Sunday, February 23, 2014

Meet Average Times!

Canada is gold again! Are you getting sick of this yet, because I sure ain't! And the thing is, I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of what's going on with the Canadian garage punk scene right now - especially in Ottawa! There is no rational explanation for the large amounts of amazing music coming out of Canada these days. It's like trying figure out how my Canadian bacon could come from Illinois or why Labatt Blue is actually pale. And why aren't the Toronto Maple Leafs called the Maple Leaves? It fatigues the brain to ponder such mysteries of the north. So I'm just going to sit back, pop open an adult beverage or two, and continue to enjoy the hell out of what I'm hearing. The latest Ottawa band to set my hair on fire (if I had any) is Average Times. Toronto's Hosehead Records will be issuing the band's self-titled debut LP next week (a co-release with P. Trash Records out of Germany). And let's just say that there's nothing average whatsoever about Average Times! With Paul "Yogi" Grainger (White Wires, Steve Adamyk Band, Mother's Children) recording the album, you should have some idea of what to expect.

Like all the aforementioned bands, Average Times mix up a tasty cocktail of buzzing garage punk and tuneful power pop. What sets this band apart, I'd say, is a little more grit and a lot more snarl. Or, as the band poetically states it, it's like "barf and sugar mixed together". The abundance of hooks and crisp production are definitely in keeping with the whole "Ottawa thing" that's happening right now. But I also hear influences ranging from classic late '90s garage/trash to early American punk by the way of The Stooges/New York Dolls. Imagine The Reatards fronted by Stiv Bators, playing songs written by the Marked Men at a Mean Jeans house party. Average Times have by no means reinvented the wheel, but they've delivered exactly the kind of record that made me fall in love with punk music in the first place. This is a fun album full of snotty, catchy tunes that will have your head bobbing as soon as the needle drops on the vinyl. And time and time again, I'm compelled to pump my fist in the air and sing along loudly. Only six of 13 tracks surpass two minutes, and none surpass three. But don't be fooled by the minimalist, let-it-rip approach. The songwriting here is very accomplished - as is the lead guitar work.

"Popsicle", which opens the album, sounds like a song that might kick off an Average Times live show. It's instant energy and a real tone-setter. And there's no letup from there. "Leave Me Alone" sounds like the Dead Boys covering The Undertones. "Snakes" is fast and fiery and guaranteed to get stuck in your head. "Summer Nights" sprinkles in some keyboards and is every bit the soaring anthem the title promises. And by mixing all-out burners like "Wasted On Wine" and "Look Loose" in with the hookier rock n' roll based tracks, the band avoids the sort of repetitive rut that sometimes plagues garage punk releases. Out of 13 songs overall, not a single one is a dud. This is my favorite album of the year so far. It has the feel of a summer record - which really hits the spot since we've all been freezing our nut sacs off for months. If you like all the newer garage stuff but wish it sounded more like '70s punk, have yourself a listen. Downloads are available now, and the LP goes on sale March 4th!

-L.R.

https://www.facebook.com/averagetimes
http://www.hoseheadrecords.ca/
http://hoseheadrecords.bandcamp.com/album/average-times

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thee Mighty Fevers V. The Morebeats!

A little less than a year ago, I posted for the first time on Thee Mighty Fevers - the latest in a long line of incredible garage punk bands from Japan. Well, the boys from Kobe are back! And they have found kindred spirits in Italy's Morbeats. The two bands have teamed up for a split 7" out on the Italian label One Chord Wonder, and of course it will blow your head off! If you find yourself longing for the mid-'90s glory days of raw and wild garage punk, Weird Affairs And Teengeneration Accidents ought to have you jumping for joy and howling in delight. Both bands tear into some fast and frenzied lo-fi rock n' roll that literally explodes from your speakers and headphones. Thee Mighty Fevers build on the momentum of their fantastic debut album with the fuzzed-out and ferocious "Emotion Fire". It sounds like they're trying to obliterate any obstacle in sight just through the sheer force of their music! I always love a band that sounds like it might have collapsed from exhuastion if the song had run one second longer. Marty can scream with the best of 'em, and Tommy's guitar soloing is glorious, earsplitting filth. The band also whips through a blistering rendition of "That's Alright Mama" - Elvis Presley's first single! This was arguably the first rock n' roll single ever, and 60 years later we still have bands like Thee Mighty Fevers keeping that original spirit alive while taking it to extremes that would have been unfathomable in 1954. Not since the Registrators circa Terminal Boredom have we heard a band quite like this. If you have yet to experience the sonic firestorm that is Thee Mighty Fevers, go stream their album and crank the volume until the windows shake! If you are unmoved by such savage racket, surely your soul has died.

