Sunday, January 26, 2014

Back To Sleep

If you've been seriously following garage punk music over the last eight years or so, Stockholm's Makeouts need no introduction whatsoever. They are one of the top bands going in that scene, and have been for quite some time. Their debut single was one of the first releases on the illustrious Austrian imprint Bachelor Records (it was Bachelor #3 - right after the Clorox Girls and Black Lips!). And their 2010 debut album In A Strange Land won a Swedish Manifest Award for best independent Swedish rock album. While Makeouts started out in the Rip Off Records vein of lo-fi trash, they have been growing as a band for years and taking on many different styles under the garage umbrella. New album Back To Sleep - out on Bachelor Records - is an especially accomplished release from a band with the confidence and courage to try new things while still remaining true to the aesthetics and spirit of garage punk. It's definitely their attempt at a magnum opus, and I'd say they've succeeded marvelously. With inspirations running the gamut from The Seeds to Jay Reatard and just about everything between, it's kind of like the Makeouts' own London Calling or Exile On Main St. Believe it: Back To Sleep is anything but a snoozer!

I think what I like best about Back To Sleep is that even with all of its stylistic diversity, it maintains a consistent quality. If you can "progress" as a band yet still keep it fun and catchy, you're gonna win me over fast! These are by far the best songs that Makeouts have ever written, and all of it works. The straight-ahead garage rockers recalling the '60s ("Creeps", "Back To Sleep") or '90s ("Let It All Go", "Up") fit right in with ballsy punk blasters like "Warkids" and delightful rootsy janglers such as "Not Where You Belong". And some of my favorite cuts were pleasant surprises. The poppy "Bringin' Out The Stars" suggests a less polished Barracudas, while the crackling "Time Will Tell" brings to mind Sweden's own Locomotions. "Plastic Bag" is straight up '77 punk/new wave that makes me wanna pogo. And haunting album closer "It Wasn't My Idea To Dance" is almost a complete break from the band's "garage" M.O. (imagine Lee Hazelwood on an acid trip with The Mojomatics). Clearly this is not a band that's limiting itself in terms of the types of songs it's willing to write. From an energy and production standpoint, they remain the quintessential garage band. But by challenging themselves creatively, they've really allowed their exceptional talent to come shining through. I see Makeouts graduating from being known as a great garage band to being known as a great rock n' roll band, period. Back To Sleep is the first truly great garage punk album I've heard in quite some time. No surprise that it was released on Bachelor!



-L.R. 

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Makeouts/106522202517
https://www.facebook.com/bachelorrecords
http://www.bachelorrecords.com/

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Retro Reviews: The Vapors - New Clear Days

I once wrote a short story about a woman who so vehemently objected to her significant other's dismissal of The Vapors as a cheesy one-hit-wonder that she literally murdered him. My own stance on the matter is only slightly less passionate. The band's 1980 debut LP New Clear Days is my favorite album of all-time. The hit, "Turning Japanese", is well-known by all. If you don't like it, there must be something fatally wrong with you. The rest of the songs stick to the same new wave pop template, and are every bit as good. There is not a single track on the album that isn't totally great. Heck, even some of the songs that didn't make it onto the album are great! Often categorized as one of the standards of skinny tie power pop, New Clear Days actually transcends genre with its quirky sensibility and thoughtful lyrics.

As its title suggests, New Clear Days was a song cycle about love and life set against a backdrop of impending nuclear annihilation – overtly political in spots and otherwise informed by the tenor of Cold War times. While many of the best tracks ("Waiting for the Weekend", "Spring Collection", "Somehow") are simple variations on the songs-about-girls theme, few pop groups in 1980 were referencing military cease fires ("60 Second Interval") or World War II era nationalism ("Letter from Hiro"). The album's best track, "News At Ten", is a generational statement as pointed and literary as anything ever penned by Paul Weller (I always played Side Two first when listening on vinyl so the album would start with this song!). And David Fenton's lyrics to "Bunkers" read like something straight off the first Clash LP:

