Cast Off Reviews

By Todd • Apr 14th, 2009 • Category: Reviews

Aiding & Abetting:

Another release from this quirky Minneapolis outfit. The highly-affected new wave sound takes a bit of time to get used to, but give it a song or two and you’ll hear why I’ve loved these guys for a while now. There isn’t another band like this anywhere. - Jon Worley

Brainerd Dispatch:

Still Kinda Charming
Get electropunked for the third time with Avenpitch’s ‘Cast Off’
By JOHN HANSEN
Entertainment Editor

Minneapolis’ Avenpitch used to play at the Eclectic Cafe so often that Brainerd was practically its second home. But the band hasn’t played here since January, so content yourself with blasting “Cast Off” at your next house party.

Todd Millenacker, the shaggy frontman who struts on bartops like a male “Coyote Ugly” dancer, doesn’t behave like a musician following a mapped-out career path. You’d assume he’s just winging it, but Avenpitch’s production-laden discs suggest otherwise. “Cast Off,” the band’s third album, is catchy and layered, and Millenacker pens amusing rhymes.

Avenpitch is mostly having stupid fun, as the videos for two songs at www.avenpitch.com suggest. They’re not exactly TV-ready, but they will make you smile.

In “Desperado,” Sarah France waves toy guns at her bandmates, leaving no one to tickle the ivories; Darren Siaw, strumming away, wears an Old West costume that looks like it was thrown together 10 minutes before a Halloween party; Paul Hudalla dodges flying beer cans as he pounds the skins; and Millenacker rides a horse for no reason other than that the song is called “Desperado.”

“Sweet Summertime” is played on a rooftop a few blocks from the Metrodome, and I imagine the band got in about three takes before the neighbors complained about the noise.

The tune itself is electrified pop gold: “If you think you might fall/For a telephone call and fresh flowers/You got your whole life/Just give me an hour.”

When listening to this song, I wonder if Avenpitch would sound better if it wasn’t so locked into the heavily computerized electropunk genre. I’d love to hear a traditional band’s take on “Sweet Summertime.”

Millenacker isn’t a strong vocalist, but his lyrics match perfectly with the music. Sure, it’s the type of stuff you’d find in the margins of a moody ninth-grader’s English literature notebook, but that’s part of the band’s appeal.

Consider this segment, sung lightning-fast, in “Pregnant Pause”: “I had a moment to escape/I didn’t know what to do/So I locked the window and shouted like a fool. I was yelling for my mom/I was yelling for my dad/I was looking for friendship with friends I never had.”

And from “Shadows of Giants”: “When you’re standing in the shadows of giants/It’s hard to see the light.”

Avenpitch might be in the shadows for now. But when future electropunkers talk about their inspiration, they can say they stood on the shoulders of early giants like Avenpitch.

DarkTwinCities.com:

Avenpitch - Cast Off
Label: Dance School Records
Review by Christopher Roddy

There’s a moment in most every song on Avenpitch’s third full-length, Cast Off, that will make you smile. While his voice and delivery may leave much to be desired there comes a time in each track where Todd Millenacker convinces you that it actually does fit in well with the music. It’s certainly distinctive if not particularly tuneful. You may consider switching CDs in the first thirty seconds of every piece but I would entreat you to hang on for just a little longer because when the explosion comes it’s like one of those strawberry candies with the gooey, sugary center that bursts in your mouth once the shell has dissolved - it’s an over-the-top surprise that adds to the experience of an enjoyable confection.

Millenacker has built a name for himself as the Ringleader for the annual Twin Cities Electropunk compilations he puts together and distributes. In Avenpitch he tackles frontman duties with a band that hasn’t undergone lineup changes during its recorded run. This is one of their great strengths as the players sound extremely comfortable with one another. The performances are impressively tight and the songwriting on Cast Off is more expansive and adventurous with emphasis placed on layering as well as a mix that showcases each musician quite distinctively.

There’s no reinvention here, no real surprises. These ten tracks sound much like everything else in the Avenpitch discography only it’s become clear that, as a group, the band is much more comfortable in their own skin and enjoying their time immensely. “Disappear” is the centerpiece of this set with the longest runtime at nearly four and a half minutes. It’s got great instrumental interplay, enormous melody and an airy atmosphere of longing coupled with searching lyrics that aren’t particularly “deep” but manage to strike a chord of poignancy just the same.

