The Bomb - Speed Is Everything - No Idea
I'm not gonna lie, I was never one to freak out over Naked Raygun. Don't get me wrong, they had some great songs - Treason, Managua, Never Follow, and of course Rat Patrol are all punk classics - but I could never really sit down and listen to a full album. The "hits" were great but the rest just didn't impress me all that much. Since I had these feelings toward Naked Raygun, I didn't get all that excited about the formation of the Bomb, which features NR's singer, Jeff Pezzati, on vocals, and therefore never bothered to check out their debut record, "Indecision", when it was released in 2005. Fast-forward to today and I'm kicking myself for that prejudice. "Speed Is Everything" is the new album from these Chicago punk veterans (other members play or played in the Methadones, Big Black, and others) and it's ridiculously good. The thing that obviously stood out about Naked Raygun was Jeff's voice which is simultaneously haunting and beautiful, and with the Bomb it is stronger than ever. It is most striking on songs like "The Rescue" (a love song with a superhero theme), "A Song For the Helenas" (where he presumably longs for Helena Bonham Carter), and album closer "Blown Away" (about complacency taking hold as one gets older). There are also a good bunch of songs with that urgency so inherent in punk music. "The Kids", "Integrity" (featuring guest vocals from Dan Yemin [Paint It Black, Kid Dynamite, Lifetime], and "Spaceman" all hold a nice tension without using flat-out speed bursts to pack a punch. The album is not without its cring-worthy moments though. The song "Haver" (the song's music was written by J Robbins [Jawbox, Burning Airlines], who recorded the album) could be quite the melodic rager if it wasn't for the odd lyrics (about a dance?) that just seem out of place on an album full of interesting story-style lyrics and socially relevant themes. There's also this line from the song "Holiday": "...think of the we and not the I, think of the we and not the Wii™". I'm still undecided on how I feel about their cover of Flock of Seagulls' "Space Age Love Song", featuring Bob Nanna of Braid on guest vocals. It's a fine cover, I just don't know how well it fits on the album. Still, consider me impressed with The Bomb. "Speed Is Everything" is an excellent melodic punk record that any fan of Naked Raygun should flip over.
CoCoComa - Things Are Not Alright - Goner
This second full length from Chicago's CoCoComa shows them refining their pop sensibilities without losing any of the grit that makes them so damn charming. These songs are a brilliant mash up of 60s garage/pop and late 70s British punk with a hint of American psychedelia. All catchy as can be without coming off too saccharine-sweet. The album's theme is one of societal and political discontent, but doesn't come off as rhetorical or didactic. I can't say much more than that except that this is a great record and is recommended for any fan of King Khan, the Fevers, the Mummies, or even Jay Reatard's later offerings.
No Friends - s/t - No Idea
Some might call this a supergroup as it features 3/4th of Florida's New Mexican Disaster Squad along with Municipal Waste's vocalist, Tony Foresta, on microphone duties. A lot of the material here is not too dissimilar to what NMDS were after musically but I'd say its got a bit more bite to it. The songs come across as having a bit more energy, though it takes the album a few songs to really get going. The first tracks are decent early-Dag Nasty meets Marginal Man melodic punk tunes, but don't quite go for the throat the way much of the rest of the record does. They really kick things up a notch on the fourth track, "Have You Ever Heard of Aspirations?", where it sounds like they could be vying for a slot on the No Way or Grave Mistake labels, alongside bands like Government Warning, Wasted Time, and Direct Control. From here on out, the vibe is much more Adolescents meets early Descendents, with a touch of FUs. These songs have fangs and are much more interesting. That style takes hold until the last track, which slows things down again and goes back to the Dag Nasty style of melodic hardcore/punk, with a touch of 7 Seconds.
Going in, I had a fear that the record would be filled with lots of Tony's goofball lyrics, which work very well for Municipal Waste, but not usually for a more straightforward melodic hardcore record. Thankfully he keeps the lyrics to topics of personal, social, and scene substance and they work well. Sam and Alex are also credited with vocal duties and it sounds like they probably had a hand in lyric writing as well. A lot of the phrasing is similar to that of New Mexican Disaster Squad, but again, I feel like it somehow works better here than it ever did for their former band.
Nothing on this album is mind-blowingly unique or fresh, but it's played well and is interesting enough to allow for continued spins and a recommendation to any fans of the above mentioned bands.