Album Review: “Living Proof” – State Champs

Release Date : June 15th, 2017

Review by: Mike Mulè
Record Label: Pure Noise Records

Let me first start off by saying: HELLO! It’s been a while and good to be back! How is everyone? Hope all is well! And that’s enough of that!
If you’ve been MIA since 2013, purposefully ignored the scene’s heavy hitters, or maybe just now getting into this wide genre known as pop punk, you should definitely know that State Champs just put out a new record. Let us discuss shall we?
For the last 6 years or so, State Champs have steadily been chasing the quintessential punk rock kids dream; from playing music with a group of friends in a garage, to huge sold out stages.
Being the giant power-band that they have become in those short years, some changes are to be expected with such a growth in career. I’m talking song structure change, production value, and much more. I’ll tell you what, after one listen through, you’ll undoubtedly hear how insanely awesome a pop punk song can own the term ‘pop’. It may not be up everyone’s alley, but maybe you should get off those old roads and try a new route. Living Proof, in my opinion, is a great example of progression and growth.
While clearly on a more radio friendly side, State Champs are definitely sticking to their pop punk roots. Evident early in the album in the hard striking chorus of ‘Dead and Gone’ to the Hit The Lights-esque breakdown/bridge in ‘Lightning’, the guys know how to keep what got them here in the first place and mix it up with what they’ve learned on their few times around the world and back (I had to, c’mon).
Roughly half way through the album, we get to ‘The Ballad’. After playing arenas and stadiums, you’re bound to write the, what I like to now call, “sea of phone lights” song. But even in ‘Our Time To Go’ they can sneak some punk attitude in there. If you listen hard enough, the gang chants will come.
Moving on, you’ll see that State Champs doesn’t stray too far from the musical formula they’ve concocted. Which isn’t a problem at all, but if you’re antsy like me, your eyes dart to that “next” button fairly often.
Still, this album is for anyone that enjoys slight riffage, super poppy/solo bedroom dance partyable songs that will definitely get stuck in your head. All in all, this latest album is just a feel good record from a feel good band. If you don’t believe me, check them out on Warped Tour and see that when it comes to young kids living out their dreams, they are indeed, .


blink-182 Live at The Metro

blink-182 live at The Metro, Chicago 8/3/17. Photos by Brigid Gallagher.

The (Cabaret) Metro has been a staple in the Chicago music scene for the past 35 years. Hosting bands like Sonic Youth, R.E.M, Smashing Pumpkins, and of course, Alkaline Trio, the venue has seen its fair share of insane shows. For its 35th birthday, Metro has been hosting enormous bands in their 1100 capacity club, to bring fans the intimate experience with their favourite bands that they may never have hoped to get before. I was one of those people, because on August 3rd, 2017, I saw blink-182 at Metro, the night before they headlined Lollapalooza.

The show opened with electro-pop artist Elohim, who I had never heard of prior to hearing that she was going to open for blink. As an electro-pop artist playing a punk show, she was offering her soul to a tough crowd. She was able to captivate the audience, and halfway through her set, people were dancing and getting fully into her stage presence.

Elohim makes everything about the music. It’s just her, her keyboards and her mixers on stage, so there’s no other entities in between her and her creations. Her feminine mystique is strong, as she covered her face while playing with her hair or a hood, so that we focus on feeling her music rather than watching her. Elohim used this opportunity to play a high-profile show, and I doubt this is the last we’ll be seeing from her.

And then, there was blink-182. If you ever wanted to see blink-182 in 1997, tonight was the most reminiscent of that time. There was no flaming FUCK sign, no pyrotechnics, no fancy screens. blink-182 was stripped down to three punk dudes on a stage, playing for 1100 people instead of 30,000. The band was much more comfortable playing to a smaller room, like they were playing for a bunch of their friends. However, Matt Skiba (guitar/vocals), the newest addition of blink-182, appeared to be the most comfortable. Skiba, hailing from Chicago, has played the Metro growing up and with his other band, Alkaline Trio, has referred to it as his second home. On this night, you could feel his comfort level was at an all time high. Mark Hoppus (bass/vocals) mentioned that the last time blink-182 played Metro was 20 years ago, even before Travis Barker (drums) joined the band. It was truly an experience that I’ll never forget.

