Friday, October 9, 2015

Devious Ones' debut single!

When I first reported on Detroit's Devious Ones early this year, I had the feeling I had stumbled upon one of the best up-and-coming punk bands out there. By all accounts, this band completely kills it live. And now Devious Ones have a debut 7" to their name - released on East Grand Record Co! The record is called "I'm Allergic To You", and it's a total smasher. Devious Ones play a style of music that you just don't hear enough of these days - straight-up non-hyphenated punk rock! The title cut is a great example of how to play catchy punk rock with plenty of balls. On the B-side, "Synchronize Or Vaporize" is hard-driving and tuneful - bringing to mind the classic punk sounds of the late '70s and early '80s. You may know some of these guys from their other bands (Amado is in Bump-N-Uglies and Bill Bondsmen; Dougie is in The Putz). But heading into 2016, Devious Ones will be a name everyone ought to know in the punk world. These guys are a fine addition to Detroit's proud legacy of killer punk rock. More music from these guys is high on my wish list for next year!


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The return of Moral Crux!

What a thrill it is, in the year 2015, to again be writing about Moral Crux! When I was a young pup coming up in the world of punk rock record reviewing two decades ago, Moral Crux was one of the first bands I championed. Releases like the 7" "Victim Of Hype" and the LP Something More Dangerous were among my favorite records of the '90s. Today I would cite Moral Crux as not just one of my favorite bands of all-time but also one of the biggest influences on me coming to love '77-style punk rock. And after a 12-year break, we finally have new material from this incredible band! The record is called Revolution, and it's coming out on 7" vinyl on the excellent pop-punk label Mooster Records. Moral Crux, I'm happy to report, hasn't changed a bit over the past dozen years. Hell, the band hasn't really changed over the past 32 years! What has worked for decades continues to work now: a classic poppy punk sound a la Ramones/Buzzcocks/Generation X with intelligent political lyrics. With dissent and social protest gaining traction in recent years, now seems like the perfect time to have Moral Crux back on the scene. Lead track "Revolution (Shouldn't Be So Hard)" is vintage Moral Crux. It will have you bobbing your head and humming along, but it also has a great deal to say about the state of the world. James T Farris X remains one of our great social commentators, and a song like "Timeclock" finds him more inclined than ever to rail against the military-industrial complex. The record also contains a newly recorded version of "Heart On Trial" - a Moral Crux classic from its 1993 album ...And Nothing But The Truth. Hearing how well this song holds up after 22 years, I really have to commend this band for the timelessness of its music and its message. And truthfully, I would not be able to say the same thing about a lot of other political bands.

Revolution is now available for download from iTunes, Amazon, etc. You can pre-order the vinyl here. Snag the limited purple vinyl while the getting is good! For more information on Moral Crux, check out the band's ReverbNation page!


Monday, October 5, 2015

Lovesores v. Born Loose!

Let's keep this simple. Lovesores and Born Loose are the two greatest punk rock n' roll bands on the planet. Just don't ask me to decide who's #1 and who's #2. Pondering such a choice would cause my head to explode. The connection between these two groups dates back to the '90s glory days of booze-soaked punk rock n' roll - when Scott "Deluxe" Drake was fronting the legendary Humpers and Larry May was fronting the legendary Candy Snatchers. Both men are going strong these days with phenomenal new bands, and a Lovesores/Born Loose split is literally one of the greatest ideas in the history of humankind. And now it's a reality - issued on beautiful 7" vinyl by Catastrophe Records. Here's the premise: Lovesores cover the Candy Snatchers, Born Loose covers The Humpers, and each band contributes a ferocious original. On the cover is a picture of a unicorn with an apparent substance abuse problem.What's not to love about this record?!

I'd honestly say that Lovesores' output so far rivals the best of The Humpers, and that continues with the ripping "Crossed-Eyed Cat". This is down and dirty '70s punk n' roll just the way you like it - smeared in Thunders/Dead Boys street grit and featuring a knockout vocal from the ageless SDD. Yeah! Lovesores then put their distinctive twist on the Candy Snatchers' "Nightcrawler" - and of course it's a mind-blowing rendition! Two songs in, the price of the record has already been fully justified. But flip that bad boy over, and you'll get an equally awesome side from Born Loose!

