Album Review:  Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues Against Me!
Transgender Dysphoria Blues

In 2012, Tom Gabel became Laura Jane Grace.

But you know that already. You’ve read the Rolling Stone article, you’ve gotten over the initial curiosity that comes whenever anyone of any note announces any major changes in their life in such a public forum. To the credit of the world (read: the internet) at large, there’s been no major blowback on Grace’s revelations outside of the usual shitty message board remarks, and we quickly moved onto pointless discussions about what backwater millionaires think about the gay community and other such sensational stories. The band, however, did not have such an easy path toward the recording of Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Firebrand drummer Jay Weinberg abruptly left the band in the midst of the recording, and longtime bassist Andrew Seward left to be with his family and pursue other musical interests. Grace and guitarist James Bowman...
Rating: 4.3/5 Reviewer: Jeremy[Read More]
Album Review:  Dylan Sires & Neighbors Album Review: Dylan Sires & Neighbors
No One / Someone

The explosion of summer festivals in the wake of the success of the Lollapaloozas of the world has given quite a bit of exposure to lesser known bands. Sure, at the bigger festivals, these “Lesser Known” bands are only lesser known to those that are only there for Mumford & Sons, but the festivals in smaller markets (Like Des Moines’s 80/35) can provide an outlet for local bands that would otherwise be relegated to moldy basements and dingy, under-attended clubs. Some of these bands that fill out the early hours on the side stages will persevere and make their way to the main stage (Like our friends in Christopher the Conquered), but sadly, most will have a year or two in the sun and move onto life as a civilian, unwilling or unable to make anything past that first recording. Despite not having yet made that 80/35 Main Stage, Dylan Sires & Neighbors have already proven the...
Rating: 3.9/5 Reviewer: Jeremy[Read More]
Album Review:  Mumford's - Immediate Family Mumford’s
Immediate Family

I first came across Ames, IA’s Mumford’s some years back at a dingy rock club here in Iowa City opening for Iowan cornerstone The Poison Control Center. I had no clue what to expect, and afterward, I had no clue as to what in the green hell I had just seen. “There’s horns, but it’s not ska, but it makes you dance, but there’s sad songs, but there’s this guy that was wearing rainbow suspenders and doing high kicks while playing flamenco guitar….I dunno, man”. I’ve seen the band a good many times since then, and while that rambling, incoherent is an accurate description of what I saw, I can give you a much more streamlined description of the band’s live presence. Mumford’s are a group of rock and roll storytellers with the chops, confidence, and the commanding stage presence of groups with decades more experience. No matter what your reaction to the band may be, you WILL come away knowing that the band has made every...
Rating: 4.55/5 Reviewer: Jeremy[Read More]
Album Review:  AFI - Burials AFI

The Art of the Comeback is a Tricky One.

Of course, realizing one needs a comeback in the first place might be even trickier. Such admissions are admission of failure on at least one level, be it on a creative or commercial level. The word comeback is only an easy thing to say after years and years out of the spotlight after years and years in the spotlight. After seeing AFI’s tremendous set at this year’s Riot Fest, I hesitate to say the band is need of a comeback, but facts are facts. The band’s last studio album Crash Love was seen as a bust on a number of levels - they abandoned their dark air and they largely abandoned their energy in hopes of a lighter, poppier sound. When seen from afar, this isn’t that big of a deal - one ‘off’ album isn’t usually enough to really take a band down, but given that it came three years after Decemberunderground and four years before Burials, the One...
Rating: 3.9/5 Reviewer: Jeremy[Read More]
Album Review:  GWAR - Battle Maximus GWAR
Battle Maximus

No band should have to endure what GWAR has endured over the past two years. On November 3, 2011, the band found their guitarist Cory Smoot dead at a border checkpoint while on tour. A medical examiner later revealed that the cause of death was brought about by heart disease. While the death of any band member would be a massive blow or threaten any band’s stability, Smoot’s death hit GWAR especially hard. His production and mastery of the guitar breathed new life into the band immediately upon his debut in War Party and continued to do so throughout his tenure. GWAR has carried on in Smoot’s honor, and with the release of Battle Maximus, they’ve successfully continued the man’s legacy.

Carrying the torch for lead guitarist is Cannabis Corpse’s Brent Purgason, playing the role of new character Pustulus Maximus. The addition of the Purgason is a welcome one. From War Party to Bloody Pit of...
Rating: 4/5 Reviewer: Jeremy[Read More]
Album Review:  Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks Nine Inch Nails
Hesitation Marks

Trent Reznor would be better off dead.

I don’t mean that in the obvious way. Of course, I’m glad the man is still alive and creatively active in whatever medium he finds himself currently ensconced. I do mean, however, that we would likely view the man in the same vein as Kurt Cobain had he died right around 23:59 on 12/31/99. The legend would have begun there: a troubled young man that was in many ways THE icon of the Generation Xers taken away in the prime of his life after releasing one of the world’s most anticipated albums, an album that was clearing the brush away from the side of the industrial pathway that could lead to an infinite number of possibilities. We’d mourn him, we’d visit his death site on New Year’s Eve, and we’d wonder what could have been made of one of the best minds of a generation.

