Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Punks, Skins & Psychos

One of my fondest memories of first getting into punk music was buying lots of compilations. There was something especially cool, back in the day, about getting to hear a whole lot of great bands on one release for a highly affordable price. I could, in fact, name a number of bands that I went on to love after first discovering them on comps. Punks, Skins & Psychos, out on Zodiac Killer/Skinhead Retirement Plan Records, is a new comp in that old school spirit. It's got 29 tracks, clocks in at nearly 70s minutes, and comes specially priced at $8. Talk about a sweet deal! How often do you hear a 29-track comp where literally every band is good? This is one of those cases! Musically, this comp delivers a great mix of punk, Oi!, hardcore, pyschobilly, rockabilly, and good, old filthy rock n' roll. And I love the way all these songs flow together - proving that loud, aggressive music is fucking awesome regardless of how people choose to categorize it.

Punks, Skins & Psychos starts off with the Stiletto Boys' instant powerpop classic "Cannon Fodder", and goes right into a street punk kick in the teeth from the Iron City Hooligans followed by some raging psychobilly from Los Gatos Locos. That totally sets the tone for the rest of the comp. There's plenty of variety - but somehow everything fits together perfectly. Favorite tracks of mine run quite the gamut from the thundering sing-along Oi! of The Shame to the urgent hardcore punk of Hated Noise to the glam/trash greatness of Fishnet Stalkers to the punishing velocity of Speedozer to the anthemic hardcore of local legends Rightstart. F & L favorites such as The Pegs and Hitchhikers contribute ably to this monster collection, as do the almighty Dwarves. And like any good comp, Punks, Skins & Psychos has turned me on to some really good bands that I wasn't previously aware of. I will definitely be looking to hear more from Al and the Black Cats and The Hillbilly Huxters!

Ron spent four years looking for the right bands to contribute to Punks, Skins & Psychos, and he really chose wisely. This lineup is stacked! There are bands here not just from all over the country, but from all over the world as well. And I like that a lot of these tracks were culled from bands' demos and LPs. Sometimes where comps go wrong is in insisting on previously unreleased material. That's when you often wind up with lesser tracks. Well, there's nothing lesser about these tracks! This is nothing but the good shit from a ton of great bands. If hearing this collection doesn't get you fired up about the current state of punk music, you may be beyond saving. Did I mention it's only $8? Get it from Zodiac Killer Records!

 

-L.R.

http://www.zodiackillerrecords.com/ 

Monday, April 14, 2014

ColumbusBlood

Out this coming Saturday to commemorate Record Store Day, ColumbusBlood is a compilation LP that documents what's happening right now in Columbus, Ohio's underground rock n' roll scene. Live music and the community of bands that play it are the lifeblood of any town's music scene. I'm guessing that's what the title of this album is conveying. Or I could be wrong - maybe all these bands have a penchant for bleeding on stage or a shared interest in phlebotomy. I heard that's a thing these days. Any way you shake it, this is a solid and varied collection of bands - almost all of whom I'd never heard before! It was compiled by my man Pat Dull, and I believe it's the first new release on his Break-Up! imprint in 13 years. The takeaway is that if you live in or near Columbus, you often have access to some fine live rock n' roll. And if you're a regular show-goer in Columbus these days, surely this compilation is already on your want-to-own list.

But even if you live far from Columbus or never leave your house, ColumbusBlood is still a worthy purchase. In my many years spent chronicling the garage/punk/etc. underground, the Columbus scene has always maintained a reputation for excellence. ColumbusBlood demonstrates that Columbus is still rocking hard and turning out quality bands at an impressive rate. Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars have been favorites of mine since the release of their first single, and their contribution "Rock Bottom" is every bit as good as their 7" tracks. It totally rips! I've never been able to figure out why Sick Thrills aren't totally huge. Their track "Primal Urges" is highly reminiscent of vintage New Bomb Turks. The "hit" of the comp is Cotton Jackson's hillbilly rock n' roll anthem "Drink and Fuck" - which is probably an ode to Columbus but could really be about life in any American town. Other standout cuts include a soulful '60s garage smoker from The Hexers, a heartfelt ballad from power pop up-and-comers The Girls!, a bluesy heavy rocker from Dirty Biscuits, and an eerie murder ballad from Righteous Buck & The Skull Scorchers. There are 12 bands featured in all - and none of them suck!

