Incubus has long been a favourite band of mine, and of many loved ones. Hits like Pardon Me, Megalomaniac, and especially Wish You Were Here has long adorned my playlists, so when it was announced that Incubus had added a South African stop on their latest tour, it didn’t take much convincing for us to make the trek to the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria.
Taxi Violence really shouldn’t need an introduction – this Capetonian band has been making music together since 2004, and their first studio album, Untie Yourself, was released more than a decade ago, in 2006. Since then they’ve been touring up and down and played all of the major local festivals. Most recently Taxi Violence had released Tenfold to celebrate the decade of making music together. This album garnered the band’s fourth SAMA nomination, to go along with their three MK Music Awards nominations.
At the beginning of 2017, the band announced plans to release a handful of shorter EP’s throughout the year. The first of these EP’s, Shape and Form I, was released on the 13th of February, and the 3 tracks are classic Taxi Violence.
Good old fashioned rock and roll
Stoker released their self-titled album recently, and it’s a good one. This Cape Town band wastes no time in making their intentions clear, as the album opens with a driving riff and catchy chorus. With sounds reminiscent of garage rock bands like the The Strokes (I think the similar names are coincidental), Franz Ferdinand, and Arctic Monkeys, the album establishes a tempo and tone within the first handful of tracks that doesn’t let up.
But, then again, I didn’t want it to, not for one second.
Classical composition is a tough topic in contemporary music
It seems antiquated, with composers with hard to pronounce names long gone having written music for instruments that have hard to pronounce names, and there are rarely any lyrics to speak of. On the other hand, Mozart sold more CD’s than Drake and Beyoncé in 2016 and local artist Caroline Leisegang released a new album of her own compositions, called Simple Circles.
Malkop Summer Rock Festival is around the corner, and are playing host to a bunch of legendary artists, like Francois van Coke, Koos Kombuis, Mr Cat & The Jackal, and many more. You’d think that being included in a line-up that reads like the who’s who of local live music would unsettle a young band, but Slow Jack is certainly prepared.
Blink-182 has released a new album called California
This album is the Blink-182‘s first release since their poorly received Neighbourhoods (that’s how we spell it in South African English) in 2011, which saw the band members to scatter to the four corners of the Earth. Well, three corners.
Before I delve into California, I think I should clarify where I stand on Blink-182. See, I am, apparently, a millennial. When Enema of the State and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket was released, I was in high school, and the perfect age to enjoy the finely crafted dick and balls jokes that were so expertly delivered by Tom, Mark, and Travis. I was also into guitars and playing music, so I learned a bunch of their songs, as they were easy and fun to play. In the process I took in the raw and relatively unprocessed Cheshire Cat and Dude Ranch as well. Then, a couple of years later, Blink-182 released their eponymous album, which I still believe is their best work. It brought a darker, more serious sound, and showed that the three Californians were capable of more than just bubblegum punk. In fact, the 2003 release showed that they could take what they had learned thus far, and craft it into something incredibly beautiful and haunting while still displaying the barely contained anger of their punk roots. I still listen to that album from time to time. 2011’s Neighbourhoods disappointed me, so if you liked it, I won’t be hurt if you disregard this article’s opinion completely.
The band members had several side projects. Mark and Travis started +44 in reaction to Blink-182’s initial hiatus in 2005. Similarly, Tom formed Angels and Airwaves. I was never much of a fan of either band, feeling that the pop rock they delivered was weak and somewhat soulless compared to the 2003 Blink-182 album, as well as the first side project, Box Car Racer‘s only release, Box Car Racer in 2002; Tom and Travis wrote one of my all time favourite albums as Box Car Racer.
I think it’s clear from all this history that I hold the band’s earlier work in very high regard.
On to California. Apparently Blink-182 has been trying to release a new album since 2013, but Tom deLonge wouldn’t commit to picking up the guitar to write and record. Eventually, in 2015, Mark Hoppus (bass and vocals) and Travis Barker (drums) got tired of waiting and had a festival date to play. They asked Matt Skiba, vocalist and guitarist of Alkaline Trio, to fill in for Tom, and he soon became a full time replacement. It seems like the new trio gelled quickly and wrote a bunch of songs at a lightning pace, because about a year after joining forces, they released an album together.
