Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Fritz - self titled

Not only does Drunken Sailor Records appear to be methodically collecting all of the best punk rock bands (Fashionism and Freak Genes join the roster next month!). It also has the best one-sheet writer in the business in Will Fitzpatrick. He penned a particularly brilliant line for this new album from The Fritz: "The Damned dancing on a circular saw?". Seriously! If that doesn't make you want to listen to the album, I don't know what will! The Fritz hails from the great state of Indiana and features members of Liquids, CCTV, Big Zit, Ooze, Pentas, Scabs, and Pukeoid. Liquids, of course, are already part of the Drunken Sailor family. Now The Fritz joins the fun! If you like Liquids or Drunken Sailor label mates Booji Boys, The Fritz's debut long player should be right up your alley. Think snotty Midwestern punk ripped out hard and fast with trashy lo-fi production. 10 of 12 tracks clock in under two minutes, but don't mistake the band's blistering minimalism for a lack of quality control. These tunes are as catchy as they are raging, and overall this is one of those releases that reminds me why I fell in love with punk music in the first place. Tracks like "Creative Death" and "No I'm Not Alright" accomplish so much in 60 seconds that any further lengthening would seem downright excessive. Drunken Sailor seems to have a particular affinity for these bands that overlap the worlds of garage, '77, and hardcore punk. I'd put The Fritz right there with the best of those. A killer debut!



Monday, March 19, 2018

The SUCK - self titled EP

After months of rumors, speculation, titillating mystery, and zealous anticipation, it is just about time for the world to behold the almighty street rock of the SUCK. Who are the SUCK? What is street rock? We finally have answers!

Based in Harrisburg, PA (a mere 25 miles from Faster and Louder HQ), the SUCK is a veritable supergroup of Ramonescore/pop-punk. You may recognize famed personnel from the likes of The Lebowskis and Saturday Night Kids. Some of these guys have been in the game so long that I might have been writing about their bands as far back as 1995 (remember Explosive Kate? Aliens and Strangers?). The SUCK brings to mind HEAD if they were obsessed with the popular culture of the late '70s and early '80s. You can call it pop-punk or Ramonescore, and you wouldn't be wrong (these guys even cover the NECK classic "Lights Out"). But "street rock" most perfectly describes what the SUCK is all about. Upon hearing the band's smash hit "Biff", I envisioned a gang of teenage hoodlums parading through urban ruins in 1979 vintage Technicolor. I was able to get an advance listen to the band's full debut EP (let's just say that I know a guy...), and I have to say that the rest of the record is of the same caliber. "Drinking" combines two of the great themes in pop-punk: heartbreak and, uh, drinking! If you're into the tougher-sounding side of pop-punk, you'll dig this one! The cover of "Lights Out" is great. I would ordinarily say that I hope this version will compel people to seek out the original. But honestly, I think most people who are going to like the SUCK are already well-aware of the greatness of NECK! "All We Know" was co-written by Jimmy Vapid and is the most "pop" song on the album (that's a good thing!). It really closes the EP in a triumphant/anthemic fashion. And just like that, the SUCK leave you wanting more! Yes, we all know what kind of music this is. These guys wear their influences on their (leather jacketed) sleeves. But when it comes to this style of band, I've not heard many that do it as well as the SUCK. The songs are genuinely memorable, and I'd be hard-pressed to name anything I've heard lately that's more fun to listen to. Makes me feel like I'm 22 again!

Ellie and Johnny Problem are reviving their Route 13 Recordings imprint for the release of the SUCK's debut EP. Pre-ordering information will be posted soon on the band's Facebook page. So be sure to like it and follow if you dig "Biff". Street rock is poised to take over the world!



Friday, March 16, 2018

Beebe Gallini - "East Side Story" b/w "The River Flows"

A lot has happened since I first reported on Beebe Gallini back in those innocent times of 2016. The band has gone through some lineup changes, and its fine debut recording has mysteriously disappeared from cyberspace. The wonderful news is that the band now has a really spiffy web site and has just released its first single that you can listen to on a record player! The always amazing Miss Georgia Peach is still out front on guitar and vocals, and boy is she sounding great! Our man Travis Ramin, who needs no introduction, is now on lead guitar. Amy Larson Pearson (Brits Out of America, Strumpet, Mexican Taxi, Brownstar) is on bass, and Chris Audette (Karma Sluts, The Goochers, Devil's Kettle) is on drums. So what we have is a new lineup but still the same Beebe Gallini. If you're in the vicinity of the upper Midwest and want to catch some goodtime garage rock with soul and girl group inspirations, this band needs to be on your must-see list.

I like this debut single because it highlights the band's dual mastery of crowd-pleasing covers and first-rate original songs. A-side "East Side Story", of course, was the first regional hit for a fella named Bob Seger way back in 1966. Beebe Gallini's version here is mostly faithful to the original, but Georgia's powerhouse vocal definitely adds a lot. This is some straight-up dirty garage rock to get you up and moving, and that guitar solo is wicked! On the flip, "The River Flows" is an original number penned by Amy Larson Pearson. It really slows down the tempo and works the band's soulful side. This is a really unique sounding song for a garage band - almost like a psychedelic spiritual or something like that. The band shows off some hot chops, and I believe every word of that vocal. The song is so well-written that I wouldn't have argued if you'd told me it was some long lost gem from 1967. But that's essentially the appeal of Beebe Gallini - they make '60s covers sound fresh and write original songs that sound like they could be '60s covers! I highly recommend this single and also suggest perusing the band's web site. I love that they're selling Beebe Gallini pom pom hats - truly a brilliant idea for a band based in frigid Minnesota!

$1 gets you the digital version of this first single from Beebe Gallini. Buy the actual record, and you also get a download card for a couple bonus tracks! Either way, it's a win for everyone. Dance!



Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Midnite Snaxxx - "Greedy Little Thing"

It's no secret that Midnite Snaxxx is one of my favorite bands. So you can imagine that I was more than a little excited about a brand-new single from this Oakland foursome! The screaming and dancing in the street on my part were quite alarming to the neighbors. Perhaps I went too far in setting off those fireworks. I'd been looking forward to this release since the start of the year, and I must say it does not disappoint! Coming out at the end of this month on the always great Goodbye Boozy Records, "Greedy Little Thing" features two original songs recorded by Bart Thurber and cover art by Xerox The Kidd. In typical Snaxxx style, both songs clock in at well under two minutes. Each of these two tunes would have fit in perfectly on the band's brilliant 2017 LP Chew On This. The title track is great straight-ahead catchy punk rock n' roll featuring some tasty lead guitar work. On the flip, "Turf War" is fast, frantic, and fun. Dulcinea's vocal is just terrific, and there are some really neat things going on with the guitars that you don't always hear in the world of garage-punk. I like both songs a lot, but I think I have to give it to the B-side here!

Limited to just 260 copies, "Greedy Little Thing" might not be so easy to come by. It officially releases on March 30th, and the band has already blown through the copies it had available for sale via its Bandcamp page. The digital release is available now and will give you your $2 worth and then some. Another essential release from the Snaxxx!



Monday, March 12, 2018

SUZES - "Resuscitate"

One of the best and most overlooked albums of last year was the full-length debut from Düsseldorf-based pop trio SUZES. Lee Jones (ex Solicitors) has been one of my favorite songwriters for a number of years, and his work with his latest band is some of his strongest to date. Available now via Bandcamp is a brand new single from SUZES. Again Jones demonstrates a flair for exceptionally clever lyrics and radio-worthy hooks. Just as importantly, I love how these two tracks really highlight the talents of rhythm players Roman & Tomo. This is a band clicking on all cylinders, and you would probably have to go back in time 35 years to hear new wave pop done better than this!

"Resuscitate" would be a massive hit if rock radio were actually worth a damn. When that hook comes in, it's absolute magic. The bitter breakup song is something of a Lee Jones specialty, and this one is up there with his very best. It's definitely worth paying close attention to the words. "I've lost all the feeling in my heart" is a line for the ages, and it's just one of many gems in this song. If Elvis Costello and Weezer made a baby, it would sound like "Resuscitate"! "Surplus To Requirements" is another brilliant pop number that could probably be described as sounding like "classic alternative". It definitely has me recalling black-clad days of yore listening to The Cure and New Order, but still with a lot of those Lee Jones songwriting signatures. It's a cool, crisp tune that nicely balances quality hooks with some nifty playing. I could listen to that guitar solo all day!

If you're a new wave/power pop person and are not yet hip to SUZES, this is a band you really need to check out! I highly recommend both the album Fragile Development and this brand new single as additions to your digital music collection. Be warned, though. Once "Resuscitate" gets stuck in your head, it's staying there!



Friday, March 9, 2018

Radio Days - El Delfin Y El Varano

Radio Days, authors of my 2016 album of the year, always make me happy when they release new music. El Delfin Y El Varano is the Italian trio's newest release, an EP out on Clifford Records. It's the band's first new release since last spring's "Haruka" single. Having already made a truly perfect power pop album in the above-referenced Back In The Day, Radio Days really have nowhere to go but forward. With this EP, they show they can branch out from their base style but still sound like that same band we've always loved. Clearly they've been inspired by the 1960s portion of their record collections, and that's not a bad thing at all!

"Time Is Over" is a straight-up garage rocker to open the record. It's a nice jolt of energy to get you up and dancing. That leads into "Sometimes", which takes us back into the pop territory where Radio Days always excel. Of course this band has previously been known to worship at the altar of the Beatles. But with this song, think more 1966-67 Beatles as opposed to '64-'65 Beatles. Here Radio Days affirm what a tremendous pop band they are, slowing down the tempo and really letting their melodies shine. This is beautiful, sophisticated pop done splendidly. Similarly, a cover of the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" is so elegant and dreamy that it's barely recognizable from the original. What a wonderful interpretation! Then to close the EP, "El Delfin Y El Varano" is a top-notch surf rock instrumental that highlights this band's formidable musical chops.

Not content to just stay in the power pop lane, Radio Days are really showing the talent and musical skill to transcend genres. It's one thing to try new things, but genuinely succeeding at them is something else entirely. El Delfin Y El Varano is an absolute success for Radio Days. "Sometimes" is one of the best songs these guys have ever done, and that Ramones cover is a stunner. Bring on the next album!



Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Amyl and the Sniffers - Big Attraction & Giddy Up

Hearing Melbourne's Amyl and the Sniffers for the first time, I was blown away like I hadn't been in a long time. This is definitely the best new punk group to come down the pike in a good while, and clearly I'm not the only one who has noticed. The band's debut 12", just released in January, has already sold out! If you are unable to track down a vinyl copy, the digital version is an absolute must-own. This release compiles the tracks from the band's first two EPs, released in 2016 and 2017 respectively. If you like old school Aussie punk (hell, who doesn't?!) and aren't yet familiar with Amyl and the Sniffers, you are in for a major treat! The band takes inspiration from both the punk and rock of '70s Australia, bringing with it an energy and attitude that could not sound fresher in 2018. These ten tracks are everything punk music should be - raw, blistering, and beyond all else exciting. The songs are top-notch, and Amy Louise Taylor is a dynamo on lead vocals who will remind you of countless greats of the past. Standout tracks like "I'm Not A Loser", "Mole (Sniff Sniff)", and "70's Street Munchies" absolutely thrill the '77 punk purist in me. But then on songs like "Balaclava Lover Boogie", you can definitely sense the band's love for good old dirty riff rock. Ten tracks leave me wanting more, but fortunately a proper debut album is slated to arrive later this year. I can't wait!



Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Hangups - self titled EP

When it comes to pop-punk in the last couple of decades, Europe has been where it's at. Kevin Aper has had a lot to do with that, and today he runs the Austrian-based label Monster Zero Records. Monster Zero has released 65 records from mostly European bands - including some I've previously featured (e.g. Bat Bites, Barbecuties). I'm not fully sure how to explain why pop-punk continues to thrive in Europe. But I'd say it has something to do with Europeans being open to the idea that sometimes all music needs to be is fun. With a Monster Zero release, you know you're going to get tried-and-true pop-punk. That's certainly the case with the label's latest release from Malmö, Sweden's The Hangups. These guys are all-in on the Ramones, Lookout! Records, and the idea that "poppunk is the law". The band's self-titled EP is pop-punk by the book, and it's eight minutes, 25 seconds of head-bobbing good times. These tunes are catchy as can be, and they've got plenty of balls as well. The influences are obvious, but so what? If "Addicted" doesn't put you in a supremely wonderful mood, then you clearly hate pop-punk and should back away from this review before your day is entirely ruined. All I know is that if I had heard this record when I was 25, I would have immediately gotten a Hangups tattoo and booked a plane ticket to Sweden. This is pop-punk done faithfully and done really well. If you can appreciate that, The Hangups are definitely your band!



