Review Rundown: For All Those Sleeping, Authority Zero, Walter Trout, Picture Me Broken and Street Sweeper Social Club

The next version of the Review Rundown takes some looks at new releases from For All Those Sleeping, Authority Zero, Walter Trout, Picture Me Broken and Street Sweeper Social Club.

File Under: Borderline Identity-less Metalcore/Pop-Punk
For All Those Sleeping - “Cross Your Fingers” (Fearless Records): “Cross Your Fingers,” the debut record from For All Those Sleeping, is a pretty beguiling and perplexing blend of potent, gang vocal pop-punk and somewhat contrived, and perhaps, forced metalcore, which causes you to wonder why the band opted for a mix as opposed to focusing more so on the former, not as much the latter. Still, you can look at it as the lesser of two evils in a sense, though the pop-punk moments on “Cross Your Fingers” aren’t as evil (literally) as the metalcore parts. The truth is, FATS are actually pretty good when they are in the catchy, clean vocal hook driven pop-punk arena (‘I Hate to See You Go,’ ‘He’s Dead Because Mommy Killed Him’). Sure, it may be cliché and pretty paint-by-numbers, though its head and shoulders more genuine than when the band ventures across the tracks into Attack Attack! or Wrath & Rapture mall-core territory. It’s then when things on “Cross Your Fingers” start to go wrong (‘Favorite Liar,’ ‘Janice, It Ain’t Funny’). Hell, the band even sound good channeling a heavy-hitting anthem like ‘Never Leave Northfield,’ firing off their best A Day to Remember impression, though, again, they would have been better off leaving the deathcore rumblings and growls at home, instead going for more the anthemic course. While the sing-a-long pop-punk stylings of “Cross Your Fingers” aren’t the most original you’ll find, the sonic path shows promise for the young outfit, ultimately representing a brighter future than all the other stuff this album presents in terms of sound. (
Grade: C
Go Download: ‘Outbreak of Heartache’

File Under: Infectious Groove Punk
Authority Zero – “Stories of Survival” (Viking Funeral Records): An album packed with addictive skate punk tunes infused with uber-catchy reggae twists, “Stories of Survival” is just more the same worthy old-school punk vibes Authority Zero have been cranking out for nearly two decades. It’s just the Mesa, AZ boys’ fourth studio offering to date, even though they have been doing what they do for 16 years. It is yet another group of quality cuts built perfectly for your boom box (or probably iPod) while you’re in the half pipe or empty pool, tracks that deftly blend influences of Latino, near-rap, rock and, of course, punk. The problem here is that songs like ‘A Day to Remember’ and ‘Break the Mold’ standout in order to give “Stories of Survival” its unique flavor and character, though moments such as these seem too few and far between. And while people will come to the record for classic Authority Zero like those songs, those same peeps will probably stay for a song like ‘Crashland,’ due to its Rancid-like qualities and general skate punk goodness. Skate fans, grab your deck and come one, come all to “Stories of Survival,” there’s more than enough to enjoy here. (
Grade: B-
Go Download: ‘Crashland’

File Under: Screamo with a Soft Side
Picture Me Broken – “Wide Awake” (Megaforce Records): It is easiest to think of “Wide Awake,” the debut full-length from Picture Me Broken, as a record of two truths. On one hand, it is true that you’ll realize these guys (and girl) need a little more time to season (just go ahead and chock that up to the fact that they are all only 17 years of age), yet on the other hand, you can clearly see that even now that they have some pretty sizeable chops, even if they need some rounding around the edges, smoothing out around the corners as it were. What’s also clear is that this band more then likely will only go as far as lead singer Layla Allman (yes, daughter of Gregg Allman, good job connecting the dots) will take them. Her incredibly strong and versatile voice can softly caress and carry and then careen like a head-on car crash in a moments notice. Sure, some of her songwriting is baffling, but that doesn’t take a whole lot away from both the presence and power she brings to “Wide Awake.” Some of the album is ultimately passable, but its worth cutting through to get to the admirable cuts, like ‘Forevermore,' 'Skin And Bones', Dead Serious’ and 'Dearest (I'm So Sorry),’ though the latter appears for a second straight outing having previously served as the title track of the bands debut EP. There’s no denying that this band could go places with Allman at the helm, and could end up being something special if they play their cards right and continue to allow themselves to grow. (
Grade: B
Go Download: ‘Skin and Bones’

File Under: Well Seasoned Blues
Walter Trout – “Common Ground” (Provogue): In an industry where bands and musicians are struggling to release records, veteran troubadour Walter Trout seems to be thriving, or at the very least making a strong go of it. Take his new record, “Common Ground,” as an example. This is Trout’s 20th album – yes, you read that right, 20th. And honestly, it is hard to say that he has become stale or has lost a step in any way, and actually, with “Common Ground,” Trout seems to be hitting his stride and gaining steam as it were. His latest offering is rife with a strong core built around a passionate personality, a common thread that runs throughout the disc, achieved through precise and gritty undertones that cut through on songs like ‘May Be a Fool’ and ‘Danger Zone.’ “Common Ground” isn’t just driven by such themes however, there are clear moments of beauty, songs along the way that halt the pace, adding another aspect to the music, songs like ‘Common Ground’ and ‘Hudson Had Help.’ Suffice to say, the record offers a variety of looks that include a heaping helping of blues (‘Wrapped Up in the Blues,’ ‘Excess Baggage’) and guitar driven anthems not short on intensity (‘Loaded Gun,’ ‘No Regrets’), all the while taking the time to remember someone who could not have done this all without – his guitar (‘Song for My Guitar’). “Common Ground” is a versatile and good-natured outing that should wet the whistle of more than a few listeners. (
Grade: B+
Go Download: ‘Loaded Gun’

File Under: Funky Rock/Hip-Hop Hybrid
Street Sweeper Social Club – “The Ghetto Blaster” EP (Warner): “The Ghetto Blaster” EP is a good release on its own accord, though it comes off more as uninspiring when looked at the follow-up to Street Sweeper Social Club’s eponymous debut from last year. One of the reasons uninspired pops up as an adjective to describe this release is because two of the better songs on it are covers - LL Cool J’s ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ and M.I.A.’s ‘Paper Planes.’ With Boots Riley behind the mic, SSSC do excel during these moments, shredding through them with a talented ease, its just the fact that two of the sevens songs on the EP aren’t the bands own diminishes how much the group is able to progress from release to release. But honestly, these covers are real good, especially ‘Mama Said Knock You Out.’ However, it’s not as if the original material contained here is in any way lacking. Riley, and partner-in-crime Tom Morello, dazzle on songs ‘Everythang’ and ‘the New F**k You,’ with Riley showing off some of his renowned creativity and lyrical imagination, firing off lines like “hip-hop is the new rock, revolution is the new f**k you.” As is Riley’s bag, his hooky, and repetitious rhyming returns, again laid atop a sturdy bed of Morello’s intricate guitars and over-the-top soloing. So, all in all, it’s not all bad, it’s just semi-disheartening to see that two of the album’s better cuts are covers, which really makes their next release all that more important. (
Grade: B-
Go Download: ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’