Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Prissteens - Demos and Rarities Volume 2

I never dreamed there would ever be a sequel to last year's completely essential Prissteens Demos and Rarities collection. Yet here I am at this very moment staring at Volume 2. Christmas came early this year!

I suppose it would be more correct to refer to volume 2 as a prequel. Volume 1 was largely made up of demos for songs that were intended for that second Prissteens album that never came to be. Volume 2, on the other hand, features demos the band recorded in advance of Scandal, Controversy, and Romance- its first (and sadly, only) album. More polished versions of a couple of these tracks wound up on the LP, while a few of these songs are being heard for the very first time after 20 years in the vaults. Girlsville is once again responsible for unearthing these lost treasures, and Courtney did an amazing job of combing through the demos and selecting only the absolute cream of the crop. What results is an all-killer, no-filler affair packaging the best of The Prissteens' pre-album demos with the B-sides from the band's early singles and a Christmas song that was previously available only as a download.

Was the "big" production of Scandal, Controversy, and Romance ill-suited for The Prissteens, or was it exactly what the band needed? While fans seem to be divided on this point, there's not much denying that the difference between indie era and major label era Prissteens is like night and day. This collection bridges those two eras. If you've ever wondered what the songs from the album would have sounded like if they'd been produced like the earlier singles, demo versions of  "Someday" and "I Don't Cry" will provide a definitive and satisfying answer. If you weren't familiar with the Prissteens and just heard "I'm A Mess", you might think you were encountering forgotten garage rock greats from 50 years ago. And after one listen to "You're Gonna Lose", I was immediately baffled as to how this song could have been lost to the world for two decades. It's the absolute perfect mix of punk rock and girl group inspired pop. As I listen, I imagine that the ghost of Joey Ramone is smiling beside me and imploring me to turn it up louder.

The Prissteens were one of New York City's finest punk groups of the '90s - or any decade for that matter! If you're looking for a proper introduction to the band, either volume of Demos and Rarities is a fine place to start. Volume 2 is the leaner and meaner of the two and comes with essential bonuses like the Richard Gottehrer produced "Christmas Is a Time for Giving" and the band's wonderfully NSFW treatment of the Undertones' "Teenage Kicks". If you own volume 1, you're gonna need to have volume 2 as well. Otherwise I'll just tell you to quit screwing around and go buy 'em both!


Friday, October 13, 2017

Indonesian Junk - Stars In the Night

I've mentioned it before that Indonesian Junk's second LP was one of my most highly anticipated albums of 2017. Between the long wait since the first album (released 20 months ago) and Malibu Lou's continued guarantees of face-melting greatness, I had good reason to expect a great deal from Stars In the Night. With the album now officially out, I can tell you that I was not disappointed. In fact, I'd say my expectations were actually exceeded. This is up there with the top three or four albums of a really great year. If you dig the same type of stuff that I dig, I imagine that you will be quite keen on this release as well.

It's not that there's anything radically different about Indonesian Junk this time out. The Milwaukee trio continues to mix glam, power pop, and old New York punk influences in such a way that doesn't sound like any other band out there. But man oh man, Daniel James and company have absolutely knocked this record out of the park! This release was far more "professionally" recorded than the last one. That could have been a good thing or a bad thing, but it definitely turned out to be the former. And in an entirely good way, this album really plays to Daniel's knack for writing terrific pop songs. If anyone is still questioning whether or not it's possible to create poppy punk rock that sounds genuinely tough, Stars In the Night will show you how it's done. Propelled by irresistible guitar hooks and a chorus you just have to sing along with, "I Would Never Treat You Like That" is as catchy as anything you'll hear all year. The same could be said of "I'll Run Away" - a number so energetic and hook-laden that any resultant head-bobbing may lead to severe neck injuries. "Tonight" is the closest Indonesian Junk has ever come to a pure power pop song, and "Turn To Stone" is first class solo Stiv Bators worship. But while the poppier songs on this album are amazing (good luck getting "Why Did I Call You" out of your head anytime soon!), that's only the half of it! "Stars" is a loving tribute to Nikki Sudden and quite possibly the best song Daniel has ever written. "Nosferatu" will have you going from "What the fuck is this?!" to "This is goddamn brilliant!" within one listen. "Slow Down"  is like a sonic teleportation to the hey day of Max's Kansas City. "On The Run" is a wonderful closing ballad that brings to mind '70s Stones and Johnny Thunders.

There's honestly no other band out there quite like Indonesian Junk. In a scene full of way too many sound-alike artists, Daniel James is one of those rare genuine originals. He's good real personality, a flair for quality songwriting, and insane guitar skills. The very first time I heard his self-recorded demos for Indonesian Junk, I knew he was onto something good. And the records have continued to get better and better. With bassist Johnny Cyanide and drummers Mike Mattner and David Barootian, James has found the perfect musical partners in crime. Stars in the Night is everything I love about '70s punk, glam, pop, and good old filthy rock n' roll all rolled together and spat out in a wonderful and totally original way. Lou, you were right as always!


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Dahlmanns/The Stanleys - split 7"

Any time we have the "best band in the world" conversation, The Dahlmanns have got to be in it. I can't name a single release from these Norwegian national treasures that I don't flat-out love. That very much continues with the band's latest release - a split 7" with Aussie power poppers The Stanleys. This is The Dahlmanns' third single on Beluga Records and whopping 11th overall.   

The Dahlmanns' contribution to this split is "Conny Converse" - which is nothing less than the total pop smash you would expect it to be. Line's voice is in lovely form as usual, and those harmonies are just so on-point. Top it all off with an absolute gem of a guitar solo, and you've got yourself a hit! It takes a truly formidable band to be able to hang with The Dahlmanns, and The Stanleys prove to be very much up to the task. They play an ultra-punchy, super high energy brand of power pop that's practically their birthright as Australians. Their contribution to this split, "Amy", sounds like a radio hit from a time when they still played radio hits on the radio. The song is also available on the band's brand-new debut album - which I plan to review in the very near future.

This Dahlmanns/Stanleys split is such a treat because it brings together two of the top bands in all of power pop. They sure make a perfect pair! Order the split directly from Beluga Records. "Conny Converse" is also available in digital form from Apple Music and Spotify! 


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Safes - Tasty Waves

Having been one of America's great rock n' roll treasures since the early 2000s, The Safes are one of those bands you can always count on. There is no such thing as a bad Safes record, and the band's rep as a live powerhouse has been hard-earned and well deserved. This is one of the few bands I can name that has remained in peak form throughout each of the last two decades. And so with the recent release of The Safes' fourth album Tasty Waves on Hidden Volume Records, I braced myself to be wowed. I was not let down.

The Brothers O'Malley - Frankie and Patrick- have been constants in The Safes lineup since day one. The current incarnation of the band is rounded out by Dex Fontaine (drums) and Curt Schmelz (bass). While the band still occupies that general space where garage rock and power pop intersect, Tasty Waves definitely continues the '60s-inspired songwriting direction of 2014's outstanding Record Heat. And here's what I love about this band: while the influence of the Beatles, Beach Boys, Kinks, etc. is all over Tasty Waves, this is not even close to a "revivalist" record. It's modern-day garage pop with classic inspirations. 

