Bruise Reviews: Screeching Weasel - Mania

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Dear punk rock neophytes,

 Hi, it's us again, the last generation of punkers. Remember us? We let you into our close-knit little scene, brought you to your first shows, and gave you your first beer bong. Yeah that's us. We just wanted to check up on you. It seems to us that as of late, you've been lead astray. What, with The Warped Tour, Hot Topic and Myspace, you have us a bit concerned. And granted we may have dressed a little funny in our day too, but wearing women's jeans and haircuts is taking it a bit far don't ya think? And really, who would ever consider bands like Good Charlotte, Fall Out Boy or New Found Glory with the likes of Social Distortion, Operation Ivy or Screeching Weasel?  Speaking of Screeching Weasel, they just released a greatest hits album of sorts. And we all feel like this would be a perfect time for you to become acquainted with a band that never succumbed to the pressures of the water downed mainstream.

 Screeching Weasel released album after album (around 20 releases) of songs chuck full of the catchy guitar riffs, nasally angst ridden vocals and a fuck you attitude that made Ben Weasel an icon and put Chicago on the punk rock map. Where as a greatest hits compilation wouldn't fit on 1 disc (due to the multitude of Bitchin' Weasel songs) Weasel Mania is more of a cross section of their 14 year career, 34 songs highlighting the best of each album. It may not be every Screeching Weasel song I would've chosen, but it sure puts those new guy's dicks in the dirt, trust me. Here on Mania you'll find the classics like Hey Suburbia, Supermarket Fantasy, and The Science of Myth as well as a slew of their newer material like Cool Kids, Racist Society and Bottom of the 9th . And as was the case on it's original album (of the same name), the somewhat inspirational tune My Brain Hurts steals the show once again. Mania also has a little something for us elderly punkers too, the rare track, Video (from the 7 inch Four on the Floor), and a plethora of pictures and first person accounts on the band's history will keep us busy as we slip into senility.

 Listen, we'll forgive you on one condition, you take that Simple Plan cd out of your stereo, smash it, then pop this one in. No excuses.

                                           See ya in the pit,
                                                   The middle-aged punk community

Bruise Reviews: Transplants - Haunted Cities

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 Punk rock super group, if there is such a thing, The Transplants (comprised of Tim Armstrong; lead vocalist and guitarist of Rancid, Travis Barker; drummer of Blink 182/ultra tattooed reality TV star and Rob Aston; who is an ex-roadie for Rancid and AFI turned hardcore rapper) have once again hit the street with their sophomore effort, Haunted Cities.

 The album has all the ingredients of their ground breaking debut plus a bit more (the bit more is where the problems begin). At times Haunted Cities is pure brilliance and at other times it comes off a little too ambitious, occasionally falling victim to it's own over-production. Rather than keep the pace with their mixture of punk rock and hip-hop, they've opted for a more widespread approach, adding elements of drum and bass. Which leaves one question; if you have Travis Barker (who's regarded by many to be one of the best percussionists in punk) at your disposal; why in the hell would you opt for a drum machine? Maybe he was busy that day filming an episode of The Surreal Life. I'm still puzzled.

 While Haunted Cities may not live up to expectations following their self-titled first album it would be unfair to write the album off entirely. For the most part it shines head and shoulders above almost any cross genre releases. But, that's not saying much.
The album isn't without it's high points,"American Guns" and "Madness" come off unscathed as Rob Aston (AKA Skinhead Rob, which apparently wasn't politically correct enough for their major label debut) spits his high octane style of rhymes over balls to the wall punk rock tracks. And in the interest of fairness, he does it well. Booyaa Tribe put their two cents in on "What I can't describe", a straight forward hip hop throwback to the laid back West Coast vibe of the late eighties and early nineties. The boys from Cypress Hill (although separately) join in on 2 tracks, Sen Dogg on the album's explosive opener "Not Today", and B-Real on "Killafornia" (for what it's worth, it's some of his best work since Black Sunday).And let me tell ya, That track has an infectious hook that'll get stuck in your head for days, even if the chorus is lacking lyric wise.

 No question, Haunted Cities does fall short, but it doesn't fall flat on it's face. However, don't be surprised to find it in a used record bin at your friendly neighborhood independent record store.

PS. If you neglect your local record store and purchase it at Best Buy, you get an extra sub-par track. Thanks Transplants.


Bruise Reviews: The 101ers - Elgin Avenue Revisited

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Once in a blue moon a trip to the record store results in the bringing home of such a find that you feel instantly vindicated of your blind faith at the check-out counter. Such is the case with the legendary Joe Strummer's first band's only release, Elgin Avenue. Which until recently was a lost treasure, save the few original presses stashed away securely in some aficionado's vinyl collection and the few bootlegs still circulating whose sound quality is that of an 8 track played on a Fisher Price radio.

  At a time when disco was king, the giant stadium spectacles reigned supreme and Beatle mania was fading fast, a small movement began to take hold. Pubrock. As the name implies, it was merely rock'n'roll bands playing in small pubs across The UK. An intimate atmosphere where the crowd was as much involved as the musicians. A scene which later took on political and social ideologies becoming punk. The 101ers (named after the squat the band mates shared at 101 Walterton Road in London) began 2 years before Strummer's claim to fame, The Clash and definitely had some bearing on their sound. Hell, "The only band that matters" bust out two of the songs found here on later albums (Junco Partner appears on The Clash's Sandanista! and Lonesome mother's Son became Jail Guitar Doors on Super Black Market Clash). The real story here is the sound quality of Elgin Avenue. 30 years of wear and tear are hardly noticeable and it could easily pass as something recorded yesterday. Well, ok, maybe not in the present day's pop-punk over-production apocalypse. But this album sounds good none the less. Elgin Avenue boasts 20 songs including 5 previously unreleased tracks and 2 previously unreleased covers, Chuck Berry's "Maybelline" and Van Morrison's "Gloria" which Strummer and crew romp through both solidly. If only some of the bands goin' these days paid attention in history class.