Thursday, February 16, 2012

Classics of Love - Classics of Love

If you don’t know who the Classics of Love are, then I’m not entirely sure how you came across this review blog in the first place. But, it’s definitely a part of my job as a reviewer to assume that there are some people who need filled in, so here it goes:

Jesse Michaels was the vocalist of 80s East Bay ska-punk geniuses Operation Ivy and made a name for himself pretty quickly. After the band disbanded, Jesse wasn’t really involved in too much musically for quite some time until like ten years or so ago when he focused his creative energy on a band known as Common Rider. They were basically a more developed and advanced version of what Operation Ivy sounded like and represented. They were awesome. Well, they also disbanded and a couple years ago Mike Park from Asian Man Records hooked Jesse up with the guys from the punk band Hard Girls and apparently it was a match made in heaven because they became Classics of Love:  an awesome as fuck punk band reminiscent of the East Bay music scene and the Jesse Michaels style and lyrics we’ve all come to love and respect.

Now we are up to date and ready to actually talk about the new, self-titled Classics of Love debut full length.

Pardon my vulgarity, but IT'S FUCKING GREAT. Feedback is pumped into your ears the moment you turn the album on, and it's quickly followed by what is probably the most Operation Ivy esque music Jesse Michaels has had his name on since, well, Operation Ivy. The only thing missing from it that would make it a complete throwback to the olden days would be if there were any ska thrown into mix...well, you need only to wait for the next song to come on to be greeted with ska-punk awesomeness. These two songs do pretty much sounds exactly like what it would've been like if Operation Ivy would've stuck around, but you honestly shouldn't let that shit fool you, because the album doesn't just grab onto one style of music and white knuckle clutch it-this album bounces around between punk and rock subgenres so seemlessly it could confuse the shit out of a narrow minded music critic in a heart beat. (Am I the only one who thinks there's a lot of Assorted Jelly Beans influence in the second song, by the way? I can't possibly be.)

Every song on this album does exactly what the audience wants it to do, and not in some sort of, "oh, I know what's about to happen next!" sort of way, either. More like the listener can barely contain their excitement when something in one of the songs goes absolutely perfectly. You can honestly chalk this album up as another awesome punk album to add to your collection, but you might find yourself wanting to be a bit more inclusive with the classification process when you get to the half-way point in the album. "Moving Pictures" feels like a mix between The Shins, Fugazi, Common Rider, and just about any blend of indie and punk you could possibly think up. Jesse Michaels referred to it in an interview as the "heavy rock" song that made the cut for the album. Of course, this odd musical excursion is immediately followed by another meat and potatoes punk song, "It Will Not Be Moved."

Jesse's vocals have definitely improved greatly over the year, and if anything he's gained MORE energy since the days of Operation Ivy, Big Rig, and Common Rider. Maybe it's just the awesome addition of the Hard Girls dudes into the musical blender? That's probably it. "Bandstand" is another very Operation Ivy/Assorted Jelly Beans-esque ska-punk number, and includes all the catchiness and assumed importance that the rest of the songs carry in abundance. This ska-punk ordeal is followed by one of the catchier songs on the album, "Would-Be Kings". It's just another song that is heavier in the rock side than most. I just wanted to point this song out especially for the variety it displays and for just how damn good it is.

If you're more into the 80s punk influence that this band has to offer, you could probably do well to just listen to "Dissolve" and "Last Strike" on repeat. These songs sounds like if Black Flag were about 10 times better than they ever were, and if cotton candy could be marketed in a musical format.

The last song on this album, "We Need a Change", proves once and for all that there's nothing wrong with another political punk song. The lyrics are very reminiscent of Operation Ivy, while the only thing about the music that brings Op Ivy to mind would just be Jesse's vocals. The lyrics are very direct and feel as important as Michaels has always made things feel to us. I know I have a few friends who have these awkward reservations about political and social statements being displayed on top of music they'd absolutely love otherwise, but I have to disagree with their stance against this phenomenon. I grew up on politically fueled punk bands and even though I've gone a different direction with my own music and with much of the bands I listen to, it's still something that I enjoy and hold very close to my heart and brain. Jesse Michaels has once stated that music is an indirect force for change, and it warms my heart to know that he still holds this as truth to this day. The new Classics of Love albums is one of those albums that feels more like an event in your life. Very much like the first time you were listening to Operation Ivy, or some other punk band you came across in your youth, and something clicked in your head and things just made sense and you could feel yourself becoming more self aware and growing as a person. Maybe this album only has that effect on life long fans of Jesse Michaels, but maybe this album will have that effect on the younger crowd in the same way older albums had an effect on the slightly older crowd. I don't know. I guess what's really important here is that this album is pretty damn good and you should get your hands, digitally or physically, on a copy of it as soon as possible. For real.

Oh god. I just ended a review with, "for real."


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