Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dirty Truckers from the vaults!

Talk about an unearthed treasure! Tom Baker, singer/guitarist for Dirty Truckers and Tom Baker & The Snakes, recently found a pile of Dirty Truckers singles in his closet from a release the band had done back in 2012. The original 45 contained the songs "Stranger In Disguise" and
"Human Contact". Those two songs along with four additional tracks comprised a larger EP called Tiger Stripes. Rum Bar Records has teamed up with Dirty Truckers to offer a sweet package deal: you get the entire digital EP along with the original two-song 7" for just $5. If you've been enjoying the new Tom Baker & The Snakes album on Rum Bar but are not familiar with Dirty Truckers, it's a pretty safe bet that the latter will be up your alley as well. Think blue collar American rock n' roll with country leanings, forged under the influence of the Replacements, Stones, and Steve Earle. Tiger Stripes is just what you'd expect from an EP produced by a master pop-rock craftsman like Dave Minehan. "Stranger In Disguise" just begs to be cranked loud while you relax on your front porch with a cold can of beer in hand, while "Human Contact" is twangy everyman rock that brings to mind Bash and Pop. The deeper cuts are formidable as well - with "Feedback" rocking along the lines of later Replacements or Soul Asylum and "Just Run Away" demonstrating what quality country rock is all about. While Dirty Truckers and Tom Baker & The Snakes are by no means one and the same, Baker and guitarist John Brookhouse do double duty in both bands. And with drummer Johnny Lynch also pounding the sticks for Watts, Dirty Truckers could legitimately be described as a Rum Bar Records all-star team! Dusted off for new life in 2017, Tiger Stripes ought to be a welcome reissue for fans of Tom Baker or anyone who longs for the heyday of alt-country. 


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Something new from Vista Blue!

It just doesn't seem right when the arrival of a new season is not accompanied by a new release from Vista Blue. And while VB currently has a great deal on its plate, the band did want to put out something new for the summer. And that's what led to the recording of Here To Stay - a collection of four cover songs you can now download for free over at Vista Blue's Bandcamp.

I'm a really big fan of all-covers releases. It's very interesting to me when a band I like decides to record music it didn't write. Sometimes this provides an insight into a band's influences, and sometimes it's just neat to hear a really great song performed in a totally new way. I think Vista Blue has done a particularly good job with the covers format. I admire the choices, and I'm impressed with each of the renditions. If you love this band the way I do, this is as an absolutely essential "purchase". Reading the liner notes, you will discover the story behind the selection of the songs comprising Here To Stay. I like that none of these choices were too obvious (e.g. no Weezer or Beach Boys), yet every one of them makes perfect sense. "Dreaming of Me", a song off of Depeche Mode's debut album Speak & Spell, is perhaps the song off this EP that might be most unfamiliar to Vista Blue's fan base. Depeche Mode's lighter synth-pop period is often forgotten or at least dismissed as unimportant within the band's larger catalog. But I would definitely list "Dreaming of Me" as one of my favorite songs by Depeche Mode. Here Vista Blue manages to maintain the spirit of the original while also updating it with fuzzy guitars and just a little sprinkle of keyboards. I hope this will have a lot of people checking out the original. The Cascades' 1962/1963 smash hit "Rhythm of the Rain" is a formidable tune to tackle, but Vista Blue gives it that later '90s pop-punk "oldies core" treatment a la The Proms, Ruth's Hat, etc. I have to love a '60s cover that makes me nostalgic for 1999! You would think Big Star's "Thirteen"- as perfect of a pure pop song as there's ever been - would be completely untouchable. But I dig how Vista Blue re-imagines it in a new wave meets modern power pop style. You certainly can't improve upon perfection, but this version of "Thirteen" is a loving and fresh-sounding homage. And while Teen Idols' "Midnight Picture Show" is certainly a song you might expect Vista Blue to cover, I like how it's transformed into something you could believe they actually wrote themselves. To me, what made Teen Idols such a great pop-punk band was that their songs could totally have worked as pure pop. Here Vista Blue proves that to be true.

Here To Stay is 100% free. Since the band did not write any of this music, Vista Blue won't even accept donations on this release. Enjoy the music, and be sure to save your pennies for the band's baseball LP Seasons - coming out later this summer on Something To Do Records!


Monday, June 19, 2017

New Cavemen single on Slovenly!

