Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Lord Rutledge Awards 2013

Holding strong to tradition, I once again bring the year to a close with my annual Lord Rutledge Awards. Due to a restructuring of the F & L operating budget (I purchased a trained monkey whom I'm convinced can write reviews as well as I can), I was unable to make this a live event this year. So picture me now seated by the fireplace, dressed in my smoking jacket, weighing in on the year that was 2013 while I sip a hearty winter ale from a boot mug and listen to Bloodstains Across Denmark on a 1963 Motorola console stereo. I briefly pause to sing along loudly, causing the cat to give me the death glare.

On more than one occasion over the past 12 months, I remarked on what an amazing year 2013 was for punk/garage/powerpop music. I don't know if there was anything special about 2013 in particular. Maybe there's lots of great music out there every year, and I just did a better job of finding it in 2013. Any way you choose to explain it, I've had an inordinate amount of incredible music to write about over the past 365 days. Several of my favorite bands (Night Birds, Missing Monuments, The Connection, The Kidnappers) delivered superb new releases. The Stiletto Boys returned after a 13 year absence and issued their long-awaited masterpiece Liberator. The Lovesores and Livids turned back the clock to the glory days of trashy punk rock n' roll. New bands like L.A. Drugz and Chain Letters became instant favorites of mine. I finally got hip to awesome groups like The Bloodtypes and The Love Triangle. Hell, even the almighty Replacements released new music! All in all, it was a musical year I'll fondly remember for a long time. On that note, I will now dispense the hardware.

Drum roll, please....

Album of the Year:
Night Birds - Born To Die In Suburbia
Number one with a bullet. You can see my full top ten here.

EP of the Year:
L.A. Drugz- Outside Place
My favorite overall release of the year. This band will contend for the championship belt in 2014.

Single of the Year:
Kurt Baker- "Girl's Got Money" b​/​w "Yeah? Yeah!"
In spite of formidable competition from the likes of Smartboys, The Chain Letters, and Maniac, last year's album of the year winner collects another Lord Rutledge Award for his double A side bonanza from this past summer. If you're a big Kurt fan like me, I've got something special for you later this week. Stay tuned!

Song of the Year:
Wyatt Funderburk - "If I Ever Wanted Easier"
It seems like most epic love songs are about young hearts in the throes on passion. This one's about enduring adult love, and it really speaks to me. Talk about ending an album on a high note!

Split of the Year:
The Gaggers/The Stitches
Released on Rapid Pulse and No Front Teeth Records. Includes the best Stitches song in at least 15 years and an instant snot-punk classic from London's almighty Gaggers. You can (and must!) stream both tracks on the Rapid Pulse Soundcloud page. 

Album of the Year (Masters Class):
Swingin' Utters - Poorly Formed
This award goes to the best album released by a band that's 25 years or more into its existence. The Swingin' Utters have somehow managed to mature and consistently reinvent themselves over the years without losing the qualities that made them a great band to begin with. That's really hard to do, especially in the punk world. I also considered Bad Religion's strong effort True North for this award. But the difference is that Poorly Formed is one of the Utters' finest albums, while I'd say True North is nowhere near the top tier of Bad Religion LPs.

Producer of the Year:
Pierluigi Ballarin
Miss Chain & the Broken Heels' The Dawn was one of the year's finest LPs and all in all one of the "warmest" and best-produced records I've heard in years. Much credit has to go to Ballarin, who produced the album at his analog based T.U.P. Studio in Italy. Keep an eye on this guy!

Cover Song of the Year:
The No Tomorrow Boys - "I Go Ape" (Neil Sedaka)
You may be surprised by how hard the original (Sedaka's second single, from 1959) rocks. But The No Tomorrow Boys take it from inside the five and power it into the end zone. Find it on their Teen-Age Vice EP!

The Patrick Bateman Prize For Excellence In Music Criticism:
Kevin McGovern
It's no surprise that one of the great punk lyricists of my generation would attain a similar excellence in writing about music. Even though I myself write lots of record reviews, I'm generally not a fan of reading them. I always make an exception for Kevin, who contributed many classic rants to Now Wave Magazine back in the day. Whether he's writing a song, a Facebook post, or a grocery list, Kevin is always uniquely Kevin. Check out his blog for some amazing write-ups about life and music and what it all really means. This review in particular sums up his greatness.

Blog of the Year:
Audio Ammunition
By far the best taste in music of any blog out there. Since I don't do band interviews, it's cool to see another blog that does them really well. Check it out!

Label of the Year:
Grave Mistake Records
This was a mighty close battle as Dirtnap Records nearly took it for the second year in a row. But on the strength of delivering my #1 and #5 albums of the year plus great new EPs from The Shirks and Red Dons, I give it to Grave Mistake by the narrowest of margins.

Best New Band:
L.A. Drugz
Runner up was Maniac - because Justin Maurer likes to compete with himself.

Vault Treasure of the Year:
The Prostitutes - Get Sicker
With all The Prostitutes' classic material out of print for years, it's a thrill to have this digital collection available for a free download. At a lean 14 tracks, this is the most essential stuff from (in my opinion) the greatest punk rock band of the '90s. If you only take one recommendation from me all year, let this be the one.

Compilation of the Year:
Neighborhood Brats - No Sun No Tan
Compiling the Neighborhood Brats' out of print first three singles along with two unreleased tracks, this collection is an absolute must-own whether you're 17 or 47. Classic punk rock in the Avengers/VKTMS mold featuring the remarkable Jenny Angelillo on vocals. Without a doubt, one of the best punk bands going today.

Music Video of the Year:
L.A. Drugz- "Outside Place"
Winning three Lord Rutledge Awards in one year entitles you to a free pizza. Toppings are extra.


Best album of 2012 I didn't hear until 2013:
Sugar Stems - Can't Wait 
If it had been released just a couple weeks later, it would have been my runner up for 2013 album of the year.

Album I should have bought, but didn't:
Glass Heroes- Liars Cheats and Thieves 
I have never written about this band. That's a failure that needs to be corrected soon.

The Championship Belt:
Something Fierce
This award goes annually to my favorite current band. Something Fierce has held the belt since the inception of the award. And although they released no new music in 2013, I am not yet prepared to strip them of their title. With a new Something Fierce album due out in mid-to-late 2014, the band will have every opportunity to retain the belt in a fair fight.

Happy New Year, everyone! Thank you for reading!

-L.R. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

F & L Reader Top Tens 2013

Continuing an annual tradition of mine, I have solicited year-end top tens from readers of this blog. I always enjoy this project. It reminds me of records that I may have forgotten to write about and makes me aware of some bands that I should check out. I never think of myself as a "critic".  To me, F & L is more along the lines of social networking. I just like to spread the word about music I like. And today, you're telling me what you like. I think that's really cool. So let's get to it! 

Joe Keller's 2013 Top Tens

LPs
1. Culo - My Life Sucks and I Could Care Less
These thalidomide children sure make some racket. You know what you're getting into when the first track starts off with a sound clip lifted from The Truth About Devolution, the short film by Devo (yeah, yeah, I know it was originally in the song "Mechanical Man") and said song is titled "Gestapo Boots of a Mutant". This record is painfully dumb (see grammatically incorrect album title) and brilliant in the best ways possible. Musically, Culo alternates between mid-tempo Ramones-like rockers and full-bore hardcore thrashing. If they only did one of these styles throughout the an entire LP it might get old, but mixing them up really makes this long player cool and has thus earned many repeat spins on my turntable. The lyrics are filled with self loathing and humor and there is definitely at least one dick pic in the rather sizable lyrics zine that accompanies the record. My only gripe is that there is no bass. I HATE records and bands with no bass which means this record is so good, I am willing to overlook my hatred for no low end. Someone call up that guy in Redd Kross who overdubbed bass parts onto that White Stripes record.

2. Nervosas - self-titled
Columbus Ohio’s Nervosas are my new favorite band, and this 3-sided LP set (the fourth LP side is blank with a screen print) will tell you why. Nervosas are an amalgam of goth-y guitar riffs, complementary male-female vocals, and the classic Ohio raw punk tradition. Mickie Mocnik's guitar warbles and snarls with chorus effects, front-man Jeff Kleinman has a cool punchy, midrange bass tone as well as a distinct singing style, and drummer Nick Schuld thrashes with speed and precision. Check out "Uncanny" and "APAB" - both are ragers of the first order.