Government thugs keep me in for the week/
They call out the cops if I'm seen on the street/
It drives me spoolers in millions of ways/
I think I'll be a government thug one day/
Don't tell me in anger just tell me for real/
Why does everybody try to be a real big wheel/
It doesn't matter but if they live on the street/
With all these cowboys and bunkers and creeps

Fenton's songwriting muse would turn darker and weirder on the band's excellent second LP Magnets (the most accessible song was an ode to suicide cult leader Jim Jones!), and the album didn't even crack the top 100 on the U.K. charts. And that was all for The Vapors. To his credit, Fenton never gave in to the temptation to "unretire" from the music business. He gave up recording and became a solicitor. There have been no half-assed Vapors reunions or warmed-over comeback albums mimicking the new wave glories of yesteryear. The band's music remains in the early '80s, where it belongs - a cultural artifact as enduring and awesome as the Atari 2600, Billy Beer, and movies about truckers.



-L.R. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Jake and the Stiffs - The Singles!

At the beginning of every year, I hold out hope for all those things I've long been wishing would happen. I think this is finally the year the Flyers will win another Stanley Cup. I think this is finally the year that kielbasa will be scientifically validated as a health food. I think this is finally the year they'll find Bigfoot. Optimism always prevails at this time of the year. And I'm feeling especially good for 2014's prospects given that two of my annual wishes have actually come true. The Phillies finally shitcanned Chris Wheeler, and the long out-of-print 7" recordings of Jake and the Stiffs have been re-mastered and re-issued for public consumption! Welcome to the year of wish fulfillment! I would not be surprised if I magically regrew my hair!

Of all the criminally overlooked and under-appreciated punk rock bands of the '90s, Delaware's Jake and the Stiffs were to my mind the most criminally overlooked and under-appreciated. They shoulda been huge! They were doing the '77 punk meets power pop thing long before it was cool, and anyone who ever saw them surely concluded that they were worthy of a prime slot on the roster of some "big" punk label. They were a knockout live act, and their supply of great songs was seemingly endless. Perhaps in their day, they were too pop for the punk crowd and too punk for the pop crowd. Singer/guitarist Randy America was and still is an incredibly talented songwriter, and Algy Siouxcide is easily one of my favorite bass players of all-time. Am I wrong in stating that "Jennifer" was the best song of the '90s? Name one that was better!

As its name implies, The Singles collects all the tracks from the four 7" records released by Jake and the Stiffs between 1993 and 1997 - Steal This Record, Spike, "Pot Belly Pete", and "I Like Girls". Randy America remixed and remastered the original tracks at his Norad Studio in Pike Creek, Delaware - and they sound awesome! Now after all these years of me proclaiming the unacknowledged greatness of Jake and the Stiffs, you can finally find out for yourself if I was full of shit! While hopefully just the first of several JATS reissues you should expect this year, The Singles has all the hits (or the should-have-been hits). Given that there was close to zero market for this kind of music in the early '90s compared to the exploding popularity of powerpop/punk in recent years, I'm excited for a whole new generation of fans to discover JATS favorites like "Holly", "Scrappy Come Home" (who isn't a sucker for a song about a dog?), and "High School Blues". You also get two versions of "All I Said" and some lesser-known gems like the terrific "TV And My Baby". And don't get me started on "Jennifer". It's got one of the catchiest melodies ever, and the lead guitar parts and bass lines ought to be the stuff of legend.

Loaded with classic originals and some standout covers ("Lonely Boy" from The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle soundtrack and The Know's 1980 power pop anthem "I Like Girls"), The Singles is a perfect summation of why Jake and the Stiffs are one of my all-time favorite bands. With any luck, it will sell enough to cover the costs of making it and allow for a few more reissues from the JATS vaults. Get it cheap from CD Baby, and be sure to check out Randy America's solo album if you haven't yet!



Thursday, January 16, 2014

Another one from Neighborhood Brats!