If you've been following the international garage-punk scene closely in recent years, you have likely already experienced the savage sonic assault of The Cavemen. And for damn sure, you liked it! This wild and primal foursome out of New Zealand has to date released two albums and several singles that would have been right at home in the '90s heyday of degenerate trash garage-punk rock n' roll. Slovenly Recordings proudly presents what I believe is the band's first American release - a raging nut-kicker of an EP featuring the wholesome family values anthem "Dog On A Chain". Fans may be familiar with "Death Row" and "Killing Myself To Live" from a cassette release last year that was limited to (of course!) 69 copies. "Dog On A Chain" is exclusive to this release and will melt your face completely off should you fail to wear protective headgear. It's the epitome of what great garage-punk ought to be: raw, scuzzy, and certain to disgust the average person. "Death Row" channels the Stooges by way of the Candy Snatchers and Spider Babies, with frontman Paul Caveman pushing the insanity factor to a level unsurpassed even in this realm of music. Any claims about the lyrics being in extremely poor taste ought to be construed as the highest possible praise. If it has caused you great distress to contemplate that punk music is no longer as dangerous or depraved as it ought to be, this EP will surely be the most uplifting thing you hear this year. Play some goddamn rock n' roll!


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Introducing Girl Drink Drunks!

Certainly this new era of digital music provides an instant gratification that was not available to us in previous decades. Remember when you couldn't hear bands unless you actually went out and tracked down their records? We could debate at length as to whether it was better that way, but it's hard to deny that there are certain advantages to our existing world of streaming and downloading. One major example is that you get to hear great new music almost instantly after it is recorded. Portland, Oregon's Girl Drink Drunks are the best new punk rock band I've heard in a good while, and they've been swell enough to give us a preview of their forthcoming debut LP. Without the wonders of modern technology, we might have had to wait months or even more than a year before these songs saw the light of day. This is the latest band from legendary Portland garage-punk howler Joel Jett (Flip Tops, The Minds) - who I consider to be one of the finest punk vocalists of my generation. Joining him in this band is a who's-who of Portland punk players including Rodrigo from Piss Test, Kevin from White Night, and Matt and Jonny from the mighty Hot LZs. With all of these guys involved, you know what to expect: straight-up pummeling punk rock with pissed-off vocals and lyrics. What's not to love about that?! The band is very motivated to get this record out. So if you run a label and like what you hear, get in touch with Girl Drink Drunks ASAP. This album is gonna be SO hot!


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Rock with Ramma Lamma!

Last week I referenced a song that ought to be on your 2017 summer rock n' roll playlist. If you aren't making such a playlist, I have to wonder what in the world you are doing with your life. But if you are, I've got another hot tip on how to make it even more awesome. Hop on over to Ramma Lamma's Bandcamp page and get your figurative mitts on the band's new digital EP Oink'n'Boink! Ramma Lamma is a fab foursome out of Milwaukee that's been dishing out glammy bubblegum garage-trash rock n' roll goodness since the start of the decade. The lineup features such luminaries as Wendy and Ryan from Plexi 3 and The Monitors as well as our man Daniel James from Indonesian Junk. Redolent of a time when rock n' roll was raucous, playful, and more than a little dirty, Oink'n'Boink was seemingly made for the enhancement of your summertime fun. Here's a band that takes absolutely nothing seriously - besides the task of writing fantastic songs. Music catchier than this simply does not exist, and the lyrics will make you laugh and perhaps even blush. The whole EP is just wonderful stupid fun. Singling out one particular song as being most outstanding is proving to be an impossible task. So I'll just let you do your own research to determine for yourself which track is "the hit". If these three songs do not play a prominent role in the beach trips, pool parties, backyard cookouts, baseball outings, ice cream socials, front porch beer bashes, drive-in make-out sessions, and petty crime sprees you partake in this summer, you only have yourself to blame. Now go give Ramma Lamma three bucks!


Monday, June 12, 2017

New Jabronis EP!

I always enjoying hearing from Jabronis - my favorite active Ramones-core band. Amazingly they've been more prolific of late than their alter egos The Anxieties (has it really been three and a half years since The Anxieties last released something?!). Jabronis' brand-new EP is called Wake Up Alive - currently available as a name your price download over at Bandcamp. With cover art paying homage to the Animal Boy LP, I thought this might be the release where Jabronis leaned towards that particular era of the Ramones. I imagined dated '80s production, lots of synthesizers, and lead man "Tony" succumbing terribly to vocal wear and tear. Probably for the best, none of this was to be found. Wake Up Alive sticks to the fundamental rules of Ramones-core and keeps it simple and stupid. "I.M.B.E.C.I.L.E." is rock-solid first album worship, while "I Love That Girl" evokes the classic Joey Ramone penned love song with its appealing mix of tenderness and humor. The latter could be my favorite Jabronis song yet. "Season's Beatings" is a ripper of an instrumental that will forever change the way I view It's A Wonderful Life. "Wake Up Alive" is certainly a highlight of the EP - a dark but poppy number weaving a tragic tale of young love, psycho killers on the loose, and cruel injustice. All of this for the incredibly low price of free is far too good to pass up. With the cover art looking so sharp, it's good to hear that the band is considering an eventual physical release on CD and/or cassette. But for now, it's digital only. Purchase also available from SpotifyiTunes, and Google Play!


