How We Got Through: July 2017

Alien: Covenant

I can’t really make a fair judgement on this as I have never seen any of the others. Despite that, I did recognise a lot of scenes from this that seemed to be taken straight out of the other films in the series.

ASDF

Funny, easy to get through, and kind of quotable too. Great youtube series.

Baby Driver

The opening scene alone ranks it among one of the best films of the year. Very well done. Great films usually inspire you into film-making. I think this has the opposite, this is like “yeah we can’t match that”. Bound to inspire a lot of poorly-done imitators.

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Canadian Bacon

Not the best film ever but a great time-waster. The kind of film which I could see buying on VHS from a boot fair in the 90’s. Some great jokes, and very unsubtle. Odd that this is seen as a John Candy movie, I see it as more of an ensemble piece. Alan Alda, in particular, is great. Unlike a lot of satire, this has actually aged REALLY well, particularly in regards to the American invasion of Iraq/Afghanistan/Cornwall. There’s one line in particular which has aged, erm, weirdly. When they’re trying to find a new enemy to declare war on, someone suggests international terrorism, to which someone replies:

“Well, sir, we’re not going to re-open missile factories just to fight some creeps running around in exploding rental cars, are we, sir?”

Cars

Doesn’t really seem like Pixar. More like Dreamworks. Even the way they use music seems very Dreamworks. Pixar movies are supposed to be monumental events that change your life, this really isn’t one.

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The worst Pixar film I’ve seen (and I think I’ve seen all of them). Doesn’t help that it focuses on the worst character from the previous film. I usually describe Pixar films I don’t like as being “almost like a Dreamworks movie” (see above for evidence). This was more like “Mid 90’s Disney straight to video sequel”

Cherry Blossoms – Ala.ni

A song I loved so much I used it in a script almost immediately after hearing it.

Despicable Me 3

Too much going on. Has about five separate plots going on. The story (well, stories) are only there as an excuse to tie chaotic scenes together. It’s like the scenes were written first, then the actual story was thought of later.

Dunkirk

One word to describe this: impressive. Visually, in terms of performance, in terms of the way the story is told, it’s all very impressive. The one thing that stops it being perfect (in my eyes, anyway), is that it’s missing that one standout scene. That one “even if you don’t watch the film, you have to watch this” scene.

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This guy, this guy is going places. AMAZING performance.

Ever Fallen In Love – Billy Talent

Picture what you think this song sounds like, yup, that’s exactly what it sounds like.

Gone Baby Gone

Amy Ryan is really good in this. Almost unrecognisable from her role in The Office. I wrongfully assumed she was just a comic actress, but her performance in this is sensational, almost makes me wish this was released this year so I could put her in the “best performance” category at the end of the year. Casey Affleck is, erm, he’s okay. Nowhere near as good as he was in Manchester By The Sea, but you can see the genesis of his performance in that film in this one. It also has one of the most brutal endings I’ve seen in a while.

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Honey – The Hush Sound

The sound of a drunken party in New Orleans. But a “teenage movie” drunken party where the worst thing that happens is somebody spills their drink. Nobody vomits, nobody fights, and nobody gets angry. They just drink and dance.

It Comes At Night

I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would. Probably because I saw at the cinema. I know some horror works great at the cinema, but I feel this would work better on your own in a small room. You need to feel part of that world, feel isolated, like a visitor in their world, and sitting in a vast room full of other people takes you away from that.

Next Goal Wins

A documentary about the Western Samoa national football team (or “soccer” team to those of you are wrong) who suffered one of the biggest defeats in international football when they lost to Australia. Interesting moment in here where they talk about one of the players who is “third gender”. At first, I was annoyed at how they talked about it, to me that seemed like a much more interesting story than the one being told, then it hit me; the fact they’re not treating it as a big deal is fascinating, and is a big deal. It’s not about them, it’s about the team as a whole. The fact they are so nonchalant about it is wonderful, and kind of beautiful.

