Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Amyl and The Sniffers - "Some Mutts (Can't Be Muzzled)"

What can be said about Amyl and The Sniffers besides the obvious? They're the best thing to happen to punk rock in years! The arrival of new music from this band is always an event worth celebrating internationally. It seems weird to say this, but "Some Mutts (Can't Be Muzzled)" is the debut single from Amyl and The Sniffers. And boy, is that title track ever a ripper! You might see that NWOBHM inspired cover art and wonder if that's an influence. I would say that's a definite yes! If you enjoy old style punk with a side of tough as hell rock n' roll, this is about as good as it gets! Here Amy rails against an ex who has "replaced" her. Let's just say that she's not taking it lightly! It's remarkable how far the band has come from its first EP in terms of chops and recording quality. Yet none of the edge has been lost. On the B-side is "Cup Of Destiny", a track the band released as a music video earlier this year. I absolutely love this song! It's one of the best Amyl and The Sniffers tracks to date, and I'm stoked that it's now available for purchase. I like that the band has printed the lyrics. That's some pretty deep stuff!

 "Some Mutts (Can't Be Muzzled)" b/w "Cup Of Destiny" is an instant classic punk 45. It's limited to 1,000 copies, and you know they're gonna be gone in a flash. Order now from Flightless Records in Australia and ATO Records in the USA!



Friday, September 21, 2018

Night Birds - Roll Credits

Can you believe it's already been three years since Night Birds last released new music? A lot of punk bands' entire careers don't last three years! On that very topic, this year Night Birds mark ten years as a band. It kind of blows my mind that when I first reviewed Night Birds in 2011, they were a relatively new band just getting ready to release their first album. And here they are today, ten-year-veterans of the punk scene and in my book still the best punk band going. Out today on Fat Wreck Chords, Roll Credits is Night Birds' 4th album. Or is it? This is a release inspired by some of the classic 12-inches from the heyday of hardcore (the band mentions Negative Approach's Tied Down and Minor Threat's Out Of Step in particular). Running just a little over 17 minutes, Roll Credits is shorter than Husker Du's Metal Circus but considerably longer than Circle Jerks' Group Sex. So is it an album or an EP? The math is not helping me! Let's just call it a mini-album and be done with it!

So what do the mature, ten-year-old Night Birds sound like? Thankfully, they sound very much like Night Birds! I suppose we'll have to wait until at least the next record for Night Birds to go crossover thrash or post-hardcore. Roll Credits is a little bit of everything that the band does well. Bookend tracks "Pull The String" and "Roll Credits" are first-rate surf instrumentals (discerning ears will recognize the returning presence of Mike Hunchback on guitar!). "The Day I Beat My Brain" can best be described as "vintage" Night Birds, while "White Noise Machine" recalls the breakneck hardcore of the band's most recent album Mutiny at Muscle Beach. Given my personal tastes, I'm quite partial to the dark humor of "My Dad Is The BTK" and the punk/powerpop leanings of "Radium Girls". The latter, along with a terrific cover of Suicide Commandos' "I Need A Torch", demonstrate an emerging pop sensibility in the band's sound that might surprise people. But don't for a minute believe that the band has lost its edge. "Onward To Obscurity", the album's first non-instrumental track, is pure power and fury for all of its 127 seconds. Jerry A from Poison Idea sings backups on this one, and no doubt he hears in the music of Night Birds something near and dear to his heart. I love the lyrics to this song, which poke holes in the bubble of self-importance that so many people live under. And on the subject of great lyrics, "White Noise Machine" is perhaps the most insightful and dead-on response I've seen from any band to the political machinations that have normalized bigotry in modern America.

Whether you call it a mini-album or a 12" EP, Roll Credits is an inspired return for Night Birds. I like that it leaves me wanting more! These guys took some time away, and now they've come roaring back with energy and focus. This release gives me a little of everything I like about Night Birds, plus a little more I was not expecting. I always take record label one-sheets with a grain of salt, but I 100% agree with the line about Night Birds being at the absolute peak of their powers. There is much great music yet to come from this band. But if Roll Credits is indeed Night Birds' Damaged, let's hope that doesn't mean we have to wait three years for the next record!



Monday, September 17, 2018

Phone Jerks - self titled

WHAT?! Phone Jerks have released an album? On Alien Snatch Records?! One of my favorite bands put out a record on one of my all-time favorite labels, and nobody knew anything about it until a week ago?! Now that was a fiercely-guarded secret! Respect!

Alien Snatch Records has been setting the standard for what a punk rock label ought to be for 20 years now. From assembling a roster including the likes of the Kidnappers, Real Losers, Fevers, Yum Yums, Minds, and Leg Hounds in its early 2000s heyday to releasing brilliant music by current-day bands such as Freak Genes and The #1s, Alien Snatch has remained a go-to for any fan of garage-punk and power pop. Moncton, New Brunswick's mighty Phone Jerks could not be a more fitting addition to the Alien Snatch family. Their debut LP hearkens back to countless beloved garage-punk LPs of the '90s and early 2000s. And I gotta tell you the thing is absolutely KILLER! Upon hearing "Nothing There", you just might find yourself convinced that The Rip Offs have gotten back together! Alien Snatch honcho Daniel has astutely pointed out that he could have released this album in any year of the label's history. These tunes are that timeless. Of course Phone Jerks sound like a band that could have been peers with Loli and the Chones, The Metros, Teengenerate, etc. Yet they also align perfectly with modern-day greats like Gino & The Goons and Sick Thoughts. This, my friends, is garage-punk the way it ought to be: trashy, lo-fi, and intentionally devoid of originality. Why are there not more bands like this in 2018?!

