Tag Archives: Songs & Singles

“Crash” by Against Me!

I’d pretty much written off fun pop-punk as something that only existed in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Punk is one of those genres that really belongs to young people, and when a new crop of artists didn’t spring up to replace the old guard…well we ended up with old punks. Nothing is more depressing to me than old punks. I’m not going to hijack this post, which is about a great new Against Me! song, by bashing Green Day. But boy is it difficult for me to not bash Green Day.

 

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Young and old punks appreciate clean boots. 

 

Anyway, I was vaguely aware of Against Me! but hadn’t really heard them until a few months ago when a podcast I listen to turned me onto their latest single “Crash.”I was blown away not just because the song is catchy as hell, but because it seemed to reinvigorate my interest in the pop-punk genre. Leaning more pop than punk, this track has a nice buoyant quality to it. The lyrics, while pretty straightforward, do a good job of reflecting on getting older without getting bogged down in the typical old-punk lameness. This song impressed me so much, that I wound up listening to all of SHAPE SHIFT WITH ME, the band’s new album. It’s a great record, one that will definitely end up on Best of 2016 end of year list. I thought about reviewing it now but decided to focus on this song because it’s so damn good.

It’s been a tough week, take a moment to check out “Crash” and forget about your troubles for a while. The band released an awesome KISS-inspired music video for the song, check it out:

 

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Mid-August 2016 New Song Round-Up

As we slowly exit Summer and near the holiday (silly) season, a band’s thoughts turn to new albums. What better way to prep the world by dropping a single on the unexpecting masses? After radio died but before we got music streaming services it wasn’t always super-easy for me to find these freshly released tracks. But now, every Friday Spotify curates them all for me! I’m sure no payola is involved…

Anyway, I never know what to do about these sort of things when it comes to the blog. I mean, I can’t possibly write 500 words on this new Green Day single. Luckily, I can just shamelessly copy another (some might even argue better) blogger’s format and apply them to this loose collection of songs.

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The Defending Axl Rose Mid-August 2016 New Song Round-Up

“Bang Bang” by Green Day: As soon as I hit play and heard the faux news broadcast, I knew we were in trouble. The intro reeks of trying too hard, and as we all know trying is pretty much the least punk thing one can do. That said, once the song starts “Bang Bang” isn’t a complete disaster. But all the talk of “World War 0” and “celebrity models” feels like the sort of empty criticism an 8th-grader would make about the current crop of senseless shootings. Somebody wake me up when September ends.

 

“City Lights” by The White Stripes: Oh, what a happy boy I was when I saw that there was a brand new White Stripes song on Spotify! Then I saw that it was “Previously Unreleased.” Well, no bother…even if Jack and Meg didn’t get back together at least I would get to hear a new song. Then I hit play and the soft, acoustic guitar ballad and I knew that I wasn’t going to get a new White Stripes song. This is a new Jack White solo track. Sure, maybe Meg is politely shaking maracas or whatever in the background, but this is about as far from an “Icky Thump” or “Seven Nation Army” as one can get. And while variety is the spice of life, I was really hoping for something a bit more explosive. “City Lights” isn’t terrible, it’s a great (albeit sleepy) track from Jack White.

 

“Put Your Hands Up” by The Struts: I’ve been hearing a lot of really good things about The Struts. There’s been many comparisons between them and The Darkness, one of my favorite bands. So when I saw that they had a new single I didn’t hesitate. “Put Your Hands Up” is a good rock song that could have been great with a slightly catchier chorus (though they do get points for rhyming “vibration” and “medication”). Still, the band has plenty of energy (and cowbell) to convince me that I need to give them a serious listen.

 

“Punks In A Disco Bar” by Beach Slang: Ten seconds in and I’m hooked. I’m so in the bag for this band, that I guess nobody should be surprised that I dig this song. But boy, do I dig this song. That vicious, angular guitar riff is fantastic. Beach Slang pack so much intensity into “Punks In A Disco Bar” that the track’s sub-three minute runtime doesn’t even feel too short. I really hope that this song isn’t some kind of leftover from last year’s record and that there’s a new one on the horizon. I missed seeing these guys back in April when my son was born, I really want them to hop on the touring circuit again so I can see them. Brilliant 10/10.

