With Pale Lips being way high up there on my list of current favorite bands, it's hardly a surprise that I'm touting the Montreal foursome's new 7" as possible single of the year. But while Pale Lips could have put just about any two songs on a record and received a ringing endorsement from yours truly, I really have to say they've outdone themselves with their new 45 Should've Known Better. You won't find a more fun pair of tunes ever. The phrase "double A side" is usually such steaming BS that I'm almost embarrassed to type it. But if you can spin Should've Known Better and determine with 100% certitude which song is the "hit", you've got a better ear than I. "Don't Take Your Switchblade To Your New York" is wonderful life advice and a good rockin' tune to boot. If there's one thing that tends to put Pale Lips just a little bit ahead of some of the world's similarly-minded poppy punk rock ' roll groups, it would have to be the cleverness and humor of their lyrics. "Switchblade" is a perfect case in point. You won't be able to resist singing along with this one, and it'll have you tapping your toes for sure. On the flip, "Old Flame" steps up the pace a little and plays to one of Pale Lips' lyrical strengths: making fun of dumb boys who think they're such hot shit. Here the old flame gets burned bad! 50% of the time, I find myself insisting that this song should have been the A-side. The other half of the time, I give "Switchblade" the slight edge. I just can't make up my mind! I would imagine that both songs are big crowd favorites at live shows, and those of you in Europe can find out for yourselves if you catch the band on tour in July! The vinyl (featuring amazing artwork by Spencer Alexander!) will be out July 4th on Surfin' Ki Records in Europe and Resurrection Records in the States. Digital version is available now!
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 EPalong 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 thatthe 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.
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!
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, andcertain 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!
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!
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!
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 Spotify, iTunes, and Google Play!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.