Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My top ten favorite Clash songs

Just for the hell of it...My top ten Clash songs:

10. "Spanish Bombs"
9. "Garageland"
8. "Lost In The Supermarket"
7. "London Calling"  
6. "Gates of the West"
5. "Career Opportunities" 
4. "Tommy Gun"
3. "London's Burning"
2. "Janie Jones"
1. "Guns of Brixton" 

-L.R.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Can't Teach Kids Responsibility

I have on a number of occasions touted Can't Teach Kids Responsibility by The Prostitutes as one of the greatest punk rock albums of the '90s. It's top ten for sure - if not top five. Now you can decide for yourself whether or not I'm full of it. This somewhat forgotten classic is now available as a free download over at The Prostitutes' Bandcamp page. So without any further ado, here it is! From  Harrisburg, Pennsylvania - the legendary Prostitutes!



-L.R.

https://www.facebook.com/tutespunk
http://theprostitutes1.bandcamp.com/

Monday, May 26, 2014

Living In Sin

Hollywood glam stars Prima Donna are currently in the middle of a European tour. In conjunction with this event, the great German label Wanda Records has issued a special tour single featuring two all-new recordings. And while it goes without saying that any Prima Donna record is worth buying, this one is especially hot! A-side "Living In Sin" falls on the poppier end of the glam/punk spectrum, and of course that sits just fine with me! With its punchy guitars and tuneful melodies, it could almost pass for a long lost Generation X track. I'm also reminded quite a bit of the late, dearly missed Beat Angels - especially in the vivid lyrical style. This is definitely one of those earworm type songs. Once it gets in your head, it's staying there! On the B-side, "Rubish" unleashes some glorious flamethrower sleaze a la Hanoi Rocks by way of the New York Dolls. Damn, that piano player is killing it! I really like the way the two sides of this single complement each other - perfect pop on the A-side and a furious blast of rock on the flip. All in all, this is a fine addition to Prima Donna's formidable body of work. 

Prima Donna has a few more dates in France this week and will finish up its tour at the Ruhrpott Rodeo Festival in Hunxe, Germany on Saturday. If you happen to reside in Europe, check the band's web site for tour dates. And you can purchase "Living In Sin" here! In the States, the title track can be downloaded over at CD Baby.



-L.R.

http://wandarecords.bandcamp.com/album/living-in-sin-ep
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/primadonna3
https://www.facebook.com/PrimaDonnaOfficial

Friday, May 23, 2014

New one from The Connection!

The Connection is back! F & L favorites from the beginning, New England's newest hitmakers have managed to be both prolific and consistently great over the last few years. And that's hard to do. They've especially hit their stride recently with a rockin' sound that bridges the gaps between the British Invasion, power pop, and the almighty Ramones. Out on King Yum Records, their new single "Don't Talk To My Baby" is an absolute must-own for anyone who loves rock n' roll. Legend has it that the title track was thrilling crowds on a nightly basis on The Connection's European tour last year. So one day mid-tour, the fellas had a day off and decided to hit the studio (Warmaudio in France) and record the song along with a couple of covers they'd been playing. Knowing what I know about this song and European rock n' roll fans (they're the best!), this story makes complete sense. Who wouldn't be stoked to witness The Connection rocking out this killer tune in a sweaty Spanish barroom? And they really captured that kind of energy in the studio with "Don't Talk To My Baby" - a Real Kids/Stones style rocker with a hook to hang your hat on and hot licks galore. If this number doesn't have you itching to hit the dance floor, you might want to check yourself for a pulse!

On the B-side, Brad, Geoff, and the gang do a crackling power pop version of The Boys' classic "First Time". I've heard this song covered a few times before, and every time it just made me want to hear the original. But I really like what The Connection did with this song. They put their distinctive Connection twist on it, so it comes off kind of sweet rather than ominous. And listening to this recording, one can easily understand why this cover goes over so well in a live setting. I love their treatment of the material, and I love the energy!

"Don't Talk To My Baby" is limited to 500 copies on colored vinyl. Order it now for $6, or get it along with the new Muck And The Mires 7" for a $10 bundle. As a bonus, fans can stream an unreleased second cover from the Warmaudio sessions over at The Connection's Bandcamp page - an awesome rendition of The Who's "The Kids Are Alright". Come on- what are you waiting for?!



