Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Reverberations: the debut album!

It was a little over a year ago that I got my first taste of The Reverberations - and right off I sensed that Dave Berkham (ex The Cry!) had something special going with his new band. I just didn't realize it was all going to come together this quickly! Along side John Jenne (Sundaze, White Swans), Ian Bixby (Go Fever, Errata Note), and Cam Mazzia (Midnight Callers), Berkham has quickly established himself as a lead singer and songwriter of considerable talent. And with a superb debut album now out on the venerable Screaming Apple Records, I have a much fuller picture of what The Reverberations are about. Mess Up Your Mind sounds like it could have been released in 1967- when the worlds of psychedelic rock and garage rock frequently overlapped. From the guitar effects down to the vocal arrangements, this release uncannily recreates the sound of '67. I was even convinced that a few of these tracks just had to be covers, but it turns out they're all Dave Berkham originals!

I would describe Mess Up Your Mind as psych rock with an emphasis on the rock. Even the more "out there" songs have a solid punch to them. And when The Reverberations turn their attention to pure and primal '60s garage action, they do it as well as any band out there. Ultimately it's the mix of different styles that makes this release so very enjoyable. A full album of Sonics/Standells/Shadows of Knight style numbers would have been alright, but I think it's far cooler that high-energy '60s punk ravers like "Wild" and "No No No" are totally unexpected changes of pace here. Berkham, always open about his love for the classic music of the '60s, honors his songwriting heroes by emulating their versatility and openness to new ideas. From the groovy psych-pop of "Outtasite" to the thumping freakbeat of "Mystery" to the eerie, semi-acoustic "Succubus" to the surf-tinged "Don't Hurt My Pride" to the Beatlesque "You're Mine All Mine", this album runs the gamut of later '60s influences. Yet the exceptional quality of these songs and the sheer energy of the band's playing elevate The Reverberations well above the usual revivalist/throwback/tribute niche.

I know it's a total cliche to credit a band with taking classic music and making it "current". But it's hard to deny that The Reverberations successfully tap into the genuine timelessness of one of the best-ever eras of music. Of course I would recommend Mess Up Your Mind to fans of The Byrds, later '60s  Stones/Kinks/Who, and the Nuggets compilations. But I also see The Reverberations as the kind of band that will inspire younger generations to seek out some of the great music of the past. Screaming Apple Records is a label with a long history of working with the top new talent in the world of garage and pop. Clearly that continues with The Reverberations.



-L.R.

https://thereverberations.bandcamp.com/album/mess-up-your-mind
https://www.facebook.com/thereverberations/
http://screamingapple.de/
https://www.facebook.com/ScreamingAppleRecords/

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Prissteens: greatness from the vaults!

The intersection of punk rock and '60s girl group pop is a tradition that goes all the way back to the New York Dolls and Ramones. It's quite fitting, then, that one of the all-time great "punk rock girl groups" hailed from New York City. It has been 20 years since The Prissteens released their first single, and the wonderful label Girlsville has commemorated the anniversary by releasing a collection of demos and rarities from this short-lived and criminally overlooked band. It's available now on cassette and digital album.

In their original form, The Prissteens were Lori Lindsay, Leslie Day, Tina Canellas, and Mighty Joe Vincent (The Devil Dogs). Later members Jon Chalmers and Dave Lindsay would eventually join Lindsay and Day in the equally great Purple Wizard. Personal favorites of Joey Ramone, The Prissteens released their debut full-length Scandal, Controversy & Romance on Almo Sounds in 1998. The album was produced by Richard Gottehrer - a legendary '60s songwriter also known for his work with The Go-Go's, Blondie, and Holly & The Italians. Now out of print, Scandal, Controversy & Romance was one of countless really good late '90s albums that the world has seemingly forgotten about. It was largely ignored in punk circles because it was on a major label, and there wasn't really a mass audience for this kind of record in the heyday of post-grunge and nu metal. If you can track down a copy, it's well worth picking up. The Prissteens were in the process of demoing tracks for a second album when they broke up, and those long-lost recordings make up the bulk of Demos & Rarities. The collection also includes the essential and long out of print A-sides from the band's three singles along with a live version of album favorite "Let Me Run Wild".

Listening to this compilation, I get the sense that a second Prissteens album would have sounded very different from the first. I have it on very good authority that Lori Lindsay was not a fan of the big rock sound that The Pristeens came to be known for. This was always a group that aspired to be more like a female Everly Brothers. The tracks on this collection seem to be more in the spirit of the band's early singles and the later recordings of Purple Wizard: rawer, simpler, and heavily indebted to the timeless sounds of the '60s. "If You Really Loved Me" could easily pass for a golden nugget from one of the Girls In The Garage compilations, while Muffs fans will be all over the pure pop goodness of "Sugarboy". Nods to The Monkees ("Nothing To Say") and Strangeloves ("Are You Ready") are nothing short of terrific, and the primal garage rock of "Oh Billy" is a perfect lead-in to those superb A-sides. "The Hound", one of the hottest rock n' roll sides of the '90s, sounds like The Sonics backing The Shangri-Las. It alone would make this collection a must-buy.