Being four upstanding Canadians who value your hard-earned dollar, Phone Jerks have delivered almost entirely brand-new material for this debut album (along with covers of "Revolution" by Australia's X and "Violence, Anarchy, Baby, Mother, Daddy-O, Dig" by Newfoundland punk legends Da Slyme). No tracks from the Goodbye Boozy 7" have been repeated, and only two songs re-appear from the band's demo tape. The instant you dig into "Bitchiker", you will find yourself fondly recalling a time when every new Rip Off Records release was an event worth celebrating. And come on: how can an album that begins with a song about killing someone not be the best record of the year?! These songs are all so ripping and catchy and tremendously fun to listen to. This is an album that you just have to crank super loud. And half the fun of this record is going through it track by track and asking, "Who are they ripping off here?"! The fact that Phone Jerks have three different lead singers makes it all that much cooler. Emily, Tyler, and Brian each bring something unique to the table (and you know, they all seem intent on smashing that table). The production (kudos Dave Belliveau and James O'Toole!) is spot-on for what budget rock ought to be. You know how modern-day reviewers are so fond of using "crackling" as an adjective? This album is crackling. Literally. 

So why aren't there more bands like Phone Jerks in 2018? I don't know, but maybe there will be after their debut album makes the rounds! Canada is ahead of the curve as always (especially in Moncton, where they observe the Atlantic Time Zone). With me poised to name an Alien Snatch release album of the year, it sure feels like old times!



Friday, September 14, 2018

Swingin' Utters - Peace and Love

The calendar tells me that Swingin' Utters have been a band for thirty years and have been releasing albums for a quarter-century. Considering all of that, it's nice knowing that these guys are still at it. At 47, I can fondly recall buying Streets of San Francisco new as a young whippersnapper of 24. It's like Swingin' Utters have grown up with me. But far from merely existing in middle age, the Utters are positively thriving. The band's new album Peace and Love was released by Fat Wreck Chords two weeks ago. I can genuinely say it's one of the best punk albums I've heard in 2018, and I might even rank it in the top five of all Swingin' Utters LPs. With this album, Johnny, Darius, and Jack have practically written the book on how a veteran punk group can mature and still sound, uh...punk! Inspired by the current state of political affairs and energized by a formidable new rhythm section (Tony Teixeira and Luke Ray from Cobra Skulls & Sciatic Nerve), the band sounds full of fire on this 15-song release. This is really the first time the Utters have addressed political issues in their music, and the urgency fueling songs such as "Human Potential" and "Deranged" is palpable. Lead track "Undertaker, Undertake" sounds like it could have come off of 1998's Five Lessons Learned. Similarly, "Drinkist" brings that classic Utters sound which has been often imitated and never duplicated. But truthfully, what makes this album shine is the way so many of these songs incorporate new or unexpected influences. "Sirens" is the Utters at their most "pop", with a distinctly modern feel. On the other hand, "Dubstep" and "Yes, I Hope He Dies" are the band's punkest, most fiery tracks in decades. The instant anthem "Demons of Springtime" demonstrates the mastery level of melody and song-crafting that the Utters have achieved over the years.

Even in their early days, Swingin' Utters were far more than the '77 punk/"street punk" revivalists that reviewers pegged them to be. Their musical and lyrical depths were generally under-recognized, and people going back to those old records may be surprised by how well they hold up. If you've passed on recent Utters releases because you assumed they would suck, now might be a good time to check in on one of our greatest American punk groups. I've never really bought into the cliche that recent political events are going to inspire some great new wave of political punk bands. But in the case of Swingin' Utters, it's hard to deny that a newfound political purpose has sparked some of their strongest music in years. Peace and Love indeed!



Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Sore Points - self titled

Two years ago when I reviewed Sore Points' demo tape, I knew this Vancouver trio was destined for great things. Now in 2018, we get a proper debut album from Sore Points on the legendary Deranged Records. You could not find a more perfect match between band and label! And I gotta tell you, this album does not disappoint! The band powers through 12 fast & blistering punk tunes a la Vancouver greats DOA and Subhumans. What's not to love here? This is urgent, powerful music played with conviction and fury. Only one track sneaks past the two-minute mark, and it barely makes it! And how killer is that production?! If you fondly recall a time when hardcore and punk were basically the same thing, you need Sore Points in your life. A classic debut!



Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Control Freaks - "I Am Crime"

Hey! We have new music from The Control Freaks! "I Am Crime" is the band's third single and first since last year's "No Action"/"Don't Mess With Jessica" double shot. This one, like the previous two, has been released by the venerable Bachelor Records. By now you ought to know that The Control Freaks are very much what you'd expect from a Greg Lowery fronted band. The spirit behind Supercharger and The Rip Offs lives on, minus the super lo-fi recording quality. Both cuts here are originals. A-side "I Am Crime" is a classic GL composition, equally informed by '70s punk and '90s garage trash. If you like fun, snotty punk, you will want to crank this one up all the way. On the flip, "Time's Up" is the first Control Freaks song written by Sherrilyn Nelson.

If you long for the glory days of garage-punk, long no more and enjoy the fact that bands like The Control Freaks and Ruler are around and kicking all kinds of ass. Honestly you need to own The Control Freaks' complete catalog. But "I Am Crime" would not be a bad place to start!



Friday, September 7, 2018

Indonesian Junk - Darkness Calling

Darkness Calling is one hell of a fine title for Indonesian Junk's new EP. And that's because "dark" seems to be the most apt description for these latest songs Daniel has written. Yet in typical IndoJunk fashion, they're all dark in entirely different ways! Lead track "When I Find You" represents my very favorite kind of dark - that being dark humor. Musically, this is one is as poppy and upbeat as it gets. And therein lies its genius. If you're going to write a song about the immense satisfaction of violent revenge, you might as well make it supremely joyful! Why not sing a happy tune on the way to smashing someone's face in? I imagine this song is a huge favorite at Indonesian Junk live shows. It's a true anthem! The KISS cover "C'mon And Love Me" is a brief break from the darkness theme. This version gives you an idea of what KISS might have sounded like if they'd more fully embraced their love for the New York Dolls and Dictators. Truly a ripping rendition! Getting back to the gloom, "I Could Die" is an intense confessional that brings mind a time in history when punk and Goth were closely intertwined. You can just feel the ache in Daniel's vocals! To finish, "See The Light" has a grimy Stooges feel and gnaws on your senses for nearly five minutes. It's definitely a rocker, but there's a creepiness to it that lurks just below the surface.