While The Safes are particularly known for their high energy live shows and guitar-heavy recordings, it's really the songwriting that steals the show on Tasty Waves. Frankie O'Malley wrote nine of the ten tracks and co-wrote the other with his brother Patrick. With this album, I've really taken notice of his skill as a lyricist. His wordplay is clever and often highly acidic/satirical. In other spots ("Crystal Ball", "Mind Of Its Own"), he comes off genuinely reflective. And "Streets and Sanitation" is some of the most compelling lyrical poetry I've come across in a while. While the melodies are strong enough to make even casual listening enjoyable, there's a lot to be gained from sitting down with the lyrics and digging deep into these songs. I don't think there could be a more spot-on lyrical couplet for 2017 than "I'm the guy whose eyes are not glued to his phone/And I'm so glad to know that I'm not alone".

With this particular set of songs, we get a Safes album that feels quite different from its predecessors. I'm not sure I want to use the dreaded "mature" description, but the absence of any obvious full-throttle rockers really emphasizes craft over crackle. Of course there's more than enough punch in the band's attack, and the songs remain lean at a total running time of 22 minutes. But standout tracks like "Hometown", "Crystal Ball", and "Nobody Cares Anymore" are true triumphs of skillfully woven melodies and highly creative songwriting. I'm especially impressed with the subtle touches that bring timeless '60s pop into the modern age. Front to back, The Safes have never delivered a better collection of songs. And the album just sounds amazing - the band working with producer Brian Deck to achieve a warm and wonderfully rich fidelity. Tasty Waves, like everything else The Safes have done, is an essential purchase.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Cheap Trick review series: One On One

Review by Mike Kimmel

I'm frequently amazed at how quick some folks are to pan a song or an album or a band because what they've done just doesn't quite fit with what that person wants or expects. It amazes me even further (and removes a good deal of what little credibility some major music mag reviewers might have once had) when it's obvious that the previously mentioned dork hasn't even listened to the song/album/band.

This is a Cheap Trick review, but the first example that jumps into my head was when KISS members released their simultaneous solo albums years ago. Paul Stanley had a song on his solo that was titled "Love in Chains", which the reviewer claimed, was "…another typical KISS bondage tribute…" or something to that effect.

Oh yes he did, and oh no it wasn't.

After browsing my Cheap Trick archives in search of the next release to discuss, I found my attention directed to the release immediately previous to 1983's Next Position Please – 1982's One On One. This was the first album to feature Jon Brant on bass to replace the recently departed Tom Petersson. After briefly reinstating bassist (who was actually a guitarist, but who's counting) Pete Comita, who had been a band member years previous, he was canned… AGAIN… in favor of the somewhat well-known Chicago area bassist Brant.

I never got to see Cheap Trick in concert with Brant. But I DID get to an in-store record signing for One on One, and Brant was there with Nielsen, Zander, and Bun E. Carlos. For the record, Nielsen and Carlos were somewhat aloof, shall we say, while Zander and Brant were very friendly and accessible; Zander actually took time to pose for a few pictures away from the rest of the band.

Now Brant is recording with Cheap Trick, and One On One is released. Zander is often accused of screaming his way through some of the songs on the release. On the opening track "I Want You", yes he does – quite a bit.


Talented vocalists can pull off a variety of different sounds just as guitarist and bassists, etc., can. Robin Zander is arguably one of the best singers in rock and roll, and though he's lost some of his hair to age, he hasn't lost a whole lot of that range. He can do an amazing range of things with his voice, and occasionally screaming is one of them.

Spoiler alert! He does the same thing on track five ("Looking Out For Number One") and track nine ("Love's Got a Hold On Me"). He maybe doesn't do it to quite the same degree as in "I Want You", but maybe what the song needed was different?

By the way… Do you know how many other musical endeavors have been titled "I Want You"? I did a very brief search and came up with 155 songs with that title. Well, 148 with that title in English, one in German, one in French, one in Spanish, one in what appears to be Czech, and three in an Asian font.

That's not counting six albums with that title (one each by Booker T., Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett), three films, and 11 tunes in which the title starts with "I Want You". Maybe they wanted THEIR version to stand out from the crowd!

Not that I'm defensive or anything.

Second track is the title track and features an oft-cited lyric used to bash the Tricksters: "Reputation is a fragile thing". Having been together for 40+ years as the same band (one glaring omission set aside for another time), releasing 18 studio albums, two EPs, six live releases, appearing on 17 compilations and 21 movie soundtracks, releasing 57 charting singles and seven videos/DVDs, I'd say their reputation is fairly safe.

One of those singles was "If You Want My Love". Featuring a break that could be a first cousin to that of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", it peaked at #11 on the US Rock chart and number two on the Australian charts. It's one of the slower ballads the band has done, and like the majority of them, it charted. It didn't hit as high as "The Flame", which reached number one on the US charts. But #11 ain't bad either.

"Oo La La La" follows, and it's a kinda short little semi-nonsensical rocker that can hang with the best that the band has done and, as with many of them, I have no idea what this one is about but it's fun to listen to.

"Lookin' Out For Number One" is another one where Zander screams the lyrics on occasion, so if you find that off-putting consider yourself warned. "I got hot but never got burned" is one of the interesting lyrics in the fifth track, which is describing another relationship malcontent. The next verse expounds further: "When I'm hot she says she's not. Don't get too close, she's over the top. Think by now, well, I would have learned. She's all talk. I really got burned."

"She's Tight" follows at track number six and is not only one of my favorite songs from this release – it's one of my favorite Cheap Trick tunes. "You floated in. We floated up. Through the window and down the hall. I had a smoke and went upstairs. Turned the door and I opened the key. She spoke… 'I'm on my own. Home all alone.' So I got off the phone!" Yep. Still love it!

The shortest song on the album follows at number seven. "Time is Runnin'" clocks in at only 2:20 and features… Wait. Really? No lead part for anyone? I do like the verse that says "Here comes the night. Gone are the days, yeah, when we could just sit here and talk for hours. Didn't have much to say".

For those keeping track, the eighth cut – "Saturday at Midnight" - is only the second weirdest track on the album ("I Want Be Man" takes that trophy home all by its lonesome.). "Saturday at midnight. See you at the red light (bad scene, man). Don't wanna be alone." It's a little odd, but that only reinforces the fact that you're listening to a Cheap Trick album, right?

Another Zander screaming fit! Hold on to your earlobes! "Love's Got a Hold On Me" is another rocker in the best Trick style, and it's another tune that gets going, gets the job done, and then it's on to the next track. Only 2:36 in duration, the band packs a good deal of rock as they roll through track number nine.

I mentioned that "Saturday at Midnight" wasn't the strangest tune on the One On One release from Cheap Trick. No, they saved that distinction for the tenth track of the 11 on the album, and that diagnosis goes to "I Want Be Man". 

