Thursday, April 23, 2015

New single from The No Tomorrow Boys!

Can you believe this is my fifth time reviewing The No Tomorrow Boys?! It seems like only yesterday that I wrote about these Portland heartthrobs' first single. But actually, that was nearly three and a half years ago. And since then, NTB have proven to be one of the best bands in the punk/rock n' roll universe - turning out two more killer singles and a scorching debut album. With such a perfect track record, I was wondering what these fellas could possibly do for an encore. Well, now I know! For their fourth single, NTB have again hooked up with Germany's Hound Gawd! Records. This is the band's second release on Hound Gawd following the European issue of its LP. And while "Who Killed Johnny?" is as great as expected, it's also very surprising. The title track - a hypothetical look at the mysterious death of Johnny Thunders - trades in the band's usual punked-up '50s rock n' roll sound for something much closer to proto punk. And, boy, does it freaking rip! Imagine Iggy & The Stooges on a Back From The Grave kick, with Mr. Thunders himself joining in on guitar. I'm used to NTB really pushing the tempo, but here they hit you with a four-minute slow burn full of primal howling and epic guitar slinging. Brilliant! 

On the B-side, NTB continue their tradition of amazing cover songs. This time, they take on "Get Out Of Denver" - from Bob Seger's 1974 album Seven. The original is pretty formidable in its own right, but this version takes it to another level. It's fast, furious, and crackling with energy - a rendition Chuck Berry might have done if his band mates had gobbled amphetamines and set the recording studio on fire. This, my friends, is rock n' roll!

Hound Gawd! Records has been wowing me with its excellent taste in punk rock n' roll and uncanny knack for securing top-shelf material from all of its bands. This release is no different - by far the best single yet from The No Tomorrow Boys. Don't miss it!


Monday, April 20, 2015

Stalin Video: the debut album!

If you described Stalin Video as The Gaggers meet Now in 3D, you'd be literally correct. The trans-Atlantic super-group Stalin Video features members of these two recently defunct bands joining forces and merging their signature sounds. Animalistik is the band's debut album, and it's a Grade A ripper. Throw the snotty punk rock of The Gaggers into a blender with the scuzzy synth-punk of Now In 3D. Toss in a lyrical obsession with murder, torture, and large scale brainwashing. The resulting concoction is hard to swallow yet nothing short of extraordinary. What else would you expect from a band with a genocidal authoritarian dictator for a mascot?

Don't let the synths and robot man backing vocals fool you. Animalistik is not some brooding post-punk art piece. It's a punk rock record all the way - and a crackling one at that. Imagine The Screamers on a dystopian sci-fi bender, covering an entire volume of Killed By Death. The lyrical vision is deeply disturbing, yet fantastically open to interpretation. Is this a glimpse at a nightmarish future, or are we already there? It's chilling to envision killer dogs roaming the streets and evil doctors experimenting on live subjects. And "My Face On Your Head" is a mind fuck I'm still struggling to process. Yet songs like "Animalistik Journalist" and "Suspekt" seem more topical than speculative - reminders that the human horror show is already well in progress. Terminal Gagger, reborn here as Vinny Stalin, spits out every gruesome detail with a fury bordering on delirium. And musically, Stalin Video is the best of the two worlds its unites: fast and frantic, with a whole lot of electro creepiness bubbling under. This may seem like an odd choice of words, but this is a thrilling record. These songs have a way of compelling you to sing along - which is a total blast until you realize what's coming out of your mouth. I'll never look at a Lincoln Continental the same way again.

Animalistik is that rare punk rock album that manages to be different yet completely great. I have to admit I'm usually lukewarm on synth-punk. But to me, this record would not have worked without the synths. The precise combination of influences that makes up Stalin Video has yielded something truly special. And so far, it's definitely the punk rock record of the year. If you're bummed that The Gaggers are no more, the dark offerings of Animalistik ought to lift your spirits. Get it from Wanda Records!



Friday, April 17, 2015

Angry Cougars are back!

Back with their third and fourth singles, Betty Machete and The Angry Cougars just keep on killing it. For Record Store Day 2015, these Columbus, Ohio maulers are offering up an ace new single called "Guts" along with a split with hometown mates Hexers. "Guts" finds BMAC slowing the pace down a little but hitting even harder (if you can imagine that!). Think less hardcore punk and more straight-up ferocious rock n' roll - with thundering guitars and a positively menacing vocal from Ms. Machete. The brilliance of this song is that you can't tell if it's a metaphor or if she literally intends to disembowel someone. And as always, this band really excels at coming up with that perfect little hook that you never see coming until it's already stuck in your head. If you soon find yourself horrifying friends and neighbors by repeatedly singing the line, "There's no escaping/Because I love your guts!", take comfort in knowing you won't be the only one.

