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Saturday, October 31, 2015

MxPx -- Plans Within Plans

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If this is the end, it's a fitting one. It's been three years since MxPx self-released Plans Within Plans, but in 2012, I honestly wasn't ready for the album. I still thought I was young and the world was my oyster. Just look at this album cover. This is not a photograph of young men. This is a photograph of three men in their mid-30's (next year they're all turning 40!). Plans Within Plans is not an album full of songs about young people activities. This is an album about the joys and difficulties of life. Back in 2003, when the band released Before Everything After, I just wanted them to grow up and leave behind the goofy, pop-radio love songs. I remember listening to Mike Herrera singing the line "I want to love my job, I want to love my life, but most of all..." and finishing the line for him with the words "I want to love my wife," as Herrera had been married for a couple of years, and I thought he was going to mention her. Instead, he sang the words "I want to fall in love," and I threw up in my mouth a little bit and thought You've done that already! Sing your age!!! Well, on Plans Within Plans, MxPx sing their age. Three years after Plans Within Plans was released, I am approaching my mid-30's, I get the album, and it's awesome.
"We were never going down for the count. We were always going all ten rounds." Herrera sings on the fist-pumping "Far Away." Here I am this year, struggling to keep off weight like never before, nervously eyeing my hairline every night, getting tired with fewer steps, but if MxPx can keep it awesome, if they aren't going down for the count, than neither am I. Plans Within Plans is the most bare bones, straightforward punk record of MxPx's career, with little augmenting the guitar, bass, and drums outside of a drum machine in the bridge of "Aces Up." This is an album that is at once heavy and uplifting. Outside of "The Times," even the songs with slower tempos have a chugging, full-speed ahead feeling. The lyrics slip between nostalgic and forward-thinking, with Mike intoning "I love life now, but those were the best of times" on "Best of Times," yet insisting on the similarly titled "The Times" that "These are the times I'm living for, every day is better, than the one before." That about sums it up.
I'm not going to pretend like Plans Within Plans is as good as Life In General or Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo. The 90's were an ongoing magic moment for this band, years of continuous lightning in a bottle. With that said, Plans Within Plans is a damn strong effort from a band that isn't going down for the count. 2/3 of MxPx might now have day jobs, might not be able to tour much, but as long as the band are still able to produce efforts as high-quality as Plans Within Plans (which, as a self-produced album, contains the best production work of Mike Herrera's career) TIME CAN BE DEFIED. I DON"T HAVE TO GET OLD. MXPX FOREVER!!!

2012 Rock City Records
1. Aces Up 2:27
2. Screw Loose 1:07
3. Nothing Left 2:50
4. The Times 2:55
5. In the Past 2:29
6. Best of Times 3:27
7. Stay On Your Feet 3:11
8. Lucky Guy 2:46
9. Far Away 3:04
10. Cast Down My Heart 2:11
11. When It Comes to You 3:19
12. Inside Out 2:52
13. Nothing's Gonna Change 2:40

Friday, October 30, 2015

MxPx -- Left Coast Punk EP

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Perhaps realizing that their On the Cover II didn't exactly stoke the flames Secret Weapon had re-ignited in their fanbase a couple years before, MxPx returned months later with the Left Coast Punk Ep. Immediately resuming the speed punk of Secret Weapon (and that of the band's glory days), Left Coast Punk proves that Secret Weapon's reinvigorization was no fluke.
Left Coast Punk kicks off with two steamrollers (speedrollers?), "One Step Further" and "Desperate to Understand," a pair of lyrically searching songs from a musically restless band. "Broken" slows things down a bit, but is immediately followed by the pummeling "Shanghaied in Shanghai." The tempo again goes down with "Hopeless Case," but the song still rocks and continues the EP's lyrical themes. Then it's the end. Literally, the last song is called "End." If MxPx had decided to hang things up here, "End" would have been a fitting one. The song is a bit of a venture for the band, flirting with reggae in its second verse, and atmosphere with its spacey chorus and ending. It's a fitting close to this particular phase of the band (this EP was self-released as the band told Tooth & Nail Records goodbye for a second time). My only real complaint is the EP's sound quality, which is a bit tinny. Otherwise, Left Coast Punk is a little gem.

2009 Rock City Recording Company
1. One Step Further 2:54
2. Desperate to Understand 3:01
3. Broken 2:19
4. Shanghaied in Shanghai 2:33
5. Hopeless Case 2:35
6. End 3:35

Thursday, October 29, 2015

MxPx -- On the Cover II

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After the return to roots Secret Weapon, 2009 MxPx decided to just do something fun. They'd put out a covers EP 14 years before. Now that they'd brought a bunch of old listeners back into the fold, why not make a whole album full of covers?
While On the Cover II is fun, I'm not sure it was the best move at the time. The band could have struck when the iron was hot, and maybe released another album full of new songs that picked up right where Secret Weapon left off. As it stands, On the Cover II starts off strong, but after an extremely strong fourth track cover of The Proclaimers "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," the album's midsection is not bad, but it does lag, until the band finally put to tape The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go." "Should I Stay..." has long been a live staple for the band, and a chance for guitarist, Tom, to get a rare chance at lead vocals. Tom relishes his opportunity here, and his enthusiasm is infectious. A couple tracks later the band close with an invigorating attempt at Queen's "Somebody to Love." Overall, the album is fun, if non-essential...but a physical copy of this album is. In the lingo of all these stupid click-bait sites currently clogging up the Internet, "Here's Why..."

Speaking of awesome, how about the band recreating this vintage cover from their original On the Cover EP on On the Cover II's...cover, as old guys. Less pimples, more wrinkles.
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2009 Tooth & Nail
1. Punk Rock Girl*1 (originally by Dead Milkmen) 2:36
2. I Will Follow (originally by U2) 3:04
3. Suburban Home (originally by Descendents) 1:45
4. I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) (originally by The Proclaimers, with a brief interlude of Surrender by Cheap Trick) 4:12
5. My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg) (originally by the Ramones) 3:12
6. Vacation (originally by The Go-Go's) 2:39
7. Heaven Is a Place on Earth*2 (originally by Belinda Carlisle) 2:34
8. Kids in America Kim Wilde 3:05
9. Fallen Angel*3 (originally by Poison) 2:55
10. Should I Stay or Should I Go (originally by The Clash) 2:43
11. Linda Linda (originally by The Blue Hearts) 3:05
12. Somebody to Love*4 (originally by Queen) 3:30

*1 featuring Matt Hensley of Flogging Molly
*2 featuring Agent M of Tsunami Bomb and The Action Design
*3 featuring Craig Owens of Chiodos and Stephen Egerton of Descendents
*4 featuring Ethan Luck of Relient K and Bryce Avary of The Rocket Summer

