Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Fashionism is the latest band from Jeff McCloy of Tranzmitors fame. And with members of The Jolts and New Town Animals also in tow, you would be right to anticipate something really great. Fashionism largely pick up where the Tranzmitors left off - delivering high energy poppy punk in the classic late '70s style. The difference, though, is that Fashionism injects a heavy glam influence into the mix. The three-song Smash Your State (With Your Face) brings to mind The Boys, Teenage Head, and even the first Exploding Hearts demo. The title track is every bit the sing-along funtime anthem you'd expect it to be - and it's not even the best song on the record! I'd give that honor to "Where Have All The Rock 'n' Roll Girls Gone?"- a song so buoyantly catchy that it may provoke a worldwide epidemic of jubilant youths dancing in the streets. In a similar spirit is a rousing cover of "Breaking Out" off the soundtrack to the Rocky Horror follow-up Shock Treatment. It's been a while since a band's debut has knocked my socks off like this. It's going to take a couple more top-notch releases before I proclaim Fashionism the new kings of Canada. But, wow, what a great start! If you've been digging what's been cooking up north or just love the powerpop/punk thing, this is a band you've got to check out!
Friday, January 23, 2015
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Sunday, January 18, 2015
I've always thought of Mystery Date as a long-lost British mod revival band from the late '70s that accidentally stepped through a portal to the future and developed a fascination with early 2000s Japanese power pop. So, then, it seems perfectly natural that the group's debut album would be themed around Cold War paranoia, international espionage, and romance under surveillance. With its darker, nuclear era tone, New Noir strikes me as an album that could easily have been made in 1980. Yet it feels all the more poignant given the current state of the world. Musically, it brings together a variety of sources of inspiration. I hear some of Elvis Costello's vocal mannerisms, The Jam's punchy guitars, the Only Ones' tortured romanticism, the Buzzcocks' melodic chord progressions, and First Alert's vibrant modern inflections. Yet overall, Mystery Date have really found their own sound here. Jagged guitars work in perfect unison with a sharp, snappy rhythm section. And Johnny's vocals, full of understated despair, are ideally suited to articulate these tales of forbidden and ill-fated romance. The songs have a way of slowly sneaking up on you - with hooks that require repeated listens before they really sink in. But once they do sink in, it's absolute melodic bliss.
While still operating within the bounds of mod-punk and power pop, Mystery Date have managed to do something genuinely different. I wouldn't call this new wave, but there are major elements of that going on. I wouldn't call this garage, although the minimalist production does fit the bill. I would call this a bold and highly creative work of loud guitar pop. Its vision is cinematic without being pretentious, and its songs will be stuck in your head for weeks. Listening to "Foreign Affairs" or the back-to-back gems "Cosmos" and "Wouldn't You Like To Know", I'm struck by the progression Mystery Date have made in such a short amount of time. Sure, they could have made a debut album that sounded exactly like their singles - and nobody would have complained. But New Noir is a delightful surprise. In its explorations of Cold War romanticism, it has a great deal to say about what it means to live and love in today's society. New Noir kicks off what looks to be another amazing year for albums. Get it from Piñata Records!
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Los Breakdowns - out of Nottingham, U.K. - have been making excellent power pop and rock n' roll for a decade now. Rock 'N' Roller Skates is the band's third LP - and it's poised for an American release on the fabulous Rum Bar Records early next month. I highly recommend all of this band's previous releases, but Rock 'N' Roller Skates takes things to a whole other level. This is the strongest and best-produced collection of Breakdowns songs to ever see the light of day, and again this band is a tremendous combination of just about everything that's good in pop, punk, and rock n' roll. Cheap Trick and the Ramones remain obvious reference points - along with Hanoi Rocks, the New York Dolls, and glam-pop greats like Candy. From the hard riffs and handclaps of "UK Youth" to the high-spirited pub rock of "Dancehall Disaster", this album is absolutely stacked with smash hits. And given that this record was written over a fairly long period of time, the great variety of song styles is not surprising. From the candy-sweet power pop of "Waiting On Perfection" to the doo-wop balladry of "It's Only Love" to the exultant Ramonesy thump of "Stick 'Em Up Buddy", there's something here for everyone. "Rock City Limit" sounds like a long-lost D Generation anthem, while "Mainline Waiting" is classic glam power pop in a Candy/Beat Angels mold. Lead guitarist Matt Julian is a gifted songwriter and one of the shining stars of a vibrant underground rock n' roll scene in England. If he's the Andy McCoy of the band, Joe Maddox is Los Breakdowns' own Michael Monroe - a charismatic singer perfectly suited to the glammy side of rock n' roll and power pop.
