Review: AM Taxi – Bastards of the Deep Blue Sea

am-taxiFollowing their departure from Virgin Records, Chicago’s AM Taxi was relatively quiet for a couple of years. Bastards of the Deep Blue Sea is their second EP of 2014. At only four songs, the release is short, sweet and succinct where the earlier King of the Pond EP felt a bit uneven. AM Taxi don’t quite expand their sound as much as they play to their strengths to dominate the release.

Bastards of the Deep Blue Sea shows AM Taxi at their best with loud guitars, stadium style choruses and professional hooks. “Frostbit” is a fast song that fits in amongst the band’s most energetic works, while the more somber “Reckless In the Moonlight” sounds like a low-fi dance song ala’ Bloc Party.

One of Adam Krier’s (Lucky Boys Confusion) main strengths as a songwriter is crafting colossal hooks and chord progressions leading up to an incredibly powerful chorus (“I Don’t Like Your Neighborhood”). This time around is no different as he and Jay Marino’s guitars wield a healthy mix of punk and alternative sounds that take the current scene bands to task even though they would’ve fit in perfectly anywhere in the last two decades. Krier is also behind the newly implemented keyboards that feature prominently throughout the first couple of songs.

Jason Schultejann’s (LBC) bass is slightly hidden under the production but isn’t held back from waging incredible melodies to bounce the song along. Although he doesn’t venture too far out to steal the show, Chris Smith’s drumming and percussion is thunderously hypnotic as I often found myself drawn into just the beat alone.

Krier’s vocals are an addicting mix of Brian Fallon’s (The Gaslight Anthem) scratchy vocals and fellow Lucky Boys Confusion member Stubhy Pandav’s timing and emotional outpour. It does sound like he has two volumes that he likes to fall back to (quiet almost spoken-word and loud shouts) but they’re put to effective and rigorous use. Krier’s voice was made for rock music, and his shouts are highlighted with swarming gang vocals.

Lyrically, Krier leans on the anthems of rebellion and inner strength. On “Reckless in the Moonlight” he sings, “The kids on Center Street are reckless in the moonlight/ We stay together, we’re drinking through the night we are nothing if not brave, we’re stronger than before/ But hey, We’re not afraid to be afraid of anything anymore”.

Bastards of the Deep Blue Sea is a nice taste of the band back in action. Although they’ve been actively touring the Chicagoland area, it took four years for a proper release of any kind from the band. The main downside to the EP is that it’s over before you’re able to really bite into it. If the writing is any indication though, their next LP is going to be phenomenal.

3.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has seen LBC almost a dozen times over the last five years. It’s not creepy obsessive, it’s love.

Review: Four Year Strong – Go Down in History EP

 

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Three years. It’s been three long years since Four Year Strong have released any type of new music. Three years since their incredibly disappointing In Some Way, Shape, or Form album. I honestly thought the band might be dead in the water, or at the very least, about to put out one last mediocre farewell album.

What I didn’t expect is a completely reenergized band playing at their full potential. Go Down in History is not only arguably the finest release by the band thus far in their career, but a reminder to never, ever, count a band down and out.

Go Down in History is a powerhouse from start to finish. It’s loud, aggressive and addictive. While the EP has a theme of loud poppy hardcore, each song is distinct and remarkably memorable. This is a band playing at the height of their ability; if your neck isn’t sore by the end of the EP, you weren’t listening right.

The way that the guitars play against each other is as impressive as the riffs and breakdowns strewn throughout each song. The production is spot on, allowing each instrument to sound raw and crisp without feeling overdone. The result is a sound that feels like a mix of the metalcore edge of Chiodos and the pop punk of New Found Glory (“What’s in the Box?”).

Each song is technical and intricately written to make sure that each second is a surprise for the listener. Guitarists Alan Day and Dan O’Connor’s guitars are nothing short of incredible. While they are the true stars of the EP, they manage to not over-shine the other instruments. Joe Weiss’s bass plays an impressive backing to the songs, managing to smash against the angst of the guitars. Jake Massucco’s drumming is absolutely superb; he not only keeps time to the incredibly quick guitars, but keeps a manic beat that is constantly able to distract you from the incredible guitar work (“Go Down in History”).

