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Probably one of the best and most detail laden interviews we’ve gotten so far.
Thanks so much Jay Snyder and Hellride!
Victory and Associates – Better Luck Next Life (Seismic Wave Entertainment)
By Jay Snyder
October 31, 2013
This one turned out to be a nice surprise. I knew nothing about Oakland/San Franciscan punk rockers Victory and Associates before I let their hard rockin’, good time mosh attack unleash a full kicking on my senses. They’ve had a few other releases, and Better Luck Next Life is their latest one. To me it sounds like Bad Religion’s best melodic stuff (Against the Grain) mixed with the Dead Kennedy’s quirky aggression, Avail’s blue-collar sing-a-longs, the atonal yelp of Quicksand, and some old classic riff rock thunder. Updating the crunch is that noisy, heavy groove thickness utilized by bands like Federation X, Torche, Liquid Limbs, and Karp. It’s probably no shocker that Toshi Kasai (The Melvins, Big Business) twiddled the knobs for this album. Yeah, I totally wasn’t expecting to like this disc, what with the generic album cover, and all… But shit son, this is pretty good…played with fiery instrumentation full of explosive guitar solos/leads, a fluid bass presence, tricky drumming, and booming production that really pushes that rhythm section to the frontlines at all times (as well as the dueling guitars of Conan Neutron and Shane Otis).
Opener, “We’ll Have To Be Our Own Heroes,” represents the band’s expert merging of varied rock n’ roll techniques. The loud, clear, yet gritty and gravelly production perfectly separates the quartet’s tones, while a central riff gives the listener a mud bath of fuzzy 90s scuzz. It’s a familiar riff with that swooping, claw drawn tenacity of Karp’s best stuff floating to the top of the pond. A psychedelic, well aerated guitar melody comes into focus with tonal cues culled from straight-up punk (the economic, anarcho-laden rhythms, and sung/melodically shouted vocals of Mr. Neutron) and Otis’ lead guitar striving for a distinct 70s direction overflowing with harmonic hooks. Churning, chunky rock riffs break up the gracious melodies, and the duo of bassist/vocalist Evan Gritzon (who also contributes soaring harmony vocals) and drummer Mouse Menough put on a clinic of shifty, progressive accents marked by all over the kit fills that thrash the shit out of the snares n’ cymbals with ample support provided by effervescent, ever-changing bass lines. The whole affair reminds me of really good punk rock fluxed by the overdriven distortion of The Melvins and pretty much every band related to them.
“Ignore Button” is an adrenaline gland chewing punk n’ roll jam with raging solos, cranking percussion packed with twitchy, super busy rolls/fills and out of control bass riffs (there’s just riffs in general strewn throughout) jockeying ol’ paint straight to the nearest glue factory. This reminds me of the Dead Kennedy’s with the chord straining, yelling/singing vocal melodies of Conan having a similar expressive push akin to Jello, and alongside the smooth backing harmonies, one strong verse and chorus after another is crafted. Musically, it’s even more traditionally rocked-out than the DKs with a few of the riffs and noisy leads echoing of no nonsense hard rock. Lyrically, it’s also a gemstone of prose dedicated to assholes that just don’t seem to know when to quit talking once they’re already in a steel trap of a fix.
The off-time, off-kilter low-end runs and jazzy snare/tom jukes of “Weightless and Pointless” instigate some real troublesome, harmonized licks and vaguely rock n’ roll riffs which call to mind a stonerized version of Fugazi. A tapestry of solos, and echo enhanced melodies are beaten into place by the unstoppable sticksmanship of Mouse, with the vocals possessing a sarcastic, slick howl throughout. The closing riffs pair punk-rock, three-chord progressions with a dazzling solo, the pacing and tonality of the band’s spunky groove halted to a churning, fuzz-blasted hobble. What I really dig about these guys are that the guitarists do much more than simply mirror each other, the same goes double for the bassist…they’ll play in tandem when need be, but eventually each individual player steps out with a nuclear charged, “soloist” sort of contribution. The chemistry they’ve developed over the years is simply top-notch, and the production is glossy enough so zero notes are lost in hyperspace without the sacrifice of the necessary sediment that holds good rock n’ roll together.
Utilizing that sort of stop/start pacing and broken riffage that found a home on Am-Rep (the more I listen, the more these guys remind me of the underrated Guzzard), “Everything’s Amazing (Nobody’s Happy)” barges its way through a saloon door of swinging slide guitar licks and mid-tempo punk-rock. The melodic layering of the twin axes often rises and swells in the fine tradition of My Bloody Valentine, frequently encompassing the wall of sound tactic used by genre bands during the late 80s to mid 90s, but always going back to the slam of the almighty riff. Much of the same can be said about, “Exasperated Inc.,” which shambles along at about the same tempo, but intersperses a fuzzy, sunlit psychedelia into its shaggy haired groove. The 2nd half of the album is plenty good with faster punk oriented tracks like “End of Memory,” and “A Cheeky Little Wish for your Attention” pouring on the coal of speed and quick riffs, “For Serious,” and “Taste the Danger” psyching out the guitar-work, and “Are We Having Fun Yet’s” tasty knack for massive choruses, metallic guitar harmonizations, and gruff pop-punk artillery. There’s not a bum track in the batch, and there’s a lot of appeal to the open minded listener throughout.
Yeah, didn’t expect to like this, but Better Luck Next Life is such a well-written, energetic album I couldn’t resist. This could ALMOST be on the radio…it should be, but it might just be too ambitiously composed and hard-nosed for that fate. If you want to hear a punk album with sing-a-long melodies that doesn’t sound like some shitty Blink 182 or Avenged Sevenfold imitation, you should definitely check out Victory and Associates.
Visit the Victory and Associates website at www.victoryandassociates.com