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Getting to work with Philly punks Dark Thoughts

Dark Thoughts
Dark Thoughts | photo by Yoni Kroll for WXPN

While not all jobs are bad, we’ve all had bad jobs. Maybe it’s a boss who expects you to do twice the work for half the pay. Maybe it’s a coworker who seriously just won’t shut up. Maybe it’s the customers or the owner or the commute or the hours or literally anything. We’ve all been there and it sucks to know that day in and day out nothing will change until you finally get fed up and quit. Work is a necessary and generally positive aspect of life but sometimes it can be such a drag.

At Work, the new album by West Philly punkers Dark Thoughts– Jim Shomo on guitar and lead vocals, Amy Opsasnick on bass, and Daniel Cox on drums – definitely tackles all the important topics: mental health, punk, and coffee. Oh, and work, of course. This isn’t some anthemic diatribe about factory life; it’s a lot more fun than that. Clocking in at just over 20 minutes, the twelve songs on the album hit that perfect sweet spot of poppy, catchy music and introspective, intelligent lyrics that you can still very much sing along to.

The record was digitally released on June 15th, physical copies are available this week, and the band plays a release show at the Church on August 24th. We recently sat down with Jim Shomo to talk about some of the bad jobs he’s had – including stints as a toy train conductor and way too much time spent serving coffee – and if you can turn a BFA in sculpture into riches. For the answer to that age-old question, read on! Continue reading →

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Dark Thoughts channel punk’s roots on At Work

Dark Thoughts | via WKDU.org

The first word any writer reaches for when talking about Philly punk trio Dark Thoughts is “Ramones.” From the moment singer-guitarist Jim Shomo shouts “Gimmie soda! Gimmie soda! Gimmie something I can drink!” on the opening track, it’s clear that in their delivery, musicianship, and aesthetics, Dark Thoughts are deeply indebted to punk’s royal family.

But their blistering new LP At Work is no mere retread. Like their forefathers, Dark Thoughts know how to walk the line between economy and monotony—delivering a unified and repetitive musical assault with just the right amount of variation in tempo, dynamics, and chord changes to keep the energy at soaring levels. Continue reading →

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Dark Thoughts releases new tape recorded at WKDU

Dark Thoughts | via WKDU.org

Philly punk trio Dark Thoughts released a teaser of new music this week in the form of a live EP, recorded at Drexel University’s radio station, WKDU. Titled Dark Thoughts Live! on WKDU and recorded by Key contributor and WKDU host Yoni Kroll, the live EP contains four tracks split over the two sides. The live tracks are previews of Dark Thought’s upcoming sophomore album, Dark Thoughts at Work.  Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: Pilam is dead, long live Pilam

A flyer for Pi Lam’s notorious Human BBQ, circa 1987

Starting off August’s edition of the Skeleton Key with some breaking news, which for the record is a strange thing when it comes to a column that comes out once a month. Pilam, the venerated “freak frat” at the University of Pennsylvania, is closed, at least temporarily. After more than four decades of being a space for DIY music in Philadelphia, the organization has lost its home. Details are still emerging as to what’s going on but for the time being I’d much rather just focus on the positive. Which, to repeat what I just said, is more than four decades of serving as a home for music in our city. That’s just incredible.

If you were to compile a list of every band that ever played Pilam we’d be here for a very long time. Hell, just looking at the listings of who performed at Human BBQ, the annual all-day concert at the house, is wildly impressive in both quality and quantity. This past year was the 40th BBQ with bands including Old Maybe, Norwegian Arms, Slingshot Dakota, and EDO. Screaming Females and Sadie from Speedy Ortiz played last year, along with a ton of other great bands. Two years ago it was Moor Mother, HIRS, and Japanese Breakfast. We could seriously go on like this forever.

