Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Gaggers' final single!

My fourth time posting on The Gaggers will unfortunately be my last. The Gaggers - probably my favorite punk band of the last few years - recently called it quits. But while London's snot-punk kings will be severely missed, not all the news is bad. The silver lining comes in the form of the long-awaited release of the "missing" tracks from the Rip You Apart recording sessions. That's right: we get one last Gaggers 7", and it's a total killer! "Bad Taste", "Summer Of Hate", and "Grown Up Fast" date back to 2008 and feature the band's original three-piece lineup with Busy Signal on drums. These songs were supposed to be on the band's debut LP but were left off in the interest of keeping the album lean and mean. But by no means are they "lesser" tracks compared to the rest of Rip You Apart. I mean, come on. There's no such thing as a second-rate Gaggers song! 

Listening to these tunes, I'm quickly reminded of why I went so crazy for The Gaggers in the early days of this blog. These songs are vintage Gaggers - filthy '77 punk with throat-slashing guitars and snotty as hell vocals from the inimitable Terminal Gagger. Think Jabbers, Pagans, and Dead Boys with an English point of view. "Bad Taste" can instantly be added to the list of classic Gaggers tracks. Right off, I'm pumping my fist in the air and shouting along to that scathing chorus. And "Grown Up Fast" proves to be the real gem of the lot - a true punk rock anthem and a fitting way for this great band to bow out.

No Front Teeth Records proudly offers three versions of the "Bad Taste" 7". There's the regular version with the multi-colored sleeve, a limited version with a red-toned sleeve, and a super limited version with comic cover art and Gaggers postcards designed by Jackie Sudden from Jet Comix. Order any or all of these versions while supplies last! What a run this band has had over the last seven years: nine fantastic singles, two superb albums, and a leading role in England's most formidable wave of punk groups in three decades. The release of "Bad Taste" is a wonderful thank-you to fans. And we fans, in turn, thank The Gaggers for all the amazing music!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Baby Shakes are back!

Oh. My. God. A new Baby Shakes single just came out! It's been a long time coming! New York City's queens of power pop/rock n' roll/bubblegum punk, last heard on record six years ago, have made a triumphant return on Surfin' Ki Records out of Italy. The new single is called "She's A Star", and it's a dandy! The A-side is vintage Baby Shakes: upbeat sugary pop chock full of the bubbliest girl group harmonies this side of 1964. If you were worried that Baby Shakes were going to resurface after all these years with a more "serious" approach to music, "She's A Star" will put those fears to rest in a heartbeat. This is the kind of song that puts a smile on your face and makes you want to dance. And, really, nobody does that sort of thing better than Baby Shakes. On the flip, "Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie Your Love" is a punkier number in a Nikki and The Corvettes/early Donnas vein. Once again: classic Baby Shakes. What a way to come back!

Given that "She's A Star" was nearly sold out before it was even released, I recommend moving extremely fast on this single! There are 150 copies on white vinyl and another 150 on red. And then it's gone. So get shopping! And look for a new album from Baby Shakes coming soon! 


Monday, May 18, 2015

New Mandates!

Summertime, for me, always starts with the arrival of the first "summer album" of the year. After a long, cold winter, nothing cleanses the soul like cranking some catchy, high-energy tunes in the car on a warm, sunny day. There is nothing better in life. Last year it was Mother's Children who ushered in my summer in the most awesome way imaginable. Now it's their pals Mandates doing the honors with the release of their sophomore LP. In The Back Of Your Heart, a split release between Hosehead and Taken By Surprise Records, was one of my most highly anticipated albums of 2015. And let me tell you: it doesn't disappoint! I'm sure my fist pumps out the car window have been amusing my fellow motorists.

I thought that Mandates' 2013 debut album was easily one of the most underrated punk records of recent years. But In The Back Of Your Heart totally blows it away. Building off of the '77 punk and early 2000s power pop influences of their first album, Mandates have fully come into their own on this exciting and totally rocking long player. The Calgary foursome takes a familiar powerpop/punk style and gives it a rock n' roll kick in the ass - confirming that the "Suspicion" single's nods to Cheap Trick and AC/DC were no fluke. Coming off of that single, In The Back Of Your Heart is every bit the hook-laden feelgood record I was expecting it to be. It's truly the perfect album for the summer - crackling with infectious melodies and youthful energy. Certain songs bring to mind label mates like Mother's Children ("Maryanne") and The Cry! ("Katie Katie Katie") - or fellow Canadian greats like the Steve Adamyk Band ("Not My Problem"). Yet Mandates have their own sound all the way - propelled by the ripping dual guitars of Brady K and Matt Sickens. The album was recorded in Portland, Oregon with the legendary Pat Kearns - who elicited a tighter, beefier sound that suits these songs so well.