After the opening where the odd, modulated drums frame the muffler, staccato guitar and the chorus of "I want be man. I want be man. I want be man. I want be man", you have a description of (what I think is) sometime in the future when there are robot servants, illustrated by lyrics like "I don't like living inside this metal plastic shell".

Things are changing based on the desires of the masters. "Hey I don't like livin' in this fleshy human shell. As much as I abuse it, it's really gone to hell."

Then there's an exchange of thoughts between human master and robot servant. It's kind of a lengthy lyric quote here, and I apologize but it's entirely necessary and pretty much fun. Besides, I really don't have any trepidation when quoting lyrics in a review. While it's true that good music can make bad lyrics tolerable, it's also true that interesting lyrics can move a marginal song onto your favorites list.

The "marginal" thing doesn't apply here. "I Want Be Man" is a fun song, and as I've said before… I've come to be entertained and not convinced!

"I'd rather be a robot so I don't have to think. 'Cause then I could be programmed where I don't have to dream. I'd rather be a man, instead of a machine. Flesh and blood life and death. It's a mystery. Nothing to be programmed. Nothing is for sure. And least there's a reason… A reason for my life. I want be man. You want be me."

The album winds down with "Four Letter Word". Another relationship quandary in which someone screwed up big time and now has to come groveling back. Part of the reasoning involved is "It's alright; it takes two to make it love. Cause love can be just a four letter word. A four letter word". 

I've seen some folks list this release as their favorite Cheap Trick studio album. And though I can't count myself among them, it's a respectable effort and is 100% Cheap Trick. Many of those choose One On One specifically over Next Position Please. Again, I can't count myself in that group.

Of the six Cheap Trick releases in the 1980s, One On One would likely be listed as either my second or third choice as favorite from that decade. Next Position Please would have to be the first favorite, followed by either One On One or All Shook Up – and that order would probably swap positions for #2 or 3 depending on my mood at the time.

-Mike Kimmel

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Next Big Thing 40th Anniversary Issue

Being one who came up in the world of do-it-yourself print zines, I have tremendous affection for those venerable publications that paved the way. Of those, Lindsay Hutton's The Next Big Thing was one of the first and without doubt one of the most legendary. It was certainly the first U.K. fanzine to be largely inspired by American punk rock. Named, of course, after the opening track from The Dictators' debut album Go Girl Crazy!, The Next Big Thing debuted in April of 1977. It eventually spawned a record label and continued as a print fanzine for an amazing run of 20 years. The entity lives on today over at If you're looking for a good feel for what the magazine was about, consider that the premiere issue featured extensive write-ups on The Dictators, The Damned, Blue Oyster Cult, and Television in addition to an article on the musical origins of punk rock. Over the years, Hutton championed standouts of the punk, new wave, and rock n' roll scenes - many of whom were largely unknown by the masses. In today's world where information about independent bands is so readily available on The Internet, it's easy to forget how vital fanzines like TNBT were to punk music in its early days. Imagine coming across an issue in the late '70s and having your life forever changed by seeing a Ramones record review or an ad for Bomp! Records!

With this year being the 40th anniversary of the debut of The Next Big Thing, Hutton endeavored to mark the occasion in a special way. He revived both the zine and the label, releasing The Dahlmanns (with Andy Shernoff!) "Forever My Baby" 7" and an anniversary print edition of TNBT. I had the pleasure of reviewing the 7" back in March, and I still maintain that it's the best single of 2017.

As for the print mag, it's really a delight to hold it in my hands. I stopped doing print zines over a decade and a half ago - in part due to the enormous expense involved and in part due to my reluctant adaptation to changing technologies. But I have to admit that there's just something incredibly cool about print (even in this age when our "devices" make digital publications equally portable). Hutton opens the issue by stating his concern that it might come off like a once great band's lesser "new stuff". But essentially this issue is classic TNBT - replete with a heartfelt opening rant, a nifty four-page spread on The Dahlmanns, an autobiographical piece by Amy Rigby, a feature on the Funtastic Dracula Carnival music festival, a previously unpublished short story by J.D. King, a write-up on The Schizophonics by Long Gone John, and a few pages of reviews. The 2017 version of TNBT very much resembles its younger self - with its focus on bands and artists who are highly worthy of attention yet unlikely to ever receive it from the "proper" press. The passion that went into this issue is palpable. 

This special print issue of The Next Big Thing proved to be a great success, with all 300 copies already gone. A few (packaged with the 7") remain available from Soundflat's on-line store, so move fast if you want one! I admire that Hutton wanted this issue to only be available as a print magazine, and its warm reception says a great deal about the enthusiasm of our international punk rock community. Hutton was never going to profit financially from this endeavor, yet he went ahead and did it because he really wanted to. For 40 years, he's done what I attempt to do myself - spread the gospel about great music and hopefully turn people on to bands they'll come to love. I was honored and humbled that he thought me worthy of a promo copy. If you're not doing so already, I highly recommend you follow his activities via his blog and check out the digital archive of TNBT back issues. It's incredibly fascinating to go back and read Hutton's coverage of 1977 punk music that was written just as this music was coming out. Below I've embedded Hutton's recent appearance on John Cavanagh's Soundwave - which is required listening in my book!


Friday, October 6, 2017

The Hipshakes - "Shot"

The Hipshakes are on a roll! After going a good number of years without any new singles from these longtime standouts of U.K. garage punk, we were treated to one last year and two more in short order this year. Hot on the heels of that double A-side affair on Crocodile Records ("Listening" b/w "Outside Lines"), "Shot" arrives on Charlie Murphy's Nerve Centre Records. This, to me, is the best yet of this wonderful new lot of Hipshakes singles. Like the rest of the band's more recent releases, it embraces pop, post-punk, and '77 punk influences without losing touch with the group's garage roots. That, to me, has been the recipe for the band's longevity (16 years and counting!). Certainly The Hipshakes have updated their sound over the years, but ultimately they still sound like...The Hipshakes! A-side "Shot" could not be any more up my alley. Think the thrashing minimalism of Pink Flag era Wire, except way poppier. Of course I love it! On the flip, "Samba" enters fist-pumping territory and demands the full capacity of your volume control. This is urgent and anthemic punk rock all the way, with just enough new wave quirks to keep you on your toes. If this one doesn't get you fired up to break out of your monotonous day and go live life, you may be a hopeless case!

With these last few Hipshakes' singles, there has clearly been a great deal of thought put into the song selections. You're never stuck with two songs that sound the same, and it certainly can't be an accident that the B-sides have been just as good as the A-sides. Perhaps outside of the U.K., this band might have fallen off of some people's radar in recent years. But The Hipshakes are clearly still going strong - perhaps stronger than ever! Murphy has already released some really great music by his own bands on the Nerve Centre imprint (if you don't own and love A Little Reaction by Murph & The Gazorpos, I don't know if we can be friends). He couldn't have picked a better band than The Hipshakes for his first "outside" release! This is a top-notch effort from one of the best bands out there. I've got more exciting news related to this label coming very soon, so stay tuned!


