Friday, March 28, 2014

Disguster!

Given that I attempted a retirement from writing between late 2007 and mid 2011, I missed a lot of great music while I was out of the game. So one of the things I'd like to do with this blog from time to time is to get caught up on some of the essential stuff I missed. Over the next couple of months, I'll be writing quite a bit about Zodiac Killer Records. Looking at the list of releases that have come out on ZKR in recent years, I definitely put this label among the very best in the punk world. ZKR has worked with everyone from legends like Electric Frankenstein and The Supersuckers to international sensations like Dead Vikings and Sonic Negroes to modern-day greats like The Hitchhikers and Stiletto Boys. I fully support Ron's mission to keep punk music dirty and dangerous. And one of the most representative releases of what his label is all about has to be Disguster's superb 2009 album Not So Sweet.

Disguster is notoriously one of the most acclaimed live bands in southern California. If you enjoy the gloriously unwholesome stylings of the Dead Boys and Dwarves or the classic SoCal sounds of The Humpers and Black Flag, this is definitely a band for you. I also hear strong hints of Bon Scott era AC/DC, which can never be a bad thing. Factor in two killer guitarists, a couple of Hitchhikers, and a creepy degenerate peeping Tom front man named KC, and you've got yourself some first rate sleazy punk rock n' roll! What I like about Not So Sweet is that it takes the wildfire energy the band is known for on stage and finds a way to capture it in the studio. Close your eyes while you're listening to "End of the End", and you're immediately transported to some club or dive bar that's about to have its roof blown off. And while I love the full-on ferocity of this track and the face-smashing cover of Led Zeppelin's "Communication Breakdown", this is far from a one-dimensional record. Not So Sweet finds Disguster working with a number of different tempos and really showing off their songwriting chops. "Feelin With A Dealin" is up there with the best of The Humpers' stuff, while "Secret Shame" is truly a punk classic of its time. And even if you've never ingested an illicit chemical in your life, you'll be hard pressed not to jump out of your seat and shout along loudly to the chorus of "Drugs". It's that catchy.

As the name suggests, Disguster is not a band for the easily offended. If you're ultra-PC or prefer your punk rock to be "nice", you might wanna steer clear. Not So Sweet is appropriately named, and it's darn near a masterpiece of its genre. This is punk music the way it was meant to sound - raw and nasty, with real guts and a sick sense of humor. I'm embarrassed to have been unaware of this great album for so long, but I've been making up for lost time in recent days...with the volume cranked way up! Check out http://www.zodiackillerrecords.com/ for ordering information!



-L.R.

http://www.zodiackillerrecords.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/pages/DISGUSTER/97402473773 
http://www.reverbnation.com/disguster 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

On blogging...

In this day and age when any idiot can be a music blogger, it's perfectly logical to ask what role people like me should play. Should we be cheerleaders? Promoters? Critics? Entertainers? Are we doing a disservice to bands if we fail to offer constructive critiques of their music? Are we pompous jerks if we do offer constructive critiques of their music? Ultimately, I'd say it all depends on the intentions and goals of each blogger. I can't speak for anyone else who does the sort of thing I do. I can only tell you what I try to do with F & L. And what I try to do is to merely bring attention to music that people might enjoy. Which is why I only write about music that I genuinely like.

In no way at all do I consider myself a critic. For many years, I attempted to be one. And I am highly ashamed of every negative word I've ever written about any band in the past. Bands put their heart and soul into creating music, and they certainly don't deserve to have their efforts demeaned by some pretentious asshole who doesn't really know what he's talking about. I have no personal opposition to the idea of music criticism. I think when it's done well, honest criticism can be very constructive to bands. But I feel the person issuing the critique should be a working musician with technical knowledge and experience in that world. Me? I'm just a fan.

To me, part of what makes underground music unique is how we discover so much of it through word of mouth. I can think of lots of my favorite bands of both all-time (Replacements, The Boys) and present day (The Cry!, L.A. Drugz) that I came to discover entirely because friends went to the trouble of turning me on to them. I am so thankful for that and eager to pay it forward. I am neither qualified nor inclined to judge the "worth" of music. But as a music lover who finds everyday life greatly enriched by the joy of rock n' roll, I'm most definitely inclined to publicly share what I like. In the old days, I heard songs I liked and put them on mixed tapes for my friends. Now I put up links to streaming tracks on a personal blog. It's essentially the same thing.

