Brendan Kelly / Joe McMahon - Wasted Potential (Cover Artwork)

Brendan Kelly / Joe McMahon

Brendan Kelly / Joe McMahon: Wasted PotentialWasted Potential (2010)
Red Scare / Anchorless

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: JeloneJelone
(others by this writer | submit your own)

You guys. YOU GUYS. There's this new CD out called Wasted Potential being joint-released on Red Scare and Anchorless Records. It is an acoustic split CD between Brendan Kelly and Joe McMahon. Kelly is a guy from a band that is called the Lawrence Arms. They are a punk band from Chicago that writes s.
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You guys. YOU GUYS. There's this new CD out called Wasted Potential being joint-released on Red Scare and Anchorless Records. It is an acoustic split CD between Brendan Kelly and Joe McMahon. Kelly is a guy from a band that is called the Lawrence Arms. They are a punk band from Chicago that writes songs about drunks. McMahon is in Smoke or Fire, a punk group that is secretly from Massachusetts but pretends to be from Virginia. They also write songs about drunks, but sometimes they also write songs about important issues like equal rights. Both of these bands are very good and I like them very much.

And, you guys, they have just delivered on to mine very ears an acoustic collection of sexcellent proportions. See, they took songs from their bands and played them all stripped down, with a cover concluding their respective sets. It's like MTV Unplugged except it ups those emotionally fragile creatures, the punx. Kelly goes first and, by his own admission in the liner notes, his takes are rough. "Blood Meridian," a revised version of "The Redness in the West" from last year's succulent, juicy Buttsweat and Tears, sounds almost completely different. Perhaps because there's no full band to contrast with the guitar/vox opening verse this time out, Kelly's vocals sound a lot more ragged this time. It's less dynamic, but it's still TLA.

But while it's cool to hear "Like a Record Player" or "Quincentuple Your Money," the song that will probably get most folks stoked is Kelly's cover of Jawbreaker's "Kiss the Bottle." I didn't realize it was in the track listing until the album showed up in my mailbox. If you listen, late at night when the world we think we know is quiet, somewhere, blowing over hills and through trees and caressing the hair of the sleeping, you can hear the awesomegasm I had upon seeing this song listed. You might also hear me scream "Aw nah!" soon after, since Kelly questions the recording quality of the original in his notes. Sure, it's the most overrated JB tune, but there are some things you just don't say, man. You keep that between you and your blog.

That said, Kelly's cover is good. In the interest of preserving Blake Schwarzenbach's lyrics, he delivers a modest, melancholy arrangement that highlights the story's hopelessness. Someone should use it in a montage sometime.

McMahon, by contrast, dazzles more with his originals than his cover. Part of this is because his take on Johnny Cash's "Let the Train Whistle Blow" originally appeared on the Johnny Cash tribute album All Aboard, which I already own. It's a solid rendition, but I could've used something different. His reinterpretations of SoF tunes is stellar, though. "Beauty Fades," from the Worker's Union EP which came out back when Smoke or Fire was still called Jericho RVA, starts off simple with just guitar/vox, but then light percussion and organ creeps into the margins near the end, delivering a stellar finish. "Filter" gets one-and-a-half performances, first on Kelly's "Blood Meridian," and again by McMahon. "What Separates Us All" was always a rousing up-with-the-people anthem, and this acoustic folky setting hammers that point home. "Irish Handcuffs" slows down the tempo to make the song's tale of alcoholism sadder. It's not a perfect take--McMahon fumbles the words at one point--but it still delivers, making the split a great listen from one side to the other.


People who liked this also liked:
The Lawrence Arms - Buttsweat and Tears [7 inch]The Menzingers - Chamberlain WaitsAlkaline Trio - This AddictionOff with Their Heads - In DesolationThe Lawrence Arms - The Greatest Story Ever ToldThe Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundThe Menzingers - A Lesson in the Abuse of Information TechnologyThe Menzingers - Hold on Dodge [7 inch]The Flatliners - CavalcadeThe Gaslight Anthem - American Slang

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
ben89 (November 22, 2011)

This album has to go down as my favorite album of all time. ive always been a long time TLA broadways and falcon fan. BK's version of kiss the bottle is the best song ever recorded, such emotion.

nedsammy (August 25, 2010)

Brendan apologised for the quality of his recordings, but i really liked that version of Quincentuple

kickaha (August 8, 2010)

To the guys asking about Chris singing on this:

No, that's actually Brendan singing in his "normal voice". He isn't using his usual "gruff and snotty" singing style that we all are used to. Listen to The Devils Takin' Names (at about 1 minute into the song) and Warped Summer Extravaganza from Oh! Calcutta!. He sings in his normal voice on those songs as well. You probably thought that it was Chris singing, but it's not.

myhandleonpunknews (July 14, 2010)

The Brendan Kelly side is awful. How can somebody that has played in the rhythm section in bands for the past 15 years have no ability to keep rhythm on acoustic guitar? These songs are painful to listen to. Isn't that Chris singing in 3 of the 7 songs on the "Brendan" side? The Joe side is a lot better, and I'm not even a huge Jericho/SoF fan. The recording is a lot better and the tracks sound like actual songs instead of acoustic covers.

ramblinboyofpleasure (April 2, 2010)

I can sum it all up for you know, not as good as it should have been. Dull and disappointing.

