Review: Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout

Being drawn to Laura Jane Grace’s memoir, TRANNY: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout, is a natural side-effect of being hypnotized, mesmerized, and forever in awe of Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues. I appreciated Transgender Dysphoria Blues for a myriad of reasons: It’s a hell of a rock-and-roll album, it’s intimate and personal in its storytelling, the way my favorite artists have always sung their stories, and it made me a better person. The latter point is not something that can be said for a ton of my favorite albums.

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Review: The Menzingers – Rented World

The Menzingers - Rented World

LP4 is a huge hurdle for The Menzingers. Whenever a band goes up against themselves, it’s an enormous test of their staying power and ability to grow within their own sound. The popularity and cult-like adoration surrounding 2012’s On The Impossible Past makes it obvious that The Menzingers are The Menzingers’ biggest competitors when it comes to Rented World, as the questions surrounding this release view it pointedly as a “follow-up,” and whether that follow-up could possibly meet lofty expectations. 

This is fair and unfair for the Scranton, PA quartet. When I reviewed Transit’s Young New England, and completely trashed that album, I wrote that the band had set a standard for excellence in the past – a standard that I held them to with their new work. The Menzingers are in exactly the same boat. At the same time, it’s daunting to give an encore to an album as holistically spectacular and sweeping in nature as the Americana-tinged, story-telling punk rock that Impossible Past offered us; as vocalist and guitarist Greg Barnett explained to Exclaim! Magazine, “…when we first started writing, even the first note, it was like, ’Oh, where do we start?’” [Italics added for emphasis.]

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Review: Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All

Modern Baseball - You're Gonna Miss It All

I really, really don’t like the term guilty pleasure. I think it’s a dirty phrase that’s used too often by people who don’t feel guilty at all about liking whatever they’re talking about. I used to describe the Snakes On A Plane theme song as a guilty pleasure (while we’re here: that song is a undoubtedly a high in Crush Management’s dominance over the world), but then I thought about it and decided that “guilty pleasures” do not exist. 

There is a point here, hidden underneath the layers of awesome, guiltless pleasure currently filling your ears, since I’m assuming that you clicked on that link and by now William Beckett is getting into the first chorus of the Snakes On A Plane jam. For many people, Modern Baseball’s sophomore LP, You’re Gonna Miss It All, will seem like it belongs under the umbrella of things you like but deep down you’re not really supposed to like. This makes sense to me because I felt that way about the band’s debut, Sports, for a very long time. Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald are not “technically good” at singing. Modern Baseball does not write gloriously composed instrumentals that will one day serve as a reference point upon which even more glorious songs will be written. The lyrics Lukens and Ewald belt out – sometimes loudly, sometimes softly, and sometimes mumble-y – have an expiration date on them. Case in point: The opening track, “Fine, Great,” mentions Instagram. Someday, Instagram will not exist. Probably.

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Review: The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation

The Wonder Years - The Greatest Generation

I don’t know what draft I’m on of this review. I think probably my sixth. I really can’t remember. I’ve probably deleted 4,000 words over the past two weeks. Part of this is because for the past week I’ve had this terrible fever thing and half of what I wrote was rubbish. The other part is because no one could have expected this record, and if you claim you did expect it, then you’re a liar. 

I believe in The Wonder Years. I believe they are one of the most exceptional bands around right now. They showed us with The Upsides that they could connect to young adults on a fiercely intimate level — more impressively than many of their peers from the late-2000s pop-punk revival. They showed us with Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing that not only was their arrival not a fluke, but that they possessed a critically important trait — the ability to, as a group, gather themselves and write an album that both drew upon and grew away from their previous triumph, and improved upon it in every measurable way.

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Review: Transit – Young New England

Transit - Young New England

Before you read anything past the first sentence of this review, it’s important to know that Transit earned everything I’m about to write about them.

We naturally hold great bands to higher standards. It is, of course, completely normal to expect a good band to write a good record. So when Transit wrote Listen and Forgive, by all accounts a brilliant album, they subjected themselves to this higher standard. They did something great, and with that comes the expectation of continued greatness. It’s because of this band’s boundless potential and proven track record that their new releases are evaluated with the kid gloves taken off. I know how good Transit can be. I’ve heard it. And because of that, I can say Young New England is the most shocking disappointment to come from the wave of pop-punk bands that Transit has grown up with. 

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Review: Yellowcard – Southern Air

Yellowcard - Southern Air

For a band as established and celebrated as Yellowcard, the decision to return from a hiatus is a weighty one. It’s not as simple as waking up, getting back into the studio, putting out a record and playing a few shows. There is a lot at stake, and the band’s legacy is part of those stakes. Putting out a bad or even a mediocre record can tarnish an otherwise sterling career, and this is something the fans consider, too. Certainly, some reunion records we could have done without – even some reunion records that have come out fairly recently. Many would rather not have their outlook on their favorite band be affected by a hasty and ill-advised reunion album – in some cases, the allure of “what could have been” might have been more satisfying than the product of the reunion.

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Review: The Menzingers – On the Impossible Past

The Menzingers - On The Impossible Past

I’ve been having a horrible time
Pulling myself together.
I’ve been closing my eyes to find
The old familiar failures.
I’ve been closing my eyes to find
Why all good things should fall apart.

So begins The Menzingersʼ latest record, the sweeping, driven, masterful On the Impossible Past. Those lyrics come from the opening (and essentially introductory) “Good Things,” a short song that starts calm before the guitars and vocals tumble into an avalanche of power. As we have come to expect from the band, which is following the phenomenal Chamberlain Waits, anthemic sing-alongs provide a vessel for thought-provoking lyrics.

