God bless VH1. I don't think I ever would have said that with good conscience 5 years ago, but the channel has really changed their whole style. I remember when I was a preteen, thinking that MTV was the coolest and VH1 was for my parents. And to be honest, it was. Until they started doing something MTV was refusing to do -- play music videos. That automatically puts them up one notch in my book. Then came the cool shows -- Behind The Music [I still love watching the Vanilla Ice episode], The List [whatever happened to that show? My lists were always so much better], and their latest innovation, Bands On The Run.
Bands On The Run is VH1's dabble into the "reality-TV" market. It is a music fan's version of "The Real World" or "Survivor." I became hooked from the first episode, following the adventures of 4 bands across the country. There was the Josh Dodes Band, who I'm sure immediately got pegged by everybody as a Ben Folds Five ripoff [I didn't mind, as I like BF5]. You had Harlow, the all girl, goth-grunge band. They sounded like Hole, but much, much worse. Third was Flickerstick. Sure, they had the "corporate rock" sound [in fact, they recently signed to Epic Records], but they did it damn well and had really good stage presence, when it counted. And lastly, there was a little 5-piece out of San Diego called Soulcracker. Immediately I found this name stupid and immature, and my view of the band quickly followed those lines. I threw my support solely behind Flickerstick for the majority of the show, hoping they would get the big payoff at the end. But then something funny happened -- out of all those little clips of the bands performing live, the Soulcracker songs were the ones that stuck in my head. Night and day. At work, in the shower, while driving. I had Soulcracker on the brain. I quickly reevaluated my stance on the bands, pegging Flickerstick as the stereotypical wannabe rockstars, and realizing that Soulcracker A)was really, really good, B)deserved to win, and C)needed to come to Illinois, so I could see them live. Well, they didn't win the show [total complete robbery on VH1's part], but they did come to Illinois, in the form of the Warped Tour in Chicago.
When I arrived at the Warped Tour that hot July day, I had no idea Soulcracker was even on the tour. I had seen no mention of it anywhere online. But as soon as I walked in, I saw the posters everywhere: "Holy Shit! It's Soulcracker!" they all screamed, in bright green. I snatched one off of a wall nearby and looked forward to seeing them later in the day. As I watched great bands like 311, The Lawrence Arms, and H2O, all my mind could really think about was Soulcracker. Silly, I know, but I couldn't help it. Their show time finally rolled around, and I took my position at the front of the incredibly small stage, watching these 5 guys who I felt like I actually knew from watching their exploits on TV rock out with no turning back. Their set was explosive [to me, anyways] and I swiftly picked up a copy of their newest CD at their merch table. Even though more bands were still to come, my mission was complete: I saw Soulcracker.
The rest of the day was downhill from there, once the festival ended. My girlfriend and I got lost going back to her house in the suburbs, ending up at one point in Indiana. After finally getting her home safely, she picked that moment [at 12:30 AM, mind you] to break up with me. Cue arguing for over 2 hours in her front yard. Good times. I didn't get home until 4 AM, and had to be at work at 7 AM, but none of it was really phasing me. All I looked forward to was getting off of work so I could play the Soulcracker CD. I almost felt bad for the CD, as I had built it up in my mind so much, was there any way it could possibly live up to my expectations? In 2 words, Hell-motherfucking-Yes.
From the funky but powerful opener "Bones In The Ground" to the early-on slow rocker "Greatest Generation," from the metal-meets-ska of "I Never Do This" to the guitar crunch of "Waiting," from the amazingly good "Staring at the Sun" to the amazingly bizarre "The Devil Does," this album really fucking rocks. Out of the 15 tracks, none are huge duds, with only a few that are too sugary for my tastes ["Too Far, Too Hard," "Everyday," and "One Wave" come to mind]. This band has amazing vocal harmonies and their guitar and drum chops are top-notch. The only big setback is the recording quality. It's missing a little snap in the whole production, although it doesn't sound bad by any means. This band does a wonderful job of mixing a lot of punk and aggressive rock with bits and pieces of ska, jazz, and metal. It's really enjoyable and heartfelt, as well as being ridiculously catchy. This band, in all fairness, should be huge. They always will be in my books. VH1, keep up the good work.
I Can't Stand It
16oz. of Domestic Violence
Too Far, Too Hard