Friday, June 9, 2017

New Baby Shakes album!

There are some bands that should never change, and Baby Shakes are one of them. The idea of Baby Shakes putting out a new record and having it not sound like a mashup of The Ramones, Chuck Berry, '60s girl groups, and '70s power pop is impossible for me to accept. Much to my pleasure, the New York foursome's new album Turn It Up adheres fully to a successful recipe. It's everything a Baby Shakes record ought to be, right down to Judy's smoking guitar leads and production that is just dirty enough. This, my friends, is fun rock n' roll that you can dance to and sing along with! Only one song (barely) exceeds three minutes, and you're never left waiting long for a hook. "Turn It Up" is the perfect mission statement for this album and really the entire existence of Baby Shakes. "Baby Blue" belongs on everyone's 2017 summer rock n' roll playlist. "Crazy" and "Fade Away" are sugar-sweet pop done right, while "Do What You Want" finds these ladies (and gentleman) straight-up rocking out. If you liked the band's last two albums, you will like this one as well. And if you didn't like the last two albums, you are an enemy of rock n' roll and probably listen to Sting. Turn it up, indeed!


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A long player from The Spectres!

It has been two and a half years since I reviewed the promising cassette demo from The Spectres, and since then the Pittsburgh garage duo has done nothing to diminish my initial excitement. Baby, You're Too Pretty To Rumble is the band's new tape out on King Pizza Records - a ten track ball of fire that combines everything I love about lo-fi garage trash with everything I love about late '50s/early '60s rock n' roll. The Spectres are everything a garage rock band ought to be, right down to the bargain basement fidelity and thumping three-chord simplicity. James and Dan both play multiple instruments and thus manage to kick up a racket worthy of a five-piece ensemble. Over the course of a ten song album, these guys really get the chance to show what they can do. If you like pure primal '60s garage rock, the title track will have you shaking your stuff in no time. And "Girl, I Want Your Love" is trashed-out British Invasion/'60s frat action that could hold its own next to just about any Back From the Grave cut. But what separates The Spectres from so many like-minded garage revivalists is that their influences go back all the way back to early rock n' roll and doo wop. "Night Goes Rollin By" brings to mind what a "garage" band might have sounded like in 1959, while "Drive In, Tonight" sounds like it ought to be playing in the background of some crucial scene from American Graffiti. The album's standout track, "I'm A Hog 4 U", comes off like a head-on collision between The Rip Offs and your local oldies station. And if you crank "Cocktail Shaker" at max volume, you've got yourself an instant dance party wherever you may be.

It may be 2017, but The Spectres take me back to the early '90s garage heyday by way of 1962. Baby, You're Too Pretty To Rumble is about as close as you can get to a live album without actually being a live album. This is rock n' roll, man, and ya gotta love it! 


Monday, June 5, 2017

Introducing Nicky Fingers & The Motor City Lobsters!

Oh boy! As a huge fan of both The New Trocaderos and Nick Piunti, I was blown away to discover that the two have joined forces to release a brand-new digital single that's now available from The New Trocs' Bandcamp. How did I not know this was happening? It's like Christmas in June! Fresh off of releasing my third-ranked album of 2016, Piunti has teamed up with New Trocs songwriter Michael Chaney and keyboardist extraordinaire Kris "Fingers" Rodgers to form Nicky Fingers & The Motor City Lobsters. Also on board are Andy Reed and Donny Brown from Piunti's stellar backing band. The band's debut song is called "One More Chance", and it does not disappoint. It would not sound out of place on any of Piunti's solo albums, while the songwriting has Chaney's signature all over it. And when you add the contributions of the always amazing Rodgers on piano and organ, you really have something special. Don't let the cover art fool you into thinking this is some kind of death metal type deal. This is pure pop all the way - and what a melody! The recording of this track has been a labor of love going all the way back to 2015. Chaney wrote the song and shared it with Piunti, who proceeded to demo it. And here they are now with a finished product and a new branch added to The New Trocaderos family tree!

From my very first encounter with The New Trocaderos, I've always been impressed by the way Michael Chaney tells a story and his knack for writing about timeless themes. "One More Chance" combines both of those qualities, and Piunti does a beautiful job of his giving his words a voice. As with most songs about longing and lost love, this one is incredibly sad. It's a credit to both Chaney and Piunti that although the song's narrator is clearly at fault for everything that went wrong, I still can't help rooting for him. If this were a movie, I'd be crossing my fingers for a happy ending.

"One More Chance" ought to delight fans of both Nick Piunti and The New Trocaderos. Where else are you going to get this much satisfaction for one measly dollar? So far, this is the only song to be recorded by Nicky Fingers & The Motor City Lobsters. Let's hope that there will be much more to come!


