Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Suicide Notes - Is That You?

If you remember me totally flipping my shit over The Suicide Notes, you would have to be a long-time follower of this blog. That initial review was six years ago - the launch year of F & L. Honestly, I can't believe I'm still at it. Even better, The Suicide Notes are still at it as well! Out on Hovercraft Records, Is That You? is absolutely the smash hit debut album I was anticipating back in 2011. I'm a little late to the party on this one, so thanks to the band for dropping me a line and letting me know the album was out!

As far as I know, Is That You? is the first new music from The Suicide Notes in five years. While there have been a couple of lineup changes over the years, the harmonized vocals of Jessi "Lixx" Garver and Anna "Double A" Andersen remain the signature feature of this Portland, Oregon based outfit. And with drummer Tim Connolly (Epoxies, Sex Crime), bassist John Cox (Satan's Pilgrims, Pynnacles), and guitarist Petey J. Cool (Pure Country Gold) rounding out the lineup, The Suicide Notes fully qualify as a Portland punk supergroup. Is That You? is the full realization of all of the things I dug about The Suicide Notes from the start. The band still sounds like "a macabre Shangri-Las with a punk edge", and on this release those punk and girl group inspirations mix wonderfully with a number of additional influences. Of course those harmonies are to die for, and anyone who loves upbeat pop with a punch needs to be all over this record. Yet what I like best about the band is how cheerful the songs sound until you realize how dark and frequently twisted the lyrics are! "Baby Doll" feels especially poignant in our current social climate, and you can probably deduce that "Mutha Fuckin' Love" isn't exactly an upper. But I wouldn't have it any other way! It's hard to pinpoint standout tracks since the record is so consistently good. I will say, however, that the mix of musical styles is really satisfying. The album takes you on a non-stop thrill ride covering everything from exhilarating bubblegum punk ("Critic") to full-on '60s garage action ("Ghost") to classic girl group dramatics ("Back and Forth") to new wave pop/punk goodness ("Is That You?", "Velvet Crime"). It all adds up to an album that's super fun but by no means lightweight!

A debut album from The Suicide Notes may have been a long time coming, but boy did the band ever knock this thing out of the park! From the singing to the songwriting to the musicianship, the talent this band possesses is truly remarkable. You can bet that Is That You? will secure a spot in my year-end top ten!


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

La Femme and Band-Maid

Review by Mike Kimmel

Not exactly sure what's going on here. It's a bit confusing. Even though I've previously proclaimed a growing love for French rock bands (in addition to my existing affection for Australian and Canadian rock bands), three of the last five CDs I've purchased don't have English vocals.

To be fair, one of the CDs is by Hawkwind (Warrior on the Edge of Time – purchased because it has the last tune Lemmy wrote for the band and where his later band's name came from: Motörhead). So that might be in a foreign language, but no one can really tell for sure.

Well, it's actually four of the last six CDs I've bought if you count the Mireille Mathieu Chante Piaf CD that I bought just for background to an upcoming Sparks piece (already in progress).

Two CDs by a French band named La Femme and one by an all-girl Japanese band named Band Maid. Which to do first? Which to do first? How about the two CDs by the French group La Femme?

Good idea! This surprised me quite a bit for two reasons. First, it seems at first blush that the music is kind of dance/trance. Something about the samples on convinced me to look a bit deeper into the band. And the more I listened, the less I could resist.

The music is described as synthetic and hypnotic on their page at Wikipedia. OK! I wasn't far off with the dance/trance thing, right?

Maybe. Maybe not. That page goes on to list their influences as the Velvet Underground (always been something of a Lou Reed fan), Kraftwerk (loved Autobahn years ago), and a mixture of coldwave, punk, and yéyé. Elsewhere they're described as "French psychedelic rock group La Femme".

GREAT! I just figured out what shoegaze was. Now they spring two more genres on me without even asking. For anyone unfamiliar with coldwave and yéyé (as was I): coldwave is further explained as post-punk, and yéyé is a poppish category with similarities drawn to Beatlesque tunes and their "Yeah, yeah" leanings.

I ordered the MP3 version of the CDs – for two reasons, actually. I'm running out of room on my CD rack, which is about 6' by 6' of CDs. That's after removing all of my various artist collections to make room for all of my other CDs. Next, I'm cheap. I wasn't sure that I'd like them enough to make room in the collection for them.

"Où va le monde" is the third track from Mystère (Translates to "Where the world goes"). This track, as well as other spots through both releases, sounds almost psych/surf. Some is near dance-type music. Much is rock or pop-ish.

All of it is good. No matter what genre, the lyrics are sung in French. And there are male and female vocalists. I've discovered that I have a much easier time listening to females singing/speaking in French. Perhaps that's due in large part to a brief interlude about 2:11 into "The Funky Western Civilization" from the Life in the Foodchain release by artist Tonio K. See if you can catch it here:

"The Funky Western Civilization"

The Tonio K. reference above is a bonus "best music you've never heard" tip provided absolutely gratis! I would heartily encourage you to listen to several of the other tunes you'll find on that page. You may have never heard of Tonio K., but if you remember the tune "Nobody Lives Without Love" from the Batman Forever soundtrack, Tonio K. is credited on that track. He's also written songs that have been recorded by Al Green, Aaron Neville, Burt Bacharach, Bonnie Raitt, Chicago, Wynonna Judd, Vanessa Williams, and many others.

Finally, my last shameless plug for Mr. K. – He is good friends with Charlie Sexton and has co-written several songs WITH Sexton as well as several songs FOR Sexton releases. Sexton occasionally refers to "…my close friend, Tonio K…." during live performances.

Back to the original topic. For a better idea of the band La Femme, here are videos of a couple of my favorite tracks so far:



The rating of "favorite tracks so far" is, of course, subject to rapid and frequent change without notice.

Be advised that you may find the videos odd. I found them interesting. I know it doesn't hurt that I'm also enjoying the music. But watching a non-cookie-cutter music video is refreshing any way you look at it.

On to the next CD release with mostly non-English lyrics. The title is Brand New Maid by the Japanese band Band-Maid. I've mentioned repeatedly that I have a proclivity for paying attention to female bands or female led bands. I think I do so for similar reasons that I've developed an affinity for Canadian, Australian, and now French bands.

As for the female/female-fronted bands, I  think it has to do with the respect I feel they're due for sticking with it long enough to overcome the obstacles thrown in their paths. I have to admit, the CD cover is an attention-getter as well:

From the opening track of the CD, I was impressed. Actually, from the 30-second snippets provided by, I was impressed. Once I had the CD, I started to enjoy it quite a bit. In fact, I liked it enough that I tracked down and bought another of their CDs – Just Bring It.