3. Pissed Jeans - Honeys
Without a doubt, the best record of 2013 in terms of submarine sandwich eating soundtracks. I could dine on many a #44 from Elsie's (turkey, salami, and provolone) to this superb record. This one is a banger on par with King of Jeans, their 2009 tour de force. Honeys also contains my favorite couplet of 2013: "Now you wanna say that I'm lazy/When it comes to sleeping I'm a talented man". Tracks such as "Bathroom Laughter", "Romanticize Me", "Vain in Costume", and "Cathouse" all deliver the goods in signature Pissed Jeans style.

4. Radioactivity - self-titled
Jeff Burke from the Marked Men returns and puts out a melodic pop punk record which puts everything else in the genre to shame. Nothing new going on here. While Jeff's trademark melodies, guitar riffs, and vocal style are there, the tunes have a feel that separates them from his other bands (Marked Men, Potential Johns, The Novice, etc). One song is partially in Japanese and there are some falsetto notes on another track. I cannot stop listening to the song "World of Pleasure". I am not exaggerating - I replay that damn song over and over again. Apparently, there is already a 2nd LP in the can. Come on, 2014.

5. Nuclear Santa Claust - Order of a New Age
Brooklyn's favorite slack jawed bozos deliver a crushing, riff-laden boat-load of histrionics tunes that will knock you on your ass. I don't need to say anything else about this one other than make sure you pick up a sixer of your favorite cheap brew on the way home from the record shop when you get this bad boy - you're going to need it!

6. Steve Adamyk Band - Third
The good ship Adamyk manages to put out a third LP without sounding sounding stale or messing up the formula. That is not an easy feat when you're in the power pop/pop punk/whatever-you-want-to-call-this-stuff business. "Katacombs" is easily my favorite tune here.

7. Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band - Promises to Deliver
...And deliver it does. Nato Coles has a pretty spotless track record by my count. Modern Machines, Used Kids, Radio Faces - all good stuff. His newest combo has been knocking around for a few years now so all of these jams at least feel as though they are road tested. Tracks 2 and 3 ("Julie" and "You Can Count on Me Tonight" respectively) are the jams. Great song arrangement and pacing throughout this fab debut record.

8. Vacation - Candy Waves
I got into this one just before the bell. Fuzzed out indie-ish pop punk that goes along well with contemporaries Tenement. I also have a soft spot for singing drummers. I dare you to listen to the opening and closing tracks of this record and not be hooked.

9. Iron Reagan -Worse Than Dead
Tony Foresta and Land Phil of Municipal Waste fame bust out with this new side project. Less metal, more punk, very sensual. More overtly political lyrics than the ‘Waste typically rocks. Kudos for calling out Harold Camping. Fuck that guy.

10. Big Eyes - Almost Famous
Kate Eldridge & co. (an all new "co." since their last LP, mind you) serve up another healthy dose of rocking, rolling, power pop-ish, punk jams. It's easy to rattle off the usual reference points when discussing Big Eyes such as The Muffs and The Fastbacks (I'm guilty of comparing Big Eyes to these two bands myself), but Big Eyes has their own sound. There is pop in the song structure, but there are some hard riffs to back it up, sorta like the Cheap Trick song that they took their band name from. GO FIGURE!

Other awesome LPs: Sugar Stems - Can't Wait, Rough Kids - The State I'm In, Dead Mechanical - OK Night, My Bloody Valentine - MBV, Robyn Hitchcock - Love from London, Drag the River - self-titled

Collections/Reissues
1. Copyrights - Shit's Fucked 2XLP
2. Neighborhood Brats - singles collection LP
3. New Bomb Turks - Destroy Oh Boy reissue LP
4. Dirt Bike Annie - Hit the Rock reissue LP
5. Replacements- All Shook Down reissue LP

EPs/singles
1. Rev Norb & The Onions - 707077 7"
2. Replacements - Songs for Slim impossible to find 10"/digital tracks
2. Sickoids - No Home 12"
3. Tenement - Cowabunga Records 7"
4. Whiff - "Warm"/"Left At Princess" 7"
5. Toys That Kill/Future Virgins split 7"
6. The Livids - "She Likes Zits" 7"
7. Sick Sick Birds - "All The Fins in the Sea" 7"
8. Neighborhood Brats - "Birthright" 7"
9. Red Dons - Notes from the Underground 7”
10. Tenement/Screaming Females split 7"

Peter Santa Maria's 13 for 2013
Not necessarily in any specific order, all of these albums are great and got many repeat plays from me over the past year (and surely will for many more years to come).

Night Birds - Born To Die In Suburbia
From the apocalyptic surf sounds of the first track "Escape From New York" (yes, the theme song from the cult classic John Carpenter film. BEST. COVER SONG. EVER!), Night Birds come bursting forth from the toxic suburban wastelands of NJ and set the tone for the next 30 minutes of shorter, louder, faster blasts of punk rock on Born To Die In Suburbia. Whether it's a minute and a half thrasher or a more mid-tempo hardcore stomp, each song is a sonic powder keg ready to explode. Night Birds take their influences from '80s punk and hardcore and mix in SoCal surf sounds with an East Coast "You talkin' to me?!" attitude to make their own original glorious racket. Born To Die in Suburbia could easily be the album of the year for this year or ANY year!

The Bamboo Kids - Safe City Blues
Real rock 'n' roll from the Big Apple! The Bamboo Kids unleashed Safe City Blues this past year--a whopping 30-song double LP--and it's really the only record you needed to pick up this year. The whole album is like a walk through of the last 50 years of rock 'n' roll music: '50s doo-wop and pop ("Privacy"), '60s garage punk stompers ("Digging A Grave", "No Fool No Care"), glitter and glam rock ("Batshit Crazy"), '70s NYC punk ("You Can't Trust Me", "Dumb For Life"), Stonsey rock 'n' roll swagger ("Ain't A Man", "The Way Things Are", "Wrecking Ball"), and Springsteen rave-ups ("Streets of New York City"). Hell, there are even two slower, veering on ballad territory numbers in "Don't Believe All You Hear" and "Back To Brooklyn". You'd be hard pressed to find a clunker in this whole collection of songs. I'll go even further and say this is The Bamboo Kids' London Calling. And if you aren't hip to the rock, then you best get hip, son!

Neighborhood Brats - No Sun No Tan
Don't you just hate when you get hipped to a band (thanks Mr. Rutledge!) and then seek out their music and find out that all of their releases are sold out? I do! Sure, I could go listen to the tracks on Bandcamp (and I did!), but I want to own the record! Thankfully this comp of all of Neighborhood Brats' sold out EPs came out this year, so I can get my fix anytime I want now. Vocalist Jenny Angelillo is a modern day Penelope Houston and propels each song with the utmost urgency and excitement, through every scream and wail, all the while never losing any melody. West Coast punk is alive and well with bands like Neighborhood Brats, whose razor sharp songs with stun gun guitar and breakneck speed will bowl you over as soon as the needle hits the record.

Ravagers - Living in Oblivion
Ravagers serve up some full-tilt, amps on 11, trashy punk rock 'n' roll straight outta the gutters of Charm City on Living In Oblivion. Snotty vox and big sing along choruses mix with dual guitar leads, like if Johnny Thunders fronted Hanoi Rocks. The title track here is the standout, with its big arena rock spell-out-the-chorus chorus! Collector scum alert: 1st pressing on glow in the dark vinyl already sold out!

Bad Sports - Bras
As I've said many times before in reviews, if a band is from Texas, they are worth a listen and are subsequently usually pretty great. Bad Sports confirms my statement once again on their newest album, Bras. A fusion of fuzzed out power pop, '70s NYC punk, and rifftastic guitar reminiscent of Buzzcocks at times, Bad Sports make their third album their best and most experimental songwriting-wise. Produced by Mark Ryan and Jeff Burke from Marked Men, sonically the record sounds great in a '70s tape saturated sorta way. The standout tracks here for me are the Bowery proto-punk of "Eddie Bender", the fast garage blast of "Washed Up", the melancholy guitar pop of "Free Spirit" and "Terrible Place", and the pure punk frenzy of "Hypothetical Girl". But really, there isn't one stinker on this whole album, a truly great listen from start to finish. Also, a shout out to Dirtnap, who continues to be one of the finest record labels releasing music nowadays!