From the pogoing rhythm of opener “Pregnant Pause,” which features wildly varied trade-off instrumentation, to the impossibly infectious chorus of “Desperado” and well into the delightful and almost childlike corrosion of “Blink” Millenacker has crafted some memorable gems that should win over plenty of new fans. Yet the album does drag its feet in a couple spots. Perhaps due solely to the fact that the vocals aren’t as multi-dimensional as they could be the more downtempo tracks, such as “Don’t Come Cryin’ To Me” and the first half of the closer “Shadows Of Giants,” weigh the set down and on a CD that lasts a brief thirty-three minutes they stand out a little too prominently. In any event it isn’t as though these examples are totally unlistenable as the music is still quite tuneful. But Millenacker is much, much stronger when the energy is high.

Ultimately, I’m reminded of The Book Of Secrets, a guide to Tantric consciousness in which Osho recounts a familiar tale;

“Someone came to Zen master, Bokuju. Bokuju’s master was very famous, well known, a very great man. So someone asked, “Are you really following your master?” Bojuku said “Yes, I am following him.” But the man who asked the question was disturbed because it was well known all over the country that Bokuju was not following his master at all. So the man said, “Are you trying to deceive me? Everyone knows and you are aware that you are not following your master at all, and still you say that you are following. What do you mean?” Bokuju said, “I am following my master - because my master never followed his master. This is what I have learned from him. He was himself!”

Millenacker is as much a student of philosophy as he is music. He isn’t looking to recreate the magic of some classic act nor is he jumping on the latest bandwagon to ride its coattails toward success. All he’s doing is being himself and writing the music that’s in his heart. The sincerity comes through while listening to Cast Off. This is fun, silly music that will lift your spirit when that’s what you need. As much as you could reference the New Wave stylings of the Cars, the endearing Punk of the Descendents, or any number of bands from years gone by what comes across is that there really isn’t anyone out there that sounds quite like Avenpitch. And when you can take all your influences and channel them through your own personality to create something unique and invigorating it can’t be considered anything short of a success.

Delusions of Adequacy:

Brass circus instruments quickly swell in and then out as they ring in a pulsing 8-bit soundtrack. The clean guitar lick, rushing drum machine beat and half yelped lyrics, followed by a big infectious chorus featuring distorted guitars, catchy synths and that ever pulsating electronic beat rushes in. This is the basic template for Avenpitch’s sound (minus the brass instruments) and song structure, but there are enough variations and intriguing digital melodies to make Cast Off a must listen.

The first song, “Pregnant Pause”, is well-described by the band’s basic sound, so I should point out the superior—albeit less rushed follow-up—”Maybe I Was Wrong”. Lots of electronics in this one, and the beginning and ending synth sounds add a cool atmosphere. Along with another one of Avenpitch’s catchy and epic choruses combining the guitar and additional bleeps and bloops, and a rocking guitar lead midway through makes for a great track. Next, the group continues the basic idea of the opener in “Desperado”, but with more interesting and catchy melodies.

This album just keeps getting better as the band realizes that they don’t need to play songs at 100 mph to achieve a pulsing energy. The catchy chorus of “Sweet Summertime” and alternative sound and atmospheric piano melody of “Disappear” feature some of the best pop I’ve heard in a while. Songs like “Blink” and “Two Minutes Hate” bleed the band’s punk influences, while sweeter songs like “Don’t Come Crying To Me” feature more pop brilliance. Ultimately what keeps me coming back is their infectious and refreshing electronic melodies, and this album has enough variation in that department that it should keep others coming back as well.

It’s impossible not to recommend this album and even for people that aren’t normally into this stuff; this is far from a boring listen. Avenpitch is probably one of the biggest surprises in recent memory and they’ve managed to craft a fast, fun and catchy pop masterpiece. - Jose Vela

Disco:Very:

Finally, I would like to remind my fellow Americans that Avenpitch are still doing their best to get a drunken America off the couch and onto the dancefloor with their latest album Cast Off, which poses the musical question: what if the Swimming Pool Q’s had actually been hyped up on youth instead of hair gel? Loathe though I am to advocate actually buying music, I strongly urge all Americans to listen to the free downloads from this album and decide for yourself: is this the haphazard direction I want my country to assume? Let me answer with a resounding, “Fuck, yeah!”

Duluth Bugeteer:

Avenpitch: Minnesota’s electropunk ambassadors to the world!
By Matt Perrine

If you know little about the Twin Cities electropunk movement — like me last week — take a gander at this slab of knowledge: “Nobody invented this electropunk thing. No city can claim it (though New York certainly tries). It’s simply what happens when you take a generation of bored teens and twentysomethings — raised on hardcore punk, British techno, Nintendo and Doritos — and place cheap digital recording technology within their grasp. Next thing you know, you’ve got a million zillion half-rock, half-electronic, cyborg bands thrashing out one MP3 after another of ragged, jagged synthesizer pop and giving it away for nothing on their Web sites. … If that ain’t punk, I don’t know what is.”