Several things leap to mind. As a bass player, please allow me to say that I HATE THEIR BASS PLAYER! The girl plays a five-string bass better and with more imagination than I play a four-string! The drummer has to have calves and thighs like a linebacker with all of the bass drum work she does.

As you'll see in the videos, they're all more than at home in front of an excited crowd, and the lead singer knows how to get the most out of them.

Some folks might claim that "…we've heard it all before". I don't think that's the case at all. However, even if it does sound a bit like this band and maybe a little like that one (there are times, for the record, they remind me something of a young Iron Maiden), that's not a disqualifier. There's even one song (honest to goodness) that sounds like a metal version of a rock tune a band I was with in the mid-'80s wrote.

OK, yes, it's a heavier and more talented version with Japanese lyrics, but the second track on the CD – "Look At Me" – sounds a bit like what we did years ago with our song "Barn Burner". Yeah, there are more tempo changes than we had as well. Sue me.

Check a few of the videos of the band and see if you agree. I think you'll enjoy it – the music is good, they include an English lyric sheet in the CD, and they just look like they're having a blast being a band.



"Look At Me" 

The band consists of the same five members who started in 2013. There have been a few songs released. As far as CD releases, Brand New Maid is the second release of 2017. The first, back in January of this year, was titled Just Bring It.

Here's the first track from the Just Bring It release titled "Don't You Tell Me".

I've heard that there's also a DVD in existence, and I can't help but think that would be interesting to say the least.

The five members, as near as I can guesstimate, are in the area of 20 or so years of age. Interestingly, the members knew each other through the "six degrees" concept. The singer knew the guitarist, who knew a drummer, who had been in a band with the bassist, and so on.

If you'd like, you should have an opportunity to see them live. March of 2016 saw them perform in their first ever U.S. concert in Seattle, Washington. Later that year (November), they embarked on a tour that took them through Mexico, parts of Europe, and Hong Kong, China, before returning to Japan to finish. It looks like their plans include expanding their touring territory.

-Mike Kimmel 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hyness - "Choke"

One of my favorite things about doing this blog is being able to hear exciting new bands. In this digital age of music, it's entirely possible for a band to record a song and immediately share it with the world. You could argue that that's not always a good thing, but to me the positives of this situation far outweigh the negatives. Take, for example, Hyness out of Kitchener, Ontario. I'm glad the world didn't have to wait months or even years to hear this band's amazing song "Choke". This is without doubt one of my favorite songs of the year, and I can understand why the band is so excited to release its first EP. Remember alternative rock when it was still cool? That's what "Choke" brings to mind. With its dense guitars and shoegazy vibe, it practically transports me to 1993. Man, those guitars sound amazing! And the lyrics are really good and dark in a totally fascinating way. I could easily have slotted this song between Sugar and The Breeders on one of the mixed tapes of my youth. This is absolutely a download worth spending a dollar on. I can't wait to hear more!


Monday, December 11, 2017

Dr. Boogie - "She's So Tuff"

When I reviewed the new Sweet Things single last month, I mentioned that Spaghetty Town Records would be following that release with yet another killer 45. I was talking about a new single from L.A.'s Dr. Boogie - another band that perfectly fits Spaghetty Town's sleazy rock n' roll profile. "She's So Tuff" is the band's second 7" and makes a great addition to a discography that also includes a self-released CD EP and an LP on Dead Beat Records. The A-side is chock full of glam/hard rock swagger and boasts a hook I just can't get out of my head. The tune clocks in at just a hair under four minutes, but don't let the moderate tempo fool you. This one's a rocker! Those guitars are absolutely ripping, and Chris delivers a hard-edged vocal that's perfectly suited to the song. My first impression was that I was reminded of Rose Tattoo. That can only be a good thing! B-side "Peanut Butter Blues" is more in the band's Stones/Dolls inspired signature style, and it will be well known to fans. It was originally released earlier this year as a digital-only single, and now it finally makes it onto record. So this is literally a single with two A-sides!

In recent years, Dr. Boogie has received considerable acclaim as one of the bright new hopes for real deal rock n' roll. I would not argue with any of the rave reviews, and now I gladly enter one of my own. If you're looking for a nice taste of what Dr. Boogie (or Spaghetty Town Records) is about, press that play button and prepare to be rocked!


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cheap Trick review series: All Shook Up (1980)

Review by Mike Kimmel

The '80s were arguably the heyday for that l'il ol' band from Rockford; Cheap Trick. During that decade, the band released six LPs: All Shook Up, One on One, Next Position Please, Standing on the Edge, The Doctor, and Lap of Luxury.

We could try to sneak Dream Police in with them, as it was released on September 21, 1979; just a little bit before the decade we shall refer to as "the '80s", mainly because that's what they were.

Since the Cheap Trick review series here at Faster and Louder has already discussed Next Position Please and One on One, pick number three is in the batter's box and the #4 selection is in the on deck circle.

The album cover was simply, psychotically cool. I can't think of another way to put it. An airborne train some feet above an airborne train track are the initial eye-catchers, but closer inspection reveals a few additional facts.

Rick Nielsen is opening the door that allows the train to enter. The gap implies that the train is emanating from the nose on the face of a woman whose head appears to be about half as tall as our heroes. Robin Zander is straddling the tracks and appears concerned.

Tom Petersson is dressed in a white suit, and Bun E. Carlos is in a hat and hapless detective trenchcoat-type attire. What does this have to do with the content of the album? I'm, ahhh, not sure.

For openers we have "Stop This Game". Again with the relationship stories, eh? ("Eh." That's a hockey term.) His relationship with her was like music. "I changed. You didn't. And I can't stop the music. I could stop it before. Now I don't want to hear it. Don't want to hear it no more."

Track two – wherever he was, he was apparently there for far too long, but now he "Just Got Back". Through the tune “It wasn’t my idea…”
A. Didn't pull the trigger.
B. Didn't point the finger.
C. What the doctor figured.
D. All of the above.

The correct answer is D. It's a really good song. And like many of the Cheap Trick quick-hit rockers, it's short.

Actually, on the original release of All Shook Up, there were 10 tunes and combined they accounted for 33 minutes and 53 seconds of your life. Not near long enough for the quality of the songs you were likely to encounter. Details of the reissue to follow the description of track 10 here!

Robin Zander handles the vocals again, and again he's all over the place. With a range like that, why in the world would he NOT be? Just trying to warn anyone who might object to an occasional screamed lyric (SPOILER ALERT! I'll be talking about that again this time around, too!).

Having just gotten back seems an appropriate time to rediscover the fact that "Baby Loves to Rock". More and more he's thinkin' 'bout love, but love ain't all he's thinkin' of.

"More and more I'm thinkin' bout s-s-s-sex. The more I get, the worse it gets." But then Zander assures us that his baby loves to rock and describes where – and where NOT.

