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CD: The Return of The Aquabats

Reviewed by Sam Landsberg
16, Hamilton HS

The title says it all. The Aquabats’ debut album, ironically called their “return,” is filled with the silly antics that define The Aquabats. The eight-piece band, complete with a full brass section, perform ska (music with upbeat guitar riffs and horns) and sing about things most bands might look down on as song subjects.

The opening song, “Playdough,’’ which starts off with pounding notes and then a brass solo reminiscent of mariachi, is all about the carelessness of childhood. That doesn’t sound like a silly subject, until you add in action figures from Star Wars and Scooby Doo. The song is all about losing your action figures and how upsetting it is. The album includes three songs, “Playdough,’’ “Martian Girl’’ and “Idiot Box,’’ that were re-released on their second album, The Fury of the Aquabats! Although the versions on The Fury are undoubtedly better mixed, I prefer the versions on The Return, which seem more genuine and raw.

The Aquabats make a point of not taking life or music seriously. The song “Martian Girl” is about falling in love with a girl from Planet V, who came to earth to eat people. But they are still talented musicians and songwriters. In the tradition of Monty Python and Devo, The Aquabats make it acceptable to act immature, because they do so with great talent.

The Aquabats have changed a lot over the years, but their first album, from 1996, is still one of their best. It is a perfect example of ska, which is all about having fun.

CD: An American Stranger

Reviewed by Chantelle Moghadam
15, Viewpoint School (Calabasas)

Ready to get away from the repetitive alternative rock sound played out by so many bands? Then definitely check out An American Stranger, The Upwelling’s debut album.

From the catchy, upbeat single, “American Girls,” to their slower songs such as “Paris” and “New Streets,” each song is completely different. There are songs about rejection (“American Girls”), songs about satisfying a need to get away (“Wanderlust”), and songs about leaving the love of your life (“Who Needs You Now”).

The lyrics of New York City brothers Ari and Joshua Ingber are enchanting and thought-provoking. The combination of those lyrics with the drums and melodious guitar is what makes this album as amazing as it is. If a song can make my heart swell with feelings, I know it’s a good song. “Paris” is one of my favorites because of its lyrics. “Should I have told you what you’ve always known?/ I love you to the marrow of your bones.” When I first heard this line, I immediately loved the song because it brought back memories of a past relationship.

Although it is difficult to compare The Upwelling to other bands considering their distinctive sound, they are somewhere between Daughtry’s upbeat sound, The Killers’ old-school style and Coldplay’s appealing lyrics, creating a sound that is different from all three. The Upwelling is surely one of the best alternative rock bands that the world has never heard of.

CD: Razorblade Romance

Reviewed by Patricia Chavarria
18, Cesar Chavez Continuation HS (Compton)

If you’re looking for a CD with amazing songs about love and death I recommend HIM’s Razorblade Romance.

One of my favorite songs is “Join Me in Death,” which is based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Lead singer Ville Valo sings about finding someone he truly loves. But instead of being together in life, he wants to be with her forever in death, where they can’t be torn apart. My favorite lyrics are: “This world is a cruel place/ and we’re here only to lose/ so before life tears us apart let/ death bless me with you/ Won’t you die tonight for love/ Baby join me in death.” Some people might find those lyrics scary or disturbing, but I find it romantic that someone will sing about a thing like dying for love.

Another great song that will keep you singing every day is “Right Here in My Arms.” I can’t help listening to it on repeat on my car stereo and iPod. The lyrics are amazing and hypnotizing: “And her heart is weeping because happiness is killing her/ She’ll be right here in my arms so in love/ Right here in these arms she can’t let go.” The guitar intro on this song is so great that it has me playing air guitar.

All of the songs on this album are great! Some of my other favorites are “Bury Me Deep Inside Your Heart,” “Poison Girl” and “Death Is in Love With Us.” This CD is to die for. Long live His Infernal Majesty.