-L.R.

http://kingyumrecords.bandcamp.com/album/dont-talk-to-my-baby-45
http://the-connection.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theconnectionRnR
https://www.facebook.com/pages/King-Yum-Inc/327809227368

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Retro Reviews: Material Issue - Freak City Soundtrack

I've gone on record calling Material Issue the greatest power pop band of all-time, and not once since have I felt like changing my mind. I'm sure if you polled hardcore Ish fans (myself included), International Pop Overthrow would be the overwhelming choice as the band's best album. But if there's any major flaw to IPO, it's that it's heavy on the pop but a little light on power. Second LP Destination Universe, in spite of mostly terrific songs, also lacks anything resembling a hard edge. For their third album, Jim Ellison and co. turned to a producer capable of harnessing the energy and punch of their legendary live shows. That individual was the great Mike Chapman - whose work with Sweet, The Knack, and Nick Gilder had been huge influences on the band's music. It was a match made in heaven, and not surprisingly the result was a classic pop/rock album. Sadly it was a classic pop/rock album released at the height of grunge mania, and it was such a massive commercial flop that it led to the band getting dropped by Mercury Records the very next year. It would be the last album that Material Issue would complete during Ellison's lifetime.

Considering that "Goin' Through Your Purse" and "Ordinary Girl" are two of Jim Ellison's finest achievements as a songwriter, the label's choice of the Green Pajamas cover "Kim The Waitress" as the lead single confounds me to this day. Ultimately, though, it probably made little difference. It was 1994, and there wasn't much salable about a band like Material Issue in the heyday of Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots. But two decades later, Freak City Soundtrack doesn't sound so much misplaced in time as it does genuinely timeless. Ellison, undeniably one of the most overlooked songwriters of his day, again delivered a fine collection of hook-laden odes to love and loss. And the trio never sounded better on record - Chapman punching up the guitars and drums and making those harmonies positively soar. From the first glorious drum-thump of "Goin' Through Your Purse", Freak City brings an entirely different vibe compared to the band's first two releases. While the album does have its share of tender moments (the lush "I Could Use You" is one of Ellison's most beautiful songs), overall it's the kind of high energy rock record that sounds great in the car on a warm sunny day. And it really showcases one of rock's great unheralded rhythm sections in Ted Asani and Mike Zelenko. If you were lucky enough to have seen Material Issue in concert, surely you'd say this is the one album of theirs that best captured their live essence.

While Freak City is by no means a stylistic departure from Material Issue's previous work, it really brings the influences of glam rock and Cheap Trick to the forefront (Rick Nielsen even makes a guest appearance!). And the massive sound elicited by Chapman only heightens the power of Ellison's voice and lyrics. If the songs aren't quite as brilliant as those on International Pop Overthrow, for the most part they're still very good. I made a lot of Material Issue compilation tapes back in the day, and the likes of "Help Me Land", "Funny Feeling", and "She's Going Through My Head" (originally a 7" track from early in the band's career) were always mainstays of those collections. "Goin' Through Your Purse" is my favorite Material Issue song. It's a classic Ellison tale of love doomed by mistrust and deception - with the tone of his voice conveying far more than mere words could say.

When Ellison tragically took his own life in 1996, Material Issue was in the process of shopping new material to record labels. Telecommando Americano, a compilation released in 1997, paired recordings for the unfinished fourth Material Issue album with the band's self-titled EP from 1987. We'll never quite know what that fourth album could have become if Ellison had lived to complete it. As is, Telecommando Americano features a couple of Ellison's finest songs in "Carousel" and "You Were Beautiful" and hints that the band was poised to continue in the edgier direction of Freak City Soundtrack. Considering that Material Issue is officially my fourth-favorite band of all-time, it goes without saying that I urge you all to check out this criminally overlooked group. Whether you start with International Pop Overthrow or Freak City Soundtrack isn't really important. Either way, you're going to want to own all the music this band ever made.




-L.R.

Monday, May 19, 2014

More from The Plain Dealers!