I recently declared Born Loose's "I Loathe You" 7" the best punk rock single of the last couple years. And here on this split, New York City's finest band continues to destroy all comers! "Whiskey Holiday" is pure sonic debauchery featuring Suke's smoking lead guitar and a signature fire-and-fury vocal from Mr. Larry May. Now that is the kind of holiday I can really get behind! Born Loose then boldly tears into The Humpers classic "Fast, Fucked & Furious". It takes some big balls to cover this song, and almost any other band would fail miserably. But Born Loose is not any other band, and Larry & co. absolutely kill it with their version!

Alright! This split is an essential purchase for longtime Humpers/Candy Snatchers fans and anyone else who loves wild and sleazy punk rock n' roll. Both bands came through with top-tier original songs, and the covers are freaking great! Whatever you gotta pay to get your hands on this thing, do it!


Friday, October 2, 2015

New Fashionism 7"!

In less than three months, I will officially announce my favorite new band of 2015. I envision a parade, a formal speech, and perhaps a cash prize. I have not yet identified the winner, but I can say that Fashionism is one of the front-runners. Early this year, I totally freaked for the band's debut 7". Now we have single #2 from Fashionism, and of course it's fantastic! It's called "Quit Looking At The Time", and it's out on the venerable Zaxxon Records.

To summarize: Fashionism is the latest band from Jeff McCloy (The Tranzmitors). He's joined by members of The Jolts and New Town Animals - making Fashionism somewhat of a Vancouver powerpop/punk super-group. Think The Tranzmitors with more of a glam influence. What I like about the new record is that it shows two sides to Fashionism. "Quit Looking At The Time" picks up where the last record left off - coming on with a rush of pure energy and delivering a chorus that you won't be able to stop singing. That hook is unstoppable, and the rockin' guitars are a killer touch. If this song doesn't have you jumping around like a maniac, I may have to demand a doctor's note! On the B-side, "We've Got It Wrong" slows the pace and comes in more on the new wave/power pop side. It still packs a punch, but it manages to capture a sense of despair and longing that really tugs at the heartstrings. It's the perfect pop contrast to the '77 punk jolt of the A-side. You could easily slot it on your next mix in between the Buzzcocks and Exploding Hearts. And how great are those backing vocals?!

Without simply rehashing what worked so well on its debut 7", Fashionism has come through with a crowd-pleasing second single. "Quit Looking At The Time" is the band's catchiest song yet, and "We've Got It Wrong" is beautifully crafted power pop. This band is the real deal. I eagerly await a full album!


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Kurt Baker plays it cool!

Having had three years to ponder the matter, I can say without hesitation that Kurt Baker's Brand New Beat holds a spot in my top ten list of all-time favorite power pop albums. I would definitely call it a contemporary classic, and following it up had to be a tall order for Baker and his songwriting collaborator Wyatt Funderburk. If Baker and Funderburk had simply turned out a new album that was a carbon copy of Brand New Beat, that would have satisfied the fan base just fine. But there was no way that was going to happen. These guys are two of the best songwriters out there, and clearly they were determined to take their time and come up with something truly special. The result is Play It Cool, an album that infuses Baker's signature power pop/pop-rock style with a live rock n' roll energy. As I mentioned in the press release for this album, these songs capture the feel of seeing Kurt Baker in concert. And what that translates to is fun for everyone! Play It Cool revisits all the things you loved about Brand New Beat but adds so much more - rocking harder and drawing from a wider array of influences. I could be wrong, but I predict that most fans will think Play It Cool is even better than its predecessor!