Turning to The Morbeats' side of the record, there's not much of a drop-off. They power through an original number called "Little Robota", which rips a la Teengenerate or a super lo-fi Devil Dogs. I love the rawness and pure rock n' roll energy. The drummer sounds like he's banging on trash cans! If songs about girls are cool and songs about robots are cooler, then songs about girl robots are the coolest. "Sex Cow" is a cover of one of Teengenerate's best singles, and it ain't bad! I definitely wanna hear more from these guys.

A time machine trip back to the heyday of Rip Off and Crypt Records would cost you a fortune. Weird Affairs And Teengeneration Accidents is just as fun - and will get you there at a fraction of the price! Dig in!


-L.R.

http://theemightyfevers.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theemightyfevers
http://morbeats.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Morbeats

Monday, February 17, 2014

Big Itch Club!

The Big Itch Club is a dive bar music club in Thomas House in Dublin where one can go to hear real rock n' roll (both live and on record). There just aren't enough places like this left in the world, and the ones that remain should be treasured (and supported!). Last year, Luke from The Big Itch Club got together with Bachelor Records head honcho The Gimp, and they came up with a really awesome idea. Why not make a 7" compilation record showcasing some of the great bands that play at this club? And so that's exactly what they did! 500 copies were pressed. Half were given to the bands to sell at a showcase gig at the Big Itch Club last November. The other half went to Bachelor to sell to the general public. I'm not sure how many copies remain, so I'd urge you all to move extremely fast on this one since it's got two tracks from The #1s - one of the finest power pop bands to come on the scene in years. And they're not crappy leftovers or anything like that - they're both A-side worthy gems! "16" is upbeat pop/punk in the classic vein of Protex and Rudi. If you told me it was actually recorded in 1979, I would have no reason to doubt you. "Tell Me Why" slows things down and highlights gorgeous plaintive melodies a la Big Star or Teenage Fanclub. These tunes keep The #1s' winning streak in tact, and it is my fervent wish that 2014 will bring us an LP from this fantastic band.

But wait! There's more! The B-side of this compilation introduces me (and perhaps you!) to two newer standouts of the Dublin music underground. September Girls are an all-female five piece who specialize in garage pop laden with harmonies and reverb. Their cover of Electric Six's "Gay Bar" impresses with a cool surfy guitar riff and nicely executed group vocals. I dig! Faux Kings are a wrestling themed rock n' roll band - and I believe this is their first collaboration with a record label. Their track, "Luchadora", is very much up my alley. Think Eddie Cochran/Gene Vincent meets early Beach Boys with trashy lo-fi production. That guitar solo rips!

All in all, Big Itch Club is a terrific little compilation. I knew I was going to love the A-side, but credit Luke and The Gimp for making sure that the back half of the record could hold its own. To hear more from September Girls and Faux Kings, check out the Bandcamp links below. Now go buy this record - while you still can!



-L.R.

http://www.bachelorrecords.com/
https://soundcloud.com/#thenumberones
http://fauxkings.bandcamp.com/
http://septembergirls.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Big-Itch-Club/213718572088468

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Retro Reviews: Teenage Head (self titled)

A number of years ago, Shawn Abnoxious asked me why I had never written about Teenage Head. It was a very good question. And I don't really have a good answer. Maybe it was one of those things I've just never gotten around to doing - like reading Crime And Punishment or trying a Krispy Kreme doughnut. It does seem odd that over a two decade "career" spent celebrating the pop/rock n' roll side of '77 punk, I've never done an article on the great Teenage Head. Well, I had never done an article on Teenage Head - until today!

