AGAINST ME! Americans Abroad!!! Against Me!!! Live In London!!! (Fat Wreck Chords) Rating: NNN
Fans of Against Me! know the sometimes irreverent, sometimes politically charged punk-rock-'n'-folk band's real draw is their high-energy live shows, and after three albums they've got enough material to fill a live record with fan favourites like Reinventing Axl Rose, Don't Lose Touch and Cliche Guevara. Situated somewhere between sweaty working-class punk like the Clash and folky country, Against Me! rip it up live, especially on what may be one of the funnest-sounding audience sing-alongs ever for the beyond-catchy Sink, Florida, Sink. Save for the dodgy sound quality, this should appeal both to new and long-time fans.
BLOOD BROTHERS Young Machetes (V2) Rating: NNN
Singers Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blilie make one unmistakably distinct vocal tandem. The combination of Whitney's insanely high register and Blilie's throat-burn blast gets more confounding with each new record. However, the problem with having two hands-free screamy singers is that no one's pratising any moderation. Save for a few minutes near the end, almost every second of Machetes gets smothered with their vocal duelling; the songs are never allowed to come up for air. Produced by Fugazi's Guy Picciotto and John Goodmanson, the album could use a bit more of guitarist Cody Votolato, bassist/guitarist Morgan Henderson and drummer Mark Gajadhar back there behind Whitney and Blilie. That said, the Seattleites do work their neo-hardcore formula optimally on most tracks, in particular Set Fire To The Face On Fire, while downshifting the frenetics somewhat and moving further toward Whitney's glammy pop curiosity, as on Street Wars.
THE DRAFT In A Million Pieces (Epitaph) Rating: NNNN
Hot Water Music sort of cooled to lukewarm on their last two albums, so when news came that co-frontman Chuck Ragan was leaving, most assumed the Gainesville road dogs were done. Well, yes, but not really. The Draft consists of the three remaining members, including singer/guitarist Chris Wollard and new rhythm axeman Todd Rockhill; logically, they sound near-identical to HWM. The bromance gang vocals, chip-on-the-shoulder post-punk and fist-pump breakdowns are all here. But there's an unmistakable sense of revitalization under the bedrock. Wollard taps into his full creative force instead of the 50 per cent he drew on in HMW; tracks like Out Of Tune and New Eyes Open are among his career best.