Album Review: Punk quintet finds the right mix

When I first heard The A.K.A.s they were opening for Anti-Flag. They stuck out like a sore thumb on a bill that included The Unseen and The Casualties. While The Unseen and The Casualties played mundane street-punk, and Anti-Flag rocked their politics-heavy punk-rock, The A.K.A.s played protest music in a way I’ve never heard before, incorporating grooves and an immediate catchiness while retaining the snarl and spirit of late-70s punk. The A.K.A.s play dance punk the way it should be played (The Bravery and The Faint should be taking notes).

Everybody Make Some Noise is the band’s second release and a solid follow-up to 2003’s acclaimed White Doves and Smoking Guns. On this album, the lyrical content is geared more toward rebelling against societal norms and being oneself.

The A.K.A.s live stage presence comes through on the tracks, capturing the ability to shake the crowd and command them, reminiscent of The Hives. Ski’s swagger draws an immediate comparison to former (International) Noise Conspiracy frontman Dennis Lyxzen.

"Everything is a Commercial" is a sing along rallying against the commercialism of our material culture, featuring a spoken-word introduction by former Dead Kennedys singer and spoken-word artist, Jello Biafra.

Biafra isn’t the only guest vocalist on the album, as #2 from Anti-Flag and JT Woodruff of Hawthorne Heights lend their voices.

"We really have a bizarre set of guest appearances on out record," Ski said in a press release. "Having three people that would never be in the same room together appear on our album and each bring something incredible to the songs is a proud moment."

Outlaw’s keys drive the songs and set them apart from guitar-based three-chord rock’n’roll, as evident on "Paranoia is a Skill." The synth is eerily catchy; like your local church organ player hitting the notes with sharp precision and speed. The song once again tackles the subject of not conforming to mainstream culture.

The A.K.A.s strengths lie in their ability to construct catchy choruses with driving melodies, distorted rifts and a steady dose of synthesizer. The problem is it is hard to distinguish between some songs, making them sound like a single track, thus negating the band’s messages.

The first single, "Dead Flowers Forever" is a pop-infused track about lost love.

"Valentines Day, Halloween nights / These are supposed to be the best days of our life, but we’re stuck in the middle," Ski sings with help from Woodruff. The A.K.A.s are a band that could be "stuck in the middle." Do they continue with the current formula or should they utilize their unique instrumentation further?

The band has many messages, but maybe the most important is finding yourself, as Ski states in a press release.

"While other bands are busy writing music just to get laid, paid, or played on the radio, we challenged ourselves and everyone else to be fearless, fierce, and have fun … finding your voice and using it to live out loud," he said.

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