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

MxPx -- Secret Weapon

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Defeat. It sucks. I'm at the point in life where I'm getting all platitudinal, so I'll say this: defeat isn't what happens to you, it's how you respond to what happens.
Yeah, that's kind of crap when you lose. I mean, what if Jacob Hester hadn't gotten that first down on fourth and one? LSU would have been defeated, even though they played their hearts out. But then the next year, Florida whipped LSU up and down the field. And then the year after that, they edged the Tigers out in a defensive battle. Then, LSU knocked the Gators off on a fake field goal. Then, LSU blew Florida out. You win, you lose, you win again.
You keep trying. Your marriage isn't going so well? You fight to make it better. You put out a crappy pop album, then put out another album immediately after it that doesn't exactly bring back memories of the glory days? Then you put out Secret Weapon.
Eighth albums aren't supposed to be this good. Thirteen years into the band's recording career, MxPx seemed to be all washed up. If they'd gone all emo in their late 20's, what were the chances they could come out with a good punk rock album in their 30's? Secret Weapon is not a good album, it is PLATITUDE TIME: a great album!
In a sort of dream-team scenario, 2007 MxPx reunited with Aaron Sprinkle, producer of the band's debut album. The band also reunited with Tooth & Nail records, their original record label, which released all of MxPx's best, most beloved work in the 90's. Sprinkle had come a long way in the 13-years since MxPx's Pokinatcha, helping craft the sound of bands as disparate as Anberlin and Demon Hunter. In fact, at this point, Sprinkle had produced the first three albums for both of those bands. 2007-era Tooth & Nail saw the label coming off the most profitable year in their history, with artists like Underoath and Jeremy Camp absolutely blowing up the charts. MxPx may have put Tooth & Nail on the map, but the label's mid-00's stable helped them conquer it...for a little while. Still, 2007 was the perfect year for MxPx to reunite with their former industry partners, and if Secret Weapon is any indication, all three were fired up to again be working together. So, uh...I guess I should actually talk about the album?
Secret Weapon finally, finally sees MxPx's return to the speedy tempos of Life in General and Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo. Not only that, but the songs that aren't blazing speed fast are actually fun to listen to. Not only that, but the album actually flows well, perfectly balancing mixes of lightning blasts of energy and the more chill songs...chill in this case never meaning boring. Not only that, but guitarist, Tom Wisniewki, decided he wanted to toy around a bit more with effects, adding a U2-esque fiery-sounding solo to the ferocity of "Contention," a cool delay effect to the bridge of "You're on Fire." Not only that, but Sprinkle adds in some cool production touches, like the spacey siren at the end of the punk-rock/rockabilly murder-ballad, "Chop Shop," or the spicy horn at the end of "Punk Rawk Celebrity." Why would I use "not only" again and again when I can use "on top of that?" On top of that, Secret Weapon is the most diverse album of MxPx's career, working in a huge variation of tempos and textures into the core MxPx punk-rock sound. Have I used "in addition" yet? In addition to all this, Secret Weapon contains an elevated sense of professionalism. Sprinkle's production sounds polished without neutering the band. He brings Mike Herrera's voice out of the whiny emo desert of MxPx circa 2003-2005, and instead makes it sound like the Herrera of Life in General and Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo, only ten years older and wiser. There's such a pride in the excellent performances and high recording quality here that the CD booklet lists each of the different snare drums space-alien drummer Yuri massacres for each song. Awesome.
I walked three miles from my apartment to the local FYE to buy this album the day that it came out (I took off from work), and it rained on me the whole way back, and it was awesome. I needed a boost, and I needed MxPx to come through, and finally/in addition/on top of everything, these lyrics are Herrera's most enjoyable and inspiring, urging listeners to not give up and to chill out, all at the same time, poking fun at the band's attempt at Billboard domination four years before, and skewering punk rock culture. I'm so happy this album exists. You can't go home again, but you can go home again. Platitudes, man.

2007 Tooth & Nail
1. Secret Weapon (featuring Brian Baker of Bad Religion) 2:06
2. Shut It Down (featuring Tim Pagnotta of Sugarcult) 2:59
3. Here's to the Life 2:57
4. Top of the Charts 2:33
5. Punk Rawk Celebrity 2:42
6. Contention 1:16
7. Angels 3:15
8. Drowning 3:50
9. Chop Shop 2:14
10. You're on Fire 3:18
11. Bass So Low 3:37
12. Sad Sad Song 2:44
13. Never Better Than Now 2:47
14. Biting the Bullet (Is Bad for Business) 3:18
15. Not Nothing 3:06
16. Tightly Wound 3:26
17. The Hoo-Ha Jangle 3:29
18. Madcap Scheme 2:10
19. Throw Your Body in the Air / All About Nothing (hidden track) 6:38

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

MxPx -- Let's Rock

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Let's Rock hit music store shelves two months before I got married. I remember passing a new copy in FYE, reading the title, and thinking Let's Not. At that point in my life, I found myself not only jaded by MxPx's last few releases, but a bit lost in my romantic relationship, and without an identity. At that point in time, MxPx was no longer my band. But then, the next year, I remembered that I am The Nicsperiment, an independent unit united to another independent unit, with my own tastes and interests, and I actually hate Grey's Anatomy and Sex In the City, and I love MxPx and football. Coming back to myself was a great feeling, and it benefited my marriage, as well (after all, my wife fell in love with "me," not "us"). Anyway, a long while after Let's Rock was released, I purchased it used from that same FYE at a bargain price.
I've been trying to figure out what to call that feeling conjured by the last few songs on MxPx's best albums of the 90's. I think I've finally got it, and understand what function those tracks serve: they are "sober up songs." I don't necessarily mean, like, sobering up from alcohol, just sobering up in life in general. Let's Rock is not a traditional MxPx punk record, nor is it of the Before Everything and After cheesy emo ilk. It's like an album full of "sober up" songs. That doesn't mean the album isn't fun, though. It is. I don't mean sobering as a downer. Let's Rock is just a really calming, chill album, with a great flow, and a relaxed feel. It may not be punk rock, but it does rock the boat of "MxPx can only do this (this being the thing you think they should do)." If you go into Let's Rock wanting "full-speed ahead" MxPx, you'll be gravely disappointed (what does "gravely disappointed", you'll be so disappointed, you'll die?) If you go into Let's Rock wanting emo "I love girls and girls make me sad (BEAA-era)" MxPx you're going to there another kind of disappointed beside gravely? I mean, it isn't really that serious. But if you want either one of those versions of MxPx, you'll be disappointed. Instead, here is something completely different: a reflective, relaxed MxPx. For proof, here's the opening track, "You Walk, I Run."

I should also mention I'm a sucker for reprises. Nothing screams, "You're listening to an album and not lame singles on a lame radio station" like a reprise. "You Walk, I Run" reprises acoustically as Let's Rock's closer. It's a complete listen.

