Friday, March 6, 2015

New from The New Trocaderos!

Is it weird that my favorite new release of the year is a compilation of songs I've already heard? I don't think it is! Even in this high-tech world of digital downloads and streaming music, I still have a personal need for recordings on compact disc. Essentially that's because my car is equipped with state of the art 2004 audio technology: a CD player! I can't think of a greater tradition in American society than listening to rock n' roll while you're driving. And I can't think of a better band to listen to while you're driving than The New Trocaderos!

Frenzy In The Hips compiles both singles from The New Trocaderos - the rock n' roll super group comprised of Kurt Baker, Geoff and Brad from The Connection, and songwriter/producer Michael Chaney. It adds a brand-new song called "Luckiest Man In The World" for a total of six tracks - the perfect length for my daily commute. But even if you're not in your car, listening to this disc is guaranteed to make your day more awesome. If you've been wanting to buy some of this band's music but have never gotten around to it, this is your chance to own all of it for one low price! Even though I was already familiar with these songs, there's just something super cool about having them all together on one disc. It's neat to listen with fresh ears to songs I hadn't heard in a while and be able to re-affirm my original rave reviews! I'm convinced that "Dream Girl" - featuring Geoff Palmer on lead vocals - has to be a long-lost classic pop song from the '60s. Apparently Little Steven feels the same way, since he chose to debut it as his Coolest Song In The World on a radio program that was otherwise devoted to all-time great tracks from The Beatles and Paul McCartney. Every detail - from the gorgeous harmonies to that majestic bridge to Kris Rodgers's knockout keyboard solo - is flawlessly executed. And yet it's the straight-ahead rocker "Money Talks" that has become my favorite New Trocs song. I don't think a catchier tune exists in this world, and that lead guitar work is hot! Chaney ought to be immediately inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame for coming up with that "The money key opens every lock" line.

Tipping its cap to everyone from Carl Perkins to the Rolling Stones to The Ramones to Rockpile, Frenzy In The Hips condenses 60 years of amazing rock n' roll into 16 minutes of hook-laden fun. You get the complete package: a classic sound, amazing songs, and three great singers. If you were raised on traditional rock n' roll and have become disenchanted with the direction popular music has taken in recent decades, The New Trocaderos will restore your faith in new bands. But I also envision the reverse happening: younger people digging this band and then working their way back to the British Invasion and '50s rock n' roll. If you already own the first two singles, the lure here is the fantastic "Luckiest Man In The World" - which sounds like a song the Beach Boys might have recorded with Keith Richards and Mick Taylor sitting in on guitar. Why not splurge on the whole disc?! Get it exclusively through Kool Kat Musik!


Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Top Ten 2015

As I annually do on the occasion of my birthday, I am posting my updated list of my top ten all-time favorite bands. Looking at last year's list compared to this one, there's been only minimal movement. The New York Dolls bump out The Replacements, and a few bands have shifted positions slightly. But essentially, it's the same list. I guess you could say that my musical tastes are stagnating, but I prefer to view this as an "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" type situation. As I've gotten older, I've continued to broaden my horizons and explore all kinds of great music. It's not like I'm still 25 and only listening to punk rock. I like Sinatra. I dig Mozart. I'm obsessed with early '70s orchestral soul. But nothing will ever beat the rush of "White Riot" blasting at max volume.

I try to base this list partially on which bands I listen to the most, but largely it comes down to a gut feeling. If I were abducted by aliens and told I could only listen to ten bands during my entire period of captivity, these are the ten I'd choose. If I could go back in time and witness ten bands in their prime, it would be these ten. My top three has been rock solid for a great number of years - although The Dictators continue to make a strong push for a medal position. I could throw in The Who, Buzzcocks, Boys, Stones, and Replacements and make it a full top fifteen, but it seems more fun to officially limit it to ten. So without any further elaboration, here's the list!