"In the morning, in the evening. In the summer, in the winter. In my car, in the night, in an airplane. Not in Russia!" You might recognize the sound and mention of "airplane" while listening to your balalaikas ringing out and keeping your comrade warm.

"Can't Stop it But I'm Gonna Try" is about him leaving her or her leaving him…or him finding out about her and her new boyfriend; maybe all of them. This tune – from 1980 – uses the phrase "long time comin'". Their 2017 CD We're All Alright not only borrows the title phrase from the ending of "Surrender", it also recycles the "long time comin'" phrase from a mere chorus inclusion to a full-fledged song title on the 2017 release.

Yes, a lot of people think I'm weird for picking out things like that, so go ahead and pile on if you'd like.

"World's Greatest Lover"? Yes, same thing here. Think back to one of the first songs for which Tom Petersson did the vocals – "I Know What I Want" (from the immediately previous album Dream Police). "You're the world's greatest lover…" That just struck me as odd as All Shook Up was the last album on which Petersson appeared before he left the band for his solo effort.

It's the same theme here but different verbiage. He's been on the road, and now he's coming home to the world's greatest lover in his word.

"High Priest of Rhythmic Noise" is really odd. It has the really processed robot voice for most of the vocals, a psychotic keyboard running loose in the background, and some extremely cool lyrics.

"If the song don't change the choir won't sing. Won't sing the same song forever." I think here he's talking about the fact that he's just a singer in a mind choir (I hope Nielsen's mind choir has a psychiatrist traveling with them).

"Don't stand up, shut up, sit down. You're strange – that's what I like."

"Love Comes A-Tumblin' Down" is supposed to be a tribute of sorts to Bon Scott – the frontman of AC/DC up to the Back In Black album, who had recently died. Cause of death is debated, but the lyrics here claim "Not a pretty picture when the body was found".

"I Love You Honey But I Hate Your Friends" has more of that damned Zander screaming stuff in it. Y'know, I find it terribly odd that some complain about that with Zander, but in some of the Cheap Trick tunes (like this one BIG time!), he'll do a screaming sort of vocal and he sounds like some singers who actually built very successful careers on just that type of vocal. Singers like, oh, say… ROD STEWART!

In fact, "I Love You Honey" is really reminiscent of the Stewart tune "Hot Legs", which came out in 1977 – three years before All Shook Up was released.

"I love you, honey, but I hate your friends. I love you, honey, but they'll be the end of me. Oooo yeah! I love you honey, but I hate those friends!"

"Let's see, there's Miss Tique and Miss Informed. General Disaster, Mister Know-it-all. Missus A Lot and Private Stock. Corporal Punishment 'bout to blow his mind. Mister Mock, Mister Completely, Miss de Plot, Miss Story…"

She's got even more friends with odd names, and he hates 'em all.

"Go For The Throat (Use Your Own Imagination)" is, I suppose, as opposed to using someone else's imagination.

Nielsen uses the title of the Stranglers tune "(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)" partway through, and then "I do it alone (you just give me idle conversation)." You'll have to decide what it's about.

For the original release, the last track is the Bun E. Carlos-penned tune "Who D'King". Marching band drums, excited marching band and crowd noises in the background, and the repeated lyric "Who d'king of de whole wide world?" Description does not do the song justice. It's actually a pretty toe-tapping l'il ditty.

In 2006, All Shook Up was reissued with five new songs in the lineup.

First up is "Everything Works if You Let It" from the Roadie soundtrack. Back in the days when vinyl was king, the only way I knew of to get this was on a 12" EP. Yes, of course I had it! Now, it's nice to have it included on a CD so you don't have to juggle things just to listen to one tune.

Cheap Trick also released an entry into the 10" "Nu-Disk" sweepstakes. The Nu-Disk was supposed to be the next big thing because it gave the fans something more than was available on just a 7" 45RPM single, but didn't cost as much as a full 12" LP. At one point as a rabid vinyl collector, I had about 30 different Nu-Disks. But that's all I could find. They never took off like they were supposed to. Of course the arrival of the CD didn't help the 10" marketing maneuver very much, either.

But Cheap Trick and their 1980 release Found All The Parts was a part of my near-10,000 LP collection at one time. It had only four tracks; two slower tunes, one remake, and one that sounded like it might have been a remake.

The live, shorter version of The Beatles' "Day Tripper" appears on Found All The Parts. It's very good, and it's the live version, but it's only 3:41 long. Some of us Cheap Trick purists like the lengthier take better.

"Can't Hold On" is up next. I'm trapped in a conundrum here. One of my all-time favorite bands is, was, and probably always will be Cheap Trick – and that's stood since 1977. From their Nu-Disk, I like one song, sorta like one, and kinda dislike the remaining two. No idea why, but here's the ranking:

I already mentioned that I enjoy their remake of "Day Tripper", so that surprise was spoiled.

I don't care for "Can't Hold On". It's not really bad. It's kinda of a foray into the blues, it's a live track, and you can tell it's Cheap Trick. It's just not a style for which I particularly care.

The fourth track from the Found All The Parts Nu-Disk, "Take Me I'm Yours", is in similar dire straits. Definitely Cheap Trick and definitely talented, but I don't care for the style.

"Such A Good Girl" rounds out the release (actually as track number three), and it's a good tune and very much a Beatle-esque effort.

No, I'm sorry. I wish I could come up with a shorter and less annoying way to reference a Beatles similarity, but I can't. Trust me. I've tried!

If you're interested in adding All Shook Up to your collection, be sure to look for the reissue. That way, you'll kill three birds with one stone: the album, the EP from the Roadie soundtrack, and the Nu-Disk.

-Mike Kimmel

Monday, December 4, 2017

Justine and The Unclean - Get Unclean

It was still the scorching summer when I first teased the debut album from Justine and the Unclean. Now here we are just three weeks from Christmas, and I am happy to report that the album is out on Rum Bar Records. I must say it's every bit as good as I expected! To review: Justine and the Unclean are comprised of major players in Boston's garage/punk/rock n' roll scene. Justine is Justine Covault (Malachite, Grand Theft Auto, Quest For Tuna) on guitar and lead vocals. The rest of the band is Janet Egan King (Malachite, Heidi, Swank, Tulips) on bass/backing vocals, Charles Hansen (Rock Bottom, Tom Baker & the Snakes, Gymnasium, The Handymen) on lead guitar, and the legendary Jim Janota (Upper Crust, The Bags, Rock Bottom) on drums. The story behind this record is that Covault went on a year-long songwriting binge and entered the studio with over 50 songs - many of them love songs of the particularly painful variety. Just nine of them ended up on the album, which was recorded by Dave Minehan at Woolly Mammoth Sound in Watham, Massachusetts and mastered by the illustrious Danny the K. With all of these principles involved, Get Unclean is a true testament to the immense musical talent that Boston rock currently enjoys.

