Monday, October 26, 2015

"Fed Up! A Canadian Punk Rock Split" CD Review!! (Part 1)

It's now time for our 76th monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, and as promised, it's of the newly released "Fed Up! A Canadian Punk Rock Split" from Montreal's The Ripcordz and locals Jack Spades and Destroilet! Independently released at the CD launch concert at The Algonquin Pub on Saturday, copies are available for $10 through members of the local bands, and an online digital release is in the cards, but that (and potential in-store availability) is pending further public details. As this is our first ever split CD review on the site, and as this (in effect) is three separate EPs merged together, we're taking the unique step of splitting this review into two, with The Ripcordz and Jack Spades in this half, and Destroilet and summary thoughts in the second half (when complete, we will link the second half in this review for convenience.) With one 50 minute album reviewed in two parts featuring three bands, let's begin our review of "Fed Up!"

Note that because our monthly CD reviews are focused on and devoted to Sault Ste. Marie bands, we won't go into as much detail on The Ripcordz' third of the split as we typically do with our reviews of single-band local releases. That said, as they are the lead band on "Fed Up!", and long-standing local favourites, I'd be remiss to not review their songs and offer my thoughts!

The opening third belongs to Montreal hardcore punk legends The Ripcordz, whose first three songs are newly recorded for "Fed Up!" with their current lineup of founding singer/guitarist Paul Gott, bassist Matty Fortyfive, and drummer Alex Roy, and as recorded by Rene D La Muerte. Entitled "War on Xmas", "Decide", and "Merry Crisis", you can probably surmise that two of the songs have a seasonal yet archaic vibe (good timing with the Christmas season arriving slowly), and they harbour some amusing lyrics therein! Of the three, I definitely prefer "Decide" musically for it's intensity and aggression, but it's also the shortest song on the split, so you take the bad with the good. "War on Xmas" is entertaining as well, with solid drumming in particular, but it did get a little repetitive by the end, while "Merry Crisis" has more of a slower, sing-along vibe that I can see going over well at a December show! I'm more familiar with The Ripcordz live than in studio, but Paul's gritty singing comes through nicely here, and holds up pretty well with their classic older material!

Their other three songs are all older recordings with older lineups, all featuring ex-drummer Francois Demers, and for the originals at least, recorded by Robert Martins. They are "Fuck the USA", (featuring late 1990s bassist Chris Moroz, and previously on the compilation "La Punkerie Vol. 1"), "Man In Black" (featuring current drummer Alex Roy on bass, and from the earlier compilation "North of the Border Vol. 1"), and their cover of Mitsou's "Bye Bye Mon Cowboy" (a bonus track from their live album "Dead or Alive in '92" featuring ex-bassist Danny "Duke" Laflamme.) Of the two originals, I prefer "Man In Black" for it's livelier sound, and glimmers that actually remind me of Motorhead from Paul's vocals and the bass work, but both are solid for longtime fans of The Ripcordz! "Bye Bye Mon Cowboy" was originally a Francophone pop song that was a Canadian chart hit in 1988, and is romantic in tone, so I can only assume that the cover was done ironically. Aside from the French lyrics, you'd never know it was a cover if you weren't familiar with the original song, and it packs a punk wallop!

Overall, while The Ripcordz' third of the CD is the shortest (only running for about 15 minutes, with  "Decide" at an album low 97 seconds long), it'll definitely please long time fans of the band, and if you didn't know that the latter three songs weren't brand new, you'd never know! Paul's aggressive vocals and guitar riffs drive everything nicely, and Matty and Alex compliment him well on bass and drums, as did ex-members on the old tracks! If you love The Ripcordz' old school punk attack, you should be right at home here, and this is a fitting opening to the "Fed Up!" split!

The middle stretch belongs to local punk/metal quintet Jack Spades, who were the only band on the split to record six brand new tracks for the CD, and you could effectively call this their second EP (maybe they'd call it "The Second" if released on it's own?) Featuring their current lineup of singer J.D. Pearce (a.k.a. Johnny Pints), guitarists Jesse Cook and Tiffany Stocco (a.k.a. Tiff Spades), bassist Justin Lam, and drummer Johnny Belanger, their six songs (including one cover) were recorded at Mission Control Studios with producer Dustin Jones earlier this year. Their chunk begins with "Crossroads", about selling your soul to the devil there for whiskey, and it's a fun and upbeat song that keeps the vibes of last year's "The First" going with their hard hitting hybrid sound, effective usage of backing vocals, and a solid guitar solo from Jesse as well! Arguably the most punk-influenced of their songs here, it would be interesting to see more of a blues influence given the subject matter, but fans of Jack Spades will have nothing to worry about here!

Second for their third (eighth total) is "Fear Corps", a faster and heavier song that generally works well, with nice charging riffs, solid drumming from Johnny, and an aggressive bite, but it's a little inconsistent. A guitar solo would have broken things up a bit, and I will admit that having J.D. sit out the choruses in favour of backing vocalists may not have been ideal, as they compliment him well, and without him singing there, there was a fair shift in tone. Still, it's a solid track, and will be up the alley of fans of Jack Spades' heavier material! Then we have the split's longest song "Frederick", inspired by the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, and it improves on the first two songs with some more complex songwriting, a darker horror-influenced tone that will remind some listeners of J.D.'s old band Frightlight, and a catchy sing-along chorus! Justin's bass suits this track nicely, Jesse has a solid solo, and aside from an abrupt ending, it definitely holds up the best of the Jack Spades' songs so far!

Their fourth original is "Motorwolf", though rather than Justin's growl of the title after the instrumental prologue, they instead included audio of a bark (I wonder why?) Arguably the most fastest and heaviest song from Jack Spades' section, this would definitely be the song most likely to get a mosh pit going, and Jesse's solo, while short, is his best yet! It's not as diverse as "Frederick", and the title is arguably leaned on too much in the chorus lyrics, but as a blistering speed metal/punk hybrid, it delivers the goods, and is a highlight on "Fed Up!" Their last original here is "Negative Headspace", which opens with a solid and heavy riff which maintains as the band kicks in until the first verse kicks in, and might be my favourite opening of their section! Here, I like the gradual escalations in speed and heaviness as the verses lead into the choruses, and everyone holds up their end of the bargain, but the chorus vocals seem too quiet in the mix.

Jack Spades' portion closes with a cover of defunct local punk quartet The Inner City Surfers' song "Ten Commandments" (or just "Commandments"), from their 2000 debut self-titled CD (also, note that Surfers frontman Dustin Jones produced Jack Spades for this split.) Compared to the original (which was fairly fast and aggressive compared to the Surfers' best known songs), the cover is a little longer and has less vocal distortion, though it's largely faithful in structure. It's a solid cover choice to fit Jack Spades' existing sound, and a nice treat to see a local band cover another unrelated local band that shared no identical members! Overall, Jack Spades' contribution to the CD (the longest of the 3 bands too, at around 19 minutes) is a successful follow-up to last year's EP, improving on their base sound with even better production, more of a live intensity, and more technical and diverse songwriting! Songs like "Frederick" and "Motorwolf" definitely led the way for me, but there were some repetitive moments, "Frederick" ended way too abruptly, and backing vocals affected the tone a bit when they led the way.

I hope you guys liked the first half of our "Fed Up!" split review, and we'll wrap things up with a look at Destroilet' third of the split and final summary thoughts on the entire release tomorrow! Thanks everyone, and stay tuned for this month's "Where Are The New Albums?" post soon as well!

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