Mind Spiders - Inhumanistic
Another great Dirtnap release this year was the newest record from Mind Spiders, which consisted of more DEVO worship filtered through Texas garage rock from Mark Ryan and cohorts. Each Mind Spiders record is better than the last, and Inhumanistic is the best to date, ratcheting up the melodic factor of the songs while still keeping a lo-fi vibe overall. The album starts with synthy doom that sounds like it is right out of a slasher flick, then careens into "Inside You", a pretty straight ahead garage punker. More straight ahead garage punk thrashers that veer close to Screamers territory are "They Lie" and "Pictures". Other standout tracks include the sad love song "City Stuff", with acoustic guitars and overlaid synth static, the electro-countrified "I Want You", "Oblivion", a song that sounds like it should be on the soundtrack to an '80s b-movie, and "Electric Things", about an actual b-movie, From Beyond!

v/a - Songs for Slim: Rockin' Here Tonight A Benefit Compilation for Slim Dunlap
Sometimes it takes a tragedy to bring the people you love the most back into your life. Or like The 'Mats lyric goes, "The ones who love us best are the ones we lay to rest, visit their graves on holidays at best. The ones who love us least, are the ones we're dying to please. If it's any consolation, I don't begin to to understand them." When Slim Dunlap had a debilitating stroke in 2012, the former guitarist and Minneapolis music staple could have never guessed the outpouring of support from his old bandmates, friends, and well-wishers. First up, The Replacements reformed (kinda, Paul and Tommy showed up, but Chris declined) and recorded a new EP with two Dunlap covers and some other choice covers as a benefit release to help raise funds for Dunlap's care. That then snowballed into other artists stepping up to record covers of Slim's songs, people like like Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, John Doe, Curtiss A, Craig Finn, Frank Black (w/ The Suicide Commandos!), You Am I, and Young Fresh Fellows, among others. I have to admit, I didn't really know any of Slim's solo stuff before this compilation. It's no surprise that his influences ranged from Americana to folk to blues and pub rock, and all of the songs on this comp are played with a ton of energy and soul. A great record and a great cause!

Obits - Bed and Bugs
Obits are a guitar rock band in the way that Television was a guitar rock band: weird chords, defiant strumming, chimey and crunchy all at the same time. On Obits' 3rd record, Bed and Bugs, they move away a bit from the garage rock slop and stomp and explore more surf, blues, and psychedelic sounds from the sonic palette. No matter the style of song, Rick Froberg can scream with the best of them, but can also croon when called upon. Bed and Bugs is drenched in reverb and soul and has a vibe that you don't find it most modern bands or records.

Man or Astro-man? - Defcon 5...4...3...2...1
A new Man or Astro-man? record?! What year is this again?! The sci-fi space surfers are back with a new record, and they thankfully haven't lost a beat. Dissonant reverbed-out chords and synthy surf licks collide with robotic voices and miscellaneous electronic interference and noise. As with any Man or Astro-man? record, it's best to experience it from beginning to end in one continuous listening session, so download this series of 0's and 1's from the digital cloud and program your stereophonic device for the speed of sound!

Night Marchers - Allez Allez
This record just snarls and rips from the first drop of the needle! Jon Reis and company (3/4 of Hot Snakes) are back with their 2nd full-length with a sound that is out for blood. There are more straight-ahead rockers and barn burners on this album ("Loud Dumb and Mean", "All Hits", "(Wasting Away In) Javalinaville", "I Wear The Horns", and "Fisting The Fan Base") than the previous. There's also some experimentation with more swampy and train-kept-a-rollin' sounds on "Tropical Depression" and "Ned Lud". "Pain" is a heartfelt and melancholy number with some great lyrics ("I think I'm falling in pain with you"). No matter the song, Reis belts out lyrics with dripping snot one minute and gruff croon the next. Rock 'n' fuckin' roll!

Broadcaster - A Million Hours
Super catchy and rockin' tunes from this power trio out of Long Island, NY. Musically, think of a more polished sounding Jawbreaker: more rock and power pop, less punk. A Million Hours was recorded by J. Robbins of Jawbox fame, and the album sounds very clean and big. 15 years ago, this band probably would have been all over alterna-radio (I'll let the reader decide whether that is a good or bad thing). 10 mid-tempo songs full of great songwriting with angst-ridden lyrics, solid melodies, and catchy hooks for days.

Oblivians - Desperation
The long awaited return of one of the most rockin' and influential bands of the past 20 years, Oblivions do not disappoint on their first new album in 16 years. The Oblivians' 2 guitars, no bass, stripped down drum kit rawk 'n' blooze sound is alive and unwell on the songs "Woke Up In A Police Car", "Fire Detector", and "Mama Guitar". Their revved up and fuzzed out cover of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band's "Loving Cup" with Jack O. on vox is one of the better tracks on the album. Jack O. also shines on the relentless drum-machine backed "Run For Cover". A number of songs like "Em", "Pinball King", and the title track come off like Reigning Sound castoffs, but still

Lovesores - Bubblegum Riot
While technically an EP (a 10 inch slab of vinyl no less!), Scott Drake and Jeff Fieldhouse pack in enough rock action on this release for a double album! The former Humpers tear through six sick songs full of four-on-the-floor pounding drums as guitars slash 'n' burn 'n' crash into each other. "Bubblegum Riot" kicks things off into high gear, the guitar solo on "Flamethrower Chic" is indeed h-o-t, "82nd Avenue Breakdown" is attitude personified, "Her Majesty's Ass" will have you shaking yours, the boys invent a new dance craze with the "Chinese Twist", and "Theme to the Lovesores" is that special type of earworm song that will get stuck in your brain pan for daze!


Rob Sheley's 2013 Top 10ish 
1. Livids – 5 Singles 
One of the best things released in years. Leaner & more powerful than the New Bomb Turks if that is possible. A must-have, essential!

2. Savages – Silence Yourself 
A fully formed debut. You hope all bands set the bar this high for themselves. 

3. Lovesores – Bubblegum Riot/Formaldehyde EPs
After 20 years, Scott Deluxe Drake & Jeff Fieldhouse STILL show you how it's done. Thanks, I only wish there were more tracks. Thank God for The Humpers!

4. Shannon and the Clams - Dreams in the Rathouse 
Perfect mix of trash, girl groups, lo-fi, and bubblegum. Awesome indeed.

5. Dirtbombs – Consistency Is the Enemy & Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey 
It has Mick Collins. How could it not make my list?

6. Imperial State Electric – Radio Electric & Reptile Brain Music 
Sweden's own. From the ashes of the Hellacopters rise this incredible rock & roll band with more emphasis on the roll. Seek it all out.

7. King Khan – Idle No More 
Well worth the wait!

8. Night Birds – Born To Die In Suburbia 
What can you say that isn't already stated? They are the best thing in punk rock today. They always deliver, and this one is no different.

9. Big Eyes – Almost Famous 
Shows you that you can make a great racket with just a 3 piece. See 'em live- it's even better!

10. Spiders – Flash Point 
More rock from Sweden. It's great - more people should know about it.

Reissues 
1. Waldos- Rent Party 
Under-appreciated lost classic. It is a wonderful thought to consider that if he & Johnny could have made it, it might have sounded like this or better. Add this to your collection today. 

2. Johnny Thunders - Hurt Me/LAMF 
Masterpiece- the alpha and omega of what everyone strives to create.

3. Roky Erickson – Evil One, Gremlins & I Have Always Been Here Before 
Three gems that stand up to all the 13th Floor Elevators' stuff.

4. Nikki Sudden – The Boy From Nowhere Who Fell From The Sky 
If we all could only write songs this good.

5. Masters of Reality – self titled & How High The Moon 2 CD set
The same year Rick Rubin did Slayer & Danzig, he did this one. So far ahead of its time. 

Danny Dysentery's 2013 Top Ten 
1. Oblivians - Desperation 
Finally a reunion record that doesn't suck, disappoint, or annoy, but just flat out rocks. 

2. No Tomorrow Boys - Bad Luck Baby Put the Jinx on Me 
Like a firecracker in yr pants! 

3. Hunx and His Punx - Street Punk 
Everyone's a Pussy, Fuck you, dude! 

4. Kitten Forever - Pressure 
And forever and forever. Meow! 

5. Camera Obscura - Desire Lines 
Best song of the year: "Break It To You Gently". 

6. NERV - Life? EP 
I Don't Wanna Talk About It.

7. Lydia Loveless - Boy Crazy EP 
Love her big voice. 

8. Nobunny - Secret Songs: Reflections from the Ear Mirror 
When opportunity knocks, you gotta piss in its face.

9. Neighborhood Brats - No Sun No Tan 
Plays like a greatest hits collection. Wait, isn't it? 

10. Bad Sports - Bras 
All kinds of good. 

11. (Erika Ebola's extra choice) Video - (Join The) Hate Wave 
Hate! Hate! Hate! Love?

