When I reviewed Ex Friends' Rules For Making Up Words last year, I mentioned that I really liked Audrey Crash's vocals, but was "kind of turned off by Joel Tannenbaum‘s delivery>' Well, here's the perfect solution: Crash is fronting a band called Pushin' It 2 The Limit. Their new, self-titled cassette is pretty boss. Short, punchy tunes that rush along, kind of like a punker Lemuria. The songs have pop hooks and catchy lyrics -- "Breaking through Everything with Your Facehammer" is an excellent example of how PI2TL works: lyrics about pushing through, being creatively fulfilled, sang with wobbly harmonies by Crash and guitarist Leta Gray. Everything's a little shaggy around the edges -- the band's a bit off-time on some cuts, like "Vertical Horizon," where it's a bit like the group recorded, and cared more for the relaxed feel than getting it precisely right. And, really -- I'm fine with that. This isn't a perfect album, but it's warm and fun, and definitely not limited by some idea of what's supposed to happen on an album. Hell, the trio noodles out on the end of "Vertical Horizon," then goes right into "Pump Up the Shred," which is a full-on skatepunk number. That's not following the rules. My favorite song features guest vocals from a cat named Winnie, and is a short, bouncy number called "Pushin' it 2 the Limit Saves the Fish." A cat! A cat on vocals. It's shit like this that makes this cassette super-fucking-charming, and fun, and while I was a little worried when I saw the cover art (it could've very easily have been bad retro hardcore), Pushin' It 2 The Limit play music that is exactly the sort of thing you want to put on, crank to the limit, and start your day off with some positive affirmations that also shred like whoah. Best part of the record is that the entire band shouts the title of each song before it kicks in. That thing, where you're listening to the album, and you have to keep pulling out of the card, case, sleeve, or whatever? No problem! You'll be yelling the titles along with the rest of the songs in no time. You can find more information about Pushin' It 2 The Limit at their Facebook page.
We've talked about asthetics I'm not down with before -- the whole Hot Water Music thing being beyond my comprehension, for example -- and I'm trying to figure out what it is about Ex Friends' full-length, Rules For Making Up Words, that turns me off. Just a few months back, I was excited beyond all belief regarding their Twisted Around 7-inch. Now, listening to this record that they've released on Paper + Plastick, I'm just kind of watching it tick by in iTunes, waiting for the damned thing to be over. For lack of a better thing, I think it's kind of like my Dillinger Four preferences. I love D4 songs with Paddy on vocals, and get kind of ambivalent toward Erik songs, but I'm pretty all right with songs where they both sing. Same thing goes for Ex Friends -- I love Audrey Crash's vocals, but am kind of turned off by Joel Tannenbaum's delivery. So, it goes that tracks like "Fight Like A Girl" or "Archaeologists of the Future," where Tannenbaum's rather harsh, strained voice is balanced by Crash's more melodic tones, are more to my liking than those where Tannenbaum handles vocals solo. It's likely that the balance on the 7-inch was more easily maintained, there only being 5 songs to the LP's 14. That said, I still like the swagger the band has. "Western Civilization" has that revved-up rock 'n' roll aspect that the Clash used to develop so well. Actually, that's why I was intitially turned on by Ex Friends -- they understand that, originally, punk rock was basically Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley songs played double- or triple-time, and when they lock into that idea, Rules For Making Up Words is fun as hell.
Other things to recommend the album include the really fantastic cover, looking like a bunch of ads you'd find in the back of an ancient Marvel comic or something. The whole of Ex Friends' full-length ends up being okay (especially just kind of fading out at the end of "Let's Get Old"), but there are about half a dozen gems to really recommend tracking it down if you liked that last 7-inch.
Rules For Making Up Words is out now on CD from Creep Records (theroretically -- I can't find it in their store), and will see vinyl release via Paper + Plastick later this spring.
The latest EP from Philadelphia's Ex Friends, Twisted Around, is an enthusiastic bit of punk rock which hearkens back to the '90s era of Gilman Street. It's street-punky and anthemic, with a rock 'n' roll -- not hardcore -- influence. Ex Friends have a hint of that Philly punk style one hears in the likes of Kid Dynamite or Paint It Black, but more along the lines of the Loved Ones. Ex Friends are lyrically simplistic, but the enthusiasm behind them make the entirety of this 7-inch an absolute joy to hear. Additionally, lyrically simplistic just means that after one listen to both sides, you're good to sing along, at least to the choruses. Although, in the case of "Vexed Question," you're good for the entire song. It's out now via Germany's Yo Yo Records, and is limited a pressing of 300 on black vinyl and features handprinted jackets designed by drummer JP Flexner. The lithograph cover is vibrant and striking, much like the music itself.