If you're a local, you can pick up a copy of ColumbusBlood for $10 at either of two release shows this weekend. Friday's show at Kobo Live will feature Righteous Buck & The Skull Scorchers, Sick Thrills, Cotton Jackson, and Nom Tchotchkes. Saturday's show at Ace of Cups will feature The Girls!, Hexers, Bridesmaid, Dirty Biscuits, and Dead Girlfriends. For additional info, check out the ColumbusBlood event page on Facebook!



-L.R.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Meet Role Models!

Wow. How am I just finding out about Role Models? My power pop street cred is going to be taking a major hit! This London foursome has a new EP out that is absolutely stunning - which is hardly shocking with guys like Rich Rags (The Loyalties) and Daniel Husayn (Red Dons) in the band. I believe Justin Maurer was in this group at one time - which tells you just about everything you need to know about Role Models. If, like me, you like your rock with plenty of pop, you just might spend the next hour with "Lost In The City" on constant repeat. Cited influences include The Replacements, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, and Pretenders. So, then, you get the picture. Think power pop meets the good kind of classic rock - with an emphasis on hooks and quality songwriting celebrating the joys of youth and eternal weekends. "Lost In The City" quickly won me over with melodic guitar leads that would bring Bob Derwood Andrews to tears of joy. And then that chorus comes in, and it's absolute perfection! Yes! This is how you do pop! If you just saw a crazy man running down the street singing that chorus, it was probably me. "Suffocate" and "Saturday Night" follow in the vein of power pop by way of punchy barroom rock - with strong echoes of Costello/Graham Parker, mid-period 'Mats, and modern-day greats like The Figgs. These songs are good the whole way through, but I like how they always save a little something special for the chorus! And as a fan of power pop, I'm thrilled to hear some genuine power in the playing. Every power pop band worth its salt has its own Keith Moon on drums, and Pat is definitely up to the task.

If a free download of Lost In The City leaves you wanting more (which it surely will!), I highly recommend visiting the Heavy Hearts Bandcamp page and checking out Role Models' 2013 charity single "This Eventually Leads Nowhere" along with their six-song debut EP from 2011. All proceeds from downloads went to the Haringey (North London) chapter of the National Autistic Society to fund weekend safe play days throughout last summer. Rich wrote "This Eventually Leads Nowhere" with his son Zoli, who has autism. It's a great song, and it went to a great cause.

Now I eagerly await a Role Models full-length. Somebody make it happen!



-L.R.

https://rolemodelslondon.bandcamp.com/album/lost-in-the-city 
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Role-Models/87389262377 

Friday, April 11, 2014

More from Mystery Date!

You may recall a post of mine from last summer heralding the Minneapolis power pop trio Mystery Date and its outstanding debut single. Mystery Date has quickly become one of my favorite new bands, and now Piñata Records brings us a new 7" from this very awesome group. You And Your Sister features three songs from the band's tape - mastered and issued on vinyl. And needless to say, it's great! If you're a fan of classic power pop and '79 era pop/punk and have yet to check out Mystery Date, you don't know what you're missing! Piñata cherry-picked the (arguably) three best songs from the band's cassette for this release. And the simple recording keeps things sounding live and punchy, but still clean and crisp. These guys mix some obvious powerpop/punk influences with some non-traditional ones (The Only Ones, Excel, The Gizmos) - resulting in a sound that's familiar yet highly distinctive. The label description of "three rocket-propelled ballads of heartache and longing" is absolutely perfect, and I've had the whole EP on constant repeat all morning. With its loud guitars and irresistible central hook, the title track is probably "the hit". But the punkier "Lightspeed Romance" is a total blast of energy, and no less catchy. And "The One That You Really Want" is probably the one song out of the three that's been sticking in my head the most. 

Given that only 300 copies of this 7" were made, I highly recommend moving fast if you want one for yourself. Ordering details can be found at Piñata's Bandcamp page. There seems to be a whole new wave of incredible power pop bands emerging right now, and Mystery Date just might be the best of all of 'em. Just click "play", and you'll see (or hear, actually) what I mean!



-L.R.

http://pinatarecords.bandcamp.com/album/you-and-your-sister 
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mystery-Date/219099284778269 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

1-800-Band

When it comes to contemporary bands that are enamored with the new wave and power pop sounds of the late '70s and early '80s, I tend to judge them on a very instinctive level. If hearing their music gives me those tingles where I feel like I'm a kid again, I know they're doing something right. A case in point is Brooklyn's 1-800-Band (ex Crimson Sweet, by the way). If you told me this band had secured the opening slot on a Cars/Blondie tour in 1980 and somehow stepped through a portal to present times, I wouldn't doubt you. New EP Diver Blue captures the sound and the spirit of turn of the '80s new wave pop and mixes in a touch of '70s arena rock. That's my type of thing all the way - and this band does it well! 