Schneck Tourniquet's 2013 Top Five
1. L.A. Drugz - Outside Place EP
2. White Murder - "Arteries Are Flexible" b/w "Shutter Speed" single
3. Sex Crime - Night Vision EP
4. Denizenz - self-titled tape
5. Bellicose Minds - The Spine LP

Ryan Manigault's 2013 Top Ten
1. Swingin' Utters - Poorly Formed LP
2. Shocked Minds - self-titled LP
3. Sydney Ducks - Death Toll EP
4. Superchunk - I Hate Music LP
5. Livids - (Some Of Us Have) Adrenalized Hearts EP
6. Big Eyes- Almost Famous LP
7. Missing Monuments - self-titled LP
8. Voigt Kampff - self-titled LP
9. Criminal Damage - Call Of Death LP
10. Night Birds - Born To Die In Suburbia LP

Scott VonRocket's 2013 Top Ten
Mind Spiders - Inhumanistic
Night Birds - Born To Die In Suburbia
Radioactivity - self titled
Sick Secrets - self-titled
Modern Pets - Sorry. Thanks.
Bad Sports - Bras
Autistic Youth - Nonage
Prostitutes - unreleased album
The Love Triangle - Clever Clever
BOATS! - Black & White

Best live show of the year:
Marked Men at Dirtnap showcase, hands down, no
contest...

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this post! It appears that I missed out on a whole lot of great music in 2013!

-L.R. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

My Top Ten Albums of 2013

I knew as far back as this past spring that my 2013 top ten was going to be my most formidable list since the early 2000s. And now that said list has been finalized after numerous revisions and a great amount of internal deliberation, I can say with certainty that this has been one of my all-time favorite years for new music. Several of my favorite bands released new albums this year, and none of them disappointed. There were also a number of releases that came out of nowhere to surprise me. Night Birds' Born To Die In Suburbia was a runaway winner for album of the year. And there were a lot of selections behind it that could have been album of the year winners in most other years. It was such a good year that I had to leave out exceptional LPs by Bad Sports, The No Tomorrow Boys, the Steve Adamyk Band, and Glitz. And that was not easy to do.

Alright, on to the list! For what it's worth, exactly half of these albums were sophomore releases. I suppose there's something to be said for going all out to top a great debut album. Most of these selections can be streamed for free, so you don't have to take my word for it that they're great! Read on and listen up!

10. The Sensibles - A Bunch of Animals
Female fronted pop-punk from Italy that will put a huge smile on your face. I feel like a jerk for not rating it even higher. 

9. Miss Chain & The Broken Heels - The Dawn
Proof that a "mature" pop record doesn't have to suck. Best song: "Little Boy".

8. Stiletto Boys- Liberator
The long-awaited third (and final?) installment of the Stiletto Boys' trilogy. If you loved the first two albums, you've got to have this one too. 

7. The Love Triangle - Clever Clever
This album could pass for a long lost classic of 1977 U.K. pop/punk.

6. The Connection- Let It Rock!
Adding touches of country rock and '70s Stones swagger to their throwback British Invasion sound, The Connection stepped up big-time on their sophomore LP. No wonder Little Steven loves 'em!

5. Big Eyes - Almost Famous
Long saddled with Muffs and Joan Jett comparisons, Seattle power trio Big Eyes solidified their own identity on this fantastic breakout release.

4. Missing Monuments - self titled
Point of trivia: Missing Monuments had my #4 album of 2011 as well. I like their chances to again be #4 in 2015.

3. Wyatt Funderburk - Novel and Profane
One of the power pop world's finest songwriters and producers finally gave us a solo album, and it was amazing as expected! "If I Ever Wanted Easier" is absolute perfection.

2. Radioactivity - self titled
It's not really a new Marked Men album, but it's the next best thing. Perhaps a little more power pop than the Marked Men - which is fine by me!

1. Night Birds- Born To Die In Suburbia
There are many things I love about Night Birds' sophomore LP. But perhaps the coolest is that the record takes inspiration from the melodic hardcore and surf-punk sounds of the early '80s and genuinely refashions them for our present times. While not quite a concept album, Born To Die In Suburbia paints a grim and remarkably on-point portrait of a modern society ravaged by dysfunction, despair, and endless enslavement to technology and consumerism. Great songs, great lyrics, great music. This isn't just my album of the year. It's my album of the decade so far!

And thus concludes part one of F & L's year-end festivities. I'll be posting our reader top tens on Monday, so feel free to email your list to me at fasterandlouderblog@gmail.com!

-L.R. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Introducing Chain Letters!

It's my final review of 2013, and boy do I ever have a good one for you! Chain Letters are based in Toronto and L.A. (hope they have a teleporter!). The band is Sophia Dilley (ex Young People With Faces, one of my all-time faves) on vocals, Chris Parker on guitar, Johnny Bubblegum (ex Tyranna) on bass, and Violet X on drums. Citing the likes of the Go-Gos, Pointed Sticks, and Zeros as primary influences and espousing a love for late '90s lo-fi greats like Loli and the Chones, the High School Rockers, and early Donnas, Chain Letters seem like the kind of band I would totally freak out over. And trust me, there has been much freaking out at Rutledge Manor in recent days! I'm currently recovering from my injuries and apologizing to the neighbors.

You just have to love a band that tells you it wants to sound "like Ellie Greenwich writing for the Avengers in your garage". "Bad Reflection", Chain Letters' debut single on Pogo Time Records, has nearly sold out of an entire pressing of 300 copies. And with good reason - it rocks! The title track is first-rate punky powerpop with ballsy guitars and a tough melodic vocal from the always dependable Ms. Dilley. B-side "Boulevard Girls" eases off the tempo a tad and summons the ghosts of Dangerhouse past. Sometimes with music of this style, it's way more pop than punk. But Chain Letters' hook-driven sound has a garage meets early L.A. punk edge to it, and the recording is the perfect kind of raw. Fans of everyone from Midnite Snaxxx to Neighborhood Brats to Big Eyes will approve. If you desire a vinyl copy of "Bad Reflection", I'd encourage you to act very fast! Or if you're digitally inclined like me, check out Chain Letters on Soundcloud and like 'em on Facebook! I can't wait to hear more!



-L.R.

soundcloud.com/chain-letters
https://www.facebook.com/#!/chainletters

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Meet Afterpartees!

How about a Christmas treat? Afterpartees are a fairly new band out of The Netherlands, and they've come through with a classic late '70s power pop sound on their fine debut single. With its lovelorn overtones and lead guitar hooks that never quit, "First/Last" is everything a power pop song should be. I'm telling you, it's a hit! For some reason, it reminds me of Stiv Bators covering The Choir back in the day. And for sure, it fits right in with recent issues from other European punk/powerpop standouts like The #1s and Protokids. B-side cut "That's What You Said" follows a slightly different style - slowing things down with some melancholic '60 garage jangle. Exceeding the four minute mark, this one's more of a grower. But I like it! All in all, Afterpartees show promise and versatility on their debut release, and I imagine you'll be reading about this band many more times here on F & L! For now, listen and enjoy!



-L.R.

https://www.facebook.com/afterpartees
http://afterpartees1.bandcamp.com/
http://www.afterpartees.com/

Friday, December 20, 2013

Return of The Raydios!

The recent line on The Raydios has been that they fall somewhere in between Teengenerate and Firestarter. That's never been truer than on "No Expectation", their great new EP on Secret Mission Records. This is their fifth 7" since their 2007 re-emergence, and their sixth overall. Fink and co. continue to carry the torch for Japanese punk, and this record is a total ripper! While not nearly as trashy as Teengenerate or as poppy as Firestarter, The Raydios get me with a hooky '70s punk sound that hits my happy zone straight-on. The title track here is a furious shot of Dictators/Ramones hotness, while "School Trash" is more of the same but with a bit of that fractured modern edge we've come to expect from Japan in recent years. I've seen mixed reviews of some of The Raydios' more recent releases, but these two tracks are as good as anything I've heard from this band going back to its original late '90s run. B-side cut "Faster" is actually a little slower, but not in a bad way. It really works the harder/grittier side of classic punk, with requisite nods to the Stooges and enough guitar wallop to power a major city. Even without the overt poppiness of Firestarter, these are some well-crafted and seriously catchy tunes. And while some may long for the gloriously shitty fidelity of those old Teengenerate records, the tougher sound works for me just fine.