Get Unclean largely follows the blueprint of the previously-heard tracks "Love Got Me Into This Mess" and "Passive Aggressive Baby" (both included on the album). Imagine your favorite Buzzcocks songs with a harder edge and sassier singer! If you like punky pop songs with big hooks and fantastically bitter lyrics, you should be all over this record. But there are a couple of additional things that this band brings to the table. One is Covault's singing voice, which is really unique and tremendously appealing. On top of that, the band has serious rock chops which Minehan wisely played up in his production. Songs like "Bring Me Fire" and "Worry Stone" kick some serious arena rock ass (Joan Jett fans will dig!). Elsewhere those blazing guitars and thundering drums (I mean, come on, it's Jim freaking Janota!) allow the band to put the power in power pop. "Can't Pretend I Don't Know" is the pop/punk/rock track of your dreams, while "I'm In Love With You, Jackass" incorporates some country twang in a most wonderful way.

All in all, Get Unclean is a terrific debut album from a band I hope we haven't heard the last of. Covault is a fine songwriter with smarts and likability to spare. And boy, does her band ever bring the rock! That Rum Bar winning streak remains very much in tact.


Friday, December 1, 2017

First Base - Not That Bad

With exactly one month to go until the end of 2017, my album of the year picture just got way more complicated. I sure am not complaining! Not That Bad is the second LP from First Base, out now on Drunken Sailor Records. And that title is the understatement of the year! You'd have to look far and wide to find an album that's more up my alley than this one. It's the perfect union of pop and punk, emphasizing the former without skimping on the latter. This album is about as pop as it gets - but in an entirely kick-ass way. It's as if the past 35 years never existed and First Base took its cues directly from the almighty Ramones. If you ever wished that Teenage Fanclub had taken copious amounts of speed and decided to be a punk band, Not That Bad is definitely the album for you. The hooks just keep on coming and coming, with no song surpassing three minutes. Tracks like "Crybaby", "Eastchester Avenue", and "Dumber By the Day" are super-satisfying blasts of buzzsaw punk with bubblegum melodies. If the Undertones were the Irish Ramones, "Judy" has me thinking that First Base might be the Canadian Undertones! And when the band slows it down and goes for more of a straight power pop sound ("Sandra", "Not That Bad"), the results are spectacular.

Whether you call it poppy punk or punky pop, Not That Bad is the best album of its kind I've encountered in a damn long time. I will be giving it heavy consideration for album of the year. And label of the year is looking like a stone cold lock for Drunken Sailor!


Monday, November 27, 2017

Watts - All Done With Rock n Roll

Today we've got a free single from Watts titled "All Done With Rock n Roll". Thankfully, Watts is most definitely not all done with rock n' roll! Here Watts accept that the glory days of rock n' roll bands packing stadiums and selling millions of records have long since passed. Fittingly, the song brings to mind a time when thundering guitars and a big chorus were the perfect recipe for commercial success. This is up there with the catchiest songs Watts has ever written. That hook is so simple, yet impossible to resist. And I love those Queen-like stacked vocals at the end!

If you love classic rock and lament that music like that isn't being made anymore, treat yourself to this free single from Watts and consider checking out the band's full catalog. Rock n' roll didn't die - it just went underground!


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Criminal Kids - "Outcast"

Oh man, do I ever have a smasher for you today! Criminal Kids are a punk rock band out of the south side of Chicago, and they recently put up a free digital single on Bandcamp featuring songs from their upcoming self-titled release. "Outcast" is nothing short of a sonic kick in the teeth - blending tough & aggressive punk rock with a heavy injection of rock n' roll. Whatever volume you usually set for your digital music needs to be adjusted upward, because this track begs to be cranked loud! With its ripping leads, pummeling riffs, and ferocious vocals, "Outcast" is an absolute monster. And it contains really good lyrics about class differences that rear their head even within a scene of seemingly like-minded individuals. If you pass up a free download on this bad boy, you are nuts! "Night" is a cover of a song by The Exit - a great but largely unknown late '70s Chicago punk group. It's a true tip of the cap to one of the bands that paved the way for Chicago punk rock, and of course it's an absolutely blistering rendition!

If you could imagine what a punk band from Chicago's south side ought to sound like, Criminal Kids are it! If you're like me, this free single will have you excited to hear the entire self-titled release!


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ray Davies - Americana

Review by Mike Kimmel

There's something I find terribly endearing about Ray Davies. I don’t know if it's something in his attitude that comes across, or something in his lyrics. Maybe it's just the turn of a phrase, the addition of an unexpected vocal presence. I really have no idea, but I do like him enough that I've written a song entitled "I Want to Be Like Ray Davies". It'll be on my first album (yeah, whenever that comes out)!

For instance, in the title track he's talking about "…my baby brother and me in the land of the free…" taking some road somewhere. They have no idea where it goes, but "…it's gonna take us somewhere". The title is "Americana", which he refers to at least once as "Amer-i-nirvana" because he wants to make his "…home where the buffalo roam in that great panorama."

He's got a home in New Orleans, and through Americana he mentions a couple of Americanisms such as "Big Sky" (Montana) and "Moon" (Kentucky) several times. I know. Pretty vague, but the context in which the words are used will help explain a bit more clearly.

I was fortunate enough to see the Kinks years ago with Ray and Dave Davies, Mick Avery with his candy cane striped drumsticks. It was a great show. John Mellencamp opened. Of course, that was years before his bass player wound up wanted on child pornography warrants out of Taiwan (that's not made up – how bad do you have to be if Taiwan issues child porn warrants against you?).

At one point, Ray Davies – obviously the focal point of the band – said that he'd been described recently as a homosexual alcoholic. "Well I'd like to make one thing perfectly clear right now. I haven't had a drink in weeks!", and then brother Dave launched into the title track from the Low Budget release.

Regarding the other point… The man was dating Chrissie Hynde, fercryinoutloud!

Another sidebar, which I'm sure someone may have noticed I'm pretty good at. Did you know that while visiting New Orleans, Louisiana in 2004, while Davies and a friend (Suzanne Despies) were walking down a street when a vehicle pulled up beside them, one occupant got out and demanded Despies's purse. She gave him the purse, and the schmuck ran. Davies chased him and got a bullet in the leg for his trouble.

In case you're wondering if justice is alive and well in The Big Easy, it looks a bit dim on that front. Not only was Davies criticized by local gendarmerie, but the aforementioned ‘schmuck’ has admitted his involvement in the crime and the prosecutor’s office has still twice dropped the case. WAY TO KEEP THE BAD GUYS OFF THE STREETS, GENTS! (To be fair, he probably shouldn't have chased the guy.)

OK, back to Americana. It's got an overall cowboy-referenced theme that occasionally pops up, and the songs are generally about what tends to happen as you age. There is inevitably some disillusionment.