Friday, September 29, 2017

Retro Reviews: New York Loose - Born To Loose

Review by Rob Sheley

1990s New York City was a very different place than it is now. It was on the cusp of Mayor Giuliani giving the town a makeover, virtually eliminating the homeless and the Taxi Driver reality of the city. It was his sole mission to make it more tourist friendly and "safe". New York below 14th Street was gritty and dirty and downright dangerous - the perfect breeding ground for creativity in both art and music. Photos don't portray the feel of what the city was. It was something you had to experience, and it was more than just hardcore shows at CBGBs. Rock & roll was finally bubbling back up to the surface at places like Brownies, Tramps, Coney Island High, The Continental, and of course CB's.

One band that gets tragically lost in the shuffle is the New York Loose - fronted by singer/guitarist Brijitte West. Accompanied by a revolving door of players, she remained the one and the only constant member of the band. The band was perfectly poised to make a great splash in the music scene about 10 years before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs & The Strokes re-broke New York as the music hot bed. The New York Loose (named for the great Stooges song) was unique enough - borrowing from the Dolls/Heartbreakers (both Johnny & Tom) owner's manual sonically, with the jangle of '60s radio pop thrown in, similar to the Devil Dogs choice of bands to cover but with more finesse than fury. There were many unfair comparisons of Brijitte to Joan Jett, and they were simply short sighted. Just because a girl fronts a band with a guitar doesn't mean she is a cookie cutter mold of Miss Jett.

Born To Loose is a perfect cross section of a band that either needed to arrive a few years later to catch the mainstream NY wave or have had someone at the label give them the much-needed push they deserved. The band's only mainstream claim to fame was to have a song ("Spit") on The Crow soundtrack. That song is included here from the earlier 7" version with the Crow version on their major label debut Year Of The Rat. After a few tours and a bit of momentum, the band just dissolved, was dropped in the label mergers of the mid/late '90s, and never made the follow up. That was 1996. If they could have made it through the next record and toured a bit, history might be very different. The collection of their work presented here is tracked chronologically, from the 1st single A-side to several unreleased songs that would have made their 2nd major label record. It covers all of the band's most important works, especially the pre-major label songs and comp tracks. The collection does give the listener a taste of their major label work, but the songs are presented in different versions. It mainly shines the focus on their indie work.

The band released two tremendous singles in short order in 1993: "Bitch" b/w "Monolith Kids" & "Luckiest Girl" b/w "Green Light Semaphore". All four tracks are included here, all written by Brijitte with two co-written by Richard Bacchus of D Generation. That alone should give you an idea of what the band was going for. Rick played on them, and they do have a distinct feel of that 1st D Gen record. The band made a reasonable enough wave that Flipside magazine signed them to release an EP. Tragically it was never turned into a 10", but the five songs that it contained were so hopeful as to what could possibly be forthcoming. Aided by Gary Sunshine (Circus Of Power) on guitar, Danny Nordahl (Stiv Bators, Throbs) on bass, and John Melville on drums, this is the lineup that should have stayed together. But as we know, all good thing sometimes do not last. Lucky for us, the release includes all of the tracks recorded by this iteration of the band. These nine songs showcase the presence and power that they had. The fragile yet gravely wail that Brijitte possesses permeates the Flipside EP (all tracks included here), and the additional songs with this lineup are a perfect brush that the band paints with. Tender and hopeful, guttural at times, and defiant when it needed to be, the band's sound was one of the best to radiate out of '90s New York.

This collection doesn't include any tracks from Year of The Rat - I'm sure due to cost issues. But it does include the pre-release 7 inch versions of "Spit" & "Pretty Suicide". Both tracks presented here benefit from a grittier production that was lacking from the debut. "Tailspin" from the Flipside Compilation and "This Train Terminates Here" are excellent rock & roll songs. Painfully missing are their covers of "Boom Boom" by John Lee Hooker (B-side of the "Fade" 7"; "Fade" is included), "Wave of Mutilation" by the Pixies, and their revved up version of "Lust For Life" from the We Will Fall tribute to Iggy Pop.

The collection closes with several unreleased songs from the final lineup of the band. "The Case Of All Gone", "Lord Won't You Send Me A Devil", "Demons", and "Scene Of The Crime" (all recorded during or slightly after a tour with Reverend Horton Heat) spell what could have become of the band.

Upon the demise of the band, Brijitte moved to England and took some time off and then in 2010 began playing as Brijitte West and The Desperate Hopefuls. In 2016 the band created a Pledgemusic campaign to create From NY With Love following in the path that had started with the Flipside EP. The band has re-dialed in the sound that The New York Loose created in the '90s. However, Born To Loose is the necessary place to start. It is the roots and teething years for a band that was right there and should get the proper recognition that it rightfully deserves.

-Rob Sheley

Rob Sheley will be presenting 35 original drawings of Hollywood movie monsters at an art exhibition in Lancaster, PA on October 6th. For more information, check out the event page  on Facebook! 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Song Premiere: Indonesian Junk- "Stars"

One of my most highly anticipated album releases for 2017 was Indonesian Junk's second LP Stars In The Night. It's coming out next month on Rum Bar Records, and I have to say that it's everything I hoped it would be. Three tracks, "I'll Run Away", "Turn To Stone", and "Why Did I Call You?", have already been premiered in advance of the album. Today I am delighted to premiere a fourth track from what will surely be one of the year's finest albums. Indonesian Junk's lead man Daniel James describes "Stars" as "kind of a post apocalyptic love song that takes place in a reality somewhere in between Mad Max and Batman: No Man's Land." Says James: "It's about two people whose love is like a light shining in the darkness which is the world around them. They're two stars in the night. Musically it's kind of influenced by the Jacobites. David (our former drummer, who played on the track) and I were lucky enough to get to play in Nikki Sudden's band briefly before he passed away, so the song is also sort of a tribute to him."

Stars In the Night is set for an October 13th release on Rum Bar Records and will deliver another head-bobbing mix of glam, power pop, and gritty '70s punk. Malibu Lou has been talking up this release to me for months, and I can assure you that he's had good reason. I have had the good fortune of following this Milwaukee trio's progression from that first raw demo to its home-recorded debut album to this home run of a sophomore LP. Stars In the Night is definitely a little more pop than its predecessor. But I'm talking "pop" as in The Only Ones or Stiv Bators. I'll post a proper review in a couple weeks. In the meantime, give "Stars" a listen right now. And if you haven't already checked out "I'll Run Away", "Turn To Stone", and "Why Did I Call You?", head on over to Rum Bar's Bandcamp. There you can stream those tunes and pre-order the album!