When I first came across the music of The Plain Dealers early last year, I was immediately taken with their snotty and ferocious old school punk sound. From the great city of Cleveland, these fellas give it to you raw and filthy with zero concessions to the last three decades of "progress" in underground music. And while there are a lot of bands around these days that are in some way informed by '77 punk music, The Plain Dealers are 100 percent the real deal. You could play "Terminal Darkness" for just about anyone and easily convince them that it was recorded 35 years ago. It was no surprise that No Front Teeth Records - maybe the best label out there - released the band's debut 7" and 12" in the U.K. The label quickly sold out of both titles, so now is the time to make your move on the unbelievably great "Terminal Darkness" 7". To call "Terminal Darkness" an "anthem" is probably a bit of an understatement! It's without doubt one of the classic American punk rock songs of recent years, and it's fortunate for all of us that NFT has released it as a single. Chic Dagger's vocals and lyrics are some of the most powerful I've encountered in a long time, and behind him is a band that flat-out destroys. The rhythm section is unstoppable, the guitars are on fire, and by the end of the song you will be waving your fist and shouting along like there's no tomorrow. In what it has to say about both one man's grim reality and the streets of Cleveland themselves, this is a song that makes a profound impression. I'm blown away!

B-side cut "Die With Me" is the perfect complement to the raging intensity of "Terminal Darkness". It's a gritty, epic slow burn with a truly anthemic chorus. Again, the subject matter isn't pretty - and that's precisely the point. The Plain Dealers walk these streets and live these songs. Like the city from which they hail, their music is tough as nails and not for the faint of heart. Rare are the bands that could come up with even one song this good. The Plain Dealers have delivered two on this record alone! Grab a copy of "Terminal Darkness" while you still can. In the States, you can order it from the band's web site. I believe the band still has a few copies of its first 7" and 12" as well. Go ahead: buy it all! And be on the lookout for "Don't Pull The Plug" - a new Plain Dealers 7" due out soon on NFT!




-L.R.

http://www.nofrontteeth.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/THE-PLAIN-DEALERS/183895095742
www.plaindealers.us
http://theplaindealers.bandcamp.com/

Friday, May 16, 2014

Get Cozy!

I've noticed an unusually large number of bands lately channeling The Raspberries by way of Sweet and the Bay City Rollers. My reaction to such a development is that it's freakin' AWESOME! Minneapolis's Cozy are the poster boys for this movement. And I mean that literally - schoolgirls all over the globe are plastering their bedroom walls with glossy images of these denim-clad heartthrobs. "Kiss Me Dummy" is Cozy's new single on Secret Mission Records, and of course you've got to have it! I like that these guys are bringing a '90s garage punk energy back to the glam/powerpop thing. Imagine if The Rip Offs or Supercharger had played teenybopper bubblegum pop. Or better yet, imagine if The Bobbyteens had been boys. Depending on your age, "Kiss Me Dummy" will have you either reminiscing about your own clumsy teenage conquests or plotting a bold move on your favorite hottie. Like all the best teen heartthrob bands, Cozy is clean cut on the surface but so filthy dirty at its core. You can probably surmise that B-side "Show And Tell" is not a song about an elementary school activity. I've given it a great deal of thought, and I think "Show And Tell" might actually be the hit here. It's a tough call, because "Kiss Me Dummy" is pretty darn great as well. But I just can't get the hook part to "Show And Tell" out of my head. It follows me wherever I go and brings constant merriment to my mundane existence. And if Cozy can so easily enthrall a 43-year-old man, then surely your nieces and daughters don't stand a chance. Resistance, as they say, is futile.



-L.R.

http://secretmissionrecords.com/
http://ilovecozy.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ilovecozy

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Keefs make an album!

Let the record show that The Keefs were the first band I ever reviewed for this blog. You can look it up: The Keefs were F & L post #1 back on June 9th, 2011. It's quite possible that if this band had never existed, I might have never resumed my writing "career" (it's up to you to decide whether that's a good thing or a bad thing!). Three years later, we've finally gotten a proper album from this fantastic band. And while its release has sadly coincided with these Delaware greats calling it a day, Better Late Than Never is everything I hoped for and then some.