Coming off a brilliant sophomore LP Stars In The Night that cracked my 2017 top ten, Indonesian Junk keeps the momentum going with this fantastic EP. This is some of Daniel's strongest material yet - touching on his numerous influences yet still bearing his distinctive style. Highly recommended!



Sunday, September 2, 2018

Ruler - "Jeanie Jeanie Jeanie"

I'm gonna make this quick. If I screwed around for a couple weeks trying to compose a "proper" write-up of Ruler's new single, the thing would be sold out before the review even posted! Suffice it to say, this second outing from Fink's new band is a sizzling slab of rock n' roll and an absolute must-buy. On the A-side, Ruler tears into the Eddie Cochran classic "Jeanie Jeanie Jeanie". This version is very much in the spirit of the original, but with that unique Rat Fink vocal treatment. Raw and raucous rock n' roll: what could be better?! On the flip, "(It's Not) Saturday Night" is a Grade A mid-tempo groover. I'm still trying to get a handle on where Ruler fits in relation to Fink's other bands. The first single had somewhat of a '70s punk feel. "(It's Not) Saturday Night" finds the band leaning more to the rock n' roll side of things, but still with those strong pop hooks that defined The Raydios. "Jeanie Jeanie Jeanie" would not sound out of place on a comp of Teengenerate singles. All I can say for sure is that Fink has been making some of the best records of his life in the last few years. That very much continues with this single. It's limited to just 250 copies, so grab it while you can from Secret Mission Records!



Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Dahlmanns - American Heartbeat

Well this is just about the best idea ever! Take two of the all-time greats in Swedish rock n' roll in Bjôrne Frôberg (The Nomads) and Chips Kiesby (Sator). Have them write a mini-album together. And then get the almighty Dahlmanns to record it! That's essentially the story behind American Heartbeat. In name, it's a Dahlmanns record. In essence, it's the collaborative effort of a power pop dream team. I suppose that sets a very high bar for American Heartbeat, but of course it lives up to those expectations and then some!

Given that we usually get new music from The Dahlmanns in very small doses, six new songs at once feels like a tremendous gift. Frôberg and Kiesby have written a cohesive set of songs about the pain of lost love, and Line Dahlmann sure is the perfect person to sing them! She can inject a tune with the purest melancholy, and then she can turn around and and make a bummer love song sound totally upbeat. The result is a great mix of tender tearjerkers ("I Know You Want Me Back") and straight-up rockers ("Get It Right"). And then there's the title track, which is nothing short of power pop perfection. Of course the songwriting shines here, but the guitar work, arrangements, and production are equally majestic.

As always, The Dahlmanns leave us wanting more. But with a little help from their friends, they've given us a little more to chew on this time. Whether you're a fan of The Dahlmanns, Nomads, Sator, or (most likely) all of the above, American Heartbeat will fill you with delight. Get the vinyl from Beluga Records!



Friday, August 31, 2018

Duck & Cover - Rob Them Blind

Duck & Cover's new album is out on Rum Bar Records, and you best steer clear if you're not in the mood to rock! It has been three years since I first reviewed this Charlestown, Massachusetts foursome. I can genuinely say that each new release has been a big step forward. Rob Them Blind is where it all really comes together. Working in the studio with Chris Johnson, Duck & Cover has attained a big, slick sound that's a perfect fit for its hooky hard rock style. The guitars are cranked way up, and Chris Brat on lead vocals sounds like the huge-voiced rock star we already knew he was. As an unapologetic fan of '70s/'80s hard rock and metal, I cannot resist these headbanging-worthy choruses and ripping guitar solos. But what I appreciate about Duck & Cover is how the band also incorporates the influences of glam rock, power pop, and pure sleazy punk. The resulting concoction brings together just about everything I love in rock n' roll. "Live It Up" and "Borrowed Time" make for a formidable 1-2 punch to kick off the album. These are probably D & C's catchiest songs to date, and it's just tremendously satisfying to hear the band coming out of the gates on such a clear mission to rock! Chris and Daniel straight-up shred on dual guitars, and Damien thumps the hell out of those drums! You can hear the band's strong pop chops come through on tracks like "Vacancy" and "Wasted", while the snarling "Touch & Go" is a thundering collision of punk and metal. And even when the band takes the hard rock thing way over the top on "Stand Corrected", I find myself pumping my fist and shouting along with zero irony.

Following through on its previous releases, Duck & Cover has made a loud and proud rock n' roll record in Rob Them Blind. Of course it's well crafted, but first and foremost these fellas understand that rock n' roll ought to be fun to listen to at super loud volumes. Put this album on, crank it up, and enjoy life! With D & C joining the likes of Watts, Kris Rodgers, and Bullet Proof Lovers on the Rum Bar roster, the label's AOR wing is growing into quite the force. Lou, when can we expect the arena tour?!



