BRAVE YOU – Album Review: “Places”

Brave You

I’m back in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (having just written about progressive metal band UNDER AEGIS) to shine my spotlight on Brave You, one of my favorite indie bands that I’ve also previously featured on this blog. In 2016 I reviewed their outstanding debut Six Songs EP, and now have the pleasure of reviewing their new full-length album Places, which dropped in late February. Released through Halloween Records, Places is a concept album. The band’s guitarist & lead vocalist Alex Meylink explains: “Places is entirely about addiction, but we tried to avoid ever mentioning drugs or alcohol. We focused primarily on how addiction interacts with one’s emotional state and relationships, so I think it’s applicable to anyone suffering a mental health issue. These are songs written across a few years: in the early stages of recovery, in relapse, at ‘the bottom’, and finally coming to a place of good mental health and sobriety.”

Brave You plays alternative rock that’s highly melodic, but with an honest, post-grunge sensibility that gives them a distinctive style all their own. In addition to Meylink, the other band members are Noah Snyder on bass & backing vocals, and Erik Burtraw on drums & backing vocals. Outstanding, complex guitar riffs, aggressive drums, and really fine harmonizing vocals are the defining elements of their sound. Add their solid songwriting to the mix, and the result are songs of exceptional quality and depth. And if all that isn’t enough of a winning combination, they’re also pretty nice guys.

Places is aptly named, as each track title is about a specific location, whether it be a geographical one or simply a bedroom. The album kicks off with a distorted riff and voice over of a guy inviting his friends to go to the amusement park on “Lake Michigan.” Swirling guitars, Snyder’s humming bass and Burtraw’s crashing drums ensue, as Meylink earnestly sings of being in a precarious mental state: “So I’m safe for now. Even if it’s just one moment I could crack a smile, goddamn it.” Determined to make it, he defiantly sings “So I’m safe for now. So let’s burn that fucker down and build it up from better ground.”

I may be off base, but my take on “The Hospital” is that it’s about being depressed over the impending onset of winter, which symbolizes the possibility of having a relapse that would necessitate going back into rehab. The lighthearted video puts a happy face on a rather serious subject, namely trying to stave off winter, or preventing a downward spiral and keeping an upbeat attitude by having fun playing sports with friends. By video’s end, the band members are all wearing giant teddy bear heads, indicating they’re getting ready to hibernate, another metaphor symbolizing the inevitability of returning to the hospital for rehab.

One of my favorite tracks is “Mound St.” It starts off with Meylink’s echoed vocals and a gentle riff and drumbeat, then explodes with a barrage of wailing guitars and thunderous drums. Still in a fragile mental state and feeling pessimistic, Meylink sings: “I’d spent a few years treading water in stagnant pools. You asked me where my head had wandered off to. I’ve been lost. / If these are the best days of our lives then we are fucked. I am fucked. / On Mound Street, I let my losses pile up. Refused to claim stake in the rubble and the sum of the stories I told you and to myself: that I’m alright and getting by. So I coasted on hope or the concept of having it. Got myself dry as a bone til mine were cracking, but I couldn’t help but sink into quicksand and pits. A morass of “faultless” debt I could never hope to pay back.

Wind Lake” and “King Cross” are a couplet, with the latter being a precise continuation of “Wind Lake.” It’s interesting the band would create a separate track in “Kings Cross,” as it begins with the exact same riff that “Wind Lake” ends with. Both tracks feature Meylink’s gritty, screaming guitars and Snyder’s deep, droning bass line, sounding fantastic.

The guys’ wonderful harmonizing is well represented on “Washington.” The nimble guitars and bouncy drumbeat lend an optimistic tone for lyrics that speak to a resignation that though things aren’t going so great, we’ll just continue acting like they are: “So let’s just make it through this winter. Toss off the sharp and jagged splinters. No matter, all of this is fine.”

Hometown” speaks to the depression that began while growing up, and wanting to escape that environment in the hope things will get better:  “Always remember how you felt at this moment, in this placeAlone and inconsolable in the house that you grew up inYou wanted to burn that fucker down. Erase twenty years on solid ground.” The track has a great melody, and is filled with loads of jangly guitars and gritty bass. “South Milwaukee” is a short and beautiful track with chiming guitars and warm bass, but sad lyrics about feeling hopeless and alone. Meylink sadly sings “Overworked and underfed, in need of rest, I drove the twenty minutes to South Milwaukee instead, to you and your shitty friend. Towards a beacon of light in an otherwise meaningless night. / Selfish, I expected too much of your company. That just one night could fix me. It didn’t help me at all.

Bedroom” finds him trying to escape his demons by isolating in a safe place:  “Me and these ghosts, still talking until I’m finally sleeping. I just want to stay home, stay in my bedroom alone. Me and these ghosts, still talking until I’m finally sleeping. I just want to be whole.” As always, the frenetic instrumentals and vocal harmonies are first-rate.