Monday, September 25, 2017

Kurt Baker - The Lost Weekend EP

So there's a new Kurt Baker release out, and of course I'm stoked! The Lost Weekend EP, out on Little Steven's Wicked Cool Records, is a compilation of rare and unreleased tracks that will tide us over until the next Kurt Baker Combo album arrives next year. Some of these are solo recordings, and others were done in Spain with the Combo. Even if you own everything Baker has ever released, this is an EP you need to own if you're a fan. Three of these seven tracks are being heard for the first time ever, and another was only available as a bonus track on the vinyl version of the Play It Cool LP. Among the unreleased tracks is a terrific cover of "(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding" - which Baker recorded with the very awesome Spanish band Los Reactivos a while back. I always appreciated the way Elvis Costello made that song his own, and here Baker and Los Reactivos do the same. Equally impressive is Baker and The Combo's run at the Larry Williams classic "Bad Boy" - which The Beatles famously covered in 1965. And how could it be that "Keep Away", which Baker co-wrote with Dan Vapid, has never been released before? That remains a mystery, but now we finally get to hear it!

The songs on The Lost Weekend EP that you may already be familiar with definitely fall into the rare category. "Give It Up" and "Motion Devotion" came out on a 7" on Hidden Volume Records that was limited to 300 copies and quickly sold out. The Nick Lowe inspired rocker "Girl's Got Money" is from a single released in 2013 on Collectors Club Records (only 200 copies made!). And Baker's cover of the '60s garage rarity "Thank Goodness It's Friday" by Doug Brown and The Omens will be new to you unless you own Play It Cool on vinyl.

In addition to its offering of unreleased gems like "Bad Boy" and "Keep Away", The Lost Weekend EP is such a treat because it shows us the many sides of Kurt Baker. These seven tracks run the gamut from '60s garage to power pop to straight-up rock n' roll, and all in all this release really captures the "have a good time, all the time" mind-set that has come to define Baker's music. The EP is available now from iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play, etc.!


Friday, September 22, 2017

The Geros - Razor Dog

Having released singles from the likes of The Raydios, Louder, and Car Crash, Secret Mission Records has provided the tremendous public service of bringing much of the best in current-day Japanese punk rock to American shores. That continues with the label's latest release - an absolute smasher from Osaka that blends '77 and Killed By Death punk styles in a way that's fully unique to Japanese bands. The band is The Geros, and "Razor Dog" is its second single following a self-released debut from 2015. In my humble opinion, "Razor Dog" is in the "best Secret Mission single ever" conversation along side The Raydios' "Teacher's Pet". The title track absolutely rips - coming on loud and raw with an edge jagged enough to draw blood. In terms of pure wild energy, this song gives me the same kind of rush I got when I first heard Teengenerate and The Registrators back in the day. Major points must also be awarded for the back and forth shouting between male and female vocalists - something I particularly enjoy in the garage punk world. On the B-side, "Don't Call Me" takes a dark, surf-inspired turn that I was not expecting. But I mean that in a good way. Imagine, if you will, a demented version of California punk rock circa 1980.

With two fantastic singles to their credit, The Geros look to be at the front and center of the next great wave of Japanese garage punk. While super limited to just 200 copies here in the states, "Razor Dog" is still available from Secret Mission as well as from fine distributors like Sorry State and Slovenly. You can also download the digital version of The Geros' first EP from Bandcamp for just ¥300 (less than $3 American). Get ready to crank up the volume and have your ears blasted!


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Slow Faction - Under Heavy Manners

Now more than ever, we really need bands that aspire to change the world. So why do I generally find the social justice warrior bands of the moment so off-putting? I think I got the answer from the fine writer Ged Babey - who addressed that very topic in his wonderful review of Slow Faction's new mini-album Under Heavy Manners. These sorts of bands, Babey writes, "can come over as a bit dull, worthy and predictable and lapse into cliche very easily." That's a truly bang-on assessment. I, like Babey, am so taken with London's Slow Faction precisely because they are none of those things. They approach their songwriting with intelligence, insight, and a genuine spark of musical excitement. When it comes to politically aware and socially minded punk rock, it's still The Clash and Stiff Little Fingers that set the bar for me. These were bands with very important things to say - but they were great punk rock bands first and foremost. Slow Faction has taken up their fight in the present-day, and I can't think of many current punk bands I like better. Just listen to the band's 2016 track "Woody Guthrie", and immediately you will understand the need for music to remain a vital instrument of social change.

Under Heavy Manners is exactly what I desire in political punk music: classic '77 style sounds, with lyrics relevant to the current state of the world. Of course the message is meant to be heeded, but there's nothing secondary about those massive choruses, hard-driving guitars, and well-crafted tunes. Lyrically the band takes a good, hard look at what has gone wrong with the world and the unfortunate direction in which we're headed as a human race. These songs turn their gaze upon the masses who are so caught up in consumerist comforts and obsessions with empty culture that they turn blind eyes to the waging of war for profit and the erosion of their own civil liberties. It's hard to deny that such a depiction hits the nail on the head - on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. But Slow Faction's aim is not to point fingers - it's to confront the truth and find solutions. Harrowing as they might be, songs like "59 Minutes Past 11" and "The Definition of Madness" are essentially wake-up calls. We may be doomed, or we may not be doomed. But if nothing changes, it's surely going to be the former.

At just six tracks, Under Heavy Manners is a lean and urgent affair worthy of a spot on your CD shelf next to many of the albums that inspired it. The title track- the closest thing I've heard to 1979/80 era Stiff Little Fingers in years - kicks off the album like a ball of fire. "59 Minutes Past 11" is a bona fide sound of the streets anthem a la Sham 69 or the Angelic Upstarts. The hot-burning reggae of "There's A War Going On" will do nothing to dissuade further Clash and SLF comparisons (I don't think the band will complain). "In Your God's Name", a song I fondly recall from its demo version, sounds anthemic and positively rousing in its finished form.

Can one band, on its own, change the world? Of course not. But bands can inspire people. And people, collectively, are capable of making a great difference. Under Heavy Manners is full of songs that are just bound to get you fired up. Let it be the inspiration of many who choose to resist the clampdown.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Role Models - Dance Moves

Following two consecutive appearances on my year-end top ten albums list, Role Models are going for the hat trick with their latest and greatest effort Dance Moves. Releasing three albums in three years is a momentous feat in and of itself. It's all the more impressive that Rich Rags and company have managed to top themselves with each subsequent release. It would have been perfectly acceptable at this point for Role Models to still be resting on the laurels of 2015's The Go-To Guy. But thankfully, that is not what has occurred. With the support of its fans and the PledgeMusic platform, the London foursome set out to keep the music coming. On the heels of last year's remarkable Forest Lawn, the brand-new Dance Moves cements Rich's place in the top-tier of present-day rock songwriters. It's certainly a fine place to start if you're still unfamiliar with his formidable talents.