Playing newer songs from their Grammy nominated album, California, to deep cuts from Enema of the State, blink-182 played an hour and fifteen minutes of pure, unadulterated bliss. They bantered, just like they always have, and although I have seen blink-182 a few times with Matt Skiba replacing original guitarist Tom DeLonge, I’ve never truly appreciated all that is Matt Skiba until I saw him perform on his own turf. Travis Barker (drums) blew me away, as per usual, with drum solos and perfect timing throughout the entire set. Watching Barker play is like watching a surgeon perform an operation: skillful, steady, and a master at his craft.

Running a successful music venue for 35 years is difficult work, but after attending a show at Metro, it’s clear why they continue to be successful. Things run smoothly, there’s a method and a flow to everything that they do, they’re adequately staffed not only in security, but in servers and bartenders as well. From the lighting to the sound quality, everything was top notch. I’m excited to see what the next 35 years will bring for Metro.

The Peace and the Panic – Neck Deep

Artist: Neck Deep
Album: The Peace and the Panic
Release Date: August 18th, 2017
Record Label: Hopeless Records
Review by: Devin Beaudoin

Neck Deep have come a very long way since I first heard of them while perusing through Facebook 5 years ago. They hadn’t played their first show yet, and only had 3 songs recorded at that time. Now, they have landed their first top 10 album with their 3rd full length, The Peace and the Panic.

The band went through quite a bit over the last couple of years. A slight lineup change, family members passing away, and the current political climate really show through on this record. It’s extremely relatable and it shows a much more mature side from Neck Deep that we haven’t had the opportunity to see before. The album starts out with my favourite track, “Motion Sickness”, a certified banger that’s catchy as hell, and slides right into politically charged “Happy Judgement Day.” It always brings a smile to my face when a pop punk band reaches for more topics than just relationship struggles, and that truly shows on this record.

Neck Deep explored a lot of new sounds on this record, especially “Critical Mistake” – an alt rock/pop track that could be played 100 times over on any major radio station. Although they have experienced with screaming vocals on songs before (see: “Gold Steps”), none have quite been like Sam Carter of Architects guest vocals on “Don’t Wait” – surprising, haunting, and melodic all at the same time. It fit, it was unexpected, and I was so into it.

All in all, The Peace and the Panic is a major contender for my top 3 releases of the year so far. I’m extremely proud of the work that the Welsh quintet have put into this record, and I can’t wait to see them continue on their rise to the top of the scene.


Purchase: iTunes / Physical

Nothing Here Is Permanent – Bearings

Artist: Bearings
Album: Nothing Here is Permanent
Release Date: September 8th, 2017
Review by: Mike Mulè
Record Label: Pure Noise Records

Pop punk has been generating some stand up releases so far this year and I can barely bear my excitement for it. Included in this category of knock outs is the young Bearings hailing from Ottawa, Ontario. Recently signing to Pure Noise Records, Bearings is slated to release their third EP Nothing Here is Permanent on September 8th. For such a young band, only forming in 2014, one would come close to losing their bearings hearing how well put together and mature their sound is already.

While the first single and music video ’North Hansen’ does a fantastic job out outlining the growth of the band and touches the influences of the band, (blink-182, Descendents, Hit The Lights) Nothing Here is Permanent as a whole shows how these fine Canadian gentlemen know what they like in music, know what they want to sound like, and know how to do it. Hard hitting lyrics, fantastic melodies harmonies, and yes, better believe there’s a few gang chants scattered in there. Unique enough to stand out, yet familiar enough to make its way to the top of your ‘best of 2017’ list, Bearings will definitely be a band to watch for the next few years and a great addition to the Pure Noise family.  Not saying they’re going anywhere anytime soon, but they say it best. Nothing Here is Permanent. Make sure you take time to check them out while on tour with label mates State Champs.


No Closer To Heaven – The Wonder Years

Artist Name: The Wonder Years
Album Name: No Closer To Heaven
Release Date: September 4th, 2015
Record Label: Hopeless Records
Review By: Devin Beaudoin
Purchase: iTunes / Physical / Google Play

Every time The Wonder Years release a new record, I think to myself “there is no way that they could ever top this. This is the best record this band could ever create.” I thought this with The Upsides. I thought this with Suburbia. I thought this again with The Greatest Generation. And after The Greatest Generation, I honestly thought it was true. I knew this Philadelphia sextet were evolving their sound and maturing, and I didn’t think I was going to like it. I was dead wrong.