That disillusionment can be with regard to personal relationships, your view of other relationships, and your initial beliefs about a person, place, or thing. In the case of Americana, I think Davies addresses all of these things. He begins by chasing The American Dream. And by the time the CD has finished, he realizes that someone somewhere had misunderstood or misrepresented something.

The objective behind the efforts of recording artists is often to "land a deal", and that's what track number two is about. Again, the lyrics show an astute understanding of the situation, which explains the disillusionment there as well.

"Isn't it marvelous, fraudulent, bogus and unreal? Today I'm a bullshit millionaire, feeling really fake. Pretending to be somebody while the credit's good. Go out to LA, strike myself a deal and be part of the American dream."

Vocal ranges approaching tenor have never been Davies's forte, but with his unique interpretations it never really mattered. Higher ranges still seem to be the only area he has any trouble with, and it doesn't seem to have gotten any less apparent with age. Again, it doesn't matter. Any faltering just seems to fit and make the lyrics seem even more like a storyteller as much as a singer. Davies is good at both.

My favorite track – at least for right now – is number three: "Poetry". A relationship just starting out is filled with mystery, excitement, and all kinds of intangibles. Those things are summed up IN "Poetry" AS poetry. He and his significant other spent time reading poetry out loud to each other. Then, she left for a wealthy guy better able to care for her material needs and "…she settled for someone who's not so hard to please; without all the fire and desire and the mystery. But I ask myself ‘Where is the poetry?'"

Keyboardist Karen Grotberg provides backing – and sometimes accompanying – vocals on a few songs. She's got a very good voice, either alone or when played against Davies's voice in their trade-off vocal tunes.

Other tracks and a very brief summary of each (brief, because I don't want to ruin the story, and every track on the CD is incorporated into the story) follows.

In "Message from the Road", the inevitabilities of extended, distant travel and life on the road are discussed, and the message carried in "A Place in Your Heart" is much the same.

"The Mystery Room" is just about life in general: start to (near?) finish. 'Yeah, my heart's still beating. Yeah, there’s no retreating."

A bit of a tip of the hat to an old friend follows in the track "Silent Movie", where the timelessness of music is briefly discussed.

Next up, "Rock 'n' Roll Cowboys on the ol' wagon train. You've had your time but it won't come again." "Your time's passed, now everyone asks for your version of history."

Personally, I think the next tune - "Change for Change" – outlines the progression of do-gooders from the initial phase of honestly wanting to help and trying to help to an eventual phase where they realize the effort is wasted, the point is moot, and now it's about them rather than everyone else.

"The Man Upstairs" is a person who accidentally helped Davies write the song that was rumbling around in his head at 3AM.

Discussed in "I've Heard That Beat Before" is a somewhat soured take on relationships coupled with the fact that no matter where we are or how different we are, we're also all a lot more alike than maybe we want to admit.

"A Long Drive Home to Tarzana" reflects on a drive or a walk or a something we've all participated in that winds up as an uncomfortable companionship – at least for the time being.

Do you have any mistaken ideas about anything? Any dreams you had – impressions of how a thing or a place would be? That's what Davies sorts through in "The Great Highway".

"The Invaders", on the other hand, takes the listener back to what may have been the first great disillusionment of the musician in love with and searching for the great American dream. Give it a listen. You'll see what I mean.

And finally, the 15th track finishes off the latest story in Ray Davies catalog. "Wings of Fantasy" also caps off the story that the whole CD has just told. It's where the end credits would probably run had this been a movie.

I always stick around till the end credits finish. It drives some people crazy, but I always want to see who did what, and I ALWAYS like to see who was involved in creating the soundtrack that set the tone for the movie I just watched.

Davies is able to tell a story and run the end credits without the listener ever having seen a thing. Some people can do that; tell a story with such imagination, feeling, and imagery that you feel like you've seen a movie.

You haven't. You've just been fortunate enough to have heard Ray Davies just doing his thing again.

-Mike Kimmel

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Crazy Squeeze - Savior of the Streets

Damn you, Crazy Squeeze, for making an album so utterly perfect that I lost sleep over the decision of which tracks I should embed in this review! Savior of the Streets, The Crazy Squeeze's long-awaited sophomore LP, is out now as a digital release with vinyl coming next month on Disconnected Records in the U.S.A. and Wanda Records in Europe. With most albums (even really good ones), I can come up with a pretty good idea of which songs are "the hits". But Savior of the Streets is basically nothing but hits. It's all-killer, no-filler from the opening note to the final strains. And while the "every song's a hit" cliche has been a mainstay of my reviews for years, I will gladly fight anyone who doubts its accuracy in the case of this album!

The Crazy Squeeze is that rare case of a supergroup that's been so good for so long that it no longer feels right to call it a supergroup. These days, we talk less about these guys' other bands and more about the amazing records they've been churning out as The Crazy Squeeze. Comparing Savior of the Streets to the group's self-titled debut from 2012, I hear a band that today has a much more fully developed idea of who it is and what kind of music it wants to make. While the term "pub rock" has definite associations with a specific place and time in music history, The Crazy Squeeze has reinvented the term in a broader sense. Its version of pub rock is the perfect mix of glam-influenced '77 punk and pure old style rock n' roll - with hooks that would be the envy of just about any pop band. Somehow the band sounds both tougher and catchier on this release - a bona fide leading contender for my 2017 album of the year.

With the track selection alternating between Johnny's songs and Frankie's songs, Savior of the Streets is an album that really highlights how well their contrasting styles complement each other. They each bring something a little different to the table, but it all ends up sounding like The Crazy Squeeze. And while this is generally a more cohesive album than the last one, that doesn't mean that every song sounds the same. These 12 tracks cover everything from down and dirty glam rock ("Be Your Dryer") to first rate punky power pop ("Let's Go Down") to raucous barroom rock n' roll ("Blind Truth") to '70s-style arena pop ("Ooh Baby I Love You") to Stonesy street rock ("She's A Runner") to some good, old honky tonk stomp (a robust cover of J Gale Kilgore's cult classic, "Suds"). There's never a dull moment. This, to me, is the kind of rock n' roll your parents always warned you about: oozing with swagger and liable to lead a person towards a life of rule-breaking and unrepentant sinning. Doesn't that sound like tremendous fun?!