The Keefs described their sound as "old school punk meets rootsy rock n' roll with power pop melodies and a heavy glam influence". If you think that sounds like just about the coolest band ever, then you and I are of the same mind! Taking inspiration from everyone from the Stones to Hanoi Rocks to The Ramones to Thin Lizzy to the Buzzcocks to Social Distortion, this band created the perfect mix of pop and punk and rock n' roll. There a couple of things I especially like about Better Late Than Never. One is that the band didn't go overboard in re-recording older songs. Outside of "Compromise" and "Lemonade" (which both kick all kinds of ass!), the material is entirely new to me. The other thing that really impresses me is that you can hear how far the band's songwriting had progressed from its early days. Better Late Than Never encompasses the broad range of The Keefs' influences and tackles a wide variety of musical styles. Perhaps I anticipated arena rock power pop greatness in the vein of the Biters ("Friends") and balls-out glam/sleaze extraordinaire ("Keefs A Go"). But a lot of these tracks were total surprises in an entirely good way. "Address Song" is Jam-caliber northern soul, and it's perhaps the band's catchiest song ever. With its massive hooks and broad appeal, "Talkin' To A Wall" is what those more recent Aerosmith radio hits should have sounded like. Album closer "My Crazy Is Crazier Than Your Crazy" is that rare acoustic number that doesn't come off like filler.

As unassailable as their influences were, The Keefs never allowed themselves to be defined by them. Dave Janney's gritty vocals and melodic lead guitar quickly distinguished the band from all the "typical" glam/punk outfits of the world. And when I think of The Keefs, the first thing that comes to mind is an amazing rock n' roll band with heart, soul, and incredible songs. While the very title of the album humorously suggests that Better Late Than Never was a long time coming, I'm just thrilled that it's finally seeing the light of day. The world needs to hear this music, and this will surely go down as one of the better albums released in 2014.



-L.R.

http://thekeefs.bandcamp.com/
http://www.reverbnation.com/thekeefs

Monday, May 12, 2014

A stunner from Sonic Avenues!

If you're into today's garage/punk/powerpop scene, Sonic Avenues are a band you ought to be well-acquainted with. Their 2012 release Television Youth is a true latter day standard of the style. But on its superb third album, Mistakes, this Montreal foursome has moved well past any genre pigeonholes and fully come into its own. Much like Dirtnap label mates Something Fierce, the Aves can no longer be discussed in terms of what bands they "sound like". This isn't to say that they have moved away from pop or punk. But they've found their own unique voice as a band, and Mistakes is by far their best album yet.

Mistakes is generally more of a pop record than Television Youth was, and perhaps the first thing most people will notice is that the Aves don't play the entire album at lightning speed. There are a couple of tunes that totally race, and there are moments in a few songs where the tempo is pushed to the brink. But for the most part, the band has taken its foot off the pedal and really given its signature hooks room to breathe. The melodies that were so pronounced on previous releases are even stronger now, and the band's songwriting has gotten far more sophisticated and just plain better. I think most great bands eventually reach this point in their history - where they discard any preconceived notions of what their music is "supposed" to sound like and just start making the music that they want to make. By no means is Mistakes going to alienate the band's current fan base. This is a Sonic Avenues album all the way. It builds on the foundation the group had already established and takes a big step forward. You'll hear the band playing fast and slow - sometimes within the same song. Some tracks have a bright, goodtime vibe to them, while others come off vaguely dark or melancholic. And although the songwriting is more refined and complex, from an energy standpoint absolutely nothing has been lost. This is still the perfect band to listen to while you're out having fun with your friends on a summer night. "Automatic" and "Teenage Brain" are as infectious and immediately satisfying as anything this band has ever done, and they'll quickly have you punching up the volume and singing along.

Mistakes is that rare achievement in punk/powerpop music - a break from formula that doesn't sacrifice an ounce of what made the band great in the first place. From the opening notes of the spectacular "Waiting for a Change", the band sounds amazing - exuding tightness, confidence, and a palpable joy for playing music. New bass player Chance Hutchison has elevated an already outstanding rhythm section, and the lead guitar work is well beyond anything you'd expect to hear on a "punk" record. Mistakes was self-produced by the band in singer Max's apartment, yet it sounds like it was made in the best studio money could buy. It's just an incredible record at every level. Songs like "Too Late" and "Wasted Summer" recall the band's prior sound but do so much more with it. And while '60s pop inspirations have been critical for the Aves from the beginning, tracks like "In Your Head" and "Lost and Found" revisit them with a maturity and evolved artistry that will surprise a lot of people. In this realm of music, some bands are best-suited to make the same record over and over. Thankfully, Sonic Avenues are not one of those bands.