What I love about In The Back Of Your Heart is that it doesn't necessarily conform to what a punk record is "supposed" to be. You don't often hear of punk albums with long guitar solos or songs running 4-5 minutes. Yet Mandates totally pull that off here without it seeming cheesy or excessive. If you like three-minute pop songs, this record has some great ones ("Messin' Around", "Wastin' Time"). But I find it very cool that the five-minute "Phantasmagoria" is one of the highlights of the album. And knowing my fondness for epic album finales, you won't be surprised that I'm really digging the power ballad-ish closer "I Got Eyes (In The Back Of Your Heart)". This album takes so many things I like ('77 punk, glam, power pop, classic rock) and mashes them together into a singular rockin' sound. Clearly these guys had a game plan for In The Back Of Your Heart. And in collaboration with of one of the best producers in the business, they executed it to perfection. It's always a pleasure to hear a good band become great. And even in a Canadian scene stacked with amazing bands, Mandates stand out as one of the best.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Here are Brain Traps!

With so much music that's neither lo-fi nor trashy being labeled "garage" these days, my cravings for genuine lo-fi trash are at an all-time high. You know what I'm talking about: three-chord rock n' roll, played super primitively, and recorded on cheap equipment. And so we have Brain Traps - a band out of  Cologne, Germany bashing out a brand of garage punk that throws it straight back to the early '90s. Alien Snatch Records - my favorite record label of all-time - proudly presents not one but two new releases from Brain Traps. One is the band's self-titled LP, and the other is the third volume of the label's Teen Trash series - an installment that was a whopping 13 years in the waiting!

So we'll start with Teen Trash. The series began in 1999 with the intention of promoting the next generation of Supercharger/Teengenerate/Rip Offs disciples. The Highschool Rockers (future Kidnappers) were the first to be featured, followed by the Teenage Rejects in 2002. Given that those first two volumes are now considered to be garage punk classics, it made sense that Daniel couldn't do a third volume until he found the perfect band. Mediocrity would not do! So he waited and waited, holding out hope that he'd come across another group worthy of the Teen Trash brand. And, finally, Brain Traps are it! Teen Trash Volume III consists of four early Brain Traps tunes from 2013, recorded on 4-track and taken to another level by Rip Off Records mastering whiz Jim Kuczkowski. If you long for the days when you never missed a new release from labels like Rip Off and Radio X, you're gonna go apeshit crazy for these four lo-fi smashers! This is garage punk as nature intended: raw and wild, yet catchy as hell. If "Radical Bongo" doesn't melt your face off, you're probably wearing fireproof headgear.

While not nearly as "crude" sounding as the EP, the full-length is still plenty lo-fi and plenty trashy. And more than anything else, it's fun! Perhaps Brain Traps have refined their instrumental and songwriting skills just a little bit over the last couple of years. And it seems they've been listening to a lot of classic '60s garage rock in addition to the '90s stuff. The result is a ripper of an album that's equal parts garage and punk. Tracks like "Another Euro" and "Shoot My Baby" suggest the second coming of Supercharger, while the likes of "So Sad What's Left In My Head" seem straight out of 1966. And how can you not love a band that opens and closes its debut album with songs called "It's Alright"? Without a doubt, Brain Traps have given us the garage punk party record of 2015. And if you're not already throwing garage punk parties on a regular basis, Brain Traps have given you a damn fine reason to start! 


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

More from Los Pepes!

So who's my #1 favorite band on the planet? I'd say it's a close contest between a handful of candidates. I haven't had an "official" favorite band in a while - possibly because there are just so many amazing groups out there right now. How could I pick just one? But I will say that on the strength of their new EP, London's Los Pepes are meriting serious consideration for that top spot and the numerous glories it entails.

Having already released one of my favorite albums of recent memory, Los Pepes are back with four more songs that would have fit in splendidly on that record. It's like they weren't satisfied with making a perfect powerpop/punk album and decided a proper encore was necessary! "And I Know"/"Say Goodbye" is the name of the new EP. You can stream it now over at Los Pepes' Bandcamp, and it will soon be available on vinyl from Wanda Records. Again the band combines the sweetest pop melodies with a primal rush of loud guitars and smashing drums. What more do you need in life? The influence of the Buzzcocks ("And I Know") and Undertones ("Popular Rules") is immediately recognizable, and surely this record could be mistaken for a buried punk treasure unearthed from the vaults of 1979. If these songs were any catchier, the World Health Organization would have issued a warning sticker. "Say Goodbye" is probably the most pleasantly surprising track - its slower tempo and gorgeous harmonies channeling the best of early '70s power pop. That guitar solo is a thing of beauty!

