Sunday, July 5, 2009

Music Notes: What's been hot this summer?

Rancid! The nineties continue to come back in full force, and the East Bay's party punkers are still the best at what they do.

Although Let The Dominoes Fall - their first effort since 2003's Indestructible - doesn't light the same fireball as the group's match-in-the-gas-can early days did, this is by far the best good times record of the year (I beg of you; get this Flo-Rida junk off the radio). It's not dense, direction changing, or career defining; just 19 roaring party starters to help you forget America is in a not-so-great depression. Or rather, a romping reminder you don't have to be a sucker just because everyone else is.

If summer music is supposed to be about good times with good friends, good family and shooting the crap about the good times, Rancid are swinging - and connecting - with the jaw on this one. "Up To No Good" and the title track are personal favs.

On the other hand, there's that other East Bay group of punk rockers from the 90's - Green Day - who put out a new record this summer.

I have more love in my heart for Green Day than any other, but 21st Century Breakdown is just too jarring and too dense for the summer of 2009.

While Rancid's record is a rejuvinating reminder that you can still have good times during the tough times, Green Day's record dives into the hole the world is in, wallows in it, and never truly gives us the rally cry it promises to explode us out of it. They swung for the stands and wiffed.

Though it's cleverly themed and has an admirable poetry about it, the Day has made the mistake of taking themselves too seriously here. That's what Radiohead is for. You can stick to a theme (Springsteen's Born In The USA, for example), but you don't need to be The Who when you're Green Day. For Townsend's sake!

They even ape Coldplay a little here. Coldplay! Listen to the opening and closing of the record. Sounds like the opening and closing of Viva La Vida to me. Not to mention a song titled "Viva La Gloria!"

Still, 21st Century Breakdown has a handful of outstanding songs. "21 Guns" and "See The Light" are instant classics. But the size of this record's stick isn't as big as it would like to think it is, and Rancid's much simpler outing outshines because of it.

But in terms of artistry, the best all-around rock album so far this summer is Jets Overhead's No Nations which borrows thematically from Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown with much less grandeur.

And it pays off beautifully. It's a day-dreamy, lazy Sunday afternoon listen, ripe with indie rock of the highest order for the pickings. "Weathervanes (In The Way)" says everything Green Day were trying to say on Breakdown in just 4 minutes and 37 seconds.

It has some shining care free moments on "Headed For Nowhere" and "Always A First Time." It's the type of the album to let your hair down to, even if you don't have long hair.

Definitely check this record out. It's a keeper, and I'm sure it will be cropping up on plenty year-end lists.

What about you? What have your summer listenings been like this year? What's hot in your juke box?

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