I've been hearing from a lot of bands and labels lately, and I am deeply humbled by that. I feel bad that I don't have time to write about all the music that is brought to my attention. And I feel bad when I don't like something enough to review it. That said, if you've got a piece of music that you do want me to hear, I promise I will at least give it a fair listen with an open mind. I only ask that all submissions be digital. I am not comfortable accepting physical submissions since I know I cannot guarantee a positive review (or any review at all).

Thanks to all of you who take the time to stop by my insignificant corner of the blogosphere. Perhaps I still haven't mastered the concept of keeping my reviews short and letting the music speak for itself. But trust me: I'm working on it!

-L.R.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Indonesian Junk

You probably know Daniel James from cool Milwaukee based bands like Chinese Telephones and Ramma Lamma. When I heard he had done some solo demos, I figured they would be good. I figured right! Working under the name Indonesian Junk (best band name ever!), James home-recorded four songs Prince style - playing all the instruments himself. He liked the tracks enough to make Indonesian Junk an actual band - recently bringing Johnny Cyanide (bass) and Mark Fraaza (drums) into the fold. I imagine the trio will be recording together soon. In the meantime, Dan has made his solo demos available for free download. They're very much up my alley, and I'm super impressed that Dan learned how to play drums just so he could undertake this project. That's true commitment!

I'd describe these songs as ballsy powerpop/punk with a slightly dark edge. I don't know if the lyrics are based on personal experience or not, but there's a pretty intense heartbreak theme looming large. And it goes without saying that the lead guitar work is absolutely smokin'! Even with fairly blatant nods to the likes of the Stooges ("Shake It With You") and Dickies ("You Messed Me Up"), Indonesian Junk come off sounding pretty darn unique. Listening to these demos, I don't get the feeling that I've heard these songs a million times before. Dan sounds a little like Joey Ramone on "Now That It's Over", but I don't think that's intentional. A song title like "Shelly Shelly Don't (Break My Heart)" might have you expecting cutesy power pop. But it sure isn't cutesy, and it freaking rocks. Given that these are demos, this is just a rough idea of what Indonesian Junk is going to sound like in a few more months. Give these guys a couple months to get tight and write some more songs, and surely they'll deliver a debut recording that will knock all of our socks off! I am so psyched to hear more!

 
-L.R.

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Fanatiques

On many occasions, I've gone on record declaring that '77 era punk rock is my favorite music ever. I love that classic '77 sound, and I've often lamented that there are not as many current bands in that vein as there used to be. So it's always great to hear newer bands that play that kind of style and really do it well. France's Fanatiques are totally up my alley. They're particularly inspired by those early U.K. punk bands that were the forefathers of Oi! - like Slaughter and the Dogs, Menace, and Cock Sparrer. By no means are The Fanatiques attempting a straight copy of that sound. But they certainly aren't trying to hide what their influences are. Their excellent debut EP can be heard in its entirety on YouTube. When I first saw the song titles "Where Are They Now?", "Where Have All The Bootboys Gone?", and "I Don't Like You", I thought maybe all the tracks were covers! But they're all original songs. Vinny from The Clean-Cuts (7" on No Front Teeth Records) is the singer, and his snotty vocals give these songs a little bit of a different feel than you'd expect. Imagine, if you will, The Queers playing street punk. That might sound a little odd, but these Frenchies really pull it off! The melodic guitar leads are definitely of a '77 vintage, and of course there are ample opportunities to sing along and pump your fist. If you dig further into Vinny's YouTube channel, you'll also find some songs from The Clean-Cuts. They had more of a '77 powerpop/punk sound, and were also quite good. Seems I can always count on France to get it done!



-L.R.

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCucDR0UyJn-sLZJ5jPFvEug 
http://uneviepourrienvinyles.bandcamp.com/album/the-fanatiques-ep 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Meet Showponies!