When we talk about the great "scenes" of early punk rock, London, L.A., and New York usually get brought up first. If the Canadian punk scene circa the late '70s and early '80s isn't mentioned in the same breath, it probably should be. Canada had so many great bands - Viletones, D.O.A., Forgotten Rebels, Pointed Sticks, Subhumans, Diodes, Modernettes, Demics...I could go on and on. My personal favorite of the lot has to be Hamilton, Ontario's mighty Teenage Head - one of Canada's first and best punk bands. With a name and a sound inspired by the Flamin' Groovies, Teenage Head specialized in fun songs about girls, cars, boozing, and good times. Spiritually akin to The Dictators with the hooks of the Ramones and the swagger of the New York Dolls, this was a band that typified first wave punk while also drawing largely from early rock n' rollers such as Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry. With its raw production and simplistic musical approach, the band's 1979 debut LP remains the purest and finest representation of what Teenage Head was all about. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that it's full of classic songs!

In the tradition of Johansen/Thunders and Bators/Chrome, Teenage Head featured a star tandem on vocals and lead guitar - with front man Frankie "Venom" Kerr (R.I.P.) providing the personality/charisma and Gordie Lewis dishing out the hot guitar licks. And in Steve Mahon and Nick Stipanitz, the band had one of the greatest rhythm sections of the first wave punk era. Kicking off with two of the band's finest songs - "Top Down" and "Ain't Got No Sense" - Teenage Head could easily be forgiven if it failed to sustain a fast start. But it doesn't! It's a great album the whole way through - never relenting in its punked-up '50s rock n' roll attack with additional nods to the Stones and Stooges. Straight-ahead rockers like "Lucy Potato" and "Bonerack" sound great with the volume cranked to ten and a cold beer in your hand, while "Little Boxes" ought to be a staple on the Ramones' Pandora channel. Listening to a song like "You're Tearing Me Apart" and its gleeful blend of rockabilly, pop, and glam, I just can't deny Teenage Head's influence on a whole bunch of my favorite bands of the '90s and beyond.

Teenage Head were probably one of those bands that never fully captured the electrifying energy of their legendary live shows on record. But they came awfully close on this self-titled debut. It was considered a commercial flop upon its initial release, but time has proven it to be a stone cold classic. The 1996 CD reissue is long out of print but well worth tracking down if you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for it (or just get it off iTunes for $10!). I also highly recommend the band's second LP, Frantic City. No doubt there were a ton of great bands in the early years of punk. But in my book, Teenage Head was one of the very best.

  

-L.R. 

https://www.facebook.com/teenagehead

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Return of the Angry Cougars!



It's been over a year since we last heard from Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Columbus outfit's second single is very much like its first - a brief and ferocious sonic mauling that's not for the faint of heart. So if you were hoping for an acoustic paean to luxury yachting or a beautifully rendered Lionel Richie cover, better luck next time. I've always had a tremendous appreciation for bands that know their niche and are really awesome at it. And in the case of the Angry Cougars, that niche is kicking ass! Inspired by the Clintonville rat epidemic of 2013, "Rats" is about the quest to exterminate the literal and metaphorical vermin of the world. It's an absolute ripper, and it could easily pass for some venomous artifact of Reagan era hardcore punk. I've been walking around all morning screaming, "The Rats must die!" That, my friends, is what you call a hook. On the B-side, "Mexico" is a tale of one person's ill-fated and mostly illegal journey to the land of enchantment. Clocking in at over three minutes, this song is an epic by Angry Cougars standards. But by no means is there any letup of intensity. Some kills just take a little longer.

Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars are one of those bands you hope will never change. They are masters of the fast and furious punk rock song, and I will be perfectly happy with ten more singles just like these first two. Given the sheer power and raging conviction of her vocal stylings, it's hard to believe Ms. Machete is still a relative newcomer to singing. She's that good. If the band ever pulls a Van Halen and replaces her with a glorified tiki lounge singer, I'm turning in my fan club badge.