Alright! If you enjoy high-energy powerpop/punk that you can dance to all night long, Los Pepes need to be on your radar. And I urge all my European friends to catch these gentlemen on tour later this month. You, too, might discover your new favorite band!


Monday, May 11, 2015

New album from The Ungraded!

The Ungraded call themselves a "high energy Boston rock band with punk fringe". The group more than lives up to that description on its brand-new album Not Guilty - a storming blend of hard rock and punk steeped in Boston's grand tradition of loud, aggressive rock n' roll. While still a relatively new outfit, The Ungraded is comprised of guys who have been playing in bands for decades. And that totally comes through in the music. Compared to the band's previous album Making The Grade, Not Guilty dials up the rock factor in a major way. I'm talking full-on, amps-to-11, blazing guitars rock n' roll - and you should be heavily fined if you don't play it loud. Not Guilty could almost pass for a lost artifact from the late '80s or early '90s - when this kind of punk-influenced hard rock was at the peak of its popularity. Jumping off with big rock guitar leads and heavy, sludgy riffs, "Mariposa" sets a tone a straight-off. The Ungraded have come to rock, and they intend for you to have a good time. Singer Dean Calamari has a really cool voice. And he and his band mates can really freaking play. The challenge for this kind of band is always the same: how do you manage to get the energy of your live show to translate in the studio? It works for The Ungraded largely because the band understands the perfect simplicity of a good arena rock hook. You could slide "Won't You Please" into heavy rotation on any classic rock radio station, and few would suspect it wasn't some forgotten hit from thirty years ago. That chorus just has a way of getting into your head. And the near epic "Supermodel Fucker" is the kind of song that only seems ridiculous until you realize you've been singing it all day. I'm betting that live crowds go absolutely nuts for this number.

There's something undeniably Boston about The Ungraded. This is a band that doesn't have to define itself strictly as punk, garage, or rock. It's a product of all of these things - and of a musical culture that has continually embraced real rock n' roll through thick and thin. "Worst Feeling" marries Stooges/Dictators punk to guitar shredder metal. "Outside My Window" alternates between an Alice Cooper-esque dirge and a speed punk adrenaline rush. While no studio album can fully replicate the concert experience, Not Guilty succeeds because it'll make you want to see The Ungraded live. And if you're in the Boston area, you'll have two chances this coming weekend to do exactly that. The band will be playing two shows for its red vinyl release weekend: one at Cooperfield's in Boston this Friday the 15th and another at Koto in Salem this Saturday the 16th. Check The Ungraded's Facebook page for more info! 


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Return of the Disco Lepers!

So after a four-year hiatus, the mighty Disco Lepers are back with a vengeance! These Londoners continue their quest to keep punk music vile and offensive - having just launched a three-song sonic missile called "Open Sores" in advance of a new LP due out very soon. After ten years as a band, Disco Lepers can still be counted on to deliver straight-up snotty punk rock in the timeless Killed By Death style. The title track is a total smasher - the kind of irresistibly repugnant ditty that you've grown to expect from this lovable gang of scums. You will find not the slightest hint of "maturity" - the band tearing into this tune as if on a mission of destruction and Vinny spewing vitriol like he's trying to infect everyone within earshot. "God Bless Mark David Chapman" is blistering and catchy as hell - a modern-day response to that popular joke that was going around in the '80s about a Beatles reunion requiring "three more bullets". Yeah, of course they went there! Coming on in a noisier vein, "Carbon Black" is a parting shot of jagged unpleasantness that ought to leave you fully primed for the new album Sophisticated Shame.

Out on No Front Teeth Records, "Open Sores" is sure to sell out fast. So the time to jump on this bad boy is now. I highly recommend ordering the limited edition of this release - which features the second installment in the Jet Comix series (illustrated by the immensely talented Jackie Sudden). It's incredibly cool and a total must-have if you're a Disco Lepers/Gaggers/No Front Teeth fan. So if you'd like to see Disco Lepers embark on a time traveling mission to kill The Beatles, email the label at to make the necessary arrangements! And be sure to check out the brand new Disco Lepers Bandcamp page - where you can download all of the band's releases and listen to a teaser for Sophisticated Shame!