2006 SideOneDummy
1. You Walk, I Run 2:45
2. Every Light 2:46
3. 1 and 3 3:19
4. Don't Forget Me (When You're Gone) 3:12
5. Breathe Deep 2:27
6. Make Up Your Mind 1:47
7. Running Out of Time 3:53
8. Slow Ride 2:34
9. Where Did You Go? 3:15
10. Sweet Sweet Thing (Acoustic) 2:49
11. Last Train (Acoustic) 2:44
12. You Walk, I Run (Acoustic) 2:37

Monday, October 26, 2015

MxPx -- Panic

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Long-time Nicsperiment readers know that if there are two things I like to do, they're 1. Changing erroneous Wikipedia entries 2. Talking about stuff that happened 10 years ago.
Up until five minutes ago, the Wikipedia entry for MxPx's seventh full-length album, Panic, read: It (Panic) also leaves the pop punk sound off their previous album and returns to their skate punk/punk rock roots. That sentence was not only horribly written, but false, but it's okay, because it no longer exists. I deleted it. If you see false information on Wikipedia, I encourage you to do the same.
Panic does not return to MxPx's skate punk/punk rock roots in the least. That classic MxPx tap-boom-tap drum sound is never even approached (even the pop nightmare of their previous album, Before Everything and After, contains two token "skate-punk" songs). Thankfully, though, unlike Before Everything and After, Panic does actually rock for the most part. In fact, the first five songs could be the start of the most emotionally intense MxPx album ever.
Opening track, "The Darkest Places," talks about the world getting darker by the day and number two, "Young and Depressed," is about what it's called. "Heard That Sound" is about being locked out of a club, standing in an alley, but finding hope in the music coming through the wall. Track three, "Cold Streets," is also about what it says. Number five, "The Story," is about how life can be quite a difficult one. These latter two tracks aren't blazing speed skate-punk songs like the band blasted out in the mid-to-late-90's, but they are quite heavy and show off an aggressive side MxPx had only hinted at before. The first three songs aren't as heavy, but they rock harder than anything on Before Everything and After.
Then we come to "Wrecking Hotel Rooms," a dark, yet extremely fun duet with blink-182's Mark Hoppus. The song is a modern update of The Police's "Every Breath You Take (in both sound and stalker topic). I know some people hated this collaboration as much as I hated the ones on Before Everything and After, but Mike and Mark actually harmonize here--the song sounds like it was written with Mark in mind, as opposed to a cheap cash-in, and anyway, these two guys go way back. This is a fun, yet melancholy song, easy on the ears, and a little dark ("there's really no reason to call the police (GET THE DOUBLE MEANING?! DON"T CALL THE POLICE BECAUSE OF MY STALKING AND ALSO THIS SONG SOUNDS LIKE THE POLICE. WHY AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO GETS IT?)"). What's not to like?
The polarizing "Wrecking Hotel Rooms" divides the album between the good half, and the not-so-good half. The band immediately pull out of the whole "emotionally intense" thing for "Late Again," a hillbilly pop song sing-along that would be far more at home on //*Mike's current Tumbledown's not bad, but it is out of place. "Kicking and Screamin*g" is an embarrassing pop-rock song. "Grey Skies Turn Blue" is a cheesy pop song in the vein of Before Everything and After, and it's also a re-tread from a previous EP.
"Emotional Anarchist" is the worst song MxPx have ever recorded and literally contains the chorus "You're an emotional anarchist/you're pissed cuz you've never been kissed." Actually, it's one of the worst songs I've ever heard, and I struggle to describe its badness because I can barely even comprehend it, but now that I've reviewed this album, I never have to listen to it again.
"Call in Sick" is a song about Mike missing his wife while he's on the road, and while it is quite poppy, itself, the lonely tone of the lyrics fits in with the first half of the album. In fact, the rest of the album fits in with the first half.
Those stupid four songs in the middle ruined the whole tone, though, and there's no going back. Take them out, and this is a really good, if really short, ten-song MxPx album. "Get Me Out" is heavy enough to actually feature Mike screaming, and more fully explores the topic of fear.  "Get Me Out" fits with the title of the album, and if I had produced Panic, I would have cut the middle tracks out and allowed Panic a cohesive sound and theme. Have I mentioned that I don't like tracks 7-10? "Waiting for the World to End" is a great apocalyptic pen-ultimate track, and it highlights the core-sound of this album, which is energetic hard rock and NOT SKATE PUNK.
"This Weekend" closes the album out on a positive, triumphant note, and feels earned after the previous two songs, but it would feel far more cathartic if the entirety of the album had been more consistent with the sound and mood of the first six tracks. So in the end--wait, my arms are tired from repeatedly hitting this stupid horse that can't fight back because it's dead and bloated--okay, so in the end, I truly believe that Panic could have been considered an underground, underrated classic, a dark gem in MxPx's otherwise bright discography, but instead it only comes off as a lesser jewel in a crown full of far finer stones. Stones, man.
Hey, this review has a promised, but brief second part, and that's talking about stuff that happened ten years ago. A few weeks before Panic was released, I was in a deep depression, unemployed, and alone in my parents' empty house in the middle of nowhere. I had almost completely forgotten about MxPx, but one night I happened upon the Fuse channel, which in 2005 was all about showing rock videos (Fuse, G4, Wonder Showzen, and Degrassi: The Next Generation were my dawgs that summer), and I saw MxPx riding out to me from the desert.

The sound of "Heard That Sound" gave me a ton of hope, even if the album itself didn't exactly whet my whistle.
ADDED BONUS! I purchased Panic at the Baton Rouge FYE (on a rare trip into town), along with Dredg's Catch Without Arms, as I saw the video for "Bug Eyes" on that very same night. Man, Fuse was on fire that summer.

2005 SideOneDummy
1. The Darkest Places 2:35
2. Young and Depressed 3:05
3. Heard That Sound 3:40
4. Cold Streets 2:46
5. The Story 3:31
6. Wrecking Hotel Rooms 3:26
7. Late Again 2:35
8. Kicking and Screaming 2:52
9. Grey Skies Turn Blue 3:04
10. Emotional Anarchist 2:02
11. Call in Sick 3:00
12. Get Me Out 2:10
13. Waiting for the World to End 3:46
14. This Weekend 3:21

