Bad Sports – Kings of the Weekend

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Whatever’s in the water in Denton, Texas, people better start to take notice, as the area continues to push out great garage-pop rockers, and Bad Sports are no different. Their second album Kings of the Weekend, this time on Dirtnap Records, is just an energetic burst of great licks, giving you exactly what you need–a solid dosage of good old fashioned rock n’ roll.

The band jumps right in with “Off Switch,” and while garage-pop might be all the rage, this track opens up with a lot more fury than most things associated with the genre, showing you that Bad Sports aren’t here to rehash, they’re here to reimagine on their own terms. From here, the band burst into a bit more territory with hints of the Ramones.

“Cant Just Be Friends” might not have the hammering pace of the Ramones, but you can feel that element of harmony bubbling in the bass, something that truly labels both bands as fans of good old pop music.  “Sweet Sweet Mandi” definitely bears the mark of the classic New York group, with the delivery mimicking Joey, and that hooky chorus that enables you to sing along.

“Teenage Girls” is one of those songs that illustrates the group pushing themselves to live outside of their obvious influences. It’s less punk-infused, going back to more of a garage style of power-pop.  Even the solo cutting in belongs somewhere in the annals of garage/rock/pop history–this is not a bad thing! it’s a similar feeling you’ll find with “You Look Funny,” which has the band using a likeness of the garage sort, just getting a bit dirtier in the final mixing. 

One of the tracks that stood out to me on Kings of the Weekend was “I’m In Love with Myself.”  I love a tune that utilizes simplicity in lyrics, but combines solid pace and a bit of a guitar solo.  You’ll find that this is the sort of song that fits perfect into the live setting, giving in to the fans need to pogo about and shout lyrics back at the group. Another Bad Sports number here that fits this mold, though in a slightly different manner, is “June Sixteenth.”  There’s something about the song’s inherent melody, the sound of the guitar and the pounding drums to wrap the song up that just hits home for an aged punk like myself.

In all honesty, Kings of the Weekend is filled to the brim with brazen pop ballads in punk fashion.  There’s not a single song you’ll want to skip, but that being said, you might also be able to say that a certain creativity is lacking.  But, when it all boils down to it, aren’t we all just here to have a little bit of fun with our music?  If that’s your bag, then this new record from Bad Sports is built exactly for you.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/bad_sports_teenage_girls.mp3]

Download: Bad Sports – Teenage Girls [MP3]

Something Fierce – Don’t Be So Cruel

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Since not a lot is known about Something Fierce, and by not a lot is known I mean that they don’t have a Wikipedia page, I feel like I should give you a bit of background to this group. Hailing from Houston Steven Garcia, Niki Seven and Andrew Keith have been making late 70’s era punk since 2005. In 2009, these three folks self released their second album, There Are No Answers, but Don’t Be So Cruel marks their first release with Dirtnap Records.

When the throbbing bass introduces you to Something Fierce on the first few seconds of the title track, you can instantly hear the influence of early post-punk from the late 70’s. As the song gets to its meat pretty quickly, you can see other indicators of their nostalgic sound: the guitar standing out above some gritty vocals. After the barely minute song opener comes to a close, you get to hear this bands first proper tune, “What We Need Now.” Basically a continuation of the first song, this one focuses slightly more on the lyrical aspects and delves deeper into the skill set of this group. Whereas the first track was merely an anthem and appetizer for the rest, the second track seals the listener’s interest in this power punk pop jam.

While some of the music produced with a punk label on it may be labeled as simple in the lyrics or fundamental aspects, Something Fierce certainly cannot fall into that category. Each song does not just repeat a jangly chorus too many times that you know all the words after the first listen. Instead, this group crafts well thought out and written songs that also fit in with classics of the punk world. An example of this comes on “Ghosts of Industry,” one of the longest songs on this album, on which the half falsetto vocals juxtapose with the rough and tumble guitars and those dry, airy drums. At the same time these stellar instruments all rage on, a more intricate than you would expect amount of lyrics float somewhere in the middle. While normally indiscernible lyrics are one of my biggest pet peeves, I feel like this muddy quality works for the group; it’s like leaving the best bits to be discovered after repeated listens.