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Saw

Some of the dialogue makes me think the writer has a rom-com in him somewhere. So natural and brilliant. Performances are a little stilted at times, very “end of year school play” air to some of the line deliveries. There’s a child in it, very briefly, who has the best delivery out of all of them. Her tortured cries are so realistic it makes me wonder whether this is actually a snuff film. This film is actually a lot better than its reputation would have you believe. Yes, the series did eventually descend into torture-porn, but the first film has one hell of a plot (also, one hell of a plot-related issue, but meh). Remarkably restrained, a lot of the horror comes from the situation, and one of the most brutal scenes is one where you don’t actually see anything, you just hear it.

Spiderman: Homecoming

I love it. So so much.

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This scene is genuinely one of the best-written scenes so far this year

Stuart Saves His Family

Dark, but could afford to be darker.

The Fuzz

The opening episode features a puppet prostitute getting shot in the head. What more do you want from a TV show? A buddy cop comedy set in a world where puppets not only exist, but deal jelly beans instead of drugs. The main character is called Herbie Smooshiloops, and at one point gets a ukelele out for a police press conference. Very funny, and a really good story. That kind of thing is usually not done in comedy, people have a tendency to think “well if the laughs are good, you don’t need a story”, wrong. Very very wrong.

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The Last Word

Holy crap where did this come from? It’s like High Fidelity mixed with Christmas Carol. Really good. I really wish this film had a better marketing campaign so that more people would have seen it. Genuinely one of my cinematic highlights of the year. Seemingly just with me though, a lot of reviewers really hate. I loved it though, very dialogue and character-heavy. Genuinely sweet and heartwarming, there’s a scene near the end which is a bit “meh”, but other than that I loved it. A story about an elderly woman who hires someone to write her obituary before she dies, only a lot better than I made it sound.

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The Omen

Weird references to 9/11 and Katrina (i think it’s Katrina anyway). On the one hand, it places it in the world. On the other, it seems a bit, I dunno, weird to use those things where thousands of people died as a plot point in your piece of shit movie. I think that might actually be my biggest problem with it, not that it uses real life deaths in a film, but that it uses real life deaths in a shit film.  This series will definitely have to suffer through a Halloween-watching live blog at some point.

The Space Between Us

I was actually looking forward to this. But no, just no. Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, and Gary Oldman do the best with what they can, but what they’re given was not great. My main issue is the obvious lack of scientific accuracy. May seem a bit nerdy, but it’s not high-level science they fail, what they do is the equivalent of a medical TV show saying “she got pregnant because she held hands with a man”. You wouldn’t see that in a TV show as it’s obviously false and only belongs in Alabama sex education classes.

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Compiling…..Linkin Park Playlist

The First Single. One Step Closer

The song that introduced the world to the band. Released almost 17 years ago. Not exactly the most inspired video but it gets the job done. Weird how completely different everyone in it looks. Remarkably self-assured for a debut single, almost like a song that comes from most bands second or third albums. I still remember this single coming out. Which I think is why his death hit me, and so many others so hard. It was the first band whose debut album I remember coming out. Most of the other bands I got into around the same time (Blink 182, Green Day etc) already had an extended discography to work my way through. This was the first band I saw develop in front of me, I got to watch them grow and evolve, so to see that coming to an end is heartbreaking.

The First Big Single – In The End

Yes, it was “One Step Closer” that kicked the door open, but it was this song which blew the door off the hinges. One of the best nu-metal singles released and a true high point of the genre. Reached number one in four separate singles charts, and listed as number two in Billboards decades-end list in both the rock and the alternative charts. Also, one of the first songs I learnt how to play on the piano.

The “Inexplicably Stuck In My Head” – Easier To Run

No idea why but this song has been the one in my head since I heard the sad news about Chester. I haven’t listened to this album in years, and it’s not one I listened to that much when it came out (it was 2003 so I was obsessed with Good Mourning by Alkaline Trio, a near classic album). It’s time for me to be honest; Linkin Park were never my favourite band, probably not even in my top 50. But they are one of the most important to my life. It was through them that I got into other bands. They were probably the most effective “gateway band” there is. They’re the marijuana to Nine Inch Nails heroin. I hesitated about admitting that as I worried it seemed disrespectful. But some of my favourite music based memories growing up were based on them, talking about their albums, showing people some of their obscure songs (more of which later), reading about bands in music magazines and checking them out if they had “for fans of: Linkin Park” as the description.

