2006 – Senses Fail – Still Searching

I love Music Monday. It gives me an excuse to tell you about something I have a strange affection for. I never thought of myself as a big “Screamo” fan. I don’t need people yelling at me. But I find myself coming back to this album time and time again because there’s just something about the passion with which it’s sang.

Senses Fail is by no means a “new” name out there, and this album is more than half-a-decade old at this point. When Still Searching was released it was already their third full length album and I had no interest in hearing it. But when a friend told me to give it a listen, I found a few songs I really liked. I listened to it again this week and realized: I have memorized almost every single song on the album. How did that happen?

I have the 2006 original release but there is also a 2007 Deluxe Edition that I haven’t heard, but it gives you a whopping SIX extra tracks. But when listening to the 2006 version, I immediately remember long car rides, tapping the steering wheel to these songs.

Songs about sadness, depression, and people not understanding you. Nothing new here, nothing that wasn’t in prior emo music or even grunge from the 90’s. What sets Senses Fail apart, I feel, is the genuine talent in the band. Vocals are showcased in the title Track, Still Searching, where we switch between guttural growls and beatiful harmonies on the fly. Instrumentals are highlighted when you listen to the metalicious guitar solo in Sick or Sane. And the lyrics are the writing of someone who, I think, is being honest with their listeners. “I’m not the same kid I was when I was younger, I just thought you should know…” and “I hope my mother and my father think / that they raised a healthy boy / — who needs the help of a shrink / to even leave the house” are lyrics from the title track.

Interviews with people who have been diagnosed with genuine depression seem to echo these exact thoughts. The person with depression is deeply concerned with other’s impressions if they were to find out about this medical condition. It’s something doctors explain away as perfectly natural and clinically common, but the person battling depression is still stuck fighting a stigma. I’ve heard it and read it in research papers time and time again, which makes me think that these thoughts weighed heavily on the minds of the band members as they put this album together.

There seem to be lots of personal glimpses throughout the album, and it’s always interesting to see topics like depression handled with care. An interesting departure on the album is the last track (on the 2006 version), called The Priest and the Matador. It’s a very slow song told from the perspective of a man who, evidently, had some sort of brain anurism and is about to die on the street, surrounded by strangers. “Here I lie / I’m staring at / clouds in shapes of / dogs and cats. / I hear a woman / start to yell / oh dear God, I / think he fell.” As the song reveals itself, the protagonist wishes he could get the religious figures around him to leave him alone – but what I find fascinating is that they include in the song how he won’t give up on our subject. The priest who rushes to his side, the stranger who wants to pray with him, and the unwillingness to cooperate. His certainty that religion isn’t going to save him – his conviction that he is beyond saving seems to contradict the album title, Still Searching. It seems clear that something bigger is wanted out of life, but the fear that religion might not be the thing to fill that gap is ever present. A battle many people in our society have.

But I’m not here to discuss religion with you. You can do that on your own, and while you discuss – give this 2006 “new classic” a listen, and see if you have a religious experience of your own.

2008 – Ludo – You're Awful I Love You

It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Back in 2008, Best Buy promoted Ludo’s album unlike almost any other album I’ve ever seen being specifically promoted by a big box store. I’m not sure what the big deal was, what Best Buy had at stake, but they pushed this album over and over. Outside of the commercials, I heard almost nothing about the band from anyone I knew. Lucky for you, I’ve been a long time fan of the band and actually liked that album quite a lot. I think it’s time you go back and give it a listen.

Ludo has that classical pop punk sound that you’ve gotten used to. Certainly a poppier sound than any emo band out there at the time, but a lot of their lyrics were very dark and filled with lament and loathing. You’re Awful I Love Youbegins with a track filled with backhanded compliments and the kinds of analogies that let you know that someone actually thought about the lyrics they were writing, rather than cranking them out so that just any artist who picked the song from a catalog could be the one to record it.

