The Dividing Line
SSS = Municipal Waste + Stormtroopers of Death
Well, if you enjoy crossover pioneering bands such as Stormtroopers of Death, this will immediately appeal to you. But there is absolutely nothing new here and in a genre already well covered by the first few bands that attempted to branch out from their punk roots, there really is no need to plunder from their gumption. If you’re having fun writing music and playing with your friends, that’s just fantastic and I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer. Unfortunately, however, I just feel that listening to this is a big waste of time. –Conor Dow
Fat Wreck Chords
Swinging Utters = the best punk band of the last 20 years!
My hell, this band has never once made a bad record. Every single outing is like a fresh fist to the face, and more than 16 years later, they’re still doing it. Oh, but it’s not like the Utters are living off some fat royalty checks; they’ve had to work shitty day jobs like truck driving, working in a cinder-block factory, and singing in Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies, to keep things going, but every couple years, a new brilliant record comes around just to let us know they’re still kicking. This release is a big ol’ collection of B-sides, rare tracks, and demos that takes you through the band’s evolution. If you’re a fan, you already know to get this, and if you’re a fan of punk rock, you should be a fan of the Swinging Utters. I’m on the fence about collections ‘cause I don’t think collecting music should be made easy; but on the other hand, there’s some shit here that is unreleased, and not everything has made it onto this 26-track plus (wink, wink) collection from a band bound to release more of the same celebrated unflinching punk rock. -James Orme
Tim Barry = Avail + Chuck Ragan + Drag the River
Many a punk-rock frontman has taken up the acoustic guitar in an attempt to reveal their sensitive side, but few have done it as well as Tim Barry. Unlike many of his peers, Barry doesn’t try to mold his sound into any sort of framework or to censor himself. Manchester features the introspective, sparse songs one would expect from such an album (“On & On”), but also features barn-burning bluegrass (“C.R.F.”) and even some all-out rockers, such as opener “Texas Cops” and “This November,” an unreleased Avail track. The album runs the gamut from folk to Southern rock to bluegrass, all with a solid foundation in punk rock. Manchester’s impact isn’t as great as Barry’s solo debut (2006’s Rivanna Junction), but it’s a great example of a punk-rock solo album done right. –Ricky Vigil
Warner Brothers Records
Tom Gabel = Against Me!
Apparently, Tom Gabel didn’t get the message … typically, when a lead singer from a popular band makes a solo record, they strive to at least make it a little different then the material they release with their band. Heart Burns may as well be called New Wave Part II. The songwriting that was heavy on the verses with choruses that were sometimes indistinguishable in Gabel’s early work seems to have been dropped. Instead, it appears that Gabel has opted to begin writing songs that all rely on repetition––easier for the masses to consume, I suppose. Heart Burns is only seven tracks long, but starts to get boring after one or two listens. I’m positive that the kids and Clear Station alternative radio stations will all fall in line to score this solo project, but I’m perfectly content with my early Against Me! albums. –Jeanette Moses
One Fine Spring Evening
The Tossers = The Pogues + Flogging Molly + Filthy Thieving Bastards
The Tossers are the preferred Celtic punk-influenced band among listeners that have an ear more towards the traditional folk side of things, but also need a good kick in the ass to keep them interested. Banjos, mandolins, violins, and tin whistles are more prominent in their arrangement than the blaring guitars of similar bands, so it’s attitude and energy alone that the band brings to the punk side of things. Just listen to “Whisky Makes Me Crazy” and you’ll hear why the Tossers are the best at what they do. A mix of Irish sing-alongs and serious instrumental work takes it to the next level. The traditional song “Rocky Road to Dublin” exemplifies what I’m saying; this track is pounded into you with rhythm and vigor seldom heard. Lead singer and mandolin player T. Duggins leads his south Chicago band into a more positive outing than on previous releases, which has brought up the energy level, and can even be heard in Duggin’s usual rolling growl. It’s pretty clear that this highly talented band is going to be around for a very long time. –James Orme