Alien (March 30, 2010)

I really enjoy both the Lawrence Arms, and Smoke or Fire. but i expected to like Brendan's side a lot more. However I find myself listening to Joe's songs way more. You might say I enjoy them more too. Didn't expect to at all

clc (March 24, 2010)

it's kind of sad to hear some commentors didnt even give Joe's side a chance. Joe's is by far the superior side. but thats just my opinion, i'm a huge SOF fan. i was pretty dissapointed with Brendan's performance. it comes off as too jokey and obnoxious to me for some reason, while Mcmahon pours his heart out on the flipside, therefore to me, making the record very unbalanced. it also seems like Brendan got as fucked up as he could possibley get and went into a studio. i just cant take his songs seriously on this record, and i always enjoy Lawrence Arms, and more so, the Broadways. the Smoke or Fire songs translate extremely well acoustically, while the Lawrence Arms songs seem kinda half-assed and not meant for acoustic translation. i'll be listening to side B far more often than the A side.

skolarx (March 23, 2010)

for my money the best version of kiss the bottle i've heard was on the acoustic a radio with guts album. will need to pick this up at some point

victimofadriveby (March 21, 2010)

Good split! Very enjoyable but didn't blow me away...love the Yellow Vinyl!

...and to any confused people out there the download code is actually printed with the insert...took me an hour to find...

suburbanxcore (March 21, 2010)

No mention that half of "Brendan's" songs have Chris singing?

exitenglish1208 (March 20, 2010)

got the vinyl and it was warped...ugh...
managed to unwarp it enough to make it playable (the brendan side was unplayable, which is the side i wanted to hear)
i really like blood meridian, rivals the original IMHO

so far all of them are really good. the recording quality is better than i expected, along with his voice. i dont care too much for smoke or fire but i enjoyed his side as well.
i really like all the songs, big fan of requiem (once again) revisited.
i didn't get my download code though, so i had to find it elsewhere, does anyone know where you're supposed to download it from?

Hey_Asshole (March 18, 2010)

wow, an acoustic cd by punk musicians doing solo versions of their respective bands' songs. groundbreaking.

i really only wanted to hear the Brendan Kelly side, as i do not listen to Smoke Or Fire, so can not judge how the acoustic versions would be. BK's side disappointed me. i love TLA, and wanted really bad to like this. his voice just is not suited for the style of the release...

and in a related note: if singers in bands are going to do a solo project, they should write some new songs. and they need to knock off all this "see, i am playing it acoustic. i am so much more credible," bullshit. this is why this release will probably never get another play, but the Matt Skiba/Kevin Second split got played regularly for almost 2 years after it came out. selling your fans the same old songs just seems pretty weak to me.

and guys, just because BK is involved in it, it does not make it a perfect release. cut the fucking hyperbole and go change your pants

colin (March 17, 2010)

the brendan kelly side is pretty bad. he fucks up a lot of the tunes. guitar work ain't bad but the beat of the vocals never hit a decent mark. meh.

didn't bother with the other side.

Blackjaw_ (March 17, 2010)

There was no other way to get those songs at first than to 'steal' them, unless I got a time machine and a plane ticket.

banal242 (March 17, 2010)

LOL at Blackjaw. "It sucks because I already stole half of it."

notfeelingcreative (March 17, 2010)

"Sure, itâ??s the most overrated JB tune..."

No, it's simply covered too much, the most overrated Jawbreaker song is 'Boxcar". But of course this is punknews.org where anything that's popular is automatically 'overrated'. Of course the first part is just my opinion but you guys are really quick to slap the 'overrated' sticker on anything popular.

tylerdurden8136 (March 16, 2010)

Maybe it's just because I'm really fucking high, but this is the worst review I've ever read. The first couple of paragraphs are trying so hard to be funny it's obnoxiously dumb and annoying. Just no.

Blackjaw_ (March 16, 2010)

and what I meant by redundant is that Like a Record Player sounds just like Demons, and even in some of the phrasing of the vocals are the same with other songs as well...

I've always thought this of Brendan's songs and have always had trouble putting it into words. He recycles deliveries and melodies and shit.

hayman (March 16, 2010)

Is this as good as the Joey Cape / Tony Sly split? If so I'll pick this up for sure.

telegraphrocks (March 16, 2010)

This is a pretty sweet split, but I absolutely loathe every version ever (even the original) of "Kiss The Bottle". I just hate that song.

Good, good, good!

victim (March 16, 2010)

Both sides of this are pretty great

ak3punk (March 16, 2010)

I really want to hear this...

thepopeofchili-town (March 16, 2010)

Like Blackjaw, but the opposite. Haven't even bothered with the Joe McMahon side. I didn't think Brendan's voice would lend itself to the acoustic singer-songwriter thing very well but it really does. Without a loud punk rock band behind him, he has almost a Tom Waits kind of quality. This is good stuff.

hubitcherkokov (March 16, 2010)

I hope "The Redness of the West" is better than the original. I'm still disappointed in that EP.

chadreligion (March 16, 2010)

and what I meant by redundant is that Like a Record Player sounds just like Demons, and even in some of the phrasing of the vocals are the same with other songs as well....

chadreligion (March 16, 2010)

This is ok... it's not bad, but it's not amazing. The recording is pretty good as well.... I mean, what the fuck? How can you go wrong? Songwriting is a little redundant, especially on the Brendan side.. (I said it) However, I do see this being one of the better splits to come out this year, but not one of the better records.

kylewagoner (March 16, 2010)

I gasp in your general direction, Blackjaw_!

Blackjaw_ (March 16, 2010)

Meh. I already have the Joe McMahon songs because he released them at some shows or something, and I'm not interested in the other side.


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