Monday, March 5, 2018

The Top Ten 2018

It's an annual birthday tradition of mine to make a list of my favorite bands of all-time. The idea was always to see how this list changes as I grow older. Honestly, there has been little in the way of major movement since I started making these lists. And my #1 band hasn't changed in over 20 years. But with this year's top ten, I can see some reflections of my tastes evolving over time. I used to think of myself as a guy who loved '77-style punk and power pop. Yet today I gravitate a little less toward those two as separate genres and a little more towards bands that combined them. You'll see the Undertones and Real Kids entering my top ten and the Ramones moving up higher on the list. With me currently taking such an interest in bands that blur the distinctions between punk and power pop and rock n' roll, that has influenced the way I look at classic bands as well. At the end of the day, it's all just rock n' roll. You may also notice that my musical tastes remain mostly stuck in the '70s. But come on - that will probably still be true 20 years from now!

On to the list:
1. The Clash
2. AC/DC (Bon Scott era)
3. Husker Du
4. Ramones 
5. Material Issue 
6. Undertones
7. Rolling Stones
8. Dictators 
9. New York Dolls   
10. Real Kids 


Friday, March 2, 2018

The Jackhammers - Your Problem Now

How about some PUNK ROCK today?! The Jackhammers hail from Glasgow, and their long list of band interests includes such things as belligerence, wanton destruction, auto-erotic asphyxiation, and public executions of bankers. Clearly this is not a group of sensitive singer/songwriters! Considering that these guys have cool names like Jim Shit, Andy Drankit, and Horace Cockpuppet, they certainly give themselves a lot to live up to. Well no problem, because their music rips! Your Problem Now is the band's latest 7", out now on the eternally dependable No Front Teeth Records. If you like raging old school punk rock with a nasty streak, the only thing that really needs to be said is that you need this record. What a crackler! Should you require any further hints about where these fellas are coming from, consider that they cover "Not Now No Way" by the almighty PAGANS and absolutely crush it! Get your mitts on this record, blast it obnoxiously loud, and piss off the neighbors. What else could you possibly need in life?!




Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Dirty Truckers - "Best Of"

The Dirty Truckers are a band I've referenced a few times, both in reviews of Tom Baker and the Snakes and the Rum Bar Records reissue of the Tiger Stripes EP. I consider The Dirty Truckers to be one of the great American rock n' roll bands of recent times, and I was psyched to hear that Rum Bar was honoring the group with a deluxe best-of compilation. Simply titled "Best Of", this 22-track CD release collects material from all three Dirty Truckers albums: 2001's Bush League Romance, 2006's Washed and Ready, and 2008's Loose In The Joints. It also features cuts from Tiger Stripes, released in 2012. With the above albums only available today in digital formats, "Best Of" is a cool way to own most of the band's essential tracks on a single disc. If you enjoyed Tom Baker and the Snakes' album Lookout Tower last year, I think you'll find The Dirty Truckers to be very much in the same spirit. Nothing fancy here: just solid roots rock n' roll that draws just as much from the Stones and Steve Earle as it does from the Replacements and Soul Asylum. Close your eyes, and you can practically taste the cheap beer and smell the cigarette smoke. Given the international influence of a label like Rum Bar, this is a great opportunity for the rest of the world to discover one of the best-kept secrets of Boston rock n' roll. 22 songs for $10 is one hell of a bang for your buck, and the quality of this collection is just as impressive as the quantity. It really showcases what a fine songwriter Baker is. If you relate more to the rock n' roll side of alt-country, this one's well worth further exploration!


Monday, February 26, 2018

Murph & The Gazorpos - Too Scared To Rock 'N' Roll

Charlie Murphy is one of my favorite people in rock n' roll. Even if he went out and started an a cappella quartet or a Haircut 100 tribute band, I would want to own every record he made. I first came to know him from his dynamite power pop project Murph & The Gazorpos, but I've quickly become a huge fan of all of his other bands as well. I'm hearing that the next Freak Genes album is gonna blow all of our heads off! While we await that LP, we now get to enjoy what could be the last Murph & The Gazorpos release for a while. Charlie is stepping away from this project to focus on other things, so as a parting gift he's given us a six-song digital EP that is the band's best yet in my humble opinion. Too Scared To Rock 'N' Roll wonderfully combines all of the things I love about Murph & The Gazorpos. It's chock full of A-grade power pop hooks, hyper-caffeinated punk energy, heartfelt vocals and lyrics, and enough scorching rock n' roll guitar to power a major metropolis. Just push play, and it's instant happiness! The title track was a standout of the recent Nerve Centre/Girlsville Neon Maniacs compilation. But even if you own that already, the remaining five tracks make this EP well worth the £6. Songs like "All Or Nothing" and "Wolf" are first-rate numbers walking those oh so fine lines that separate punk and pop and good old rock n' roll. "Another Beat" evokes the Exploding Hearts' "I'm A Pretender" without coming off like an inferior copy. "Picking Up The Pieces" makes me wanna jump up and down on my bed until I either break it or collapse from sheer exhaustion (sounds like a great way to spend a morning!).

I know I've said this two or three or seven times before, but I urge each and every one of you to purchase the entire Murph & The Gazorpos discography from the Nerve Centre Records Bandcamp. That will cost you a grand total of like $15, and that's an investment that will bring endless joy to any fan of peppy, punchy pop. Seriously: how could you not love this band?!!!



Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Brad Marino - "C'Mon C'Mon C'Mon"

Check out my favorite song of 2018 so far! Seriously, how can you go wrong with a title like "C'Mon C'Mon C'Mon"?! Considering that The Connection is the most-reviewed band in the history of this blog, it's pretty obvious that I'm a big Brad Marino fan. I've known for a while that he was working on some solo stuff, but I wasn't quite sure what to expect (beyond Mike Chaney assuring me that it was going to be killer!). The debut Brad Marino solo EP will be releasing later this year, but first we get the "C'Mon C'Mon C'Mon" digital single. I was wondering if solo Brad Marino was going to be more like solo Mick Jagger or more like solo Keith Richards. Well, actually, it's more like Nick Lowe fronting The Ramones in 1979! This is just a great upbeat power pop/rock n' roll song that will have you bobbing your head and clapping your hands almost immediately upon contact. We are getting close enough to spring for me to envision myself blasting this tune while I drive with the windows down! In true solo fashion, Marino authored the song and played all the instruments on the track. His pal and bandmate Kris Rodgers mixed the recording. The full solo EP is slated to arrive this summer following the release of the new Connection album. If you're a fan of The Connection and/or Brad Marino, this is shaping up to be a really great year!



Monday, February 19, 2018

K7s - Take 1

Alright! This one is for the pop-punk fans! Take 1 is the debut album from Spanish super-trio K7s. I can only describe it as music for lovers of pop-punk made by lovers of pop-punk. If you're on the fence about pop-punk or outright hate it, this album won't turn you to the dark side. But if you're nuts about the 1990s Lookout! Records catalog and the generations of bands it inspired, Take 1 will send you straight to your happy place. My first impression of this album was, "This ought to be on Stardumb Records". Then I did a little digging. And sure enough, Stardumb is one of three labels (along with Rum Bar Records and Jolly Ronnie Records) collaborating to release this LP!

K7s are Luis Sanchez (Los Reactivos) on guitar and vocals, the great Kurt Baker on bass, and Jose Andres Albertos (Airbag) on drums. That's an awful lot of star power from the worlds of garage and power pop, but these guys had something far more specific in mind with this project. Take 1 is the kind of record that reminds me why I was so hooked on pop-punk in the days of my youth. Without apology, K7s knock out one perfect two minute pop song after another that worships at the altar of the Ramones, Screeching Weasel, Queers, and Green Day. This, my friends, is pop-punk by the book. You like buzzsaw guitars? Melodic leads? Sticky sweet melodies? Heart on sleeve lyrics? Take 1 delivers all of that in abundance, with tremendous production from Wyatt Funderburk that accentuates the pop and the punk. Sanchez is a likable presence on lead vocals who can pull off lovelorn and snotty with equal effectiveness. He really has a knack for writing these simple yet impossibly catchy pop songs. And as a musical trio, these three are as tight as it gets!

What I appreciate about Take 1 is that although it's a classic pop-punk record, you can't say that every song sounds the same. It's got everything from the textbook pop-punk of "Running Back To You" to the power pop leaning "All About Me" to the darker-sounding "Go Away" to the totally sappy "Your Lips Met Mine" to the punk rock kick in the nuts of "It's The CIA". Funderburk did a great job of letting the hooks shine while still playing up the inherent punch of this trio's attack. With a record like this, you don't really want to mess with the formula. What you do want to do is execute it to perfection, and that's what K7s have done so well. If you're looking for new ground to be broken, this is not your band. But if you desire a record that's a whole lot of fun and sure to have you singing along for weeks on end, Take 1 is hard to beat.



Friday, February 16, 2018

The Connection - "In The End"

Yippeee, we've got ourselves a new Connection song! "In The End" is actually the first original song The Connection has released since the summer of 2015, so it's with tremendous excitement that I receive this teaser for the band's forthcoming album Wish You Success! The album doesn't come out until the end of April. But if "In The End" is any indication, we are all in for a real treat with this fourth Connection LP. I'm not gonna waste any time today over-analyzing this track (there will be plenty of chances for that when I review the album!). I'll just say that if you love rock n' roll, you need this song in your life. It'll get your toes tapping and leave you wanting more. Oh my god, that lead guitar! Dang it, do we really have to wait two months for the rest of the record?!



Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Dboy- Prove Your Love (Live in Belem)

Releasing today is the excellent debut long player from Welland, Ontario's Dboy. On the surface this may appear to be a fake live album. But aren't all the best live albums fake? Besides, "fake" is such a harsh term. In Dboy's case, it's more like pro wrestling kayfabe. If you choose not to believe that Dboy live under secret identities and only communicate with the public via their Moscow-based spokesman Kirill Kutchokokov, you're totally spoiling the fun! The band's web site even contains a "13-point program to end sonic austerity" (my favorite is Point 5: "Dboy is a rite of passage, minus the 'p'") and offers fans the opportunity to apply for membership in the Official Dboy Scout Order. Most importantly, the music will more than justify anyone's commitment to the cause. This is some great straight-ahead catchy punk rock n' roll that takes absolutely nothing seriously except its mission to melt your face off. Think Hex Dispensers or Misfits (minus the horror) with the spirit of early Turbonegro. The band tears through 12 songs in under 25 minutes, and it's a ripping good time to the very end. And while song titles like "Born With A Hard-On", "Fecal Alcohol Syndrome", and "Dboy Balls" are in no way misleading, it would be going too far to dismiss this as a joke record. Especially on killer tracks like "Three Piece Band" and "Prove Your Luv", Dboy demonstrates that any underlying gimmicks are secondary to the music itself. If you enjoy ballsy garage punk with hooks, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out this mysterious power trio from the land of Cal Clutterbuck. Neckerchiefs sold separately!



Monday, February 12, 2018

Various Artists - Scrap!

I've said it many times, but it's a message worth repeating. If you're an American fan of Japanese punk music, you've got to be extremely appreciative of what Secret Mission Records has been doing over the past few years. The label has released music from The Raydios, Louder, Dials, Boys Order, P.C. 2, Beatseekers, Car Crash, The Geros, The Fadeaways, and Ruler. These are bands whose records would have otherwise only been available as pricey Japanese imports. Taken as a whole, SMR's recent catalog affirms that Japanese punk rock continues to thrive just as it did in previous decades. Assembled by Mangrove Records, the Scrap! compilation is an additional showcase for some of the finest bands associated with Japanese punk in recent years. Secret Mission has partnered directly with Mangrove to make this compilation available in the United States. It features top-tier material from six different bands. So basically, it's like getting six singles for the price of one album...minus the import price tag! 