I would definitely consider The Crazy Squeeze one of my favorite bands, so I was really looking forward to Savior of the Streets. But even with my high hopes, I must say that I was totally blown away. I wondered if this album would yield any more songs on the level of a "Sexual Activity Girls" or a "To the Lonely Ones". What I got was a whole album on that level! Fellas, you crushed it! This is an instantly classic rock n' roll record! So how did I decide which tracks to embed? Well, you know, I can flip a mean coin.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Sweet Things - "Slather"

It was well over two years ago that I publicly raved about The Sweet Things for the first time. A proper debut vinyl single finally arrived this year, and now we get single #2 from this next great thing in New York City rock n' roll. I'm especially happy about this release because it's the first time I've heard new songs from The Sweet Things in a few years. "Slather" is out on Spaghetty Town Records - an Atlanta label specializing in sleazy rock n' roll. I could not think of a band and a label that are more perfect for each other! The title track is very much in keeping with The Sweet Things' signature sound: dirty, boozy rock n' roll in the vein of '70s Stones, Izzy Stradlin, and early Black Crowes. This is a damn fine song! You get another strong vocal performance from Dave, guitars firing on all cylinders, and terrific work on piano from the great Rob Clores. This track is a fine example of The Sweet Things' ability to draw out a song past four minutes without letting things get dull or indulgent. On the B-side "Dustianne", Dave sings a duet with the outstanding New York soul singer Liza Colby. It's a wonderful pairing, and all in all this is a rocker that you can really feel deep down. You could easily have flipped the order of these tracks, and "Dustianne" would have been a fully worthy A-side. Listen to Lorne wail away on guitar!

Boy, did The Sweet Things ever knock it out of the park with "Slather"! The songs are fantastic, and they sound amazing as well. This is one of the great present-day rock n' roll bands not just in New York, but in the entire world. If you don't already have the "Love To Leave" single on Spaghetty Town, be sure to pick that up as well. Expect to read more about Spaghetty Town Records on this blog in the near future - perhaps as soon as next week!


Friday, November 10, 2017

The Stanleys - self titled

If you're into power pop, you need to own the debut album from The Stanleys. Seriously: quit reading this right now and go buy it! After hearing the Aussie band's track "Amy" on a recent split with The Dahlmanns, I was immediately blown away and delighted to discover that there was a whole album available as well. It didn't take me long to deduce that "Amy" was no fluke. Hands down, this is one of the three or four best power pop albums I've heard since I've been doing this blog.

What I love about The Stanleys is that they are true power pop classicists. They aren't trying to reinvent a genre of music, but they sure can execute it to near perfection. I have not heard many bands more skilled at crafting exquisite pop hooks and harmonies to die for. Influences run the gamut from founding fathers like Cheap Trick and the Raspberries to numerous new wave era greats to modern masters such as Teenage Fanclub and Matthew Sweet. With its sublime marriage of massive guitars and sweet melodies, this is truly an album that represents what all power pop should aspire to be. "Amy" could very well be a #1 single in some alternate universe where they still play great pop songs on the radio. "Kid's Gonna Rock" might be even better - a rare case in this genre where the power and the pop are in perfect balance. Tracks like "Always" and "Hefner" show off the band's knack for big knockout choruses, while "Cigarette Glow" is that type of song that lodges itself into your brain and refuses to leave. "Say You Will" sounds so much like a lost A-side from the heyday of skinny tie power pop that I half expected to hear the crackling of the vinyl! And while this is generally an upbeat, crank-it-up-and-sing-along kind of album, there are a couple of slower, mellower tracks that really hit the spot. The gorgeous "My World" is a stunning example of mature guitar pop, and the ballad "This Time Goodbye" is total AM gold (think less Raspberries, more solo Eric Carmen!).

This debut album by The Stanleys definitely falls into the category of a treat for power pop fans. If you're not wild about power pop, this release won't turn you to the dark side. But if power pop is your thing, you'll be in heaven listening to The Stanleys. I'm not one to give albums "grades". But if I were, this one would be an A+ all the way!


Monday, November 6, 2017

Black Mambas - Moderation

Oh boy! A terrific year for punk albums just got even better with the arrival of Black Mambas' second LP. The L.A. foursome has again worked with producer Johnny Witmer - a man who knows a thing or two about high quality pub punk rock n' roll. At just eight tracks, Moderation is an all-thriller, no-filler affair that marries a classic '77 punk sound to high-energy, Chuck Berry inspired rock n' roll. You might see the "punk rock n' roll" description and expect something straight out of the '90s. So it's a really cool twist that Black Mambas are so indebted to first wave punk. My first impression of this band was that they sounded like a cross between Teenage Head and the Buzzcocks circa Spiral Scratch. Does that sound like something I'd be into? You're goddamn right! The lead guitar work is as ripping and rocking as you would expect it to be, and the energy level comes out at a 10 and never lets up. You can really tell that the band made every effort here to duplicate the feel of their notoriously wild live shows. But the songs themselves stand up too - with quality hooks and sing-along choruses that continually make me wanna get off my ass and thrust my fist in the air. What an incredibly fun record! I always love a band that understands that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. With any pretense of originality thrown out the window, Black Mambas are free to focus on just playing exciting rock n' roll. If you love the first Boys album, pub greats like Eddie and the Hot Rods, and Witmer's mighty Crazy Squeeze, Moderation is well worth picking up from Disconnected Records. It leaves me wanting more, which is exactly the way I like it!


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Sonic Screemers - self titled

It has been well over two years since I went nuts for Sonic Screemers' live demo. I couldn't help envisioning future greatness from this fearsome foursome out of Philly. Yet in the back of my mind, there was always the possibility that a "properly" recorded debut would be disappointing in comparison to the demo. Just shy of three years from the recording of that demo, Sonic Screemers finally released a debut album. Yet even with the move from live two-track demos to a professional studio recording co-produced by Pete Rydberg, none of the energy or power has been lost from the band's music. Far from a disappointment, this is every bit the crackling debut I was hoping for!

Sonic Screemers feature Peter from Jukebox Zeros and Bryan from The Flyswatters on guitar and vocals. As expected, Sonic Screemers combine the best elements of both of the aforementioned bands. You get the blistering punk rock n' roll of Jukebox Zeros and the California influenced punk/surf of The Flyswatters, all smashed together with an East Coast attitude. Five tracks from the original demo have been re-recorded for this release, and they hit just as hard this time through. Sounding like '70s punk played at hardcore speed, opening track "(Don't Wanna Hear) Your Noise" brings to mind the Zero Boys. That's the way to come out swinging! And there's no letup from there. "Jack Lord Almighty" is surf punk with a real bite - probably more akin to Radio Birdman than Agent Orange. Demo favorite "More Money, More Beer" is sing-along old school punk done to minimalist perfection. "Bad Connection" totally hits that classic SoCal punk sweet spot, while "Fishtown Shakedown" takes me back to the '90s heyday of fast and furious punk rock n' roll. And when it comes to pure, in-your-face punk rock, it just doesn't get any better than "No Shit!".

