The independent music company, Black Numbers, has recently released a Grey Area/Go Rydell split that, while not packed, holds some really good tunes. It’s an excellent jumping on point for hardcore punk fans who may have overlooked either band or a great addition for those that are already well on their way to building their Grey Area or Go Rydell collection.
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Grey Area is a collection of former NYHC guys who eventually got together to make a more “mature” sound. This basically means they sing, rather than scream, over slightly subdued hardcore riffs. The most obvious comparison is something like Lifetime. But, the singing style has no whine and the lyrics aren’t all about girls. Ernie’s style is usually a very general introspection about life and relationships that’s easy to compare to Face to Face.
Fanbelt Algebra was an album that was handed to me years ago and is one that really struck a chord with me when I was still figuring out my own musical tastes. The two songs on this split could easily be shuffled right in with that classic album and you’d never notice that they were recorded 10 years later. Grey Area is obviously a band that knows their sound and doesn’t need reach drastically outside the box in order to write compelling new songs. That in itself is refreshing when we’ve all picked up our favorite band’s new album only to be dumbfounded by their “new sound”.
It’s a shame they only have two songs on the split as both are great. “Bliss” is a little stronger both vocally and lyrically, while “No Guarantees” is more energetic musically. Both retain classic hardcore nods, but you always know that the focus is on more traditional song writing. For this reason, they’d be great songs to give to a friend who has never been able to get into harder music. There is just enough there that they might be intrigued. Also, if Grey Area isn’t a band you’re familiar with yourself, go back and listen to the older song “Colossus”. It’s one of my all-time-faves, as is the band itself.
Go Rydell is a younger hardcore punk band from Orlando whose first release, The Golden Age, features a sound that uncannily resembles Kid Dynamite. By that, of course, I mean it’s full of super awesome, energetic, youthful, and anthemic songs. The only criticism you could really even give it is how similar it does sound to Shorter, Faster, Louder.
The three songs on the split, however, seem to show the beginnings of a more unique sound. Both the voice and music seem to have gained tonal qualities that differentiate them from the Kid Dynamite comparison. And, despite two songs being only 47 seconds long, the general tempo of each song seems to be slower (compared to the frantic pace of their former release). They don’t sound like a different band, by any means. But they do sound different. And, despite my love of The Golden Age, I think it’ll be great for them moving forward as a band. The three songs they have on the split actually equal up to less time than the two Grey Area songs, but all three are easy to digest and worth seeking out. Both “FOX and The Hounds” and “Not Cool, McCool” take a non-cyclical approach to song structure. Who says you have to repeat your verse and chorus three times? They do these quick hitters, a staple of the genre, as good as anyone else. But, they also prove, with “Battery Park”, that they can write a more traditionally configured song with a catchy chorus that you’ll want to repeat over and over again. But, what is especially striking is their ability to sound both new and familiar throughout all three songs. That is not an easy thing to do, but there is a passion and raw love for this genre in all of their songs that makes the music sound current. They aren’t just paying homage to the bands and kind of music they love, they are carrying that sound forward.
I’m really happy that these guys did a split together. In this one package you get old-school hardcore guys playing turn-of-the-millennium style hardcore punk next to a young, modern band doing their own new take on that very genre. I won’t go as far as to use the cliché “passing of the torch”, but the juxtaposition is a reminder of how much the bands we love effect the music we listen to and make today. There’s a heritage at play in these five songs, one that has produced, and continues to produce, some really excellent music.
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