Given that the majority of this band's releases are pricey Japanese imports, this is a rare chance to score a Raydios single from an American label. And it's a top tier Raydios release to boot! $5 for this bad boy is a deal and a steal!

-L.R.

http://secretmissionrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/secretmissionrecords
https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Raydios/153062848082743

Monday, December 16, 2013

Missing Monuments have a blast!

One of my favorite bands puts out a new EP, and I didn't know about it several months in advance? Man, I've been slipping! Perhaps it's because the Missing Monuments Facebook page has gone, uh, missing. "Blast!" is the third 7" from Missing Monuments, and it's gooooood! It makes a perfect companion piece for the New Orleans foursome's latest LP. It's odd that I'm such a pop guy yet totally prefer the more rockin' direction that Missing Monuments have been taking lately. I just like the way the band has found a distinct sound over the years. There's no other group that sounds quite like 'em. If you're like me and think the band's new album is even better than its first one, you'll really enjoy this new EP on Slovenly Recordings. The title track - a grungy southern/blues rocker- would have fit right in on the Dirtnap LP. It's a blast indeed! "Ghost HWY" is something different from Missing Monuments - jangly and vaguely Western-ish. It's cool. And "Covered In Ice" closes things out in the gritty power pop style that Louie is so well known for. It's got really neat guitar hooks and a nice driving beat that suggests The Real Kids on a Popeye's & Abita beer bender. For sure, it's the "hit". But I like all three tracks. And if there's one thing you can definitely say about the last couple of Missing Monuments EPs, it's that they've offered a lot of variety. There's something on this record for everyone - or at least everyone with the fine taste to like Missing Monuments. Dig in!



-L.R.

http://slovenly.bandcamp.com/album/missing-monuments-blast-ep
http://www.slovenly.com/

Friday, December 13, 2013

A new M.O.T.O. single!

I can't tell you exactly how many 7-inches the legendary M.O.T.O. has released, but it's got to be somewhere north of 25. And I can't claim to have heard all of them. But the newest has got to be one of the band's best ever. Obviously, I've never heard a M.O.T.O. release that wasn't completely awesome. But if you're a M.O.T.O. fan, I'm betting that you'll agree that "Shitty Kids" rules especially hard. On this release, the king of garage powerpop/punk is backed by his formidable Pittsburgh based touring band of recent years. Not only is the sound ballsier and less lo-fi than you might anticipate, but "Shitty Kids" is also one the catchiest M.O.T.O. tunes of recent memory. And that's saying something! That chorus is a powerhouse! Those who enjoy Paul's signature curmudgeonly sense of humor will find this song very much to their liking. Ditto for the tender love ballad "I Think Of You And I Die" (which, no pun intended, has lead guitar hooks to die for). On the B-side, "Guitars Are Like Clothes" is more in the jangly power pop vein. It is, of course, a total earworm. You see a song title like that and expect a lot given Mr. Caporino's knack for clever and funny lyrics. And of course he delivers! If there's ever an official M.O.T.O. best-of set (it'll have to be a quadruple album at least!), this song will surely be on it! 

If you haven't yet, be sure to check out Secret Mission Records. In addition to issuing "Shitty Kids", the label has hot new singles from The Raydios and The Kidnappers that you've absolutely gotta have. And with future releases from Radioactivity, Cozy, Firestarter, Back to Basics, Banda Muerta, Modern Pets, Rudi, The Gimmies, and Mighty Fevers in the works, S.M.R. is looking like the next great punk label. Like 'em on Facebook! And get this M.O.T.O. record before it's gone for good!

-L.R.

http://secretmissionrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/secretmissionrecords
http://www.reverbnation.com/MOTOPAC

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Finally hip to The Bloodtypes!


What's not to love about a high concept punk/new wave band that combines sci-fi and horror themes with blood-splattered attire and a sexy nurse motif? Ultimately, though, what impresses me the most about Portland's Bloodtypes is that their music is every bit as well-crafted as their shtick. Equal parts synth pop, contemporary garage, and '77 powerpop/punk with boy/girl vocals and surprisingly palatable prog tendencies, their sound is highly unique and a sheer delight to hear. You can't have a bad day when you're listening to this band. I'm embarrassed to have missed their wonderful debut LP last year - especially since bass player Jesse B Negative (Epoxies, Automatics) has been one of my favorite guys in punk rock for nearly two decades. I think I need to upgrade my scouting department! When I finally did become aware of The Bloodtypes (on a tip from Scott VonRocket), it took somewhere in between 10 and 25 seconds for them to become one of my favorite current bands. German expat Schneck Tourniquet is a talented and likable singer who combines icy European pipes with vibrant pop spunk. And while sometimes new wave inspired bands can come off a little too "cold" for my tastes, The Bloodtypes are pure fun and energy. There are not nearly enough groups like this in today's music scene! 

The Bloodtypes' latest EP, out on Bomb Pop Records, delivers "four new smash hits about spies in love, a special species of zombies, confused aliens, and failed dates." How can that possibly miss? It can't! "Johnny", the title track, starts with a melodramatic girl group intro before giving way to fast and infectious punk that makes me want to jump around in cosplay getup. Think The Rezillos on amphetamines if they'd landed on the Valley Girl soundtrack. Slowing things down, "Destroy The Heart" sounds like an epic love song until you realize it's about killing zombies (or is it?). "Alien Eyes" is vintage 1982 synth pop - like the best Missing Persons song you ever heard. And frenzied finisher "Don't Wanna" is as close as I've ever heard to a perfect marriage of new wave pop and hardcore punk (yeah, really!). It's a total blast - even if it brings back bad memories of my own failed dates. It's very easy for me to love this record, but far harder to decide on a favorite track! I'll just call it a four-way tie. 

If you, like me, have somehow managed to miss out on The Bloodtypes all this time, that situation needs to be rectified immediately. Head on over to their Bandcamp page for all kinds of factual enlightenment and streaming fun. You can listen to their album (it's great!) and get info on ordering "Johnny" on vinyl. I'm warning you now: resistance is futile.



-L.R.

http://thebloodtypes.bandcamp.com/
http://www.thebloodtypes.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thebloodtypes

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Kidnappers are back!

The Kidnappers have been one of my favorite bands for over a decade, so naturally I howled in sheer delight when I heard they had a new single out. You should, too! Considering that this is a band that has released exactly three albums in 11 years, it's always a huge deal when we get any new music from these German greats. In recent years, The Kidnappers seemed to evolve slightly in a more power pop direction. But with this new record, they've taken it full circle and returned to the snotty and aggressive garage-punk sound that built their brand. And holy shit, I LOVE it!

Out on the hot new label Secret Mission Records, "Pills" is the first Kidnappers 7" since "Spanish Girls" was released in 2003. The title track is classic Kidnappers - straight-ahead rockin' punk with a guitar riff that sounds like it's trying to smash your face in. What a ripper! If your favorite Kidnappers album is Ransom Notes & Telephone Calls, this song will be music to your ears (literally). "East Berlin [Ost-Berlin]" is in a similar vein and brings to mind some of the great late '70s Euro punk bands (think The Kids, Pack, etc.). The boys save the best track for last with "Diamonds" - a poppy punk rock n' roll number that's as catchy as hell and sure to get you shaking.

Given how long it's been since we last heard from The Kidnappers, I would have been happy with anything they decided to put out. They could have read the terms of The Reinheitsgebot out loud or done three Leif Garrett covers with flute and ukulele, and I would have been on board. But this is The motherfucking Kidnappers - they weren't going to put out anything less than a stellar record! "Pills" is as good as anything the band has ever done. Clearly, they're not kidding when they say they're better than ever! They've delivered a record that will delight old fans and win over plenty of new ones. Get on it!


-L.R.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/THE-KIDNAPPERS/127187810628194
http://secretmissionrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/secretmissionrecords

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gotta Love The Love Triangle!