-L.R.

https://dirtnaprecords.bandcamp.com/album/sonic-avenues-mistakes
https://www.facebook.com/SonicAvenues

Friday, May 9, 2014

Retro Reviews: The Alarm - Declaration

With hair bigger than Bono's ego and an anthemic, socially aware repertoire, The Alarm never really escaped the shadow of Clash and U2 comparisons. But unlike their Irish counterparts who merely thought their music had the power to alter the course of human history, this Welsh foursome was a legit heir to Strummer and company's warrior legacy. Declaration, The Alarm's 1984 full-length debut, was largely comprised of singles recorded throughout the band's infancy, and as such it burns with youthful idealism and a bold purpose bordering on pretension. Every song comes off like an intended anthem – the barnstorming set list closer that incites an enthralled crowd to go home and change the world, to overcome the forces that oppress by any means necessary. Such aspirations would be hard to stomach…if the songs weren't so freaking good! Who can manage to listen to "Sixty Eight Guns" and not want to immediately run out into the street and start kicking the oppressors' asses? Not I! With its rousing chorus and indelible melody, it's not just a call to arms – it's a great, even classic, rock n' roll song.

Previously a punk band out of Rhyl, Wales called Seventeen, The Alarm adopted a new moniker to go with an evolved sound and a more pronounced political angle. But while the Top 20 U.K. hit "Sixty Eight Guns" is an obvious nod to punk's high-powered indignation, much of the album favors an acoustic/folk approach that's more Dylan than Clash, more Woody Guthrie than The Jam. "Blaze of Glory" demonstrates that you don't need high voltage to make a soaring anthem, while "Tell Me" improves immensely upon the early U2 blueprint. And the songs that rock really rock. "Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke?" is like "Sixty Eight Guns" V.2; "Marching On" is pure jangly adrenaline. These anthems, while vague about specific social ills, call for a collective fight against all that ails the world. Lyrics about fighting the good fight and standing up against the powers-that-be abound - and with music this convincing, who could possibly resist joining The Alarm's army? Sign me up now! I'll grab my hairspray, cowboy boots, and weapon stockpile and meet you at the town square. Who are we fighting? Does it really matter?!

I've never been able to forgive U2 for its grandiose self-righteousness, yet the very same qualities about The Alarm have always struck me as endearing. Maybe that's because U2 never delivered a song as genuinely rousing and triumphant as "Sixty Eight Guns". Or maybe it's because The Alarm came off more like soldiers on the street than bloated messiah figures casting judgment from pearly thrones. The best "socially conscious" rock bands are the ones who'd be equally awesome if they were singing about girls or Twinkies instead – the ones who understand that great tunes will outlive even the most pressing social issues. Declaration, for all its naiveté and intended grandiosity, could be thoroughly enjoyed even by someone who didn't understand a word of English. While far from flawless, it's a terrific, exciting rock album that sounds surprisingly undated today. How often can you say that about an album issued on a major affiliated label in the early/mid '80s?

In the 30 years since the release of Declaration, The Alarm has continued to tour and make amazing records that have been largely ignored by the media and the music industry. If you get the chance to catch the band in concert, don't pass it up. And any and all recordings by The Alarm are worth buying. Declaration, of course, is the perfect place to start.



.

-L.R.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

More from Modern Pets!

I've previously talked about Secret Mission Records being one of the best new punk labels out there. I think it's high time I removed the "new" part and just said that S.M.R. is one the best punk labels out there, period! What blows me away about this label is that it manages to work with bands I already love and still exceed my expectations. The latest case in point is German dynamos Modern Pets. I've written about this band a couple times before, and I'm a huge fan. But their new single on S.M.R. blows away anything they've done to date! "B.I.Y.S." is your classic 45 RPM punk rock single - featuring an A-side smash hit and another great song on the flip. The title track is a hyperactive and insanely catchy blast of '77 pop/punk meets late '90s garage punk, with killer lead guitar work and a sing-along chorus that's guaranteed to have you pumping your fist. Talk about an anthem! If you don't know what "B.I.Y.S." stands for, you need to listen to more G.G. Allin.