-L.R.

https://www.facebook.com/AngryCougars

Sunday, February 9, 2014

J Prozac solo!

For over a decade, Jay "J Prozac" Gauvin has been at the helm of Westfield, Massachusetts' Prozacs - one of the many excellent bands that have kept the '90s pop-punk sound alive and well in the 21st Century. With The Prozacs slowing down/going on hiatus, Jay has been working on his debut solo album over the last couple of years. Titled Here Is My Heart, it was recently issued by the ultra awesome Jolly Ronnie Records on compact disc. While theoretically a departure from the signature sound of The Prozacs (it's intended to show a "softer and more intimate" side of Jay's songwriting), this album should nonetheless delight any fan of classic '90s pop-punk (such as myself!). As the title suggests, Jay is really baring his soul with these songs. For better or worse, this album is who he is. And while he's not completely reinventing himself as a songwriter, these songs do show increased maturity and sophistication. If you've written it off as a genre for "kids", this record proves that quality pop-punk can be made by and for adults.

Listening to these songs, the influence of modern pop-punk legends like Ben Weasel, Dr. Frank, and Dan Vapid is undeniable. But after more than 15 years of making music, Jay has grown into a distinctive artist in his own right. Some of these tracks could easily be Prozacs songs, while others are quite different. There are a couple of acoustic based numbers, and all in all this is probably more of a pop record than it is a punk record. But given that The Prozacs have very often been power pop influenced, it's not like Jay is overreaching here. In a lot of ways, this is a musical autobiography. Nearly every track revisits a defining moment or significant aspect of Jay's life, and we see how his various experiences have informed the man he's become. As a music lover, I feel privileged when a songwriter "lets me in" like this. And I think it works so well because Jay has the most important quality a pop-punk singer can possess: likability. If this is his life story, you're rooting for him all the way.

With me being a pop-punk guy, I naturally took to songs like "In The Music" (shades of Screeching Weasel circa Anthem For a New Tomorrow) and "O' Lucky Me" (which made me feel like I was 25 again and listening to The Invalids on a dateless Friday night). But the songs that break punk rock form (like "When I Was Two" and "Don't Go") are some of the most touching and powerful on the record. Whether he's reflecting on a lifelong passion for riding BMX bikes or capturing a tender moment between a father and a child, Jay is bravely personal throughout this record. Perhaps because I relate to it on such a personal level of my own, the pop anthem "This All Leads Up To You" strikes me as his masterpiece - a beautiful reminder that sometimes our most terrible experiences are essential pathways to our greatest happiness. Even a song like "From My Heart", which started out as a GrandPrixx demo way back in 20001, is surely enriched by Jay's life experience over the past decade plus.

In the wake of the news that The Prozacs are coming off the inactive list and should be releasing new music later this year, Here Is My Heart is by no means a sign that Jay Gauvin has moved past punk rock. In his words, this solo endeavor was more along the lines of an "alternative vessel" for musical ideas that might not have fit on a Prozacs record. It's rare when pop-punk guys can pull this sort of project off without you wishing they had just made another album with their regular band. When an artist pours his heart and soul into a creation like this, you really want to love it. But in this case, I don't have to want to love it. I do love it! To twist a classic line from Morrissey, it says a lot to me about my life.

-L.R.

http://jprozac.bandcamp.com/album/here-is-my-heart
https://www.facebook.com/jprozac

Friday, February 7, 2014

Ricky Rat is back!

The legendary Ricky Rat is back with his second solo single - and it's a glitterbomb smash! The ex Trash Brat guitarist, last heard from a couple years ago when he delivered his outstanding debut solo album Songs In C Major Love, has recorded a couple of tunes he co-wrote with the great Dimitri Monroe. To call this single a "double A-side" somehow seems insufficient. It's more like a double A-plus side! These are the best tunes I've heard from Mr. Rat in years, and they're both anthems of glam/punk/power pop/rock n' roll! 