Over the last 18 years of reviewing records, I might have mentioned once or twice that I enjoy '77 U.K. punk. If you know me, and you've heard The Love Triangle's debut album, you probably figured I was going to go bananas for this particular release. Well, you figured right! Moving away from its signature scuzzy garage style, the London trio has turned out a record that sounds like it could have come out in the heyday of English punk. The band's sound retains its raw and aggressive character, but Clever Clever displays a flair for melody reminiscent of early punk groups such as The Boys, Buzzcocks, and Carpettes. Perhaps mainly because of Louis's very "English" vocals, this band sounds less like an imitator of the '77 U.K. sound and more like the genuine article. I hear nothing in this record that would suggest that The Love Triangle has been influenced by the past 35 years of "progress" in popular music. And while lots of bands today are doing the punk/powerpop thing, few mix the punk and power pop together as thoroughly and pleasingly as The Love Triangle. The bass and drums bring to mind the smashing alacrity of the first Damned album, and all in all it's pretty amazing how tuneful these songs sound considering the speed and fury of the playing. The songwriting is aces, and the recording skillfully accentuates the adrenaline rush of the band's attack without burying all of those catchy melodies. Seriously, you could play "Be Old Soon" or "Do You Think That You've Found Love?" for just about anyone and easily convince them that this album was recorded in 1978. Ditto for "Red Button" - the greatest song The Lurkers never wrote! And the fantastic "I'm Still Waiting For A Buzz" reminds us that '60s garage rock and '70s punk were more or less the same thing. Packed full of huge choruses, top-notch melodic guitar work, and smartly crafted hooks, Clever Clever mirrors both the style and the quality of countless classic U.K. punk albums. It's a legitimate album of the year contender. Get it from Sorry State Records in the U.S. and Static Shock Records overseas!



-L.R.

http://staticshockrecords.bandcamp.com/album/clever-clever

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Retro Reviews: The Simpletones - I Have A Date

If you start naming all the most underrated and overlooked bands of first wave punk, you turn to southern California and the list starts to fill up fast. While maybe not as good as The Gears, or as important as The Dils, or as influential as The Crowd, Rosemead, California's Simpletones may have been more underrated than all of the above. Among the band's members were Snickers of The Klan, Jerry Koskie and Rabit from The Cheifs, and Jay Lansford of the Stepmothers, Channel 3, and Rik L Rik. Considering that they were kind of precursors to what would be later termed "pop-punk" (albeit with an authentic early punk edge), the Simpletones merit a special place in history. It's absolutely shocking, then, that their music has not been kept in print. Immortalized on Poshboy's 1979 Beach Blvd compilation, the Simpletones are loved by record collectors and original So-Cal punks but completely unknown to the more casual fan. That's a damn shame.

I can't tell you for sure if The Simpletones were an influence on the Descendents, but I'll bet you a six-pack that Milo, Bill Stevenson, et al owned Beach Blvd and played it 'til it wore out. While a number of bands beyond the sea were incorporating melody into the punk rock sound, the Simpletones were one of few American punk groups of their era to be overtly "pop" both in sound and sensibility- wearing a Beach Boys influence on their sleeves and writing songs about girls. But while these lads were typically hormonally-driven teens with designs on the fairer sex, they weren't nice, clean-cut kids…they were punks! If the Beach Boys in the '60s typified the bright sun and innocent fun of Southern California life, the Simpletones were like their wayward sons a generation later – going to school high on drugs, chasing girls of ill repute, and unable to really enjoy the beach because of all the smog polluting the air. And although the band's anthem "California" reads lyrically like an early Beach Boys song, it's sung with such disdain and irony that it leaves no doubt that these kids believed they lived in a shithole. As redolent as "Tiger Beat Twist" and "Kirsty Q" may be of Dick Clark approved teen idol rock n' roll, this was not your grandfather's beach band. "I Have a Date" is so wholesome and cute on the surface, but you just know that this date is going to end not with a kiss on the front porch, but rather with a sordid coupling under the boardwalk or a drug binge at some stranger's house. And like the Ramones, whom they clearly emulated, the Simpletones were not against using the three-minute pop song as a vehicle for twisted social commentary. Note the black-humored environmentalism of "Dead Meat (Killer Smog)" or the way-ahead-of-its-time statement "TV Love".

Released back in 2002, the 22-track retrospective I Have a Date gives you EVERYTHING the Simpletones recorded during their original run – the Beach Blvd tracks, the "Kirsty Q" 45 (which was Poshboy #2 – how's that for historic?!), and all sorts of outtakes, which if not quite first-rate, are still a hell of a lot of fun (e.g. "Nasty Nazi" and a disco rendition of the Dickies' "You Drive Me Ape"). Featuring three different lead singers but held together by Lansford's superb songwriting and guitar work, these songs just sound like late '70s southern California – the half-spoken vocals that manage to convey boredom and anger, the melodic sensibility that's practically imbedded in the Californian's DNA, and the chip on your shoulder that can only come from having to watch entitled tourists frantically descend upon your home turf like they own it. As such, these songs have as much in common with the Adolescents or early Social Distortion as they do with any modern pop-punk band you could name. The best of these songs – "I Like Drugs", "I Have a Date", "Don't Bother Me" – are as classic as anything in the annals of punk rock. Lansford reformed the band a few years ago, and they even released a new album in 2010. But there's nothing like the classic material. Considering that dozens upon dozens of lesser bands have been given the full reissue/anthology treatment, it seems high time for I Have a Date to return to print. In the meantime, happy hunting. Land yourself a copy of the 1991 CD reissue of Beach Blvd, and that will do you almost as well!






-L.R.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The No Tomorrow Boys rock it again!

Holy smokes! The long-awaited debut LP from The No Tomorrow Boys is an absolute ripper! Coming on the heels of three incredible singles, Bad Luck Baby Put The Jinx On Me was an album I figured would be great. I just didn't realize it would be this great! Without veering in the slightest from their trademark "wild and frantic teenage rock n' roll" style, the boys have turned out their hottest slab of wax to date! From start to finish, this is an exhilarating rock n' roll record that begs to be played loud and thoroughly enjoyed. Seriously: if this album doesn't make you want to jump up and down and dance around your room like a total maniac, you probably own the new One Direction. 

The No Tomorrow Boys continue to do their thing: a punked-up take on roots rock n' roll that will light your ass on fire! They tear through 14 tracks here with such abandon that I could swear they all got hopped up on Jolt Cola and recorded this thing in a single afternoon. Like all the best rock n' roll bands, The No Tomorrow Boys focus on the true essentials: a killer beat, sizzling guitar playing, and bad-ass lead vocals. Singer Danny Dodge is as good as any rock n' roll vocalist working today, howling every note as if his life depended on it and summoning the soul-on-fire ferocity of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis when they were young and wild. This kind of music, because it makes such an ideal soundtrack for exceeding the speed limit in a motor vehicle or engaging in sinful sexual relations, really benefits from the long playing format. You can put this record on and count on it energizing whatever activity you're involved in for nearly a half hour (or 15 minutes if you have to flip the vinyl). And let me tell you: the action never lulls. It's full-on rip-roaring fun from wire to wire. The effort the band has been putting into writing new material is really apparent in the consistent quality of the songs. Unless you're a rock n' roll historian of the highest order, you probably won't be able to differentiate the originals from the covers (The Bobby Peterson Quintet's firecracker B-side "Mama Get Your Hammer" and Mike Fern's 1959 ode to doomsday shagging, "A-Bomb Bop"). The covers are amazing, but tracks like "Rosie Rose", "I Wanna Lot (Not A Little)", and "Teen Dream" are every bit as good. And because you've been good this year, the boys have been gracious enough to also reprise a couple of their finest A-sides! Hot dog!

I still suspect that The No Tomorrow Boys may be time traveling teen rebels from the '50s who got their hands on some classic punk records and arrived in the present day with the intention of stealing our women. Someone check the tags on their leather jackets! There's not a single track on this LP that would sound out of place on a mix with the likes of Link Wray and Eddie Cochran. The only thing that's not completely period authentic about the album is that it's totally devoid of filler! It even sounds like it was recorded in an oldtime music studio. Whether you're 77, 17, or any age in between, you gotta have this record if you love rock n' roll! 



-L.R. 

https://www.facebook.com/thenotomorrowboys
http://thenotomorrowboys.bandcamp.com/

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

L.A. Drugz drop some vinyl!

