Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Crazy Squeeze - Savior of the Streets

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

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

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

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



-L.R.

https://thecrazysqueeze.bandcamp.com/album/savior-of-the-streets 
https://disconnected-records.com/collections/frontpage/products/crazy-squeeze-the-savior-of-the-streets-lp 
https://www.facebook.com/thecrazysqueeze/ 
https://www.facebook.com/DisconnectedRecordsUSA/ 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Sweet Things - "Slather"

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

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



-L.R.

https://www.facebook.com/thesweetthingsnyc/ 
http://spaghettytownrecords.bigcartel.com/product/the-sweet-things-slather-red-vinyl-bundle 
https://www.facebook.com/SpaghettyTown/ 

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Stanleys - self titled

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

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

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



-L.R.

https://thestanleysau.bandcamp.com/album/the-stanleys-debut-album 
https://www.facebook.com/thestanleysau/ 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Black Mambas - Moderation

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



-L.R.

https://blackmambas.bandcamp.com/album/moderation-2 
https://www.facebook.com/blckmambas 
https://disconnected-records.bandcamp.com/ 
https://disconnected-records.com/ 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Sonic Screemers - self titled

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

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

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



-L.R.

https://sonicscreemers.bandcamp.com/album/s-t 
https://www.facebook.com/SonicScreemers 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Australia Rocks!

By Mike Kimmel

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

Or not.

Oz? The Land Down Under?

Men At Work?

Diesel Injectors?

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


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

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

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


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

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

 I remember two thoughts prevalent in my mind:

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

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

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


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



Their biggest US hit, "Marseilles":



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

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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Original guitarist Mick Cocks died of liver cancer in 2009.

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


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

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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

-Mike Kimmel