In an age when so many new bands are identifying themselves with sub-genres of sub-genres, it's nice to hear a group that just wants to kick you hard in the ass with some good, old-fashioned punk rock. Showponies hail from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, England. Their name comes from the fact that they rehearse in a stable that used to train horses for show jumping events. That's no joke, and neither is this band's music! They make a point to say that they're "punk and pop but not pop-punk". That's a very important distinction. The band plays a fast and aggressive brand of punk music that's tuneful and catchy. I bet they're super fun live! They just put out a four-song self titled EP, and I have to say I'm highly impressed. This is what punk music should sound like: powerful guitars, hard-hitting drums, ballsy vocals. Showponies do a good job of playing a classic style of punk rock without being derivative of any particular bands or eras. They're not trying to "sound like" anyone. And with clever lyrics covering such topics as gold diggers, retro girls, and the need for escape, these gentlemen really seem to understand the "sing-along" part of sing-along punk. "I Don't Wanna Be" had me won over from the start, but truly the whole EP is quality. Showponies have left me wanting more, and that can only be a good thing. Dig!

 
-L.R.

http://showponies.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/showponiesrnr

Friday, March 14, 2014

Jazzed Up And Bonkers!!

Being a child of the '70s and '80s, I grew up in the days when listening to the radio was still awesome. And while concentrated corporate ownership and automated playlists have essentially sucked the soul out of commercial radio in recent decades, so-called "alternative" formats have really picked up the slack. You've got college radio, satellite radio, community radio, Internet radio, podcasts....lots of places to find great tunes played by individuals who are passionate and knowledgeable about music. One of my favorite current radio programs is Jazzed Up And Bonkers!! - hosted by that dynamic duo of Travis Ramin & Dan Henry. It runs on KFAI- a community radio station in Minneapolis/St. Paul. You can stream episodes right off of the station's web site.

As the name of the show suggests, Jazzed Up And Bonkers!! is pure, crazy fun. Imagine a cross between Dr. Demento and Little Steven's Underground Garage. Travis and Dan engage in amusing banter, play lots of funny retro audio clips, do a few comedy bits, and of course bring you tons of great music. If you're even an occasional follower of this blog, you will love the selection of songs they play. I'm talking punk, garage, power pop, classics and rarities from the '60s, old country and rhythm & blues, novelty songs...basically everything that's good! The most recent episode (#25) features everyone from The Remains to Connie Francis to the Devil Dogs to Louis "Blues Boy" Jones to the Marked Men to Jimmy Dean. The theme of the episode is the 45th anniversary of the release of Kick Out the Jams. And my favorite rock n' roller, Tina Lucchesi, calls in for an interview with the fellas.  

I think what I like best about Jazzed Up And Bonkers!! is the way Travis and Dan combine their encyclopedic knowledge of music with a genuinely creative take on the radio show format. It's just fun to listen to these guys sit there and talk about music (well, I assume they're sitting - for all I know, they could be bouncing on trampolines or playing Nerf basketball). I totally connect with spontaneous conversations about The Undertones being The Searchers of the '70s or the mystery of why The Figgs left "Lynette" off their first LP. And since my pet peeve in radio is when people try way too hard to be funny (e.g., any morning drive show on the air today), I like that these two guys really are funny!

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that Jazzed Up And Bonkers!! is the only radio show in the history of time to play Ariane's "Tu Voudrais 'que Joublie" and Cactus's "Parchment Farm" back to back. Listen at work and enhance the quality of your day. Or better yet: call in sick, make yourself a big sandwich, shut off your phone, and enjoy the best radio program out there! Trivia question: what does this post have in common with my last post?

-L.R.

http://kfai.org/jazzedupandbonkers
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jazzed-Up-And-Bonkers/135567716500601
http://www.mixcloud.com/JazzedUpAndBonkers/

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The great Gun Fury!