That very-helpful info was cooked up by Death by Karaoke Records’ Emil Hyde for the Twin Cities Electropunk line of compilations, a free series organized by Todd Millenacker.

But Millenacker, who has organized four such collections to date, is more than just a genre “uber-fan.” His reason for wanting the scene to blossom is actually twofold: he’s also the vocalist, guitarist, programmer and co-producer for Avenpitch, a group I shall so humbly refer to as Minnesota’s electropunk ambassadors to the world from here on out.

Why, oh why, would I bequeath such a high honor on a band whose new album I’ve only spent a week with? Well, for starters, I listened to it.

“Cast Off,” the group’s third, is a revelation — both for me and an entire movement.

This tour de force opens triumphantly with “Pregnant Pause,” a static-drenched assault with enough synthy goodness to remind us all just how missed God Lives Underwater really is.

Avenpitch keeps it going with the bold “Maybe I Was Wrong,” which falls somewhere between the sounds found within “Donnie Darko” and the 16-bit incarnation of “The Legend of Zelda,” and “Desperado,” a radio-ready firestarter that is sure to clinch your vote.

Other immediate standouts on this altogether-amazing affair include the Cars-y “Sweet Summertime,” “Disappear” (complete with U2-level production values) and “Don’t Come Cryin’ to Me.” Besides nicking a line from Soul Asylum’s “April Fool,” that last one incorporates subtle melody nods to R.E.M.’s “Imitation of Life,” marking it with a level of familiarity that makes it the disc’s most accessible outing.

Even if you walk away from these tracks with a whole different set of comparison points, one thing’s for certain: “Electropunk” is a really misleading genre category for Avenpitch. There isn’t much in the way of abrasiveness here. The angry “Two Minutes Hate” notwithstanding, Millenacker and crew are just modern-day popsmiths with an imaginative taste for new sounds. They have a knack for crafting unavoidable gems and, if they get the breaks they deserve, many more will get to hear what I hear.

And they’ll like it.

Avenpitch will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, at Beaner’s Central. Sassanach and Erth are also on the bill. Cost is $5. After that show, Avenpitch will head over to Superior and play a free set with the Good Colonels at 11 p.m. at Thirsty Pagan. Details (and free MP3s) at www.avenpitch.com.

Duluth New Tribune:


Minneapolis electro-punk group produces a lot of noise, not much else
.
By John Ziegler

Minneapolis-based Avenpitch is Todd Millenacker (lead vocals, guitar, programming), Darren Shaw (guitar, backing vocals), Paul Hudalla (drums, backing vocals), Sarah France (keyboards, backing vocals)

I developed a nervous tick listening to “Cast Off,” the new disc from Avenpitch. Its bombastic, twitchy, caffeinated rhythms caused me to look like a swimmer repeatedly trying to rid his middle-ear canal of excess moisture.

Think Devo, B-52s, Pixies and an assortment of other 1980s post-punky, new-wavey, electro, garage bands whose sound seems to center not on heady themes, great melodies, literate turns of phrase or subtle musicality, but on throbbing bass; alternating screamed-shouted-yelled words; and bashing walloped drums that collectively contains all the charm of a truck ad. It wasn’t until the first part of the final track on the disc that lead vocalist Todd Millenacker gave himself anything but an unrelenting bombardment of sound to shriek over. It was at that point that it became clear the reason: He can’t sing very well.

Here’s a tip: Never confuse energy for musical talent. Banging your head against a wall is something anyone can do. It takes energy —and stupidity — but no musical talent. Singing a complex melody in tune or playing an interesting instrumental line, takes dexterity and musicality. These aren’t skills that anyone, including many in music ensembles, can do.

“Pregnant Pause” starts with some revved-up backward keyboard chords — recorded frontwards then played back backward — and sounds so much like a B-52s track (think “Rock Lobster”) that I can almost see the beehives above my speakers. Its dyspeptic text centers on someone who’s looking for a friend, a face, someone to “put me in my place …”

“Disappear” has David Bryne’s quirky style written all over it. Millenacker’s lyrics include bits about Elvis, dying his hair black, driving to Memphis, popping pills, looking for Jesus. No pensive probing narratives or pithy aphorisms, just sound-bite utterances. Paul Hudalla gets a snare drum “thwack” that really marks time.