What I appreciate about Dance Moves is that it continues the growth of its two predecessors without losing sight of what Rich does best as a songwriter. He can still write a rocking pop song with the best of 'em, and he sure won't leave you wanting for strong melodies and memorable choruses. But on Dance Moves, he delivers his strongest and by far most varied collection of songs. I can genuinely say that every song sounds different. That makes the album really enjoyable because I look forward to each track and what it brings to the whole. No doubt, songs like "I Want More" and "Covered In Mistakes" are signature Rich Rags power pop tunes that I totally expected and was happy to hear. But what makes Dance Moves so satisfying is that the totally unexpected songs are among the best on the album. Sometimes bands will tack ballads onto the ends of records, but here "Obituary Writer" is so wonderful and essential to the feel of the album that it doesn't sound out of place in the track 4 position. Did you know that Rich could pull off snappy blue-eyed soul ("Feel Like Being Alone") or chic modern rock ("Empire State")? Me either! We probably all knew that Rich had a soft spot for radio-friendly '70s/'80s hard rock but might not have foreseen him indulging it on a Role Models recording. Yet he does exactly that with the 1-2 AOR punch of "Reach Me" and "The Night". I can't listen to the latter without imagining a packed arena full of people singing along to the chorus, cigarette lighters aloft.

I like that Dance Moves tells a story. In the words of Rich Rags, it follows "a binge weekend with someone who has a lot to forget (or remember)." Such a concept demands a particular range of emotions that this set of songs amply provides. Thus the album takes you from the quiet melancholy of "Evangeline" to the celebratory swagger of "Manette Street" to the raging angst of "Dance Moves" to the triumphant power of "The Meteor". Rich and the boys really went for it on this album, and their risks have been fully rewarded. This is a record that the band probably couldn't have made two or three years ago. With the help of some special surprise guests (like Rich Jones, Duncan Reid, and F & L favorite Kris Rodgers), Role Models have made an album that's their finest to date and without question one of this year's best. I recommend it not just to power pop and glam/punk fans but really to anyone who appreciates great music!


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Trampoline Team/MAMA - split 7"

So I have gone from a flurry of posts in July and August to very sparse activity in September. With school work again consuming most of my free time, the blog updates will likely be infrequent for a while. I do have a couple of album reviews (Role Models, The Safes) in the works, but they may take some time. With that in mind, I wanted to do a quick write-up on a release that a lot of you should be very interested in. Both MAMA and Trampoline Team are bands I've raved about recently. They've gotten together for a limited split 7" on Giveaway Records - a release that does not disappoint! I like that these two bands are very different yet still make an ideal pairing for a split. MAMA's two tracks are exactly what you'd expect: thundering '70s style arena rock with dual guitar leads and radio-worthy hooks. It's impossible for me to listen to "Double Trouble" and not imagine it blasting from the 8-track tape deck of a 1978 Camaro. Trampoline Team counters with a pair of tracks that are right up there with the songs from its recent 7" (the best punk rock single of the year, in my opinion). A title like "Headless Cock" sure promises a lot. And let me tell you, the song does not come up short! A la the band's previous hit "Drug Culture", this track comes on with exuberant dual vocals, great snotty lyrics, and an old school punk sound that's catchy yet totally ballsy. "Scrap Addiction" - reminiscent of the Ramones and Angry Samoans, is another infectious toe-tapper from this powerhouse New Orleans trio. 

Limited to just 100 copies, this split is available from MAMA's Bandcamp while supplies last. This will be the only vinyl appearance for MAMA's two contributions to the split. If you're just interested in the digital tracks, Giveaway Records has this split available as a free download at its Bandcamp. MAMA and Trampoline Team are two of the best bands out there right now. So I recommend you track down not just this split but also everything else both bands have released!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Single Premiere: The Cheap Cassettes - "Hieroglyphics In Lipstick"

When one of your favorite bands approaches you with the somewhat unusual idea of doing a combination premiere and review of its new single, how can you say no?! Believe it or not, this is the first actual single from The Cheap Cassettes - who've been a band since the early part of the decade. After self-releasing their debut album in 2014 and working with Rum Bar Records on a reissue earlier this year, Chaz, Kevin, and Izzy were certainly raring to get back into the studio and cut some new tracks. And cut some new tracks they did - at the world famous Egg Studios in Seattle with the legendary Kurt Bloch producing! From those sessions came "Hieroglyphics In Lipstick" and "Worse N' Better" - out today as a digital release and a limited edition cassette single. Without a doubt, The Cheap Cassettes have never sounded better!

It had been so long since The Cheap Cassettes had recorded new material that I wondered what to expect. There was always the possibility that the band might have changed its musical style to black metal or abandoned all use of guitars in favor of kazoos. I feared such horrors as experimentation with dubstep and a random guest appearance by Ed Sheeran. Much to my delight, no such developments came to be. Both of these tracks are right in the band's sweet spot: marvelous hook-driven pop with a rootsy charm and real honest-to-goodness power behind it. This is exactly what we have come to expect ever since Chaz and Kevin began their musical partnership back in the early 2000s.  "Hieroglyphics In Lipstick" and "Worse N' Better" are power pop by its truest definition. Yet with Chaz's songwriting so indelibly informed by punk rock and early American rock n' roll, The Cheap Cassettes don't sound like a power pop group you've heard 100 times before. And I must say that these tunes are top-notch! Being one who can never get enough of hard pop with a bittersweet taste, I am totally enamored with "Hieroglyphics In Lipstick". It contains some of Chaz's finest lyrics ever - and one of his catchiest melodies as well. "Worse N' Better" is every bit as good and could easily have been the "A" side. It pretty much has it all: a super-tough riff, hooks I can't get out of my head, and a guitar solo so wicked good that even a master shredder like Bloch couldn't help expressing his admiration.

Two more songs from the Egg sessions will be released next year as a vinyl single. In the meantime, I am delighted to present these two latest pop gems to the world at large! With sharp-looking artwork courtesy of Anna and Kevin Parkhurst, the "cassingle" version of this release is well worth seeking out. It's time to pull your boombox and Walkman out of deep storage! Only 50 copies are available. So act quickly if you'd like to own some Cheap Cassettes on, uh, cheap cassette!


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Cheap Trick review series: Next Position Please

Review by Mike Kimmel

Why oh why oh why did I not realize what a great album this was when I first heard it in 1983?!

Produced by Todd Rundgren and basically panned (given two out of five stars) by Rolling Stone Magazine, as a die-hard Cheap Trick fan for six years already I owned it as soon as it came out. I'm still not sure what I think of Todd Rundgren. I mean, just because the guy qualifies as a creative genius doesn't mean you have to appreciate his talent, not necessarily enjoy his work.

Some of his stuff I like and some not-so-much. You can, however, detect his presence immediately as far as his involvement in this release. One only need pay attention to some of the seriously odd sounds interspersed throughout (need I remind you that Rundgren did a song called "Onomatopoeia" on one of his albums years ago).

Or we could just dial in on the extreme Beatle-esque, uh, Beatle-esqueness of many of the tunes on the release; another indelible Rundgren touch. Not a complaint about it at all. Cheap Trick has never made any bones about their Liverpudlian influences.