Of course Demos & Rarities is a special treat for longtime Prissteens fans. But it's so much more than that. For those who weren't around in the '90s or were just never aware of this band, this compilation is probably a better introduction to The Prissteens than their lone studio album (and what a deal for six bucks!). Scandal, Controversy & Romance, while an excellent album, essentially took the band out of the garage. And something valuable was lost in the process. Demos & Rarities will have us remembering The Prissteens for what they really were - precursors to the thriving garage girl group scene of recent years.



-L.R.

https://girlsville.bandcamp.com/album/the-prissteens-demos-rarities
https://www.facebook.com/GirlsvilleRecords

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Black Heart Of Rock-N-Roll!

Watts, the best classic rock band going, has finally gone out and made its classic album. It's like the last 25 years in music never happened, and I couldn't be happier!

When I last checked in with Watts, I had high praise for the Boston band's third album Flash of White Light. Now with their new one The Black Heart Of Rock-N-Roll, Watts have taken what they do best and found a way to do it even better. This is still the Watts that you know and love - a band kicking it back to the heyday of the Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, and Aerosmith. But it's clear that with this album, the band really set out to hit one out of the park. Here Watts sound like a band that went to every length to write its best songs yet and record them to perfection. Everything about The Black Heart Of Rock-N-Roll just sounds "bigger": the hooks, the guitars, the production, you name it. And out of ten total tracks, I can't name one that wouldn't make a fine single. What we have here is an an album that would be tailor made for radio airplay if the '70s had never ended. And that's exactly what we need more of in 2016.

One thing I like about Watts is that they're a true band. All four members sing, and everyone plays an essential role. John Blout and Dan Kopko are probably my favorite guitar tandem out there - a modern day answer to Keith Richards/Mick Taylor, Joe Perry/Brad Whitford, and the Young brothers. Those thunderous riffs and killer solos hit the sweet spot for me every time. But you can't talk about Watts without also mentioning the phenomenal rhythm section of Johnny Lynch (drums) and Tim McCoy (bass). The Black Heart Of Rock-N-Roll is what you get when hot chops meet monster hooks and straight-up stellar songwriting. It starts out strong with the riff-heavy title track, ends with an old-fashioned arena anthem in "Bring On The Lights", and unleashes a parade of hits in between. My first reaction to "She's So Electric" was to wonder how these guys got Mick Jagger to sing on their record. My second was to note that the Stones haven't sounded this good in 35 years! You hear a lot of bands that can emulate the guitar power of '70s AC/DC, but few can come close to matching the songwriting. Watts are pretty much there on "Strut (Like A Champ)" (and I love the little nod to Angus Young in the solo!). "Stage Fright" has me fondly recalling the days when Aerosmith still made great records, while "Fast & Loose" is forcing me to admit I sometimes like southern rock. And lead single "Up All Night" is vintage Watts - a song built on maximum riff power and a simple but effective hook.

I'm not saying you shouldn't drop a couple hundred bucks on tickets to see AC/DC or KISS this summer. I would merely urge you to also catch Watts live if you ever get the chance. This is a band keeping the fire burning for real rock n' roll in 2016, and it has just turned out the album of its life. Downloads are available now via Rum Bar Records - with CDs arriving next month. And, yes, this is the kind of album that sounds especially great on vinyl. Fear not- LPs are coming in the fall! 



-L.R.

https://rumbarrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-black-heart-of-rock-n-roll-2
https://watts.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/wattsrock/
https://www.facebook.com/RumBarRecords

Friday, June 17, 2016

Top Ten Albums of 2006!


Can you believe that we are now a decade removed from 2006? I sure can't! My mind perceives 2006 like it was just yesterday, but the calendar says it's been ten years. Consider the evidence. In 2006, Barack Obama was still a first-term senator for the state of Illinois. Drake was just a kid actor dabbling in music. MySpace was still a thing. A BlackBerry was a cutting edge smartphone. People still went to video stores to rent movies. And I was still doing a webzine on a Geocities page builder - reviewing music that I listened to exclusively on records and CDs. 

So here we are a decade later. I decided to go back and re-do my top ten from 2006. I think it's pretty neat that the majority of the bands on this list remain active today. Those of you who've been following my writings for a long time will likely remember these albums well. And if these releases were a little before your time, I totally recommend seeking them out. You can hear most of them in their entirety on YouTube. On that note, let's get to it: my top ten punk/garage/powerpop albums of 2016!