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Introducing SUZES!

Hot news! Lee Jones, former singer/guitarist for Aussie power pop band The Solicitors, has relocated to Duesseldorf and formed SUZES with new band-mates Roman and Tomo. I was such a huge fan of The Solicitors that I reviewed them an amazing six times between May of 2013 and December of 2014. Jones, a true English gentleman and man of many talents, is also the developer of TAD - an app that enables  musicians to create professional-looking cover art for their online releases.With TAD having surpassed 100,000 installs, the app's latest update has added video functionality in an attempt to plant a flag in the on-line video album cover sphere. Jones is hedging his bets that the on-line video album cover will soon be a big thing in digital music. You can read more of his thoughts on this matter here. Meanwhile, I am happy to report that Jones continues to demonstrate why he's one of my favorite songwriters. SUZES have just released their debut album, which in my opinion is as good or maybe even a little better than The Solicitors' lone LP.

While Fragile Development will no doubt please anyone who loved The Solicitors, SUZES are a new band entirely. SUZES rock a little harder, but without abandoning those new wave and power pop influences that Jones so skillfully absorbs and re-imagines. If The Solicitors mostly existed in an eternal 1980, Fragile Development pushes the calendar forward by years and sometimes decades. "Information Overload" recalls that brief moment in the early '80s when the line between new wave and album oriented rock was frequently blurred. It's a great opening statement for this band, with guitars hitting hard and Jones' lyrical game as sharp as ever. And while Jones throws us power pop purists a couple bones with the splendid "A Stones Throw" and the pilfered Knack riffs of "Blind Trust", a lot of the standout tracks on this album find Jones tweaking his usual formula or throwing it out altogether. "Interested Photographer" is super creepy yet so totally alluring and catchy (which is clearly the point!). "First Love, Last Resort" - a sleek, modern update on the new wave motif - sounds very "now" without sacrificing the stellar pop hooks. "Sometimes Bad Things Happen To Bad People", a punchy nod to the angry young men of new wave, finds Jones taking great delight in turning loose his poison pen.

So, really, what is this debut album from SUZES? New wave? Rock? Power pop? Modern rock? Well, it's all of those things, and to me this is the strongest and most cohesive collection of songs Lee Jones has delivered yet. His lyrics have never been smarter or more beautifully bitter, and he has quickly found great chemistry with his new rhythm section. This is one of those albums where I can go up and down the track listing and find a keeper wherever I land. It seems the "best new band of 2017?" question has been fully settled!


Thursday, June 1, 2017

honeychain makes an album!

I have been waiting quite a while for the chance to write about a new honeychain record. Honeychain, to me, is the quintessential southern California punky pop band. I was late to discover the group's 2013 EP Futura but have since found it to be one of the present decade's most satisfying power pop releases. Fast forward to today. Crushed is the L.A. trio's highly anticipated debut LP - four years in the making and worth every minute of the wait.  

While the quick sell on honeychain is to appeal to fans of The Muffs, Veruca Salt, Go-Go's, etc., the real story is that singer/guitarist Hillary Burton is an immensely talented songwriter. When I heard that honeychain was recording a cover of Material Issue's "Going Through Your Purse" for an upcoming Girlsville/Nerve Centre compilation called Neon Maniacs, I thought that was perfect. Hillary Burton is very much like Jim Ellison - a gifted storyteller with a flair for the bittersweet and a willingness to wear heart on sleeve. She can write a simple hook that will knock you out, but there's even more there if you dig deeper into the songs. Enlisting Kim Shattuck to produce Crushed was clearly a smart move. Seriously, who knows great pop better than Kim Shattuck? And as a producer, Shattuck totally "gets" Burton and really allows her songs to shine. The vibe is punky power pop by way of '90s alternative rock, a recipe that holds up remarkably well in 2017.  

Crushed represents so many things I love in music - mixing crunchy guitars, sweet melodies, and soaring harmonies with Burton's emotional vocals and clever, often acidic lyrics. Opener "Bombs Away" is that rare four-minute pop song that doesn't seem a minute too long. It grabs you not just with a strong melody, but also with exceptional lyrics and a vocal that allows you to genuinely feel the disillusionment of love gone bad. The title track is more of the same in an entirely good way. Once that hook comes in, it seems unfathomable that this song is not all over the radio! And while Burton is so incredibly good at articulating heartbreak and regret (a cover of Kathy Valentine's "Some Other Girl" is one of this album's can't-miss moments, and you have to love the deceivingly peppy "Three Horizons"), she's equally adept at taking the optimist's angle. "Ready for the World to End" is unabashedly romantic but in a darkly, twisted way. I wish I had written it! And "Messy Love" is a completely real yet genuinely affirming love song - something very rare in today's rock world. 