I like that Scrap! was put together to document both the quality and variety of sounds that have been been coming out of Japan's punk scene over the last few years. The first thing that often comes to people's minds when you talk about Japanese punk rock is the garage/trash stuff, and you certainly get some of that here with three great tracks from KBD inspired crazies Car Crash. But the bands here run the gamut of punk styles, from the mod meets jittery new wave of Dials to the blistering sing-along '82 punk of Centipede to the dark post-punk of Middle Edge to the thumping three-chord punk stylings of Black and White to the pure snotty fury of Loudmouth. It's clear that Mangrove insisted on "A" level material from these bands, and that's what makes this compilation so worth the while. There are no throwaway tracks here, and I can honestly say I am looking forward to hearing a lot more from all of these groups. I was especially pleased to be so into Centipede and Middle Edge - bands who bring something a little different to sub-genres that I'm generally not a huge fan of. Over the course of just three tracks, Middle Edge manages to bring to mind The Wipers, Swedish post-hardcore, and Joy Division! My fave cut out of the 17 is Black and White's "One Way Street", which gave me a similar feeling to hearing The Registrators for the very first time back in the day. Honestly, though, I believe that six different people could listen to this comp and identify six different favorite bands from it.

I don't wanna catch anyone talking about how Japanese punk rock "used to be" so great. It still is, and Scrap! proves it!



Thursday, February 8, 2018

Down and Outs - Double Negative

Is there anything better about doing a music blog than discovering new bands? How about discovering not so new bands?! Double Negative is already the fifth album from Liverpool based punk outfit Down and Outs, yet here I am just hearing the group for the first time (and enjoying it very much)! Releasing next Wednesday on All In Vinyl, Yo Yo Records, and Waterslide Records, Double Negative continues a recording history for this band that goes all the way back to 2004. Where in the hell have I been for 15 years?! The sound is melodic punk with gruff vocals, something that tends to be hit or miss with me. Luckily, it's a hit in this case. You can hear the influence of bands like Leatherface and One Man Army, but spiritually this music is undeniably Clash-inspired.

I always love a band that aspires to write anthems, and I can think of no better word to describe the majority of these songs than "anthemic". And that's really what separates Down and Outs from a lot of similarly styled bands. These songs are so genuinely rousing that they continually have me out of my chair and pumping my fist as if the band were right there in front of me. Mark Magill has written some very serious songs about a variety of subjects, and he really has a way of imbuing these songs with a passion that's palpable. While not fully a "political" record, Double Negative does contain a number of songs that speak to our present condition. The folk anthem "You Can Have This Country Back" is specifically about the state of affairs in a post-Brexit U.K. Yet it's remarkable how everything this song rails against is just as pervasive and problematic on my side of the pond as well. "What Did You Do In The Culture Wars?" reflects on how recent political events have emboldened those who revel in intolerance. It's based on a real-life encounter that Magill had with an individual who advocated the banishment of disabled people. As you can imagine, he did not stand silent!   

When it's not political, Double Negative is deeply personal and extremely emotional. "Astoria" is a break-up song that's about as gut-wrenching and cinematic as you can get in 91 seconds. In other spots, Magill pours all he's got into songs about death and grief. Even "Heartbreak Radio", a song ostensibly about mixed tapes, digs deeper into the things from which we're often trying to escape when we turn to the healing power of music. I appreciate the amount of heart and intelligence that went into these songs. But what really brings it all home is how fervently the band sells each track. Magill sings his guts out, and the band powers through every note like it really means it. The energy is undeniable, and man do those choruses ever deliver! All in all, an absolutely brilliant album!



Monday, February 5, 2018

Tommy and The Commies - ...Again

I've got another one for you I think you're all gonna love! What is it with all of these great powerpop/punk bands out of Canada?! Tommy and The Commies hail from Sudbury, Ontario and have just released their second tape titled Tommy and The Commies...Again. "Devices" is the first track from that tape, and it could easily pass for a lost gem from the late '70s heyday of pop-influenced punk rock. I am blown away and totally pumped to hear more tunes from this tape! In the meantime, the band's first tape is also excellent and can be downloaded in its entirety via Bandcamp. I've got a feeling that I'll be writing about Tommy and The Commies many more times in the near future!



Friday, February 2, 2018

Telephone Lovers - Two Dollar Baby

I've got a good one here to kick off the month of February! I was a big fan of Telephone Lovers' debut album, and now they've followed that up with a single that's even better! A split release between Disconnected Records and Burger Records, "Two Dollar Baby" finds this LA band embracing a 7" format that was tailor made for power pop. And when I say power pop, I'm talking old school. I admire that Telephone Lovers make no attempt to sound "modern" or "original". They still sound like they just stepped out of time machine that they boarded in 1978. Both tunes here straddle the fine line between mid-to-late '70s power pop and straight-up rock n' roll. "Two Dollar Baby" sounds SO 1970s in an entirely good way. It's got riffs and licks a plenty, and that chorus really brings it all home. I really love what the piano adds to this tune! If you dig Dwight Twilley, Flamin' Groovies, etc., this one should be right up your alley. On the flip, "Real Action" has that classic LA power pop feel that seems to be this band's calling card. You could easily slide this track on a mix between 20/20 and the Paul Collins Beat and have a perfect fit.

Telephone Lovers are definitely one of the best new bands going in power pop today. And perhaps that's because they don't sound like a power pop band of today. Teddy Too Much may wear his songwriting influences on his sleeve, but he absolutely has the talent to honor them well. He's joined by a stellar cast of players including Billie from Black Mambas, Pat Salway from Dr. Boogie, and top-notch power pop drummer James Carman (Images, Maniac, LA Drugz). Vinyl for "Two Dollar Baby" will ship early next month. Via Telephone Lovers' Bandcamp, you can buy the digital version of the single or pre-order the 7". Man, this is really shaping up to be a great year for power pop!



Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Zambonis/Vista Blue - Songs About Curling

The name of the record tells you everything! Released just in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics, Songs About Curling is to my knowledge the first ever curling-themed music recording. It's about time that this sport had a proper musical tribute. I know I can't be the only one who checks the TV listings for Olympic coverage every day just to find out what time curling is on. If you appreciate skill, strategy, and teamwork in sports, you just can't beat curling. John Shuster is an American treasure! Songs About Curling is a collaboration between the legendary hockey-themed band The Zambonis and baseball-loving F & L favorites Vista Blue. If a record about curling was ever going to get made, these were certainly the two bands to do it! They both excel at articulating the passions and joys of sports fandom, and that remains every bit as true as they turn their attentions specifically to curling. Zambonis' bass player Mike Sembos is actually in a curling league with his wife, and the two co-wrote the lead track "Sweep Me Over the Hogline". I don't think there's anything I enjoy more than a sports song that's actually a love song. Or is it a love song that's actually a sports song? Either way, the metaphors work beautifully on this laid-back country rocker. The Zambonis follow it with "Curling Girl", a psych-pop dazzler about a young lady who truly has it all. The Vista Blue side of the split opens with the sing-along anthem that the sport of curling truly deserves. "Curling All Around The USA" is a Beach Boys inspired bopper that heralds curling as the next big American sensation. That's exactly the kind of positive thinking we need if our nation is to ever rival the mighty Canadians and Swedes on the curling sheet. To wrap up the EP, "Girl Who Can Curl" was written primarily by VB bass player Mark and his wife Beth. It puts a neat twist on girl-crazed pop-punk. Seriously: who could ever blame a young man for desiring the affections of a gal who knows how to handle a stone?

Since no other label was willing to commit to releasing Songs About Curling on a tight deadline for the Olympics, Mike from Vista Blue ended up putting it out on his own label Radiant Radish Records. I love that Mike went to the trouble to get this record made. And I love that The Zambonis were so enthused to be part of this project! This is no joke record. Both bands brought top-notch contributions to this split. It works as a celebration of curling, and it works as terrific pop music. This is a limited vinyl release with a total of 300 copies (in several colors) available. You can order it here. Curling at the 2018 Olympic Games starts next Thursday, so cue up these tunes and get yourself ready!



Monday, January 29, 2018

Alice Cooper - Paranormal

Review by Mike Kimmel

Alice Cooper's 27th studio release is one of his best in a while – and I loved Welcome 2 My Nightmare. This one (Paranormal) reveals his "Paranoic Personality"; or, in other parts, his
"Personoic Paranality".

There are plenty of the typical Cooper plays on words, twisted phrases, comments that at first don't seem to belong together. Think about them for a minute or two (or more likely, sometime just before the tune ends), and you suddenly find yourself thinking "Oh! I GET IT!"

In addition to that, he's got more background vocals going on than I remember in previous Cooper releases. Well, he's always had background vocals, but they were done by folks who were actually background singers. On Paranormal, it sounds like he uses the rest of the band for the backups; and it fits so well that you'll wonder why either he hadn't done it before or you hadn't noticed before.

Speaking of the band, personnel on Paranormal includes Neal Smith, Dennis Dunaway, Michael Bruce, Larry Mullen Jr., Roger Glover, Billy Gibbons, Tommy Denander, Tommy Henriksen, Steve Hunter, and a cast of thousands!

Well, a cast of thousands on the live tracks that are included. The live cuts still sound tremendous. I guess sometimes it just might take an artist like Alice Cooper to breathe some OLD blood into younger musicians. Frankly though, it doesn't sound like these guys needed much help and they do the Alice Cooper thing to a T.

A nice, clean, slow-picked chord to start the opening track; the title track "Paranormal", and then it kicks into gear starring Cooper as the condemned paranormal being haunting some young lady. He's "…condemned to the long, endless night…", so she’s gonna suffer too.

Staccato drums accompanied by an equally staccato guitar/bass combination kicks off "Dead Flies". "Please watch your step, dear. The world is out to beat you. Don't you know there's cannibals designed to kill and eat you."

"And they'll kill you with their bible full of psychobabble vomit till they make you drink the Kool-Aid and you ride up on that comet. All lies! We're dead flies!"

Surely you catch the Jim Jones/Guyana reference there. Seems like perhaps a bit of a history lesson?

Then, as if to allay my fears (NOT!), track three fires up. "Fireball" isn't a paranoic's most reassuring message. "On a dark desert night. Lookin' to the sky. Something ain't right – a fireball."

People holding on to each other for support, reassurance, etc., etc., not that it's working or anything. A mass inquiry; "Almighty God… Is it today?" or "Almighty God… The city's in flames."

I generally despise it when reviews turn into political commentaries, and I ain't a-gonna do that. Well, except for one tiny comment about some Asian leader who actually had a desk brought out to a runway so he could sit in an "official office" while watching a test of a nuclear missile. Right or wrong, good or bad makes no difference – I think you have to admit that the "desk-on-the-runway" thing (novel and/or original as it may have been) is just a tad out there!

Which brings us back to track three. Another very good tune. Interestingly, the effect applied to the vocals of Uncle Alice makes him sound much like the vocals are coming over a low quality FM radio – as if in a newscast. Here's hoping the current, uh, disputes between countries of the world isn't about to become a history lesson.

But by now I'm beginning to think this project is a description of things going on in the world today. A long-time mantra of mine has been "Complete paranoia is perfect awareness". Well, that and "Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're NOT out to get me."


That train of thought runs me straight down the track and into "Paranoic Personality".


We start out with the ballsy, sexy distorted bass I wish I could get (my T-Bird comes close, but so far no stogie). The tune is slower than, say, "School's Out", but the bass is vaguely similar with the short walk and then a slide. Where "School's Out" just drops, "Paranoic Personality" mostly climbs but climbs and drops from mid-song on.

If you LUVS you some Billy Gibbons guitar, check out track five: "Fallen in Love". First off, let me say I love the chorus; "My baby's love is hard. My baby's love is tough. If I was anybody else I'd have had enough. She treats me like a dog, not a cute little pup. I've fallen in love and I can't get up!"

