by Ewan Wadharmi
As established a tradition as the Warped Tour, every year Punk-O-Rama features a blend of loved and hated stalwarts from Epitaph along with upstarts making a buzz. You know what you’re going to get from Bad Religion, NOFX, and Millencolin. This is one show that’s judged by the quality of its second stage. A few bands that also appeared on the Warped compilation offer better selections on Punk-O-Rama. Motion City Soundtrack and Death By Stereo get a second chance. It’s the addition of non-traditional rap groups Sage Francis and Atmosphere that really pushes this material into the win category.
Atmosphere’s freestyle rap will never appear on Oprah, after the disturbingly beautiful “Bird Sings Why The Caged I Know.” This wake-up puts you on edge with severe imagery: “Get the bird/catch her/shoot her I don’t care/bring her down from out the air/gotta tear her apart/let me at her first/take her to the level of the rest of us that inhabit the earth.” How’s that for shadenfreude rap? “Makeshift Patriot” by Sage Francis is intelligent, clever and very pointed. Still, its message is more listenable than your average G7 band. That spoonful of ear-candy helps the medicine go down. The Black Keys‘ “Thickfreakness” reclaims the blues from cock rockers. It’s a low-down dirty brand of rock with all the soul Robert Johnson could sell.
The (International) Noise Conspiracy also make their propaganda palatable by packaging it in (un)American garage, while forgotten brothers in Refused set the groundwork for revolution in “Coup d’ Etat.” Scandalnavia is represented also by Turbonegro, whose “Train of Flesh” lives up to the ass-moving hype. Millencolin appear, but do not represent.
Little pluses that make #8 worthwhile include the seductively rich sound of Death By Stereo, which changed everything I knew about them. Dropkick Murphys turn Woody Guthries’ “Gonna Be a Blackout Tonight” into a Sham 69 anthem. Any resemblance to Courtney Hole is forgiven when The Distillers‘ anthem “I Am a Revenant” gets one fist pumping. The other hand is grabbing for a dictionary. Showing some gumption, Motion City Soundtrack tears a chord on the slightly new wavy “Don’t Call it a Comeback.” Division Of Laura Lee creep you out with an eerie electro “Trapped In.” Pricey swirling synthesizers and careless crooning overcome purposely crappy snare. The whole thing is promisingly hopeless. My new personal cause, Ikara Colt, rip through an ultra-fast spy tune in “Sink Venice” that Mark E. Smith would covet. Rancid‘s “As Wicked” is decent street poetry with a drunken swagger. It feels pretty good, especially when the bubble-garage beat rounds the corner into a gang of friends howling on the sidewalk. The rocking “New Day” proves The Bouncing Souls don’t need horns to flash the devil sign. US Bombs‘ fantastic “Roll Around” brings a drunken grin to your slobbering face, and cements their connection to UK Subs. Tiger Army gives an uncharacteristic Welsh folk-punk anthem that saves them from the also-rans.
Also-rans include standard fare from Gutermouth, Bombshell Rocks, and No Fun At All (we have two Bad Religion songs already, why do we need this?). Hot Water Music present one of their poppier tunes. “Trusty Chords” is pure rock in a pissed-off Don Henley vein. Sissy baw-wah babies Matchbook Romance can’t hide behind the rising wall of sound, they still sound like Blink with a hairlip. Pennywise castrate “Holidays In The Sun.” And it’s not enough that Craig Fairbaugh left The Forgotten for Transplants, now we’re treated to an industrial rap with Davey “the angry teen” Havoc. Not to mention the remix of the same useless song. The body has rejected the transplants, return to your bands.
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