So after all of this time, I finally have the pleasure of recommending a honeychain album to all of you reading right now. If you like the idea of quality power pop with a touch of punk and the spirit of what alternative rock used to be when it was good, Crushed is a can't-miss release. It's a darn near flawless album that works in plenty of variety (be sure to check out the gorgeous, chiming pop of "When I Stumble" and the heart-racing punk rush of "There Goes That Girl [Again]"). As we step into the month of June, this is the perfect album to crank loud in the car as you soak up the summertime sun and enjoy the heck out of life. And if it seems like nearly every song on the record could be seamlessly added to the Clueless soundtrack, that is a very good thing indeed.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Here are Control Freaks!

So we literally waited a dozen years for new music from Greg Lowery. Just based on the sheer passage of time, there had to be cause for concern. Would the 2017 version of Greg Lowery still be the guy we so fondly remembered, or would he have reinvented himself as a serious "artist" backed by his own orchestra and choir? What if he'd been spending the last dozen years writing a triple LP rock opera about his feelings? What if he'd decided to go electronic? Okay, I'm lying. No one ever had cause for concern. Greg Lowery will never make "serious" music, and he will never call himself an artist. That is why we love him, and that is why we already knew that Control Freaks' Mindless Entertainment would be one of the year's mandatory punk rock purchases. In fact, I must recommend bypassing the rest of this review and proceeding immediately to the Slovenly Recordings web store or Bandcamp page to secure your copy. Seriously: go buy the thing! If you're still reading right now, you are stubborn and disobedient. I must say those are qualities that I admire.

If you were one of those individuals who could never get into Lowery's terrific Zodiac Killers because they deviated from the Supercharger/Rip Offs/Infections blueprint, Bay Area sensations Control Freaks should be much, much more to your liking. Mindless Entertainment fully lives up to its title - delighting all who crave the sort of trashy and wonderfully stupid punk rock goodness that made Lowery a household name. And with so few bands even trying to pull off this type of thing today, it might as well be the g.o.a.t. who steps up and shows the kids how it's done. What's cool about this band is the way Lowery and his co lead singer Natalie Sweet (The Shanghais) play off of each other. The two take turns on lead vocals, and some songs are straight-up duets. That snotty co-ed vocal blend brings to mind many of my favorite Rip Off Records releases, and clearly this was a band formed in the spirit of the glory days of garage-punk. The band finds that-just right mix of raw, obnoxious, and epidemic-level catchy. The theme song "Control Freaks" launches a rocket straight back to the Rip Offs' heyday, and then the fantastic "PTSD" features a star turn from Sweet on lead vocals (the one-sheet hilariously likens her singing to an "Edith Bunker impression"!). If that 1-2 punch doesn't have you sold on Control Freaks, then I'm going to surmise that the rest of the record will not sway you to the dark side. The rest of us, however, will bask in vintage Lowery bangers such as "Hollywood" (a song so dumb that you might not realize how smart it is) and "Crime Wave". Being such a sucker for good old '77 punk, I'm also quite partial to "Blowtorch Love" (which brings to mind the almighty Infections) and the band's terrific take on Jack & The Rippers' "No Desire". And if I say that "Sweet Dreams" sounds like it could have been a Shanghais song, that should only be construed as high praise!

If you have loved just about every piece of music that Greg Lowery has ever attached his name to, Mindless Entertainment will not disappoint. This is my favorite record he's played on in two decades (and I did really like Zodiac Killers). The fact that he shares the spotlight with one of the top punk vocalists of the present day really adds freshness and relevance to what Control Freaks are doing. And with so many newer "garage" bands lacking the rawness and fun attitude that ought to be considered essential to this genre, Mindless Entertainment most definitely fills a void. Sing it with me: C.O.N.T.R.O.L!


Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Best of the Dimestore Haloes!

Here's a real mind-blower: the Dimestore Haloes' first album Thrill City Crime Control is now as old as the debut LPs by the Clash and Sex Pistols were the year Thrill City came out. Even the final Haloes recordings pre-dated YouTube, Coke Zero, selfies, and the entire Real Housewives franchise. Ladies and gentlemen, the Haloes are officially classic rock! And given that all of the original records are way, way out of print, this seems like the perfect time for a Haloes best-of compilation to come into existence. Its arrival is great news for longtime fans who no longer own all of the old records as well as those who have more recently discovered the Haloes by way of Charles and Kevin's current band The Cheap Cassettes. And while the Haloes' entire recorded has been available digitally for a couple of years, Crash & Burn or Fly is the band's first retrospective to be released in a tangible format. Thanks to state of the art 1990s technology, you can now get your mitts on a compact disc containing 15 of the Haloes' finest studio cuts covering the years 1997 to 2004!

