Tag Archives: Allister

Allister – 20 Years and Counting (review)

Allister are one of the great forgotten pop punk bands. They had all the tools – cool image, solid musicianship, a great attitude, killer tunes, witty lyrics, tattoos – yet somehow got lost in the shuffle. Don’t get me wrong, they achieved modest commercial success, especially with their Last Stop Suburbia album in 2002, and cemented their place in pop punk folklore long ago (lest we forget they were one of the first bands signed to legendary label Drive-Thru records, also home to Senses Fail, Something Corporate, Newfound Glory, Halifax and Finch, to name just a few) but the big time always eluded them. In most places, anyway. Allister, and in particular bassist and singer Scott Murphy who for a long time sustained a solo career (I think he still does), was absolutely huge in Japan. No doubt a talented individual, Murphy’s charisma and boundless enthusiasm is admirable. I met him at a gig in London a few years back, and he was awesome.

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This album comes through necessity more than anything. They haven’t released anything since 2012 and wanted to mark what is essentially their 25th anniversary as a band, and 20 years since the release of their debut album which, incidentally, was recorded on a purported production budget of $700 and featured a cover of the Fraggle Rock theme. Kudos. Someone somewhere suggested a ‘greatest hits’ style compilation, but that proved problematic as it turned out Allister didn’t actually own the recording licenses for any of the tracks on their first few releases but owned the rights to the songs themselves. Hence, the solution was to re-record, and in some cases, ‘re-imagine’ them, and pad the thing out with a few new tracks. The pick of these is probably the high-octane Peremptory Challenge, ran a close second by the slightly more restrained opener Stay with Me.

As for the re-recorded tracks, most have been updated only in the sense that they’ve lost a lot of that energetic immediacy so prevalent in pop punk circles. The guitars are choppier, the bass section slightly higher in the mix, and most tracks have been brought down an octave or two in an effort, you feel, to ingratiate them with a mainstream audience who are rapidly forgetting what drums and guitars sound like, let alone pop punk. Some, like Moper and Flypaper benefit from this treatment, but others like Scratch and A Study in Economics seem to lose a little something. Or maybe I’m just too attached to the original versions and resistant to change. Dunno. Regardless, even at 50% capacity Scratch is approximately 50% better than 90% of other songs.

One of the biggest missteps is a wholly unnecessary remake of the ska-infused Stuck Powered On from the 2012 album Life Behind Machines. In my humble opinion it was one of the band’s weakest tracks anyway, and the 2019 version adds nothing to the original. Meh. All things considered, 20 Years and Counting is a somewhat patchy affair, but has enough quality to carry it through. Beyond the new material seasoned fans are unlikely to be overly impressed, but if this release exposes Allister to a new generation, it will have done its job.

To promote the release the band have made a cool new video for Somewhere Down on Fullerton, which you can catch HERE.

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Gig Review: Heroes For Hire / Allister @ The Borderline, London

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Australia isn’t known for punk. Notorious hard-partiers Heroes For Hire are on a mission to change all that. These are their first UK dates since dumping Brad Smith and promoting guitarist and backing singer Duane Hazell to frontman duties. It seemed something of an acrimonious split which rankled many of their fans, so it was interesting to see how the new-look line-up would go down tonight. The faithful needn’t have worried. Hazell sounded as if he had been singing these songs the entire time which, of course, some may argue he has. New single Hate Myself Again was well-received, but it was encore Secrets, Lies & Sins that really stole the show. Onwards and upwards for these guys, it seems.

Crowd primed, Chicago pop punks Allister took the stage in London for the first time in seven years, and before they even played a note the place started going nuts. Since being one of the first bands signed to Drive Thru Records back in ’96 the band have experienced their share of up’s and down’s, but it’s great to see that the enthusiasm of Scott Murphy and co. hasn’t waned in the slightest. They love what they do, and the fans feed off it. Keeping up the recent trend of bands revisiting pivotal moments in their career to perform landmark albums in their entirety, this show promised 2002’s Last Stop Suburbia from front to back. Some of the excitement factor is obviously sacrificed, because with these types of show you know what’s coming next roughly 75% of the time. But when a band is this energetic and the material this strong, it hardly matters. Who can believe it’s been over a decade since Allister released that solid slab of skate punk? Nothing has changed that much. You still can’t hear these songs without smiling.

True to their word, after kicking off with the immortal Scratch, the band ripped through the other fifteen tracks on the album without so much as taking a breath, right up to and including a ferocious None of My Friends Are Punks. Personal highlights along the way included Flypaper, Somewhere on Fullerton and Know it All. There were numerous times during the evening when the crowd took over singing duties, virtually drowning out Murphy and co-singer Tim Rogner, a sure sign of a great chorus if ever there was one. LSS put through its paces, near the end of the evening Allister took us through a few old classics, and a tune or two from their most recent album, last year’s Life Behind Machines, including the lead-off track Five Years, another classic in the making. Who knows? Maybe in a decade we’ll get to see Allister on these shores again, performing Life Behind Machines in its entirety. If that happens, I hope they keep some space in the set for a couple of Suburbia tunes.


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