Saturday, April 22, 2017

It's a new Radio Days single!

The last time I had reason to mention Radio Days, I proclaimed the Italian trio's LP Back In The Day album of the year for 2016. So you can surmise that I was very happy to discover brand-new music from Radio Days just yesterday! Released on Surfin' Ki Records in conjunction with the band's upcoming tour of Japan, the new 7" single "Haruka" is limited to just 300 copies. On the A-side, "I'm In Love With You, Haruka" is as gorgeous and melodious as you could ever hope for a pop song to be. It ought to be a #1 smash in 57 different countries. The B-side is a cover of "Teenage Kicks". And while no band is ever going to out-do the original, I think any fan who has seen Radio Days perform the song live will be excited about them releasing their version on record!

Radio Days are one of the very best things going in power pop today, and "Haruka" will only reaffirm that. The band is currently offering a sweet deal on its Bandcamp page: a signed copy of the single along with a limited edition CD, a poster, a pin, and a sticker for 10 euros! Get on it while you have the chance! 


Friday, April 21, 2017

Hiccup's debut album!

I can't believe it has already been two years since my first post on Hiccup! Since then, the New York trio has released a cassette single and a supremely delightful full-length album on Father/Daughter Records. The album, Imaginary Enemies, arrived last month and has been a fixture in my daily routine for quite some time. Hallie Bulleit (bass, vocals) has been a favorite songwriter of mine since the moment I encountered The Unlovables' demo tape 15 years ago. You may also know her and Hiccup band-mate Alex Clute (guitar, vocals) as members of The Chris Gethard Show's house band, The LLC. Drummer Piyal Basu completes the trio. And while Hiccup doesn't stray far from the clever, punky pop of The LLC, there are clearly advantages in having the freedom to write songs that exceed 30 seconds in length!

Built on a foundation of upbeat catchy tunes, tight harmonies, and the likable dual vocals of Hallie and Alex, Imaginary Enemies is pure peppy fun with a lyrical depth that may surprise you. This is exactly the kind of music I envisioned Hallie creating at this stage of her career: still rooted in pop-punk but also heavily inspired by late '80s/early '90s indie rock. "Lady MacBeth & Miss Havisham" - probably my favorite song of 2017 so far - is a perfect example of Hallie's ability to mix profound & serious lyrics with utterly joyful melodies. I've made a habit out of playing it on repeat - although on any given day I might actually conclude that "Whoa Baby" is "the hit" on this album. While I'm partial to a lot of the songs on which Hallie sings lead ("Better", "Yeah"), the harmonized vocals on tracks like "Austin" and "Dad Jokes" are well-executed and wonderfully appealing. And I appreciate that this band is the sum of what all of its members bring to the table. It's hard not to love a record that runs the gamut from the Belle and Sebastian style goodness of "Enemies of Friends" to the breakneck punk rush of "Neverwhere".

With no songs over three minutes long, Imaginary Enemies wastes little time getting to the hooks. It's an album I can recommend to both diehard pop-punk fans and anyone who fondly recalls the glory days of indie/alternative/college radio. It's just one of those records that is bound to put a smile on your face! The lyrics totally knock me out, and those harmonies could not be any more spot-on. I would no doubt consider The Unlovables one of my favorite bands of all-time, and I've got to say I enjoy Hiccup every bit as much. As 2017 continues to throw great LPs our way, I'm sure not complaining!


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Meet Moron's Morons!

The definition of "garage punk" has expanded to such an extent that I'm not sure what it even means anymore. But hearing Moron's Morons out of Warsaw, I must say that this band is exactly what I think garage-punk ought to be. If you like it raw and trashy, well it doesn't get any rawer or trashier! And how can you not love a band with a singer named Philo Phuckface?! Moron's Morons occupy the nastier realms of the garage punk world, with a wild & blown-out sound that mixes choice elements of Teengenerate, GG Allin, the Dead Boys, Dwarves, and Reatards. The band has made its Trash Can Glory demo tape available via Bandcamp as a name your price download. And No Front Teeth Records has released seven (!) different versions of the group's self-titled debut 7"! If you dig snotty garage punk that's "no frills, just thrills", Moron's Morons is the band you've been waiting for. Order the single here!


Monday, April 10, 2017

How about a Wyldlife review, finally!

I've been getting the same question for years, posed by everyone from regular readers to my butcher to my priest: "When are you finally going to review Wyldlife?!" Well how about right now! I've been fully aboard the Wyldlife bandwagon for a good while now, and I vowed to pen a glowing review once the band put out a new album. That album Out On Your Block arrived earlier this year on Steven Van Zandt's Wicked Cool Records. I've been meaning to say a few words about it since it came out, and today I'm finally getting around to it!

Wydlife has really risen to the challenge of following two of the best rock n' roll albums of the present decade. Out On Your Block is by no means a straight copy of its two predecessors, but it makes no attempt to fix what ain't broke. It's everything you could want from a Wlydlife record: big hooks, a fun attitude, and energy that never lets up. The style is still '70s punk meets power pop meets straight-up rock n' roll, and the spirit of the great city of New York emanates from every note. I hear echoes of the legendary Ramones and Dolls as well as more contemporary torchbearers such as D Generation and the Star Spangles. "Desperate Times" kicks it all off with a thundering blast of rock, and then "Teenage Heart" is a quick turn into new wave territory. From there, the album really hits its stride as the band knocks one track after another straight out of the park. In what kind of crazy backwards world are we living where songs like "Keepsakes", "Deadbeat", and "Bandida" aren't massive radio hits?! My god, those hooks! "Suburban Fever" recalls the gritty street swagger of '70s Rolling Stones, and "Get Loud" is exactly the kind of anthem/mission statement that every great rock n' roll album ought to close with.

Faced with the decision on how to approach that "difficult" third album, Wyldlife wisely chose to double down on what it already does so well. The group aspired to just go out and make a totally fantastic rock n' roll record, and I'm left wondering why more bands don't follow suit. Little Steven, who has such a great ear for what's new and exciting in rock n' roll, was bound to "get" it. You can download Out On Your Block from iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc. or get the vinyl directly from Wicked Cool. And if like me you were a little late to the party on Wydlife, head on over to Bandcamp to explore the back catalog!