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Review: Transit – Listen & Forgive

Transit - Listen & Forgive

A few years ago, a lot of positive reviews for pop-punk records talked about how the record in question was a change of pace; a break from the then-unfortunate norm of neon clothes and auto-tune. That tone began to change – slowly at first, then with increasing speed. Something of a “golden age” emerged, and whether you want to thank Run For Cover and No Sleep Records or any of the other numerous amazing independent labels that have been the behind-the-scenes faces of this movement is your call. But my point remains: For avid music listeners, for the users on this website, and for the college-aged generation across the country, these record labels and a tight-knit scene of bands stretching from Gainesville to Boston to Los Angeles to, um, Oregon, loomed into the spotlight. Their shadows overtook and made irrelevant the neon and the auto-tune.

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Review: Man Overboard – Man Overboard

Man Overboard - Man Overboard

It’s only been 14 months since Man Overboard last released a full-length record, but the stage couldn’t be any different for the New Jersey-based pop-punk defenders. You knew I was going to bring up that motto in the first paragraph before you clicked that link, didn’t you?

Unfortunately, just like my introductory remarks, Man Overboard’s self-titled second LP and first for upstart-pop-punk-powerhouse Rise Records is…slightly predictable. Luckily for listeners and fans, that isn’t even close to a bad thing. When the group released Real Talkon Run For Cover last summer, they had something to prove. After quite a few successful EPs, it was time to show that they could make a record that was something like 35 minutes long, and worth every second.

They succeeded. Real Talk was well received by fans and critics. This self-titled album is more of the same, albeit with better production and hooks that soar even higher. The chorus and double-time tempo of opener “Rare” shows right away that recording with New Found Glory’s Steve Klein was an A+ decision, as his extensive experience in the genre is a valuable asset in production. Compared to Real TalkMan Overboard is more clear, crisp and punchy.

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Review: Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American

Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American

Only after several years can you begin to notice the influence a record has had. Some may say it takes foresight to know whether a record will become legendary, but there’s no way to really predict something like that. For this Retro Review project, we’re reviewing records that are a minimum of 10 years old – and with Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American celebrating its 10th birthday on July 18, I can’t think of a better place to start.

The “Class of ’01,” not to infringe on AltPress’ phrase or anything, is very impressive. Bleed American, however, might be my favorite record from that entire year, and it would certainly be on a list of my all-time favorites from the genre. Jimmy Eat World does have a sense of early-decade pop-punk on the album, but it’s infused with their now-unmistakable brand of angst-ridden emo, making it a pop-punk sound no other bands have successfully duplicated. Bleed American was the launching point for Jimmy Eat World’s commercial success as well, spawning multiple hit singles.

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Review: Blink-182 – Take Off Your Pants and Jacket

Blink-182 - Take Off Your Pants and Jacket

How does one begin to measure the influence of a band like Blink-182? You can’t count how many garage bands were spawned after Enema Of The State came out. You can’t put a price on taking a relatively new genre and thrusting it into the mainstream with full force. Without Blink 182 and their peers like Green Day and The Offspring, and a little while later, bands like New Found Glory, where would pop-punk be? It quite possibly would never have even gotten started.

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Review: Set Your Goals – Burning at Both Ends

Set Your Goals - Burning at Both Ends

Two years ago, Set Your Goals was riding a high. The group’s 2009 full-length, This Will Be The Death Of Us, was fairly well received on a large scale even though it disappointed some longtime fans of the group’s breakthrough record, Mutiny! That 2009 release catapulted the band to some fair heights and a position as a leader in the new-school pop-punk scene, for whatever that was worth.

Well, if I’m trying to go by Alternative Press’ line of thinking … it must really suck to be Set Your Goals right now. Burning At Both Ends isn’t just a step back from the group’s previous work, it’s a downright embarrassment considering we all already know how good this band can be. On a broad scale, if I was going to pin down one major problem with the record, it would be this: it is super boring.

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Review: The Wonder Years – Suburbia, I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing

If you’ve ever seen The Wonder Years play a live set, you can probably agree with me when I say the Philadelphia-based sextet puts on quite an enjoyable performance. But as good as their live shows are, those only last one night.

Frontman Daniel “Soupy” Campbell, along with bassist Joshua Martin, guitarists Casey Cavaliere and Matthew Brasch, drummer Michael Kennedy and guitarist/keyboardist Nick Steinborn, are also well-known for giving their fans tons of attention, from hanging out before and after shows to posting on this website. But those interactions only last a little while.

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Review: Bruce Springsteen – Human Touch/Lucky Town

Bruce Springsteen - Lucky Town

The decision to release Human Touch and Lucky Town was probably the worst decision ever made in the Bruce Springsteen camp. Springsteen hadn’t been wrong about many things up to this point in his career, but whoever okay-ed the decision to release one really mediocre record and one really good record on the same day clearly didn’t know much about marketing and the forever-lasting stain one would leave on the other.

It is with the synthy, glossy, overproduced and underwhelming memory of Human Touch that Lucky Town will forever be dragged down. Many people (definitely including me, until as recently as about three weeks ago) dismissed the latter of the two records because of how misguided the former is. Even in 1991, when Springsteen’s management decided it was okay to release the two separate records on the same day (Springsteen was the first artist to ever do this), fans appreciated the singles on Human Touch and little else. 

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