Monday, August 20, 2018

Territories - self titled

Territories are one of the best new punk bands I've encountered in quite some time, but there's a catch to that! This group actually formed out of the ashes of legendary Calgary punk band Knucklehead, who had a nearly 20-year run starting in the mid-'90s. Knucklehead split in 2013, but four former members reunited two years later with a fresh start and a new name. Without a doubt, fans of Knucklehead's tuneful, anthemic punk rock will enjoy Territories just as much. But this is a different band with a slightly different sound. The group's debut album, out on Pirates Press Records, is that rare example of punk music that can be described as both mature and powerful. Of course you can expect rousing chanted choruses and intelligent, heartfelt lyrics. Yet I can also hear the undeniable influences of '80s/'90s melodic post-hardcore and traditional folk rock. This album is a great example of why I enjoy music made by veterans of punk rock. Territories bring to their debut an even wider array of life and musical influences than those that informed Knucklehead. Yet they sound more inspired and excited than ever about playing punk music. The songwriting is top-notch, both in terms of melodic structures and meaningful lyrics/vocals. You can tell they really worked and refining and perfecting these songs. How amazing do those guitars sound! And even with the obvious progression in songwriting, these guys prove they can still get your heart racing with some exciting, fist-pumping punk rock ("New Thing", "Heart That Breaks").

I would consider Territories to be kindred spirits with a band like Swingin' Utters - who themselves are about to demonstrate that "middle-aged" guys are capable of making some of the most vital punk music out there. If you're stoked to hear the new Utters album, I would highly recommend picking up this tremendous debut from Territories as well. These guys are writing songs from the heart and playing them with conviction, and I can only hope the career of Territories is just getting started!



Friday, August 17, 2018

Midnite Snaxxx - "Let Me Do What I Want"

I'm gonna keep this one short & sweet and let the music do the talking! Midnite Snaxxx are one of my three or four favorite bands on Earth, and their new single does not disappoint! This release shows off a couple different sides of the Snaxxx. "Let Me Do What I Want" is great straight-ahead Ramones-inspired punk rock featuring a terrific vocal from Dulcinea. This tune brings the attitude and the hooks in equal abundance! On the flip, "Faded Pictures" falls more to the power pop side of punk rock with some girl group inspirations to boot. It's been stuck in my head since the first time I heard it! Check out those killer guitar leads and nifty bass lines!

The vinyl release for "Let Me Do What I Want" is coming later this month from the always dependable Bachelor Records. The digital single is already available from the Midnite Snaxxx Bandcamp. This is one of the best Snaxxx singles yet - and that's really saying something! An essential purchase! 



Saturday, August 11, 2018

Personality Cult - self titled

Drunken Sailor Records' perpetual winning streak remains very much in tact with the stunning debut album from North Carolina's Personality Cult! This band is the creation of Ben Carr from Natural Causes, who's doing something quite different with Personality Cult. Think old school powerpop/punk with plenty of quirks and a little bit of a jagged edge. Yep, that sure does sound like something Drunken Sailor would want to put out! And of course it sounds like a record I'd be enthusiastically touting! That early Buzzcocks influence is hard to deny, and the songwriting is just totally spot-on. Carr sure knows how to turn out a minimalist punk tune with a hook. It seems almost surreal that this music could be coming out of the American south in 2018...it just sounds so much like 1977 U.K! But given Carr's background, you know not to expect straight paint-by-numbers punk. And that's what I appreciate about Personality Cult. It's powerpop/punk, but with a unique touch to it. Plus there are songs that break from the general feel of the album. "Functioning Fine" is fully into new wave/post-punk territory, while "Fashionably Late" is Devo worship at its finest.

I could probably describe Personality Cult as kindred spirits/American counterparts to label mates Freak Genes. And you know how I feel about Freak Genes! This debut LP from Personality Cult is a surefire top ten album for 2018. If you like that old school catchy punk meets new wave type sound, check out a band that does it brilliantly!



Sunday, August 5, 2018

Corner Boys - Love Tourist

How much do I love Corner Boys?! Well, I named their debut 7" my #1 single of 2017. So you can imagine I was pretty stoked to discover that the Vancouver trio was making quick work of a follow-up. Out now on Dirt Cult Records, the 4-song Love Tourist sounds so much like a genuine punk recording from 1979 or '80 that even experts would be hard-pressed to tell the difference! Corner Boys really hit the mark for what pop-inspired punk rock ought to be. They write catchy tunes with hooks, but they play with such whirlwind speed and youthful exuberance that it seems inadequate to just call them "power pop". Think Canadian greats like Pointed Sticks and Young Canadians, anything on Good Vibrations Records, and classic American bands like The Simpletones (whose "TV Love" is covered on this EP in quite brilliant fashion). The title track is as close as a modern-day band has come to sounding like The Undertones in a really long time. "(It's A) Mystery", with its perfect mix of pep and snot, delights me to no end.

Corner Boys' first single Just Don't Care was a darn tough debut to follow, but Love Tourist is every bit as good. It makes me wanna dance until I drop and shout along to those choruses until I lose my voice. This absolutely one of my favorite bands going right now, and I'm sure a lot of you are about to feel the same!



Friday, August 3, 2018

Criminal Kids - Self Titled

Last fall, Criminal Kids were nice enough to make a couple of songs from their then forthcoming debut EP available for free download. Here we are today, and that EP is no longer forthcoming. It's out now on Spaghetty Town Records in the USA and Gods Candy Records in Canada! After hearing the teaser "Outcast", I knew the whole EP was gonna slay! And sure enough, this six-song release is exactly what I expected. Criminal Kids hail from the south side of Chicago, and their music is definitely a reflection of where they come from. They play tough, aggressive music that's equal parts punk and rock. While hardly the first band to mix gritty urban punk with the high-powered rock n' roll of Motorhead and AC/DC, Criminal Kids have taken that style and really given it a kick in the ass. They bring a ton of energy - with guitars ripping, bass punching, and drums slamming. And listen to those vocals, man....that's some first-rate screaming! This is an awesome EP to listen to with headphones on, because it's fun to hear the wild racket that each guitar is kicking up. I can totally picture the band tearing it up on stage! Especially on tracks like "Takin' It Back" and "Vanity", Criminal Kids sound like they've come to punch you in the mouth with their music. They bring great commitment to this genre of music, along with plenty of killer riffs and quality hooks. These guys are definitely throwbacks to the later '90s heyday of punk rock n' roll, but they've managed to add something to it that feels fresh to my ears. Legend has it that Teddy Spaghetty was so blown away by their live show that he immediately signed them to his label. It's not always easy to capture that same kind of energy on a studio recording, but this debut EP sure gives it a good run. My only instructions are to play it loud!