The “Okay, I Didn’t Expect That” – Numb/Encore

Obviously. One of those collaborations which is both extremely surprising, yet also makes perfect sense. I am a sucker for collaborations, and this whole EP works wonderfully.

The Pre-Fame Song – My December

This is the song I used to show my pretentious nature growing up. “oh, you like Linkin Park? I bet you haven’t heard this”. I was insufferable (in many ways I still am). An extremely mellow song, much more than you expect from a band like that at the time. A lot of metal bands seem kind of too scared to do mellow songs, they feel it makes them less metal. Faith No More famously used to put ridiculously mellow songs on their albums. Mike Patton said that many times musicians would come up to him and say “I wish we could do that”, and his response was always “Why can’t you?”. So it is surprising that Linkin Park were brave enough to do this so early on, they weren’t worried about appealing to a certain fanbase, they just wanted to do what they wanted to do.

The Hidden Awesome – Morning After

Not a Linkin Park song, but a great example of Chester’s vocal prowess. I hear this song and can imagine driving through a neon-lit city at night. Surprises me that this song isn’t better known, it deserves to be incredibly well known, to be played at rock clubs and at house parties worldwide.

The “Cut An Action Scene To This” Song – Bleed It Out

This song is one of my favourites. Definitely in my top 1000 (may not sound too positive, but at last count, I have 1632 albums, so it has A LOT of competition). God damn is this a great song. The prelude to something amazing happening. Listen to it whilst getting dressed in the morning and you’ll feel like your tooling up for a shoot-out. Some songs just make everything seem more epic when you’re listening to them (most obvious one is The Final Countdown) and can transform even the most mundane activities into something superb.

The “Are You Sure That’s Them?” – The Catalyst

A divisive song off a very divisive album. To say initial reaction to this song was “mixed” is a slight understatement. I think it works though, bands can’t keep doing the same song over and over again (unless they’re AC/DC), a natural evolution of musical styles is always appreciated. Well, I say it’s always appreciated, it’s appreciated when it’s done well. Celine Dion’s AC/DC cover is something that never, eeeeeeeeeever should be done again. But it’s nice when bands do something surprising, The Bouncing Souls cover of Don’t You (Forget About Me) is brilliant to listen to.

The “Listen To At The Gym” Song – Burn It Down

So after listening to “Bleed It Out” to get ready, you still need something to listen to whilst punching random bodyguards in the face. Use this. It sounds exactly like the John Wick films look (and long-time readers will know how much we LOVED that). It was when I listened to this song I figured out what Linkin Park’s genre was; they weren’t nu-metal, or rap, or anything like that; they were “Japanese-Influenced Hack And Slash Video Game Soundtrack”. The music you listen to when you’re cutting through swathes of enemies armed only with a sword.

 

The “This Is Very Hard To Listen To Now” Part 1 – Numb

This seems to be the song everyone is sharing, with good reason too. This song was when they changed from “teen angst” to “coping with severe depression”. This is where they changed from “standard band”, to “life changing for many people”. That’s another reason his death seems to have hit so hard. So many of us can imagine ourselves killing ourselves, I think most people have at least considered it once in their lives. So to see someone do it hits hard, especially when you see the pain they leave behind.

The “This Is Very Hard To Listen To Now” Part 2 – Heavy

Only heard this song a few weeks ago when someone showed it to me. Listened to it again today and it’s now liable to reduce people to tears. This shows how, no matter how sad his death was, it wasn’t “out of the blue”. He put his soul on the line for the world, he opened his heart up for everyone to listen to. It may not have been enough to save his life, but you can guarantee it saved someone else’s. Somewhere there was someone who listened to this song and felt a connection with it that they’d never felt before, they felt like they weren’t alone for the first time in their life. That, more than anything, should be Chester’s legacy, he helped people through the darkest days of their lives.

