No, this isn’t satire. This is some serious shit. Don’t mock. I know it’s a massive two-fisted claim, but when you think about it, 1986 was an outstanding year in music. Most of us just didn’t appreciate it at the time. Through no fault of their own, half the people who read this post probably weren’t even alive thirty years ago, which is a thought that absolutely terrifies me.
Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi, License to Ill by the Beastie Boys, The Queen is Dead by the Smiths, Invisible Touch by Genesis, Graceland by Paul Simon, A Kind of Magic by Queen, Master of Puppets by Metallica, So by Peter Gabriel, Liverpool by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Classics, one and all. Thirty-year old classics. Well, except that last one. Apart from Rage Hard Frankie’s long awaited follow-up to Welcome to the Pleasuredome was utter crap. But it was memorable crap.
You might not think it, but look beneath the surface and you’ll see that three decades on, 2016 has been another stellar year in music for people of a certain persuasion. Not only did Blink 182 return revitalised and reinvigorated, but there were new albums from Bouncing Souls, Biffy Clyro, BabyMetal, Bayside, Bowling For Soup, and even a few bands that didn’t begin with ‘B,’ like Taking Back Sunday, Feeder, Good Charlotte, Yellowcard, Against Me! A Day to Remember, and the kings of modern punk rock (yes, I said it), Green Day. Still to come we have releases from Jimmy Eat World and Sum 41. Even the Ataris, who haven’t put out anything new since 2007, came to the party. Granted, October in the Railroad Earth is an EP made up of studio outtakes, so it’s neither a proper album nor new, but I’m including it here because I want to, and it’s fucking awesome.
You could say 2016 has been something of a pop punk renaissance, a fact further underlined by imminent new offerings from Billy Tallent, Tonight Alive, Set it Off, and the Starting Line. I think this speaks volumes about the state of the world we live in right now. People are fucked off and miserable. We want the happy back. Break out the fart jokes and beer, all is forgiven! ADTR, Blink and All Time Low even toured the US together in what is probably the greatest live bill I’ve never seen. Thanks for that. A slightly more unsettling alternative is that pop punk now qualifies as retro, and is benefiting from that warm, fuzzy nostalgia buzz that people yearn for when they hit their late-thirties. It’ll be popping up in Classic Rock mag next.
I realise all this might not mean much to some of you. But to get to the point, pretty much ALL my favourite bands of the past fifteen years or so are releasing new albums at roughly the same time. And not only that, but most of them are good! This is a truly unprecedented event of near-cataclysmic significance well worthy of a blog post. Like an inter-planetary alignment over Stonehenge or something. Now, if someone could get Funeral for a Friend to reform and knock out a new album by the end of the year, we’ll be golden. Ta.
2 Comments | tags: A Day to Remember, BABYMETAL, Blink 182, Genesis, Good Charlotte, Green day, humour, life, metallica, music, nostalgia, pop punk, punk, Queen, retro, Sum 41, The Smiths | posted in album, concerts, Life, music, pop punk, punk, Tribute
They’re back! The Blink 182 love-in is one of the most hotly anticipated reunion stories of the decade. When founder member Tom DeLonge left to go chasing spaceships or whatever, a lot of people, me included, thought it was all over. As if growing up wasn’t enough to deal with. But then in walked Matt Skiba to breathe new life into what had become a stagnating franchise. By all accounts, recording the last album, Neighbourhoods (2011), their first in eight years, was a fraught exercise. And it showed. The music was derivative, disjointed and, for the most part, bang average. If this was the sound of a band maturing, it was painful to ear. Then came Skiba, who had been fronting emo punks Alkaline Trio to great effect since 1998. Released worldwide on 1st July 2016, a full 21 years after their indie label debut, California gave Blink 182 their first US number one album in fifteen years, and their first UK number one album EVER. They also deserve some extra kudos for kicking Drake off the top spot.
Predictably, after all this time the teen angst has morphed into mid-life angst, but angst is angst however you dress it up. Lyrically, Blink are just as witty as they ever were and now they can incorporate Gen Y frustration and general hopelessness into their music as well as the odd broken heart. Gone are the dick jokes and dog semen references (mostly), and in are the odes to misplaced youth and shattered dreams. This is never more evident than on opening track Cynical (clue’s in the title) which starts off in a pretty subdued manner before launching into a frantic sing-a-along reminiscent of the Take off Your Pants and Jacket days. Cynical bleeds effortlessly into lead single Bored to Death, which appears to be another depressing evaluation of adult life featuring the telling refrain, “It’s a long way back from seventeen, the whispers turn into a scream.”