"Tokyo Pop" starts things off with a bang. It's a celebration of youth and fun and the way great rock n' roll transports us to a place where our troubles cease to exist. Those guitar licks are catchier than the clap, and I can only hope that that chorus ("Everyone's doin' the Tokyo pop/Even after the music stops") will spread like an epidemic and bring joy to the entire planet. "Glitter People" opens with a bubblegum glam guitar hook straight out of 1973 and rings with echoes of Hanoi Rocks and Gen X pop/punk goodness (plus a dash of Thin Lizzy). Give it one listen, and it'll be stuck in your head all day. Which song's "the hit" here? I don't know - flip a coin!

Vinyl junkies can look forward to a limited release (300 copies) of this hit single on New Fortune Records. And you can make a digital purchase right now over at Ricky's Bandcamp page. If somehow you've never heard Ricky Rat or the Trash Brats before, this ain't a bad place to start! With so many newer bands today mixing powerpop/punk and T.Rex/Sweet glam stylings, perhaps the climate is right for a Ricky Rat world takeover!

-L.R. 

http://rickyrat.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ricky-Rat/178157855577175

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New Swears!

Very often at this time of the year, I try and get caught up on the best albums of last year that I haven't yet reviewed. One of my most glaring omissions of 2013 was Funny Isn't Real by Ottawa's New Swears. It was most recently issued in Europe by Bachelor Records after initial releases on Bruised Tongue and Dirt Cult. Given that I've publicly pronounced my general distaste for songs about partying, it seemed highly improbable that I'd enjoy an entire album about partying. But it took about ten seconds for the New Swears to win me over, and without hesitation I can say that I freaking love this record!

In contrast to the stale cliches and calculated pandering that plague industry-produced party anthems, the wanton debauchery and twisted humor that drive the music of the New Swears are as genuine as it gets. These lads aren't trying to make millions - they just want to get really fucked up and engage in behavior that's either extremely stupid or highly inadvisable. As soon as I read the line "Just cus I let you do coke off my john/doesn't mean I wanna meet your mom", I knew that New Swears were my kind of band. Funny Isn't Real is the good kind of party album - full of insanely catchy songs that will quickly have you singing along loudly and rolling on the floor in hysterics.

How do you describe the New Swears? Are they a garage band playing pop songs? Or are they a pop band playing garage songs? I'm not sure! The "Mean Jeans meet Black Lips" sales pitch is right on the money. And if you enjoy the lo-fi pop jangle of fellow Canadians Cold Warps, Funny Isn't Real is pretty much a mandatory purchase. It's rough enough around the edges to suggest that these guys have neither the intention nor the technical skill to make a "perfect" sounding recording. But it's obvious that they are immensely talented in the songwriting department - and I'm somewhat awed by the consistent quality of the material. It's hard to name any standout tracks. And that's not because the album lacks hits. It's because the album is nothing but hits! I love all the singing in unison and simple guitar hooks. If you put a gun to my head and made me name some favorite cuts (sounds like something these guys might actually do!), I'd go with the Ramones-y epic "Liquor Store" along with the super catchy "See You In Hull". The latter track reminds me of the Dogmatics at their poppiest (Best line: "Goin to the Chinese dep /It's kinda like the beer store/But they got chips and crack"). And more than once this week, I found myself whistling the melody to "Pig Farm" while I was standing over a urinal. That somehow seems appropriate.

Even if you've never had to dispose of an ex's dead body or gotten so loaded that you saw Christ in your beer glass, Funny Isn't Real ought to be playing the next time you go on a road trip or have friends over to hang out in your basement. It's just a super fun record! If party rock as a genre too often reminds me of douchey light beer commercials, the New Swears are more like Animal House. What is it with all these great Canadian bands? There must be something in the water. Or more likely, it's in the beer.

-L.R. 

https://www.facebook.com/NewSwears
http://newswears.bandcamp.com/album/funny-isnt-real
https://www.facebook.com/bachelorrecords
http://www.bachelorrecords.com/

Monday, February 3, 2014

Top 10 Albums of 2004


Every year, I really enjoy doing these anniversary posts and listing my top ten albums from ten, twenty, and thirty years ago. I especially like setting my time machine for one decade ago. It's such a trip down memory lane as I recall the "heyday" of my time writing about music. It's really hard to believe that all the records listed below came out ten years ago. It's like a decade passed in the blink of an eye! Has it really been ten years since George W. Bush won reelection and the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918? The "wardrobe malfunction" was ten Super Bowls ago? Napoleon Dynamite is ten years old? That's crazy! For a lot of you, I'm sure some of these names will bring back memories. And if 2004 was a little "before your time", I highly recommend you check out some of these bands/releases!