The first time I specifically remember being at the festival was way back in 2001 to see An Albatross, Stinking Lizaveta, and … EDO. Some things never change. Also, I somehow missed Wesley Willis. Maybe I was getting pizza? Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Erykah Badu, Rico Nasty, Restorations, Anthony Green and more

Rico Nasty | via facebook.com/officialriconasty

Can it be? A week with fewer than ten concert options? Are we slowing down as the summer wears on? Nah — it’s just a breather, and you should enjoy it, Philly. Here are eight concerts you can see in the next seven days, beginning Thursday with a queen of neo-soul at the Dell and going though Saturday and an acoustic modern rock bill at Lancaster’s Chameleon Club. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Raphael Saadiq, Beach House, The Hold Steady, #XPNFest and more

David Byrne | Photo by Jody Rogac

Well, first and foremost, there’s #XPNFest. I mean, duh. Three days, 32 bands, BB&T Pavilion and Wiggins Park, etc. etc. Highlights including David Byrne and The War on Drugs are shouted out below, full details at XPNFest.org. Know what though? This summer in Philly has been the summer of redonkulous concertgoing options, this week is no different, and we here at The Key would be doing you a disservice if we didn’t let you know everything else that’s going on. Read on for our full roundup of picks: 22 concerts to see in and around Philadelphia for the next seven days. Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: Multitudes of new music for July, a First Time’s The Charm recap, and gigs from black metal to beatmakers to punk wrestlers

First Time’s The Charm | photo by Yoni Kroll for WXPN

This is a special Skeleton Key and not just because I’m checking in with you a bit later than usual. Don’t worry, my neighbors are still shooting off fireworks all day every day so it’s basically still the 4th and will probably stay that way at least until August. For this column I want to talk about all the new music coming out this month because there’s seriously just so much of it. And check this out: last weekend was First Time’s the Charm which was the debut of eight bands playing their very first sets ever. So much new music! Let’s start with a list because you should always start with a list: Dark Thoughts, Smarthearts, Rosali, Lester, Dark Web, Rabbits to Riches, Empath, and Fleabite. Oh, and a just-announced split between Jenna & The Pups – the solo pop punk band from HIRS frontwoman Jenna Pup – and, well, herself. The PUP/HIRS album will be out in August. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Queen of Jeans, The Diplomats, Drive-By Truckers, Lorde and more

Queen of Jeans | photo by Jessica Lim | courtesy of the artist
Queen of Jeans | photo by Jessica Lim | courtesy of the artist

Your choices are many; your excuses are few. Here are 25 concerts you could see in Philadelphia this week; enough for you to catch one per day, or for the more enterprising of you Key readers, several per day. Starting with folksinger Sam Amidon, and going up to arena pop rocker Lorde, here are our picks for the week ahead. Continue reading →

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Control Top sees right through your power trip on “Type A”

Control Top | photo by Vince Guglielmo | courtesy of the artist

Post-punk trio Control Top creates music with the goal of resisting conformity. And it works — their songs sound totally unlike most others. Over the last few years in the Philly DIY scene, the band has evolved into its own distinct sound while going through shifts in lineup before arriving at its currently tight configuration. Currently, Control Top is led by Ali Carter on vocals and bass, along with guitarist Al Creedon and drummer Alex Licktenhour — Ali, Al, and Alex, conveniently — and the band recently has been hard at work on its first full-length album, Covert Contracts.

While details on the release are still forthcoming, Control Top has shared a new single, “Type A.” Its energy is as urgent as the band’s driven punk sound calls for, and its lyrics are scathing in the best possible way: “I see right through your power trip / One loose screw and you will slip,” Carter sings with determination, “Who gave you the right to decide what’s right / Your false authority is dreadfully boring me.”

Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: A Blizzard of gigs for March including Creten lutes, London postpunks, and a Bugg

Palm | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Palm performs at the First Unitarian Church on March 26th | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

You heard that story about Barbara Streisand getting her dog cloned, twice? I’ve been thinking about getting the same thing done to myself, just so I maybe can go to all the awesome shows happening this month. Unfortunately I went to school for journalism and not biomedical engineering so instead of having a mad scientist lair full of half-baked clones walking into walls while screaming, “I can’t wait for Superchunk and Swearin’ next month!” … I’m writing this column saying the same.

Welcome to the March edition of the Skeleton Key, your friendly neighborhood gossip column. As I sit here working on this, the weather report is calling for nonstop rain and possibly even snow for the next 24 hours. But just because it’s gross out doesn’t mean you should stay inside! It doesn’t keep bands home and so it shouldn’t keep you home. So bundle up and get to the gig. Continue reading →