The “Tearjerker” – One More Light

I didn’t hear this song until after receiving the news he passed away. This is one of the most heartbreaking songs I’ve heard in years, it would still be so even in different circumstances. The lyrics are too emotive to not get a reaction. Performed perfectly on Jimmy Kimmel as a reaction to Chris Cornell’s suicide, it’s taken on extra significance lately. Originally written about a close friend of the band who passed away from cancer, as the band themselves said:

“when something dramatic and painful like that happens, the most important thing to do is to connect with the people you love and remind them you care about them”

And I think that’s the message to take from this. If you want to see an end to stuff like this, listen to your friends when they tell you they’re having suicidal thoughts, complain heavily when governments shut down access to mental health services, write angry letters to newspapers when they stigmatise those with mental health issues (which stop people suffering asking for help). It’s not enough to post a message on Facebook saying “this is very sad” and leave it at that. Active change requires active effort, listen to your friends, be there when they need you to, and be the change you want to see in this world. And if you feel helpless, there are people out there who can help, and if you want to help, these places always need volunteers:

  • Calm (Campaign Against Living Miserably): An award-winning charity dedicated to preventing male suicide. Website
  • Women’s Aid: The national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and childrenWebsite
  • Cruse Bereavement Care: As their logo states: “someone to turn to when someone dies”. Website
  • Sane: A UK-wide charity working to improve the quality of life for people affected by mental illness. Website
  • Samaritans: The first people that come to mind when people discuss issues like this. With good reason too. Website
  • Mind: Providing information service for all aspects of mental health. Website
  • IMAlive: An online messaging version of Samaritans phoneline. Very helpful if you’re in a scenario where you don’t want to be overheard. Website

Baby Driver/Spiderman: Homecoming

There’s something to be said for the accidental double bill. Films that have nothing to do with each other but seem like they belong together anyway. The best example of this lately I feel is Spotlight and The Big Short. They came out at different times, and were about completely different topics, but tonally they felt very similar. There’s a similar feeling with these two films, only this time it’s actually a lot easier to quantify; they’re both modern films containing a slight throwback feel to them. Baby Driver is basically a modern car chase film, a twenty-first century Bullitt, whereas Spiderman: Homecoming is basically a John Hughes movie with superpowers. Both of them are throwback films for the modern age, you don’t lose anything going into them without knowing the history of their respective genre-homages, but you do gain if you’re aware of them.

So what were they like? I’ll start with Spiderman. I actually liked it. The plot was simplistic but it was still better than at least 50% of MCU films purely because it had a compelling villain. Michael Keaton’s character (he plays some sort of Birdman) makes sense. You’re not watching it thinking “what a terrible person, glad he’s not real”, you’re thinking “he’s actually making a lot of sense. I see where he’s coming from, and in a way, I agree with him”. He’s the most compelling villain in the MCU so far, and the performance matches the writing. A lot of comic book fans were disappointed that they changed his appearance for the films, I don’t particularly care about it to be honest, mainly because it would be really hard to take THIS seriously.

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I know that this talk about “taking it seriously” makes this sound like it’s attempting to be super serious and gritty, thank God they didn’t do that, this film is fun as hell. Even the colours are better than lots of superhero films. A lot of films have orange and blue as the main colours, but use them against dark backdrops, this uses those colours but uses them against light. It’s very summer-ey in appearance. It’s also really funny. The characters are well written and have great lines, Zendeya’s character in particular is a great collection of sarcasm and apathy which I really identify with for some reason. She has the best lines throughout and is one of the films many comedic highlights. In terms of comedy though, most of the best moments from the non-main characters belong to Jacob Batalon’s Ned, who absolutely owns his role as “guy in a chair”. He also helps provide an audience surrogate, since the film starts with him already as hero, many people expected the origin to either be ignored, or told in flashbacks. It did neither, it had Ned ask questions and we found out small details from that, not so much that we were re-covering old ground, and not so little that people new to the franchise were confused. So in summary; very good, very fun, and I think it’s safe to say that Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man, although part of that is due to the way he’s written, he’s actually written as an adolescent, the villains he faces aren’t ones who are going to destroy the world, the main villain is basically an unfriendly neighbourhood villain.

