Monday, January 14, 2019

The Putz - Mad Monster Party

You could say I'm a little late getting to this Halloween soundtrack from The Putz, but wouldn't that imply that horror should only be a seasonal pleasure? To quote the Dead Kennedys: "Why not every day?!"

I'm not always a fan of "horror" punk, but I sure am a fan of The Putz. This is my third time reviewing this band, and Mad Monster Party has helped me realize why I'm not a big horror punk guy. A lot of horror punk explores the darker side of the horror genre, whereas I'm more into the goofy/fun side. I like monsters the best when they're drinking and dancing instead of murdering. The Putz have fully explored the fun side of horror on their latest EP. Basically these are typical pop-punk songs, except the protagonists are monsters instead of people. The title track is like a pop-punk version of "The Monster Mash" - an upbeat ode to all of your favorite creatures getting down. Come on: who wouldn't want to party with Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolfman, and Frankenstein's monster? Elsewhere, songs cover such topics as The Invisible Man's girl troubles, The Creature From the Black Lagoon's tremendous surfing prowess, and vampires needing to maximize their partying time. Yes, this is the type of horror that I can relate to! Thematic as it may be, Mad Monster Party is pretty much in line with every other Putz record. This is Ramones/Lookout! Records influenced pop-punk done to complete perfection. If you can make it through even half of "Mad Monster Party" without wanting to sing along, you just might be dead inside. And of course a song about an aquatic creature had to be Beach Boys inspired! Ya gotta love it! The Putz in my humble opinion are up there in the top tier of present-day pop-punk bands. And with Matt Drastic producing, there was no way Mad Monster Party wasn't going to be totally great! I wholeheartedly recommend it for your year-round listening pleasure.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Priors - New Pleasure

I did not include this review in my "unfinished business" series, mainly because I consider an album that came out less than two months ago to still be a "new" release. But I cannot close the book on punk music in 2018 without addressing the ripped out earhole I was left with after experiencing the sophomore LP from Montreal's Priors. Released on Slovenly Recordings, New Pleasure is next-level stuff as far as garage punk is concerned. The band powers through track after track of fast & furious punk rock that aims to figuratively bash your head in. Yet there's so much more than that going on here. Priors' musical attack is not just ferocious but also jittery, weird/creative, and noisy in all the right ways. If running around screaming and breaking stuff sounds like a fun day to you, this album would make the perfect soundtrack. I'm often okay with garage punk bands who sound like other garage punk bands (hell, I've been known to praise a lot of them for exactly that). But I find myself quite pleased to hear Priors and note that they're genuinely doing something I haven't quite heard before. I always like an album that takes me from "What in the hell is this?!" to "This is goddamn brilliant!" in just a matter of moments. Don't be fooled by the opening track into believing this album is going to be some sort of synth-pop type deal. Otherwise, you will be unprepared for the racket "Got In Me" is poised to kick up. And any letup after that is purely temporary. It all makes for a punk rock album that is truly exciting (imagine if Wire and the New Bomb Turks made a baby and sent it on a rocket to outer space). Priors have come to pummel your eardrums, and you're gonna love every last minute of it! 


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band/State Drugs - split

We've been waiting how long for new music from Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band?! Numbers don't lie: it's been five and a half years since Promises To Deliver came out. Promises To Deliver has since become my most listened-to album of this decade, and I've found myself starving for new material. Well today I finally eat, and I must say the eating is good!

Taken from the same 2017 recording sessions that produced the band's forthcoming album (yay!), "Dangerous" and "Midnight In Memphis" represent a truly triumphant return from Nato and company. Seriously: if two songs this good did not make it onto the album, I can't wait to hear the songs that did! This pair of tracks would have made a hell of a 45, and perhaps someday it will. But for now these tunes come to us on cassette - one half of a split release with State Drugs out now on Motorcycle Potluck Records. Honestly, State Drugs are a band I would otherwise not be writing about. Self-described as "grown up punk", this Denver foursome is pretty much exactly that. The group plays a melodic and somewhat mellowed-out brand of punk music with ultra-sincere vocals. You might have called this "emo" 15 years ago. But given the unfortunate evolution of that particular term, I'd say "grown-up punk" is far more fitting. On the band's three contributions to this split, what struck me most were the lyrics (which are excellent) and the lead guitar work (also excellent). And the songwriting is definitely solid. I'm not much of an authority on modern-day post-hardcore, but State Drugs sound pretty good to my ears.

Both tracks on the Nato side of this split run well past four minutes - but that's hardly uncharted territory for the Blue Diamond boys. "Dangerous" is vintage fare for this group - a soulful, anthemic rocker with lyrics so epic that I just might say Nato has written his own "Born To Run". Check it out:

"Dangerous stakes and gambles/
If we leap we better never ever ever look down/
There’s no tomorrow in this apocalypse of hearts/
So darling … what do you wanna do now?"

All in all, "Dangerous" has the makings of a classic Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band number - powered by an impassioned vocal, Luke Lecheler's hot work on keyboards, and a knockout guitar solo from Sam Beers. And how often do you hear a nearly five-minute song that leaves you wishing it were longer?! "Midnight In Memphis" is not a Bette Midler cover but rather a Blue Diamond Band live favorite that has finally been committed to tape. Without a doubt, this is one of the best songs I've ever heard about the often lonely life of a touring musician. This one's a straight-up ballad. There's nothing fancy going on musically, allowing the song to be driven by Nato's words and voice. Here he really shines as a storyteller and poet, and it's damn near magical when he sings the lines "If I close my eyes/ I can hear the river washing them lonely souls down". A really well-done ballad is hard to pull off, but Nato and the boys may have reached an all-time high note with "Midnight In Memphis". Those lyrics are just magnificent, and this song absolutely transports me to the scene it depicts.

