Featured Reviews Issue #72, Part I: Grabass Charlestons and more Grabass Charlestons

GRABASS CHARLESTONS: Dale & the Careeners: LP
Where to start? I’ve been a fan of Grabass since the Billy Reese Peters split LP in 2002. I celebrate their entire catalog; I’ve reviewed their entire oeuvre. They were on the cover of Razorcake #17. I have the story of Replay being arrested in Texas on the fourth of July memorized and I tell it to kids during library readings. Razorcake Records put out a Sister Series 7” of theirs. I took the photo of the painting for their side of the TTK split LP. Bias? You fucking bet. They’re my friends and that friendship was first started because their music struck a deep chord in me. My bias is this: I think they’re woefully underrated. (Your guess is as good as mine as to why. Maybe it’s the name. Maybe it’s because we live in a classist, image-conscience, artifice-saturated, lead-by-the-nose culture (even in punk. Especially in punk.)) So instead of complaining, I’m a facilitator when the opportunities arise. I was not expecting Dale & the Careeners, didn’t see it coming, and that makes me happy. Because, at this stage in the game—living adult lives as human beings who happen to not be able to divorce themselves from punk rock and dealing with music—I want contemporaries who aren’t regurgitating their own expelled fluids. I want people who are musically much smarter than me showing that uniforms can dissolve, that others’ expectations are gravestones waiting for inscription, that suburban cul-de-sacs of the mind can become bike lanes, that aging and collapse aren’t one in the same. Dale & the Careeners does all of that as a record. Lyrically, it’s complex. It takes multiple voices (first, second, and third person) and acts as a prism that looks at addiction, safety, impulse (and a baseball game). It’s poetic and direct. To put this in a bit of context, think of folks like Todd Congelliere, Isaac Reyes, Isaac Thotz, and Mark Ryan—all people who were/are in dynamite bands that have broken music wide open in the past couple of years in an almost absolute vacuum beyond their immediate families, friends, and close peers. On a cultural level, it’s so fucking bittersweet to be a front row listener to their world-class bands. I feel like simultaneously laughing and crying; getting fucked up and remaining cold sober; shaking my head and shaking my fist. If meaning still has meaning for you, I highly recommend Dale & the Careeners.Soak in it like the sea. Let it crash around you. Let it hypnotize you like waves. –Todd Taylor (No Idea)

GRABASS CHARLESTONS: Dale & The Careeners: CD
Is it a surprise that I don’t think about the Grabass Charlestons all that much anymore? Seven years since the release of their last LP finally brings us the third Grabass Charlestons full length and, boy, is it different. The growl and harshness of the previous records has been turned down and the Replacements influence turned way, way up. All of this might have been abled by the addition of a fourth Charleston, who seems to have taken over drumming duties from Will. If you are a fan of previous Grabass albums, I would suggest you check this out, but be warned about the potential shock value of what’s to come. If you’ve never dug the Charlestons before, I’d recommend giving this one a listen. As songwriters, I don’t think the band has ever come close to some of the songs on this record. –Bryan Static (No Idea, noidearecords.com)

GRABASS CHARLESTONS: Dale & The Careeners: CD
Being the first full length in seven years, Dale is a game changer. Here, Will Thomas trades in his sticks for a stab at the guitar. Markedly different from what you associate Grabass with: pop punk persuasion with a Southern slant, Dale takes a turn onto straight up rock. The Charlestons have opted for coasting instead of barreling down the highway at full throttle, as evidenced right out the gate with “Stormy Weather.” A few tracks like “If Dale Were You” and “Apocalypse Whenever” harkens back to their previous work, but after a few play throughs, this grows on ya like a fungus. While this may throw off fans of their older sound, this could also snag the band some new ones. Recommended. –Kristen K. (No Idea)

GRABASS CHARLESTONS: Dale & The Careeners: CD
Blown away. There is really not much else to say after one listen to this disc. The Charlestons have taken such an evolutionary leap as a band that it is hard to put into words what is going on here, but I will try. While I would be hesitant to call this a concept album, it would be fair to say that it is certainly thematic. The disc’s twelve tracks tell the tale of Dale and Cassandra—two fringe characters who find themselves in the midst of opiate addiction, clean up slightly, and relapse again once the cold days of winter return. In the end, there isn’t really any redemption. This is a painful, harrowing and yet beautiful musical journey totally worth taking. On past releases, I always felt that the Charlestons played it a bit safe but this release really takes them to the next level. Every song on here is a minor masterpiece. Everything here is literate, well written, and performed to a level that I wasn’t expecting. Get this, like right now. –Garrett Barnwell (No Idea)

