the campfire. Also sounds like the music that would be playing over the still-functioning car radio when ghouls and demons come out to cavort and steal the souls of the young couple who died in the song “Teen Love” by No Trend. Surely that’s a ringing recommendation. BEST SONG: “The Consumption” BEST SONG TITLE: That’s a tossup between “The Consumption” and “The Singularity,” although “The Drunkard” and “The Recluse” kind of tug at my heart strings, too. FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: If you can tell that this album is called “Cold Fish” without first having to pop it into your computer and have iTunes tell you the title, you’re a better man than i. “Man” generically, of course. –norb (In The Red)


TORTURED TONGUES:
Arizona Murder: 7"
This is one of those records that comes out of nowhere and is so damn good that it makes one wonder where the hype machine is these days. This is the sort of punk that makes punk awesome. Fuzzed-out guitars, hyper-paced, infectious rhythms, a vocalist who sounds either belligerent or unhinged. At times he reminds me of Bobby Soxx from the Teenage Queers. “Arizona Murder” shambles in semi fast and loose with a lot of people talking over each other, a tempo that rushes them all out the door, then suddenly it’s over. On the B side we get “Extension Cord,” with an ending verse of “I kick the chair, you gasp for air” repeated until one literal final “goodbye.” Only 300 of these roam the earth, so do what you must. –Matt Average (Lethal Triad, myspace.com/torturedtongues)


TODD CONGELLIERE / JACOB HAMILTON:
Split: Cassette
Gotta say, I’m enjoying the shit out of this current mild resurgence in cassette culture, whether or not it’s laced in irony. Jacob Hamilton’s (Tubers) got some really nice songs on here; the best ones seem to be built out of a kind of honest openness, as if the guy’s voice is about to crack from emotion (or the high notes), even though it doesn’t ever quite get there. The vocals are juxtaposed with some nice and catchy folk stuff. Whether it’s acoustic or electric, it works nearly all of the time. Comes across very similarly to an old Kind Of Like Spitting odds and ends collection tape I’ve got laying around. Nice work. Todd Congelliere (Recess Records, Underground Railroad, etc.) takes up the other side with his own batch of weirdly off-kilter yet catchy pop songs. Again, solid work; Congelliere’s stuff manages to be both bouncy and somber as fuck, and he does it in a way that I just can’t figure out. Weird songs that are surprisingly evocative. Anyway, point is this is a full-length cassette of two solo arteests who can’t sing for shit and yet sound resoundingly rad. Refreshing. –todd (People’s Republic of Rock And Roll)


THIS BIKE IS A PIPE BOMB:
Convertible: LP
This band gets grouped in with the whole folk punk rival, and on a certain level that makes sense. But on the other hand, they’re so much better than any other “folk punk” band that I’ve ever heard, that I’m tempted to take them out of that category altogether. Can we call them, simply, a punk band? I dare say we can! This LP is basically what you’d expect, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Catchy songs about politics, racial relations, and more, with both boy and girl vocals (always a plus, as far as I’m concerned), plus a cover of Joe Hill’s “The Preacher and the Slave.” Unlike every other This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb record, this one didn’t amaze me right away, but it’s still really, really, really (three “reallys?” yes!) good, and I can ninety-two percent guarantee that I’ll like it more over time. If this were a cereal, it’d be Honey Nut Cheerios: sugary sing-a-long choruses with a non-sugary message (Cheerios). Also, if you haven’t seen this band live, you’re missing out! –Maddy (No Idea)


TEN O SEVENS, THE:
Search Party: 7"
While The Ten O Sevens lists a whole pile of influences on their website, it’s pretty safe to say that the one right at the top, The Clash, holds a special place in these London fellows’ hearts. The three songs on this 7” would’ve fit beautifully on The Clash’s first record. Actually, they’d have been right at home on The 101ers’ Elgin Avenue Breakdown. And although the resemblance is uncanny (particularly the vocal delivery), I’ve got no qualms. These are great songs and the band certainly nails the sound that they’re shooting for right on the head. Good stuff. –Dave Dillon (No Front Teeth)


SUSPECT PARTS:
Change Your Mind: 7"
This is another throwback ‘60s rock 7”. There are two songs on this release and “Change Your Mind” makes for a fun/love pop tune. Suspect Parts really did go for that early ‘60s aesthetic by making this a two-track clear blue vinyl 45 with cover art to fit the them. This record has a black and white clip art photo of a woman sunbathing that looks like she came out of the before-mentioned era. The second song, a cover of “Then He Kissed Me,” is funny—as James Sullivan sings it as a man—with lyrics intact. If you live for ‘60s beat, then this would fit nicely along with your other 7” records. –N.L. Dewart (House Party)