Woo-hoo! The debut 12" from L.A. Drugz has arrived, and it has totally made my year! The first time I played it, my jaw dropped so far that I required minor facial surgery. What kind of crazy times are we living in when a band can create music of this caliber and not make the cover of Rolling Stone or at least Tiger Beat? And why did my local radio D.J. rudely hang up on me last night when I called and asked him to play "Marina"? Shouldn't a man of his occupation be keeping up with all the hot new tunes? I raved about a few of these tracks earlier this year, and I consequently built up expectations for the band's debut EP that were going to be very hard to meet. But this is L.A. Drugz, man! They didn't just meet my expectations - they exceeded them! I will not reveal my selection for album of the year for a few more weeks. But I'll gladly tell you that Outside Place is my favorite overall release of 2013.

L.A. Drugz is the latest band from Justin Maurer of Clorox Girls fame. With James Carman from Maniac and Images, Cezar Mora from Bad Machine, and Johnny "JD" Reyes (ex Images and Bad Machine) joining him in the lineup, this is somewhat of a punk/powerpop super group. And the word "super" is right! I would not be surprised to hear that these dudes wear capes (because, you know, they're quite fashionable). I did not review the Clorox Girls as many times as I should have when I was doing Now Wave Magazine. It's one of my greatest regrets in life, right up there with voting for Ralph Nader and declining a date with Susie Kitzenbaumer because she wanted to go see Forrest Gump. My penance will include a 5,000 word retro review of J'aime Les Filles and continuing coverage of Maurer's current musical projects. L.A. Drugz in particular hit my sweet spot with their right-on blend of classic power pop and melodic '70s style punk. There are some obvious similarities to the Clorox Girls, but with considerably more '60s pop influence in the songwriting and vocal harmonizing. The title track is a knockout punch of Ramones/Buzzcocks/Dickies goodness that has me bouncing off the walls. If I had heard it when I was 26, I would have gone out that very day and gotten an L.A. Drugz tattoo! The hauntingly infectious "Vampire" could pass for a lost Clorox Girls track, while "All The Time" is as close as you can get to mid-'70s California without a time machine and a new hairdo. "Ooh Ooh Ooh", which sounds like a missing track off the Rhino Shake It Up! compilation, would probably be the "hit" if it weren't up against the sheer pop perfection of "Marina". Maurer is the primary songwriter here, while Mora is responsible for all those catchy guitar leads. And Carman, the Clem Burke of his generation, is the band's secret weapon. He excels on backing vocals, and his drumming style is perfect for this kind of music. I don't think it's a coincidence that every band he plays in is awesome!

In my previous write-up on L.A. Drugz, I predicted that they'd be my favorite band by year's end. I can't say I was wrong about that! This group is the perfect combination of all the things I love in music. They are modern day heirs to L.A. power pop greats like The Knack and The Nerves, yet they also mix in that classic punk style that I can never get enough of. Whether you're talking about a hook worthy of a K-tel commercial ("Ooh Ooh Ooh") or a melody destined to be stuck in your head all day ("Marina"), Maurer knows what it takes to craft a great pop song. In addition, he and his band mates really nail crucial touches such as the harmonies and guitar solos. And let's not overlook the simple fact that this record sounds great. It was produced by the band at the home studio of "Kid" Kevin Carle (ex Clorox Girls) and mastered by Red Dons' bassist Hadji Husayn at North London Bomb Factory. The result is a warm analog sound with plenty of punch - the kind of recording that always sounds amazing on vinyl! And while it's perfectly natural to speculate on what kind of album L.A. Drugz might be capable of making, there's something about the extended play format that really seems suited to power pop. With only six songs on the record, you're getting less quantity but way more quality. No doubt about it, every track could have been an A-side. All killer, no filler: if that's not the American way, it sure should be!



-L.R. 

http://ladrugz.bandcamp.com/album/outside-place-ep
https://www.facebook.com/L.A.DRUGZ

Friday, November 22, 2013

Retro Reviews: The Many Moods Of The Vindictives

"As you wait for your lobotomy in line/
 The cranky little clones wet at once and cry/
 But mommy says it's always better to obey/
 And the tiny lights burn out more and more every day"

I often talk about the '90s being the second golden age of punk rock. If I ever got around to doing it, I could fill multiple volumes of books with write-ups on all the great punk bands of the '90s. It was a wonderful time to be a young writer coming up in the punk world. And all these years later, those bands and their music still hold up incredibly well. A few of the great bands of that time received the acclaim they justly deserved. Others toiled in obscurity and were totally overlooked. In between were the bands who got some recognition, but should have been way bigger. I'd put The Vindictives in that latter category. Signing to Lookout! Records at the height of the label's popularity, the Chicago band didn't exactly go unnoticed. But I've always maintained that most people failed to grasp just how incredible The Vindictives were in their prime. They were, to my mind, criminally underrated. They shoulda been huge. If I had to make a list of the ten greatest punk bands of the '90s, that would be really, really hard. But for sure, The Vindictives would have to be on that list.

If you weren't particularly paying attention, you might have dismissed The Vindictives as a typical '90s pop-punk band. But while they were definitely in the top tier of bands to be associated with that whole scene, there was nothing even remotely "typical" about The Vindictives. Sure, they had the melodic sensibility and unassailable Ramones influence of their well-known peers. But they were an incredibly unique band - creating manic and neurotic punk music full of fiercely intelligent ruminations on alienation, madness, and the general hollowness of respectable society. While the band's contemporaries mostly waxed pathetic on love and infatuation, The Vindictives tackled far more troubling subject matter with smarts and humor. With his deranged, snot-nosed vocals, Joey Vindictive would have been a distinctive artist even if he hadn't written such brilliant & bizarre lyrics. I'd put him up there with the greatest punk rock singers.

I can still remember where I was the first time I heard The Vindictives: sitting in my bedroom by the turntable, delighted and completely stunned by what I'd just heard. I thought to myself, "Holy shit, that guy's nuts...and I love it!" Rocks In My Head, the band's first EP for Lookout!, was one of a handful of recordings that propelled me into a "career" of writing about punk music. I yearned for much more, and Lookout! came through in 1995 with The Many Moods Of The Vindictives, a deluxe 28-song collection of the band's recorded output circa 1991-93 (their first six EPs plus a few comp cuts). While the band did release several more EPs in between 1994 and 1996, I always reach for The Many Moods Of... when I want to hear "vintage" Vindictives. Rather than make the mistake of trying to re-record their classic 7" tracks for a "proper" studio album, the band simply remixed and re-released all the original recordings. The result was one of the best punk albums of its time. Compared to a lot of stuff that I raved about back then, it stands the test of time way better. I consider The Vindictives to be not just one of the greatest punk bands of the early '90s, but also one of the greatest punk bands ever. That may sound like hyperbole, but the proof is in the pudding. How often do you hear a 28-song compilaton that isn't at least half garbage? The Many Moods Of... is almost all gold and features legendary tracks like "...And The World Isn't Flat Anymore", "Ugly American", "The Terrible Monster", "I Know People", "The Invisible Man", "I'm Sick", and "Circles". I fondly remember listening to it multiple times a day for weeks on end. And when I put it on today, I don't have to wonder why I loved it so much. It still kills.

The Vindictives called it a day in 1996 due to a serious health crisis that threatened Joey's life. The band would eventually re-unite and in 1999 released the wildly inventive concept album Hypno-Punko, which may have been too "out there" for fans who were expecting the same old Vindictives. After a handful releases in the early 2000s, the band was largely inactive until the release of last December's mono-flexi EP. The band is currently working on a new full-length album which will surely be great. I wholeheartedly recommend any and every thing The Vindictives have ever put their name on (their rendition of Leave Home was by far my favorite of the Ramones covers LPs). But The Many Moods Of The Vindictives is definitely where you'll want to start if you are currently unfamiliar with this incredible band. It's jam-packed with classic songs and primarily features the vintage Vindictives lineup of P.J. Parti on drums and Billy Blastoff on guitar joining Joey on vocals, Johnny Personality on bass, and the late Dr. Bob on guitar. If you've written off The Vindictives as a mere footnote of '90s pop-punk, check these clips below and prepare to be turned to the dark side!





-L.R.

http://vindictivesmusic.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theVINDICTIVES

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Radioactivity: Wow!