Even if Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band weren't already one of my favorite bands on Earth, "Dangerous" and "Midnight In Memphis" would have made me an instant fan. I figured the band's first new material since 2013 would be impressive, but this is beyond even what I was expecting. I am so stoked for the new album!


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Klackers - self titled

What was I just saying about Moncton? There's got to be something in the air or the water or the Timbits that is producing so much amazing music up there. Up next out of Hub City is Klackers' debut album - released as a limited-edition red glitter cassette designed and packaged by the band. What I love about this release is that it's not really possible to pigeonhole it in today's terminology. It's minimalist and lo-fi, but maybe not quite "garage". It's got a great pop sensibility, but it's certainly not "pop-punk". It's probably too punk to be "indie rock". There are even keyboards! This album definitely has the spirit of something that might have come out on Kill Rock Stars in the '90s with a hint of Radio X Records to boot. It essentially inhabits the world where do-it-yourself/budget punk and lo-fi pop converge, and yet it couldn't sound fresher in 2019. The songs are super catchy, and they're carried off with an attitude and exuberance that are totally infectious. A cover of the Bratmobile classic "Gimme Brains" acknowledges an obvious influence, while "Sleepover" is an absolutely delightful re-imagining of an Adicts song you might know. I feel like if you were 15 and you heard this album, you'd be inspired to start your own band. It creates a "Yes, you can do this too!" type excitement that has me fondly recalling countless punk records I purchased in my youth. DIY lives!


Monday, January 7, 2019

Unfinished Business: Bad Shadows - Voices In The Dark

Concluding my series of reviews that are long overdue from 2018, we have the debut album from a band that I've actually written about before...kind of! Back in 2015, I reviewed the debut EP from a foursome out of Portland, Oregon called The Furies. The Furies, who had evolved out of The No Tomorrow Boys, have since morphed into Bad Shadows. And none of this is related to the Furies I reviewed yesterday. Confused yet? Voices In The Dark includes the songs from the first EP plus several new tracks. I love this band's sound and style, which is a perfect mashup of garage rock, power pop, surf, and late '50s/early '60s rock n' roll. Impressively, Bad Shadows are able to take all of this inspiration from mid 20th century music and still come out sounding like a fully contemporary band.

Hearing the newer songs along side the older ones, I can get some sense of the musical identity Bad Shadows have developed over the last couple of years. The title track and "Ghost" stack up nicely against just about any neo garage rock band you can name, except they lean more rock n' roll than psych. "I Believe" is in a similar vein but with more power pop influence coming through. "Tonight", with its jangly pop meets old school rock n' roll feel, epitomizes what Bad Shadows do so well. That surfy power pop vibe that was so palpable on the previous EP resurfaces on the wonderful "Beach", yet overall the tone of this album is a little different. The older songs fit in just fine ("Kim", an absolute pop gem, is more than worthy of another listen). But with a complete album to their name, Bad Shadows have fully solidified what they're all about. And what are they all about? Garage rock n' roll with the emphasis on rock n' roll, built on a foundation of timeless melody-driven songwriting. You could go broke trying to buy all of the 2018 albums I've recommended. But Voices In The Dark sure sounds to me like something a lot of you would totally dig. What a damn good year! 


Sunday, January 6, 2019

Unfinished Business: Furies - self titled

Continuing on my quest to cover some of the essential releases I missed in 2018, we head on over to Madrid and meet a mighty trio called Furies. The band's debut album only supports my contention that on a per capita basis, Spain might be the most "rock n' roll" nation on the planet. What we've got here are 10 tracks of straight-forward rock n' roll taking its cues from '70s glam rock, Vanda & Young/early AC/DC, and the mighty Ramones. How can you go wrong with a blueprint like that?! All the Suzi Quatro and Runaways comparisons are pretty on point, and I would say that Furies are definitely kindred spirits with contemporary bands like Giuda. If you like tough guitars, a simple driving beat, and big hooky choruses, this album ought to be right up your alley. I appreciate that these songs were formed out of a love for the deep history of rock n' roll. That's apparent not just in the original numbers but also in the choice of covers (Bob Seger's "Get Out of Denver", Ike and Tina's "Nutbush City Limits", both well done!). This is some real deal rock n' roll, my friends. This album, available from Contra Records and the Italian label Teenadelic, is a hell of a lot of fun. Stomp your hands, clap your feet!


Friday, January 4, 2019

Unfinished Business: Hayley and the Crushers - Cool/Lame

Continuing on my mission to attend to the releases I should have reviewed in 2018, I now turn to the fantastic second full-length from San Luis Obispo, California's Hayley and the Crushers. Cool/Lame was released on Eccentric Pop Records in September, and I can't think of any other situation in the world where ten bucks will buy you this much fun! There are a lot of ways that reviewers have described Hayley and the Crushers, but the band's own "poolside glitter trash" is probably the most apt summation. Taking musical inspiration from surf, sunny '60s pop, oldies rock n' roll, and of course the almighty Ramones, Hayley and the Crushers sound like the band you wish were playing your next beach party. They inhabit a spirit not just of pure fun, but also of embracing weirdness and individuality. And who can't get behind that?! This band may never be able to shake the Go-Go's comparisons - especially not if they keep writing amazing songs like "Small Lives"! Elsewhere this album delivers a delightful mix of bubblegum punk, cool surf rock, and straight-up fun rock n' roll. But while the music draws obvious inspiration from the legacy of beach culture, Hayley's lyrics steer clear of cliche and bring a smart, modern perspective. How many other party bands out there are writing songs about the dark secrets lurking under the perfect sheen of suburbia or romance blooming against a backdrop of apocalypse?! Are Hayley and the Crushers the ultimate California surf-punk band? I'd say they're more like the Bizarro World version - which is way cooler in my book!