SUNDOWNERS:
Gnome and Glacier: LP
[Looking at the cover, and then pondering.] I’ve never given much thought to the type of music that a bunch of garden gnomes would make if they had the opportunity. Would it be Smurfy? Small and bearded music? I bet there’d be some polka. They’re probably shit-tired of Christmas music, looking at rosemary bushes, and being crawled over by snails. I put the Sundowners in the same sect as North Trolls, Audacity, and Thee Makeout Party. The larger chunks of their music making can be traced to top-tier DIY punk like Shark Pants, The Bananas, and Shang-A-Lang, but they’re smart enough to not put tracing paper on light tables of their mentors’ songs. I suspect it’s a mixture of youth, drugs, infrequent bathing, and enjoying the moment that gives ‘em their own signatures and style. Good stuff, akin in the chose-your-own-adventure spirit of the Abi Yoyos. Warms up on repeat listens. –todd (Dirt Cult)


TEENAGE COOL KIDS:
Foreign Lands: LP
Comparisons have been made to bands like Pavement, Built To Spill, and the Pixies. All pretty good reference points. Pick any one you want and go with it. Or pick all three. It’s only scratching the iceberg, and an easy introduction, if you’re a stranger to these folks. Teenage Cool Kids are f’n awesome! Tuneful and catchy beyond belief. Syrupy guitar dominates the sound and a lot of “whoo-oooh” backup vocals remind me of the Beach Boys. These guys know how to craft well-written songs, and could very well be the new masters in our midst. Denton, TX seems to have a corner on bands these days. I posit that Teenage Cool Kids lead the pack. One of those records that you don’t think can get any better than it already is, and sure enough, it does get better, and get better and on and on. Once they hit the title track, and then on to following songs like “Crossing the Desert as a Stream” and “Speaking in Tongues,” it’s pure bliss, removing the listener from their surroundings and putting them right in the middle of the music. This is perfection. I strongly urge you to get this album. I’m telling everyone I know about how awesome this is. Some are sick of hearing about it, but it’s so great it’s unreal! I do know this record and I are going to be spending a lot of quality time together. –Matt Average (Protagonist Music, protagonistmusic.com)


SUSPECT PARTS:
“Maneater” b/w “She Cracked”: 45
Given the ever-widening chasm between the records i get sent to review for Razorcake and the records for which i’d actually pay money, the Suspect Parts—having a foot in both graves—were a welcome surprise. Furthering this modest bouquet of presumably welcome surprises, the A-side is NOT the Hall & Oates cover of the same name—but is, instead, a punkish, Mersey-tweaked pop-rocker about a girl who “picked up some nasty habits,” somewhat emboldened by the fact that it’s sung by a guy who can’t hit the high notes without yelling. The chorus includes the partial phrase “She’s a Man...” so frequently that’s it’s difficult for me to figure out if this is some kinda transvestitory “Lola” excursion, or just some honest ((and ill-planned)) attempt at a hook. The b-side is, in fact, the cover you think it is, and a capably executed version at that. I can’t say i’ve been rocked to my marrow by this record, but i can suggest that my marrow’s probably done worse things in its day ((i bear the burden of noteworthiliy headstrong marrow)). I believe Immanuel Kant would call this record “pleasant,” which bears mixed implications for those of us questing the Beautiful. BEST SONG: “Maneater” BEST SONG TITLE: “She Cracked,” of course. Jonathan Richman vs. Hall & Oates is a three-hit fight! ((his fist hitting their faces, them hitting the ground, and the ambulance hitting ninety)). FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: The circular smiley face on the front cover’s ice cream cone image is almost exactly the same circumference as the center circle of the inner 45 sleeve’s hole. –todd (Hover Craft)


SOCIAL TASK:
1979 Studio Recordings: 7” EP
As has been noted in numerous books, periodicals, and other sources, the influx of kids from the suburbs and beaches of Southern California into the punk scene created a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, most of the new kids were considerably more aggressive and, in some cases, downright sociopathic compared to the more laidback, arty attitude of Hollywood’s punks. Thing is, along with all the aggro, the music these kids were dishing up in their bands gave the scene a much-needed shot of creativity and intensity, and soon the old guard was being overrun by bands like Black Flag, the Slashers, China White, The Blades, Non-Fascists, The Outsiders, the Screwz and others who laid the foundation, good or ill, for hardcore, modern pop punk, and the now stereotypical Southern California punk sound. Social Task was one of these early bands, comprised of former members of the Slashers, The Idols, Non-Fascists, and China White. The five tunes on the first side of this EP, recorded in 1979 and summarily forgotten about until a few years ago, deftly showcase all the hoopla surrounding those early beach bands. While spare on technical finesse and more straightforward than Hollywood’s artier punk bands, the tunes are chock full of interesting chord progressions and ramped up with the same level of intensity that made bands like the Bags and the Germs such a hoot. Side B here presents four more tunes from 2007 with most of the lineup remaining intact, and it appears that age has not mellowed them one whit. Last I checked, they’re still out and about, playing gigs all over Southern California, so definitely make a point to check ‘em out and, by all means, pick this up before you later end up kicking yourself repeatedly in the ass while paying outrageous amounts for it on Ebay. –jimmy (Artifix)