Lyrically, the album maintains the theme that this frantic type of music should: fight back against the world. Whether it’s intentional or not, the EP seems to scream out at anyone who thought the band had lost their edge. The opening lines of “What’s in the Box?” say all that needs to be said of the theme, “It’s time to set the record straight, That hopefully you don’t just fade out. Doing what you have to to survive, I’ve been waiting far too long to give up all hope that my heart is strong enough to stay alive”. Each song is a rallying cry to stand against adversity and fight back from the edge.

Against the thrashing power chords of “Living Proof Of a Stubborn Youth”, Day and O’Connor sing, “Hold on to the day, Before it gets too far away, I’m losing faith in all my past mistakes, We’re living proof of a stubborn youth, and I’m waiting for the resurrection.” I could basically write down any lyric from any song and you’d get the gist, but each song is uniquely catchy and intricate. The gang vocals of “Go Down in History” deserve to have a room of jumping kids shouting them from the pit.

My biggest complaint is that this is just an EP and not a full album; I’d kill for just a few more songs. There is literally no variety on the EP, each song is ready to knock you down, if not by the crashing guitars, then by the shouting vocals. If this is your bag, you’re in for a real treat. If you were hoping for a bit of variance among the songs, too damn bad.

Go Down in History is a comeback among comebacks. Four Year Strong have literally never sounded better amongst the best songs of their discography. After not really thinking about the band for almost three years, I am begging for more. While it isn’t a complete album, it’s one of the best EP’s released in recent memory. Three years is a long time to wait for anything new, but Go Down in History was worth every single second.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.

Review: The Cab – Lock Me Up

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It’s been three years since The Cab have had any type of proper release. The Lock Me Up EP is an unexpected surprise that can easily satiate the appetites of fans who have been waiting, as well as give some insight as to what they may expect of the band’s next full length.

Lock Me Up is satisfying, but plays into the hands of generic pop more often than not. Where their last releases felt like they were part of the lighter side of the scene, this EP sounds like it’s trying to play catch-up with Maroon 5. While there are several wonderful songs, the constant tromp through genres makes the release feel partially disjointed.

The Cab can write a hell of a catchy pop song. They’ve never skimped on this attribute, and it shines full force on Lock Me Up. This is easily the least produced of anything they’ve ever released, with every instrument playing solid and separate. Though the step back on production does the band well, their pop elements feel familiar, as though almost every song is chasing after its chance to be radio friendly.

Title track “Lock Me Up” starts off with a crisp, steady drum beat, cello standing in as an enticing bass and the occasional guitar solo raging through the choruses. It’s an eerily alluring song that sets the pace for the EP as well as shows off a flashy amount of minimalism that shows the band at their best. Singer Alex DeLeon wails with confidence, “Lock me up with joy, why don’t you lock me up with love? Chain me up to your heart…I don’t want you to stop”.

While it’s a great song and shows the best aspects of what the band offers, one can’t help but hear how similar DeLeon’s voice is to Adam Levine from Maroon 5, or how the beat feels like the start of an Adele song. Not to take anything away from the song, but it does tend to feel like a mash up of top 40 sounds that fuel the EP.

“Numbers” is an R&B filled piano ballad that seems like it would feel just as at home on a Justin Timberlake or Bieber album. It also features, perhaps, the blandest chorus that the band has ever written. “Out of the seven billion people on this world there’s only you, almost a million words I could say but none of them will do, […] Out of the seven billion people, baby, you’re the only one”.

The second song on the EP, “Moon”, is a light techno song that erupts into the most energetic chorus on the album. The drums take center stage, knocking out a firm beat that is backed by synth bass and short, deliberate guitar riffs. Again, DeLeon seems to be chasing Adam Levine’s vocal range and style, and does a damn good job of it.

Lock Me Up is a collection of the Cab scratching at the peak of their prowess for writing breathtaking pop songs, as well as a gospel for what is the current rage amongst the pop community. While the EP tackles different genres and styles, it struggles to maintain a cohesiveness and balance. Lock Me Up is already radio friendly if that is the direction the band intends, but lacks the originality needed to dominate it.

3/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.