GRABASS CHARLESTONS: Dale & The Careeners: CD
Florida punk staple adds some rootsy, Springsteen rock’n’roll to their gruff punk for a rock opera about a junkie couple named Dale and Cassandra. The Charlestons are ripping off The Hold Steady all over this album, but it’s hard to complain when it results in their catchiest batch of songs yet. Here’s to romance: “Cassandra’s not the type to weather the winter and Dale’s a nice guy with a good space heater.” –Chris Terry (No Idea)

GRABASS CHARLESTONS: Dale & The Careeners: CD
This CD has a definite theme to it. The character of Dale is in about half of the songs, and his lady Cassandra is in a couple as well. The album is dedicated to the life and memory of Lynnae Hottinger, a friend of the band. The music is easy on the ears, with all of the instruments holding their own. Will’s voice is that of a storyteller’s, and he spins some good yarns, with lyrics about real life shit. My favorite song is “Dale Is a Raindog, Too.” It is about the Tampa Bay Rays winning the American League Wild Card in the last game of the regular season in 2011. The Cardinals did the same thing that year, in the National League. I can relate. This disc features guest vocals from the likes of Chris Wollard, Isaac Thotz, and Neil Hennessy, to name a few. This is a very good CD. –Nighthawk (No Idea)

GRABASS CHARLESTONS: Dale & The Careeners: CD/LP
I have to admit that I don’t know much about the Grabass Charlestons. I’m sure that for many Razorcake readers, they are a well-known favorite. All I knew of the band was that they were a punk band on No Idea Records from Florida. I expected them to be silly, juvenile, and write equally immature songs. But I like it when my expectations are broken for the better. The Grabass Charlestons have put together twelve songs for thirty-six minutes of solid punk that shows that they are capable of writing songs that can bear some sort of message and include an array of influences beyond their punk rock base. While Dale & The Careeners is certainly a punk-influenced album, I keep hearing a slight bit of country influence as well as some southern rock through a number of the songs. I’m sure some may say Will Thomas’s voice sounds just like this or that guy, but it seems wholly original to me and made the band stand out from the morass that can often exist in punk rock. While it may seem that Dale & The Careeners is a concept album, as the band has said, it’s more a take on the American condition. The songs seem to often deal with a guy named Dale and his situation with drugs, working at the Flying J, and baseball, amongst other things. Other songs don’t mention him at all. So, I’m not sure what to make of the lyrics, but they certainly aren’t juvenile. Dale & The Careeners shows a mature band that knows what they’re doing and isn’t afraid to move past stereotypes that may have held some bands back from achieving an album that they should be proud of. –Kurt Morris (No Idea)

GRABASS CHARLESTONS: Dale & The Careeners: CD
Serious gaps in their record collections/musical knowledge. Everybody’s got ‘em. Shit, I have a friend who couldn’t even name all the Beatles until this year. In light of that, it doesn’t look so bad that I was only marginally familiar with Grabass up to this point. Sure, I’d seen ‘em live once or twice, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got a burned copy of Ask Mark Twain lying around somewhere, but I hadn’t really let them sink in. (I know, I know, chill out—reference my opening sentence, goddammit.) They’ve always been on my list of bands to get to (And yes, that’s an actual physical list) but I’ve just never gotten around to it. It appears I’ve been missing out too, ‘cause this is good stuff. “Like Craig Finn’s singing, but not stupid.” (According to my roommate) (So, not like Craig Finn at all, I would argue…) I dig the subtle nod to “Sweet Child ‘O Mine” in the melody to “Fall Guy.” Apparently, this sounds different from the older tunes, and, yeah, upon further investigation, the older shit’s gruffer. The newer shit seems to be better-composed, with more thought-out melodies and parts. This isn’t the sort of record that catches you all at once, or has a stand-out “single.” But let me tell you, multiple listens are rewarded-s’good shit. One gap down. –Ryan Horky (No Idea, noidearecords.com)