More throbbing bass on “Blink.” More shouted lyrics, more attempts to make the chorus sound anthemic.

This isn’t an album that paints pictures in your head; more like a clangorous punk band’s adolescent rants and raves. I’m all for loud bombastic bands. But it has to be backed with talent. Preferably musical talent. If not, it’s just noise.

Grave Concerns:

Punk is not really my genre at all, but I got a chance to listen to a band called “Avenpitch” and I fell for it directly. “Cast off” is a CD that reminds me of a mix of electro mixed with punk with funny lyrics. It’s kind of like “Mindless Self Indulgence” but more -happy. It’s this kind of music you want to jump around to and just go crazy. So what are the downsides? Well the production isn’t that great (but hey its punk with an electro twist) so it doesn’t matter to me at least.  The singer doesn’t have the best voice but his voice fits “Avenpitch” just right and without it, it probably wouldn’t be the same at all. Songs to watch out for are “Desperado” and “Disappear” which are two kick ass tracks. I really hope to hear more from “Avenpitch” cause it’s very different from the music I’ve heard so many times before. It’s nice with something new and refreshing.  - Fredrik Croona

Perfect Porridge:

Minneapolis’ electropunk outfit Avenpitch have a new album coming out on Saturday, Cast Off. It’s enough for me to call in sick to work, assume the fetal position and cower in the basement corner for the next five days. I’m a big Avenpitch fan.

There were always 3 types of hyperactive kids in school. 1) The kids who were untreated and out of control. 2) The kids who took their Ritalin regularly (although occasionally sold a pill to friends here and there). 3) And then there were the kids who ground up their Ritalin and snorted it (with a beer chaser). I imagine the Avenpitch guys came from that latter category.

Despite all the synth on Cast Off, there’s plenty of gritty, medium-rare raw rock countered with a worldly sensibility.

I’m especially a fan of tracks like “Desperado” with their frantic punk pace underlined with electronic bleeps and bloops that compel the listener to turn it up.

RIFT Magazine:

Avenpitch’s third album, Cast Off, is a chameleon project that defies efforts of classification; try to pin down what they are doing and every time they slide from underneath your thumb. There is a driving electro beat that brings out the best in indie-dance similes: The Faint, Electric Six, Junior Senior. But there is a punk influence that is persistent throughout Cast Off that separates Avenpitch from the others. I’d be tempted to liken their electro-punk stylings to a band like Mindless Self Indulgence that keeps their tongue firmly planted in cheek, but Avenpitch is far more surprising than MSI, tending to become more confessional and less, well, silly. They use these humorisms only to subvert these seemingly personal confessions with a line about climbing in the back seat of a car and giving “it all we got.”

The opening track, “Pregnant Pause,” typifies the style of electronic-dance-punk the band is striving for. Songs saturated in Casio-tones, thick beats, and walls of distorted guitars. Todd Millenacker, the impresario of this circus, has a voice that in other contexts might be grating, but his shout-singing fits the bill in Avenpitch. They have a sound that is geared towards a voice that is perpetually excited, able to clearly convey the lyrics, and accentuate the subtle orchestrations of the songs. Millenacker’s enthusiasm for his music is omnipresent, as though he could only lay down his tracks running in circles through the studio.

On Cast Off the band seems more focused than on previous efforts. The sound is consistent, while maintaining a variety that doesn’t leave the album rife in redundancy. With a few songs in the vein of “Pregnant Pause” abundant in dance grooves, pop-hook tendencies in songs like “Desperado,” and even a pension to lean into a slower more melodic vein with songs like “Reactor,” which employs an acoustic guitar tangoing with a slower beat.

If the album is suffering from anything it’s a lack of consistency. The tendency to swagger from irony to humor to confessional lyrics works at times, but they haven’t managed to perfect the formula. This transition often proves to be a little difficult for Millenacker, who slides into some clichéd content, which takes away from the freshness of the vast majority of his lyrics. Lines like “Death is knocking but we won’t let him in / I think he only comes around because he knows he’ll get in / I’ve been burned by angels, crippled by fear / thinking that this darkness will finally disappear,” reveals the groups nearly O’Hara-esque desire to meld irony and meaning. But this desire often leads to passages, like the previous, that lend neither humor nor insight. In a song that is otherwise engaging these passages become distracting and take on undo weight. When this is working, in tracks like “Desperado,” Cast Off will make you laugh, think, and dance. - Dustin Luke Nelson

ReGen Magazine:

Caterwauling and nervous, Avenpitch may have a few synthesizers, but they’re mired in early ’90s indie rock.
According to the official site, Cast Off is the third album by this Minnesotan quartet, which apparently has a reputation for spearheading the Twin Cities’ synth rock scene. For this reviewer, this isn’t too surprising; the Minneapolis/St. Paul area has long been an upstanding member of the Midwest indie music scene, and Avenpitch’s sound definitely has all college rock hooks, distressed vocals, retro synths, and garage levels of production to earn themselves some local credit.

