Articles for the Month of July 2016

Like most ska bands, Beat The Smart Kids are ‘Broke Again’

So you say you’re into ska punk?  Well let’s check out the latest from Chicago’s Beat the Smart Kids.  The 12-song LP entitled ‘Broke Again’ is a follow up to last year’s EP.  Let’s push play and crank this up to 11…

 

  1. “Rise Up!”-Beat the Smart Kids don’t mess around in this first track. The mellow saxophone is contrasted with the aggressive, no holds barred lyrical style.  Don’t get caught in the middle of the mosh pit during this tune.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Chemical Reaction”-Skank it up! The classic ska beat is created by the organ here rather than the often overdone guitar.  I really dig the switching off of vocalists as well as the killer horn solos.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Brain Pollution”- Although this is a “slow skanker” of sorts, it is not devoid of BTSK’s hard edge sound. The use of the line “pick it up” has (sadly) left the ska scene, but it shows up here in full force.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Emoticons”-“Emoticons” really has me torn-while I thought the first half of the song was monotonous and drug a little, the second half was probably the best crafted song thus far. What did it for me was the frenzied pace to the horns.  I even dug the Rock Lobster-esque thing the lead singer does with his voice at one point.  Great tune!  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Blind Faith”- This next track showcases the organ more instead of having him play a supporting role like most of the previous tracks. This song has a lot going for it; however I feel that the different parts, both musically and vocally didn’t fit together as well as on other songs on the album.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Ruby Crystals”- More ska punk with a little bit of metal influence. Not my favorite track, but definitely a solid number.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Go to Bread”-With mounting tension from the get-go, this (more or less) instrumental will get your feet moving. This short little ditty is a winner!  Grade: A-

 

  1. “One Point Twenty What?”-As one of my favorite movies of all time, I have to give kudos for the Back to the Future reference. Although the vocals were a bit aggressive for my liking, the horn section is top notch; some of the best I’ve heard on this album.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Life’s Lessons”- While there is nothing new here in terms of style, this is a slower groove, while still keeping the ska punk theme in the forefront. Grade: B+

 

  1. “Do Not Disturb”-“Do Not Disturb” takes a little while to get going, and frankly lacks some of the enthusiasm of previous songs. This is not a “bad” song by any stretch, it just did not drum up any urges to dance, skank or do anything for that matter.    Grade: B-

 

  1. “You Haven’t Lived (‘Til You’ve Died)”- Now that’s more like it! Hop off your seat once more to go tear up the dance floor.  Awesome waling saxophone.  Grade: B

 

  1. “M.S.O.T.E”- With equal parts ska and hard punk, “M.S.O.T.E.” invokes a similar critique as “Blind Faith.” There are a lot of things going here with slightly awkward transitions between the tempo changes. I appreciated the slightly more aggressive approach taken here.  Grade: B

 

 

Holding nothing back on ‘Broke Again,’ Beat the Smart Kids dish out a generous portion of ska-punk flavor over 12 tracks.  Overall this album feels right at home with acts such as 4 Aspirin Morning, The Hub City Stompers (who are all coincidently playing Skappleton in a couple of weeks) and General Tso’s Fury.  There are also glimpses of NOFX as well as the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.  While I did mention a few “song-smithing” issues I had, these problems were few and far between.  Musically, ‘Broke Again’ is everything you would expect from an album in this genre; hard-hitting yet danceable at times as well.  I am really impressed with the horn section that can just as easily play it cool in the background as it can slap you across the face with their booming sound.  I always like bands with organs and BTSK is no exception.  There is no escaping the ska sound with this often overlooked instrument.  The vocals are gruff and raspy, which again is pretty par for the course.  Beat the Smart Kids have not re-invented the ska punk wheel, but what they have done is created an enjoyable set of ditties that will freshen up your dusty collection.

 

Overall Grade: B+

 

 

Be a “Smart Kid” and check them out!

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Welcome to ‘America’

In a time where this country is on more unsteady ground than it has ever been for this current generation,AmN has aptly named their latest EP ‘America.’  No Person brings their hard rocking sound from Pittsburgh, PA.  Let’s check it out…

 

  1. “There’s a Fine Line Between Heaven and Here”- Straight up punk rock meets up with your classic ska beat. What starts out as your typical bratty punk vocals, quickly turns to a more aggressive sound.  Don’t miss the killer guitar solo near the end! Grade: B

 

  1. “You Only Get Two”- No Person starts things out with the bare essentials, just a drum and the bass, which sets the stage for the dual vocal assault. I really enjoyed the more “talky” vocals which reminded me of Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo.  Good stuff.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “The Cleavers Go Cutthroat”- Ooh more ska! This is a nicely crafted song with excellent transitions.  I’m not sure why but some of the guitar work reminds we of Dire Straits.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “It’s Not You, It’s Culture”- To be fair, I did enjoy the lyrics, however this one was a little to “raw” for me, with the vocals verging on screaming. Sorry guys.  Grade: C-

 

  1. “Lights! Camera! Destruction!- Clocking in at just under 1 minute, this is the shortest song on the album. Doing what they do best, No Person mounts a full on punk attack and then gets the hell out of there.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Anthology: The Righteous, The Innocuous and The Capitalist”- The closing track is a slight change of direction; it is quite a bit slower than the rest. It is just the right amount of punk and slow groove.  A great finish! Grade: A-

 

Punk fans rejoice!  With only 6 songs to make an impression, No Person makes their stamp on the punk world with their ska-infused blend.  Aggressive at its core, ‘America’ places it self right up there with other albums in the genre by more well-known national acts. More punk than ska, however, I liken it to  ‘…And Out Come the Wolves’ from Rancid.  Vocally, however, No Person is more like Anti-Flag.  Often times I grow tired with punk bands as they all sound the same after a while.  This band is different, as they not only interject the classic third-wave guitar riff, but also varying vocal styles as well.  There is also more musicianship found in the guitar spot as well.  As most of the straight up punk bands are growing greyer with old age, the torch needs to be passed on.  No Person is worthy recipient.

 

Overall Grade: B+

 

 

Check them out!

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