Friday, October 23, 2015

MxPx -- The AC/EP

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Bad timing. After a very long run of punk rock invincibility, MxPx suddenly became very, very mortal with their 2003 pop-rock album, Before Everything and After. As a long-time fan of the band, I tried really, really (it's double-adverb Friday) hard to like Before Everything and After--but after a few months, I realized the hate was extremely, extremely real. I did not want my favorite punk rock band to be a pop-rock band, and the cheesy unlistenability of BFEAA proves that reason doesn't want MxPx to be a pop-rock band, either.
MxPx was, until the band reached their mid-30's and started having children, a very, very prolific band, generally putting out some kind of new release every year. A year after BFEAA, the band released a documentary called B-Movie, which included a bonus CD called The AC/EP. The documentary is a slight disappointment, not because it isn't entertaining, but because the promos promise three live shows, yet the DVD actually only features a little bit of footage from five or six of the songs performed at those shows. The bonus AC/EP is...well, if there was one thing I and all the other long-term MxPx fans wanted after the disappointing Before Everything and After, it was proof that the trio could go right back to being an awesome punk rock band. The AC/EP offers absolutely zero evidence that the sentiment of the previous sentence could be a possibility because, at that exact moment in history, MxPx decided it was time to acoustic EP.
The AC/EP kicks off with "Grey Skies Turn Blue." It's a poppy little acoustic number, and Mike's voice sounds just as strangely whiny, nasally, and overproduced as on BFEAA. Same goes for "The Silver Screen," which gives the impression that all of BFEAA's guest singers are going to pop-up again, that dude from Good Charlotte and that dude from New Found Glory ready to pounce on a nice little "do do do do do do dudie do" outro. Thankfully, those guest appearances never come. Next up is a nice acoustic version of the band's classic "Invitation to Understanding," and then a nice version of fan-favorite rarity "Where Will We Go?" and then a pretty nice version of BFEAA standout, "Quit Your Life," and a listener now, at EP's end, I find myself in a comfortable place. Tempered expectations certainly make this EP a more enjoyable experience, even if it again finds MxPx playing against their strengths. The laid-back mood of the last three tracks is so disarmingly charming, it saves The AC/EP from disaster.
So in the end, The AC/EP is far from MxPx's best work, but the total product isn't a giant steaming pile of sickly triceratops feces, either. Maybe this MxPx band will hang around for a bit longer.

2004 SideOneDummy
1. Grey Skies Turn Blue 3:19
2. The Silver Screen 2:53
3. Invitation To Understanding (Acoustic) 3:19
4. Where Will We Go? (Acoustic) 1:34
5 Quit Your Life (Acoustic) 3:39

Thursday, October 22, 2015

MxPx -- Before Everything & After

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I'd like to preface this review with the assertion that I am a huge MxPx fan. My favorite member of the band is Yuri because the other two guys are deceptively tall for their appearance, which kind of creeps me out, but Yuri is the exact height you would think he would be, plus he took a picture with me next to these port-a-potties.
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Now onto Before Everything & After. I might be a fan of MxPx, but I think everything should be judged on the basis of what it is, and not who made it. MxPx have made a lot of albums that I enjoy immensely. Before Everything & After is not one of those albums. I loathe Before Everything & After.
MxPx pioneered a more palatable punk rock sound in the 1990's without selling out. They stayed true to this sound, improving upon it with each album. Their fourth album even went gold. Then 9/11 happened, and for some reason, after 9/11, what people really wanted was whiny emo crap. A bunch of bands like Dashboard Confessional, and Good Charlotte, and New Found Glory seemed to pop up from the dregs of nowhere to platinum stardom, featuring whiny, nasally, sappy singers who were like, crying at windows and stuff. Their songs were like punk rock, in that they were simple, except they weren't fast, and the only thing they rebelled against was sounding good, and they were all really, really lame. The high school kids who sent these bands to the top of the charts are the same ones who went to college a few years later and thought Underoath's They're Only Chasing Safety and The Killers were the greatest things ever, and that every damn thing in the world was "amazing," and I hate those kids, though their stupid optimism has blasted them to the top of the economic spectrum, while Generation X has already been relegated to the I thought you guys were all retired, no we're all just unemployed scrapheap. I have had the great luck of falling right in between these two so-called "generations," which means that I hate everything, just kidding, but I really do hate this stupid album, as due to record label pressure to make a hit for 2003, or simple peer pressure, Before Everything & After is one steaming heap of emo. Oh, you don't like run-on sentences, little baby? Well go on and cry, cry, cry! just like this album makes me cry because I hate it.
I hate it because Mike Herrera's usually rough, but enjoyable vocals have been nasalized and compressed all to hell, and his harmonies with Tom Wisniewski have been polished so much that any character or human texture has been completely removed. I hate it because it's just a collection of bad pop songs, and the two token punk songs are okay, and the second one would be powerful and great, except Mike completely derails them because, due to a new facial piercing or something, he sings these lines:
These days so few seem to have fay
In the son of man and in his gray
I feel your hand upon my fay
As you replay my broken wings.

I hate it because near the end of a song that could not get more annoying, "First Day of the Rest of Our Lives," the band modulates! MODULATES! WHAT DECADE IS THIS?! MODULATES?! WHAT GENRE IS THIS!? I hate it because of the stupid emo-kings cameos, like the dude from New Found Glory popping up at the end of an already cheesy song about driving around Hollywood in a convertible just to sing, "dew, dew, dew, dew, dew, dew, dewtie dew," and the dude from Good Charlotte popping up at the end of "On the Outs," just to make fun of Mike Herrera for the fact that Good Charlotte dude's garbage band has sold a bazillion times as many albums as MxPx has, even though MxPx paved the way for them by being a bazillion times more awesome and first, yet MxPx needs the Good Charlotte dude to tag his name to the back of the album just so MxPx can move a few copies. BULLSHIT. I hate this album so much, and I hate it even more because some of it is actually fun to listen to, like the drums on "Well Adjusted" that sound like they cost a million dollars to record (bet you wish you could have that million back, A&M records), or the robot "Quit Your Life" vocals that sound like they are coming from Yuri as he is dressed in 80's sci-fi garb and beckoning toward the camera, or that under every one of these stupid songs is the stamp of a band who is far, far, far better than this.
But I hate Before Everything & After even more because the idiotically ironic hipsters who also *SPOILER* were the emo kids of 2003 now diss MxPx as a stupid band who made stupid music that they, the hipsters, grew out of, but yet the hipsters also say of MxPx's discography that they can enjoy only Before Everything & After because it brings back memories and they can celebrate its badness ironically. SCREW YOU, IDIOTS!!! The punk rock records MxPx released between 1996-2000 are incredibly fun and enjoyable albums that actual people with discernment and good, individual tastes can actually listen to and find non-ironic pleasure in and I HATE YOU GUYS SO, SO, SO, SO MUCH!!!!!!


2003 A&M
1. Before 0:20
2. Play It Loud 3:18
3. Well Adjusted 3:39
4. It's Alright (featuring Benji Madden of Good Charlotte) 3:01
5. Brokenhearted (featuring Kris Roe of The Ataris) 2:10
6. First Day of the Rest of Our Lives 3:01
7. Everything Sucks (When You're Gone) 2:57
8. Quit Your Life 3:38
9. More Everything 2:50
10. Kings of Hollywood (featuring Jordan Pundik of New Found Glory) 3:41
11. The Capitol 2:50
12. On the Outs (featuring Benji Madden of Good Charlotte) 3:11
13. Don't Walk Away 3:59
14. You Make Me, Me 3:06
15. You're Not Alone (featuring Jordan Pundik of New Found Glory) 3:40
16. After 1:43