Friday, July 27, 2018

Lovesores - Gods of Ancient Grease

THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT! Following six EPs dating back to 2012, Portland, Oregon's Lovesores finally present their debut LP on Dead Beat Records. I appreciate that there was never a big hurry to get a "proper" album out. Lovesores were hell bent on releasing great rock n' roll records, and it didn't really matter if that meant 7 inches, 10 inches, or 12 inches. At some point you're bringing it so hard that a couple more inches aren't going to make much of a difference. Previous EPs such as Bubblegum Riot (2013) and Rock and Roll Animal (2016) burned as hot as punk rock n' roll gets, and that's the same standard that Gods of Ancient Grease lives up to.

Produced by Portland punk rock legend Thee Slayer Hippy, Gods of Ancient Grease makes little attempt to "progress" or "update" the Lovesores sound. What you're getting here is wild, furious, and 100% from-the-heart rock n' roll steeped in the sleaze and swagger of 1970s American punk. If there's a fountain of youth, Scott "Deluxe" Drake drinks from it copiously on a daily basis. The charisma and unrepentant fuck-all attitude that ooze from his vocals ought to be the envy of every teenage screamer in the business. And as always, Saul Koll and Adam Kattau bring the fire on dual guitars. Add one of the most underrated rhythm sections going (Alex Fast and Boz Bennes) to the mix, and you've got yourself a world-class rock n' roll band! But I suppose you knew that already! If anything, Gods of Ancient Grease finds the band clinging the closest it ever has to its '77 punk roots. Songs like "Exquisite Kicks", "Planet Nein", and "Blue Suede Collar" are vintage Lovesores - coming on with ripping guitars, locking into a mid-tempo groove, and then socking you in the mouth with a huge sing-along chorus. The title track, quite honestly, is one of the most powerful testaments I've heard to the eternal glory of rock n' roll. And then there's the Dead Boys thievery on "Good Girls Don't Scream", which is blatant and highly appreciated! While none of these eight tracks veer far from what you've come to expect from the Lovesores and Scott Drake, I enjoy the creative songwriting touches shown on both of this album's side-enders. "Wednesday Monkeys", with its overt melody and interesting production techniques, is like a rock epic minus the excess. And appropriately enough, "Mission To Mars" gets a little spacey.

I know that "highly anticipated album" is a phrase guys like me often overuse. But it most certainly applies to Gods of Ancient Grease! I used to say that Loveosres were the greatest existing band without a full-length album. Well now they finally have a full-length album, and it's something else! Would I sound a little overzealous if I proclaimed it an instant classic of punk rock n' roll? Of course! But I dare you to listen to this thing and tell me I'm wrong!



Monday, July 23, 2018

The Anxieties - Buried Alive

In preparing this review, I was shocked to discover that it has been four and a half years since I've written about The Anxieties! Where does all the time go? I know that real life issues have led to some extensive periods of inactivity for The Anxieties, but I appreciate that they've never thrown in the towel. This band is way too cool to not exist! I'm notoriously lukewarm on horror-themed punk music, but I absolutely love The Anxieties. That's probably because they mix the horror with a whole lot of sci-fi/dystopia - which is way more up my alley.

I recall The Anxieties' Buried Alive EP being in the works a couple years ago, and I am happy to report that those songs have finally seen the light of day. Those tracks have been packaged with the three songs from the Lab Rats EP, the two-song The Quarantine digital release, and one comp cut to make one ten-song CD that plays like a full-length. The four new songs feature the band's most recent lineup, and they sound fantastic. "Destination Dystopia" reminds me of early Anxieties - mixing spazzy poppy punk with old school California punk influences. Listening to the lyrics about how we're well on our way to an actual dystopia, you might think this song is a response to recent current events. But I'm pretty sure this song was written a few years back. That confirms something I've long suspected: The Anxieties are actually from the future! "Buried Alive" is an Adolescents/Agent Orange inspired ripper that cleverly employs a horror metaphor for the hopelessness and desperation of working a miserable job. "I Don't Wanna Go" is the perfect mix of horror and sci-fi, and it's just mysterious enough to let your imagination run wild. Seriously: where are they taking him?! In the best way possible, I am creeped out! Musically, the vibe is straight-ahead catchy punk with killer melodic leads. For the first time, I can hear The Anxieties' channeling their alter egos Jabronis. Or maybe it's more like the Buzzcocks binge watching Black Mirror! Speaking of songs that leave a great deal to the imagination, "Experiments in the Basement" is a very well done surf/punk instrumental. Even with there being no words, it's easy to picture this song appearing in a movie about....experiments in a basement!

Even if you already own all of the remastered bonus tracks, Buried Alive is well worth picking up just for the four new songs. Otherwise, this is kind of like getting a whole new Anxieties album! This is definitely the perfect band for our times: influenced equally by the fun of '50s/'60s B-movies and the not-so-fun of our modern reality. Fingers crossed for more music from these guys soon!



Friday, July 20, 2018

Nick Piunti - Temporary High

Nick Piunti's name has become synonymous with the finest in melody-driven guitar pop. With that in mind, you know exactly what to expect from his latest effort. Out today, Temporary High is Piunti's fourth album in six years (and his second on Marty Scott's Jem Records). It's absolutely the kind of record we've come to expect from Piunti - grounded in gorgeous melodies and smart, thoughtful lyrics. Again Piunti has worked with Andy Reed & Donny Brown as his rhythm section and Geoff Michael as his co-producer. Another frequent collaborator, Ryan Allen, co-wrote two of the tracks. This album definitely applies the principle of not fixing what isn't broken, and I applaud that fully!