Such depth is just one of the golden qualities that this album possesses, but Don’t Be So Cruel does have some drawbacks. After repeated listens, some of the tracks have the ability to run together in the mind. For some, that won’t be a real problem; you will be able to appreciate the tightness of the songs. However, to others, it could prove this album just a little too repetitive. That said, I still believe that there are some delightful numbers interspersed through this work. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself blasting this out of your car windows in the spring breeze.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/12-Empty-Screens.mp3]

Download: Something Fierce – Empty Screens [MP3]

New Music from Something Fierce

It’s odd, but Houston is the oft-overlooked town in Texas, in regards to music, but over the last few years, the local scene has been putting out some great tunes.  One of the one’s I’ve recently been turned onto is Something Fierce.  They’re a bit of punk rock, a bit of pop rock, and switching of male/female vocals.  It makes for a really solid blend of sugary-punk, but not the kind you’d find in Hot Topic, the classier kind.  The band is set to release their album Don’t Be So Cruel in April via Dirtnap Records, which has already released some great albums by The Mind Spiders and High Tension Wires this year.  Also, check in on the band, as they’ll be heading out on tour this summer.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/12-Empty-Screens.mp3]

Download: Something Fierce – Empty Screens [MP3]

Killer SXSW Comp from Dirtnap

The great thing about SXSW is getting to see a lot of great bands you haven’t spent a lot of time with, but for me, that’s not the case with all the acts on Dirtnap Records.  They’ve been putting a lot of great tunes together, several include local Austin/Texas acts like High Tension Wires or the Mind Spiders.  They just put up a little comp HERE, where you can sample their great bands.  Be sure to head out to their showcase on Saturday @ the Easy Tiger if you like what you hear.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/04-Dont-Let-Her-Go.mp3]

Download: The Mind Spiders – Dont Let Her Go [MP3]

New Music from High Tension Wires

You’ve got to be all about High Tension Wires if you’re a Texas, especially an Austinite or Dentonian! The band is comprised of some our best punk/power-pop/garage bands around, namely Marked Men and Riverboat Gamblers, so you have to know it’s going to be a good time all around.  The band’s got an album coming out on Dirtnap Records around March 15th titled Welcome New Machine.  If you base it off this first single, it’s everything that you need in a good power-pop album.  It’s got some catchy hooks, no-nonsense drumming, and even a bit of backing vocals.  It’s all positive energy, and there’s not a thing wrong with that in my book.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/backbone.mp3]

Download: High Tension Wires – Backbone [MP3]

New Music from Mind Spiders

Out of the ashes of Marked Men comes Mark Ryan, pushing through with his own group, Mind Spiders. The band will be putting out their self-titled album on January 25th via Dirtnap Records, which basically guarantees goodness with their releases.  On this first single you get a little hint of garage grittiness filling it up, but the pacing provides a little bit more of a straight power-pop feel to it, allowing the band to capture both audiences.  Yeah, it’s a short track, but if you give it a listen, it definitely feels like there’s so much more than 1.8 minutes of rock n’ roll here. And did I mention they’re from Ft. Worth? Who woulda thunk it?

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/No_Romance.mp3]

Download: Mind Spiders – No Romance [MP3]

Free Dirtnap Records Sampler

1253911409-internI’m forever indebted to Dirtnap Records, as I hold them responsible for bringing me the sweet rocking tunes of The Exploding Hearts.  Sure, it’s just one album from those guys, but it’s one hell of an album.  For those of you into that sort of music, you can grab the free sample from the label HERE.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/04-youre-black-and-blue.mp3]

Download: The Exploding Hearts – Youre Black and Blue [MP3]

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