Friday, April 7, 2017

New Cyanide Pills album!

Now seems like a good time to start catching up on some essential releases from this year that I haven't yet had time to review. Sliced And Diced is the third LP from Leeds, U.K.'s Cyanide Pills - and the band's first album in four years. This is a prime example of a release that was totally worth the wait. Cyanide Pills have outdone themselves on this whooper of a long-player, turning out an amazing 18 tracks with not one clunker in the bunch. This, to me, is the culmination of what this band has been working towards for years: an album fully deserving of a spot next to all of your classic 1977-78 U.K. punk titles. There are a number of bands out there that do the snotty '77 punk thing really well, and there are others that do the power pop meets punk thing really well. But Cyanide Pills are that rare band that genuinely excels at both. Sliced and Diced is everything I like about The Buzzcocks, Clash, Sex Pistols, and Boys combined into one record. Songs addressing power-abusing institutions and the generally rotten state of society ("Stop and Search", "Government") could not be more relevant in 2017. And as always, the band specializes in exceptionally bitter love songs ("Alone Tonight", "Razorblade"). Containing everything from all-out cracklers like "Still Bored" to the perfect pure pop of "Big Mistake" to the street-tough rock n' roll of "Cut Me Loose", Sliced And Diced could not be any more up my alley. We've got ourselves a serious album of the year contender!


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Easy Money: the definitive collection!

As a massive fan of Canadian punk rock both old and new, I'm tickled pink that Hosehead Records and Neon Taste Records have collaborated to rescue the recorded output of Easy Money from the dustbin of history. Hailing from Victoria, British Columbia, Easy Money released two terrific singles on Richard's Records in 1980 and was never heard from again. Those singles - "Standing In Your Shadow" b/w "No Stranger To Danger" and "Getting Lost" b/w "High Fashion" - are true hidden gems of Canadian punk in the new wave era. All four songs now return to print on the self-titled Easy Money collection, joined by nine high-quality two-track demos that have been largely unheard for decades. And while the 7" cuts may be the prime attraction, a lot of the demos are just as good (check out the Jam-inspired "It's Not Funny" and the infectiously jittery "Pretty Modern"). This album is a perfect demonstration of why I love the late '70s/early '80s era of punk music so much. It brings together the best elements of punk, power pop, new wave, and the mod revival in such a way that these songs could only have been created at the dawn of the '80s. If you're a Canadian punk rock history geek like me or just enjoy top-notch power pop, this compilation is one you ought to own. Hats off to all of the principles involved in collecting these songs and getting this compilation made. 35 years after the band's breakup, Easy Money finally has an album out!


Monday, April 3, 2017

Vista Blue: new baseball album!

Just in time for opening day, we get an all-new baseball album from Vista Blue! This is, by my count, the band's fifth baseball-themed release - the first one dating back to opening day two years ago. With me having reviewed Vista Blue an amazing six times last year, there's no mystery as to what this band is all about. The nine-track Wonderband stays in the vein of pop-punk by way of '90s alt rock power pop, and it's a buzzing good time from start to finish. This is what you call a solid lineup from one through nine! With songs about once-promising injury-plagued pitchers, triple AAA shortstops lobbying for a chance to start in the majors, the plight of the professional DH, marginal major leaguers hindered by unfavorable umpiring, Bruce Springsteen's lack of fundamental baseball knowledge, the good fortune of making a great catch with a borrowed glove, Roy Hobbs' mythical bat, the absurdity of "wins above replacement" as a valued statistic, and the importance of a good pick-off move, there's something here to interest any fan of America's pastime. Vista Blue continues to serve the community of baseball-loving pop-punk fans while also perhaps swaying some additional hardball devotees to the pop-punk dark side. This release even comes with liner notes by Mark Hughson - easily the finest literature I've seen accompanying a musical release in a long time. Download Wonderband for free today, and give it a spin or two while you converse with your friends about the merits of "WAR" and whether or not David Ortiz should go into the hall of fame (of course he should!). And seriously, what in the hell is a "speedball"?


Sunday, April 2, 2017

MAMA/Private Interests split!

In some alternate universe where Faster & Louder is a glossy print magazine available at gas stations and drug stores everywhere, Private Interests would be gracing the cover decked in Cold War era attire - the photo positioned under the headline "Hottest New Bands of the Year!". I've been psyched to hear more music from this Minneapolis foursome since its outstanding debut EP arrived this past fall. And as luck would have it, I did not have to wait very long. Private Interests has teamed up with Chicago's MAMA to give us a split 7" EP uniting two of our greatest Midwestern cities under the banner of power pop worshiping at the twin-guitar altar of Thin Lizzy.

MAMA's two contributions to the split were taken from the band's short-run Eye in the Sky cassette, and they were fine choices to be preserved on the vinyl format. "Lazer Lover" is the "hit" here - a full-on '70s arena rock rager that would not sound out of a place on a playlist sandwiched between Nazareth and The Nuge. You've got two guitars taking it straight over the top and a singer who can really belt it. I can't help imagining myself in a darkened arena in 1978, and suddenly the lights come on and this is the song that ignites a triumphant night of rock. BAM! The terrific "Girls Next Door" slides nicely into the Big Star/Raspberries corner of power pop, but with clear nods to Cheap Trick and Lizzy as well. This is a best-case scenario for a split: I was drawn in by the presence of one particular band and ended up liking the other one just as much. I will definitely be checking out the rest of MAMA's releases!

On its half of the split, Private Interests continues to show why it's one of the most promising up-and-coming bands out there. "Livin' In The City" is a really pleasant surprise: the band's first foray into straight-up classic power pop a la The Nerves and 20/20. The verse rides a wave of melancholy on the strength of Cameron's vocal, and then that chorus punches hard. I love the amazing lead guitar work and the satisfying thump of the drums! The equally good "Finest Hour" bears all of the trademarks of a Johnny Eggerman song: more of a mid-tempo vibe with a plaintive vocal and dual guitar lines intersecting in perfect harmony. Coming from a town where Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins exemplify the complementary forces of power and finesse, this pair of songs could not be any more satisfying. Private Interests is quickly zooming up my list of current favorite bands!