Through the marvels of the latest technology, I've had the chance in recent months to "rediscover" a whole bunch of my favorite bands from back in the day. And I am loving it! Just since the end of last year, there have been digital reissues of great recordings from The Prostitutes, Dimestore Haloes, and Jake and the Stiffs. Now add Lancaster, Pennsylvania's Gun Fury to the list. It's like I've found a portal to the '90s. Just make sure to stop me if I start telling Bill Clinton jokes or wearing Zubaz pants in public.

I am SO stoked that a Gun Fury collection is finally out! Rumors of its imminent existence have been swirling for years. This was a very important band in my "career" - with members going on to do such things as travel to outer space and bat cleanup for the Cleveland Indians. It was largely because of Gun Fury that I got turned on to all the '77 U.K. punk bands that I so famously adore. This was one of the first bands I ever interviewed as a young writer. And to be reviewing them now, some 19 years later, is just too cool! 

As the title suggests, Complete Studio Recordings is a compilation of every song Gun Fury ever recorded - with tracks dating from 1993 to 1995. The majority of the songs appeared on the band's two 7" singles, but there are a few "rarities" included as well. Gun Fury was doing melodic/catchy punk long before it was "cool". The guys in the band were huge fans of the Pistols, Clash, and especially The Damned (hence the name of the group). Yet Gun Fury had a sound that was all its own - playing upbeat, tuneful punk with humorous lyrics mocking such things as asshole bosses, crappy mainstream bands, tailgating motorists, and the lack of adequate soccer coverage on American television. Listening to this collection, I'm struck by two thoughts. One is that these songs have held up really well over two decades. The other is that I can't quite explain why this band was so overlooked/underrated. I don't know more than a couple people who actually remember Gun Fury. Even the Internet seems unaware of the band's existence. But with Gun Fury's complete recorded output now rescued from out-of-print obscurity, there's certainly a chance for some posthumous recognition of this tremendous band. With its timeless sentiment and classic hook, Shuba's "Boss" pleases as much today as it ever did. And Eric Apathy's "Over The Air" reminds us that bad music on the radio is hardly a new phenomenon.

For more information on Gun Fury and a free download of Complete Studio Recordings, visit the group's Bandcamp. Central PA, represent!



-L.R.

http://gunfury.bandcamp.com/album/complete-studio-recordings

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Adam Widener rocks!

Perhaps best known for playing bass in Bare Wires, Adam Widener has been a man on the scene for a long time. I remember him from his great early 2000s band The Jet Set (my ridiculously glowing review of their full-length can still be viewed on the Wee Rock Records web site). He's also done duty in the likes of Plexi 3 and The Zygoteens. Clearly the guy is too talented to just be a side man, and so he's gone out and made a solo album. And when I say solo, I really mean solo. He pretty much did it all: vocals, guitar, bass, drums, recording, producing, mixing....I bet he even made his own breakfast before heading to the studio. He did enlist a little help from some very talented friends (Matthew Melton and Rob Good handled the mastering). But truly, Vesuvio Nights is Adam Widener's baby.  

Vesuvio Nights takes garage, power pop, new wave, mod, and British Invasion influences and blends them together to create a sound that is uniquely Adam Widener's. I think what impresses me the most is the energy of these songs. This doesn't sound like one guy making a record by himself. It sounds like a real band kicking up a goodtime garage/mod revival racket! I believe the particular word I'm looking for here is infectious. Vesuvio Nights kicks off with the bouncy rave-up "Telephone Traps", and it never really lets up from there. It's just a super fun album with tons of "hop" to it and hooks in abundance. The whole way through, I find myself compelled to get up and dance or at least spin around in my computer chair until I'm half dizzy. Widener is a one-man rhythm section of the highest caliber, and his guitar work is a finessed mix of modern and retro. But it's not just the enthusiasm and execution of the playing that I like. Widener shines in the songwriting department as well - crafting catchy choruses ("Laughter On Your Heels I'll Follow"), dishing out glorious guitar hooks ("Fluid Trails Of Glitter Gore"), and skillfully marrying classic '60s jangle to his own quirky sensibilities ("Fake Flowers Never Die"). Of course I recommend this album to fans of newer garage/pop in general or any of Widener's previous bands in particular. But by no means is this just a rehash of anything he's done in the past. As evidenced by the very strange song titles, this is a highly personalized creation and a very successful attempt to show people a side of Adam Widener they might not have known. This album achieves a rare combination of immediately satisfying melodies and genuine originality. I'm sure we'll soon hear this guy playing bass in another band, but I do hope his solo career will continue for a long time to come!