I recently declared L.A.'s Neighborhood Brats one of the best punk bands going today. And by "one of the best", I'm talking top ten if not top five. If you're still among the unconverted few, think fast and aggressive punk rock with strong melodies and a powerhouse lead singer. Total Dementia is the band's fourth 7" and fifth EP overall. And like all the others, it's a scorcher! Sticking to the Dangerhouse Records meets early Black Flag blueprint of their previous releases, the brats tear out of the gates fixing to kill. The title track is a re-worked version of a B-side by Roofie And The Nightstalkers - Jenny and George's pre Neighborhood Brats project. Propelled by a typically ferocious vocal from Jenny, the song more than lives up to its title. George's guitar is a veritable buzzsaw, and new rhythm players Tommy Branch and Richie Cardenas prove to be formidable additions to this outstanding band. Branch and Cardenas especially shine on the hard-hitting "Speckelos Nightmare". And "Bombay Beach Party Death Camp" is the kind of song we've come to expect from Neighborhood Brats - classic California punk fired out at hardcore speed. In keeping with the band's "post-apocalyptic beach party" theme, the closing cover of The Go-Go's "Lust To Love" has a cool dark vibe to it. And what a killer rendition! It's neat to hear Neighborhood Brats showing a poppier side and letting up on the tempo a little - yet still sounding totally like themselves!

Originally pressed last year for a European tour, Total Dementia now gets an official release on the great Dirtnap Records. Fingers crossed that 2014 will bring us an LP from Neighborhood Brats!

-L.R. 

http://neighborhoodbrats.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/neighborhoodbrats
http://www.dirtnaprecs.com/

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Days

I frequently ponder my mixed feelings about modern technology and its impact on how recording artists present their music. On one hand, I think recent developments in social networking and the rise of the digital format have been very good for songs. Artists can share one song at a time with their fans, and I think that's brought about a greater focus on quality versus quantity. But at the same time, I have long feared that the concept of the album as a musical art form may eventually go the way of the dinosaur. Having grown up listening to LPs in the late '70s and early '80s, I would be really bummed out if the album format were ever to die out. There's just something about a good album that can never be duplicated by even the best of singles. Listening to a well-conceived album is a true experience akin to getting lost in a great film. Even in these ultra-modern times, I think it still means something to create a collection of songs that are designed to flow together and perhaps even weave a loose narrative.

This brings me to The Days, the fifth solo album from Portland, Maine singer/songwriter Zach Jones. I really love what he's done with this record in terms of presenting it as a complete album while acknowledging that today's listener may prefer to absorb it in smaller doses. If you go to the Bandcamp page for this album, you have the choice of streaming entire sides or listening to individual tracks. With this approach, Jones embraces listeners of all ages - and his music does the same. This exceptionally talented musician has crafted a genuinely contemporary record that's rooted in a love for the classic sounds of the '60s and '70s. As a huge fan of both melody-driven pop and classic soul music, I'm delighted to hear the two melded so beautifully and seamlessly. Given that I tend to be such a genre geek when it comes to this blog, it's unusual for me to write about a piece of music that defies categorization. But more than anything else, I love melody. And I really appreciate hearing a record like this that makes me aware of how so many of the different styles of music I love are not so different at all. Would Stevie Wonder's Innervisions even exist if The Beatles had never made Revolver?

Listening to some earlier releases of Zach Jones, I'm struck by his mastery of multiple genres. He's gone from alt rock to power pop to straight-up soul while all the while retaining his singular identity as a singer and songwriter. The Days essentially takes all of those influences and mixes them together - with the main focus being the general narrative of the album. If I like my pop albums to be musical movies, then that's exactly what Zach Jones has given us. The Days is a reflection on time and change - how we cope with painful goodbyes and the endings of relationships, and how we ultimately have to grow and find our way. That's pretty profound stuff, yet it's all delivered in such a personal and relatable way. Who among us has never reflected on the passing of the years and taken stock of where we're "at" in life? And indeed, this is a movie I can enjoy getting lost in. Jones has a beautiful voice (think Smokey Robinson meets a young Colin Blunstone), and his stories are all the more poignant because he sings with such genuine feeling.