Staying in that tuneful, ultra high energy vein, B-side cut "Sweet Frustration" is another jolt of pure awesomeness. These lads could have easily used this as an A-side for another record, but it's gotta be impossible to say no to a label on a secret mission. If these two songs are any indication of what's to come from Modern Pets, their best days are still ahead of them. And with mixing and mastering by Daniel Husayn at North London Bomb Factory, it's no wonder this release sounds so good! If you're already a Modern Pets fan, you're gonna go apeshit bananas for this single. And if you're still among the unconverted, well perhaps that's about to change!



-L.R.

https://www.facebook.com/modernpets
http://modernpets1.bandcamp.com/
http://secretmissionrecords.com/

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Speedozer!

Belgium's Speedozer totally live up to their name on their scorching debut album. You see that name, and you imagine a machine of sonic destruction wreaking havoc at breakneck speed. And that's exactly what you'll hear! Out on the always dependable Zodiac Killer Records, this self-titled long player will indeed destroy anything in its path. Speedozer play loud, high octane rock n' roll - and they do it with power, speed, and a ferocity that never lets up even for an instant. These dudes are pissed-off and primed to kill - and their weapons are pummeling riffs, red-hot guitar leads, bonecrushing bass lines, and relentlessly thumping drums. "Supercharged" tears out of the gates with pure speed and aggression - and at the point Speedozer is just getting started!

Like a punk rock Motorhead, these guys stay on the attack from wire to wire. They play every note of every song as if they're trying to obliterate everything and everyone they despise. How can they possibly play this fast and this tight? Are they even human? As advertised, they are a veritable rock n' roll war machine. And while a recording can never fully duplicate the experience of seeing a band tear it up live, this album is the next best thing. It's very true to the band's mission to keep rock n' roll where it belongs: in the underground clubs and dive bars where cheap beer flows and the women are as fast as the music. There's nothing better after a frustrating day of dealing with the shitty human race than blasting "Fuck Off n Die" at the highest possible volume. It's truly an instant classic - and proof that Speedozer have the songwriting chops to match their insatiable sonic fury. Mixing light speed thrillers such as "Don't Cheat On Me" and "Drugtrain" in with high voltage rock n' roll smokers like "Go Loose" and "Gonna Fuck Tonight", this album keeps the pedal to the metal but never grows repetitive. If you looked at the cover art and surmised that this band has to be fucking great, then you are 100 percent correct! You can buy the album on Amazon and iTunes under the title Supercharger, or order it on CD from Zodiac Killer. If you don't love it, you are not to be trusted!



-L.R.

http://www.zodiackillerrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/SPEEDOZER/201161766574448
https://soundcloud.com/speedozer

Friday, May 2, 2014

Introducing The Feels!

Given that he was largely responsible for one of my favorite albums of recent memory, Christian Stefos Migliorese is someone I always look forward to hearing from. He truly understands the fine art of crafting the perfect pop song. And on top of that, he's super talented. He could recite David Wright's advanced batting stats over a symphony of kazoos, and I'd want to hear it. The Feels, his latest project, is essentially a one-man band. It's been four years already since the final Tattle Tales release, and I've really missed hearing new music from Christian. Well, he's back with a mini-album called Dead Skin. And just as I anticipated, it's great! Without a doubt, this is his best work to date. If you're a power pop/pop-punk/indie pop geek like me, you've got to own this. 

I like that Dead Skin is a nice mix of welcome familiarity and pleasant surprises. Songs like "Dumb or 21" and "Maybe" prove Christian to still be a master of crunchy power pop with a '90s alt-rock sheen. I just love that "big" melodic sound. And when those choruses come in, it's as blissful as bacon. But for the most part, Christian seems more interested in evolving as an artist than he is in replicating past glories. On "Purple Heart", he attains new levels of sophistication and maturity in his craft. If you've been in an existential funk ever since Superdrag broke up, this song will make you feel a little better. "1-95 (In Another Life)" is the kind of song I wish they played on mainstream radio - pleasant guitar pop with hooks to die for and genuinely touching lyrics. If it doesn't become a huge hit, I might lose my faith in humanity. And "Glassy Eyed" absolutely blows me away. It's just really impressive to hear Christian adapt his talents for guitar based songwriting into the realm of electronic/ambient pop - and actually pull if off! I love the way the tone of the music matches the lyrics (or perhaps vice versa). This song is sexy and soulful and just so freakin' good.