10. Shock Nagasaki - Year of the Spy  
Shock Nagasaki's one and only album, Year of the Spy was one of the great overlooked punk releases of its time. Out of Syracuse, New York, this band sounded more like London 1980! From start to finish, it's punk anthems galore in the vein of Chelsea and The Professionals! Listen to the full album over at YouTube.

9. The Gee Strings- A Bunch Of Bugs
Still going strong after 22 years, Germany's '77 punk torchbearers The Gee Strings just put out a new LP this year. A Bunch Of Bugs is up there with the strongest albums of the band's career. You can stream it now from The Gee Strings' Bandcamp.

8. Mind Controls - self titled
Mind Controls were led by Mark Sultan (Spaceshits, Les Sexareenos, The King Khan & BBQ Show). I like this album as much as anything in Mark's catalog - which makes sense given the pure '77 punk style of the record. This turned out to be the only album Mind Controls ever made. Listen here!

7. The Suspicions - self titled
It was still pretty rare a decade ago to hear a band doing a 50/50 mix of garage punk and power pop. That sort of thing is common today - proving The Suspicions to be a band ahead of their time. The Suspicions' debut album was one of Rip Off Records' last - and most influential LP releases! All ten tracks are on YouTube.

6. The Checkers - Running With Scissors
Who remembers Teenacide Records? This was the hot label for female-fronted So-Cal power pop in the mid-2000s (Rocket, The Holograms), and The Checkers were the best of the lot. If Blondie and the Buzzcocks had made a baby...

5. Something Fierce - Come For The Bastards 
Sure: In 2006, I could not possibly have foreseen the heights that Something Fierce would achieve on its later albums. But even then, I sensed that this Houston trio was on to something special. If you listen to this formidable mix of scorching garage numbers and hook-laden '77 style punk tunes, you'll conclude that the band's eventual signing with Dirtnap Records was inevitable. A truly great debut, and you can hear the whole thing here!

4. The Tattle Tales - Hearts In Tune 
This is one of those albums that has stayed with me through bad times and good - a wonderful fusion of pop-punk and '90s influenced alt rock power pop starring the immensely talented Christian Migliorese. Listen and download here - the best five bucks you'll EVER spend! A pop masterpiece.

3. The Mojomatics- Songs For Faraway Lovers 
Every time you turned around in the mid 2000s, it seemed like The Mojomatics had a new record out that you just had to own. Songs For Faraway Lovers remains the duo's masterpiece - precisely the album you would hope to get when a couple of Italian guys obsessed with American roots music endeavor to write perfect pop songs in the garage. Check it out! 

2. The Kidnappers- Neon Signs
The Kidnappers were one of my favorite bands of the 2000s, and Neon Signs is the album of theirs that I turn to the most. If Ransom Notes and Telephone Calls was garage punk leaning towards power pop and Will Protect You was power pop with a trace of garage punk, Neon Signs was the best of both worlds. Seriously: how can you beat "Trainticket" and "I Hate Your Band"? I would like to thank Germany for bratwurst, Helles lager, and The Kidnappers.

1. Beach Patrol- It's Only Greener 'Til You Get There 
I can still remember pulling this CD out of the mailbox and thinking, "Who are these guys?!" But once I popped the disc in my car player, it was instant love. It's Only Greener 'Til You Get There was my album of the year for 2006, and it holds its ranking a decade later. Give it a listen, and be sure to check out the band's brilliant new album Eudaimonia!

Honorable mentions:
Shop Fronts - self titled
Buzzcocks- Flat-Pack Philosophy
The Steinways- Missed the Boat
Modern Machines - Take It, Somebody!
Kevin K- Rockin Roll Dynamite
The Fe Fi Fo Fums - Shake All Night 

So there you have it! For my thoughts on the best records of twenty years ago, check out this list I did back in 2012!

-L.R.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Vicious Dreams: the debut EP!

When was the last time I reviewed a band from Florida? It has been a while! I'm thinking my first post on Vicious Dreams will definitely not be my last. With a lineup that includes current and ex-members of Caffiends and The Tuff Looks, this Orlando foursome is just eight months removed from its very first show. In an incredibly short time, the band has produced a debut 7" EP that is out now on three different labels: Swamp Cabbage, Hovercraft, and the mighty No Front Teeth Records. The record is called Somethin' Vicious, and it arrives in conjunction with an 18-date tour of the East Coast and Midwest kicking off this coming Friday night. What I like about Vicious Dreams is that this is a band I can recommend to anyone who likes punk rock. I could see the group playing shows with power pop and hardcore bands alike and fitting in with both. Somethin' Vicious is full of hard-hitting melodic punk featuring the vocal stylings of Amanda Little. The A-side tunes are a little on the snappier side ("Outta Luck" reminds me quite a bit of Tilt), while the B-side tracks slow the pace considerably and find the band getting more inventive with its songwriting. I can hear a number of different influences at play, and it all comes together with a ton of energy and good catchy tunes. All in all, this is a highly promising debut. If you like what you hear, check out the band's upcoming tour dates and consider catching a live show. You can order the 7" now from Swamp Cabbage Records in the States and No Front Teeth in the U.K.!