-L.R.

http://adamwidener.bandcamp.com/ 
http://speakertreerecords.blogspot.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Adam-Widener/227199104044053 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Glorious MoonRockets

Here's another one from that seemingly inexhaustible pipeline of awesomeness that is Ottawa. And just in case you thought all those Ottawa bands kinda sounded the same, Glorious MoonRockets will set you straight. In simplified terms, GMR play some dirty rock n' roll. And when I say dirty, I mean filthy. They're close enough to the garage/punk thing to fit within the general parameters of this blog. But in an entirely good way, they're way more "rock" than most of the stuff I usually write about. Think Detroit rock meets stoner sludge meets old school garage racket. These longhairs play the kind of music that you might have called "grunge" back when the term actually meant something. More Other Stuff is the name of their latest EP. And the music, like the title, is nothing fancy. These dudes play loud, with dense riffs that hit harder than a Chris Neil punch to the face. "Down On Their Luck" is a sludgy heavy rock dirge that channels both the MC5 and The Nuge. "3 Dollar Dinner" brings to mind that slice of late '80s indie noise rock that worshiped at the altar of Sabbath and Blue Cheer. "4 Corners" is bruising proto-grunge with a hint of psychedelia. Good stuff - I can't help turning up the volume and wishing I were at the wheel of a '78 Camaro Z28! I will be interested to hear what's next from GMR. In the meantime, you can check out both of the band's EPs via Bandcamp. I bet their amps go to 11.



-L.R.

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

Friday, March 7, 2014

Miscalculations!


I do realize that in the vast and chronically under-publicized world of independent punk rock music, even the best of us will remain unaware of many incredible bands and remarkable records. Even if I sat here eight hours a day and did nothing but work on this blog, I still wouldn't catch every gem that's out there. Nonetheless, I view my lack of Miscalculations coverage in 2013 as a massive and indefensible failure. I mean, come on! I'm supposed to be the '77 punk guy! How did I miss a 7" and an LP from a band featuring members of the Gaggers, Disco Lepers, Ladykillers, Shanghai Wires, and Electric Cocks? Worse yet, how did I miss one of the best albums of the entire year? Am I losing my touch? Should I be switching brands of energy drinks? Let's be honest, dear readers. I totally let you down!

The driving force behind North London's Miscalculations is the duo of Marco Palumbo Rodriges (Gaggers lead singer) and Shaun Clark (Ladykillers bassist). Marco and Shaun collaborated on all the songwriting and production for the band's debut album. Released this past November by Dead Beat Records, this 12-song LP takes that classic '77 U.K. punk sound I've always loved and melds it to the dark sensibilities and jagged guitars of synth/post-punk. I'm reminded an awful lot of the Buzzcocks - but with additional echoes of Wire, Warsaw, The Adverts, and Screamers. If I have a frequent objection to post-punk, it's that the "punk" part is too often missing. But in the case of Miscalculations, I hear a band that would have fit in perfectly with the early U.K. punk scene. Improbably, this band manages to take songs of a bleak and troubling nature and actually make them catchy. The lyrical tone ranges from cynical to downright sinister, and the album almost plays like a soundtrack to a highly disturbing apocalyptic art film. That may sound like a bit of a downer, but actually it's not. The band's melodies are consistently alluring, and there's more than enough vocal snot here to please fans of all these guys' other bands. This is that rare record that succeeds as both a work of art and a killer slab of punk rock.

While Miscalculations' debut definitely brings to mind the art-damaged Brit-punk classics of yesteryear, by no means is this a band stuck in the past. And like any truly good band, Miscalculations are far more than the sum of their influences. They've truly made an album for contemporary times - with songs seemingly inspired by both the industrial squalor of their immediate surroundings and the generally woeful state of the world today (you may have guessed that "Asbestos City" is not a love song). Had I heard this release before the end of 2013, it would probably have been my #2 or #3 album of the year. It's fucking brilliant, and you absolutely need to own it. Oh, and the band just put out a split 7" with the almighty Stitches! Given my track record, I'll have that one reviewed by Christmas. 