I appreciate that the contents of Crash & Burn or Fly were determined not by a corporate suit or focus group but rather by Charles Matthews himself. I must admit I was going to throw a royal tantrum if "Death Is a Star" had not been included on this disc. But otherwise, I vowed not to complain in any way about the track selection. With these best-of collections, there's always the question of who should get to decide which songs were really the "best". Well, I think the guy who wrote all of the songs is probably as qualified as anyone! And there's no denying that this compilation is a very good representation of who the Dimestore Haloes were and why they were my favorite band of my illustrious youth. Each of the band's first three albums is represented with three tracks, with an additional four songs taken from 2004's Ghosts of Saturday Night and another two culled from compilations. The comp cuts ("Saturday's Heroes" and "Crazy") bookend the collection, but otherwise it flows chronologically. You get to hear the band's evolution from its raw, rootsy origins to the glammy punk rock n' roll of its glory years to those later, more pop-influenced songs that laid the path for The Cheap Cassettes. And while I tend to romanticize Thrill City above all of the band's other full-lengths, my time spent with this comp has led me to concede that the Haloes got progressively better with each album they released.

Priced at just $8, Crash & Burn or Fly is a swell deal for anyone who desires a hard copy of the Dimestore Haloes' music. Considering that all of these recordings were originally released in small runs on DIY labels, it's tremendously encouraging that so many people still fondly remember them. And while I cringe at the pomposity of the prose I used to concoct in acclaim of the Haloes, the sentiment behind it has not changed. I still love this music, and I think it stands up quite well to the test of time. With a Beat Angels best-of still available on Onus Records, a movement to preserve '90s glam-punk seems to be taking shape. Let's hope the Trash Brats are up next!


Monday, May 22, 2017

Great new EP from Gorilla*!

Attention, power pop fans! I've got a real treat for you today! Tokyo's Gorilla* has been around since 2011 and features Kenny Ogawa (The Cokes) on guitar and vocals along with Atsushi (Pop N Roll) on bass. Fifi from Teengenerate was the original drummer, and there's no doubt that Gorilla* ought to be mentioned in the same breath as Teengenerate affiliated power pop bands like The Tweezers and Firestarter. The band's new EP It's All Pop! was originally issued as a tour CD in Japan earlier this year, and now it gets an American release on vinyl courtesy of the Baltimore-based Hidden Volume Records. Doesn't the title pretty much say it all? If you love classic power pop, you'll be in heaven listening to these six songs. I was immediately floored by opener "Oh Tonight", which sounds so authentically later '70s power pop that you could slide it anywhere into the old Rhino Shake It Up compilation and it would not sound out of place. And nothing much changes for the remainder of the EP, with songs taking a massive influence from The Raspberries along with the likes of Shoes, Phil Seymour, Romantics, Off Broadway, and of course the almighty Beatles ("Stay With Me" is one of the finest British Invasion homages by way of the skinny tie generation I've heard in ages).

It's All Pop! is actually the second 7" from Gorilla* following an amazing single released on Three Dimensional Records three years ago. If you long for an eternal 1978 and the never ending reign of Bomp! Records, this is a band you need to be checking out immediately! Kudos to Hidden Volume for securing a domestic release for this Japanese treasure. Snag copies on banana yellow or black licorice vinyl while they're still available!


Friday, May 19, 2017

New Küken LP!

Look who's back! It was two years ago that I raved about Küken's fantastic debut LP. And now we gladly receive album #2, which is an absolute ripper. Küken is the latest musical incarnation of Chris and Philipp, the twins behind High School Rockers and The Kidnappers. Essentially Küken sounds like The Kidnappers minus any power pop influence. And while I loved The Kidnappers, Küken's nasty and fully stripped-down punk rock attack is every bit as satisfying to my ears. Like the first album, the new one is self-titled and mirrors its no-frills sounds with minimalist cover art. With no tracks exceeding two minutes, the band's m.o. is clearly to come out and hit you in the mouth over and over and over again. There's really no variation from the last album except that this set of songs is even stronger and discernibly darker. Knowing fully well that the simplest songs are usually the hardest to write, I really commend the twins for their perfection of the punk rock form. They are true believers in short songs using the bare minimum of chords. And they've just made their best album in over a decade. If you're feeling those urges that can only be satisfied by certified killer punk rock, this is the stuff you need. Drunken Sailor has the vinyl. Go get it! 


Monday, May 15, 2017

Meet The Chinchees!