I wanted to post on this EP as early as possible due to the extremely limited nature of this vinyl release. Just 300 copies were pressed, and only 30 of those were made available for Piñata Records to sell to the public. The remaining copies went straight to the bands to sell at shows. So if you're nowhere near these bands and want a vinyl copy, you better move fast! This record is a perfect representation of all of the great rockin' pop that's currently emerging from the American Midwest. Get on it!


Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Dahlmanns + Andy Shernoff = Gold!

Let the record show that the very existence of The Dahlmanns was a major influence on the creation of this blog. And once the blog was created, I chose to name it after a song written by Andy Shernoff. So it goes without saying that I was elated to hear that The Dahlmanns have recorded two brand-new songs written by Andy Shernoff and released them as a single. Seriously: how can it get better than this? You've got the best pop band in the world collaborating with one of our greatest living songwriters. And the results do not disappoint!

In addition to co-writing "Forever My Baby", Shernoff also shares lead vocals with Line Dahlmann on this absolute gem of a track. This sort of boy/girl duet lamenting lost love is such an essential part of rock n' roll lore, but most modern examples are completely cringe-worthy. "Forever My Baby" gets it right, with believable vocal performances from both singers and a musical style that combines the conventional power ballad with elements of '60s girl groups. Shernoff's voice is in fine form, and there's little doubt that this song is the creation of the man who wrote and sang The Dictators' "Heartache". Staying with the '60s pop influence, "The Last Time" recalls the ringing melodies and romantic innocence of that golden era (but with a modern sheen). It's an absolutely beautiful song, and it's just so well suited to Line's voice. In the pop world, there's just no substitute for a memorable melody and a great singer!

"Forever My Baby" is out now on Pop Detective Records and available for download via iTunes, Spotify, CD Baby, etc. A vinyl version is due out this summer on The Next Big Thing - Lindsay Hutton's legendary zine/label which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. I'm not quite ready to say that this release is a mortal lock for 2017 single of the year. But, you know, it's gonna be a tough one to top!


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Debut LP from Moral Panic!

The almighty Livids, while one of the most exciting punk rock n' roll bands of recent memory, proved to be a sadly short-lived outfit. So it's fantastic news that Livids guitarist Daniel Kelley and drummer Gregory Collins have formed a red-hot new band with bassist Mark Brei. The new group is called Moral Panic. If you liked Livids, you will love Moral Panic. Slovenly Recordings just released the trio's debut album, and the thing totally kills! Don't let the band name fool you into thinking this is some sort of 1980s political hardcore type deal. Instead think '90s breakneck garage punk rock n' roll a la Teengenerate/New Bomb Turks.

I love a band that storms out of the gates in attack mode and never lets up, and that is Moral Panic's m.o. for sure. They tear through 10 songs in 20 blistering minutes, and every second is pure pummeling rock n' roll. "Ripped Jeans" is impossibly catchy for such a wild & manic number, while the scorching "Harbor Fitness" brings to mind Tokyo 1994 via Cleveland 1978. And kudos are in order for a face-smashing rendition of The Nils' "Fountains" that fully bears M.P.'s high velocity signature. Kelley and Collins have picked up right where they left off in Livids. No attempts at refinement or progression have been made. They're bringing it fast and furious, and anything that steps in the path of this steamroller is toast! If you've been depressed for years over the realization that there will never be a Livids full-length, this album will cheer you up right fast. Crank up the volume until the neighbors complain!


Friday, March 24, 2017

Rockatanskys single from Jarama 45RPM Recs!

Last month, I reported for the first time on a great new label out of Madrid called Jarama 45RPM Recs. As the name suggests, this is a label fully dedicated to 45RPM 7" releases from excellent punk bands all over the world. That Sugar & Tiger 45 is a must-own, and so is the blistering three-songer from Halifax, Nova Scotia's Rockatanskys. The label likens Rockatanskys to Canadian national treasures such as Teenage Head, the Modernettes, and Pointed Sticks. Who am I to argue? It's always a pleasure to hear a modern band take that back-to-the-basics Ramones inspired style of punk music and prove that there's plenty of life left in it. "Smash TV" is a certified smash hit - with a fun little sing-along hook that's impossible to resist. It's just so catchy, and the song is over before you know what hit you! It's backed with "Wasted" and "Come Swim With Me"- a couple of thumpers in the vein of the first two Ramones LPs. All in all, this 45 is total fun and a fine example of why the singles format is so well-suited to punk music. If you haven't already liked the Jarama 45RPM Facebook page, I implore you to do so immediately. Look for more music coming soon!


Monday, March 20, 2017

New album from Tom Baker and the Snakes!

Damn, has Rum Bar Records ever been serving up the rock this month! You might need to invest in louder speakers! Hot on the heels of that amazing new Bullet Proof Lovers album, Malibu Lou unleashes the eagerly awaited new LP from Tom Baker and the Snakes. Singer/guitarist Baker (Nana, the Dirty Truckers) is a fixture of the Boston garage/rock n' roll scene. He's backed by a formidable unit of veteran players including John Brookhouse (Worshipper, The Dirty Truckers) on lead guitar, Charles Hansen (Rock Bottom) on guitar, John Sheeran (Spitzz, Township) on bass, and Johnny Blout (Watts) on drums. Do the math, and you realize that's three guitars in this band. And none of 'em go to waste! Lookout Tower is the new album, and it delivers 11 shots of Stones/Faces inspired rock n' roll with a palpable heartland of America feel. The album imbues '70s arena rock wallop with the ragged underdog spirit of bands like The Replacements. That Westerberg/Stinson worship really shows through on signature tunes like the rough-around-the-edges pop gem "Doll Eyes" and the late night dive-bar banger "High n' Tight". Both were standout tracks on the band's digital-only 4 Stars EP from last year, and it would have been criminal to have kept them off the album. But there's plenty more to like here, from the meat & potatoes rocker "Gotta Find Her" to the '90s college radio jangle of "Needle in the Red" to the rootsy ballad "Say Goodbye" (which sounds like something Soul Asylum could have done in its prime). "Bad Change" hovers at the intersection of big hook power pop and boozy rock n' roll - an especially sweet spot for this band. And "Satisfied Fool" takes me straight back to the late '80s of my youth when I was seemingly listening to album-oriented rock radio 24/7.