Whereas other bands might employ vintage synth stylings with the intention of being ironic or establishing some sort of retro chic vibe, 1-800-Band aren't trying to be hip in the least. Their music is super fun and highly redolent of wide-eyed adolescence - recalling that time in every person's life when falling in love was the best thing in the world - or the absolute worst. But while "Diver Blue" does take me back to a particular time when power pop and new wave were starting to blend together, ultimately it demonstrates how timeless music like this truly is. There's no expiration date on fun times and classic hooks. These songs should appeal to the young and the young-at-heart alike. Frontman Al Huckabee gladly shares the spotlight with brilliant keyboardist Polly Watson - the former giving these songs their emotional center and the latter stoking the infectious energy that makes this band so incredibly appealing. 

Clearly, "Diver Blue" is "the hit". It's the most straight-forward power pop song on the EP, and it sounds like something that should have been blaring out of swimming pool radios 34 summers ago. But all four tracks have left me wanting more. The slinking, Cars-y "Make A Comeback" sounds like it belongs on the Valley Girl soundtrack, while the new romantic tinged "Many Happy Returns" could have been a senior prom slow jam in the heyday of John Hughes flicks. If I had to name a favorite track, it would be "Here Comes Summer". The title suggests an upbeat, party type song. But actually this is an aching number full of longing and heartache - with the sort of dramatically lovelorn chorus that has me fondly recalling more innocent times in our popular culture. Back in the day, you would hear a song like this and fully expect it to soon dominate the airwaves. Nowadays, I'm just hoping it will get five seconds of exposure on some shitty MTV reality show. It's truly a perfect pop song.

Diver Blue releases today on Almost Ready Records.You can check out a free stream over at Brooklyn Vegan. Check it out!



-L.R.

http://www.1-800-band.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/1-800-BAND/121660437844796

Monday, April 7, 2014

Stitches v. Miscalculations!

Talk about a clash of the titans! I can't think of two bands in the world that are better suited to collaborate on a split than The Stitches and Miscalculations. Musically speaking, they are true kindred spirits. When I heard that they'd done a split, I thought that had to be the best idea since the deep-fried Oreo. So, then...does the actual product (out on No Front Teeth Records) live up to expectations? Of course it does! The concept is that both bands take a signature song of theirs and do it two different ways. There's a "punk" side and an "electro" side to this split - each featuring both bands. And what blows my mind is that I don't necessarily prefer the punk side!

The Stitches' contribution to the punk side is a previously unreleased version of "Automatic" mixed by Pete Dee from The Adicts. Miscalculations answer with "Factory Life" - a great track in an early Buzzcocks meets Warsaw vein. Even if those had been the only two songs on the record, I would have been totally happy. I love this alternate mix of "Automatic", and "Factory Life" is one of Miscalculations' best songs to date. But the electro side pushes this split from good to truly great. Both tunes from the punk side are reinterpreted in a synth-punk/new wave fashion, and it's like they're entirely different songs! The Jet Set electro version of "Automatic" is the closest thing I've heard to The Screamers in a long time, featuring one of Mike's snottiest vocals ever and utilizing synthesizer with the seeming intention of ripping open your eardrums. Brilliance! Meanwhile, "Factory Life" gets an icy Gary Numan style makeover. In art, film, and music alike, I've always been a huge fan of 1970s visions of the future. That's what this version of "Factory Life" reminds me of, especially combined with the stark minimalism of the packaging and artwork. I'm struggling mightily to determine which of the two versions I prefer. Five years ago, I would have picked the punk version just on principle. Today, I'm calling it a tie. Good on Miscalculations for constructing a song that works equally well in both modes!

As you might expect, vinyl copies of this highly collectable split are going fast. So get on it now it if you still need a copy. Having received word that Miscalculations have already completed a second LP, I am understandably psyched! Hopefully we'll be hearing that in a few months. In the meantime, be sure check out their first one if you haven't already!