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

MxPx -- The Renaissance EP

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And here is the moment where MxPx became mortal. After an incredible five-year run where essentially everything they recorded was punk rock gold, it only took one chorus for me to realize that MxPx was not, in fact, infallible. That chorus comes from The Renaissance EP's third song, "Party II (Time to Go"), and its lyrics are: All my favorite movies/Have the coolest parties/Like The Cable Guy, Say Anything, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Grease... Not only is this the lamest chorus ever, but DUDE, outside of The Cable Guy, all those movies are GIRL MOVIES*. And who cares if they have the coolest parties?! My coolest party is me reading a book in the bathtub.
I suddenly felt like MxPx wasn't my band anymore.
Actually, MxPx would eventually release a lot more music that I was and am incredibly fond of, but I think of this EP as kicking off MxPx's "Dark Period." The Renaissance EP is not terrible or anything-- most of the songs are pretty good--but the production is weak, and the songs just aren't as memorable as MxPx's better work. I felt like I was in an MxPx desert in the summer of 2001, after a whole year of no new MxPx releases, and The Renaissance EP didn't slake my thirst. Listening to all of the band's albums so many times over the course of this month, I can at least see this EP for what it is--a fun quickie--but I can still see that in the vast sea of MxPx music, The Renaissance EP is a minor current. Except for "Yuri Wakes Up Screaming," which is a tidal wave of awesome.

*Is it offensive to label certain movies "Girl Movies?" I mean, it wasn't two weeks ago, but it might be offensive now. If it is, then isn't the entire marketing industry offensive?

2001 Fat Wreck Chords
1. Lonesome Town 2:19
2. Letting Go 2:21
3. Party II (Time to Go) 2:18
4. Time Will Tell 1:28
5. The Opposite 1:43
6. Don't Look Back 2:38
7. Talk Of The Town 1:42
8. The Struggle 2:01
9. Yuri Wakes Up Screaming 1:35

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

MxPx -- The Ever Passing Moment

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2000's The Ever Passing Moment marks a change in MxPx's career trajectory. The band achieved nearly unparalleled sales and popularity in the realm of mid-90's punk rock (how many punk bands pre(and post)-blink-182 have a gold record to their name?). Any decent band worth their salt generally grows restless with their trademark sound by their fifth-album (sometimes far sooner), and while some life-less haters may disagree, I certainly think MxPx are worth their salt. Thus, by the time The Ever Passing Moment was recorded, MxPx were apparently ready for change...
I listened to so much MxPx during the summer of 2000, I wore the CD's down to little thin nub-circles (the reason I wrote this review was so I could use the term "nub-circles"). However, I put off picking up the May-released The Ever Passing Moment for a couple of months because I'd heard it sounded...different. I didn't want different. I wanted that signature fun, blazing-speed, double-barreled MxPx sound that I could drive my car way too fast to, and also make Tony Hawk get like 400-feet of air in the half-pipe to...but then college started.
College is fun, but those three words don't seem very true to a stressed-out, first week freshman. With a new stereo (Alpine!) in my car, though, and unfamiliarity my currency, I finally broke down and purchased The Ever Passing Moment (and Let It Happen, too, but I'll get to that, I already got to that...time is a flat circle).
The rumors were true...The Ever Passing Moment is different.
The Ever Passing Moment isn't much of a punk rock album. If anything, it's a high-energy rock album with a small handful of punk-sounding songs. When opening track, "My Life Story" first blasted out of my speakers, it didn't blast as fast as I wanted it to. Jerry Finn's bright-sounding production contrasts sharply with Steve Kravac's harder-edged, yet clear production from MxPx's two albums most-previous to this one. Those two albums, Life in General and Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo, respectively, are bonafide classics, and the three instruments (bass, guitar, drums) are very distinct in the mix.Though The Ever Passing Moment is not quite a classic, and the instruments blend together far more in the mix than those last two, with repeat listens, and expectations of punk-rock bliss dismantled, it turns out to be something pretty special. Unfortunately for me as a reviewer, the reasons for this are a bit intangible.
In the spirit of punk-rock brevity that has inhabited all of these MxPx reviews, I'll try to make them tangible...briefly.
1. Though, outside of "Educated Guess" and half of "Buidlings Tumble," these songs aren't very fast, they are (outside of "Two Whole Years," which was, up to that point, my least favorite MxPx song of all time (later eclipsed vastly))well-written (unlike this paragraph). The music is good, the hooks, a Finn specialty, are good, and the quality doesn't decrease the more the music hits your ears.
2. This is probably MxPx's most "mature" album. At the time of The Ever Passing Moment's recording, singer/lyricist/bassist Mike Herrara was at that mid-20's sweet-spot where you realize you don't know everything, yet aren't completely cynical about the world around I am...right now. Mike's musings have always been pretty simple, but at their peak, they are simple in the best sense of the word. What I mean by that is, it's generally good to have a friend who, when you are stressed out, says, "Hey, dude, don't worry, it'll be fine." I'm not saying these are necessarily the most wonderful lyrics of Herrera's career, but there's a certain consistency in his rationale that is extremely comforting. Following Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo's footsteps, The Ever Passing Moment also features a more introspective second half. The album-closing four features two sincere love songs, followed by two somber songs that give the general idea of, "Hey, I'm not the greatest guy in the world, I have some problems, and I'm working on them." "It's Undeniable" in particular features some of the last explicitly religious MxPx lyrics ever, with the verse "The first step that I needed to take was giving God control/that's a struggle for me every day, and I'm letting you all know." The line is at once intimate and awkward, but in the context of the song and album, it works. The album-closing line, "What else can I say/I let the past get to me," is also surprisingly dark for a collection of songs that, to this point, are the poppiest, most major-key sounding of the band's career. This gives The Ever Passing Moment a feeling of movement and progression, and perhaps adds more to its staying power, also almost keeping it in the league of the last two albums. It might not reach the heights of those two, but in 2000, it kept up the MxPx glory days just a little while longer. It also helped give a worried 18-year old making a big transition a nice boost on the old morning and afternoon drives, and today brings back some dear memories of that time.
So much for brevity...
and good writing.

2000 A&M
1. My Life Story 2:44
2. Buildings Tumble 2:45
3. Responsibility 2:40
4. Two Whole Years 2:43
5. Prove it to the World 2:34
6. Educated Guess 1:46
7. Is the Answer in the Question? 2:10
8. The Next Big Thing 2:26
9. Foolish 2:53
10. One Step Closer to Life 3:10
11. Unsaid 3:00
12. Here With Me 2:12
13. Without You 2:37
14. It's Undeniable 2:47
15. Misplaced Memories 3:35

Monday, October 19, 2015

MxPx -- The Broken Bones

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And when it seems that the golden age of MxPx could not possibly continue, here comes a little jewel of an EP rarity, 7:40 of music released to a few radio stations and never to the general public. If there's another four song-EP that averages less than two-minutes a song, yet is this satisfying, I haven't heard it. At the band's peak, Mike Herrera was always able to end an MxPx album with a couple of songs that seemed to carry more emotional weight. Even the breezy Life in General's breezy album-closer, "Southbound," contains deeper feeling, a certain yearning nostalgia to get back home. The Broken Bones features a fun, self-titled opener, and then three songs that contain that heavier emotional weight of which I just spoke. The first track features the chorus "We're the Broken Bones!", which lends the possibility that MxPx are playing under an alter-ego here. That theory makes sense, as these four songs stand out amongst the rest of the band's catalogue, and contain a certain sonic consistency. I just wrote like twenty-five different sentences to follow the previous one, but I hated each one more than the last, and erased them all. The Broken Bones EP is awesome. It's punk and rock and about making up your mind, and time and season, and getting up after you've fallen off the bike and spilled your blood and guts. Neglecting Lauren, an awesome and awful punk band I used to sing for, covered "Blood and Guts" on our lone cassette release, as in we recorded the song to cassette and made five copies of it. It was sweet. Here's the original, which always satisfies, and is admittedly just a slight bit better than Neglecting Lauren's version. I mean, really, the two almost sound the same, but MxPx's is just a little tighter. Probably just the higher production budget.