As seen in tracks like the plucky “Sweet Summertime,” Todd Millenacker definitely fits that niche of being more of a front man than a skilled vocalist. Set to a clatter of drums, chirpy vintage synths, and screeching guitar, Millenacker’s awkward yet dreamy whine is like a pleasant warm weather daydream back to the days when Teen Beat, SST, and Sub Pop reigned in the indie scene. With its distant cardboard percussion and muttering arpeggio blips, Millenacker stumbles caterwauling through “Pregnant Pause.” While its poppy shout-a-long bridge brings to the table a chugging crash of snares and sighing synth hoots, it remains rather polite even at its most wound.

However, Cast Off isn’t completely chirpy, warbling, and upbeat. “Two Minutes Hate” is a brief moment of mosh pit fury where Millenacker’s repetitive shouts do their best to command attention over its rolling blasts of double bass pedal drumming, jagged synths, and buzzing wall of guitar feedback. However, for this reviewer, the true diamond in the eight-track rough is “Maybe I Was Wrong.” Backed by the breezy melancholy lilt of keyboardist Sarah France, its tangle grumbling bass, airy organ synths, and flat listless percussion lends Millenacker’s awkward sighs a touch of Cure-like melancholy. However, what makes this piece is its chorus; from murky ennui, it explodes in an adamant firework of whining guitar and charging snares that suddenly makes this piece feel far more earnest than the rest.

Avenpitch may list among their influences New Order, the Happy Mondays, and Pop Will Eat Itself, but this reviewer certainly can’t hear it. If anything, it could be said that they sonically reside somewhere between Camper Van Beethoven and The Cars. In other words, outside of the occasional flare of hip retro electronics, it sounds like an indie refugee from 1995 and will probably only appeal to the scattered few who pine for more of that era’s upbeat brand of independent rock. - Vlad McNeally

Smother.net:

Avenpitch shoots me another album that showcases this Minneapolis based electro-punk’s utter knack for writing fun, catchy, and most importantly danceable hits that truly bleed Pop Will Eat Itself, which they so graciously reminded me enough about that I busted out “Wise Up Suckers” and “Now For a Feast”.  Thanks duders.

Sonic Curiosity:

This release from 2009 features 34 minutes of hard-edged punk music.

Avenpitch is: Todd Millenacker (on vocals, guitar, programming), Darren Siaw (on guitar and background vocals), Paul Hudalla (on drums and background vocals), and Sarah France (on keyboards and background vocals).

Unbridled power is keynote in this music, transforming pop tunes into vigorous rock’n’roll with lots of teeth.

The guitars wail with bestial character, delivering riffs of bewitching scope. Double-tracking the guitars achieves a tasty sonic assault.

The drums are robust and aggressive, generating power rhythms seething with compelling allure.

The vocals are earnest and entertaining, blending punk shouting with pop tune crooning.

The keyboards provide a fluid counterpart to the hostility characterized by the other instruments. Their soft sweeps act as endearing aspects buried amid the growling guitars and the compulsive tempos.

Everything is subjected to a delightfully relentless digital distortion, mutating things even more, plunging the songs into a zone squeezed between New Order and the Pixies.

These compositions are energetic and catchy, merging elements of punk, pop and rock to produce a rewarding dose of fun. Where a lot of punk fixates on complaints, the temperament of these songs tends to be more celebrative, forcing a good time on the audience.

Star Tribune:

Avenpitch Thrice Over
By Chris Riemenschneider

I had one immediate reaction listening to “Cast Off,” the latest CD by local dance-rock mainstays Avenpitch: Somebody has been listening to a lot of LCD Soundsystem. To be fair, though, comparing Avenpitch leader and local electropunk ringleader Todd Millenacker to James Murphy & Co. also would have been apt with their two previous albums. Millenacker’s upbeat, punchy songs avoid the dour, goth-ish rut that too many other digi-rock bands fall into, and he incorporates punk and metal influences bravely, albeit sometimes clumsily. Avenpitch’s CD party is Saturday at Club Underground (9 p.m., $5).

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