Thursday, July 17, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

CD Reviews

Millencolin - Machine 15 (Epitaph)
After 15 years and seven full lengths (not counting EPs), the Swedish pop/punkers in Millencolin have finally moved away from being just another skate punk band with snarky lyrics and have entered “influential punk rocker” territory. After a three year break, the band’s latest offering, “Machine 15.” is by far Millencolin’s best effort to date. Brimming with pop-worthy sing-along choruses, a driving rhythm section and perfect punk rock guitars, the sadly underrated band is bound to win over a whole new crowd with the new record while holding onto enough of their old sound to satisfy longtime fans. Along with a slightly matured sound, the band has also grown immensely in their songwriting, with snatches of brilliant political protest in songs like “Broken World.” That’s not to say that the band has turned into Europe’s answer to Bad Religion. One just needs to listen to a slightly goofy track like the highly infectious first single “Detox,” to be assured that the guys in Millencolin can still crack a smile. The band’s evolution from just another skater band with a jones for So Cal pop/punk to one of Europe’s best contemporary punk rock band’s may have taken awhile, but thanks to a record like “Machine 15” the trip was well worth it.

1997 – On the Run (Victory)
Victory Records, one of the most powerful indie labels operating today, may be best known as the home to teeth rattling post-hardcore and metal acts, but oddly out of place on their roster is one of their best signings, the piano-heavy emo-tinged indie pop act 1997.The Chicago natives play endearing, lush pop that is separated from their contemporaries thanks to their trade off of boy/girl vocals. The addition of new singer Alida Marroni propels “On the Run” way past their decent, but decidedly uneven debut. Their latest record is stronger mainly due to the risks the band takes this time out. The almost Brian Wilson-like opening vocals on “January 19th” and the sing-along tracks like “Winds of Change” (probably one of the best emo songs Dashboard Confessional didn’t write) show a band much more confident. That’s not to say the album is flawless. There are musical risks that don’t pay off, but the successes far outshine any missteps. With “On the Run,” 1997 have taken piano and stellar vocals to help define the new sound of Victory Records.

Nerd Herder – IV (Oglio)
Nerf Herder has never been able to shake comparisons to the other jokey nerd rockers in Weezer. Both bands play chuckle worthy, sing along pop, with the big exception being that Nerf Herder are all for exploiting their goofiness for the sake of good songs (they also don’t have a head case for a lead singer). The band called it quits a few years ago then had second thoughts and reunited in 2005. It took awhile to finally put together IV, their first record since reuniting, but these tracks are just as strong as their earlier material. With songs about loser stalkers, backpacks and embarrassing high school reunions, the band doesn’t stretch much on this record, but then again they wouldn’t be as much fun if they actually matured. Taken for what it is, a silly pop-punk record, Nerf Herder’s “IV” works just fine.