10. Kevin K and the Real Kool Kats- Addiction
It was right around 2004 when I noticed a shift in "the scene". That throwback '77 punk sound that had been my niche for so many years was no longer as popular or prevalent as it had been in the late '90s. But one guy who was still keeping the faith was the one and only Kevin K - that ageless and prolific disciple of Johnny Thunders and The Ramones. It seemed like he put out a new album every year circa the mid-2000s. Addiction, recorded with his French backing band the Real Kool Kats, is among the best of his 72 LPs. 

9. The Crumbs - Last Exit
The Crumbs were a band of this era that got improperly lumped into the pop-punk scene due to their leather jacket look and Lookout! Records affiliation. To my ears, they were more along the lines of The Saints meet later Social Distortion. Last Exit came out on TKO Records with very little hype behind it, and for whatever reason went largely unnoticed. In my book, it's the best Crumbs album by far. 

8. Mojomatics- A Sweet Mama Gonna Hoodoo Me
These Italian lads mixed garage punk with British Invasion pop and mid 20th century American roots music to create one of the best and most unique sounds of the 2000s. They're still going strong today. This was where it all started!

7. BobbyTeens- Cruisin' For A Bruisin'
This ended up being the last BobbyTeens LP, and a damn fine one at that! If 2000's Not So Sweet sounded like the Shangri-La's blowing bubblegum on a group date with The Dictators, Cruisin' For A Bruisin' was more of a return to the band's roots lo-fi trash roots. "Hot Sweet 'N' Sticky" is the jam! 

6. The Hives- Tyrannosaurus Hives
It was probably less "cool" to like The Hives in 2004 than it had been in 2000. But if you could get over the fact that it came out on (God forbid!) a major label, it was hard to deny that Tyrannosaurus Hives was every bit as good as Veni Vidi Vicious.

5. The Lids- self titled
One of the all-time most underrated Rip Off Records releases. 

4. Marked Men- On The Outside
The beginning of a long and fruitful marriage between Dirtnap Records, the Marked Men, and their countless off-shoots. 

3. Clorox Girls - self titled
Looking back a full decade, it's remarkable how influential this album and the first two Marked Men LPs were on the powerpop/punk sound that's so popular today. Unquestionably a classic.

2. Reigning Sound- Too Much Guitar
Arguably the finest rock n' roll songwriter of his generation, Greg Cartwright has been an integral part of some of the best albums of the last two decades. Too Much Guitar is my favorite of them all - a classic collection of soulful and massively hooky garage/rock n' roll songs. The title says it all!

1. Dimestore Haloes - Ghosts of Saturday Night 
I could have sworn that this album didn't actually see the light of day until 2005. But I've killed a lot of brain cells drinking all these imperial stouts and barleywines this winter. I've seen conflicting release dates for this release all over the Internet. According to the band, it was July 7, 2004. And hell, the band ought to know! Recorded over a couple years with two different lineups, Ghosts was the glam/rock n' roll masterpiece the Haloes had been working towards for their entire existence. You can stream it now over at the Haloes' brand spanking new Bandcamp page

Honorable Mentions:
Deadly Weapons - Get Right In There
The Briefs- Sex Objects 
Guitar Wolf - Loverock
The Ends - Concrete Disappointment
The Muffs- Really Really Happy
Die Hunns - Long Legs
Hatepinks - Sehr Gut Rock Und Roll
Real Losers - Time To Lose
The Bodies- Addicted To You

Alright, then. Who did I forget?

-L.R. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dimestore Haloes go digital!