Tom Baker and the Snakes are a perfect fit on the Rum Bar roster- filling the space between the '70s FM thunder of Watts and the earnest blue collar rock n' roll of Nato Coles. If you like a whole lot of guitar in your rock n' roll (and really, who doesn't?!), Lookout Tower will have you in rock-out heaven. Beyond that, the quality and depth of Baker's songwriting is not to be overlooked. Arriving at the beginning of spring, Lookout Tower is for sure an album you'll want to crank loud as you relax on the porch and enjoy a cold beverage straight from the can. This, my friends, is real deal Boston rock n' roll! 


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Meet Corner Boys!

I always love coming across red-hot demos, and the best one I've heard in a while is from Vancouver's Corner Boys. I think you'll be hearing a lot about this band on this blog going forward. These guys are just my style: snotty & frantic powerpop/punk recalling numerous classic bands from the great nation of Canada. And as far as demos go, this is the way it ought to be: just three songs with lo-fi but by no means shitty production courtesy of the great Jeff McCloy. This is just a little taste of what's to come, and I can't wait to hear more! As always, the only sure things in life are death, taxes, and great new punk bands out of Canada.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

New one from Tommy and The Rockets!

At this very moment, I can look out the window and witness the full wrath of Winter Storm Stella. In a few hours, I will have the rare pleasure of shoveling 18 inches of snow. But there's no convincing me that summer isn't right around the corner. And with that we get THE summertime record of 2017 from Tommy and The Rockets! This intercontinental supergroup featuring Danish singer/guitarist Thomas Stubgaard (The Lingertones, The Hitchcocks) and New Trocaderos songwriter Michael Chaney released a terrific debut album last year that was warmly received by fans of early Beach Boys and classic era Ramones. It was a really tough act to follow, but Tommy and The Rockets have definitely topped it with a brand-new EP called Rock 'n' Roll Wrecking Machine. This is the band's best stuff yet- and the upbeat, goodtime vibe is a surefire prescription for any lingering winter blahs that might ail you.

With its hopped-up beat, nifty backing vocals, and smoking lead guitar, "Rock 'n' Roll Wrecking Machine" more than lives up to its title. I'm telling ya, it's a stone cold smash hit! You will play it on repeat! "Hey Daisy" is pure, bubbly pop for all of us who are eternally 16 and girl-crazed. "Get Ready" makes me wanna climb in my car and drive real fast with no obvious destination besides a really great time (I might need to wait a few days before attempting such an adventure). And "Gonna Be Alright", a duet teaming Tommy with Julie Jean, is the perfect way to bring this 7" slab of joy to a close. The odes to wistful longing and broken hearts will surely return, but with this record it's all about the high hopes of new love and the unlimited possibilities of youth! Isn't that what rock n' roll is all about? If you love Ramones albums like Rocket To Russia and Road To Ruin, that's precisely the sweet spot that Tommy and The Rockets hit with this release. Once again, Brad Marino and Kris "Fingers" Rodgers rip it up as "session" players. And kudos to Christian Jakobsen for the killer guitar solos! Download is available today, with a vinyl release from Europeans labels Ghost Highway, KOTJ, and Beluga Records due at the end of the week. This review arrived right on time courtesy of me getting a snow day!


Friday, March 10, 2017

New album from Brom Bones!

Much to my chagrin, I have no recollection of ever reviewing a release from Brom Bones - unquestionably one of south central Pennsylvania's finest punk bands for 27 years and counting. I was, in my younger days, witness to a number of stunning live performances from this veritable institution of Lancaster, PA punk rock. It's perplexing to me how I never got my mitts on studio releases such as Cope (1998) and Apart (2001). Or maybe I did and just don't remember! Either way, it's a tremendous joy to receive Brom Bones in such fine form on their brand-new album Get Down. Stay Down. I have to question anyone who automatically passes on new releases from long-standing punk bands. And albums like this one are the reason why. Going back to the late '80s, Brom Bones have beautifully navigated the transitions from adolescence to adulthood to middle age - and you could make a good argument that they're now making the best music of their lives. This is a veteran, seasoned outfit that brings so much life experience to the table. Yet these guys haven't lost an ounce of the energy and enthusiasm that have driven their music from the start.  

Get Down. Stay Down. is vintage Brom Bones: powerful, melodic, and full of genuine lyrical substance delivered with tremendous conviction by outstanding vocalist Jason Berlet. It takes me back to a great time in music - when the contents of your record collection might have ranged from Dag Nasty to Minor Threat to The Descendents to The Replacements. And while it's a tricky maneuver to hold strong to those roots while continuing to grow as a band, Brom Bones are pulling it off like pros. Not only does the band sound terrific, but the material shines as well. "Short Fuse" is the perfect song to play at earsplitting volumes when you're pissed off at the world and seeking deliverance from a shitty day. "War Generation" - the very definition of a sing-along anthem - has had me head-bobbing and air-drumming in my computer chair all week long. "The Victim" delivers the kind of rugged, ripping punk rock that I just don't hear enough these days. And "The Mats" is a clever and loving homage to one of the two or three greatest bands to ever walk the earth.

If Get Down. Stay Down. is your first exposure to Brom Bones, the album ought to get you very excited about checking out the band's extensive back catalog (which you can do over at Bandcamp). And longtime fans will not be surprised to discover that Brom Bones are still killing it after all these years. Whether you're a fan of '80s post-hardcore & old school pop-punk or just someone who appreciates punk music that's full of intelligence and heart, I strongly recommend the $10 investment in Get Down. Stay Down. It will easily go down as one of the year's top albums. The band has dedicated it to the memory of original member Sean Wolfe - a brilliant talent and one of the best human beings I've ever had the good fortune to know.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Annual Birthday Post 2017!