While Los Breakdowns remain largely unheralded in the States, an American release for Rock 'N' Roller Skates could change that in a big way. This is definitely an album that ought to have people mentioning Los Breakdowns alongside all the top garage/power pop/rock n' roll bands of the moment. And it certainly won't hurt that they're now label mates of The Connection and Kurt Baker! Rum Bar Records has quickly become one of my favorite labels, and it's great to see the label looking beyond its New England base and signing one of the finest bands the U.K. has to offer. Rock 'N' Roller Skates has been a fixture in my car CD player since I first popped it in there ten days ago. I imagine your experience will be very much similar to mine. These songs are just so catchy and fun, and it's been a little while since I enjoyed a new album this much. This is glam-punk just the way I remembered it - and it's sounding as timeless as ever.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
I came upon the punk world a little differently than the typical person. I grew up on classic rock and metal and did not, as a teen, have much awareness of any music outside of the mainstream. That very much changed in the wake of Nirvana mania, and the latter half of my college years were largely spent in vast explorations of this new and exciting world of indie/alternative/underground music. I read every alt-rock rag I could get my hands on and bought all kinds of new music without any regard for specific sub-genres. Some of it I liked, and a lot of it I didn't. And after a couple years of trial and error, it became obvious to me that the punk stuff was what really spoke to me. So much of what was passing for "alternative" music struck me as a little too high-brow or just simply not my taste. But punk rock was pure simplicity and excitement, and I just loved the way it mixed a primal aggression with catchy songs you could sing along with. I knew this was my music. And while I didn't particularly care for the offerings from the bigger punk labels like Epitaph and Fat Wreck, the underground pop-punk scene and nascent '77 punk revival were so exciting to me that I was inspired to start spreading the gospel via the printed word. These were exciting times to be a fan of punk music. You'd see an ad or a review in Maximumrocknroll, stuff some cash in an envelope, and wait by the mailbox for 2-3 weeks anticipating the arrival of your prize. There was never any guarantee that you were going to love every record you bought, but there was always that thrill in taking chances on bands and labels that were entirely unknown. As I look at my list below of the best punk rock records of 1995, I realize that I had not heard of most of these bands prior to that year. And it should also be noted that many of these bands became longtime favorites of mine. That's what I mean when I say that 1995 was my 1977.
On to the list!
Top 12 Albums of 1995
12. The Loudmouths - self titled
Straight from the band bio: "In the hell for leather tradition of three-chord sleaze n' roll, The Loudmouths spit out angst-ridden, feline-charged power trash and booze-soaked thrash that taps into the energy of early '80s hardcore and leaves behind a trail of blown ears and broken beer bottles." Yeah, that pretty much sums it up! Two decades later, Dulcinea is still going strong with Midnite Snaxxx!
11. Green Day- Insomniac
I always liked Green Day and never particularly cared whether they were "punk" or not. My first "big move" in the zine world was to make it clear that I did not side with the punk purists and anti major label zealots who made a sport out of bashing Green Day in the mid-'90s. My favorite Green Day albums are still the first three, but I'd put Insomniac in a dead heat with Nimrod for fourth.
10. Trash Brats- The Joke's On You
The glam-punk thing was still a few years away from really catching on, but in 1995 the Trash Brats were already longtime fixtures in Detroit's rock n' roll underground. With its perfect marriage of Cheap Trick and the New York Dolls, The Joke's On You was perhaps five years ahead of its time (or maybe 18 years behind it!). Either way, this album is a true classic of its form. If "Downtown Nowhere" doesn't make you happy to be alive, there's probably no hope for you.
9. Riverdales- self titled
Say what you want about old Ben Weasel, but this album is a fine example of what Ramones-core is supposed to be.
8. Electric Frankenstein - The Time Is Now!
Electric Frankenstein was one of the bands most responsible for reviving "old school" punk in the mid-'90s. Released on the heels of several outstanding singles, this monster collection combined the aggressive guitars of Detroit rock and Aussie punk with the snarl and sleaze of bands like the Dead Boys. Over the years a lot of bands would come on the scene with their own blends of hard rock and punk, but nobody did it better than E.F.!