In typical Piunti fashion, Temporary High doesn't leave you waiting long for the "hit". The title track is in the lead-off position, and it's vintage Piunti power pop/alternative/dad rock goodness right down to the punchy guitars and stick-in-your head chorus. And I love the coupling of immensely pleasing melodies and serious, hard-to-swallow lyrics. We can probably all think of someone we know that resembles the lyric "Last in the line but first with your hands out", but Piunti shows a deft touch in building from tough love to genuine sympathy. Elsewhere, Piunti runs the gamut of crunchy, mid-tempo power pop ("You're Perfect and I'm Not"), ultra-mellow alt-rock/pop ("Deep Freeze"), upbeat jangly pop ("No Return"), and pure singer/songwriter fare ("If This Was Right", co-written with Allen). The common thread across the album's ten tracks are stellar hooks, silky smooth harmonies, and melodies you're bound to find yourself whistling all day. And while this album has its share of songs exploring the doomed/ill-fated side of romantic relationships, what strikes me is how many of these songs take the brighter view of love. You'd perhaps expect sarcasm from a song titled "You're Perfect and I'm Not"; instead the sentiment is genuinely sweet. Finally an anthem for all of us married men who never forget how lucky we are! And how great of a line is "You stood by this wreck of a train passing by"! Similarly, "No Return" and "Contagious" are tributes to enduring adult love, crafted with humor and eloquence.

It's always an immense pleasure to come across a new record from Nick Piunti. I am not adverse to the idea of Piunti trying new things (check out the drum machines and keyboards on "Headphones"). But ultimately, I know he's never straying too far from the tuneful pop craft he's mastered. He's just so good at what he does, and the quality and consistency of his songwriting is the same with every new album. He continually writes songs about meaningful things and delivers them with indelible melodies. Four albums in six years certainly qualifies as a creative roll. I can only hope he stays on it for many more years and albums to come!



Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Ravagers - "Drowning In Blood"

One of my favorite labels going these days is Spaghetty Town Records. I dig the label's unrelenting commitment to trashy rock n' roll, and I'm continually impressed with the talent it manages to recruit. With the likes of The Sweet Things and Dr. Boogie already on board, Spaghetty Town has added the mighty Ravagers to its formidable roster. This band, of course, features Hagen from RMBLR and Gabs from Biters. "Drowning In Blood" is the first we've heard from this Baltimore foursome in three years, and it does not disappoint! The title track puts the ROCK in punk rock. Those guitars are absolutely on fire, and Hagen's vocals are straight-up ferocious. What a ripper! On the flip, "Suzi (Has An Uzi)" is more on the pure punk side with a nasty Dead Boys style edge to it.

In addition to Spaghetty Town, No Front Teeth and Gods Candy Records are also involved with the release of "Drowning In Blood". It's great to finally hear new stuff from Ravagers, and I was stoked to discover that a full album is coming soon. If you like your punk music tough and hard, turn it up and enjoy!



Sunday, July 15, 2018

An Interview with Rich Ragany!

Photo by Dean Unsworth
I rarely do interviews. But when presented with the opportunity to interview Rich Ragany in advance of his debut solo album Like We'll Never Make It, I jumped at the chance! In my book, Rich Rags is one of the truly great songwriters in rock n' roll today. Fresh off of three albums in three years with his amazing band Role Models, Rags is working with PledgeMusic to release Like We'll Never Make It later this year.

F & L: Hi Rich! I've got to say I'm really excited about your new solo record. Tell me how you ended up deciding to do a solo release after all of this time. Can we expect something a little different with this record?

RR: Hello Lord Rutledge! Great to be talkin' to ya! Well, after doing the three Role Models albums in three years, the subsequent shows and tours, I just started writing and was noticing a shift in how I was approaching lyrics. Even though I write all the Role Models material, this stuff was getting far more personal. Musically, I felt it would be great to have a different interpretation. Build them on a different foundation. That coupled with the fact my brothers in Role Models were having kids and getting busy with other things, I thought, well, I don't feel like stopping!

F & L: You've worked with the PledgeMusic platform several times now. How has that experience been for you?

RR: The PledgeMusic platform allows me to record and release music straight to people who want to listen without having someone tell me when or how. It has been really successful with the Role Models stuff and progressing great on this new venture!

F & L: Can you talk about some of the talented people you have playing on this new record?

RR: Yes! This band is something I am very excited about. Let's start with Gaff on guitar. He has been in bands like The Glitterati and Dedwardians. I saw him in the latter years ago and loved his playing. He came across as someone who really loves to play and believes in rock 'n' roll. A friendship ensued, and he was an obvious choice to me. He ended up a real righthand man on this and is a real important ingredient to the sound. I look forward to writing more with my new partner! You all have another Bon Jovi/Sambora on your hands, so look out! We'll be "out on the streets"! Hahahaha!

Talking about partners, there is my man Andy Brook. There is not a note that I've recorded in the UK that hasn't had his production paws all over it. He is family. Plain and simple. And now he's also on the other side of the glass and playing with me on this. It's about time.

Simon Maxwell is playin' the drums. The drummer in Role Models. To say we have a bond is putting it lightly. Had to have him along. Had to.

Kris Rodgers from the mighty Scott Sorry Band on keyboards. When RM toured with those beautiful creatures, it was like immediate animalistic love. Smelly and real. A bond was forged and I love those guys! To say I didn't notice the blinding talent in our pal Kris would be a lie worthy of jail time. What he has done on these songs has spun me dizzy. I like it that way!

Kit Swing is someone who played in Mallory Knox in London and is just a great singer. She joined Role Models on the song "Obituary Writer", off of Dance Moves, and on stage, most notably when we toured with Michael Monroe. She has also been a very close friend for years, and it's about time we got to do this together.