Of course, this didn’t happen. Since the turn of the century,...
Rating: 3.4/5 Reviewer: Jeremy[Read More]
Album Review:  Brian Johannesen - Brian Johanessen Brian Johannesen
Brian Johannesen

In the grand scheme of things, Iowa City’s Grand Tetons came and went pretty quickly. Not more than a few years had gone by, and the group had found a small following amongst friends and friends of friends, released They Do Move in Herds, opened for the massive Justin Townes Earle / William Elliott Whitmore Mission Creek cornerstone show, and played their last show in front of a group of drunken well-wishers. In some respects, Herds should have let us know this was coming. It’s a romanticized take at those far too few years between the college years and adulthood where the only real responsibilities are not getting a DUI and finding a place to crash between July 28th and when the new lease starts. Despite their inherent talent, replicating the sense of time and place evoked by Herds would be be a difficult task indeed. Instead, the group splintered off by ways of moving all over the world...
Rating: 4.15/5 Reviewer: Jeremy[Read More]
Album Review:  The Wheelers - The Wheelers The Wheelers
The Wheelers

Trends in music tend to be very circular, and I’m glad rock and roll seems to be cycling back towards actual rock and roll after about a decade of alleged rock and roll rule. The Arcade Fire broke through the monochromatic drudgery of nu-metal and the glitz of the Nellified rap scene at the time to make albums that felt immediate, real, and emotionally connected. Of course, everything good must eventually have imitators that dilute the idea, and now we’re left with Mumford and Sons headlining a festival once headlined by Primus, Jane’s Addiction, and Beastie Boys. But, even as so-called ‘rock’ gets more and more popular, there will always be dirty, drunk kids in garages banging out REAL rock and roll at the fastest tempos they can muster with as much distortion as possible. While I cannot comment on neither the alcohol intake nor the personal hygiene of The Wheelers, they are doing as much as they can to keep that...
Rating: 4/5 Reviewer: Jeremy[Read More]
Album Review:  The Lonelyhearts - Years in the Great Interior The Lonelyhearts
Years in the Great Interior

Youth and everything in its orbit frequently makes up the core of the songs we all come to know and love. No one can feel the ups and downs of life, love, and everything in between like someone that’s been around enough to have passed naivete but no so much that bitterness seeps into everything that gets said. On the other hand, there’s a long, rich history of those past the post-adolescent years lamenting their age and reminiscing about the good old days, but increasingly, there’s a growing glut of music about the wasteland in between graduations and being an adult. It’s not a new topic, but it is proving to be fertile one. A few years ago, Iowa City’s late, great, Grand Tetons released their one and only album They Do Move in Herds. It’s a spectacular alt-country album about that specific point in time where there’s no real plan for the future except getting obliterated in the corner booth...
Rating: 4.3/5 Reviewer: Jeremy[Read More]
Album Review:  Streetlight Manifesto - The Hands That Thieve Streetlight Manifesto
The Hands That Thieve

A Song As Old As Time.

Bands getting pissed off at labels is nothing new. As soon as rock and everything associated with became a potentially endless gold mine for the gatekeepers between the music and those that want it, the bigger labels have been finding ways to condescend to and rip off the artists at any moment. Even the creators of the biggest selling album of all time were not immune when Pink Floyd was infamously asked “Which One’s Pink?”. Now that self-distribution or indie labels are all but the norm for anyone truly wishing to make an impact, the days of the tyrant Fat Cat label head are no longer truly a reality. That is, mostly no longer a reality. Ever since the glory days of Victory Records, allegations of impropriety and douchebaggery of the highest orders have dogged owner Tony Brummel since the halcyon days of Hawthorne Heights. Most bands that have dealt with...
Rating: 4/5 Reviewer: Jeremy[Read More]
Album Review:  H.D. Harmsen - Papoose H.D. Harmsen

In my eyes, one of the most curious facets of the music business is how certain indie record labels become defined by a sound or how the label itself will come to define its members sounds. It makes sense, of course - no leaps of faith are needed to suspect that a small business would be formed with a group of friends, and it stands to reason that those friends would have similar interests and tastes. Sub Pop cornered the grunge and flannel market in the late 1980s (and later, to a lesser extent, the hipster market in the 00s), Drive-Thru Records hit a vein of pop-punk angst at the turn of the century, and Saddle Creek left their mark with the bloodletting yowls of the vaunted Real Emo. Iowa’s Maximum Ames Records is still in its nascent stages of life, but already they’ve managed to make a stamp without having a Maximum Ames Sound. 70s piano pop (Christopher the Conquered), high-voltage rock and roll (The Poison Control...
Rating: 4.15/5 Reviewer: Jeremy[Read More]
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