I've had a recent yearly tradition of doing annual birthday posts where I list my ten favorite bands of all-time. But since the list only undergoes very minor changes from year to year, I decided it was time to try something a little different for this particular birthday (my 46th). Instead of listing my ten favorite bands of all-time, I will pick my four favorite bands from each of the past six decades. I figured this would be a fun project to undertake and perhaps a good way to "spread the wealth" since my all-time favorite lists are usually dominated by bands from the late '70s. And given that I've been reviewing music since 1995, I am obviously a fan of quite a few more recent bands. So without any further ado, I now present my favorite bands by decade from the '60s up to present day!

The Who
Rolling Stones

The Clash
Generation X

Husker Du

Material Issue
Dimestore Haloes
The Muffs 

Exploding Hearts

Night Birds
The Cry!
The Connection
The Cheap Cassettes  

So there you have it. Limiting it to just four bands per decade led to some painful omissions (Teenage Fanclub, Vapors, Dictators). But I suppose that's half the fun! For the record, my favorite band of all-time is still The Clash (followed by AC/DC and Material Issue). Congratulations to Joe Keller and Chaz Matthews for being the only two individuals to be represented on this list in two different decades. Your commemorative medallions are in the mail. Possible idea for next year's birthday post: naming a favorite album from each year of my life! 


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New single from Devious Ones!

Detroit's Devious Ones have been one of my favorite current-day bands since the very first time I heard them. I can't believe that was already two years ago! One of the things I love about these guys is that they prove that it's possible to take influence from '70s punk and power pop yet still create music that sounds new and fresh and original. Consider the band's brand-new single "Djarum Summers". I can listen to the A-side and honestly say that there's no other band out there that sounds exactly like this. Sure, it's old school catchy punk - which I love. But it's immediately identifiable as a Devious Ones song and not just some rewrite of a classic hit. That guitar tone is bad-ass, and there's something about the way Eric sings the chorus that really makes this song stick in my head. Best D.O. song yet? It's at least in the conversation! On the flip, "Court Clothes" is a perfect example of what this band does so well. It's basically fast poppy punk, but with some unusual/creative touches in the vocals and lyrics that really set it apart. If you're a fan of what a band like Maniac has been doing in recent years, you should dig Devious Ones as well.

A co-release between Rust on the Blade and No Front Teeth Records, "Djarum Summers" is Devious Ones' first international release. Downloads are now available via digital outlets, and vinyl is coming soon! Locals can pick up the single at the band's record release party at Kelly's Bar Hamtramck on March 11. Original '77 punks Cinecyde will be on the bill!


Monday, February 27, 2017

New album from Bullet Proof Lovers!

It was seven months ago that I first teased the arrival of a new LP from Bullet Proof Lovers - those power-popping hard rockers from San Sebastián, Spain. Said LP has arrived, and it does not disappoint! BPL are Kurt Baker on lead vocals, Luiyi Costa (Txorlitohead, Lolas Club) on guitar, Joseba Arza (Brigada Criminal, Señor No, Ladislao) on drums, Gonzalo Ibañez (Nuevo Catecismo Católico, La Perrera) on bass, and Juan Irazu (Discipulos de Dionisos, Gran Yate Especial) on guitar. Shot Through The Heart is the band's second release overall and first in over two years. As expected, it's the perfect mix of hook-laden power pop and full-throttle, kick-in-the-ass rock n' roll. As good as 2014's self-titled LP was, it was really just a glimpse of what Bullet Proof Lovers might someday become. Here we receive the band in full maturity - replete with massive production befitting those thundering drums and guitars louder than the law should allow. Early '80s arena rock is still a logical point of reference (check out the album bookends "I Am My Radio" and "Radioactive Love"), but with this record I'm also feeling the fury and power of Detroit/Aussie punk. Baker, often pigeonholed as a "pop" guy, ably steps into the role of the strong-piped rock god frontman. 

Shot Through The Heart is such a satisfying listen because it allows Bullet Proof Lovers to play to their strengths and just rip into these songs. Guitarists Costa and Irazu sound like they're literally trying to set the world on fire, and that rhythm section is an absolute powerhouse. The material, without a doubt, perfectly suits the band's particular set of skills. "Ain't No Joke" lives up to its title 100 percent, while "Not Your Toy" is the kind of keyboard-driven glammy footstomper that ought to blow the doors off of every dive bar from Madrid to Hamburg. From well-crafted ballads ("One Last Night") to crank-it-to-11 rockers ("On Overdrive") to consummate area rock power pop ("All I Want"), this album delivers the full range of goods. 

It's a glorious thing in this day and age to still encounter bands that above all else just want to rock. It's even better when quality hooks and a ton of melody are a major part of the equation. Bullet Proof Lovers represent a time in our world when rock n' roll was all about fun and aspiring to a radio hit was no crime. They've got the chops, they've got the attitude, and for damn sure they've got the songs! Shot Through The Heart is available on vinyl from Ghost Highway Recordings, and Rum Bar Records will have the CD release coming soon. With the arrival of this album and the new one from Wyldlife, 2017 is looking like the Year of Rock! 


Thursday, February 23, 2017

New single from Sugar & Tiger!

Welcome to the first of what should be many reviews of releases from Jarama 45RPM Recs! A new label out of Madrid, Jarama 45RPM has a clear and simple mission: "strictly 7" vinyl, strictly 45 rpm records,
and strictly hit singles". The world of punk/garage/power pop, being so well suited to the singles format, needs more labels like this! For my first post on Jarama 45RPM, I turn my attention to a terrific band out of Paris called Sugar & Tiger. Isn't that pretty much the best name ever for a poppy punk rock band?! Florence Vicha (lead vocals) is Sugar, and Didier Wampas (guitar) is Tiger. The sound is just what I like: the best elements of punk and pop mixed together thoroughly and let loose with maximum enthusiasm. True to the label's promise, "(God Save) Linda Ramone" is a stone cold hit. You'd have to be a miserable human to not love this! And the fact that the lyrics are sung in French only make it cooler! On the flip, "La Perruque Rose" is another great track that reminds me quite a bit of early Muffs. I am thrilled to discover this band, and you will be too if you're a fan of The Ramones, Dahlmanns, etc.! I highly recommend heading on over to Facebook and liking the Jarama 45RPM Recs. page. This is a label you're going to want to follow closely!