I've always admired Christian Stefos Migliorese for his willingness to wear his heart on his sleeve. I would imagine that the (mostly) sad love songs comprising Dead Skin were written from personal experience. And you've got to appreciate an artist with the guts to put himself out there like that. Take a song like "When Things Were Good". It's just voice, words, and acoustic guitar. There's nothing to hide behind, and the simple purity of the song is something I find quite beautiful. "1-95 (In Another Life)" always gets me a little misty eyed, and I think it's because it speaks to me personally. Anyone can use the musical form to tell you that breakups are miserable. But hearing someone who's been burned over and over hold on to that little glimmer of hope in new love really resonates with me. This is what it's really like to fall for someone. There are no certainties or guarantees - just the promise of something totally amazing. Why do we humans continually subject ourselves to the wretched agonies of heartbreak? Because ultimately, love is always worth it. And at those desperate moments when we think that maybe it's not, we are fortunate to have bands like The Feels to soothe our souls.



-L.R.

http://igotthefeels.bandcamp.com/album/dead-skin
https://www.facebook.com/IgotTHEFEELS

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Safes are back!


Call 'em power pop, rock n' roll, garage, or whatever you want. Any way you slice it, The Safes have been one of the best bands out there for over a decade. The Chicago group's new album, Record Heat, is its first full-length in seven years and just its third overall. To say it was worth the wait seems like stating the obvious. Both live and in the studio, the brothers O'Malley always deliver the goods. They are supremely talented and criminally underrated. A title like Record Heat promises quite a bit. And given The Safes' previous body of work, it's no surprise that it totally comes through! It's definitely your soundtrack to fun times and enjoying life this summer. But by no means is it a mere rehash of the band's previous efforts. Patrick's production, in collaboration with seasoned pros Jim Diamond and Jason Ward, really plays up the '60s inspirations that have always been at the root of garage rock and power pop. And the songwriting is the band's most sophisticated to date - without sacrificing the big hooks and abundant energy you can always expect from The Safes. You can blast this record while you're partying with your friends on Saturday night, and it'll sound just as good when you're listening alone on your headphones Sunday morning.

While reference points such as Cheap Trick, The Kinks, and early Who still make a lot of sense when it comes to The Safes, Record Heat really showcases the unique artistry that sets this band apart from the typical purveyors of power pop. Every song sounds a little different, and from top to bottom the material is A-level quality. It seems like I have a different favorite track every day. Yesterday, it was "I Would Love To". Today, it's "Know It All". Tomorrow, it will probably be "Hopes Up, Guard Down". I love that at its most basic level, Record Heat is pure rockin' fun. Yet when you pay close attention to everything that's going on in these songs, it's like peeling off additional layers of awesomeness. As all the top garage bands do, The Safes draw from the classic sounds of the '60s and prove them to be timeless rather than dated. In both production and songwriting ("Ace For A Face", "Hot Pursuit"), this album takes the psychedelic tinges of the band's last album and develops them more fully. That adds even more variety to a great mix of song styles. The rockers ("The Wide Open Sky", "Erased From History") are sheer adrenaline, and the pure pop songs ("K.O.", "Know It All") just might be the band's catchiest to date. Once the melody to "I Would Love To" gets into my head, I know it's going to be there all day.

Having loved both of the previous LPs from The Safes, I was certainly expecting Record Heat to be something special. And if you've ever seen or heard The Safes yourself, you probably had similar expectations. I guess that's the curse of greatness - once you set a precedent for excellence, you can't come up short! But honestly, I think this is the best collection of songs the band has ever delivered. And by far, this is the best-produced Safes album yet. Given the rising popularity of garage pop, I definitely think this album will broaden the Safes' fan base while completely delighting their existing following. Vinyl is out on the esteemed Wee Rock Records. And in typical Safes fashion, the O'Malleys will be touring for a solid month in support of this brand-new release. Check out their web site for dates!



-L.R.

https://www.facebook.com/thesafesmusic
http://www.weerockrecords.com/