Then there's Ricky! Ricky McGuire. He plays bass in The Men They Couldn't Hang and has some great history as a teenage member of UK Subs back in the day. I met him at a Men's show, and we ended up hangin' out all night playing records. His playing is phenomenal. Taking the songs into real beautiful, melodically tough territory. Just don't give him whisky. Anything else is okay though, hahaha!

F & L: I'm blown away by how prolific you've been at creating music. You did three albums in three years with Role Models, and now you've got Like We'll Never Make It in the works. How have you managed to turn out so much quality material so quickly? Are you writing new songs literally all the time?

RR: I am writing all the time. But in way that's different to how I did it years ago. Where before I may have wandered gypsy like day-to-day writing whenever I felt like it, I now have some structure. And I found it suited me down to the ground. When my boy was diagnosed with autism, it became apparent we needed someone at home, to be there for him. My wife and I are a real team, we do what we need to and support each other. Me being at home with both our children means I look at my day, see a window of opportunity and act upon it. For example, I soon realised doing the dishes wasn't a mundane chore. It cleaned up the kitchen and crockery for my loved ones, ensuring no one gets some bacterial sickness AND gave me the chance to organise my thoughts into lyrics. I can play guitar when I get a flash of inspiration around my daughter because she loves it. I use my time as wisely as I can. Then collapse and watch Star Trek re-runs, hahaha.

F & L: Are you looking to get out and do some solo shows in support of this album? If so, what should people expect if they turn up?

RR: Yes. There are some great shows already booking up. Sharing the stage with some great people. We got August 8th at The Slaughtered Lamb in London with the amazing Steve Conte of the New York Dolls and Michael Monroe. My pal! Love that dude! 12 September at Aces and Eights London with Rob Carlyle of The Compulsions, Darrell Bath of Crybabys, Dogs D'Amour, and Vibrators. And Honest John Plain! The main songwriter in powerpop legends The Boys! And 20 October at The Lounge with The Dirty Strangers and The Brutalists featuring Nigel Mogg of the original Quireboys! And a couple of really special gigs that I can't share yet! You can expect rock n roll with big heart and a big sound.

F & L: I think it's awesome that funds from this project will be used to help out Scott Sorry. I know you guys have been friends for a long time. Can you talk a little about your history with Scott?

RR: Scott and I met years ago when he was in The Wildhearts. Introduced by our mutual friend and brother Rich Jones. He played at the Astoria, and we all went 'round to Jones's' afterwards. We bonded pretty hard that night. The start of an enduring friendship. He and I are there for each other, giving support and advice pertaining to our lil' autistic dudes. He has been there for me when I needed someone. So I try to be there for him. Also we shared the same constitution when it came to recreation years ago, so we have some great stories. A past with a thousand smiles and some very real hilarious and touching moments. He is a tough dude with a heart so big ya begin to wonder if he keeps it remotely somewhere. So yeah, I'm gonna try and help.

F & L: Like We'll Never Make It will be your first solo release. I'm guessing it won't be your last! Have you thought about what's coming down the pike in the upcoming years? Can we expect to hear more from Role Models as well?

RR: I am on a high with this band. Already writing the follow up. Gaff and I got a little space in front of his washing machine that is gonna be a very busy and creative place. Then I realise "Look out! I have some gigs to play with Role Models." I go and re-acquaint myself with the material and... can I just say I feel very lucky to be able to create and perform music with all these people? I know we spend a little time on this ol' rock twistin' the night away through space. I get the feeling I need to do more, say more, and listen more. Look at this right here. I get a chance to talk to a real believer in rock n roll. You. That fills my chest with the right kind of oxygen, man. And I want to keep these relationships alive. So you can say there will be more. As much as I can. Thanks so much for your time! All hail Lord Rutledge!

Head on over to PledgeMusic for details on how to pre-order Like We'll Never Make It. And be sure to check out the Role Models’ Bandcamp page if you haven't already!



Friday, July 13, 2018

The Cheap Cassettes - Kiss The Ass Of My Heart EP

I hereby retract any prior proclamations I may have made about the song of the summer 2018. The Cheap Cassettes, whom I've championed fervently since the infancy of this blog, have unleashed a surefire international smash titled "Kiss The Ass Of My Heart" that's poised to own this summer and perhaps the next couple of seasons as well. Could any song live up to a title that astoundingly great? This one, I'm pleased to say, absolutely does. When popular demand requires The Cheap Cassettes to tour every watering hole and concert hall from Kahului to Khabarovsk, "Kiss The Ass of My Heart" will surely be the band's most requested song on a nightly basis. Even those who don't ordinarily go in for the Seattle foursome's brand of loud, hook-laden pop are bound to find themselves feeling this song. What could be more cathartic than telling off that certain person who brought misery and heartbreak into your life? This is a song you'll want to play at maximum volume while you imagine singing it to your ex. Or perhaps if you're feeling feisty, you can play it at maximum volume while you actually sing it to your ex. I was going to say that this song ought to be all over the radio. But does anyone really listen to the radio anymore? I suppose the true hit songs of today are the ones that make it onto TV ads for Mexican beer and Apple products. A song called "Kiss The Ass Of My Heart" sure sounds like marketing gold to me. That hook could sell everything from lipstick to monogrammed underwear!