Monday, February 20, 2017

Purple Wizard: all the hits back in print!

When I think about all of the great music that made the mid-2000s so memorable for me, Purple Wizard is one of the first names that comes to mind. It's almost criminal how forgotten this band seems to be just a decade later. I'm optimistic that that will change thanks to Girlsville's release of Cream of the Crop - a 28-track collection of singles, album cuts, unreleased songs, and radio sessions from this late, great New York City band.

Formed from the ashes of The Prissteens by Lori Lindsay and Leslie Day, Purple Wizard released three singles and an LP between 2004 and 2007. Purple Wizard was essentially the realization of a musical vision that Lori Lindsay had had since she and Leslie Day began playing together: less "rock" and more along the lines of a female Everly Brothers. Also on board were Dave Lindsay, Jon Chalmers, and Bill Peitsch (RIP). What I admired about this band from the start (along with those amazing harmonies!) was that it was never reluctant to record other people's songs. Inspired by the British Invasion, Stax soul, girl groups, and '60s pop in general, the band went right to the source and covered songs it loved from arguably the greatest era of music ever. In my mind, one of the things that made that period so special was that artists could be identified with and admired for performing songs they didn't write (seriously: who wants to live in a world without Dusty Springfield's "I Only Wanna Be With You" or Aretha Franklin's "Respect"?). The magic of Purple Wizard was in selecting wonderful and often lesser-known songs from the '60s and performing them to absolute perfection.

Cream of the Crop includes all three of the band's singles in their entirety, and hearing them again reminds me why rave reviews of Purple Wizard 45s were once annual events in my life. It's a pleasure to again enjoy the band's knockout renditions of the Hollies' 1965 album cut "I've Been Wrong" (famously covered by The Buckinghams and Everly Brothers), Cheryll & Pam's 1963 Stax single "That's My Guy", The Strangeloves' "I Want Candy" B-side "It's About My Baby", and the Everly Brothers' 1966 A-side "The Power of Love". Beyond the 7" tracks, covers of the likes of Carla Thomas, Chris Montez, The Hollies, Lee Rogers, and the almighty Beatles are absolutely stunning. And originals like "Stalker" and "Scrapin", featuring Peitsch on lead vocals, are so on-point that I still can't believe they're not long-lost recordings from the heyday of rhythm & blues!

Once again, Girlsville has given us an essential and lovingly-assembled compilation featuring a great overlooked band. Longtime fans will be psyched to get their mitts on the radio sessions and unreleased tracks. Meanwhile, this is the perfect introduction to Purple Wizard - with the songs from the singles playing a starring role. Kudos to Courtney for securing all of this material and to Patrick Haight for the impeccable mastering. If you loved last year's Demos & Rarities collection from The Prissteens, think of Cream of the Crop as the next chapter. I consider The Prissteens and Purple Wizard to be equally great bands, but it was the latter group that really showed the world what a fantastic singer Lori Linsday is. Purple Wizard was a band inspired by timeless music that sought to create timeless music. They were as good as it got when it came to garage rock in the mid-2000s. Get Cream of the Crop now on cassette or digital LP from Girlsville's Bandcamp!


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Return of The New Trocaderos!

It has been a year-and-a-half since The New Trocaderos released Thrills & Chills - my runaway choice for 2015 Album of the Year and legitimate nominee for album of the decade. So it goes without saying that I'm delighted to announce the arrival of the first new music from this super group in 18 months. New Trox consists of three songs from the Thrills & Chills sessions that the band had saved for the purposes of releasing as an EP. It came out yesterday as a digital-only release available from The New Trocs' Bandcamp.

I always admire bands that are willing to hold out some of their "A" material for singles and EPs, and clearly that's the case here. These aren't outtakes or odds & ends - they're top quality tracks! Kurt Baker handles lead vocals on "You Broke My Heart" - which is the the most straight-up power pop song The New Trocs have ever done. It could almost pass for a Kurt Baker solo track, but with those old school rock n' roll harmonies that this band is so known for. "Come On Girl" features Geoff Palmer on lead vocals. When he takes the mic, you know you're getting pure pop in the '60s style (I still think "Dream Girl" is the band's greatest song to date). Here he and the boys conjure the magic of the '63-'65 era Beach Boys so convincingly that it's clear he ought to be in the Beach Boys! Steve Philp (guesting on lead guitar) and Kris Rodgers (killing it always on piano) take this tune over the top with an amazing pair of solos. Finally, "The Air" is a quintessential rhythm & blues number with Baker back on vocals. This song is a fine example of why I'm such a huge fan of Chaney as a lyricist. He's so good at writing timeless love songs, but then he can turn around and write a song like this with a strong social/ecological conscience. The lyrics are clever and quite funny, but the message is dead serious. Baker - so acclaimed as a songwriter and performer but perhaps a little underrated as a pure vocalist - does an amazing job selling Chaney's call to action.

The New Trocaderos continue to be the best of pop and garage and rock n' roll all in one band. New Trox just might be the finest of their three singles so far. It's available now from Bandcamp and CD Baby for just $3. A vinyl release in the future is not out of the question, so stay tuned!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

New music (and new tour) from Dany Laj and the Looks!

We never go very long without a great new release coming out of Montreal, and the latest is the new album from Dany Laj and The Looks. Alive & Kicking is the band's fourth release overall and second LP following 2015's Word On the Street. It arrives on the eve of a huge North American tour that should be of great interest to power pop fans in Canada and the States. I dug Laj's voice from the first time I heard it. He's the kind of singer that you just can't help rooting for, and I appreciate how he combines power pop hooks with the lyrical depth of a singer/songwriter. He's backed by a top-notch rhythm section in Jeanette Dowling and Colin Burnett. Alive & Kicking tells the story of a small town kid from Kirkland Lake, Ontario making his way to the big city and forging a life of touring and creating music. The band bio refers to his lyrics as "powerful yet unpretentious", and I must say I totally agree!