2000 A&M Records
1. The Broken Bones 2:13
2. Make Up Your Mind 1:51
3. Time and Season 2:10
4. Blood and Guts 1:26

Friday, October 16, 2015

MxPx -- At the Show

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Though MxPx have been around for more than two decades, At the Show is the only live album they have to their name. Thankfully, At the Show was recorded during the band's peak, in support of their classic album, Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo, and only three years after their classic Life In General was released. Plenty of bands don't catch the live-album bug until well into their careers, often after the glory days have passed. At the Show features MxPx performing live during the Golden Age of MxPx. The setlist is vintage, a brilliant mix of sing-along crowd pleasers (Chick Magnet", "I'm OK, You're OK," "Punk Rawk Show"), head-banging bullet-trains (the stretch between "Downfall of Western Civilization" and "Walking Bye"), deep cuts ("Invitation to Understanding"! "Delores"!), rarities ("GSF," "Small Town Minds," "Forgive and Forget"), and a Ramones cover ("The KKK Took My Baby Away"). The performances are energetic, with all the songs sped up just a little bit more than on record (yes, they can play even faster!), and well-captured to tape by some old guys in some punk band that sings about food and fishing. At the Show provides a lot for fans to enjoy (my only complaint to this day is the absence of "Do Your Feet Hurt"), and if it's been a long time, there's a huge chunk of nostalgia just waiting for a listen.

1999 Tooth & Nail
1. Tomorrow's Another Day 3:09
2. Sometimes You Have to Ask Yourself 2:37
3. Under Lock and Key 2:22
4. Chick Magnet 3:08
5. G.S.F. 2:37
6. Cold and All Alone 2:00
7. Party, My House, Be There 2:17
8. Downfall of Western Civilization 2:30
9. Time Brings Change 2:09
10. Fist Vs. Tact 1:10
11. Small Town Minds 1:06
12. Walking Bye 1:20
13. The KKK Took My Baby Away (by The Ramones) 1:54
14. Andrea 1:47
15. Want Ad 1:41
16. Lifetime Enlightenment 1:03
17. Forgive and Forget 0:29
18. Invitation to Understanding 2:19
19. Dolores 1:11
20. Middlename 3:13
21. I'm OK, You're OK 2:34
22. The Theme Fiasco 2:20
23. Punk Rawk Show 3:59

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

MxPx -- Let It Happen

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There was a time where it seemed like the Internet would be like some kind of eternal archive and that everything you've ever read could be accessed again anytime you want. Unfortunately, that's not exactly the case. Despite the best efforts of archiving systems and such, it seems like there are as many dead links as live links these days. Way back in the misty, mystical, lovely days before 9/11, I remember reading conflicting reports about Let It Happens' release. One side said that the band had released Let It Happen, a collection of b-sides and rarities, because they owed their label, Tooth & Nail, one more album, and didn't want to record new material for a label with which they were currently at odds. The other side said that Tooth & Nail released Let It Happen against the band's will, just to turn a little more profit from their golden goose, the band that put them on the map. I don't know which side of the story is true, but I do know this: Let It Happen is a gem for the true MxPx fan. The album kicks off with three until-Let It Happen unreleased songs recorded around the 1995 On the Cover sessions. On the Cover is okay, but these songs are shockingly good, far better than anything the band had recorded up to that point, outside of maybe "Punk Rawk Show." They are also surprisingly atmospheric, with far more effect on Mike Herrara's voice and the guitar than usual, which sounds really cool. After these three songs are two covers, "Sick Boy" and "Oh Donna," which follow in the same sonic mold as the previous songs, i.e., they're really, really good.
At this point, I should mention that I originally planned to write reviews for all of the 7" vinyl MxPx albums I own. The 90's were a virtual vinyl desert, as most bands had completely abandoned the format for the compact disc. MxPx, however, have always been a big fan of the past, and never forgot the coolness of the once-considered outdated format (if you've been on an island for the past decade, vinyl has made a big comeback, and a lot of folks now hold it as the greatest music format of all time, which I'm not so sure about, but I do like it quite a bit, and run-on sentences are so, so awesome, thanks). In the mid-to-late-90's, MxPx put out several really awesome vinyl EP's, with great songs on them and neato packaging, and ALL of those songs are found here on this awesome compilation album, so I won't review those 90's vinyls separately...but I will still talk about the songs for this review.
"Small Town Minds/First Class Mail" is my favorite one-two punch in MxPx history, two of the most musically frenetic, violent songs the band have released, with an awesome, brooding interlude at the end of the former that launches the latter into the stratosphere. Awesome.

Other highlights include the slow-dance worthy "GSF" and pretty much every song, most sounding a little more ferocious than the MxPx usual. The album highlight, though, is the title track. "Let It Happen" is a romantic, wishful, huge-sounding song, with a cool, emotional, bassline-led instrumental bridge that blink-182 ripped off consistently for the next five years until they started getting weird (I'm not knocking blink-182, go read my blink-182 reviews and you'll see I am quite fond of them, or just take my word for it and read the rest of this review instead). Also, I could do another bass nerdout section here about how MxPx and Slick Shoes taught me how to play sweet-sounding bass solos by bouncing back and forth on the bottom two strings. It's all about that bass AND treble. The awesome thing about "Let It Happen" is that MxPx attempted to record other songs like it on a certain album I'll review next week, and they made these attempts on a MUCH bigger budget, but none of those songs come close to besting "Let I Happen."

After the title-track, the band blasts through another nine songs, and all of a sudden we're 25 songs in. At this point, the album might as well be over, a satisfying rush of 25 songs in the can. In fact, if you turn off your stereo at this point, you've still gotten your money's worth (and I imagine you can most likely "Amazon-Seller" this thing now for next to nothing). However, as a cool bonus, "Let It Happen" includes seven early versions of songs from the band's breakout classic, Life In General. These versions feature different harmonies and slightly different arrangements than what ended up on Life In General. It's nuts how much a simple change in notes sung by two harmonizing singers can change the entire feel of a song. These songs really illustrate how thin the line is from decent to great--a quite educational experience. Also, they're a reminder that the X-Factor in MxPx's 90's success may have just been the chemistry present in Mike Herrera and Tom Wisniewski's harmonies.
At this point, 60,000 words into this review, I hope I've convinced you to give some person from Nebraska who is selling this album for 99 cents on Amazon your spare change. Let It Happen is more than worth it. I picked it and The Ever Passing Moment up in the same week and found myself in a blissfull MxPx daze for months afterward. I'm still not sure why the album was released, but to this day, I enjoy that somebody... Let It Happen.