The hard-driving, bittersweet “Your Bedroom” speaks to the pain and feelings of loss after the sudden death of a friend. “You’re no ghost, you’re a warmth. A ringing in the ears. A reminder. Stay in motion now. Make the movement matter. And this will freeze and crack, thawed only by the embers. You’re twenty seven forever. By the back door, your old pair of blue Tiger shoes we didn’t throw out, as if after a day or two like Lazarus you’d come from your room. We’d get a sandwich at Lulu’s. God, I’d do whatever you want to. I’d get clean. I’d sing loud. Just come on out.”

Places closes on an optimistic tone with the anthemic “Everywhere.” He’s now confident things will be OK: “I wanna take back this city from dead memories, take back my body. Call off the funeral procession for all these loves that built me. Those years searching for something greater than these homes. Well, I found it. Found it in my bones.” It’s a gorgeous track with layered guitars that start off as tender strums, gradually building to celebratory jangly riffs. Likewise, Meylink’s heartfelt vocals build along with the music, eventually soaring to a crescendo of spine-tingling harmonies. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a brilliant effort from a really fine band. I love Brave You and hope they continue making music for years to come.

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Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation
Purchase Places on Bandcamp or iTunes

SECOND PLAYER SCORE – Album Review: “Nobody’s Hero”

Second Player Score is one of those rock bands whose music gets better with each listen. When I first played their album Nobody’s Hero I thought “This is pretty good, with some terrific riffs and bass lines.” But as I listened for a second, third and fourth time, I discovered more surprises like nuanced chord change-ups, riffs that aren’t just terrific, but freaking amazing, and percussion that’s perfectly in sync with the melodies, bass and guitars. Throw in the compelling lyrics and you get an idea of how good Second Player Score’s music is.

Based in Vancouver, Washington, a medium-sized city across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, Second Player Score consists of Brian Tashima (guitar, lead vocals), Daniel Downs (bass, backing vocals) and Kyle Gilbert (drums/backing vocals).  They play hard-driving, melodic rock/pop/punk influenced by 90s Green Day and Bad Religion, two of their favorite bands. They released a fine debut album Fortress Storm Attack in late 2014, and followed up with a sophomore effort Nobody’s Hero late last year.

Second Player Score

Nobody’s Hero, as described on the band’s website, “is a quasi-concept album in the spirit of Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son or Green Day’s American Idiot.” The album is quite an ambitious effort, and plays out like a rock opera. Specifically, Nobody’s Hero tells the Dungeons & Dragons-esque story of a man who’s granted magical powers by an evil spirit, and ends up abusing those powers until he realizes the error of his ways.

Tashima explains “Basically, this guy gets seduced by a female demon who gives him these special abilities, and initially, he tries to help people with them, but then he eventually succumbs to the temptation of using them for selfish and corrupt purposes. Having done that, he becomes worthy of being her consort and siring her child – a daughter who will grow up to continue the cycle. The demon then betrays and abandons him, leaving him for dead. He survives, though, and uses what’s left of his powers to stop her in the only way possible, which is to cause an apocalypse that wipes everyone out, including them. It’s like a Greek tragedy.”

Bonestorm“kicks the album off to a rousing start with Tashima’s scorching, rapid-fire riffs, as he emphatically sings: “I know you dream about me. Can’t stop, you never doubt me. Your heart the price of freedom. Your soul will keep on breathing. / I’m nobody’s hero, some day you will see.” Gilbert pounds his drums with abandon, and the screaming distorted guitars at end are awesome.

Shredded guitars and Downs’ thumping bass usher in the hard-driving “Deep.” Though hesitant to connect with the woman to avoid being hurt again, the man’s willpower is beginning to weaken: “I’m still afraid to get deep into someone. I can’t take the pain so I make myself numb.” In “Circles” he sings: “Running circles round my mind. It’s like I’m dreaming all the time. Nothing ever feels the same. And I know that you’re to blame.” The bass-heavy melody abruptly changes to a rapid flourish at song’s end, furious riffs and pummeling drums signaling a dramatic shift in the story.

By “Demon’s Kiss,” he’s fallen under her spell, believing she’s his salvation: “I’ve always hoped I would know the glory of your warm embrace. I couldn’t cope til you came to me and saved me from the chase. And now I’m sure that I’ll worship you until my dying day.” Cause you’re the cure for the ills that led me far astray.” The band’s signature riffs, hard-driving bass and hammering percussion are on full display here.

One of my favorite tracks from a musical standpoint is “Hooked,” a high-energy rock-n-roll gem from start to finish, and the title’s self-evident. Tashima coaxes blistering riffs from his guitar and you can literally feel the buzz of Downs’ bass in your core. Next up is “Interlude Fall From Grace,” a three-and-a-half minute long instrumental that provides a dramatic bridge from the man’s seduction to his turn toward the dark side.

The man realizes the full extent of his capabilities in “Origin Story.” He’s now invincible to threats from outside forces, but also drunk with power. Tashima wails “No one can hurt me now, as long as I have you inside my mind. It’s like I’ve died and been reborn. This permanent intoxication gives me the courage now to look for something more.”