Ludo has been a band for a long time, and this was their national debut. While they may not appeal to everyone out there, if you like creative and unique lyrics you’re in for a treat. “I found God in a catalytic converter, in Topeka on a Monday night” is just one line that you genuinely think you could overhear in a place like Topeka. “Fill my soul with vomit then ask me for a piece of gum” is over the top for some people, but it does a great job of getting right to the point, doesn’t it? You know people like that, who are toxic for you and couldn’t care less what they are for you, it’s only about you are for them and what you can do for them.

Then you come to a song like Lake Pontchartrain, which feels like an epic story being told to song – all in a neat three and a half minute package. Listening to the story unfold makes you think you’ve listened to “that one six minute song on the album” and then you realize no time at all has passed, but you’ve been involved in a story that was so well written you were busy picturing it like a movie playing in your mind. After that, the band moves on to the next track. You don’t have time for the credits to roll, you’ve already been shuffled along to an upbeat song trying to help someone get through their heart break: “Love, such as it ends… into the flames we’ll start again.”

You’re Awful I Love You probably appeals more to teens, but musically and lyrically, it is a fairly creative and well crafted album. It’s extremely well produced, each track catchier than the last – at least for the first half of the album. The second half of the album feels a little slower and less energetic, but that’s not a bad thing after the pace the first half of the album set. You’re also given a nice treat which breaks from the darker imagery of the first several songs, when you have a luagh of the expense of a creeper. You know the type of guy, a “stage five creeper” as the girls on my college campus used to call guys like Go Getter Greg. “I haven’t seen you at the pool since the barbecue / Not that I’ve been checking / here’s the deal I’ve got this thing for work this weekend and I was wondering if you don’t have anything going on then maybe / okay, hey, that’s cool you’re busy but we should hit up Jose O’Flannigan’s for Jello Shots your call it’s okay not this week / but Monday…” It’s a series of pickup lines by the kind of guy who thinks he has the pick of the litter, but really has no idea how to talk to women. “You could use a guy like me in your life” the lyrics go, as we all have a laugh at the expense of Go Getter Greg. The video reminds you that there is no single “uniform” to identify a “creeper” like that – it could be anybody.

The album’s not perfect, and some people will pass on it as a bit of teeny-pop-punk. But give it a listen when you’re on a long drive some time, you’ll laugh along with some of the absurd lyrics and it’ll keep you awake and moving with the undeniably catchy hooks.

2004 – SR-71 – Here We Go Again

Lately, I’ve been so centered with nerdcore and underground type music in the Music Monday posts that I haven’t had a chance to share with you what is, strange as it may seem, one of my all time favorite albums. Yes, most people in America vaguely remember SR-71 as “that one band who had that one song about cellophane…” but I remember them for much more. Continue reading “2004 – SR-71 – Here We Go Again”

2011 – MC Lars – Lars Attacks

You can’t talk about nerdcore music without mentioning MC Lars. He may not be quite as well known as folks like MC Chris and MC Frontalot, but I can tell you one thing: he works just as hard as, if not harder than, either of them.

Lars should be known as the hardest working man in Nerdcore. He teaches, he raps, he makes videos, he supports causes that are close to his heart, and he’s even taken to writing editorial posts for HuffingtonPost. On his website, MCLars.com, he promotes things his fans are doing, and offers up instrumental recordings from his albums (making it easier for fans to make remixes), and likes to share what he’s been listening to.

His most recent full length album, Lars Attacks, proves that you can stay true to nerdcore while still being taken seriously as a musician and a rapper. As evidenced by the second track, The Gospel of Hip-Hop, where he is accompanied by special guest rapper, KRS-One. It doesn’t get much more “legit” than that, kids.

My exposure to MC Lars came through his other collaborative work, but the fact that his albums are inexpensive or available on a “name your price” kind of basis, it’s hard to resist. He’s been hard at work for over a decade and it’s fun to listen to him evolve musically. As with most bandcamp websites, you can stream before you buy and see what you like from his collection of works, so I don’t see any reason for you not to give MC Lars, and his latest full length album, Lars Attacks, a chance!