 
-L.R.

http://miscalculations.bandcamp.com/ 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Love So Deep

Having waited many years for a proper singles collection from Jake and the Stiffs, I was more than thrilled when one finally arrived in January. It was a glorious moment - like the time I threw for four touchdowns in one game (wait, that was Al Bundy). Now I find myself doubly graced in the wake of the reissue of the debut full-length from Delaware's all-time greatest band. Released on cassette in 1992 and limited to somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 copies, Love So Deep had all but disappeared from the face of the earth. Now it's back as part of Randy America's quest to digitally remaster and reissue all of his band's old recordings. It goes without saying that the group's singles collection is a mandatory purchase for any individual who appreciates quality music. But to my mind, the thing that made Jake and the Stiffs the most criminally overlooked band of their time was that they had so much more than just a handful of great songs. In the case of a lot of old bands, you probably only need to hear the hits. But it is my contention that Jake and the Stiffs have an entire catalog worth buying. If you don't yet own any of their releases, Love So Deep would be a perfectly good place to start. And at just $5.49, it's cheaper than an adult magazine or a foot long hoagie. What are you waiting for? Download this thing now!

How many bands were playing powerpop/punk back in 1992? Not many! Sure, the whole Lookout! Records pop-punk scene was at its zenith. But Jake and the Stiffs were doing their own thing entirely - with inspirations running the gamut from Detroit rock to power pop to '70s punk to hard rock. Love So Deep goes all the way back to the band's Randy/Steve Funk/Zach Hansen lineup. Listening to the album, you realize the band was still figuring out its "sound" at this point in its history. So there's a pretty decent variety of material to be heard. Songs like "Scrappy Come Home", "Because", and "All I Said" are true Jake and the Stiffs classics. But a lot of the lesser known numbers have held up just as well over 22 years. The staying power of this album evidences what I've been saying for a very long time: Randy America is one of the great unheralded songwriters of my generation. The awesome "Million Miles Away" is an early example of his knack for mixing humorous lyrics with personal and genuinely profound ruminations. "Back In The Day" isn't just a nostalgic look back at the early '80s - it's an indictment of how popular culture and life in general changed for the worse over a single decade. It rings as true today as ever. The thundering power ballad "Walk Away" might come off cheesy if it weren't so righteously epic. Even the album's "deep cuts" (pun fully intended) offer unearthed treasures- like the super weird "I Went Walking" (one of the first songs the band ever wrote) and a beautiful piano piece from the late Steve Stiers.

While I would have been happy with any reappearance of all these old Jake and the Stiffs releases, I'm especially pleased that Randy is doing it the right way. He really took the time to get the remastering perfect, and these old recordings (taken from the original reels) have never sounded better! Whether you're a longtime fan of these First State stalwarts, a nostalgist for the '90s underground, or simply a connoisseur of old school pop/punk (Ramones, Buzzcocks, Dickies), Love So Deep will make a fine addition to your music collection. 

 
-L.R.

http://randyamerica.blogspot.com/
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jakethestiffs 
https://www.facebook.com/jakeandthestiffs 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Top Ten 2014


One year ago, I started what I intended to become an annual tradition. On the occasion of my 42nd birthday, I decided to list my ten favorite bands of all-time. I wanted to explore how my musical tastes had changed over the years - or if they had changed at all. In my younger years, I never dreamed I'd still be listening to mostly the same bands two decades later. But in spite of the fact that I've continued to broaden my horizons and educate myself about the rich history of popular music, the list of bands I love the most has changed minimally between my 20s and my 40s. This isn't to say that punk rock is the only music I ever listen to. But it's still the stuff that is nearest and dearest to my heart, and clearly it's not something that I'll ever "outgrow". I suppose this is indicative of how I live my life. No matter how many double IPAs or oatmeal stouts or Belgian tripels I drink, nothing will ever hit the spot for me like a classic German lager. While other guys in the gym go for newfangled circuits or cutting edge machines, I'm only interested in the heavy iron. I have the same thing for lunch every day: a mixed greens salad with broccoli, rotisserie chicken, Newman's oil and vinegar dressing, and a side of Greek yogurt. I wouldn't say I fear change as much as I find it totally unnecessary.