Play It Cool kicks off with "Sends Me To Mars" - a rock n' roll ripper penned by Portland, Maine garage/punk legend Kip Brown. It was originally recorded in 1986 by Brown's band The Wild Hearts. Not only is this song a wonderful tribute to a prolific and under-appreciated artist, but it's also a perfect tone-setter for an album that's an absolute blast all the way through. Baker and friends launch this rocket right out of the gates, and quickly you get the sense that this is going to be a different kind of record. Close your eyes, and you can easily picture bodies flying all over the stage while Kris Rodgers pounds those keys like his hair's on fire. You'll be tapping your toes within 10 seconds and jumping out of your seat within a minute. And from there, the album only gets better! If you're craving some "classic" Kurt Baker, you won't be disappointed. "Enough's Enough" ought to be a massive radio hit. "I Got You" will put a smile on your face no matter how bad your day is going. "Monday Night" reminds us that it's never the wrong day of the week to have a good time. "Just A Little Bit" sounds like Elvis Costello fronting Thin Lizzy. But ultimately it's the variety of the song selection that makes this the most enjoyable of all of Baker's albums. Running the gamut from '80s pop-rock throwbacks ("Play It Cool") to raucous garage rockers ("Doin' It Right") to pretty Beatle-esque janglers ("Talk Is Talk") to Raspberries-inspired sing-alongs ("I Can't Wait") to wonderfully sappy ballads (the magnificent "Back For Good"), these 12 songs demonstrate how crucial melody and quality hooks can be to almost any style of music. And backed by an all-star supporting cast (Rodgers and Geoff Palmer from The Connection, Adam Cargin from Screeching Weasel/Riverdales), Baker fully delivers on the promise of a high energy, fun-to-the-end musical performance. If you've never witnessed The Kurt Baker Band live, Play It Cool will make you wish you had!

Play It Cool is a rock n' roll album first and a power pop album second. And that, I'd say, is the natural order of things. If you've soured on today's power pop because the power part of the equation is so rarely emphasized, this could be the record that turns you to the dark side. And for those of you who are huge Kurt Baker fans and have been looking forward to this album for a long time, you're going to love what you hear! Seriously: Baker and Funderburk have totally knocked it out of the park with these songs! I'm talking an A++ effort! I suppose only time will tell whether or not Play It Cool surpasses Brand New Beat in my heart. But my gut reaction is that this is the best Kurt Baker album yet! Get the download from Baker's Bandcamp and the CD from Rum Bar Records. Vinyl will be out later this fall on Eccentric Pop Records, Ghost Highway Recordings, and Jolly Ronnie Records!


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Taking a break....

Alright, everyone! This will be my last post for a while. I'm going to take a break from the blog during the month of September while I get acclimated to the rigors of taking college courses on top of a full-time job. I'm going to minimize distractions and try to get a feel for just how much free time I can expect to have during any given week. And with football season about to start, a lot of that free time has already been claimed! I want to find a way to keep the blog going - even if that means more of a focus on sharing music and less of a focus on writing about it. If all goes well, F & L will return in October with shorter and more infrequent posts. I intend to return in style with a review of the new Kurt Baker album. Speaking of Mr. Baker, please enjoy this video for his forthcoming single on Hidden Volume Records!


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A full album from Lunch!

Back in the beginning of 2014, I raved about an EP from a post-punk band out of Portland called Lunch. Generally speaking, I don't review a lot of post-punk stuff. But when I hear something truly great, I am more than happy to make exceptions. Lunch is one of those bands that never fails to blow me away. So here we go again!

What's impressed me about Lunch's new album is that it's quite a bit different from the band's previous output. With Let Us Have Madness Openly (great title!), Lunch delivers a full-length debut reminiscent of classic albums from Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure, and Chameleons. The sound is goth-leaning mid-'80s UK post-punk all the way - right down to the chillingly exquisite guitar work and haunting bass lines. And while Lunch is hardly the only group of the present day to explore this particular set of influences, it's been a long time since I've heard a band do it this well. The songwriting, musicianship, and production are absolutely bang-on. Truly, any of these tracks could be slipped into regular rotation on SiriusXM First Wave without anyone suspecting a thing. "Pouring Light" is the next best thing to discovering a never-before-heard Joy Division song. And you can still hear Lunch's punk roots informing the shorter song lengths and nervous tics of tracks like "Bad Cut". This is that rare post-punk album good enough to make me want to wear black and embrace gloom. It's out now on Mass Media Records and will be available soon in Europe on the always dependable Taken By Surprise label. Check it out!