"Guts" is backed with an absolutely raging cover of The Soft Boys' "I Wanna Destroy You". If you've been waiting all these years for an angry punk rock version of this alt-rock classic, BMAC have finally made that a reality. Seriously, this rendition eats the Circle Jerks' version for breakfast! From the first note, this is a band hell bent on destruction. That "I'll come picking at your bones" line, coming out of Betty Machete's mouth, has never sounded more convincing.

On the BMAC/Hexers split, the two bands take turns covering one of the other's songs. Hexers re-imagine "Damnation" as a saxophone-driven r & b shaker. I bet you never knew this was a party song! BMAC tackle "Kill For Fun" and definitely make it their own. The way the band blasts through this hard/fast ripper, it seems impossible to believe that they didn't write it! The download that comes with the record also includes the original versions of both songs - allowing you to appreciate both bands' formidable interpretations.

If you live in or around Columbus, you will find both of these new singles at area record shops starting tomorrow. Buy or be sorry!


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Return of The Decline!

Long Beach punk greats The Decline are celebrating their 20th anniversary in style - with a brand-new single on Hostage Records! I first reviewed this band back in 1998 - when their debut EP The Loaded Gun was Hostage issue #8! I was blown away by the band's TSOL/CH 3 inspired sound and couldn't wait to hear more. Fast forward to 2015. Hostage remains THE SoCal punk rock label, and The Decline sounds as powerful and urgent as they did all those years ago. "Radio Revolution" is a tribute to all the legendary bands of punk rock's first wave - who came out of nowhere to change the world forever. With its raw energy, hot bass lines, and anthemic chorus, it suggests what The Clash might have sounded like if they'd been from southern California. You know I love the '77 sound, and this tune totally nails it. Whether you're 16 or 66, "Radio Revolution" will remind you of how exciting it was when you first discovered punk rock.

On the flip, "Loser Machine" is a harder, nastier blast of punk rock n' roll, SoCal style. Slot it between Bonecrusher and The Humpers on your next mix, and you will be unstoppable! It sometimes sounds disingenuous to claim that both sides of a single are equally good. But in this case, I can't imagine anyone arguing with me! While The Decline have not been heard from on record for a very long time, they never really went away. They just kept on representing for Long Beach punk rock. And when it came to the business of releasing new music again, there was little doubt they'd be bringing it hard! These are two incredible songs from a band and label that never miss. And a bonus download card gets you access to a 15-song collection of demos and lost tracks - a nice consolation for anyone who wishes The Decline had released more music over the years. Limited to 550 hand-numbered copies, this title ought to demand your immediate attention. Here's to many more years of The Decline!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Prava Sessions: American Pinup

It is my great pleasure today to spotlight an amazing band and an extraordinary endeavor from Prava Creative Studios in nearby New Holland, Pennsylvania. The Prava Sessions feature live recordings from bands of varying musical styles. The concept is simple: the studio invites bands it likes to come record live. There are no overdubs, no autotune, and no pitch correction. These are 100 percent real live recordings. Each episode features 4-5 songs broken up with interview footage of the band. The studio treats these sessions like they're making real records - minus any technical trickery. It's like a modern-day Peel Sessions. All of the recordings are fully mixed and mastered, then released on iTunes, Spotify etc. Streams/purchases from these sources support the bands and the show directly. 

One of things I appreciate about The Prava Sessions is that the studio only invites bands it genuinely loves. And it only invites bands that can hack recording live with minimal takes. The bands cover genres from punk rock and power pop to singer/songwriters, Americana, and psychedelic. The next episode, launching April 21st, should be of particular interest to readers of this blog. White Plains, New York's American Pinup has released two full-length LPs, another EP, and a split album with Lost In Society. I've always been a sucker for female-fronted pop/punk, and American Pinup offers an energetic and highly original take on the style that adds elements of indie and alternative rock. Below I have embedded a sneak peak at the band's Prava Sessions episode. Give it a look, and you'll see that this band is the real deal all the way. "Shelter" originally appeared on the 2013 album Change Machine. This live take sounds every bit as good as the studio version. And it's very clear that Lauren West's powerhouse voice requires no technological enhancement! I should add that the lyrics to this song completely blew my mind. If one of the major objectives of this series is to feature bands with actual talent, then American Pinup is a perfect fit.