1. The Clash
2. AC/DC (Bon Scott era)
3. Husker Du
4. Dictators
5. Sex Pistols
6. Material Issue
7. Ramones
8. Generation X
9. New York Dolls
10. Stiff Little Fingers

If you've observed that my musical tastes are stuck in the '70s, I'll take that as a compliment! In all seriousness, I've done rough drafts of this list where I've gone to 40 bands and included more "contemporary" groups like the Dimestore Haloes (#23), BobbyTeens (#25), Dead End Cruisers (#27), and The Figgs (#31). If I'm still alive and blogging in six years, maybe I'll do a "50 for 50 list" to commemorate my next milestone birthday. What are the chances of The Clash losing the #1 spot by then? Slim to none. 


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A sweet deal from Rum Bar Records!

In the course of sharing music I love with the world, I often have the privilege of promoting some amazing record labels. Independent labels are the lifeblood of our scene. They put music into the world for the sheer love of it - often taking a financial loss in the process. One of my favorite labels out there is the Boston-based Rum Bar Records - run by Malibu Lou (ex Melted Records). I may be a beer man, but I do enjoy a Captain & Coke from time to time. Before I had any personal contact with Lou, I had reviewed a number of his releases (The Connection, Kurt Baker, Muck & The Mires). I think Lou and I share a passion for a certain slice of underground music (garage/rock n' roll/power pop), and I'm humbled that he's been so appreciative of reviews I've recently given to bands like Watts and Los Breakdowns. I think Lou puts out awesome music. And just as importantly, he's a true fan. He's completely psyched about every band he works with. I was honored when he approached me with the idea of creating a new Rum Bar top shelf deal that would have my name attached to it. So here goes: from now until March 31st, you can get 20% off the purchase of all Rum Bar titles at Bandcamp simply by entering the code rutledge20 at checkout. If you've always wanted to buy, say The Connection's Let It Rock on splatter color vinyl or the CD version of Kurt Baker's Brand New B-Sides, now would be the time to do it! Head on over to Bandcamp for the complete catalog of Rum Bar titles, and feel free to spread the word. For more information about this outstanding label, be sure to check out this interview with Malibu Lou that was posted last week on the excellent Ratboy '69 blog!


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A killer LP from Line Traps!

When a band introduces itself as "a 40-year-old guy who grew up on '80s hardcore, bargain punk records, and '90s garage with two fresh-faced 23-year-old girls who love all that shit too", I know my ears are in for a royal treat! And so we have the mighty Line Traps out of Victoria, British Columbia - a trio reviving the garage punk by way of Angry Samoans stylings of pre-millennium greats like Loli and the Chones and Zodiac Killers. On its 12-song (one-sided) debut LP, this band comes hard and fast with a perfect blend of ferocious hardcore punk and trashy garage goodness. With songs mostly in the 1-2 minute range, each track is a quick burst of attitude and aggression. At no point do Line Traps find it necessary to slow things down or stretch the ambitions of their songwriting. Instead it's one ripper after another - with songs so good you'd swear you heard a few of them on an old volume of Killed By Death. You may know singer/guitarist T. Depression from his one man band The New Krime. Line Traps are essentially the full band version of The New Krime - with Poly Ethylene (bass) and S. Pressure (drums) comprising the consummate trash punk rhythm section and hands down the coolest backup vocal tandem I've heard in years. Furious cuts like "ShockAppeal", "She's Electric", and "Mannequin" have me constantly checking to make sure I haven't time traveled back to the late '90s.

What a record! Even with all the great stuff out there right now in the punk/garage world, I've really been missing simple, snarling punk music like this. Maybe Line Traps will inspire a new movement. Or perhaps they've given us a debut album so good that no one will bother trying to top it. The "best band in Canada" conversation looks to be getting even more complicated!