With its warm, soothing tones and silky smooth harmonies, The Days sounds like it could have been recorded in 1973 - evoking what I consider to be a true golden era of musical production. And the influences go even further back - with strong echoes of Paul McCartney and later Beatles, '67/'68 Kinks, vintage Motown, and the baroque pop sounds of The Zombies and Left Banke. Plain and simple, it's a gorgeous album. The melodies are so pretty, and I'm always a sucker for lush string sections. There are certainly individual tracks that stand out in my mind (like the dulcet AM gold of "Meant To Be" and the upbeat swinging soul of "Time For A Change"). But this is an album that I prefer to absorb as a whole - while I'm lying back in my recliner sipping an adult beverage or taking a long walk at dusk. I like the ebb and flow of a story through songs. I like the clear separation between sides one and two. I like the way it builds to a defining climactic moment (the lovely and masterful "Carry").

It may seem odd to applaud an album that employed 15 musicians and singers for its "simplicity". But even with all of that incredible musicianship and those highly sophisticated arrangements, The Days is built on a foundation of simple melodies and lyrics that people can relate to. I recently praised Wyatt Funderburk for taking a similar approach to his debut album, and clearly he and Zach Jones are kindred spirits. Musical trends come and go, and what's "hot" is constantly changing. But there will always be a place for guys like Zach Jones - who more than anything else aspire to just write great songs. The album is far from a dead format, and let's hope it stays that way for a long time.


-L.R. 

http://zachjonestunes.bandcamp.com/album/the-days
https://www.facebook.com/ZachJonesTunes

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Anxieties attack!

These are very exciting times in the world of The Anxieties! The Portland band has a brand-spanking new 7" out called "Lab Rats" and has also made its "lost" album Under Surveillance available as a name your price download.

When The Anxieties issued Return To The Nowhere Zone two years ago, I was really blown away by how far the band had come from its earlier releases. So naturally, I was stoked about this current lineup releasing more studio material. We finally get some with "Lab Rats" - and as expected this is the best stuff yet from Scott VonRocket and his partners in thoughtcrime! The Anxieties have fully realized the sound they've been working towards all these years. Think classic early '80s So-Cal punk (Adolescents, Agent Orange, D.I.) with a contemporary dystopian motif. If Snake Plissken had an iPod, these songs would be on it. This time out, it's less science fiction and more science fact - with songs about society's enslavement to the corporate/pharmaceutical complex and man's growing disconnection from the modern world. The title track is a fast and frantic ripper with the best lead guitar work I've ever heard from The Anxieties. "The Obsolete Man", the only truly "new" song on the record, is in a similar vein and really plays up the surfy riffing. "Friday Night", written and sung by (now former) bass player Matt Adore, closes the record with something a little different from The Anxieties. It's more Misfits than Adolescents - coming on with a sing-along rockin' style and cool "ohh ohh" backups. It actually reminds me a little of The Bodies (remember them?). While it's kind of an oddball track compared to the other two songs, I really like the variety it adds. It's a fun song to cap off the record, and you locals should definitely hope it remains in the band's set!

Under Surveillance was recorded way back in 2009 but never released due to a series of obstacles the band encountered (members quitting, a van breakdown, a cancelled tour). Finally it sees the light of day, and I'm very glad it does. Two things come to mind as I listen to Under Surveillance. One is that The Anxieties are a very different band now than they were then (which makes sense, since VonRocket is the only remaining member). And the other is that it's a freaking killer record! You can hear hints of what The Anxieties have become - touches of surf guitar and the techno-totalitarian themes of the title track. But if you're not familiar with some of the band's older recordings, you may be surprised to hear such a high degree of Ramones and Rip Off Records influence in these songs. And some of these tunes are among my favorite Anxieties tracks ever. "Staring Daggers" is a snotty, high-energy blast, while "Telepathy" is a ripping '77 punk/new wave mash-up a la The Fuses. And if these guys have never opened their live show with the super-fun "T​-​Minus Four", they really ought to consider it! Hearing this album helps me understand how The Anxieties got from The Next Mutation to Return To The Nowhere Zone. It wasn't like they procured performance enhancing substances from the future and became a new band overnight. In fact, if I put Under Surveillance and Return To The Nowhere Zone up against each other, I'd have to say they are very different but equally good. And I love Return To The Nowhere Zone

"Lab Rats" should be out on vinyl within the next couple of weeks. It's already available digitally for $3. Head on over to The Anxieties' Bandcamp page for ordering information. You can also download Under Surveillance for free or perhaps kick in a few dollars that might help these guys fund their next LP. Do it before Big Brother forbids it! 