The audio EP version of American Pinup's Prava Sessions can be ordered here. Going forward, Prava plans to release a new episode of these sessions every three weeks. You can access all existing episodes at the studio's web site. And if you've never heard American Pinup before, you can listen to and buy all of the group's excellent releases over at its Bandcamp. Go check 'em out!


Monday, April 13, 2015

The Easy Lovers make an album!

Having first gotten into punk rock largely due to an obsession with the Ramones, Queers, and Screeching Weasel, I'm always pumped to hear newer bands that take me back to the excitement of those times. Hailing from Norman, Oklahoma, The Easy Lovers play ballsy pop-punk with a sick & twisted sense of humor. What's not to love about that?! Get A Job, the band's long-awaited debut album, has me feeling like it's 1995 all over again. Seriously: I can close my eyes and smell the leather jacket of my youth! And while The Easy Lovers definitely fall into that familiar style of pop-punk, I don't get the feeling that I've heard this band a hundred times before. These guys take what I've always loved about this genre of music and add plenty of their own personality. You've got bratty lead vocals in the neighborhood of Sloppy Seconds or Needles//Pins, slashing guitars a la Johnny Thunders, Clash-like shout-along choruses, and lyrics I can only describe as hilariously inappropriate. I've always maintained that the best pop-punk groups are rock n' roll bands at heart, and The Easy Lovers further confirm this theory.

In a word, Get A Job is just fun. You can't have a completely bad day if this record's on your turntable. You sometimes think pop-punk and assume it's going to be a bunch of sad-sap songs about lovelorn shy guys and the girls who don't know they exist. But judging from some of these songs, I'd say that girls are well aware of these fellas' existence. And some of them probably regret it! But while the "I can't believe they went there!" effect of "Dirty Secret" or "Minute Man" is a large part of The Easy Lovers' appeal, this is far from a joke band. The awesome "Fall For You" proves that these guys can do a straight love song when they want to, while "Pills For Pills" strikes me as a pertinent commentary on our over-medicated society. And if you've ever struggled to find a niche for your band in a bar/club scene dominated by assholes and crap music, you will surely relate to the fist-pumping anthem "Blacklist".

Adding elements of '77 punk, power pop, and good old rock n' roll to the tried-and-true three-chord formula, The Easy Lovers give modern-day pop-punk a much needed kick in the pants. If I had heard Get A Job when I was 24, I probably would have run out into the street and screamed for joy until the authorities hauled me away. My actual reaction at age 44 was only slightly less excessive. Have I just made an addition to my top ten list of favorite bands? I believe so!


Thursday, April 9, 2015

New Mad Parade 7"!

Probably the most underrated of all the great southern Californian punk bands, Mad Parade has stayed true to its classic sound for over thirty years. The legends from the San Gabriel Valley are back and sounding better than ever with a new single on the almighty Hostage Records. What I like about "The Fool" is that it demonstrates why Mad Parade is such a significant band to SoCal punk rock. This is not a case of a group resting on its laurels or trying to cash in on what it used to be. If you know nothing of this band's past, hearing this record will make you wish you did! And for those of you who are longtime fans, you will not be surprised to discover that these two songs totally kill! Mad Parade, like so many veteran punk outfits, benefits from decades of musical and life experience. This band is a well-oiled machine with profound insights into life and the world we live in. But unlike so many of its contemporaries, Mad Parade has never found the need to "outgrow" the fire and fury of its early days. "The Fool" is the absolute definition of anthemic punk rock - a powerful, driving number built around a massive sing-along chorus. Even listening in my basement, I'm jumping out of my chair and pumping my fist every time that chorus hits. It's a true thrill to be able to shout along to lyrics that truly speak to me. And Billy sounds great! On the B-side, "Lovers & Strangers" is the consummate SoCal punk blaster - right down to the melodic lead guitar and stirring backing vocals. This is the vintage Mad Parade sound: aggressive and tuneful, with the kind of chorus that will make you wish you could run up on stage and join the refrain.

As Hostage releases often do, "The Fool" is selling fast. Jump on this bad boy while supplies last! In addition to these two all-new smashers, you get a download card for 10-song collection of demos, outtakes, and lost tracks from various points in Mad Parade's glorious history. This is an incredible value for $5 - an absolute treat for hardcore fans and a must-own for anyone who loves the SoCal punk sound. And with another new 7" coming out on Record Store Day, Mad Parade is totally owning 2015!