There are those moments when time seems to slip right through our fingers and at others, moves at a snail’s pace leaving nothing behind but a slimed trail. This week there are a number of artists that try to drown out the noise of most things political, but not everyone though. Seems every week there’s an artist recording and releasing a protest track that will never be played like a Bob Dylan song in 1963. But musically the landscape is looking a lot better this year. Although, you do have a handful of artists that can balance on that thin line between political and socioeconomic awareness and just kicking out the jams.
Wyclef Jean had an unsuccessful bid for the presidency of Haiti, literally putting his music career on hold for the past 7 years. There’s no doubt Wyclef’s love of his familial homeland runs deep (see: Welcome To Haiti: Creole 101) but the Fugees alum still has plans with his other love, namely music. While releasing the J’ouvert E.P. is obviously setting things up for Carnival Vol. III: Road to Clefication coming later this year, we shouldn’t dismiss this release. It may seem like an over-indulgent single, but there’s more than just filler on the E.P. It starts off with “The Ring,” his call out on his comeback. It’s an eased back joint with a chill vibe as he questions, “Will I get another win?” But the jam this record really surrounds is his collaboration with Young Thug “I Swear.” YT has been overshadowed by his ridiculous airport antics, although his mother made him redeem himself (see: Alaska) but on this track he keeps up with ‘Clef’s pace, matching him stylistically word for word. It’s works in their favor. Wyclef has always been a master of melding varied styles at the same time and he does that here as well on tracks “Rear View,” “Holding On The Edge feat. Walk The Moon,” and “Little Things feat. T-Baby and Allyson Casado” but my interest is really on “If I Was President 2016,” “Life Matters,” and “Hendrix.” These two tracks cast the imagery of the country’s current state as well as inner city choices respectively. This is where he’s able to get it in musically and lyrically. It’s fire. Now we can only hope the new Carnival… is just as engrossing.
Now The Menzingers though are a group cut from a different cloth. The Scranton, PA group shows no sign of slowing down, first banding together back in 2006 and have added in another album to its repetoire. Now you’d probably think the group’s new album After The Party doesn’t have much to offer as far as updating the group’s sound but damn it all to hell if this album doesn’t sound like a pop/punk masterpiece! They’re somewhat unassuming at times, like on “Lookers” where listeners might be confused at first expecting the track to continue on its ballad-esque lineage but then changes dynamically as drummer Joe Godino leads the band off in that change, with guitars blaring. Singer Greg Barnett is my champion here, killing ever note as he does best. Even the ad-lib’d “yeahs” sound perfectly placed.
But for some reason it’s the band’s “House On Fire” that I keep running back to. It might be the constant drive, the band doesn’t let up on the beat and the harmonies between the guitars and vocals work well together and is cleverly placed. And it’s no surprise why the title track is in fact, the title track. It’s a force to be reckoned with here although it isn’t to discount any other track on After The Party. “Boy Blue” does the same but in a much looser manner, giving the song space to breathe in the middle of chord progressions. It’s the song to drive through with the windows down. I’ve tried it. The way this album moves seamlessly from track to track is testament to the Menzingers hard work. (Epitaph)
The moment I turned Occult Architecture, Vol. 1 on is the moment I set pen to paper. This is how I want to remember this release, unblemished and unwavering. Maybe it’s a good idea, maybe it not but it is a unique point of reference. Moon Duo is actually the side project of Wooden Shjips guitarist Ripley Johnson, which he formed in 2009 with Sanae Yamada. This is essentially the group’s fourth full-length release for the growing number of rabid fans and the Duo doesn’t disappoint here opening things up with their 6-minute fuzzed out “The Death Set.” The sound is repetitive but it’s not repetitious, with the psychedelic vibe almost drowning out Johnson’s vocals which seem quite fitting. The electronic beat of “Cold Fear “seems to take cues from moment in a past New Wave experience, but those fuzzed guitars and keyboards make everything so hypnotic. Then you have tracks like “Creepin'” which is straight bad ass, unfiltered rock that takes barely a moment to slow down, with Johnson’s vocals juxtaposed to the music laying it down only when necessary.
The odd thing about these Moon Duo tracks is while songs like “Cult Of Moloch” and “Cross-Town Fade” clock in passed the 7-minute mark, they don’t drag on, instead, leave you wanting just so much more. Even the Moon Duo’s epic 10-minute plus “White Rose” doesn’t the same, planting those psych-rock guitar lines throughout it. This is only …Vol. 1 so we’re going to have to wait to see what’s in store for Vol. 2. (Sacred Bones)
Where does this leave us now? Well, with the new one from Iron Reagan, your favorite thrash metal band from Richmond, Virginia. While it can be considered a side project for Municipal Waste vocalist Tony Foresta, the band’s music isn’t treated as such with throwaway tracks. Also consisting of former Darkest Hour drummer Ryan Parrish, guitarists Phillip Hall & A.N.S’ Mark Bronzino, the band is rounded out by Hellbear bassist Rob Skotis. Now a couple of albums in with Crossover Ministry, no one can say Iron Reagan is a one shot deal. With the new album, the band continues to do what it does best: bludgeoning listeners into submission with unrelenting rhythms, staccato guitar lines, and quick-witted lyricism all wrapped in leather and sludge. Crossover… totals 17 tracks that range anywhere from 14 seconds to 3:37 minutes, but even the shortest of tracks gets the bands full attention. “Dead With My Friends” is the lengthiest track here and varies from quick paced to slow and sludge-ridden. The band isn’t without humor though, and you quickly find that out when you listen to “Fuck Your Neighbors,” which deals with the everlasting battle between noisy, disruptive neighbors and those that want nothing more than peace and quiet. Yeah, “Fuck Your Neighbors” could be the anthem shouted from rooftops by everyone who’s had a noise complaint brought against ’em.
But Iron Reagan can get the most out of some of their more apocalyptic tracks like “More War” and “Blatant Violence.” There’s so music destructive force the band can conjure it’s amazing. Then you have “Bleed the Fifth,” where again, the band isn’t without humor. They piece the song with a story line in their video depicting an alcoholic cop lost in the band’s music. The cynicism shouldn’t be lost on you. If it is, try to find it because Crossover Ministry is both mind numbing, explosive and bludgeoning all at the same time. Oh wait, that’s three things. Regardless, the album is worth playing repeatedly. At loud volumes. At whatever time you want. (Relapse)