No Closer To Heaven, the fifth studio album from TWY, the third from Hopeless Records, is a raw, honest, beautiful piece of art that has come from the blood, sweat & tears of these men who laid everything out on the table for us to experience. We hear deeper and darker issues being explored on this record, from addiction & racism, to classism & abuse. Not only do we hear the maturity in the lyrical content of the record, the majority of which is penned by vocalist Dan Campbell, but we hear it in the instrumental content of the record as well. We hear guitarists Matt Brasch and Casey Cavaliere orchestrating arrangements I didn’t know they were capable of; we hear guitarist/keyboardist Nick Steinborn input keyboards into tracks so beautifully and in just the right places. We hear drummer Mike Kennedy and bassist Josh Martin hold the record together with new rhythms and beats I would have never expected to come from a pop punk band.

The Wonder Years have always had a way of delivering an insane amount of emotion through their music, and No Closer To Heaven is no different. Extremely apparent in a few tracks more than others, (“Cardinals,” “Cigarettes & Saints,” “Stained Glass Ceilings”) this loose concept album delivers a purpose for every song, for every note, and for every lyric sung. Some songs are catchier than others, while some are more experimental. The Wonder Years truly explored their artistry and came out on top, when so many other bands fall through the cracks and into oblivion.

It’s not the end of the year yet, but No Closer To Heaven has made a very strong case for my Album of the Year, and is now one of the best albums I have ever heard as a whole. The Wonder Years have more than proved that they are an incredible force to be reckoned with, and I’m excited to see if they can top this. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this is the best record The Wonder Years has ever created.

Makes Me Sick – New Found Glory

Artist: New Found Glory
Album: Makes Me Sick
Record Label: Hopeless Records
Release Date: April 28th, 2017
Review by: Devin Beaudoin
Pre-order: Physical (vinyl) / iTunes / Google Play

New Found Glory have this incredible way of consistently making music that resonates deeply with me. NFG’s latest effort, Makes Me Sick, is another one of those records. With an 80s vibe sprinkled throughout the album, the band pushes the envelope of pop punk just enough to make me go “what the fuck did I just hear?” (in the best way possible) but all while still making songs that sound familiar, that sound like home. New Found Glory are a band who have found the perfect mix of staying true to themselves, while, at the same time, experimenting with their sound.

The record kicks off with ‘Your Jokes Aren’t Funny Anymore’ , where we first hear the 80s vibe with a little bit of synth appearing in the first seconds of the song. The first time I heard this song, I was immediately able to envision myself driving around the backroads of the Midwest, where I live, windows down, and this track blaring. We move on to ‘Party On Apocalypse’ – the bands second single off of the album. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song about our impending doom written in a way that made me want to dance. Thanks, New Found Glory. ‘Call Me Anti-Social’ gives us more of the 80s vibe that reverberate throughout the album. Plus, there’s an octave change. Who doesn’t love octave changes?

The album continues with the bands first single, Happy Being Miserable. If you haven’t heard this song yet, I don’t know what rock you’re living under, but like… stop doing that and go listen to it. ‘The Sound of Two Voices’ honestly guys… hear me out on this; it sounds like a Disney song. I swear. There’s an island feel that feels like Paramore may have had a hand in writing it, (steel drums on ‘Hard Times’, anyone?). Shout out to our main man, Ian Grushka on bass, for writing an incredible bass line to go along with our island-Disney jam. ‘Blurred Vision’ 100% sounds like it should have been on the bands 2006 album, Coming Home. We have a piano line that is reminiscent of ‘Familiar Landscapes’ , and as to quote my notes from listening to this album for the first time: “YAAAAAS PIANO.”

Say It Don’t Spray It’ is the most perfect encapsulation of 20 years of New Found Glory. It perfectly shows off guitarist Chad Gilbert’s ability to write catchy, fun riffs, and not have to be supported by a second guitar. This song also does a fantastic job of replacing a second, lead guitar with something more fun, like; you guessed it, synths. ‘Barbed Wire’ continues with the 80s-synth theme. My favorite part about this track was the metaphor of “barbed wire/two strands twisted to one/razor sharp/no one will ever touch us.” ‘Short and Sweet’ is the low point of the album for me. This whole album captivated me and held my attention span, and this song did the exact opposite. It sounded like the token love song of the album. Moving on to the closing track, ‘The Cheapest Thrill’. This track opens with another exceptional bass line from Grushka, and the catchiest riff of the album from Gilbert. I’m hoping this track goes into the touring set list, and I won’t have to wait 10 years to hear it live.

All in all, New Found Glory have done it again. They’ve written an exceptional album, to add to their discography of other exceptional albums. Like I said earlier, I don’t know how they do it; but this record definitely doesn’t make me sick.