SNUGGLE:
Zero Real Hearts: LP
I picked this one up knowing that I liked everything that I had heard from ‘em (their Tag… 7” and the Bent Outta Shape split). When I first put it on, I thought it was pretty good. Then I listened to it more, and then some more. And then I came to realize what a gem I had in my possession. Snuggle is undeniably pop punk, but it ain’t humdrum like a lot of the genre has become again. This LP is unwashed, intense, and uninhibited. They sound like their heads are barely above water and it is categorically imperative that hear what they have to say, even if that means that they sink while they’re trying to tell you what’s up. It sounds like four dudes converging with a common need, not one guy using the rest of the band as mere means for advancing his own private agenda. The drums, bass, and guitars are all over the place, going in their directions yet moving perfectly together (often quicker than a mile per minute). The vocals, like the strings and skins, are raw and urgent—they refrain from coming even close to any type of commonplace pop punk vocals. The lyrics are almost only coincidentally sung. It’s like the dude yells in such a way that it just fits because of the exigency in what he’s trying to convey. The whole thing has a very full and emotion-laden sound that has a pureness that seems to come from letting go, playing loud, playing fast, and playing what you need to play. Get it. –Vincent Battilana (1-2-3-4 Go!)


SNOWING:
Fuck Your Emotional Bullshit: 7"
Fast, jangling guitars. Hoarse, off-key wailing. Happy-go-lucky spazzing. Silkscreened cover sticking to the plastic sleeve. Think emo back when the first touches of indie rock were getting thrown in. Cap’n Jazz. Braid. Nuzzle. If you told me this was from 1994, I’d believe you. No, they haven’t done anything to improve on the formula, but they keep it catchy and fun and stop just shy of cutesy. –CT Terry (Square Of Opposition)


SNARLAS:
Self-titled: 7"
Mid-tempo, thudding punk with constant female gang vocals. Pop sensibilities with frayed edges and borrowed equipment. It’s scrappy DIY punk with fiery, burning passion that transcends musicianship. Awkward sounding at times, but it just adds to the punkness. Imagine The Shaggs meets Cleveland Bound Death Sentence songs that Emily sung. –Daryl Gussin (Plan-It-X South)


SMALLTOWN:
Read between the Lines: 10"
This may sound weird: It’s sometimes better to forget what got you into a band in the first place, especially when raging fire and uncontained electricity are replaced with a hand-warming smolder and reliable indoor lighting. Critically, it’s unfair for me to return to the head-and-rock space of their first couple of 7”s and lament that that boat’s sailed. Smalltown’s more introspective and musically slower now, with frequent incorporations of reggae, but all in a style that’s immediately recognizable as them. I can’t say that this 10” lit my head on fire like a match, but like really hot water, I’m slowly adjusting, inch by body inch, dipping into Smalltown’s new musical pool. Side A is four originals. Side B has covers of The Strike, The Statues, and Elvis Costello. The packaging on this 10” is gorgeous: die-cut “rising sun” cover and delicious-looking red vinyl. Sneaker hit or just a sleeper? Only time and more spins—which I’m more than willing to give them—will tell. –todd (Pirate's Press)


SIN REMEDIO:
Border Hoppin’ Hardcore: CD
I am so excited for this release. It’s a long time coming. I am going to make the claim that they are one of the premier bands in Los Angeles. I have talked to touring bands that they have shared the stage with and the conversation was always that they were pretty amazed. With only a split 7” with Life In Exile under their belt, this band has been making the rounds live for quite a few years now. I like bands that mix things up and work outside the box. This band of two females and two males really caught my attention right from the start. A mix of Latin and punk thrash with grind and death metal overtones is hard to not take notice of. They know how to take it from soft and pretty to brutal and charging. I hope this is one release that does not get overlooked. –don (Sin Remedio, sinremedio.net )


SHANNON AND THE CLAMS:
I Wanna Go Home: CD
Bastardized ‘50s riffs seems to be flavor of the month, but Shannon And The Clams are having a lot of fun with it and are able to bring the listener along. The guitars are laden with reverb, as are the vocals some of the time. This dynamic creates a bit of necessary chaos for a band that likely sounds really good live. “Troublemaker” and “The Warlock in the Woods” are mid-tempo ‘50s rock while “Blast Me to Bermuda” gets into faster realms. There are slower songs that are well done, but become a bit tedious after two minutes. That two minute pop standard must occasionally be adhered to. The songs, as they appear on the album, are occasionally grouped too closely by tempo, which is a shame, because the diversity in speed would have been an opportunity to create a better flow for the album. But all in all, the songwriting is solid. It’s a great record for fans of the new old. –Billups Allen (1-2-3-4-Go!)


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