She’s out of Her Mind, No Future and The Only thing that Matters are lightweight, up-tempo stand-outs while Los Angeles, Left Alone and San Diego wouldn’t sound out of place on either of the last two albums. Not that that’s a bad thing. Not entirely, anyway. The grown-up sensibilities fall completely by the wayside for Kings of the Weekend, Rabbit Hole, and in particular, Brohemian Rhapsody, a 30-second full-frontal assault built around the line, “There’s something about you I can’t quite put my finger in.” Snort.
In many ways this album is a homage to punk past. Most of the tracks will have you waxing lyrical about those heady days of the early noughties when Blink, Good Charlotte, and Fallout Boy ruled the world. But other aspects (No Future, for example, is a title lifted from God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols) reach even further back in time. Listen carefully and you might recognise elements borrowed from the Misfits, the Ramones, NOFX, Bad Religion, Pennywise, MXPX and more. It has the hooks, humour and choruses of every classic Blink album, but here they delivered with a fresh twist. Matt Skiba shows he isn’t just hear to make up the numbers. His vocals compliment those of Mark Hoppus perfectly, his guitar work is solid if unspectacular, and he even had a hand in writing almost half the songs. California contains an impressive 16 tracks (17 if you include the bonus Hey, I’m Sorry) but with a total running time of under 43 minutes, the band have clearly steered back toward the three-minute formula that made them so popular, and away from the bloated stadium rock epics they were in danger of resorting to. All in all, this is a great album. I’m going to finish by nicking a line from Home is Such a Lonely Place which sums it all up pretty well:
“Tomorrow’s frightening. But not today.”
Check out my other recent album reviews: Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia EP and BabyMetal – Metal Resistance
1 Comment | tags: album, Alkaline Trio, Blink 182, Mark Hoppus, Matt Skiba, music, pop punk, punk, review, rock, Travis Barker | posted in album, Leisure, Life, music, pop punk, punk, Reviews, Tribute
I teach English at a university in Changsha, Hunan province, China. Well, I say I teach English. I am the first to admit that what I really do is not actual teaching. If my students are lucky they might learn a few new words and expressions from me, but my main purpose here seems to be to facilitate a kind of culture exchange. Chinese culture is so far removed from Western culture that the students in China need some kind of preparation, especially if they plan to go abroad one day or even work closely with westerners.
One of my more popular classes has always been my near-legendary music classes. No, I don’t make them play instruments, that’s for the parents to do. Instead we talk about music a bit, and I show them videos. Music works well as a medium. Especially music videos. A picture tells a thousand words, as they say.
The problem is, how to distil half a century of music into an 80-minute ‘lesson?’
Here, I make no excuses. I play what I want, such is my right as their teacher, haha! I put a lot of thought into it, and try to choose things that are meaningful or significant. Or just… good.
For the record, here is a list of video’s I showed this week:
30 Seconds to Mars – Closer to the Edge (great video)
U2 – Bad at Live Aid (powerful stuff)
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run
Blink 182 – All the Small things
Simple Plan ft Natasha Bedingfield – Jet Lag
Eminem – Lose Yourself (Inspirational)
Linkin Park – Bleed it Out (LP are among the few western bands that Chinese students recognize)
Pink – Blow Me
Lostprophets – Rooftops (have to get a Welsh band in there somewhere!)
Papa Roach – Scars (great song)
Green Day – Time of Your Life
Slipknot – Before I forget (Live at Download)
Enrique Inglesias – Escape (one of my guilty pleasures. It also serves to keep the girls happy!)
On the whole, I don’t think China is at all ready for Slipknot. When they go off it causes shock and awe on a grand scale. Half my students shit themselves in fear. Corey Taylor, be proud.
3 Comments | tags: Blink 182, bruce springsteen, China, Eminem, Green day, life, Linkin park, live aid, music, Slipknot, teaching, U2 | posted in China, music