The release opens with one of my favorite Cheap Trick tunes – "I Can't Take It". At that point, it was the only tune thus far that Robin Zander alone authored. Though it flopped as a single, it's remained a favorite live over the years. It hasn't been nudged from my Cheap Trick playlist, either.

"Borderline" sounds like it could be on a movie soundtrack. Heck, it might have been, as far as I know. It's another really good, mid-tempo, all-Cheap Trick tune.

A play on words and the Zander vocal echo-fade that never gets old for me is up next with "I Don’t Love Here Anymore". It describes a romance that was fantastic at the start, but now "…You don't want to play by the rules. I don't want to love here anymore."

I'm still enjoying the weirdness of the title track from Next Position Please. Incongruous lyrics like "Read between the lines, learn a new message. Read the latest book. It's a new twist. Be the first one to have a new idea. You'll never get bored with mirrors on the ceiling". Right into the chorus of "Next position, please. Do I have to get down on my knees. Next position, please. I'm in a hurry, so hurry please".

In typical Cheap Trick fashion, a slight alteration of the words occurs in a later chorus when instead of "Do I have to get down on my knees?" changes to "You'll have to get down on your knees".

"Younger Girls" is a variation on Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little 16" – an ode to younger girls that predated the Cheap Trick version by 20 or 30 years and certainly not the only track to ever express this…sentiment.

"Feels so good, whoo! Let me in. I might jump right outta my skin. Don't you ever grow up, little girl. Sweet young thing. You're not so innocent."

"Don't Make Our Love a Crime" has Zander talking about wanting to be "caught" with his significant other in the tune. Shortly after he wants "…to be blamed with you," then "…I wanna be pawns with you."

"3D" is where Todd Rundgren's involvement really shows up, in my opinion. He's not the only professional recording artist to have been influenced by the Fab Four (not by a LONG shot)! The part that screams Rundgren to me is the number of odd effects, most of them applied to vocals in this track. It's not out of place.

It doesn't even sound questionable – it's just identifiable. It's a stamp Rundgren applies to a lot of his work. Just like Bob Ezrin's "stamp" helped Alice Cooper and KISS rock and Jack Douglas "stamped" Aerosmith, some Cheap Trick, Montrose, and others, almost like a Billy Gibbons guitar lick. Immediately attributable.

"You Talk Too Much" threatens about everyone. "Dear father, don't mother me. Dear mother, don't bother me. If I ever needed your advice I would have called you on the telephone. I've only been wrong maybe once or twice and that's when I was listening to you."

"Dear preacher, you won't reach me. Dear teacher, don't preach to me."

"You talk too much. You talk too much. You talk too much to me. Aww shut up!"

Cheap Trick reasoning at its absolute finest!

"Y.O.Y.O.Y." is another good Cheap Trick love song. Most of their stuff in this area is either very good or fairly humorous (on purpose). The difference here is that this tune is GREAT! I can't help it. You'll just have to listen to it.

"Won't Take No for an Answer" is really an early British Invasion (if you get my aversion to continuing to cite The Beatles) sounding track through the verses. The chorus? Maybe not so much. "Wait just a minute. You're a little lost. Things keep on changing. And so does the cost."

"Hey, Mister Sister (?), leave me alone. Today kids don't grow up – they just grow old." Even 33+ years after it was released, it's still such an accurate indictment in so many areas.

Rolling Stone's reviewer cited the next song in particular in his semi-scathing review. To be fair, he ripped Cheap Trick as well as ripping Todd Rundgren. But I really think the accusations were unfounded. He complains that the chorus of "Heaven's Falling" was predictable, and it was not intended as a compliment.

First, I really don't see it. Next, so what? Finally, have you ever gone to the movies with someone who was constantly saying things like "Oh that's just not possible!" or 'That'd never happen in a million years!"? My response to them as well as that reviewer is "Do you view/listen to art to be entertained or to be convinced?" Personally, I've always thought that entertainment's purpose was to entertain.

I guess I could be wrong.

"Invaders of the Heart" "…are messing with my mind. Invaders of the heart can make your heart blind." It starts out with several strange-ish start/stop things working on vocals, guitars, and drums. And about halfway through the song, someone (might be Zander, but it sounds kinda like Tom Petersson to me – which is odd, because Jon Brandt plays bass on the album – this was the period during which Tom Petersson had left the band) counts to 30. Another fun tune.

Take a brief run back to earlier Trick days feel with "You Say Jump". "You've got a one track mind. Wish you could just read mine. I hope you will in time." The song feels something like "I Want You to Want Me" with its sort of staccato drum and guitar delivery.

The boys from Rockford do one remake on the release, which is "Dancing the Night Away".

That's it for the original release. Some years later, Cheap Trick made an "authorized" version with a different song order and two additional tunes: "Twisted Heart" and "Don't Hit Me with Love".

"Twisted Heart" starts with a really eerie beat, screeching, broken Zander vocals, and background guitars/bass/keyboard-that-sounds-like-a-pipe-organ. Another unexpectedly good song that I didn't realize existed until I started this write-up. I mean, upon double-checking my inventory, I found that it does appear on the Sex, America, Cheap Trick collection. My fault for not listening, I s'pose.

Finally, the second of the two additional tracks added to the re-release is "Don't Hit Me with Love". It starts out with what sounds like a group of grade school kids counting down from five – as in "Lift off!" – followed by (I think) "Young astronauts… YAY!" Then it's a good, simple rocker.

"Don't try the one thing I'm so afraid of. Don't hit me, hit me, hit me, hit me, hit me. Don't hit me with love."

"But your eyes don't lie. They kick the shit outta me."

The lyrics, as always, are cool, the music is great, the selection is varied. Most of all, as with ALL things Cheap Trick, you have to watch and/or listen to the very end. You never know when you're going to miss something added where you just might not expect it.

-Mike Kimmel

Monday, August 28, 2017

Please Stop! - Power Suit and Dead Bodies

With a debut 7" out on the ever-dependable No Front Teeth Records, Minnesota's Please Stop! ought to be on the radar of anyone on the lookout for some in-your-face punk rock. Veterans of the modern-day Midwest punk scene, lead singer StaySee and guitarist Danimal have formed Please Stop! with  bassist Cheetah and drummer Reckless Jane Danger. Power Suit and Dead Bodies jams eight songs onto one little slab of vinyl - delivering the literal bang for your buck that we've come to expect from the best hardcore punk 7"s. As the title suggests, these songs tackle some pretty dark subject matter. StaySee, a first-class punk screamer, has a knack for bringing out everything that's troubling, uncomfortable, or straight-up bleak about these lyrics. Behind her the band lays down a properly punishing attack. Danimal's guitar sounds super raw and totally punches you in the face. And that rhythm section can thump with the best of 'em. All-out rippers like "Let's Hear It" and "Paint Them Up" hit hard and fast, annihilating all that's in their path. But on the "longer" (meaning somewhere north of a minute and a half!) tracks, the band shows a range beyond light speed hardcore. Whether it's the thunderous sludge of "Sweetie", the dark surf tones of "High Horse", or the barely restrained menace of "Bites", there's plenty here to demonstrate that Please Stop! are far more than a one-trick-pony. "Bites", as a matter of fact, is the one track that I keep going back to. It's one of those songs that just grabs you by the throat. "You should come with a warning," hollers StaySee. "'I bite, I bite, I bite.' You should know this about me - I bite, I bite back!" Never has a vocal sounded more believable!