Monday, March 2, 2015

The Kicks Ain't Alright

Like their East Coast counterparts Biters and Wlydlife, Modern Kicks seem to inhabit a parallel universe where the rock n' roll radio hit never died. If triumphant guitar solos and massive melodic choruses went out of fashion a quarter of a century ago, nobody bothered to inform these San Fran heartthrobs. And thank God for that! On their new EP, The Kicks Ain't Alright, Änt and the gang recall a time when youth anthems were loud, fun, and catchy as hell. While there are expected nods to Cheap Trick ("We're Alright"), Thin Lizzy ("Don't Let Me Down"), and junkshop glam ("Hole In My Head"), what really sets Modern Kicks apart from the crowd is that they're not afraid to take it way over the top and just freakin' rock! "Up All Night" is the lead track and clear hit. If its chorus were any catchier, it would be illegal in at least seven states. But "Teenage Overdose" shows another side to this band - infusing a thundering KISS/Crue style attack with power pop hooks and slick-as-hell production. And when these boys go full-on glam metal on "Aim High (For Suicide)", they totally pull it off. It's cool to hear a band doing this type of music with the actual intention of writing good songs.

While stylistically similar to the band's 2013 LP Rock 'n' Roll's Anti Hero, this new EP finds Modern Kicks sounding bigger and better than ever. The judicious use of keyboards is a brilliant stroke, and the production has been taken to another level entirely. I just have love a band that aspires to craft the next generation of rock anthems. These guys - along with The Cry!, Biters, Giuda, etc. - are ushering in another great era for rock n' roll. Don't sleep on it. 


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Introducing Hiccup!

So a decade ago, The Unlovables released Crush Boyfriend Heartbreak - a pop-punk classic and one of my 25 favorite albums ever. The equally good Heartsickle was issued in 2007 - cementing The Unlovables as A1 all-time greats of the pop-punk world. Having been wishing for an Unlovables comeback for many years, I was over the moon to discover that singer/bassist Hallie has a new band going! Based in Brooklyn, Hiccup is Hallie on bass, Alex on guitar, and Piyal on drums. The trio recently unveiled its first two official demos, and I must say that I was not disappointed! "Whatev, It's Cool" is my fave song of the 2015 so far - a perfect example of how Hallie can start with themes of heartache & betrayal and somehow end up with a tune that makes you happy to be alive. It's a minute and a half of head-bobbing bliss, and Unlovables fans will absolutely adore it! "Dad Jokes", featuring Alex and Hallie on co-lead vocals, is more in an indie pop vein but also super awesome. I know this is just a little taste of Hiccup, but I'm thinking this band is going to be something really special. Demos are a free download over at Bandcamp!


Monday, February 23, 2015

Meet Sonic Screemers!

With a lineup featuring Peter Santa Maria (Jukebox Zeros, The Thirteen) along with Jack and Bryan from The Flyswatters, Philadelphia's Sonic Screemers are a band I was sold on before I had even heard a single note of their music. And now that I have heard their music, all of my suspicions have been confirmed. Sonic Screemers are the real deal! A description like "West Coast-influenced rockin' punk and surfin' riffs with an East Coast attitude" might bring to mind a certain band that's ruling the terrain 90 miles up the turnpike. But while I could totally envision these guys going over well with Night Birds fans, Sonic Screemers have got their own sound for sure. In the way they play blistering rock n' roll at hardcore speeds, I'm reminded quite a bit of the Zero Boys. And perhaps it's just the two-track recording, but to my ears it sounds like these fellas are also huge fans of trashy garage punk. Titled simply Live Demo, the band's debut release captures the foursome in its earliest stages of existence. Essentially these are rough demos - committed to tape before Sonic Screemers had even played their first show. There's something so primitive and exciting about these tracks. It's like these guys got together and immediately knew they had something. I just love the raw energy and sheer force of these songs. "More Money, More Beer" and "No Shit!" could easily pass for tracks from a long lost Rip Off Records single. And you have to love that they open with "Theme From Repo Man"! Surely this band will completely blow my mind once they write a few more songs and get into a proper studio. But I get the feeling that people will always look back at this demo and say, "That thing was freaking awesome!"