Today, on the occasion of my 43rd birthday, I update last year's list of my all-time favorite bands:

1. The Clash
2. AC/DC
3. Husker Du
4. Dictators
5. Material Issue
6. Ramones 
7. Sex Pistols
8. Stiff Little Fingers 
9. Replacements
10. Generation X

I tried to base my rankings on both the frequency that I listen to these groups and the importance their music has played in my life. As you can see, this year's list is only marginally different from last year's. The Dictators, who would have been just outside my top ten a year ago, jumped the whole way to #4 (I've been listening to them a lot!). Gen X bumps out the Buzzcocks. Otherwise, it's essentially the same list. '70s punk still dominates my musical world, and my "big three" at the top remain locked in place. Next year's list, I'm betting, will be very similar. But you never know. I feel a polka phase coming on.

-L.R.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The fabulous Jenny Dee!

I've always believed that when it comes to incredibly talented people in music, they can truly excel in almost any genre you can name. Such is the case with Jenny "Dee" D'Angora - long a fixture of the Boston garage/rock n' roll scene as a singer/guitarist in The Downbeat 5 and The Dents. A few years back, she started Jenny Dee & The Delinquents to indulge her love for the girl groups of the '60s - issuing one of the great neo R & B albums of recent memory in 2010's Keeping Time. Last year's collaboration with Several Men of Mystery proved her equally adept in the realm of traditional country music. Just when you think you've got Jenny Dee figured out, she will surprise you in an entirely pleasant way. That's exactly what's been happening with her last couple of singles with The Delinquents. 

On last year's "Get Away", the band's musical time machine traveled from 1963 all the way to the dawn of the '80s - an era that is near and dear to me because it's when I discovered popular music. It's one thing to go for a "late 70's Blondie meets the Xanadu Soundtrack" vibe. It's another thing to totally nail it. D'Angora and co. delivered a solid hit with "Get Away". But on their new single "Don't Tell Me", they've crushed one out of the park! I close my eyes, and it is 1980 again. Everything about this track is class: the production, the musicianship, and of course the lead vocal. The band is crazy good, led by D'Angora's husband Ed Valauskas (The Gravel Pit, The Gentleman). Valauskas, who has played with everyone from Graham Parker to Peter Gammons and produced Boston greats such as Andrea Gillis and Muck and the Mires, knows a thing or two about how to make a good record. So the attention to detail in the playing and production is no surprise whatsoever. The blending of keyboards and strings is flawlessly executed, and those harmonies are completely insane. If Jeff Lynne had produced a Blondie record in 1979, it would have sounded a lot like this. Yet D'Angora is clearly the star here, and all that lush instrumentation merely supports her formidable vocal prowess rather than overshadow it. The B-side is a cover of The Sweet's "Fox On The Run"- completely transformed into a vintage '79 synth pop style, yet very much in the spirit of the original. If you enjoyed the band's bubbly interpretation of the Undertones' "Teenage Kicks" on the B-side of "Get Away", you'll love this new wavey take on a glam rock classic. 

"Don't Tell Me" is just the first in a series of digital singles due from Jenny Dee & The Delinquents in 2014. I don't know exactly what to expect from the next one - but I can just about guarantee that it will be great. Plain and simple, Jenny Dee is one of the best singers out there. 

 
-L.R.

http://jennydee.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/jennydeemusic 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Giuda does it again!