You figure out what he's talking about there. Meanwhile, just enjoy the heck out of the song – it's one of the best from the album.
Another compliment to the rhythm section coming up. I mentioned the Billy Gibbons guitar. Pop on the headphones and give it a spin. The Dusty Hill-like bass and Frank Beard-like drums combined with Gibbons make it seem like Cooper is doing a guest vocal on a ZZ Top album. If you like Cooper and you like ZZ Top, you'll LOVE track five.

Does anyone else find it odd that Frank Beard is the only member of ZZ Top who doesn't have a beard?

Next is a strange contrast. "Dynamite Road" is probably my least favorite song from this release, and it's a really good song. Not to spoil the story or anything, but the ending is humorous. "I can understand why he forced the band to take their final breath. But did he have to trash my Cadillac, man? I loved that car to death."

Ever feel like you were going to have some sort of breakdown? Ever feel like you were already having some sort of breakdown? Finally, do you s'pose you can plan or schedule said breakdown? Yeah, probably not so much. So track seven is about his "Private Public Breakdown".

"I feel what's real just slip away. I hope you like my... I hope you love my… I hope you see my private public breakdown. The secret service? I make them nervous."

It's one of the slower-paced tunes on the album, but it has plenty of interesting lyrics and the yes, I've come to expect it guitar from an Alice Cooper release – I'm not talking about smooth or even chunky. We're talking extra chunky here! Bass? Drums? Steady, as expected. They provide a perfect rhythm section for Cooper's lyrics and the guitars setting them off. It's extremely interesting (well, to me, anyway, and some would say I'm a bit odd) how the drummer uses a cowbell in the tune.

"I don't need meds to tie me down. Or squads of feds to stand around. 'Cause I'll have floated off the ground. So welcome to my... I hope you like my… I think I love my private public breakdown."

HORNS?! ON A COOPER ALBUM?!?! Well, it's really not that unusual at all. He's shown over the past many years he's really not afraid to try anything, and he's not exactly shy, either. "Holy Water" keeps the hits a-happening on Paranormal.

The bass in "Holy Water" is tremendous! The horns, drums, and vocals are really way in the foreground on this track. The guitar is relegated to providing occasional accentuation, and the bass is pretty background, as well. That doesn't stop either of them from adding so much to the song.

"She is an angel. Her name is Tiffany. She kinda strange though, but my epiphany. I wouldn't change, yo! Cause she's a gift to me."

The ninth track of the 18 in this release is my favorite. Once again, my feets jis' won't be still. "Give the Rats what they want. Give the rats what they want. Open the cage. Give the rats what they want."

"Give 'em the cheese, the grill and the ride. Some bling and some sex and they glow inside."

"Let them run the maze. Let them ring the bell. Let 'em chase their tails. Let 'em go to hell. Let them multiply – that's what they do. You better give 'em what they want or they're comin' for you."

A minute 54 into it the tune, it sounds like it's ending. And that is downright depressing. It's not a long song, anyway, and at 2:38 it's over for real. Trust me, this one will let you know if your seat squeaks or not, because you won't be able to keep still.
Ha! A song about rats, and I said "squeak". Unintentional at first, but… I KILL ME!

"The Sound of A" brings us to the 10th and final new studio tune with Cooper's current band from the Paranormal CD basic release and is the slowest track on the album. But it, too, is a really good track. "The sound of A is in the air. The sound of A is everywhere. Meaningless noise is everybody's toy."

There's some very interesting stuff going on with the keyboard in this cut as there is with the vocals, as well. Probably best experienced (again) using headphones.

We're back in the studio again, but this time we're accompanied by Coop and members of his original band (with the exception of Glen Buxton - RIP).

"Genuine American Girl", written by Cooper, Neal Smith and Bob Ezrin, is the first of two brand new songs with his brand old band, and it is spectacular, vintage Alice Cooper rock and roll. The old guys have still got it! As a genuine rock and roll fanatic I have to say that… Well, let me just come out and say it, OK?

It's got basically everything you have ever wanted from a Cooper tune, let alone expected. The bass. The drums. The guitars. Good grief, man! The lyrics.

"I do my hair. I paint my nails. It pours outside. It never fails. So the makeup runs down my pretty face. I'm a muddy mess. A mac disgrace. But when I hit that floor tonight I'm gonna look and feel alright because my mama says the world's an oyster and I'm the pearl."

"I look in the mirror and what do I see? An immodest little goddess looking back at me. The boys all whistle when I walk by so I toss my hair and wink my eye."

"So come and dance with me. Come take a chance with me. I'm only 30 out of 50 shades of grey. A feminine fatality."

Things might have headed back toward the history lesson (or lesson in pending history – I think probably one of those two) with the second original track by the original Cooper band. Cooper, Dennis Dunaway, and Ezrin teamed up again to write "You and All of Your Friends".

"We're burnin' down your city. The message has been sent. Angels without pity. We hold you in contempt. And this is how it all ends for you and all of your friends."

"It’s righteous conflagration. It's our way of paying you back for plundering our nation and painting heaven black. So this is where it all ends for you and all of your friends."

"And when the sun goes down tomorrow we will no longer be your slaves. And it will be the end of sorrow, 'cause we’ll be dancing on your graves. 'Cause this is where it all ends. Too late to make amends. For you and all of your friends."

I just realized I may have typed the vast majority of the lyrics for the song, which I'm not sure the laws of review-writing allow you to do.

That's OK, though. I mean, if it was the first rule I'd ever violated, I guess it'd be a more remarkable event. Further, your honor, when the lead/solo-type part of the song kicked in, so did my goosebumps again. Guess what, kiddies. The fossils still got it! (Maybe playing in a band with your grandfather could teach you a thing or two, eh?)

The two tunes with guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith finish things up on the standard release. If you have been paying attention over the past few months, you know that IF there is a deluxe version of a CD you are considering for purchase THAT should be the version you get.

Oddly enough, Cooper's Welcome 2 My Nightmare was the release that really drove that point home for me. To try and put the Paranormal CD into some sort of perspective. I absolutely LOVE Welcome 2 My Nightmare. I think it's a fantastic idea, and it builds on and is as enjoyable as the original Welcome to My Nightmare. In fact, I think I might like 2 a bit more than the original.

