Published on January 18th, 2011 | by Jack5
Review: Death To False Hope Records
I like most music, but I grew up listening to pop punk such as Blink-182, MxPx, and NOFX. These bands got me interested in music, made me explore different punk bands ranging from the 70’s to the 90’s. Somehow, though, pop punk took a bad turn over the past few years. Bands seem to be using heavy synthesizers, auto-tune, annoyingly high-pitched vocals, and blinding neon t-shirts in their music. This has led me astray from pop punk, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because now I can explore jazz, folk, and other countless genres, but it is nice to go back to your roots. Thankfully, a newer record label, Death to False Hope Records [DFHR], has been signing and promoting bands that have the sound of the great pop-punk bands of my youth.
It might be odd to review bands based solely on what label the bands are on, but if it wasn’t for labels such as Fat Wreck, SST, Epitaph, and Dischord, I would not have discovered many of the bands and artists I love. I tend to seek out the smaller labels because they do not have the signing power of larger companies. Warner and Sony can sign whomever they please, but the bands they sign tend to be based off financial decisions. However, smaller labels have limited resources, so if a band is promoted, I assume there is a reason. Maybe the reason is to promote art, a community, or to hope the next band can make it big. In this case, DFHR seems to fall into the earlier categories.
In an e-mail interview, one owner, Scotty, mentioned that the ethics of a band plays a large role into who the label promotes. Speaking of ethics, did I mention that every release on DFHR is free? I am in school for Library Science now and I see a huge uprising of digital distribution in the near future. Copyright and distribution laws are based off old media laws now, which is why the RIAA can sue people for millions for downloading a handful of songs. However, with the rise of Youtube, Facebook, and a sundry of DIY methods of promotion, distribution will change. Furthermore, perceptions of fame are changing. Our celebrities are not defined by having millions of fans anymore. I’m writing this article because I am a fan of Cabin Fever, Need Coffee, Mars Needs, and FRED Entertainment. While these people might be “celebrities” to me, who has really heard of J.J. Hawkins? A few hundred awesome people I assume, but we haven’t seen the photos of him getting out of his car without panties then proceeding to snort lines of coke in a Los Angeles bar on CNN. And that isn’t important to me. I care about people with cool ideas who do cool things, and I think more people do too with the rise and ease DIY distribution. DFHR understands this. This does not mean that the label and the bands do not want to make money. Instead, there is the option of donating directly to the bands. The label does not make money off of the music, but the bands keep coming back to release more songs on the label, thus allowing fans to support who they want rather than force feeding an arbitrary person to the masses. This makes me believe that DFHR is more of a promotional website than it is a traditional record label, which isn’t a bad thing because they promote great music.
I guess it is time for me to stop talking about the record label and start talking about the music. There are a great number of releases on DFHR, but I’ll pick out five that I most enjoy.
Glory Bound – Glory Bound
Glory Bound is a little less pop punk because they have a heavier sound. However, there is a country twang to their songs, which reminds me of Against Me! This comparison is definitely favorable. The country elements are even found in their lyrics when they speak about alcoholism, failure, and depression. I guess these themes can be universal in punk as well, but I never really thought about it until now. Glory Bound has apparently helped me hear the similarities of punk and country (I don’t mean Kenny Chesney by the way). When a band can do that, the band deserves credit.
Highlight: “…Like a Grenade?” The message behind this song captures what I believe I am trying to point in my article and the ethics of DFHR. The idea is that people have to work hard at what they love when it can be hard, you can go unpaid for work, and when the work seems hopeless. Without the hard work involved, it is easy to fall into mediocrity. “If I could only be half the man my idols are, / I’d be a piss drunk, flat broke, never fucking was / with a grin and a guitar. / Tell the kids to get their shit together if they want / to make it far away from mediocrity.”
Hold Tight! – To the Kittens
The music reminds me of the days when emo was not a lame fashion style, but a new, interesting musical genre that created a common ground between punk rock and grunge. Hold Tight! is similar to Jawbreaker in that respect. The music is loud and dirty, which might be caused by a small recording budget, but that doesn’t take away from the passion of the band.
There are some great uses of pop-culture references throughout the album. The first song is titled “That’s No Moon,” which immediately pulls the Star Wars fan in me. The song “Cornered” also starts with a snippet of Jim Halpert from The Office.
Highlight: I already mentioned “Cornered,” but it’s my favorite song off the release. It is a short acoustic track, which makes it stand out. Further, the song is filled with optimism as it starts with the line “What do you do when the means to the end starts to feel like the end? / Just hold on ‘cause there’s another day right around the corner / And this one might feel okay.” While these are simple lyrics, it is a good uplifting message for a bad day.