While certainly based in the hooks and the sensibilities of power pop, Alive & Kicking is an album representing many different moods and musical styles. The 1-2 punch opening this record is as impressive as any I've heard in a while. "Mister Screaming Attitude" is a driving, earnest number that brings to mind Tim/Pleased To Meet Me era Replacements. It's just so easy for me to close my eyes and feel the cold wind of a winter's day in Montreal. "Sweet Pretender" is a bigger hit than even Alexei Emelin could deliver - a radio-worthy pop/rock number that really benefits from Patrick Bennett's excellent keyboard work. It was a logical choice for a single. But don't sleep on the deeper cuts - which serve to bring variety to the album. The rocker "Planet Fun" works the groovy side of Big Star, while "Mixing A Drink" conjures the breezy pop feel of sunny California in the '70s. In a good way, "Diamond In The Rough" sounds like something I would have heard on an "alternative" radio station 20 years ago. And the band really gets to show off its chops on "Defending Champion" - a somewhat dramatic rock epic that genuinely succeeds. It sounds like it should be playing in a critical scene in a triumphant sports movie.

Alive & Kicking is a fine example of quality pop that doesn't limit itself to conventions of genre. Laj is a talented gentleman, and he has a gift for crafting songs that are relatable to almost anyone. In support of the album and the "Sweet Pretender" single, Laj and his band will embark on a long tour next week that is slated to last at least into April. Full tour dates can be found on the band's web siteAlive & Kicking releases this Friday on CD and digital download on Some Call It Pop Records. Record Centre Records will release the album on LP in the spring!


Friday, February 10, 2017

New Midnite Snaxxx album!

Surely it would be slightly premature to declare that Midnite Snaxxx has already locked up 2017 album of the year at the beginning of February. But I will say that the Oakland foursome has set the bar very high!

I've been highly touting Midnite Snaxxx since the early days of this blog. I've loved every release from this band, so it's saying something that new album Chew On This is my favorite by far. This is the first Snaxxx release to feature its current lineup (Dulcinea on guitar and vocals, Camylle on bass, Chris on guitar, and Sammy on drums), and the band has never sounded better! Camylle, playing bass in a band for the first time, sounds like she's been doing it all her life. And adding Chris (ex Loli and the Chones) on guitar has really filled out the group's sound.

Compared to the self-titled album from 2012, Chew On This sounds tighter and punchier while still retaining that same garage-punk spirit. And much to my delight, there is little if any stylistic variation between the albums. This is still the Snaxxx doing what they do best: leather-tough old style punk that worships at the altar of the Ramones and '70s power pop. That is 100% my musical sweet spot, and I can't think of a band that hits it more bang-on. With this album, you get a great mix of more ferocious tracks like "Space Invaders"/"Hey, I'm A Human" and "Quit Being A Dick" and poppier tunes such as "Found A Way To Your Heart" and "Sad To See You Go". And then there are songs like "Attitude" that are a little bit of both! The band successfully goes full-on power pop on "Why Do I?", while "Just What I Need" is the most satisfying Buzzcocks homage I've heard in years.

It's not always easy in the punk world for a band to follow a great debut LP with an even better second album. But that's exactly what Midnite Snaxxx have done. They've managed to toughen up their sound while still remembering that what matters most is delivering great songs. You can order Chew On This on vinyl straight from Pelican Pow Wow Records or buy the digital album from the Midnite Snaxxx Bandcamp page. Crank it loud, and don't be surprised when it leaves you begging for more!


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Meet The Cheap Cassettes (again)!

Many of us remain in a state of disbelief following the unforeseen event that dominated our conversations in the closing months of 2016. Can this really be happening? How did one of my favorite bands, The Cheap Cassettes, end up on Rum Bar Records, my favorite record label? Were aliens or Russians involved? I'd like to think I may have had a tiny hand in this development. But let us speak no more about the size of my hands.

Out now on Rum Bar Records is a shiny CD reissue of All Anxious, All The Time - the brilliant debut album from The Cheap Cassettes. It is a rare occurrence for me to review the same album twice. When it has happened in the past, it has usually involved me either retracting bad reviews (first High Tension Wires album) or editing down 3,000-word diatribes that no one actually read the whole way through (Exploding Hearts' Guitar Romantic). Yet here I am, for the second time, reviewing a Rum Bar Records reissue that I extensively touted upon its original release. I can neither confirm nor deny that Malibu Lou has bought this coverage by promising me first dibs on the beer cooler at Rum Bar Pancake Social 2018. But in all seriousness, All Anxious... has become one of the three or four albums of this decade that I've listened to the most. In my top ten albums of 2014 list, it inexplicably only came in at #7. Needless to say, it would probably rise to #1 if I re-wrote the list today. It holds up so well as an example of great pop married to gutsy rock n' roll. Drawing not just from the obvious genre standard-bearers but also from first wave punks (Jam, Buzzcocks) and unsung titans of the underground (Replacements, Material Issue), The Cheap Cassettes set forth a broad vision for what powerful pop ought to be. And while the quick sales pitch is that this is former Dimestore Haloes doing power pop, let us remember that the Haloes were already headed in this direction when they called it a day.

From the opening notes of the Motown-flavored shaker of a title track, All Anxious... reaffirms my longtime fondness for the formidable talents of Chaz Matthews and Kevin Parkhurst. The album was recorded over a number of years with the two bandmates collaborating long-distance. While that explains some of the unevenness in fidelity (I'm pretty sure the vocals for "My Little Twin" were recorded on the toilet with a hair brush for a microphone), it's also what gives the record much of its charm. There's a rawness here that is too often missing in today's power pop, and at the same time the songwriting is the best I've ever heard from these two. "Wreckless", which could be considered the band's own "Bastards of Young", would not have sounded out of place on the Haloes' swan song Ghosts of Saturday Night. The same thing could be said of "Good and Shitty"- a glorious shot of pop trash recalling Johnny Thunders or early 'Mats. It's really hard to pick a "hit" here since the songs are pretty much choice cuts all the way through. But there are a few I keep going back to. The aforementioned "My Little Twin" is easily one of the best songs Chaz has ever put his name on, and "Big Dumb Town" is absolutely the epitome of awesomely loud pop (good lord, that guitar solo!!!). I rarely dare to make a comparison like this, but I could totally imagine the late Jim Ellison singing "Girlfriend". And how fun is "Black Vinyl!"?!