When Ed from Radiohearts/Audio Ammunition asked me if I'd heard The Chinchees, I immediately knew I had to go check this band out. And let me tell you, Ed did not steer me wrong! Earlier this year, this Minneapolis trio self-released its debut album and quickly sold out the entire pressing. Dirt Cult Records is stepping up to issue a second pressing, which I hope will generate widespread attention for this immensely infectious collection of power pop tunes. This is one of those albums that delivers an instant jolt of energy the moment you put it on, and the fun just keeps going all the way to the end. The band tears through these songs with such unbridled gusto that you almost don't notice how well-crafted the hooks are. This is just awesome punky pop that manages to not sound like a thousand other "pop-punk" bands. Vocally, at least, I'm reminded a great deal of the late '80s/early '90s heyday of college radio. If you dig, say Tenement or Low Culture, you need to be all over The Chinchees! Stay tuned to Dirt Cult's Bandcamp for information on this second vinyl pressing. Digital album available now from both the label and the band directly!


Friday, May 12, 2017

Debut album from Shanda & the Howlers!

Here we go with what ought to be THE summer album of 2017! Shanda & the Howlers are a self-described rhythm & blues revivalist band. Perhaps that brings to mind cruise ship/wedding reception/tribute act shtick. Well forget that, because Shanda & the Howlers are the real deal! The band's debut album Trouble is out on the ever-dependable Rum Bar Records, and it's flat-out terrific from start to finish. What separates Shanda & the Howlers from the pack is that although they can certainly deliver crowd-pleasing covers in their live sets, their original material is every bit as good. Trouble sounds less like an homage to '50s/'60s soul and more like the genuine article. If Malibu Lou had told me he obtained the masters from vaults that were sealed 55 years ago, I would have had no reason to disbelieve him!

No doubt the first thing you'll notice about Shanda & the Howlers is the remarkable voice of Shanda Cisneros. She's a dynamite lead singer and surefire future star. In a lesser band, her powerful pipes would completely steal the spotlight. But when you put her out in front of the Howlers, the marriage of voice and music could not be more perfect. This is how you do it, man: back a great singer with a super-tight band and just let it roll! If I didn't already know that Luke Metz was in The Heartdrops back in the day, I would seriously consider that he and Keith Alcantara might have time traveled from the '60s after laying down the rhythms for numerous Stax Records recordings. And Micah Lapping-Carr totally kills it on saxophone!

As a huge fan of classic soul music, I'm always delighted to hear such a timeless style kept afloat by new bands writing original material. Trouble is an album steeped in a love not just for Stax/Motown soul but also the blues, jazz, and early rock n' roll that preceded it. By all means, this is music you can dance to all night long. But if you're more in the frame of mind to quietly ponder past heartbreaks and love gone bad, several of these songs will hit you hard. "Keep Telling Me" is an instant party starter, sounding like what might have happened if Etta James had sung lead for Ray Charles. And once the Howlers come on like Otis Redding's backing band on "She Don't Want A Man", there's no turning back. By the time you get to the chorus, the song's already stuck in your head and you just know you need to own the whole album. Covering everything from dance-floor shakers ("Don't Need Your Love") to bluesy rockers ("Don't Wait Up") to gritty R & B workouts ("Mind Made Up"), Trouble is consistently pleasing and never repetitive. And "Born With A Broken Heart" is simply stunning - proof that what really makes a great ballad is a vocal that you can truly feel deep down.

As you may or may not know, Rum Bar Records had its origins under the name Melted Records back in the '90s. The Heartdrops were one of the first bands Lou worked with, and now we come full circle with Luke Metz's current band joining the Rum Bar family. If label mates The Connection are making a good case that the best new rock n' roll ought to sound like old rock n' roll, Shanda & the Howlers are doing the same for soul music. This is one kind of trouble that you best not avoid!


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Radiohearts new EP!

You know there's not much in life that I enjoy more than '77-style punk & power pop. And when it comes to current bands creating that kind of sound, Radiohearts have been one of the very best for a number of years now. While I'd generally put this band in the highly underrated category, at least it can be said that some of the finest record labels in the world are big fans. The Long Beach, California foursome has worked with No Front Teeth Records a couple of times, and now the venerable German label Wanda Records gets in on the action! Out now on Wanda is Daytime Man - the fifth (and in my opinion, best) EP from Radiohearts. The sound is classic Radiohearts, leaning heavily on later '70s U.K. punk, power pop, and mod influences with additional nods to the '90s punk revival. As always, this band does a fine job of putting a fresh and original touch on a classic musical style. And lyrically, all of these songs are clever and fully on-point. The title track kicks off the EP in fine form and is everything we've come to expect from Radiohearts. "Know That Song" is wonderfully surprising - the closest thing the band has ever done to a pure power pop song (without sacrificing any of that all-important punk rock punch). Another pleasant surprise is "No More", an entirely successful foray into what you might call the SoCal punk sound. I dig! Overall this is a very satisfying collection of tracks - some leaning punk, some leaning power pop, and the rest falling ideally in between. Great stuff as always, and I guess it's time we start wondering if an LP might finally be in the works!


Thursday, May 4, 2017

New Rotten Mind LP!