Pure and simple, Sonic Screemers play kick-ass punk rock. On their debut album, they power through nine tracks in less than 19 minutes with absolutely no screwing around. Peter is absolutely one of my favorite vocalists for this style of music - his take-no-shit style perfectly suited to the city he inhabits. And he absolutely kills it on lead guitar! I dig how he and Bryan complement each other in this band. Regardless of who wrote/sang each song, you can expect the same level of quality all the way through. I'd been looking forward to this album for a long time, and I doubt I could be any more pleased with it. The songs, the performances, and the production are all totally on-point. Given the name of this blog, I sometimes worry that I let it lean just a little too much in the pop direction at times. So for those who would (probably rightfully!) accuse me of false advertising, I offer you the mighty Sonic Screemers. Push play and crank it loud!


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Australia Rocks!

By Mike Kimmel

City of Angels or Angel City? Angel City or City of Angels? I'm so confused!

Or not.

Oz? The Land Down Under?

Men At Work?

Diesel Injectors?

What I'm doing here is a quick little ditty about some of my favorite bands from Australia. They come up with some good musicians. In this piece, I'm only talking about the bands I think there's a high likelihood you've never heard of. So I ain't a-gonna talk about Angus Young and AC/DC.

One of the bands I AM going to talk about is Angel City or The Angels. Nope, no AC/DC in this article. Though in Angel City's (arguably) biggest hit, "Marseilles", you might just recognize a refrain or two from an AC/DC tune. That song is the reason I got highly addicted to the band.

Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to see the band at a fairly large nightclub in the Chicago area (I can't recall the name, but I also saw Montrose, Black Cat, Savoy Brown, Steve Marriott, and Humble Pie at the same club).

Brothers Rick and John Brewster on guitars. John stood off on the left side of the stage and didn't move from that spot while handling the lead guitar duties. I found out later that the reason he stayed stationary during shows was because "Beethoven convinced me not to move".

John, on the other hand, was constantly waltzing (Matilda – see what I did there?) across the stage from side to side.

Lead singer Doc Neeson somehow came up with a white sheet that he draped over himself. With the bright light located low near the back of the stage, he really looked kinda eerie. Then, instead of running around the stage, he jumped off of the stage and onto a table near the front of the stage. From there he proceeded to jump from table to table, still singing and still covered with the sheet.

 I remember two thoughts prevalent in my mind:

#1 – I hope he doesn't fall 'cause he'll get killed, and

#2 – I hope WHEN he falls, he doesn't fall at MY table because I'LL get killed!

He never fell, though, occasionally doing an amazing job of maintaining his balance as the tables rocked a bit when he landed on it. Here, he's helping a female fan up onto the stage with the band after his table dancing expedition.

Here's "Take A Long Line" from a 1978 performance – probably my favorite Angel City tune:

Their biggest US hit, "Marseilles":

Angel City's release Face To Face is listed at #64 on The Top 100 Australian Albums – a book by Toby Creswell, John O'Donnell, and Craig Matheison.

I'm not going to talk about Men At Work, even though it points out the occasional poor judgment exhibited by big business as the band's label (Columbia Records) rejected their release Business As Usual twice before finally releasing it. That album was kind of a big deal for the band, going platinum x3 in Australia, platinum x4 in Canada, platinum in the UK, and platinum x6 in the US. Platinum status is given to releases that sell a million copies.

The album also attained #1 status on the Billboard album chart as well as the track "Down Under" from that album reaching number one on the singles chart simultaneously. The album was in the top 100 for 15 weeks in 1983 and won a Grammy that same year.

I'm going to talk about Rose Tattoo. As with The Bus Boys, you may not have heard of Rose Tattoo, but if you saw the Mad Max film with Tina Turner, you've seen the lead singer of Rose Tattoo, Angry Anderson. He was the shorter, bald guy running around Turner in the dome-like cage in the desert.

Here's a clip of Rose Tattoo performing what is still my favorite Tattoo-tune, "Nice Boys (Don't Play Rock & Roll)".

A little AC/DC note here as well as with Angel City: Harry Vanda and George Young produced the first four Rose Tattoo releases. If you're as much of a music geek as I am, you'll recognize that Vanda & Young also produced many of AC/DC's releases.

I got Rose Tattoo's first album when I still bought music based on several factors, one of which was what the cover art looked like. I did that for Uriah Heep – Demons and Wizards and wound up being a Heephead deluxe.

Rose Tattoo's debut album is listed at #92 on The Top 100 Australian Albums. Sony Music released a 5-CD compilation in support of the book.

Tattoo has toured often since its inception in the late '70s. The band has supported such acts as Motorhead and Guns & Roses through its history. The band has worked through the usual share of comings and goings of members throughout the years and had plans for a new album and a new tour in 2006. That was canceled when original guitarist Peter Wells died of prostate cancer.

The original Tattoo bassist – Ian Rilen – died of bladder cancer later in that same year.

Lobby Loyde – bassist who took Rilen's place – died of lung cancer the next year.

Original guitarist Mick Cocks died of liver cancer in 2009.

Including drummer Dallas Royall losing a battle with cancer in 1991, that makes five former Tatts who have died of some form of cancer. Strange that in an interview I saw with Angry Anderson years ago, the interviewer asked him if he was ever nervous before going on stage. Anderson replied "Nervous? I'm scared shitless! You never know how it's gonna go or even if this show is gonna be your last."

The last Aussie band I'd like to mention here is Johnny Diesel and the Injectors. Mark Denis Lizotte – a.k.a. Johnny Diesel – was actually born in Massachusetts, but his family moved to Australia in the early '70s.

Another example of "It's a small world, ain't it?" shows up here as Johnny Diesel & the Injectors were managed early in their career by Angel City's drummer Brent Eccles. Here's a clip of the band doing my pick of one of the three or four favorites they do – "Don't Need Love".

And another of the band doing "Parisienne Hotel". Gotta love a song with lyrics like: "Parisienne Hotel. There's a hole in the wall from a shotgun shell. You're either buying or you sell at the Parisienne Hotel."

Between 1989 and 2011, Diesel has released 15 albums, three DVDs, received the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Award for Best Male Artist in 1992, 1993, and 1995, and also the ARIA Award for Best Album with his second studio release from 1992 – Hepfidelity. The album hit #1 on the Australian charts.

In fact, of the 15 releases from Diesel, 12 have charted in Australia in the Top 100, and eight of those have been in the Top 20!

Finally, when Dweezil Zappa embarked on his Zappa Plays Zappa tour, guitarist Ray White started with the tour in 2007. He had played with Dweezil's father, the late Frank Zappa. White left the tour in 2009 – reportedly resigning via email – and Johnny Diesel/Mark Lizotte filled in on the Australian leg of the tour on guitar and vocals.

That's it for the tour of some of the best Australian bands you're not listening to. Trust me – you're doing yourself a great disservice if you're not listening!