On “Head of Sin” he confesses that he’s used his powers for evil and now deserves to be cursed to hell: “It’s all a mess, I’ve crossed the line. I only  want what’s rightly mine. And I don’t care much anymore. So shut up now, don’t say a word. Before your cries become absurd. You know I’ve heard it all before. Cause now the only way to go is down. To hell that’s where I will be found.” The instrumentals on this track are as intense as the lyrics, and the guitars and bass in the outro are killer, perfectly conveying the chaos his life has now become.

Another standout track is the tumultuous “Drink the Poison,” which has a definite Green Day vibe. The man realizes the woman is not what he thought she was, that she’s duplicitous: “So cry your phony tears, you’re so insincere that I forgive you. I’ll die before I let you make more regrets.” I love the frenetic hammering drums that accompany the line ‘Your lies go on and on and on and on and on.” On “Never Let Me Down” he confronts the demon that he knows she’s betrayed him and now she will pay. Tashima snarls “You broke all your promises, left me to drown like this.

The album closes with “Comets,” an epic seven-and-a-half minute tour-de-force that proves without a doubt that these guys are masters of their respective instruments. Tashima’s guitar skills are positively mind-blowing, offering up a dizzying array of layered riffs and extended solos. One minute he’s ripping his guitar to shreds, the next he’s playing a jangly melodic solo, and everything in between. Downs lays down bass lines so heavy they threaten to blow out the speakers, and Gilbert pounds his drum kit with all he’s got. It’s my absolute favorite track on the album. They once again channel Green Day; at various times within the track I hear the influence of songs like “Basket Case” and “Novocaine,” which is fine by me as I love Green Day. The song lyrics describe a variety of apocalyptic disasters the man is capable of unleashing on the world, including comets, earthquakes, hurricanes and nuclear war. It’s a dramatic end to a superb, monumental album.

Follow Second Player Score:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / SoundcloudReverbnation

Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon / Bandcamp / cd baby

Album Review: MUDD – “Look What I Found in Your Mom’s Top Drawer”

MUDD is a young pop-punk rock band from Kingston, Ontario, Canada. And by ‘young’ I mean young! The three band members are all just 16 years old and still in high school. They are:  Seth Hunt on lead vocals & guitar, Reilly Clark on bass & backing vocals, and Devin Pierce on drums & backing vocals. And even at their young ages, the guys already have a long history with music. According to their bio, Seth has been playing guitar since he was seven, Reilly started playing bass at the age of ten, and Devin has hit the drums since the age of seven. They formed as the band MUDD in 2014, and released their first full-length self-produced album on Bandcamp this past February.

MUDD

They recently approached me about reviewing their album and, upon seeing its title – Look What I Found In Your Mom’s Top Drawer – I had to say yes! Besides, I was impressed by their earnest belief in themselves, plus the fact they produced their own album and put themselves out there. The album features nine zany tracks that incorporate elements of punk, pop and garage rock into a wild stew of fun and crazy tunes about girls, sex and teenage angst that one would expect from 16-year-olds. The tracks are unmastered, so have a raw, unfinished quality that makes them sound essentially like live recordings, and it’s clear the guys had a blast recording them.

On tracks like “Twitch,” “SOB,” the electronic “Interlude (Not Today TM),” “Going Nowhere Fast” and “I Don’t Wanna Go Home,” the guys show off their skills on their respective instruments. Lots of shredded guitars and frantic drumming are on display, making for some real head bangers guaranteed to get the party started and keep the energy flowing at high speed. Their vocals are a bit weak, but I think that’s mostly due to their young age. Their voices haven’t yet fully developed, and will likely improve as they grow, both in age and experience.

Some of their lyrics are hilarious. On “Interlude (Not Today TM),” Seth sings “This unicorn fell upon me, as it raced toward me with its horn, driving it towards my anus. I clenched my anus as I blocked the horn and I said ‘Not today.’ And then, I took out my sword of Avalon once again…” On “Japananoque,” the guys seem to just be fooling around, laying down some frenetic riffs as they sing “The women are fine, the women are fine, the women are fine everywhere.  They are not greasy, they’re very pretty. Japananoque. Suck on my cockque.

The guys can get serious too. “Where Are You” speaks to missing a lost love after a broken relationship. “I toss and turn, thinking about you sleeping in my bed. Old memories return and pictures they burn, except for the evidence of you in my bed. Where are you, and why can’t I see clearly now?”

Track listing:

  1. Twitch
  2. No Looking Back
  3. Where Are You?
  4. SOB
  5. Interlude (Not Today TM)
  6. Punk Rock Chick
  7. Going Nowhere Fast
  8. I Don’t Wanna Go Home
  9. Japananoque

https://mudd3.bandcamp.com/album/look-what-i-found-in-your-moms-top-drawer

MUDD’s songs are only available on Bandcamp at this time, and they don’t yet have any YouTube videos.  They’re currently in the process of recording a new EP with the provocative title No Peeing In The Pool. It should be another head banger! Connect with MUDD on Facebook and stream or download their EP on Bandcamp.