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THE LATEST CD RELEASES: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE OUT-OF-TUNE

By Rebecca Loh
ARTS EDITOR

The past month has seen the release of several new albums from several old bands. While most of these releases have provided much-awaited stereo fodder for fans whose old albums had begun to sound stale, there were some disappointments in the bunch. Below is my guide on what to get and what to pass up.

(HH) AFI: Black Sails on the Sunset

I found the latest AFI album, Black Sails on the Sunset, disappointing. The album, released on Nitro Records, reflects a drastic change in style from their older albums, Very Proud of Ya and Answer That and Stay Fashionable. Indeed, AFI has gone through big changes since these earlier releases. With the replacement of guitarist Mark and bassist Geoff Kresge, the band lost its two major songwriters. The result is a completely new sound--even vocalist Davey Havok’s style has changed from fast and furious to a slower, drawn-out wailing. The tunes are much slower, and seem to just drag along. While previous AFI albums are an example of East Bay hardcore at its finest, Black Sails on the Sunset never achieves the energy or spirit of those earlier works.

(HHHH1/2) Anti-Flag: A New Kind of Army

After about two months of delay, the new Anti-Flag album A New Kind of Army was finally released in late May on Go-Kart Records. The album has everything that makes Anti-Flag a favorite: inspirational lyrics, catchy bass riffs, and even catchier choruses. Although the band acquired a new bassist and another guitarist since the release of their last album Die For Your Government, their style is unchanged. While lead singer Justin Sane’s voice can sometimes be whiny (as in “Police Story”) or just plain goofy (as in “Right On”), the singing is largely likeable. After the first couple of listenings, I found their songs stubbornly stuck in my head, which I consider a good sign.

(H) Blink-182: Enema of the State

I was very disappointed by the album Enema of the State, perhaps because I had expected more from Blink-182, remembering the Cheshire Cat days, when I was impressed by the band’s impossibly fast guitar riffs and amused by their delightfully immature lyrics. One would never guess by listening to Enema of the State that these guys had any talent at all. I can’t get used to the cheesy echoey vocals in this album, and, suddenly, the band’s immaturity isn’t so funny anymore. Unfortunately, this album has the potential to sell better than any of their previous albums, but if you want my advice, pass on the Enema and pick up a copy of Cheshire Cat.

(HHH1/2) Bouncing Souls: Hopeless Romantic

The Bouncing Souls aren’t for everyone. When I first listened to them, I didn’t like vocalist Greg’s odd half-singing, half-yelling style. Strangely enough, though, his style grew on me, and now I really enjoy their music. The Souls’ new album Hopeless Romantic on Epitaph Records is a touch mellower than their older albums, but just as much fun. Once again, the band pumps out songs about the important things in life: friendship, girls, music, and soccer.

(HHHH) Fat Music Vol. IV: Life in the Fat Lane

Fat Wreck Chords recently released Fat Music Vol. IV: Life in the Fat Lane, the fourth wickedly cheap compilation of new and previously unreleased songs by Fat bands. The album provides a good sampling of what Fat has to offer, from Mad Caddies ska/punk to Sick of It All hardcore to old favorites by NOFX and Swingin’ Utters. And at $3.99, it’s a deal you shouldn’t pass up.

(HHHH1/2) Me First and the Gimme Gimmes: Are a Drag

There’s something instantly comfortable and familiar about Me First and the Gimme Gimme’s new album Are a Drag from Fat Wreck Chords. It could be due to the fact that the band has decided to forego the tedium of actually writing new songs, and instead covers songs that are already both comfortable and familiar. In their first full-length release Have a Ball the band gave favorite 70’s pop songs a facelift with a faster tempo and an edgier 90’s punk sound. In Are a Drag, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes have taken on popular Broadway show tunes like “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz and “Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. The result is, of course, a hit. For an interesting listening experience (even if it’s just to hear these guys’ version of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina”), give this album a try.

(HHHH) Pennywise: Straight Ahead

Pennywise’s new album, Straight Ahead, on Epitaph Records came out this week. They’ve always been a solid band with a tight sound, and this album proves that they are also consistent. Straight Ahead delivers songs with great lyrics, catchy tunes, and a soothing sound in the spirit of previous albums About Time and Full Circle. Old fans should definitely pick up a copy, and new listeners should give this punk staple a try.