I like Paranormal more than I like either of the Nightmares, and as you just read, that's going quite a distance. The review isn't even over yet! I haven't addressed the six live tracks (recorded on May 6, 2016 in Columbus, OH) done by Cooper and his current band, who I've also already mentioned are by no means any slouches at all!

But rather than going through each of the live Cooper classics included, I think I'll just enumerate them and sum them up as a collection. I mean, after all… There's a better-than-average chance you've heard each of these songs and may already have an opinion one way or the other.

The six classics are "No More Mr. Nice Guy", "Under My Wheels", "Billion Dollar Babies", "Feed My Frankenstein", "Only Women Bleed", and of course, "School's Out". They're all better live than the studio versions of the same tunes. His current band rocks them home as convincingly, as enthusiastically, as talentedly (is that even a word?), and as "true-to-the-original" as Cooper's original band.

-Mike Kimmel

Friday, January 26, 2018

Ruler - "Tiger" b/w "Gimme Some Noise"

Alright, I've got one for you today that's gonna blow your head off! Fink from Teengenerate is back with a new band called Ruler. If you were bummed that The Raydios broke up in the midst of a phenomenal string of singles, this debut 45 from Ruler will get you right back to your happy place. Fink is joined here by Azumi (The Young Ones/Raydios), Rayco (Triple Junk), and Otoya (Intimate Fags). Ruler sounds just like a band with that kind of lineup ought to sound: freaking awesome! There are no surprises here, just great '70s style punk with buzzsaw guitars and killer hooks. These two songs beg to be played over and over at the highest possible volume. Just look at that cover art. Doesn't that totally make you want to own this record? There are only 200 copies available in the United States, so you know what to do!



Thursday, January 25, 2018

Mike Spent Black Belt - "Sun Goes Gray" video

You may recall a post I did on Mike Spent Black Belt back in 2016. After several decades fronting the Spent Idols, Mike Spent teamed up with Richard Duguay (Personality Crisis, the Hellhounds), Diane Nile, and Loren Molinare & Tony Matteucci of the legendary Dogs to form a super-group of punk rock veterans. With two band members over 55 years of age and the other three over 60, all of these individuals have clearly earned black belts in rock n' roll! Produced by Duguay, debut single "I Am A Lion" was quite a departure from the raw '77 punk of the Spent Idols. The band has just completed production on a video for the second track from that single, "Sun Goes Gray". The song was based on a riff that Molinare originally came up with over 30 years ago. It's an homage to the moodier side of '60s garage rock. Check out the video below. The full digital single is still available from the MSBB Bandcamp page!



Monday, January 22, 2018

The Hormones - Legendary Junk (1994-2017)

I recently received a nice note from Owen from Dirtyflair Record Company in Australia. He thought I might like a few of his label's releases and sent me a Bandcamp link to check them out. I went ahead and explored the Bandcamp page. Sure enough, I took an immediate liking to this label and the music it has released. The first thing I noticed (quickly!) was that Dirtyflair's catalog includes a compilation album of songs by The Hormones, one of my favorite bands from back in the '90s. I knew of the existence of this collection, but I had no idea it was available in a digital format. I'm thrilled to finally be able to share a couple of these tracks on F & L! When I talk about how 1995 was my 1977, The Hormones are one of the bands I'm referring to. They led a resurgence of Clash/Sex Pistols/Johnny Thunders inspired punk rock in the mid '90s that was hugely influential on my life and writings. Legendary Junk (1994-2017) collects the songs from the band's classic singles along with some comp cuts, unreleased demos from 1997, and a new live version of signature song "Sell Out Young". Altogether, this comprises the first-ever Hormones full-length! It's available from Dirtyflair on LP and CD, which both include a zine penned by Tim Stegall chronicling the history of The Hormones.

In addition to the release of Legendary Junk, The Hormones are poised for their first release of new music since the '90s. The band, which reformed in 2013 after a 15-year hiatus, has set up a Go Fund Me page for anyone with an interest in investing in this project. The new record, called Sing, will be released as a six-song 12". The band will be working again with Dirtyflair on the release of this EP. You can even order Legendary Junk directly from the Go Fund Me page - which will help the band get Sing made!

Some of you will be well acquainted with The Hormones. Others may have never heard the band before. Either way, I highly recommend Legendary Junk to anyone who loves '77 style punk. I'll have lots more to say about Dirtyflair Record Company in the near future, so stay tuned!



Friday, January 19, 2018

Teenage Frames - Still Pissed

For the first time in five years, we have new music from the Teenage Frames releasing today! In my book, this is one of the preeminent bands in the entire realm of punk inspired power pop. The group's recording history dates back to 1996 and has continued with infrequent but consistently great releases over the past decade or so. In fact, I'd say the band's last three EPs (including this one) are its finest releases to date. And while the band was on a lengthy hiatus for a number of years, the Frankie Delmane/Eric Vegas songwriting partnership always manages to pick right up where it left off. Still Pissed is the name of the EP as well as its lead track, and that sure sounds like a mission statement to me! Anyone living on this planet in 2018 would have plenty of reasons to be pissed. That can either get you down or totally fire you up, and clearly the Teenage Frames have chosen the latter option. "Still Pissed" is unashamedly Ramones-inspired and a true declaration that this is a band that still has something to say and a whole lot to offer. Then comes "She Knows"- a pop song so perfect that I doubt it will be topped by anyone in 2018. It pretty epitomizes everything I love about this band, coupling driving upbeat music and an irresistible sing-along chorus with bummer lyrics that just about anyone can relate to. "So Mean" is a little more on the rockin' side but still boasts a knockout hook. And to finish the record, "Don't Tell Me What To Do" is more great power pop/rock that ought to have you singing along instantly.

Ever since the turn of the century, the Teenage Frames have concentrated entirely on releasing music in small doses. That "all killer, no filler" approach really suits the talents of a band so skilled at turning out brilliant pop songs. Essentially this is one of the great singles bands of my generation. If you went over to Bandcamp and bought the band's three most recent EPs, you could compile them into a single album that rivals just about any power pop LP from the last ten years. Between Still Pissed and the new Number Ones EP, the bar for great pop in 2018 has been set very high!