 

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METAL MONDAY: I drank The Trooper while listening to “The Trooper”

Over the past few years I’ve become something of a beer connoisseur. I became interested in beer after relocating to St. Louis, Missouri a city that’s a major player in the beer industry. Besides nasty, corporate swill (St. Louis is home of the world-famous Budweiser) the city is home to some of this country’s greatest microbreweries. When it came time to move once again, I’d be lying if I said that Colorado’s fantastic brewing culture didn’t play a role in my moving decision.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: I love beer. Beer is something I have a great deal of passion and interest in. In fact, if I’d been a better chemistry student in school I’d probably give brewing a try. But enough about me, let’s get to the beer.

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I’d seen the Iron Maiden-themed beer The Trooper at various liquor stores for the past few years but had never picked it up until last week. Does Iron Maiden need their own beer? I’m only a casual fan of the band, so perhaps I’m not the best one to answer that question. My gut tells me “no,” however. Don’t get me wrong, I get the mindless merchandising of classic bands…but why a beer? Most rock bands project an image of reckless debauchery, Iron Maiden is no different, but I don’t think of them as a drinking band. And “The Trooper” is not a song about drinking, so what gives? Mindless merchandising…

Anyway, I finally took the bait and bought a bottle of The Trooper. I took it home and got it chilled, but not super-cold, because that’s how they drink beer in England. Also, I’d had a particularly shitty day and just wanted to drink and write about Iron Maiden.

Upon opening the bottle I took a sniff, the beer smelled predominantly malty with a touch of sweetness. The beer poured clear and golden, with a nice frothy head. While I waited for the foam to subside, I started up “The Trooper.” It’s interesting to note that the song, off the band’s album PIECE OF MIND, is exactly three days older than me. Yes, The Trooper is a beer based on a 31 ½ year old metal song. The song is famously inspired by the Lord Tennyson poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” That poem, like the song, is about a famous battle of the Crimean War in which a colossal screw up in communication resulted in a bunch of British soldiers bravely (stupidly?) charging when their commanders actually wanted them to retreat. The symbolism weighed heavily on my mind when exactly two minutes into the song, I took a sip.

I was surprised at how the beer tasted more subdued than I thought based on the smell. Rather than a sweet, candy-like flavor the beer has an immediate undercurrent of hops giving The Trooper a tangy, somewhat bitter after-taste. The alcohol content is surprisingly low, only 4.7% alcohol by volume (ABV). Here in the U.S.A., we tend to value higher alcohol content, but in Britain session beers (read: ones that don’t get you fucked up) are quite common. The Trooper is an ESB, which stands for Extra Special Bitter; this is a style that has a malty flavor with a nice hop kick.

I won’t lie to you, this is not a style that is very common in this country.  Nor is it one that I have much experience drinking. Is the Trooper a good ESB? I honestly don’t know. I’m guessing it’s not because it’s an Iron Maiden-themed beer and again mindless merchandising. Is The Trooper a good beer in general? It’s okay. I bought this beer specifically to write about it for this post, now that I’ve done that I don’t plan on buying it again. Would I turn this down if someone offered it to me for free? Hell-to-the-no.

"Some drinking implied."

“Some drinking implied.”

“The Trooper” is a great song, but I don’t need to tell you that do I? It’s Iron Maiden’s most well known song and with good reason. The song has a fantastic, highly memorable guitar hook and it’s based on a famous poem about a famous battle. I’m sure if I were British all of this would make my heart swell and mean even more. The truth is: Maiden’s a classic band, the song is fantastic, and this beer is just okay.

I get that they went with a traditional British beer style, but I’m deducting points for the low ABV. Truly the marketing geniuses at Robinsons Brewery missed the boat on this one. The Trooper should have had an ABV of 6.66% (the most metal of all ABV’s). I mean, come on how did no one think of this? I’m a shut-in music blogger and even I have the sense and savvy to know that would have made more sense. I can forgive the band for selling out because it is pretty metal to have your own beer. But having that beer come in below 5%? Well that’s just weak.

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Ring in the New Year with Snoop Dogg & Marty James

Well here we are, the end of another year.

After a long absence, I decided to start writing about music again here at Defending Axl Rose. I’d like to think this came about due to personal growth and/or gained musical insight…but the truth is I moved across the country and restarted my blog while I looked for a new job. And for the month I was unemployed Defending Axl Rose had near daily updates. Then I found work and the posts came less frequently. I wish I’d done more, but I suppose could have done much less, too.