-L.R. 

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

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Solicitors are back!

As promised, The Solicitors have returned with the second half of their double A-side single from this past fall. And it goes without saying that it's another smash! While very much in the band's familiar new wave power pop style, "Help Me Forget" slows down the pace a tad and charms with gorgeous plaintive melodies. This time out, Lee's lyrics are a little less sardonic than usual - but as clever and relatable as always. So many of the great pop songs are first-person accounts of excruciating heartbreak, and this one's very much in that tradition. And I love how the song ambles along witsfully but then suddenly hits you with a knockout punch of a chorus. Talk about a hook! This Melbourne foursome continues to do power pop right. Even on this semi-ballad, the guitars pack plenty of punch. And if you enjoyed the Elvis Costello/Jags feel of the band's earlier hits, "Help Me Forget" will be totally to your liking as well! It releases today and is available as a free download over at the band's triple j Unearthed page. I have not been able to get this song out of my head all week - and for that I am grateful! Look for The Solicitors' debut album later this year!



-L.R.

http://www.triplejunearthed.com/TheSolicitors
https://www.facebook.com/TheSolicitors

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

You need Lunch!

F & L head talent scout Greg Mongroll has been working long hours of late, regularly hunkering down in the war room well after midnight with large quantities of hard cider and huge stacks of records and tapes. He goes through thousands of demos, YouTube clips, obscure podcasts, and transcripts of ancient prophecies in search of that next band I absolutely have to hear. Someday I will compensate him with a rare copy of Mr. T.'s Commandments on gold chain vinyl. But for the moment, he's working for peanuts. Literally. I have a reliable hookup in Virginia.

Greg brought his latest find to my attention over the weekend, and I started working on my review within moments. It's hard not to like a band named Lunch. Lunch is one of the great things in life - particularly when it's accompanied by a fine German lager. And you know that if the illustrious Johnny Cat put out the record, it's gotta be killer. I'm prety sure the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval was officially replaced by the Johnny Cat Seal of Approval sometime in the early 2000s. "Johnny Pineapple" is a new 7" release featuring four prime selections from the band's outstanding tape Quinn Touched The Sun. Lunch's sound is totally in my wheelhouse yet quite unlike anything I've heard before - a blend of garage, pop, and post-punk with an emphasis on quality songwriting and just enough noise to make it interesting. The title track is fast and poppy and so crazy catchy. Imagine the best elements of the Marked Men and early Replacements cross pollinated with Wire's guitar effects. "Slug Bones" brings to mind the heyday of Touch & Go Records, and surprisingly I don't hate it. If Jay Reatard had traveled back in time and cut a track with Joy Division, it might have sounded like "Monochrome Lust". And I give the closing cover of The Gun Club's "Sex Beat" very high marks. It's pretty faithful to the original, but with that distinctive Lunch touch I've really come to love over the last, uh, four days.

I think what I really dig about Lunch is that this is a true punk band playing post-punk - as opposed to some shitty indie rock band playing post-punk. That makes a big difference. There's an obvious level of sophistication and artistry involved in what they do. But when push comes to shove, they're delivering raw and energetic tunes that connect on a purely visceral level. Truth be told, all of Quinn Touched The Sun is great. Greg, ya done good!



-L.R.

http://lunchpdx.bandcamp.com/album/johnny-pineapple-7
https://www.facebook.com/lunchpdx

Monday, January 6, 2014

Fuzzy Vox rocks (again)!

Is a "well-produced" garage rock record a contradiction in terms? Clearly not, based on the fantastic debut LP from the French trio Fuzzy Vox! Mixed by Swedish super producer Pelle Gunnerfeldt (The Hives, Sahara Hotnights, Refused), On Heat infuses the band's high energy garage rock n' roll sound with increased power and clarity. And with the band delivering by far its best collection of songs to date, this is sure to be one of 2014's top long players!