Both vinyl and digital editions of Power Suit and Dead Bodies are available for purchase at Please Stop!'s Bandcamp. Those who support the group on Bandcamp will receive three bonus tracks as well. One of those is "I've Never Seen That", a delightfully thrashing number inspired by one of the great cinematic masterpieces of all-time: The 'Burbs. I highly recommend going all-in and getting your figurative mitts on the bonus tracks. No one has a better ear for what's good in punk music than Marco at No Front Teeth. This debut from Please Stop! keeps the NFT hot streak very much in tact! 


Friday, August 25, 2017

Retro Reviews: The Vice Principals – After School With...

Review by Rob Sheley

The (sorta) lost record or the prospect that never was fully realized, After School With the Vice Principals was released in August of 2000 on Sympathy For The Record Industry, only two years after the Humpers ended. The upside is the band included Scott Deluxe Drake, Billy Burks, and for the first time officially playing with Scott, his brother Jeff Drake (from The Joneses). The downside is that this is all that exists from this magical union of the brothers Drake.

If you have Scott & Billy in your band, it's gonna sound something like the Humpers. This band was no different, but it did expand upon their sound and songwriting with Jeff in the band. Jeff brought a more '60s Stones vibe to the band; specifically the band drew from Between The Buttons (check out "Miss Amanda Jones", "Complicated", & "Let's Spend The Night Together"). Take that '60s pop sound the Stones created mixed with the fury of the later Humpers, and you get a pretty good feel for what the Vice Principals created.

The record is a flamethrower, clocking in at 33 minutes with only two of the 12 songs clearing three minutes (very Ramones style). The album opens with a cover of "Jack the Ripper" by the great Screamin' Lord Sutch, and Scott Drake is spitting fire. Peppered in are back-up vocals delivered by his brother. Moving through the record, the original songs are of the quality you would expect from what would have been the Humpers record following Euphoria, Confusion, Anger And Remorse. "When Girls Collide", "Hostility", and "Satellite Dish" are a 1-2-3 punch in the gut of Long Beach punk rock & roll. "Splitsville USA" sung by Jeff Drake is a nice break in the action. That is not to say that the track is slow, weak, or a throwaway. It is merely a welcomed break in the pace of a relentless record. Be it due to timing or purpose, in addition to "Jack The Ripper", the record adds a few more choice covers to broaden the band's palette. All are delivered in the band's signature sound, devoid of the originals' sound or arrangement. "Price Of Love" (Everly Bros) and "Glad All Over" (Dave Clark Five) show the depth of the Vice Principals' record collections. And despite having a Rolling Stones influence, it was nice to not have one of their songs on the record. They also included a reworking of an older Scott Drake composition from his pre-Humpers band Suicide Kings. Originally recorded in 1990, "Switchblade" and the rest of the record were never touched as song options for this or the Humpers. But the sound wasn't that far off of what you know as the band's distinctive sound. It was nice to see this resurrected to a wider audience. It is a shame they didn't mine some of the other tracks from that release for this project.

The Vice Principals were so very short lived (two, maybe three years) and never did a country wide tour. The only other recorded output by the band was a lone 7" "Wolfman Amadeus Jackboot" b/w "Showdown" (Archie Bell & the Drells cover). That's it. But if you don't have them, get 'em both. They are killer thru & thru. Scott went on to do two solo records before forming The Lovesores. Sadly, Billy Burks and Jeff Drake have yet to resurface in additional projects.

-Rob Sheley

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Justine and the Unclean- Love Got Me Into This Mess

Ever notice that almost every band to come out of the Boston garage/punk scene could be considered a supergroup? There are just so many amazing musicians in that town, and it seems like they've all played in tons of bands! Add Justine and the Unclean to the long list of killer Boston bands with formidable pedigrees. Justine is Justine Covault (Malachite, Grand Theft Auto, Quest For Tuna). She's on guitar and lead vocals. She's joined by her Malachite bandmate Janet Egan King (Heidi, Swank, Tulips) on bass and backing vocals. Charles Hansen (Rock Bottom, Tom Baker & the Snakes, Gymnasium, The Handymen) is on lead guitar. And the legendary Jim Janota (Upper Crust, The Bags, Rock Bottom) is on drums. With a lineup like that, Justine and the Unclean are a perfect fit on a Rum Bar Records roster that already includes a number of Boston heavyweights! In advance of a full album due out later this year, a free digital single has arrived to properly whet our appetites. I must say that I'm very impressed! Both tracks really hit my sweet spot of punky power pop (or is it power poppy punk?). And Justine has a really cool voice that's totally unique yet also perfectly suited to this kind of music. "Love Got Me Into This Mess" brings to mind the Buzzcocks, but with more of the hard rockin' edge you'd expect from a Boston bar band. "Passive Aggressive Baby" is another terrific tune that combines all of the best elements of pop, punk, and rock. Justine sure knows how to write a hook, and I'm quickly sensing her flair for wonderfully bitter insights on the topic of love & relationships. If you like power pop that doesn't skimp on the power, I imagine this single will leave you wanting more!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Devious Ones - Rust Is Imminent

Devious Ones have been one of my favorite bands for a couple of years now, so naturally I was stoked to discover that they were giving us a preview of their forthcoming LP. This arrives in the form of a digital single for the album track "Rust Is Imminent". It has been released on Bandcamp in conjunction with the tour the band is finishing up right now. I have to say that "Rust Is Imminent" is the band's best song yet, and the opportunity to own it today in advance of the album release is totally worth the three bucks. Musically it's right in the Detroit foursome's wheelhouse of poppy old school punk, but with an anthemic quality that caused my pal Shawn Abnoxious to ask if Devious Ones might be an American Cock Sparrer. This is a true anthem for the Midwest - celebrating the values and unique character of its residents. There isn't a single line of the song that doesn't hit the mark, and in a perfect world this tune will ring out from stadium PAs from Cleveland to Minneapolis for decades to come. The second half of this digital single is exclusive to this release and features guitarist Amado stepping up to handle lead vocals. It's called "Norcos Y Horchata", and anyone who's ever had one of those days where everything just felt off from the start will be able to relate. "Feel like a toy store on December 24" is my new favorite lyric of 2017! And there's a killer little guitar solo that brings to mind all of those classic Buzzcocks 45s.

With their long-awaited debut album now recorded, Devious Ones are poised to take their place among the top tier of today's punk/powerpop bands. I have had the good fortune to hear a few of the LP tracks, and I must say the band has totally outdone itself. This thing is gonna knock your head off! In preparation for the album, download "Rust Is Imminent" and crank it loud (whether you live in the American Midwest or not)!