1998 Tooth & Nail
1. Never Learn 2:05
2. Begin to Start 3:29
3. Swing Set Girl 2:15
4. Sick Boy 2:32
5. Oh Donna 2:12
6. Small Town Minds 1:03
7. First Class Mail 2:08
8. Can't See Not Saying 1:44
9. GSF 2:34
10. Thoughts and Ideas 1:47
11. Easier Said Than Done 1:25
12. Rock and Roll Girl 2:06
13. Important Enough to Mention 2:19
14. Elvis Is Dead 1:51
15. Lifetime Enlightenment 1:07
16. Let It Happen 2:57
17. Hot and Cold 2:10
18. So Kill Me 1:48
19. Suggestion Box 2:15
20. Creation 1:23
21. Want Ad 1:52
22. Honest Answers 2:56
23. Late Last Night 1:34
24. Biased Bigotry 2:29
25. Circumstance 2:10
26. Do Your Feet Hurt? (Critter Version) 3:16
27. Move to Bremerton (Extended Edition) 4:11
28. Chick Magnet (Demo Version) 3:02
29. Sorry So Sorry (Demo Version) 2:16
30. Christalena (Demo Version) 2:06
31. South Bound (Demo Version) 2:32
32. Life in General (Demo Version) 1:53

Monday, October 12, 2015

MxPx -- Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo

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I'm not about to call a favorite between Life and General and Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo. The two albums are distinctly different, but to me they are both punk rock perfection. Life in General is an unbelievably fun, lightning-speed blast of energy (with a couple of awesome pit stops). Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo is a bit slower and more introspective. Steve Kravac produced both albums, and he gives Buffalo a bit darker of a sound. All the instruments are just as distinct in the mix as they were on Life in General, but there are key differences in tone--NERD TIME--Mike Herrera's bass sounds tuned to drop D, and it seems like Mike's using a pick to strum instead of plucking with his fingers (to the ears of this 14-years of experience bassist). This gives the album a bit more of an edge, keeps the songs driving even though the tempos aren't always quite as fast...not that there aren't some blazing-speed songs here.
In general..the songs here are great, distinct, and original. About this time, late 90's to early 00's, I remember people describing certain bands as having a "Fat Wreck" sound (after NOFX's Fat Mike's record label, Fat Wreck Chords). MxPx had an "MxPx sound," and among late 90's punk albums, Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo is particularly...well, I already used the word "distinct" three times. The whole album sounds so effortless and fun, like they could just rattle off a cool and easy opener like "Under Lock and Key" as naturally as Fat Mike sings badly. I particularly love Buffalo's more thoughtful second half (the party songs are wisely front-loaded). "Invitation to Understanding" and "What's Mine Is Yours," are almost shockingly cerebral after what the band have done up to this point, but my favorite MxPx song of all time, "For Always," is the key standout, in my completely subjective opinion. I like that "For Always" is musically deeper and more emotional than MxPx's previous songs, but that it also ends more punk than anything, with Mike intoning how much he just doesn't care.
"The Theme Fiasco," the cool instrumental spy-movie theme at the end of the album, is the perfect capper. My emotional bias toward Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo might be stronger than for anything else I review. I listened the crap out of Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo at the end of the summer of 2000, in the final weeks before the beginning of my first semester of college. Buffalo said everything I wanted to say, it sounded exactly like what I needed to hear, and that summer seemed to roll on and blissfully on, the longest one I had ever known, the easiest one I had ever known, the Glynn sunsets hanging in the sky for an eternity, Smash Brothers cousin battles, lego gun wars at plantations, long walks with the dog through the countryside, never ending, never ending

1998 A&M/Tooth & Nail
1. Under Lock and Key 2:32
2. Tomorrow's Another Day 2:47
3. The Final Slowdance 1:59
4. I'm OK, You're OK 2:39
5. Cold and All Alone 2:07
6. Party, My House, Be There 2:16
7. The Downfall of Western Civilization 2:42
8. Invitation to Understanding 2:33
9. Fist vs Tact 1:11
10. What's Mine Is Yours 3:44
11. Self Serving with a Purpose 2:48
12. For Always 3:12
13. Set the Record Straight 2:57
14. Get with It! 1:44
15. Inches from Life 1:51
16. The Theme Fiasco 3:10

Saturday, October 10, 2015

MxPx -- Life in General

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Look, I can go on and on about how awesome Life in General is. About how producer, Steve Kravac, pushed MxPx to their physical and artistic limits until they broke past them. About how Kravac's production allows Mike's singing and bass playing, Tom's guitar, and Yuri's drums each ample space in the mix, and how it is amazingly clear without ever sounding over-polished. I can tell you about how Mike Herrera, on the punk-rock spectrum, took a Beatles like two-year songwriting leap from Please Please Me to Rubber Soul, from Pokinatcha to Life in General. I can tell you about how I've listened to hundreds of punk rock albums, and none of them have satisfied my ears like this 1996 gem, except for maybe the one that MxPx released just two years after it. I can tell you about how Life in General immediately vaunted MxPx to mythic, legendary status, prepared the way for the enjoyable, but less enduring blink-182 to sell a billion records. I can tell you about how MxPx took a mid-90's skate-punk genre that should have only been a fad, and beginning with this album, used it to create something timeless. I can tell you about how I listened to my original copy of Life in General so many times, I wore the plastic off of the digital encoding. I can tell you about how Life in General in its entirety makes for a far greater soundtrack to 45-minutes of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater than the music provided on that game. I can tell you about how fun Life in General is, how simply listening to the album as an activity is fun, how even the most moribund drive, alone, or with others, can be resurrected by just one listen. I can tell you how MxPx make it seem like 17 songs should flow this smoothly on every album, how every album should flow this naturally. I can tell you all that stuff. I can also misuse the word "can."