When I last posted on Fuzzy Vox, I had plenty of good things to say about their Technicolor EP. But On Heat takes things to another level entirely! While tracks like "1789" and "Man of Solution" abound with sweaty live energy and a beat to get you shaking (think The Hives meet Mooney Suzuki), it's the more sophisticated material that really sets Fuzzy Vox apart from the formulaic garage bands of the world. "Crumb of My Heart" and "Dying Town" nail that perfect blend of mod/r & b electricity and finessed songwriting a la the The Jam and early Joe Jackson. The cleaner production only accentuates the fact that these guys can really freaking play! I love the way the guitar and bass play off of each other, and Nico remains a freak of nature on drums. "Crumb Of My Heart" has such serious, anguished lyrics. But when that chorus comes in, you can't help but want to jump up and down and sing along while your fist pumps wildly in the air. And I love the way this band continues to mix it up stylistically. "She's On Her Period (Again)" seems like it ought to be a joke number but is actually a beautiful Zombies style pop tune. "Ruby Heart Stealer" is a total rock n' roll kick in the teeth, but with a central hook that makes it a potential hit. And even with a lyric like "I wanna be your vibrator", the poppy "Vibrator" is a surprisingly sweet-natured love song. Only a Frenchman could talk to a girl like that and actually come off as sensitive and charming! Several days after my most recent listen to On Heat, the chorus to this song is still stuck in my head.

Releasing next month, On Heat is more of a logical next step for Fuzzy Vox than it is a complete reinvention. Gunnerfeldt has the rare ability to enhance the fidelity of a band's sound without cutting off its balls. And clearly he had a lot to work with here! Hugo is one of the best rock n' roll singers going these days, and that rhythm section is just plain hot. Compared to Technicolor, On Heat is more contemporary and radio friendly - and harder hitting to boot! Look for it in late February. And for now, "1789" will make a suitable replacement for your morning coffee. Magnifique!



-L.R. 

http://fuzzyvox.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/fuzzyvox
http://www.soundcloud.com/fuzzyvox

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Introducing The New Trocaderos!

Talk about a dream team! The New Trocaderos are Brad Marino and Geoff Palmer from The Connection plus the great Kurt Baker doing power poppin' rock n' roll. That's three of my favorite guys in today's rock scene, playing the kind of music that's nearest and dearest to my heart. They've joined forces on this project to record two all-new songs written and produced by their good friend Michael Chaney. If at this point you'd prefer to stop reading and just go listen to the single, I wouldn't blame you! Knowing who's involved here, you don't need me to tell you it's good!

Marino handles lead vocals on "Money Talks", a revved-up golden oldies rocker with hot guitar licks, a knockout sing-along chorus, and harmonies out the wazoo. Not surprisingly, it sounds like it could be a Connection song (and a good one at that!). In the grand tradition of rhythm & blues and early rock n' roll, the lyrics tell a story - one that's as relatable now as it would have been decades ago. Ahhh, the things a man will do for the love of a woman...

With Baker on lead vocals, "The Kids" is exactly the kind of rockin' pop anthem you'd expect. I'm really moved by Chaney's lyrics - which celebrate the salvation rock n' roll music can be for a young person growing up in this world and struggling to make sense of it all. It's essentially a love letter to all the musical greats who have given us all those good times and kept us sane through the bad times. And since it's a pet peeve of mine when songs about rock n' roll kind of suck, it's so great to hear a song like this that genuinely epitomizes what the lyrics are conveying. This is the kind of tune that would have been playing at full blast while you were out with your friends on one of those magical Friday nights of your youth- rocking your worries away and living for the moment. And because of the timeless sound of The New Trocaderos, you'll relate no matter what your age.

What I really dig about this single is that it recalls a time in rock n' roll when the individuals who produced records were artists in their own right - and there was no shame in finding incredibly talented people to perform the music you wrote. I really hope that this is not the last we hear of The New Trocaderos. I love the concept, and more importantly I love the songs! CD pressing is extremely limited, so hop to it!