Hold Tight! Recently released a full-length on DFHR called Can’t Take This Away. Be sure to give that a listen.
Success! – Success
This album features a comfortable blend between hardcore punk, pop-punk, and 1970’s punk. There are buzzing guitars, slow guitars, moving bass, and steady bass. None of the songs fit into one generic mold. Rather, each song explores different areas of punk to make for a very listenable full-length record. The vocal style reminds me of Al Barr from The Dropkick Murphy’s – very gritty and rough like a heavy smoker, which fit the many politically conscious songs on the record. There are also punk rock sing-a-long elements as far as vocals and lyrics are concerned. Unlike Direct Hit and Mixtapes, the sing-a-longs are better suited in a small venue than an arena. Both styles have their place and Success! performs their style well. There are also some geeky references in the album. For example, the song “Revolution Schmevolution” offers a small criticism of Batman, which might be interesting for this crowd.
Highlight: “Trains Planes and Bicycle-Mobiles” is the opening track that sets the tone of the record. ”I’ll sing for all of you who couldn’t sing before me” is a line displays the political consciousness of Success!
Direct Hit – #4
This release is fast, aggressive, and holds some arena rock elements reminiscent of The Replacements. The overall sound is punk, featuring a seemingly never stagnant bass, and the buzz saw guitars are a call back to The Ramones. However, the riffs seem like they can be played for large audiences. In addition, the lyrics involve heavy word play and wit, yet are sung in an anthem type manner, which increases potential hilarity when some of the lyrics are as bleak and depressing as Alkaline Trio songs.
Highlight: “In Orbit” is a song that strongly fits the imagery of The Website of Doom, including rocket ships and comic books, which are great images in a love song. Yes. A love song. Why do I say it is a love song? Just look at the chorus. “When we could just stay up all night before we sleep all day / and forget about our planet, blown away / Cause it’s just me and you and a small robot crew / that serves us tea for two in the orbit of the moon.” It is great when a band can take a non-traditional approach to one of the most cliché lyrical themes.
Be sure to check out their other release, #5, on DFHR.
Mixtapes – Maps
Finally, there is a pop-punk band with a good female vocalist. Mixtapes features vocal sharing jobs from Maura and Ryan, and be assured, Maura is no Hayley Williams. Her voice is grungy and dirty, but still a treat for the ears. In fact, Ryan’s voice is really smooth in comparison, so the voices really compliment each other in the harmonies. In many ways, Mixtapes are everything I love about The Thermals – fast, fun, and upbeat pop-punk with witty lyrics and vocal sharing duties with a guy and gal. However, I get tired of The Thermals easily because their lyrics tend to bash religion. While I am not religious, I find it boring to listen to a one sided fight for ten songs in a row. Thankfully, Mixtapes leave the extensive religion beatings out of the music.
One element that makes Maps a fun record is that it is fast. When I say “fast” I do not mean the speed found in a Ramones live record, but there are 10 songs played in just 18 minutes. The songs never reach a point of stale repetition because there is no room. Despite the short length, the songs are full. The lyrics get to the point quickly and the music doesn’t linger.
Much like Direct Hit, the vocals are sung in an anthem like manner, which can help reach masses. With nearly 2,000 downloads, Maps is one of the most, if not the most, popular record on DFHR. The production is great and clean, but that doesn’t take away from the pop-punk fun.
Highlight: “And If We Both Fail?” Once again, I am choosing the acoustic song off a pop-punk record, but the harmonies are beautiful and display the full potential of the vocals. The lyrics hit home too because there is a theme about maturing while still being young throughout the record – this song is no different. Caffeine puts me to sleep / I know it’s weird but I keep / thinking maybe I was born at the wrong time / hey we’ll make the best of the days / I’m broke cause I don’t get paid / until Friday, so tonight we’re hanging out / in the yard.”
Speaking of Mixtapes and Direct Hit, they have released a 7″ split single together. You can find it on Kind of Like Records.
I hope this article has intrigued you and has made you explore a record label and some bands that might have gone unnoticed. I want to thank Scotty from DFHR for the e-mail interview. Please donate to some of the bands you enjoy. Furthermore, if this article is posted in time, and you are in the Durham, NC area, Scotty asked me to point out that DFHR is having a festival featuring many of their bands, Less Than Jake, and solo shows from members The Lawrence Arms and Smoke or Fire. Tickets can be purchased at www.motorcomusic.com.