Interestingly, I've heard of the vast majority of the bands and releases listed in The Top 100 Australian Albums. But even more interestingly – surprisingly, even – I own 20 of those listed. They are:

AC/DC - Back in Black
Easybeats - The Best Of
Skyhooks - Living in the 70's
INXS – Kick
Radio Birdman - Radio Appears
Bee Gees - Best of
The Saints - I'm Stranded
Split Enz – True Colours
Nick Cave Bad Seeds – The Boatman’s Call
Savage Garden – Savage Garden
Mental as Anything – Cats & Dogs
Models – Pleasure of Your Company
AC/DC – Highway to Hell
The Angels – Face to Face
Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs – Live at Sunbury
The Vines – Highly Evolved
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Tender Prey
Jet – Get Born
Rose Tattoo – Rose Tattoo
Men at Work – Business As Usual

-Mike Kimmel

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Control Freaks - "No Action"/"Don't Mess With Jessica"

It pretty much goes without saying that The Control Freaks are the best thing to happen to garage punk music in a long time. The band's debut album on Slovenly was absolutely the instant classic I expected it to be. If you don't have it yet, go get it! If you do have it and crave more, The Control Freaks have followed up with a double shot of new singles on Bachelor Record Company. Of course this shit is hot, and it's all previously unreleased!

I think it has to be intentional that The Control Freaks' initial releases have been with two of the labels most responsible for keeping real garage-punk alive in the 2010s. If you go to order the new singles from the Bachelor store, you'll see a totally spot-on rant about what most people think "garage punk" is in 2017 versus what it meant in the '90s. That line about Ty Segall made me laugh so hard that I almost snorted unsweetened tea through my nose. The Control Freaks are the genuine article, and both of these singles are essential additions to the catalog of Greg Lowery fronted bands. "No Action" throws it all the way back to the budget rock stylings of Supercharger. It's catchy and rockin' without going overboard on the tempo. What a banger! I will not judge you if you decide to call in sick and play the song on repeat all morning. It's definitely the kind of tune that will make you wanna dance around the house in your underwear. Once you're finally ready to flip the record, a robust version of Protex's "I Can Only Dream" awaits on the B-side.

The second of the two singles is called "Don't Mess With Jessica". Again, this is a perfect example of garage punk the way it ought to be. Right down to the primal three-chord thumping and exuberant co-ed vocals, this could legitimately pass for a long-lost Rip Off Records track circa the mid-to-late '90s. Once you make it through this song, you will have abandoned any lingering temptations to mess with Jessica. And how about another cover from the heyday of punk/powerpop? The Control Freaks have at The Rousers' "Rock N Roll or Run", and I have a feeling thay a lot of people will now be heading off in search of the original.

So I guess you could be a cheap skate and buy one of these two singles based on which A-side you like better. But come on. It's The Control Freaks. Buy both and listen often! Make garage punk trashy again!


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Suspect Parts - Self Titled

After a decade as a band, the international supergroup Suspect Parts finally has a full-length album to its credit.  And it's an absolute must-buy if you're a fan of powerpop/punk! The band is Justin Maurer (Clorox Girls, Maniac) and James Sullivan (Ripchord) on guitar and vocals, Chris Brief on drums, and Andru Bourbon (Radio Dead Ones) on bass. With Maurer's name on this project, you would not be wrong to expect music influenced by the poppier side of first wave punk rock with a particular emphasis on southern California. But this band is a true collaborative effort that highlights the talents and influences of all of its members. Musically and lyrically, Maurer and Sullivan both bring phenomenal songs to the table. And all in all, Suspect Parts really set themselves apart from most of the bands playing this kind of music today.

Suspect Parts describe their music as "a cotton candy meets razorblade concoction that goes down surprisingly smooth". If you're thinking that sounds like something I'd be totally into, I'd say you're very correct! But while Suspect Parts completely hit the sweet spot for powerpop/punk, they bring something really unique to the style. They're far more '60s-inspired than just about any band you'd think to compare them to, and they manage to take all of their influences and bring them into the now. Out on Taken By Surprise Records in Germany and Oops Baby Records in the U.S., the band's self-titled debut LP is without question one of this year's finest. The album sets a tone with a terrific 1-2-3 punch of textbook powerpop/punk ("Madmen With Guns",  "Electrify Me Honey", "Live Over There"). But just when you think you know exactly what this record is going to be, it starts to take wonderfully surprising turns. "Alright With Me" and "Run For Your Life" dial back the punk influence and prove that Suspect Parts can craft finessed pop songs as well as anyone. The latter just might be the high point of the album - a song that manages to feel epic even with a running time under three minutes. "Change Your Mind" is a perfectly executed stab at a punked-up Beatles, while "Out of Place" delivers the heart-racing jolt you'd hope to get from a band with a Briefs and Clorox Girls pedigree. And "No One From Nowhere" has a neat new wave vibe and features some of the most honest and powerful lyrics I've heard in quite some time.

Two Americans, a Brit, and a German walked into a recording studio on a sub-freezing January day in east Berlin: sounds like the start of a joke, right? But actually it was the start of something special. I would imagine it's difficult for a band to get together when its members are separated by oceans. But I'm glad these gentlemen went to the trouble to get an album made. This release may have been a long time in the making, but it sure delivers the goods! Is this punk rock for people who love pop, or is it pop for people who love punk rock? I'm not quite sure! Those of you in Europe should be sure to catch the band on tour beginning tomorrow!


Friday, October 20, 2017

Corner Boys - "Just Don't Care"

Holy smokes, do I have a banger for you today! Back in March, I identified Corner Boys as a band of considerable promise based on their demo tape. Little did I know that Drunken Sailor Records was already on the case, and today we have an official release from this formidable Vancouver trio. It's a knockout debut and quite possibly the best punk EP I've heard all year.

With me having spent a great deal of my career touting bands that do newer versions of '70s punk, there was just no question that Corner Boys were my kind of group. But honestly, Corner Boys sound less like a 2017 update of Canadian powerpop/punk circa 1979 and more like the genuine article. Listening to this EP, I'm half-convinced that it really was recorded in 1979! There's just something about the production and the tone of the vocals that brings to mind the likes of Pointed Sticks and Young Canadians - or even Irish counterparts like Undertones and Rudi. This is punk rock just the way I like it: charmingly unpolished and brimming with youthful energy, but still chock full of hooks. Each of these three tracks could have been an A-side in its own right. The highest compliment I can pay to "Joke of the Neighborhood" is that I thought it had to be a cover when I heard it on the demo. It sounds that much like a long-lost classic. So if it seems well-positioned as the third track on this EP, that tells you how good the other two songs are! On any given day, I'd say that "Just Don't Care" is the clear "hit". And then on the next day, I'd change my mind and go with "Be Seeing You"!

"Just Don't Care" is a darn near perfect punk record. I love the sound, I love the energy, and I love the songs. Corner Boys are my favorite new band of the year by far!