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This scene is genuinely one of the best written scenes so far this year

So, onto Baby Driver. If you’re interested in film you need to see this, a true masterpiece of film-making. Almost the entire film has music alongside it, it’s a film which you could put on in the background at a party and just listen to it, and it would work (I will prove that one day). Yes, the plot is wafer thin, but it’s so fun you don’t notice. You don’t sit there thinking “well I know how this story is going to end”, you think “oh my God! Did you see that?”. It’s a non-blockbuster version of spectacle cinema. Everything about the way it’s made just works, the way the music complements the action and vice versa, the way the car chases are impressive without being unrealistic, the fact that Jon Hamm and Kevin Spacey continue to exist.

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Even Jamie Foxx agrees

The most annoying thing about this film is that you will never see anything else like it, but lots films will claim to be like it. The love and dedication that goes into this is obvious. This was not “film by committee”, this was a true passion project, and it shows through every inch of the screen. It’s also surprisingly American. The open road, the American dream, diners with endless coffee are all essential to the story, so it’s weird that such an American film was made by a Brit, this feels like the film where Edgar Wright has finally stepped away from under the shadow of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. In an ideal world Scott Pilgrim would have done that, but at least it has finally happened. One of the best films I’ve seen this year on a technical level, from the opening scene right through to the closing credits it never stops impressing, never slows down, which considering it’s almost 2 hours long is incredibly impressive.

So that’s Baby Driver and Spiderman:Homecoming. Both flawed but worth a watch. Both destined to be movies people put on and watch in large groups. Both have been put on my “buy on dvd” list. So how can I end this? The same way I end everything; cover song! Here’s an acoustic cover of the Spider-Man theme song, enjoy, then check out their other stuff on the youtube and their twitter.

How We Get Through: June 2017

Films

Submarine Kid

A few months ago I made a slight adjustment to my “to do” list. I started adding names next to them so I would remember who to thank for suggesting them. I really wish I started that sooner, I want to find whoever suggested this film to me, and slap them very very hard round the face. Why? Why would you put me through this? Very Channel 5. Extremely bad dialogue. Can’t tell if it’s too American for me or whether it just doesn’t work as a film.

Under The Shadow

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I liked it but can understand why some wouldn’t. It doesn’t become a traditional horror film until the closing section. Until then it’s horror on a more personal level. Wonderful blending of a war-time drama and horror that doesn’t depend too highly on the usual tropes of one or both genres. Never seen anything like this before in my life, but I really wish I had. Side note, I’ve now seen two Iranian films, both of which have strong female leads, is Iranian cinema better at female representation than Western cinema? Or is it because women are treated as second class citizens there it makes them better characters so the quality of films are likely to be higher, which increases my chances of seeing them?

The Final Girls

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Genuinely emotional, a lot more than it should be. It’s basically a horror film about a group of people who get sucked into a horror film. It’s done by a team who obviously really love the genre, and love film-making in general. Lots of fun little moments in it, from the closing credits appearing in the sky above them, everything changing colour when they appear in flashbacks etc. It’s really good and I wish I made it first.

The Skeleton Twins

Turns “two characters lipsynching” into one of the most emotional, character developing scenes you’re likely to see. Funny, but very very dark.

Let’s Pollute

Bit preachy, very one note and simplistic. Talks about how people are selfish because they work somewhere different from where they live, as if getting a job in a Tesco the town over means you should move house.

The End Of The Tour

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I think part of the reason I like this is because of how great the dialogue is. It flows beautifully, as was described here;

“a funny and heartfelt road movie that meditates on fame, creativity, and loneliness, through the indepth and witty conversations of its protagonists. Whether you know David Foster Wallace’s work or not, this is an accessible and great film”

7:35 In The Morning

This was on my watch list as the writer/director also made Colossal, which I loved. You can kind of tell it’s the same guy by the story, the visuals are pretty bland though. Much like Colossal, I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s a short film about a guy who holds an entire restaurant hostage so he can sing to a woman about how much he likes her. Keeps on the line between silly and frightning in a way that’s very hard to do.