There are things I really hate about this futuristic modern world of ours, but there are also things I totally love. If you wanted to hear a certain band back in the day, you had to buy their record. And once it was sold out, you were shit out of luck. Once I nearly broke another man's finger in a spirited scuffle over a rare Nipple Erectors single. Nowadays, you can hear those songs on YouTube for free. Such technology would have blown my mind in 1997. And how awesome is it that every album from my #1 favorite band of the '90s is now available for download on Bandcamp?! Who needs flying cars? The future has hooked us up!

Yes, that's right! The almighty Dimestore Haloes are no longer lost to the obscurity of long out of print vinyl and CDs. Chaz Matthews, now of the amazing Cheap Cassettes, has endeavored to digitalize the complete recordings of his late, great Boston band. So if you no longer own the releases or are too young to have been around during the band's time, you can now download all four of the band's albums plus some extremely hard to find 7" tracks. It's all here: the debut (and my personal favorite) Thrill City Crime Control, Revolt Into Style, Long Ride To Nowhere, the band's masterpiece finale Ghosts of Saturday Night, and Chaz's superb solo demos collection Amazing Graceless. The prices are super low - ranging from $5 to $7 per release, which sure beats what you'd pay on iTunes or Amazon. Having spent all of the late '90s and early 2000s raving about this band, I'm so pleased by how well its music has held up over the years. And now you can hear all (or at least most) of it for yourself! There are even songs here that I've never heard before - like "Crazy"!

One really cool aspect of this digital collection is that it allows you to trace the evolution of the Haloes. The early stuff is like The Clash meets Johnny Thunders meets Chuck Berry, whereas subsequent releases move in a glammier direction and gradually embrace the hard pop tendencies now explored by Cheap Cassettes. I loved this band in the beginning because it reminded me of so many classic bands I loved. But ultimately, the Haloes also influenced my tastes in music instead of merely reflecting them (It was Chaz who made me my first Replacements and Hanoi Rocks compilation tapes). And while so much of what was written about the Haloes over the years referenced fashion and style, what ultimately defined the band was genuine talent. If you, like me, are a fan, you won't dispute my contention that Chaz was (and still is) one of the finest songwriters of his time. And it's likely that the Haloes had some influence on the newer generations of glam-punk - which still thrives all over the world. So listen and enjoy - and buy something if the music moves you!

-L.R. 

http://thedimestorehaloes.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Dimestore-Haloes/138848529536778

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Instigation

"The Instigation is a garage band who play hardcore songs. Or maybe a hardcore band who play garage songs. Either way they mix snotty early USHC fury with leather jackets and Converse. They like Dean Dirg, Teengenerate, Rot Shit and cheap beers in front of convenience stores." 

I love it when a band's self-description pretty much says it all. It makes my job so much easier! That's less time I have to spend searching for adjectives and more time I can spend listening to records and imbibing adult beverages. Instigation members hail from Japan, England, and Canada and are currently spread out between Tokyo, Kobe, London, and Shanghai. So when they do manage to put out new music, they have to make it count! They just released their second E.P., and it's a total ripper! What I'm reminded of the most are the early days of American hardcore - when the music basically sounded like classic punk rock played faster and harder. The songs clock in at around 90 seconds a piece as opposed to, say, 35. The rhythm section is an absolute powerhouse, and I love that there are some honest-to-goodness guitar leads in these songs! This is exactly how I like my hardcore - blistering and tight with aggressive vocals and really intense lyrics. The best song is the title track, "No Way Out". It takes the bleak desperation of the lyrics and channels it into a pummeling sonic attack. And "The Instigation" is what every band should have - its own theme song! What's not to love about a band that threatens to "smash your face with a brick"? And if there were any doubt about where these guys are coming from, they close the record with a bang-on cover of Reagan Youth's classic "Degenerated". I love the original, and I love D Generation's fireball version from the '90s. So I was not going to be satisfied unless The Instigation totally nailed it. Sure enough, they did! The message of this song is more pertinent than ever, and it's great to have it introduced to yet another generation of punk rockers.

If you enjoy early American hardcore or fast and ferocious punk rock of any kind, "No Way Out" ought to get your heart racing. Check it out!

-L.R. 

http://theinstigation.bandcamp.com/album/no-way-out-e-p
https://www.facebook.com/theinstigation666