-L.R.

https://swampcabbagerecords.bandcamp.com/album/scr-049-vicious-dreams-somethin-vicious-7
https://viciousdreams.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ViciousDreams77/

Monday, June 13, 2016

Meet McLovings!

I am somewhat embarrassed that this is the first time I'm writing about McLovings. In preparation for a review of the band's newest release, I discovered that these Spanish power poppers already put out a totally fantastic EP at the beginning of 2015! Seriously: where have I been for the last year-and-a-half?! And now McLovings are back with a new EP called Deluxe - which is a free download over at their Bandcamp. If you try and Google search this band, all you'll get are results on the Superbad character McLovin. I can't even find a Facebook page. But let me tell you, the music speaks for itself! McLovings play classic power pop rooted in good old rock n' roll. "Break My Heart" is a great catchy rocker to get things started, and then "Dreamy Girl" will have the ladies swooning with its wistful melodies. For a strong finish, "She Never Answers (When I Call)" and "Do You Remember?" are the perfect songs to get you dancing, singing along, and enjoying the heck out of life. Let's hear it for music that makes us happy! There's just something about these European power pop bands where you can tell that you'd have an incredible time if you went to see them play live. And that's definitely the case with McLovings. I love their energy, and the hooks on this record just can't be denied. The keyboards are a great touch as well! If you're a huge power pop fan like me, you need both McLovings EPs in your digital collection. Did I mention that they're free?!



-L.R.

http://themclovings.bandcamp.com/ 

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Right Here's new album!

Rum Bar Records has completed its heartland punk trifecta in style! Having released a pair of gems last year in Mono In Stereo's debut album and the deluxe reissue of Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band's Promises To Deliver, Malibu Lou knew he had just had to jump on the latest album from The Right Here. Stick To The Plan is the second full-length release from the Minneapolis foursome - and its first since 2012's All Herky Jerky. A co-release between Rum Bar (compact disc) and Throwing Things Records (vinyl), Stick To The Plan is out today.

If you haven't heard The Right Here since its last album, I think you'll be pretty blown away by Stick To The Plan. With the assistance of engineer extraordinaire Andy Mathison, the band has fully come into its own on this stellar release. This is the kind of record you'd expect to emerge from the frigid upper Midwest - 13 heartfelt songs blending rootsy punk rock, alt-country, and rugged all-American rock n' roll. Luke Lecheler plays some mean rock n' roll lead guitar, and Ryan Haasch is a total ball of fire on drums! I like that the band brings the big anthem right off the bat with the impassioned "That's All We Got And More" - a thundering powerhouse of a song that a lesser band might have held back until the end of the album. Spoiler alert: this is only the first of several anthems on this record! Stick To The Plan does have its share of ballads, and they're quite good. In particular, "Drunk And Rolling Around" and "One More and We'll Move On With Our Lives" combine a haunting old country feel with Westerbergian influences that ought to be mandatory in the Twin Cities. But first and foremost, this record rocks. It sounds great on the open road with the windows down, and locals ought to purchase promptly given the short-lived nature of Minnesota summers. "Judge Me When I'm Sober" and "'Til The Wheels Come Off" are the very definition of fist-pumping anthems (please keep one hand on the wheel if you're driving). "If This Land Isn't My Land" is what all folk-punk should aspire to be, and I can't listen to it without picturing hundreds of crazed fans storming the stage to sing along. "Leaving For A Reason" was the perfect choice for the lead single/music video - it's everything I like about The Right Here combined into one song.

Having worked a very long time to bring Stick To The Plan into the world, The Right Here has every reason to be proud of this album. These guys have written the best songs of their lives, and they've delivered a fantastic record full of heart and guts and profound truths. If you're already hip to the previous installments in Rum Bar's heartland trilogy, you're gonna love this one as well. If not, the label is offering all three for just 25 bucks. Grab a Hamm's from the fridge and enjoy some fine music!



-L.R.

https://rumbarrecords.bandcamp.com/album/stick-to-the-plan
https://www.facebook.com/TheRightHere/
http://therighthere.com/
https://www.facebook.com/throwingthingsrecords/