Within the first 20 seconds of Radioactivity's superb debut album, you might conclude that the Marked Men have gotten back together. Well, not quite! But Radioactivity is probably the next best thing. This group is a continuation of The Novice- the band Jeff Burke had going while he was living in Japan. Out of respect for his Novice band mates, Burke has changed the name of the group now that he's assembled a new lineup stateside with the likes of Mark Ryan and Gregory Rutherford on board. But musically, it's in the same style as The Novice. And some of the tracks on the album were originally Novice songs. Any way you shake it, you know what you're getting with Jeff Burke. So it's no surprise that the LP is full of songs in his signature buzzsaw pop style, and that they're predominantly short and fast and catchy as can be. I love that no matter how many times Jeff Burke plays on this kind of record, it's never any less thrilling to hear. He always finds new ways to keep the formula from getting stagnant, and it doesn't hurt that he writes consistently incredible songs. And when Burke does slow the tempos a little, you can hear him gravitating towards more of a pure power pop type sound. As you would expect, I've got no complaints about that!

Racing out of the gates, "Sickness" is vintage Jeff Burke goodness. It sets a tone that Burke, Ryan, and company enthusiastically maintain, powering through frenetic and supremely hooky tracks like "Other Life" and "World of Pleasure". And while there are plenty more awesome songs in the same vein ("When I'm Gone", "What You Want"), the variations from the formula are what ultimately distinguish Radioactivity from the Marked Men. The subtle Buzzcocks echoes of Burke's early songwriting become more obvious on bittersweet gems like "Alright" and "Don't Try". And towards the end, the album takes on somewhat of a stylistic shift. "The Last" and "Alone" completely abandon the frantic rush of the earlier cuts in favor of a mellowed-out, more sophisticated approach to power pop. And closing cut "Trusted You" is the kind of aching love song you might have heard on the radio at the dawn of the 1980s. But even with the evident "growth" in craftsmanship, the hooks are every bit as satisfying. In the end, you get an album that is very much typical of Jeff Burke - yet evolved enough to suggest that he's still progressing as an artist. He may have left Japan behind, but the influence of Japanese power pop continues to color his work.

In a year full of so many highly anticipated releases, Radioactivity's debut album kind of fell under my radar for a while. I knew it would be good, but I wasn't quite expecting it to be this good! It now holds the #2 position on my album of the year list. Every track is really good, and most are exceptional. With a second Radioactivity already on the way, I can't wait to hear what this band has in store for us next!



-L.R. 

https://www.facebook.com/radioactivitytx
http://dirtnaprecords.bandcamp.com/album/radioactivity-s-t
http://dirtnaprecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-novice-s-t-7

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Meet Maniac!


Christmas has come early at Rutledge Manor! Or maybe it's a late Halloween treat. Either way, I'm in powerpop/punk heaven! A few months back, I was all geeked out over L.A. Drugz - who feature Justin from the Clorox Girls and James from Images. Their new EP is my favorite release of 2013 so far (more on that in a couple weeks!). Well, Justin and James also play in another L.A. based group called Maniac starring Zache Davis from The Girls on vocals and bass. In on the action as well is guitarist Andrew Zappin. The lineup is star-studded and does not disappoint! The band's new single on Vancouver's La-Ti-Da Records is a total must-have for any regular follower of this blog. Fortunately this is not one of those situations where a bunch of guys start a band so they can branch out into jazz or world music. If you're a fan of any of the aforementioned bands or related acts like Red Dons and Cute Lepers, you'll love Maniac as well. The new single delivers two stellar tracks of catchy '77 style punk informed by power pop, and I'm especially enamored with the B-side "Pepe". It's so ridiculously good that it could very well give other bands inferiority complexes! Zappin's lead guitar work is absolutely phenomenal, and that central melody will quickly bore its way into your brain. With a full-length album coming soon, this single is just a tiny taste of what's to come from Maniac. Perhaps we've got an early frontrunner for next year's album of the year!



-L.R.

http://latidarecords.bandcamp.com/album/dim-sum-pepe-ltdr015
https://www.facebook.com/WeAreManiac

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wyatt Funderburk makes an album!

After a long career playing in wonderful bands like Second Saturday and producing the likes of Kurt Baker, Wyatt Funderburk has finally gotten around to making a solo album. And all I can say is wow! Not that it's a huge surprise considering the man's track record, but Novel and Profane is pure pop perfection from start to finish. Funderburk is an amazing songwriter with a warm, likable singing voice. And on this album, he combines so many different things I like into a singular vision of pop that is so distinctively him. Touchstones include '90s alternapop (Superdrag, Jellyfish, Fountains of Wayne), '70s AM gold, Beatles/Beach Boys classicism, and of course the productions of Jeff Lynne. But ultimately this album bears Funderburk's signature. He seamlessly mixes the old and the new and proves to be an adept storyteller. His melodies aren't just catchy - they're positively beautiful. And he's crafted an album so pleasant and engaging that I'd like to play it on repeat all day long. Even when the songs aren't exactly upbeat, Novel and Profane is like musical comfort food. I'm always sad when it comes to an end. 

As always, Funderburk's recording style hearkens back to the glory days of pop/rock. There's no trickery or excess involved - just simple, high quality production that allows the words and melodies to speak for themselves. The vocal harmonies are beautifully recorded but never overdone, and it's the songs themselves that play the starring role. It's really hard to pick a standout track since the tunes are so consistently great. And the variety of the material is highly impressive. Novel and Profane delivers everything from crunching modern rock ("Mandolin") to gorgeous minor key pop ("You Know What To Do", "North On 65") to epic ballads ("Nights Like This") to breezy country rock ("Feeling Good Tonight") to spot-on Tom Petty worship ("Love Will Lead The Way") - and none of it falters. And I love how Funderburk succeeds with songs that would perhaps come off as cheesy in the hands of a lesser artist. "Try To Be" would not have sounded out of place at a high school homecoming dance in 1988. And superb closing track "If I Ever Wanted Easier" is the kind of high soaring love song that used to thrive in more innocent times. It sounds like it should be playing over the closing credits of a cinematic love story that ends happily after countless trials and tribulations. Even the most unsentimental individuals will find themselves pumping their fists when that chorus comes in, believing wholeheartedly that love can prevail over any obstacle. If you enjoyed Kurt Baker's Brand New Beat (an album Funderburk produced and co-wrote), this song will strike a familiar chord.

Combining numerous references to the musical past with a decidedly contemporary sheen, Novel and Profane is an album for music lovers of all ages and stylistic preferences. At a time when most new music seems so meticulously targeted at niche demographics, it's refreshing to hear an artist who simply wants to write great songs that people can relate to. If I wanted to get the melody to "Summer" out of my head, I'd probably have to contact a doctor and have it surgically removed. But, you know, I'd rather not.

CD available from Jolly Ronnie Records!



-L.R. 

http://wyattfunderburk.bandcamp.com/album/novel-and-profane
http://wyattfunderburk.com/

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Lovesores are back!

Holy crap - the Lovesores have made another record! And if that news doesn't excite you, I really gotta wonder about you! The last time we heard from the Lovesores, I proclaimed the band's Bubblegum Riot ten-inch to be as good as any record that Scott "Deluxe" Drake and Jeff Fieldhouse had ever played on. And I wasn't the only person saying that! If they'd followed it up with another record even half as good, I would have been plenty happy. But they've done far better than that - new EP Formaldehyde picks up where Bubblegum Riot left off, and the "Mick and Keith of punk rock" are still throwing fire like the last 20 years never happened! The blistering title track can be added to the growing list of Lovesores' signature anthems. Drake's vocals are so ferocious and virulent that you'd swear he's holding the secret to eternal youth, and those guitars slash and burn like nobody's business. If you like filthy and furious punk rock n' roll, "Formaldehyde" needs to be on your iPod tonight! You could play this track for almost anyone and successfully pass it off as a long lost punk rock classic from 1977 (or 1993, same difference). Again, the rest of the band (Boz Bennes, Adam Kattau, and Alex Fast) proves to be as formidable of a supporting cast as Drake and Fieldhouse have ever worked with (Damn - listen to those drums!). And stylistically, these two living legends continue to tear into the musical formula they helped define - demonstrating that they're still the best in the business. Accept no imitations! Grab a strong drink with one hand, crank up the volume with the other, and enjoy these killer tunes in all their degenerate glory. Can't wait for an LP!



-L.R.

https://www.facebook.com/TheLovesores
http://lovesores.bandcamp.com/