ASTRAL CLOUD ASHES Brings Back that 90s Pop Punk Sound

The 90s Roots of the Astral Sound

For some folks, the 90s get a bad rap. However, the 90s were a great period for alternative music. Grunge rock blew up, punk bands got heavy airplay, and the independent scene exploded. There is a clear reverence to this era from many bands since that time. Modern alternative music seems to understand just how important the 90s were and many bands seem to draw a ton of influence from that era.

While one of the big hubs of the independent music scene of the 90s was New Jersey, today’s latest and greatest student of 90s alternative hails for old Jersey. Jersey, an island over the pond in Great Britain, has produced an artist that I’ve been unable to shake for a few months now – Antony Walker. Known as Astral Cloud Ashes, Walker is a punk rock one man band, reminiscent of the early years of Max Bemis’s Say Anything. Like early Bemis, who was (is) clearly also heavily influenced by 90s alternative subgenres, Walker has written and recorded all of the tracks – vocals, guitars, bass, drums, synths, you name it. Even those who don’t find this brand of alternative rock their thing will have to applaud Walker’s ambition and talent.

DEAR ABSENTEE CREATOR

Released in May, the latest album from Astral Cloud Ashes is entitled Dear Absentee Creator. As I noted above, I literally haven’t been able to stop spinning it since I discovered it in June. It features 11 tracks with lyrics inspired by Japanese culture and crytocurrency, as well as a sound that harkens back to 90s emo and pop punk with tinges of grunge and 80s/90s alternative. The music is clearly influenced by skate punk like NoFX and Lagwagon, emo acts like Piebald and Get Up Kids, and grungier acts like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Being born in the early 80s and having my musical adolescence in the early 90s, the sound is music to my ears.

Each track has its own flavor, but there’s a distinct feel and sound to Walker’s songs. there are moments where a Pixies influence shines through and others where it’s undeniable that Walker listened to some Green Day growing up. Being from Great Britain, it should go without saying that an aware punk rocker would also demonstrate influences from bands like The Clash and Stiff Little Fingers (a band that every Green Day fan should go check out like yesterday). And, these influences are omnipresent, as well. In other words, Walker isn’t reinventing the wheel with Dear Absentee Creator, but the kid knows his roots and has them on full display. Punk rock is in his veins and it’s the guiding force of what we get to hear.

Without breaking it down track by track, I can note that every time I listen I recognize more and more that Walker is a student of the music he loves. Much of that music falls under that big umbrella of punk rock, whether it’s the pop flavor of The Ramones, the post-hardcore/emo styles of The Promise Ring, or the high energy west coast style of the Fat and Epitaph bands. It’s like a really bizarre recipe where you blend up all that punk and emo, then throw in some of that 90s alternative from bands like Sponge, Hole, and Foo Fighters, then voila… you get Walker’s Astral Cloud Ashes sound.

Fans of literally any band I’ve mentioned so far will likely find something in Walker’s music to truly love.

The Philly Connection

As a website based in Philly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight some of the great artists from the area that share the musical space that Astral Cloud Ashes occupies. For starters, one of the bands from that 90s punk scene was Bethlehem’s Weston. Weston was a classic era emo/punk band that is highly recommended. It can be widely debated which album of theirs is the best, but 1996’s Got Beat Up may be their most iconic. If you’ve never listened to Weston, there is no time like the present. What’s even better is that several members went on to form a band called Beach Slang that continues to play a brand of punk rock that us 90s emo/punk kids and younger fans of punk and alternative music alike can enjoy.

A more recent Philly based act that borrows much of its influence from the same era and bands as Astral Cloud Ashes is Modern Baseball. While currently on hiatus, most fans seem to know in their hearts that they aren’t through yet. Whether or not we’ll get any new Modern Baseball albums, we don’t yet know; but we do have several great albums and EPs to enjoy. Check out their music video for “Your Graduation” above.

Lansdale’s The Wonder Years is so immersed in their reverence and nostalgia that their band shares a name with a popular TV series that ran from the late 80s through 1993. While that’s not really the origin of their name, it sure fits. With diverse influences that are quite similar in sound to Astral Cloud Ashes, Modern Baseball, and other modern acts with a throwback punk and emo sound, The Wonder Years play the kind of pop punk that is both radio friendly and plays well to the punks. As one of their more recent music videos above – “Sister Cities” – demonstrates, The Wonder Years appeal to fans of bands like CIV or Gorilla Biscuits while also having the pop appeal that regular radio listeners could get down with. Something about their aesthetic is reminiscent to South Jersey/Philly legends Lifetime and Kid Dynamite.

The list of Philly based punk bands that embody this particular type of punk music that blends grunge influences, early emo, unbridled punk rock, and pop hooks is too long to name. The Philly punk scene has always produced great acts, from the hardcore punk of Ink & Dagger and Paint It Black to the post-hardcore/progressive sound of Circa Survive or the irreverent music of Dead Milkmen. Specially along the lines of the Astral Cloud Ashes sound, several great lesser known local bands like The Sixties and Sister City embody the same sound and spirit today, as well. So, maybe some of these acts can find a way to get a great band like Astral Cloud Asher across the pond to play with them one day, but until that time, there’s no shortage on great tunes to enjoy through the magic of the Internet.

Where to Find Astral Cloud Ashes

Now that you know a little bit about the good Mr. Walker and his awesome band, here are some places to learn more!

Astral Cloud Ashes on Facebook
Astral Cloud Ashes on Instagram
Astral Cloud Ashes on Twitter

The band’s YouTube Channel

Dear Absentee Creator on SoundCloud
Dear Absentee Creator on Spotify
Dear Absentee Creator on Bandcamp

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