Babel Reviews

Album Reviews from a Music Lover with Resolution

Category: New Release Reviews

Ruby Bones – Ruby Bones

Rating: B+

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Ruby Bones - Ruby BonesIt’s tough out there for a guitar-based band, with the charts seemingly allergic to any artist that puts a little riffage front and center. New Jersey-based indie rockers Ruby Bones take that as a dare on their self-titled debut album. Not only is this a proudly guitar-heavy record, they’re mixed so high you can’t even hope to ignore them. But the band isn’t just here to batter you into the ground. While they certainly fit the contemporary indie-punk mold of Cloud Nothings, Japandroids, and White Lung, Ruby Bones set themselves apart through the sheer quantity and quality of the hooks crafted by lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist Chris Nova. Oh, and a little sax-a-ma-phone.

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The Menzingers – After the Party

Rating: B+

The Menzingers - After the PartyNostalgia is a powerful thing, and The Menzingers evoke it aggressively on their new album, After the Party. Everything from the cover art to the album title conjures memories of good times gone by, and the band even kicks things off with a chorus of “where are we gonna go now that our 20s are over?” But lead singers and songwriters Greg Barnett and Tom May are after something more than a simple, “Hey, remember the good ol’ days?” Instead, their songs aim to capture the fragmented nature of memory to paint a portrait of thirtysomething life and love, all wrapped up in a punk-rock package perfect for those who aren’t ready to stumble home from the party just yet.

Musically, the album takes most of its cues from Springsteen-indebted punk bands like The Gaslight Anthem, with hard-charging guitars, classic rock-inspired leads, and steady drums. But early-2000s emo and pop-punk also make their presence felt. The guitar riff in “Midwestern States” bears traces of Blink-182’s DNA and suggests what might have happened if that band had matured along with its listeners, while “Thick as Thieves” kicks off with the kind of too-clever-for-its-own-good poetry (“I held up a liquor store demanding top-shelf metaphors”) that has long been Fall Out Boy’s stock in trade. However, The Menzingers’ gift for melody and way with a hook transcend the fact that there really isn’t anything new going on here. The choruses of “Lookers,” “Midwestern States,” and “Your Wild Years” are serious earworms, and the pithy mission statements of “Tellin’ Lies” and “Charlie’s Army” are sure to inspire raucous singalongs at many, many live shows to come. Continue reading

Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life

A Portrait of the Artist as a Thirtysomething Man

Rating: B+

Japandroids - Near to the Wild Heart of LifeJapandroids are a band that thrives on the edge. They nearly broke up before their first full-length album, 2009’s Post-Nothing, could even see the light of day. Then, after wrapping a massive tour behind their masterpiece follow-up, 2012’s Celebration Rock, they disappeared altogether for nearly three years. Now, with Near to the Wild Heart of Life, band members Brian King (guitar, vocals) and David Prowse (drums, vocals) are back with an eye toward sustainability, both in music and their personal lives.

Named after an iconic quote from James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Near to the Wild Heart of Life picks up where Joyce left off, with the protagonist leaving his stifling hometown behind on the title track. As the most traditional Japandroids song on the album, it’s a perfect starting point for long-time fans, not to mention a powerful anthem for aspiring musicians with its battle cry to get “fired up to go far away and make some ears ring from the sound of my singing.” Continue reading

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