The most surprising thing about The Cheap Cassettes' move to Rum Bar is that I don't think Chaz has ever been on a label where he didn't have the coolest hair on the roster (the whole earth bows to Kurt Baker's wavy locks). But truly I cannot imagine a more ideal fit - given the band's Boston roots and a musical style that slots perfectly between The Connection's hook-laden garage/rock n' roll and the earnest blue collar punk of Nato Coles. With the original issue of All Anxious... falling a little under the radar, now is the time for the world at large to fall in love with The Cheap Cassettes. Malibu Lou (probably wearing sunglasses and holding a stiff drink in his hand at the time) even worked his music mogul magic and persuaded the band to fortify this reissue with a previously unreleased track - a magnificent rootsy jangler called "Disappear With You". You can also look forward to a secret bonus track. Is it a Krokus cover? An instrumental played entirely on kazoo? Perhaps a musical ode to Glenn Danzig demanding French onion soup on a concert rider? You will have to find out for yourself!


Friday, February 3, 2017

New Fashionism single!

It's always a great day in my life when we get a new release from Fashionism. So that makes today a great day! "Back In The Day" is the Vancouver outfit's 4th single already - and the debut release from Neon Taste Records. I would probably describe Fashionism as the best current band to have not yet released an LP. But seriously: as long as the band keeps turning out singles this good, I will have no complaints about the absence of an album! "Back In The Day" does not disappoint in the least. It's precisely what we've come to expect from Fashionism: top-tier powerpop/punk with a palpable glam influence. And as always, the band proves to have something serious to say without taking itself too seriously. The title track opines on the sham nostalgia that plagues punk culture, while "One Shot" salutes the glories of almighty caffeine. The latter just might be my favorite of the two. It's as pop as a punk song can be, but it isn't pop-punk. Think Boys, Generation X, etc.

With four terrific singles to its credit, Fashionism is a group that everyone ought to know and love. Jeff is an ace front man and brilliant lyricist, and the band continues to be a breath of fresh air in a punk/powerpop scene that can sometimes get a little "samey". I was not even aware that a new single was forthcoming until very recently. So thank you, Fashionism, for the pleasant surprise that has made my year to this point!


Thursday, February 2, 2017

The return of Psychotic Youth!!!

So I've been buried in school work the last few weeks and just haven't had time to keep the reviews flowing. But I've got to take a moment to mention the arrival of a new album from Sweden's legendary Psychotic Youth. The Voice of Summer is the band's first new album since Stereoids was released on Bomp! Records over 18 years ago. That's right: a child born on the release date of Stereoids would now be a legal adult! I consider Stereoids to be an all-time top ten power pop LP, and The Voice of Summer is a more than worthy follow-up. Let me tell you: there's nothing more welcome in the dead of winter than an album celebrating summertime fun! This is vintage Psychotic Youth: high-energy power pop with one foot in punk and the other in garage rock. What's not to love?! The Voice of Summer is available now in Japan on Waterslide Records, with a vinyl release due soon on the venerable Screaming Apple Records. Check it out!


Monday, January 16, 2017

One Way Ticket: the debut album!

And now here's something swell from France! One Way Ticket is a Besançon-based trio that works a classic power pop style while also tipping its cap to mod and Brit-pop influences. Out on the French label Production Impossible Records, And Life Just Simply Moves Along is the band's debut album following an EP released back in 2015. The snap and jangle of "In The Upper World" and the first class Jam worship of "All Change" start off the record auspiciously, but what impresses me as the album progresses is the band's ability to slow the tempo and really let those melodies shine. "Magical Springs", "Miss Grievous", and "Finger Snap" are fine examples of power pop with an undercurrent of melancholy. And "Beside You" fully embraces the dramatic possibilities of a good ballad. This may be a funny observation, but I like hearing this style of music sung in a French accent. All in all, the band does a great job of taking tried-and-true influences and creating something that feels fresh and current and genuinely original. If you like mod/powerpop, this ought to be right up your alley. Vinyl LP releases this coming Friday!


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Meet Surf Cassette!

The first 2017 release I've heard is a really good one! Surf Cassette is a trio from Milan, Italy doing a super cool mix of garage, surf, and pop. The band's self-titled debut release came out last week via Bandcamp, and it's a free download that's well worth checking out. I love the idea of an Italian band in 2017 finding inspiration in "waves, Californian girls, dreams and seasides". These guys have a minimalist/lo-fi aesthetic that definitely falls under the garage umbrella, but at heart they're a melody-driven pop band. Leadoff track "Wasted" is surprisingly unlike the rest of the tracks - coming on with big crunching power pop moves and a killer chorus. But starting with second track "Lust For Life", the band really settles into a dreamy/beachy/surfy groove that channels the Beach Boys via the Jesus and Mary Chain. The harmonies on "Mess In My Head" and "Rebel" are spot-on, and overall the quality of the songwriting is top-notch. I like how the band can go from an attitude-laced rocker such as "Maybe I'm Not Sober" (reminiscent of early '90s punky Brit-pop) right into a song as sparse and pretty as "Summer's End". Every aspect of the production of this album took place in the band's rehearsal space, and such simplicity suits these songs very well. Having had so many wonderful experiences with Italian bands over the years, I must say I've encountered another winner in Surf Cassette!


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Introducing Rinehearts!

I've got a short and sweet post for you today! Rinehearts hail from Perth, Australia and have a six-song debut EP out on No Front Teeth Records. This is something a little different for NFT: late '70s style power pop that worships at the altar of guitar jangle and ringing melodies. It goes without saying that I'm a big fan of the style, and Rinehearts sure do it well. Play "Try Your Luck" for just about anyone, and you could totally pass it off as some forgotten A-side from the heyday of The Records and Incredible Kidda Band! I feel like I should be playing this EP while I stand in front of the mirror and fix my skinny tie just right. There's quite a rich history of Aussie power pop, and Rinehearts seem poised to become part of it. Order the 7" from No Front Teeth!