-L.R.

http://miscalculations.bandcamp.com/album/7-split-with-the-stitches 
http://www.nofrontteeth.co.uk/

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Top 13 Albums of 1994


Having traveled back to 2004 earlier this year, I now set my time machine for 20 years ago. For me personally, 1994 was a highly pivotal year. In '94, I got heavily into a lot of music that inspired me to start doing zines the very next year. I used to cite 1995-2000 as the golden age of the "punk rock revival". But once I started taking a closer look, I realized that 1993 was the definitive start of punk music getting really awesome again. And '94 kept things going strong. I bought quite a few of these releases when they were new, and they strongly influenced the type of music I would listen to and write about going forward. Others I came to love in later years as I continued to educate myself on the wonders of garage, punk, and power pop music. Sitting here dignified and old (ha ha), it's hard to believe that I was 22-23 years old when these albums were released. If you had told me back then that I'd still be listening to all this stuff 20 years later, I would have said you were nuts! I think that says a lot about the staying power of punk rock music. It also says a lot about how good these particular records are!

Alright! On to the list....

13. D Generation- self titled
Coming out as it did at the height of a zealous backlash against all things glam, this release was sadly misunderstood and poorly marketed. It was largely written off as some kind of hair metal thing, and D Generation's mix of Hanoi Rocks and the Dead Boys failed to connect with the alternative nation. The glossy production didn't help, and it was no surprise that the band re-recorded a lot of these songs when they made the much harder-edged No Lunch two years later. But this album is worth hearing just for songs like "Sins Of America", "Stealing Time", and "Feels Like Suicide".

12. Boris The Sprinkler- 8-Testicled Pogo Machine
Boris would go on to make better albums - but this one will always be my "sentimental favorite". I like that's it's all over the place in terms of musical style, and honestly it has really held up well over the years. If I were making an ultimate Boris mix, "Girls Like U", "She's Got A Lighter", and the classic "Drugs & Masturbation" would all be on it.

11. Sicko- You Can Feel The Love In This Room
When I think of the classic albums of '90s pop-punk, I almost always think of Lookout! Records. But here's one that wasn't on Lookout yet no doubt rates as one of the defining landmarks of the genre. Fast and lovably dorky tuneage, perfectly produced by Kurt Bloch. If hearing "The Sprinkler" doesn't brighten your day, I gotta wonder about you.

10. Moral Crux- I Was A Teenage Teenager
Moral Crux was one of the bands most responsible for getting me into the throwback '77 punk thing that became my niche in the late '90s. This band had The Clash's soul and Generation X's hooks. I Was A Teenage Teenager was the fourth Moral Crux LP - and one of its best!

9. Pink Lincolns- Suck & Bloat
Snotty three-chord punk rock par excellence from these criminally underrated Floridians.

8. The Humpers- Journey To The Center Of Your Wallet 
Do yourself a favor and buy everything this band ever recorded.

7. Queers- Beat Off
Man, these were the days when The Queers ruled the hardest! Seems like they were putting out a great record just about every year. Beat Off remains one of the band's classic albums. "Drop The Attitude Fucker", "Ben Weasel", and "All Screwed Up" are all-time favorites of mine.

6. The Figgs- Lo-Fi At Society High
Without a doubt, The Figgs have been one of the greatest live rock n' roll bands of the past 25 years, and they've had a long and fruitful career in the studio as well. But while I'd recommend just about anything this band has ever put its name on, this debut LP (they had two tapes prior to that) is where you have to start. Great power pop/alt rock with punky energy and clever lyrics channeling the angry young men of new wave. When I want to listen to The Figgs, this is the album I usually reach for.

5. Green Day - Dookie
Can you believe it's been 20 years since this album was released? It was fashionable to hate on it back then for entirely stupid reasons. But I loved it from the very first note, and still do to this day. If there's a holy trinity of '90s pop-punk albums, I put this album in it along with The Queers' Love Songs for the Retarded and Screeching Weasel's My Brain Hurts.

4. New Bomb Turks- Information Highway Revisited
The Turks, who released one of the greatest punk albums of all-time one year earlier, came right back with another sonic kick in the teeth. A classic in its own right!

3. The Waldos- Rent Party
The closest thing we'll ever get to a second Heartbreakers album. Hell, it might have actually been a slightly better record than L.A.M.F.! Produced by Andy Shernoff.  

2. Teengenerate - Get Action
Often imitated but never duplicated, this is the standard by which all trashy garage-punk is measured. 

1. Rip Offs - Got A Record
Let me tell you: it was a very tough call between #1 and #2. If I were to re-do this list in three months, it easily could end up the other way around. You're talking about arguably the two greatest garage punk albums ever made. But in the end, I kept going back to the songs. "Cops", "Zodiac", "She Said Yeah"...that's the stuff! Teengenerate might have been more sonically ferocious, but I give The Rip Offs the slight edge in the tunes department.

So, who did I forget?

-L.R.