-L.R. 

http://thenewtrocaderos.bandcamp.com/

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Year of The Cry!

I know it's awfully bold to make an album of the year prediction on the first day of the year! You've got to be wondering what I drank last night. But I doubt the new album from The Cry! will be topped in 2014.

The Cry! has been one of this blog's favorite bands going back to the fall of 2011. Dangerous Game, the Portland outfit's second album, is set to release March 1st on SP Records out of Japan and Taken By Surprise Records out of Germany. I typically refrain from reviewing music before it's available for purchase. But in this case, I just could not wait two more months! This album is hot! While  frequently compared to a whole host of contemporary glam/punk and post Exploding Hearts pop groups, The Cry! to my mind is a class above them all. What I've loved about this band from the very beginning is that its songwriting and vocal arrangements are steeped in the timeless traditions of oldies and doo-wop. While all these guys are still in their early 20s, they show a tremendous appreciation for the history of rock n' roll and what made it so magical in the late '50s and early '60s. They craft the kind of music that you wish they still played on the radio. Dangerous Game finds The Cry! rocking harder than ever. But it essentially sticks to the formula that made that first album so great: fun songs about boys chasing girls, stacked with honeyed harmonies and memorable choruses that will compel you to sing along. As cool as their haircuts may be, The Cry! is about perfect melodies first and foremost.

Part of what's so appealing about Dangerous Game is that it's a 100 percent DIY production. No outside producers or engineers were involved in the making of the album - just the band members and manager/mentor Greybush. In a day and age when high-tech trickery and turd-polishing gloss rule the productions of the music industry, it's great to hear a band focusing on writing great songs and actually singing well. The backing vocals, such a stellar component of the first album, are even more intricate and impressive this time around. You can tell they worked really hard to get those harmonies tight. And with all four fellas contributing backups, it's truly a group effort. The material, while generally similar to the first album ("Nowhere To Go" and "Shakin'" are stone cold hits!), surprises in pleasant ways. "Discotheque" is a perfect distillation of the band's love for the classic pop/punk of The Boys and the bubblegum glam of Sweet. "Same Old Story" is a British Invasion throwback gem that ought to make the guys in The Connection jealous. And the straight-ahead high energy power pop of "Hanging Me Up" delivers perhaps the most hummable melody of The Cry!'s existence. 

As always, The Cry! demonstrate a particular mastery of the finer details that make great pop. The melodic guitar lead is such a staple of modern-day powerpop/punk, and no one plays catchier leads these days than Brian Crace. And if there's one thing The Cry! is especially skilled at, it's crafting a hook line that no living human can possibly resist. "I ain't got/Nowhere to go" are six words that will be stuck in your head until the end of time. And a line like "Shakin', shakin'/Like a vibrator" may seem idiotic on paper, but once you hear it you will never be able to get enough. In a perfect world, it would spawn an international dance craze replete with YouTube sensations and a feature film. Hell, maybe it will!

With little room for improvement following such an extraordinary debut LP, The Cry! could only top themselves by taking advantage of their remarkable depth of talent. Ray is still the primary lead singer. But Brian sings lead on his three contributions to the album, and "Same Old Story" is written and sung by Dave. Having three talented songwriters in a band can never be a bad thing, and I love that there's no difference in quality regardless of who's singing. It all just sounds like The Cry! - which is a testament to the highly distinct pop/rock n' roll niche this band has carved for itself in just a short number of years. When I first heard The Cry!, I wondered if they'd ever be able to top "Modern Cinderella". Then I heard their album, and it was obvious that "Modern Cinderella" was no fluke! Clearly I wasn't the only one who noticed. The album sold out of four pressings, and is about to be reissued (again on SP Records). I consider it a modern classic of powerpop/punk. And Dangerous Game is even better. I promise!



-L.R.

http://sprecords.bandcamp.com/album/dangerous-game
https://www.facebook.com/thecrypdx
http://www.thecrypdx.com/
http://thecry1.bandcamp.com