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My New Year’s Resolution for 2015 is to write more, not just on Defending Axl Rose but in general. We’ll see. U2 once sang that nothing changes on New Year’s Day, and that’s true it doesn’t. The change happens at 11:59 the night before.

Hoist a glass and say goodbye to 2014 tonight, preferably with some killer tunes.


See you next year.

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“Grass” by XTC

“It would shock you, too/the things we used to do on grass…”

Though Andy Partridge is the lead-mad genius of British New Wave rocker XTC, my all-time favorite song by the band was written and sung by Colin Moulding.  The lighthearted, easygoing bassist was very much the McCartney in XTC.  His songs are guided more by the heart than the more cerebral, neurotic songs written by Partridge.  Of the two, Moulding is very much the one who comes across as an average bloke, the sort of guy you could have a beer with down at the pub.  That’s not to say Moulding was incapable to complex, witty, psychedelic numbers like Partridge.

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Moulding’s song “Grass” off the band’s 1986 album SKYLARKING is my favorite XTC song for a couple of reasons. For one, its surreal, psychedelic sweep is beyond splendid. The song opens with a sweeping string arrangement and chirping bird sounds (the album does anyway, the single version doesn’t have the sound effects). Lyrically, the song is both about having sex in a field and having sex while under the influence of marijuana.  The song is loaded with delightful double-entrees that are cute and not skeevy like I’m making it sound.  While it’s by no means high poetry, I’ve always enjoyed the cheeky, very British, wordplay of “Grass.”

“Grass” was written and recorded in the late 1980’s, at a time when it was pretty uncool to like The Beatles. Sure, there were bands like Tears For Fears mining The Beatles pop territory, but it was done in a most un-Beatle way. “Grass” was a desperate stab at a much-needed American hit single.  The song got XTC a hit in the States, but not in the way the band predicted: DJ’s ignored “Grass” and made the song’s b-side “Dear God” a surprise hit instead.  Produced by super-producer Todd Rundgren, the song never got it’s due in my opinion.  I think “Dear God” is a very good song, but by no means as representative of XTC and what the band stood for as “Grass.”

A great way to start Spring, enjoy “Grass”:

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“What You Do To Me”: Potent, Perfect Power Pop!

It wasn’t until the mid-1990’s that power pop entered my life*.   Growing up listening to 60’s era British Invasion rock bands I was primed to love love power pop.  The genre with its reverence to that period of rock music struck a major nerve with me.  Essentially a cleaner, modern continuation of British Invasion rock, power pop is a big licks and killer hooks.  Its tons of fun without being sticky bubblegum, loud but lacking a hard edge, power pop is pop music on steroids.
Perfect Power Pop People!

Perfect Power Pop People!

There are plenty of great power pop bands, both of yesteryear and today, but none of them can match Teenage Fanclub for purity.  Many bands skirt the edges of power pop, but Teenage Fanclub are 100% pure, uncut power pop.  Seriously, if you’ve never listened to power pop you’d be wise to start by listening to half a Teenage Fanclub song…or cut it with baby formula.  At the risk of sending potential power poppers into overdoses, I’d recommend you start with “What You Do To Me.”  The world is full of pop songs, but “What You Do To Me” is in a class all by itself.

The song dwells innocently enough on the band’s third album, BANDWAGONESQUE, which was released in 1991.  A bare bones, almost ludicrously simple love song, “What You Do To Me” is two minutes and one second of bliss.  The song has a great, crunchy guitar riff and a lyrically hook that comprises 98% of the song. It’s the kind of song you listen to and say “I could write this stuff!” because Teenage Fanclub makes it look that easy.  But it’s not that easy, or everyone would be doing it, right?  I think that effortlessness is what separates the  great from truly amazing. And Teenage Fanclub are truly amazing.

Teenage Fanclub

The song is basic its brevity manages to keeps it from being overly repetitive, achieving a miraculously high level of infectiousness while managing to avoid being tiresome.  With “What You Do To Me,” Teenage Fanclub captures the soaring wonder of love with none icky, complicated stuff like heartbreak.  Even though it’s from 1991, the song sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday.  And yet, I don’t think it would sound out of place on The Beatles first album, MEET THE BEATLES.

All of BANDWAGONESQUE is amazing, potent power pop, but the album’s crowning glory is “What You Do To Me.”  One listen, and you’ll have it in your head all day.

*Yes, I’m going to keep referencing Jellyfish until you give up and give them a listen. 
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