What do you do for an encore when you've already made one of the greatest glam/pub rock albums of all-time? If you're Giuda, you simply go bigger. As the title suggests, new album Let's Do It Again does not mess much with a winning formula. These handsome and charming Italians continue to replicate that classic early '70s glam pop sound fortified with the proto Oi! wallop of early Cock Sparrer. But this time around, they've gone for a beefier sound with even better production and slightly more ambitious songwriting. If they had just done a straight copy of their extraordinary debut Racey Roller, it surely would have fallen short. But by upping the '70s arena rock quotient (think Thin Lizzy and Bon Scott era AC/DC), Giuda have managed to deliver a slightly different but equally great sophomore LP. Just issued in the United States by TKO Records, Let's Do It Again recalls a time when fun rock n' roll was king and massive hooks permeated the airwaves (and roller rinks!).

Sure, they have the good sense to mimic a beloved era of popular music. But what really separates Giuda from the rest of the glam/punk pack is their talent for writing incredible songs and their ability to imbue these classic sounds with their own signature style. Even with blatant nods to the likes of T. Rex ("Yellow Dash"), The Sweet ("Teenage Rebel"), and Gary Glitter ("Roller Skates Rule O.K".), Giuda's own personality shines through even more so on this album. These fellas have come to party - and you're totally invited! And in keeping with this band's m.o., every song is a hit! Let's Do It Again offers an awesome mix of throwback glam gems, meaty riff rockers, and chant-worthy football anthems. And the songs that show a progression in Giuda's repertoire are some of the best on the album. Tracks like "Get That Goal" and the leadoff smash "Wild Tiger Woman" suggest a less over-the-top Turbonegro, while "Rave On" echoes with the pub-punk inflections of bands like The Vibrators. Top to bottom, the hooks on this thing are gigantic!

Giuda, at this point, just might be the best band in the world. And that's no joke! I could tell, based on title alone, that closing track "Hey Hey" was going to be an anthem. And that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about Giuda. If their songs were any catchier, we'd have a worldwide health epidemic on our hands. Remember when all the great bands were about writing killer songs, rocking hard, and making sure everyone had a good time? Sadly, such values have generally disappeared from rock music over the past 20 years. Giuda may single-handedly revive them. I just can't relate to all the "edgy" gloom and heavy seriousness that the kids are digging these days. But "Wild Tiger Woman"? Now that speaks to me! Long may these mighty Romans reign!



-L.R.

http://giuda.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Giuda/162619653788119
http://www.tkorecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/tkorecords

Saturday, March 1, 2014

That's right - a new Shattered Faith 7"!

Here's one you won't want to miss. You've got Hostage Records - hands down the greatest California punk record label of the last 20 years. And you've got Shattered Faith - one of a handful of bands that truly defined the Orange County punk rock sound. Out now on Hostage is just the band's second 7" ever (hard to believe, eh?). It includes "Power To The Kids" - the first new recorded song from Shattered Faith since 1985! That's right: the last time these guys put out a new song, Ronnie Reagan was still president. Some of you weren't even born yet! If you're expecting this release to pale in comparison to the band's prior recordings, clearly you don't know a whole lot about Shattered Faith or Hostage Records. As anyone who's seen the band recently will gladly attest, Shattered Faith is still on top of its game and representing proudly for O.C. punk. It's not often that bands go 33 years in between singles without missing a beat. But this record is classic Shattered Faith all the way. In addition to the aforementioned ripper, you get the "lost" 1981 track "Suburban Boredom" and the previous live-only number "Mirrors Reflection". That signature style is still in tact - driving melodic punk with killer lead guitar work and lyrics that really have some something to say. "Power To The Kids" looks to the youth of today to fix this mess we've made of the world. "Suburban Boredom" is short and scathing and as relevant now as it was three decades ago. "Mirrors Reflection" is upbeat and tuneful and a nice switch-up from the band's more worldly statements. If you read the liner notes, it's obvious how humbled these guys are by all the love they still get from fans after all these years. They are grateful that they are remembered and hopeful that future generations will know of the music they're making now. Shattered Faith waited a long time to get a new 7" out, and clearly they've made the most out of the opportunity. This record, like the band that made it, is pure class. Great songs, great sound quality (it was pressed at the legendary Rainbo Records!). It's limited to 700 hand numbered copies. Get one before this release goes out of print in two blinks of an eye!

-L.R.

www.hostagerecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/ShatteredFaithBand
http://shatteredfaith.bandcamp.com/