The album, California, has its ups and downs
It starts off with a handful of songs (including the lead single Bored To Death) that still carry a strong influence of the older Blink-182 sound, even in the guitar playing. I got flashbacks to Take Of Your Pants and Jacket while listening to it. The sharp hooks of these songs immediately pull you in, and promise to earworm for the next month at least. The vocal harmonies immediately jumps out at you; it’s clear that Skiba knows how to sing and harmonize. His own style of guitar playing also shines through in interesting and highly unorthodox (for Blink-182) counterpoints using chords that they previously wouldn’t have dreamt of knowing.
The album then skips for the first time
The track Los Angeles starts off dark and driven, and stays dark throughout. Much darker than the first tracks, anyway. It’s a good song, with its sombre tone emphasised by the contrast of the bright and hopeful, highly melodic bridge. It is followed, however, by Sober, which is a generic pop rock song with nothing really special to offer, and Sober especially doesn’t fit into the tone of the album. It’s not a poor song, but I’m sure that Blink could’ve written something more tonally suitable for the album, as its inclusion is jarring.
The album really hits its stride following a brief joke track (that really might as well have gone on the cutting room floor too. At 30, I’m over the dick and ball jokes, and I can’t imagine the Blink guys really finding it all that funny anymore. Skiba cries “Is that really it?” when Mark finishes the songs, and I feel the same.) The song No Future has clear influences from the Take Off Your Pants era, and while there is a slight attempt at recapturing the feeling of being mad at all adults in the chorus, the harmonies are excellent, the guitar playing is layered beautifully, and Matt Skiba’s vocals really shine. The next track, Home Is Such A Lonely Place, again feels somewhat out of place as a ballad on a rock album, but the rest of the album is a combination of smooth vocal harmonies, good guitar work, Travis’ trademark energetic impossible drumming, seriously impressive vocal harmonies, high tempo songs with a good mixture of Blink and Alkaline Trio influences, and I can’t emphasize how well the vocal harmonies work on this album.
California has its shortcomings. The title track is another ballad-y pop song, which is not suited to the general tone of the album and the final song is called Brohemian Rhapsody… (I was steeling myself for the absolute worst, but it turned out that it is another joke track. Seems that the only way to make me thankful for a joke track is to instill fear of something much, much worse.)
In general, though, California is good, and if the evolutionary trajectory from high-school-Blink-182 to dark-and-serious-and-get-Robert-Smith-from-The-Cure-to-sing-with-you-Blink-182 continues to this Blink-182-with-Matt-Skiba, we can expect some more great albums from Blink-182 in the near future.
Blink-182 is an American rock band started in San Diego, California, in 1992. Their new record, California, released on 1 July 2016, and is available all over the place; I listened to it on Google Play Music. You can buy it on iTunes, or check out the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube.
Scarlotte Will, a young local band, has launched their latest EP, Things Unseen. This five track mini-album promises to whet appetites for the accompanying tour, taking them all over South Africa.
Dan Patlanksy is introverted.
That might seem obvious, seeing as his new album is called Introvertigo, but it doesn’t quite gel with being a performing musician and performing in front of thousands of people. “It does seem like a silly career choice if you’re an introvert,” he says, “but I think the whole point of this album is to maybe explain what an introvert actually is.”
Introvertigo is built on songs from the mind of an introvert. “I don’t think any of them are about being an introvert, but it’s almost like the memoirs of an introvert, or the thoughts of an introvert, or the way an introvert sees the world.”
What a show.
Mumford and Sons need no introduction. They brought the banjo into modern pop-rock, and cemented their place on the charts with good harmonies, writing, and lyrics. And we’ve all been told excitedly by a teenage girl at a party how the band members can each play all the instruments, ever. We all recognize the opening riff to The Cave, and will automatically sing along to Little Lion Man, albeit without quite hitting all the notes and harmonies.