1996 Tooth & Nail

1. Middlename 2:55
2. My Mom Still Cleans My Room 2:50
3. Do Your Feet Hurt 3:10
4. Sometimes You Have to Ask Yourself 2:19
5. The Wonder Years 1:51
6. Move to Bremerton 3:35
7. New York to Nowhere 2:16
8. Andrea 1:46
9. Your Problem, My Emergency 3:16
10. Chick Magnet 3:12
11. Today Is in My Way 3:06
12. Sorry So Sorry 2:14
13. Doing Time 1:23
14. Correct Me If I'm Wrong 2:33
15. Cristalena 2:01
16. Destroyed by You 2:33
17. Southbound 2:34

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

MxPx -- On the Cover

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MxPx's On the Cover is more noticeable for its content than its content, if that makes any sense. The covers here are all serviceable, and in the case of a-ha's "Take On Me," a blast. Musically, On the Cover, overall, is just okay (and I may still be angry that Blockbuster Music charged me $18 for an 8-song EP, but they were the only ones who had it, and what's the Internet, 1995?). However, the eclecticism of the musical acts MxPx decided to cover here--Bryan Adams (can't stand the dude's music, but MxPx makes it listenable), Charles Hardin Holly, the most original Christian music act of the last 30 years, a classic Christian punk band, one of the most awesome Swedish bands of all time, some band called The Blasters, Keith "The Nicsperiment's hair idol (though he would take exception with that word)" Green, and a band MxPx's lead singer is actually also the lead singer of--reveal a band with perhaps bigger aspirations than run-of-the-mill punk music.

1995 Tooth & Nail
1. Summer of '69 (by Bryan Adams) 2:21
2. Oh, Boy! (by Buddy Holly) 2:03
3. Drum Machine Joy (by Joy Electric) 3:35
4. You Found Me (by Altar Boys) 2:31
5. Take On Me (by a-ha) 3:36
6. Marie, Marie (by The Blasters) 1:50
7. You Put This Love in My Heart (by Keith Green) 1:47
8. No Brain (by The Cootees) 2:36

Monday, October 05, 2015

MxPx -- Teenage Politics

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Teenage Politics, MxPx's second album, showcases that little bit of growth from the first album to the second one would expect from a band composed entirely of teenagers. The production, while nothing incredible, is a step-up in quality from the dirty-sounding debut, Pokinatcha. The album, from song to song, is just a little bit stronger, as well. The main difference, though, between Teenage Politics and Pokinatcha, is that Teenage Politics actually includes some standouts. While Pokinatcha is steady-going, with nothing rising from the pack, Teenage Politics features a handful of songs primed for a greatest hits collection right out of the gate. The title track is punk in its attitude, the "I'll never be like you" chorus essentially the very definition of punk, but the song itself takes the tempo down a notch, and is actually...catchy. Also, the grown-up cynicism of the song's final line, "I'm just like you," shows that this band is already getting ahead of the pack.
Teenage Politics is also the point certain people started calling MxPx "pop-punk," but I'll get to those people later. Teenage politics are confusing enough. Speaking of "Teenage Politics" the song, though, it's the first in a one-two punch of awesome that is concluded by the career-defining "Punk Rawk Show," a frenzied good-times blast of energy that makes me miss the 90's and Surge Cola except they make Surge Cola again and this song has never stopped being cool.
The rest of the album is a work obviously crafted by teenagers, but it is at least steadily decent the rest of the way through, and shows far more promise than did the band's debut. With just a little more maturation, and the right producer...
Meanwhile, I'm gonna go dye my hair some conspicuous color and dive off something.

1995 Tooth & Nail
1. Sugarcoated Poison Apple 2:21
2. Do & Don't 3:37
3. Teenage Politics 2:51
4. Punk Rawk Show 2:32
5. The Opposite of Intellect 2:51
6. False Fiction 3:25
7. Falling Down 2:04
8. Moneytree 1:41
9. Rainyday 2:42
10. Like Sand Thru the Hourglass... So Are the Days Of Our Lives 1:57
11. Democracy 1:53
12. Something More 2:19
13. Different Things 1:18
14. Misunderstanding 2:42
15. Study Humans 2:20
16. Inquiring Minds Want to Know 2:17
17. I'm the Bad Guy 1:42
18. Americanism 2:28
19. Dolores [Hidden track] 2:37

Friday, October 02, 2015

MxPx -- Pokinatcha

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Everybody's gotta start somewhere, and MxPx, as teenagers, kicked off their recording career with 1994's Pokinatcha. Pokinatcha is straight-forward, lo-fi, fast and fuzzed-out punk. As MxPx'S career goes, Pokinatcha is the most "Christian" of their albums, with lyrics about feeling ostracized and singled out and feeling akin to Jesus, the original punk, as well as lyrics about people being mean to you because they aren't happy with their hair. As debut's go, Pokinatcha isn't exactly auspicious, even if it is good at what it does, which is far too simple to warrant nearly 50-minutes of running time. This CD is also the odd duck (but not THE ODD DUCK, as that one comes along a bit later) of the bunch in that Andy Husted plays guitar instead of long-time guitarist, Tom Wisniewski, who would play on every album from here on out. It's time for the (in alphabetical order) Mike, Tom, and Yuri show.

1994 Tooth & Nail
1. Anywhere But Here 3:25
2. Weak 3:02
3. Want Ad 1:23
4. Realize 2:26
5. Think Twice 1:52
6. Unopposed 2:26
7. Aspect, The 2:50
8. Ears to Hear 2:49
9. Bad Hair Day 1:52
10. Too Much Thinking 3:41
11. Time Brings Change 2:25
12. PxPx 1:04
13. Jars of Clay 2:18
14. High Standards 2:21
15. Another Song About T.V. 1:40
16. Twisted Words 2:16
17. Walking Bye 1:48
18. No Room 2:01
19. Jay Jay's Song 1:55
20. One Way Window 2:00
21. Dead End 2:46

Thursday, October 01, 2015

October Is MxPx Month at The Nicsperiment(!)

 photo MxPx_zpsldrbzjdw.jpg
I think I became a fan of MxPx after listening to five seconds of their music. The 90's produced a ton of punk bands, but none of them were MxPx. There was just something different about those three guys together. They were like your buddies: Mike, the charismatic ringleader, Tom, the quiet, cool one, and Yuri, the Yuri (my personal favorite of the trio). They were like your buddies that wrote catchy punk songs that were so fast you couldn't bang your head fast enough, or drive your car fast enough, or eat a box of tic-tacs fast enough. Indeed, no other punk band sufficed when MxPx was needed. Only MxPx would do. Fads end, though. People grow up, and grow out of things...but for some people, growing up seems to be a process of denying things one enjoys just because one thinks they shouldn't enjoy those things anymore.
NEWSFLASH: If you throw on Life in General, it is still awesome. If you throw on Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo, it is still awesome. If you listen to what the band has done in the past five years... it's still awesome. MxPx aren't ironically awesome. They are just awesome. From my teenage years to my mid-30's, MxPx rules. The shocker in going through their discography is that my opinions of each of their records are nearly exactly the same now as they were when Clinton and Bush II were in office. Generally, a complete discography visitation of an old favorite yields wildly different results in taste from when one was younger. Not this time...
But didn't know The Nicsperiment when he was a teenager? Well, it's time to find out just how similar 18-year old The Nicsperiment's tastes are to the tastes of the less-fit, grayer, get-off-my-lawnier The Nicsperiment of today you all know-in-love, tolerate, or simply keep accidentally visiting when you mistype The Napsperiment into your browser. By the way, there's no such thing as "The Napsperiment." Somebody needs to get on that.
But there's no time for naps here at The Nicsperiment...