Vendetta Red Feature From The Inlander

Seeing Red

Vendetta Red thinks they never got a fair shake, but they’re trying one more time.

It was 2003, and it was gonna be Vendetta Red’s year. The Seattle pop screamo outfit was set to release its major-label debut Between the Never and the Now. Screamo looked to be on the verge of a mainstream breakthrough.

The band hired hit-making producer Jerry Finn (Blink-182, Sum 41) to polish some of their best songs — songs they were sure were winners. And the band was even featured on a Pepsi radio ad as an act that was going to break out that summer.

But success never came. It would be one thing if this was due to the end product being weak, but that was hardly the case. Between the Never and the Now was (and remains) the pinnacle of melodic screamo. The fact that no one seemed to dig it shocked the band’s singer, Zach Davidson.

“As a songwriter, I always thought that my music, as extreme as my lyrical content can be, could be commercial. I always thought my music could be on the radio just as much as the Smashing Pumpkins,” he says. “So it was really surprising when, after we released a record and finally got a major label contract, nobody gave a f—.”

“It was devastating, to be quite honest.” Part of Davidson’s resentment stems from the success of bands borrowing bits from Vendetta Red’s melodic scream blueprint.

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Top 50 Albums of 00s (50-41)

So as someone that writes about music, it turns out I’m contractually obligated to make a “Best Albums of the Decade” list. I was unaware such fictitious contracts existed, but I fear the faux, so here we go.

A quick explanation on the ranking criteria:

This list is very much my own. You be able to tell because almost nothing on here will match in the slightest with most best of lists you read. But I want this to be authentic in a way I don’t find a lot of those countdowns. To me these types of lists should be based on a combination of two main factors: listenability/enjoyability and pure artistic merit (in that order).

To explain that in simplest terms, you won’t find Radiohead on this list. Why? Because even though there music is hyper-intelligent and brimming with artistic aesthetics, do I often find myself sitting down to listen to Kid A? No. That music doesn’t keep me coming back again and again, I don’t connect with it, so why should I put it above things that I listen to constantly?

With that in mind, here are the first 10 (plus one) of my top 50 albums of the 00s.

Honorable Mention

The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show – Blink-182

I left Blink-182’s live album off my list for two reasons: It made it so that all 50 albums are of the studio vareity and, secondly, because I would probably rank it too damn high. If you weren’t in middle school when this came out it is almost impossible to explain how perfect this album is at capturing that confused and immature time period. Boasting some incredibly slick live production, the album blends Blink’s best early pop punk tunes with a consistent barrage of stage banter jokes bandied about between Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge. While the jokes are dirty and dumb, it’s hard not to laugh if you don’t take yourself to serious. Add in hits like “Adam’s Song” and “Dammit” (along with the underrated studio track “Man Overboard”), and The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show is a total entertainment package.

50. Detox – Treble Charger

Lost in the great white north of Canada, Treble Charger was a pop punk act with no desire to reach anyone in the states. As a result, very few Americans have had a chance to hear Detox, which is just a shame. Beginning with the blitz of “Hundred Million” the album delivers a fierce blend of pop punk that is a slice above many of the band’s more well know American “peers.” Could most deliver something a sneakily sinister as “The Downward Dance”? Something as ambiently sprawling as “Drive”? Nope. Detox is a proud feather maple leaf in the Canucks’ caps.

49. Patent Pending – Heavens

What if Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba fronted Interpol? You’d get something akin to Heavens. Consisting of Skiba and Josiah Steinbrick, the duo only released one record but they made sure it counted. Steinbrick’s instrumental arrangements paint a dark and intricate background which Skiba was able to tease details out of. His lyrics are at his macabre best (especially on “Counting,” “Another Night,” and “Leave”) and his vocals gently float across the soundscape in a way that wouldn’t fit with Alkaline Trio. Patent Pending is simultaneously haunting and inviting exhibiting an ability to draw in a listener into its world again and again.

48. Tenacious D – Tenacious D

Some albums are just so epically self-aware of their epicness that there’s point denying it. When Jack Black and Kyle Gass combined forces to become Tenacious D the world was forever shaken (or at least, I believe that’s how they’d put it). Utilizing a two acoustic guitar attack in accord with Black’s powerful vocals, The D rips through songs and skits mainly about how badass and sexual they are. It’s easy to forget how much this album penetrated (yes, penetrated) pop culture. If you don’t think the majority of young adult males have a working familiarity with “Fuck Her Gently,” well you don’t know many young guys. Sure the whole album is completely ridiculous, but who ever said everything has to be so serious? Long live Tenacious D.

47. All Killer No Filler – Sum 41

All Killer No Filler represents a kind of pure about pop punk. Made by four of kids from Ontario, the album overflows with youthful bliss. They don’t try to hard to be anything they are not, they’re kids making songs about being kids. The topics of songs are refreshingly straight forward, be it sleeping in (“Heart Attack”) or how adult pressure leads to laziness (“Motivation”). The idea of them doing a rap song (“Fat Lip”) or an 80s speed metal tune (“Pain For Pleasure”) doesn’t seem absurd because, well, they aren’t trying to impress or appeal to adults in the slightest. It all works because the bands melodic chops (and occasional guitar shredding skills) are honed on a level that defies the band members’ ages. This isn’t youth in revolt, it’s youth in acceptance of who they are.

46. Autopilot Off [EP] – Autopilot Off

Sure it’s short, but Autopilot Off’s self-titled EP packs a wallop into a fleeting few songs. Armed with singer Chris Johnson’s bass-baritone vocals, the group tears through powerful pop punk tracks including “Long Way To Fall,” “Nothing Frequency,” and “Wide Awake” on their way to the best EP of the decade. Chunky power chord riffs rule the day here, as passion and an authentic feel make Autopilot Off the band that the early 00s pop punk surge forgot.

(Full review here.)

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Finch Feature For The Inlander

After the Boom
Finch thinks screamo can exist without the skinny jeans and flatirons

“We don’t all have the coolest haircuts. And we don’t have the tightest jeans… We wear other cool band shirts, but just the hair… Give us a chance even though we don’t have good haircuts.”

That’s what Alex Linares has to offer as a ringing endorsement for his band, Finch.

It’s a sarcastic statement, but it’s one that expresses the odd position that Finch occupies in their genre’s landscape. The group toes a tenuous line: They’re respected by scads of younger bands — who’ve borrowed sonically from Finch’s breakout album, 2002’s What It Is To Burn — but have a distinct aesthetic from than the bands they’ve influenced.

In the early 2000s, screamo was an up-and-coming genre in alternative rock circles, and Finch became one of the first bands to be slapped with the label. Used to describe a multitude of dissimilar bands, screamo (screaming + emo = screamo) essentially referred to anything that mixed screaming vocals with any type of melodic punk.

For a minute there, Finch and other bands like Thursday and the Used received a lot of ink: Screamo was slated to be “the next big thing.” Seattle’s Vendetta Red even had a nationally run Pepsi radio spot. But that was kind of it: The genre never really took off in the way that many expected it to. While hundreds of bands popped up to ape the style and fill the Warped Tour’s lineup, the genre’s mainstream chances had died within a couple years. What was once getting magazine covers and late night talk show appearances had become a niche genre.

And Finch is happy it did. Continue reading