7. The Queers- Move Back Home
If it seems like The Queers put out a great album every year between 1993 and 1996, that's because they did! Absolutely the greatest pop-punk band of the '90s.
6. Boris The Sprinkler - Saucer To Saturn
Still the Boris album I'm most likely to listen to. Fave tracks: "I Wanna Get To Third Base With You" and "Superball Eyes".
5. Motards - Rock Kids
A true classic of down-and-dirty drunken garage punk awesomeness. Then, as now, Austin had it going on.
4. U.S. Bombs- Put Strength In The Final Blow
When I think about '90s punk rock and why it ruled, the Bombs are always one of the first bands to come to mind. They put their own So Cal spin on the classic '77 sound and consistently made great albums. I don't think they fully hit their stride until War Birth, but I do love the pure rawness of this debut LP.
3. The Muffs- Blonder And Blonder
In my personal experience, the debate as to whether the second Muffs album is better than the first Muffs album has led to many shouting matches and late night brawls. I still think the self-titled album is just a little bit better overall than Blonder And Blonder. That said, I will say that side one of Blonder And Blonder is as good as any album side I've ever heard. It still boggles my mind that this album was on a major label at the absolute peak of the alternative rock craze and still couldn't get a lick of radio support. What kind of clueless fucktard actually thought that Jars Of Clay or Dishwalla were more worthy of airplay than The Muffs? No wonder the "music revolution" failed!
2. Oblivians - Soul Food
Without question one of the most important and enduring artifacts of '90s garage punk, Soul Food managed to throw The Stooges, Sonics, and Killed By Death comps into a blender with the traditional sounds of Memphis to create a musical concoction unlike anything the world had ever heard. A masterpiece of wild and trashy rock n' roll.
1. Swingin' Utters - Streets Of San Francisco
The Utters in the mid-'90s were pegged as modern disciples of The Clash and Stiff Little Fingers, and to a certain extent that was true. But they were so much more than that. Their songwriting (largely by guitarist Darius Koski) took some influence from traditional American genres like folk and bluegrass. And lyrically, the band was surprisingly poetic for a group so often pigeonholed as "street" punk. In more recent years, the Utters have more overtly embraced the sounds of Americana. But circa Streets Of San Francisco, they were still incorporating the spirit of those influences into a straight-ahead punk rock sound. Streets Of San Francisco is fiery, passionate, and hands down one of the best punk LPs of the 1990s.
Beatnik Termites - Taste The Sand
Gaunt - Yeah, Me Too
Zoinks! - Bad Move Space Cadet
Sicko - Chef Boyrudum
As good as the LPs were in '95, the EPs and singles are what I recall the most fondly. A top ten would be insufficient - so here's 20!
Top 20 Singles/EPs of 1995
20. Moral Crux/Boris The Sprinkler split 7"
19. Hormones- Cartographer Of Love
18. Parasites- Burnt Toast
17. Dead End Cruisers- The Suave The Distant The Gay The Scummy
16. Connie Dungs- Missy And Johnny
15. The Invalids - Punker Than Me
14. The Queers- Surf Goddess
13. Vindictives- Alarm Clocks
12. Registrators- Monkey
11. Jake and the Stiffs - Spike
10. Boris The Sprinkler- Drugs and Masturbation
9. Automatics - All The Kids Just Wanna Dance
8. Problematics - Blown Out
7. The Crumbs- I Fell In Love With An Alien Girl
6. The Rip Offs - Go Away
5. Johnny Bravo- She's Walking Out Again
4. The Beltones - Lock And Load
3. Teengenerate - Out Of Sight
2. Nobodys - Politically Incorrect
1. The Stitches - 8 x 12
Teen Idols/Mulligan Stu split 7"
The Rehabs- Here Come The Rehabs
Grieving Eucalyptus- Johnny Made Me Do It
Of course the above lists don't even begin to summarize the wide variety of punk music that came out in 1995. But they do give you an idea of what I was listening to in '95 and why I might have been inspired to start writing about music. I didn't really start getting into garage punk until a couple years later. But when it comes to the '77 and pop-punk stuff on these lists, I pretty much bought all of it when it was new. And if it seems my tastes haven't changed a whole lot in 20 years, I'd say that's very true!