Is it just me, or has this been an especially tremendous year for punk LPs so far? Up there with the best of 'em is the second album from Sweden's Rotten Mind - a superb self titled effort on Lövely Records. What I appreciate about this release is how it takes what seem to be two contradictory styles of music (dark new wave and catchy melodic punk) and melds them so seamlessly that you can only conclude that they were meant to go together. While very much in line with modern-day Scandinavian post-hardcore, Rotten Mind is perhaps the one band from that movement that I'd consider most up my alley. Although I'm not the huge fan of moody post-punk that I used to be, Rotten Mind blends essential elements of that musical school into a form that's fully palatable to my Dickies and Buzzcocks loving sensibilities. It seems a tough task to make gloom rock this poppy without ruining the mood, but that's exactly what Rotten Mind has pulled off here. "Wish You Were Gone" had me hooked from the very start, and from there the quality tracks just keep coming. The lead guitar work - such a linchpin of good melodic punk - is especially impressive. One part of me wants to get dressed in black and lock myself in a dark room with this LP for hours. The other wants to whistle these melodies as I march merrily about my day. Truly an album for all occasions!


Monday, May 1, 2017

It's here! The Motorgirl double 7"!

I fondly recall 1999 as the year I both pondered imminent apocalypse and basked in the glory of one of the ten greatest power pop singles ever made - Candygirl's "Oh, Jacky Boy!". Candygirl was the creation of our pal Travis Ramin: songwriter extraordinaire, talented multi-instrumentalist, producer to the stars, radio personality, Pro Bowl placekicker, celebrity pitchman, and one-time captain of the Love Boat. While Candygirl would release only one more single, Travis Ramin would go on to play on and/or produce many of the finest power pop recordings of the 2000s and beyond. You can find most of them here!

For years, rumors abounded of Candygirl's bad girl rocker cousin who was going to do for glam rock what Candygirl had done for power pop. Word on the street was that Motorgirl's debut EP would be a Travis Ramin production and arrive in the form of a double 7" with a gatefold. It was two-and-a-half years ago that I shared a TV ad teasing the arrival of this highly anticipated recording. The songs eventually turned up on-line, but there was going to be a bit of a wait for the actual record. Long delayed by a series of events so unfortunate and improbable that even Axl Rose doubted it would ever see the light of day, the Motorgirl double gatefold 7" is finally out and can be yours for €9.99! Available from Italy's Surfin' Ki Records, this is four songs of wham-bam glam rock written and produced by Travis Ramin and performed by Alana Amram. "Oh Jacky Take a Ride" and "Motorgirl" are responses to the songs on the first Candygirl single (that Jacky still has a way with the ladies after all these years!). "Teenage Tiger" is pure Champan/Chinn inspired gold, while "Periwinkle Blue" proves that even tough girls have a soft side. If Genuine Parts are the new Runaways, then Motorgirl is definitely the new Suzi Quatro. Hit up Surfin' Ki for the ordering details and get your mitts on these sizzling slabs of wax! This one was totally worth the wait!


Friday, April 28, 2017

New album from Los Pepes!

Los Pepes have been one of my favorite bands for a number of years now. Their first LP Los Pepes For Everyone was my third-ranked album of 2014, and last year's All Over Now was my 14th-ranked album of 2016. But it's with the arrival of the band's third full-length Let's Go! that we finally get a studio recording that properly captures the thundering power and sheer loudness of the London foursome's smashing live shows.  

Los Pepes For Everyone, in my opinion, stacked up favorably with many of the classic albums of late '70s English and Irish pop/punk. With All Over Now more or less repeating the formula, a change-up was probably in order for the band's third LP. And so now we get Let's Go! - which is considerably harder-rocking than its predecessors but no less hook-laden. This album puts the power in power pop, from the blistering punk rock n' roll of "The Trap" to Ben's mighty Daltrey-eqsue vocals on "I Ain't The One" to the Real Kids style energy of the title track to the sweetly thrashing "You Don't Get Anything". "Perfect World" is what every power pop song should aspire to be - coming on with thumping drums and air-guitar worthy riffs, then building to a knockout chorus sprinkled with spot-on backing vocals. When the band retreats to songs reminiscent of previous releases ("Give Me Problems", "Can't Be Told"), these tracks really stand out and remind us that Los Pepes are titans of the brand of punk rock that walks hand in hand with pop.

Even with a number of great LPs already in the books for 2017, Let's Go! is a stone cold lock for my year-end top ten. It's available now in digital form via Los Pepes' Bandcamp, with a vinyl release expected any day now from the band's longtime label home, Germany's Wanda Records. In true Los Pepes fashion, the band is celebrating the release of the album by steamrolling its way through Europe for the next three weeks. Enjoy the new album, and be sure to catch these gents in their natural habitat if you get the chance!


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"?