We Need To Talk Kevin

VERY film student-ey. Spends so long laying on symbolism that it forgets other things.

Spy

Jason Statham is amazing in this. Plays his role to perfection. Everyone else is still good, but not as good as him. I’d love to see more of him in a sequel. When I first saw it I expected this to be a one joke film “haha, a fat woman as a spy”, but was actually really really funny.

Gifted

A lot less Nicholas-Sparks than I thought it would be. Bit formulaic but it plays to the formula very well. Chris Evans is very good in it, but is overshadowed by Mckenna Grace, who is very very good, probably one of the best performances this year. Is it just me or are child actors getting better? Manages to do a performance which is funny, moving, and hits all the right spots in terms of body language and facial acting. Great performance. Jenny Slate was also REALLY good in it, but wasn’t in it as much as she should have been.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil

Has some continuity issues but still very good. Kind of sad to think both leads have sadly passed on. They had amazing chemistry here, you don’t really tend to get acting double acts anymore. You have “groups” that work together, but that’s normally in a certain directors films as opposed to just always together. It’s a shame as that kind of thing can really help sell a film “oh, I loved the last film I saw those two in”. It also means unscrupulous marketers can change the title of the film in foreign markets so it looks like a sequel. Which is always hilarious. “yes, the first film ended with them both being shot to death, but here’s a sequel, where they have different names and characters, but they look the same. Now give money.”

Wonder Woman

I explained my thoughts on this here. Spoilers; LOVED IT! Even the closing credits were amazing. They were like a water colour painting. Haven’t seen any this good since A Monster Calls. I like when films take the time to attempt to do something with the credits, it shows a real dedication to what they’re doing.

X+Y

The moment where where he tries to do the monty python reference is really awkward and cringey, if anything it’s worse when you know it’s coming. Only just realised how heartbreaking some of the performances were, Sally Hawkins in particular.

Books

The Stars Tennis Balls

Always takes me forever to get through the opening chapter of this for some reason. Shame as the final third is absolutely superb, it just takes a while to get there (about two thirds of the book I’d guess).

Books Of Blood

The biggest issue this book has is that it starts with Fear, which is one of the best horror short stories ever written. Anything after that would just be disappointing.

Albums

Maps

Can’t remember how I heard this band (probably the Figure 4 Leg Rock podcast), great EP, available for free, which is my second favourite price to pay for things. Trigger Happy in particular is one of my favourite songs I’ve heard this year.

Panic Prevention

The moments in songs are usually better than the songs themselves. Although “Sheila” is pretty damn fine. Listed on my itunes as “Chavvy Acoustic Punk”, because I couldn’t think of a better way to describe it.

Look For The Woman

B-sides are remixes, which is always okay. But the song itself is amazing.

Punk Rock Is Your Friend Volume 6 (Hardcore Is Your Friend Too)

I miss samplers like this. Epitaph, Burning Heart, Kung-Fu records etc all used to do really cheap albums showcasing their bands. Doesn’t really happen anymore, probably due to the rise of streaming etc. Is a shame as these were great ways to get into bands. You pick them up barely knowing any of the bands and before you know it you’ve found your new favourite band. I got this for one reason and one reason only; new Tsunami Bomb song. They were one of my favourite bands at the time and I was obsessed with them (how I felt when they split is how the rest of the world feels when celebrities die) so the chance to hear something new excited me, made me look forward to a new album by them. Sadly they split soon after, but I’ll always have that song, and no more new ones, ever *cries*.

Just The Way I’m Feeling

Relatively pedestrian, listened to it today and I still can’t remember the b-sides.

Goodbye Blue And White

It’s a Less Than Jake album with at least two Slayer covers. Weird.

Stopgap EP

Probably the most American pop-punk band that’s ever come from England. Just an EP meant to tide people over until their new album came out a few years ago. Has some good stuff on it but the best song by a mile is the cover of “Everytime You Go Away”. I do loves me some covers.