"Kiss The Ass Of My Heart" and "Black Leather Angel" come from the same recording sessions that produced The Cheap Cassettes' 2017 debut single "Hieroglyphics In Lipstick". In a genius move, that single was released only on cassette. Now Rum Bar Records has issued all four songs on one stellar EP. This is actually the first vinyl release from The Cheap Cassettes, and it's a perfect representation of what this band is all about. These tracks were recorded at Egg Studios last summer with the legendary Kurt Bloch producing, and as expected they sound freaking amazing! This EP is proof that high quality production does not necessarily have to neuter a rock n' roll band's attack. This, to me, is what all power pop should aspire to be. These songs have melodies and choruses for days, but they don't skimp on big guitars and hard-hitting drums. Of course I had "Kiss The Ass of My Heart" pegged as a hit since I first heard a rough demo a couple years back. "Black Leather Angel" ain't too shabby either. This snappy rocker pretty much perfects the sound Charles and Kevin have been working towards for the last 15 years. It's timeless guitar pop born out of a love for '70s punk and great American rock n' roll. Once you let that chorus worm its way into your brain, good luck getting it out of there!

Having admired Charles Matthews's tremendous talent and consistently superb hair since 1996, I can genuinely say his songwriting has only gotten better with time. The same can be said of his singing voice. His creative partnership with Kevin Parkhurst has brought forth a band that is like the best parts of Material Issue, Cheap Trick, The Figgs, and Replacements all rolled into one. If The Cheap Cassettes are not my clear cut favorite band on Earth, it's only because I can't decide between them and The Connection (I swear Malibu Lou did not pay me to say that, although I will not refuse any shipments of New England IPA). And while I really like the band's full-length, I absolutely love this new EP! In edition to the vinyl release, "Kiss The Ass Of My Heart" is available on tape for all of you who prefer to listen to The Cheap Cassettes on cassette. You can order now from Bandcamp, and locals can pick up the new EP tomorrow night when the band plays a release show at Darrell's Tavern. The Tripwires and Yes Masters will be on the bill as well. Doors open at 8:00. It's gonna be yuge!



Saturday, July 7, 2018

Back To Basics - Shaded Eyes EP

Secret Mission Records continues to bring the finest in Japanese punk rock to American shores! Back To Basics have been around for a decade. They have two singles and an album to their credit - all of it released only in Japan. Shaded Eyes EP is their third 7" and quite possibly their "punkest". This band features Shintaro from First Alert and Tomoaki from Louder in its lineup, so you probably know what to expect. This release isn't quite as trashy or frenzied as some of the SMR titles, but it still has that high energy Japanese garage punk feel along with a touch of pop. "Shaded Eyes" is clearly the punker on this EP. It's jumpy and upbeat with some jerky rhythms and very excited vocals. If this track doesn't have you pogoing around your room, I will be very surprised! On the flip, "But Not Indifferent" is more on the power pop side but still punchy as hell. It's really typical of the brand of power pop that comes out of Japan - new wave influenced, with guitars and bass going crazy. Reminds me a little of The Tweezers or (obviously!) First Alert.

With Back To Basics having emerged as one of the top punk/powerpop bands in Japan, it's wonderful that the band's music is finally available in the States. I wholeheartedly recommended the Shaded Eyes EP to fans of Japanese garage punk and just great catchy punk in general. Vinyl is still available from the Secret Mission Bandcamp!



Friday, July 6, 2018

Character Actor - self titled EP

The only thing I love as much as the story behind Character Actor is the New Jersey outfit's actual music. This project began as a creative outlet for three longtime friends who had had all become dads around the same time. It started with Jeff Schroeck (Black Wine/The Ergs!) and Brian Gorsegner (Night Birds) retreating to the garage to "write some loud, fuzzy pop songs". With the addition of Evan Kiel (Forward To Death), Character Actor solidified as a trio. The band's debut EP was recorded in January, and it's out now on Dirt Cult Records. Musically, this could not be any more up my alley. Catchy pop tunes with noisy guitars? Sign me up! Surely Chris from Dirt Cult heard these songs and immediately knew Character Actor had to be on his roster!

Jeff Schroeck wrote these songs, which absolutely bear his style. When you hear his voice and guitar playing, you immediately know who it is. And I can't think of a lyricist who is more clever or literate. His words always blow me away while still leaving lots of room for interpretation. How many other bands have introduced themselves to the world with a line like "We're all warm chairs/To those seeking heat"? Literature and popular culture have always been frequent inspirations for Schroeck's songwriting. That continues to be the case on songs like "What I Learned From Righteous Cowboys"("The tall man, gun with a pearloid handle/He can shoot the flame off a Mexican prayer candle") and "Rubicon Beach" (which does reference the Steve Erickson novel). The tempos are for the most part snappy, although that gets dialed back some on the thoughtful, laid-back "72 Paperbacks". There is pretty much zero chance that fans of Black Wine and Ergs! won't love Character Actor. And it's fun to be reminded that the lead singer of the world's greatest punk band is also a sick drummer! If you long for the 1980s heyday of indie rock and college radio, this is a band that really captures that spirit. Is this what dad rock has become in 2018? If so, I endorse it fully!



Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Dark Thoughts - At Work

When it comes to the best present-day punk bands, Dark Thoughts are up there near the top. The band's 2016 debut album managed to breathe new life into Ramones-inspired punk rock while still remaining entirely faithful to the style. That's almost impossible to do, but somehow these guys pulled it off! Dare I say they've followed it up with an even better record?! The band's second album At Work is out on Drunken Sailor Records, and it doesn't stray far from what worked so well last time. If you're looking for a "progression", well I suppose you could note that a whopping four of these tracks inch past the two-minute mark. But essentially, this is Dark Thoughts doing what Dark Thoughts does so well. I'm talking buzzsaw punk rock with hooks that stick to your skull like glue. As always, the band knows how to get in and out before you have the chance to get bored. And while there are certainly a few nods to the mighty Ramones, Dark Thoughts add enough of their own thing to avoid sounding like just another clone. A lot of that comes down to these fellas knowing how to write damn good songs! Dark Thoughts don't take themselves very seriously, but you'll find some surprising lyrical substance if you pay close attention. At Work is the kind of album that you'll put on, enjoy the hell out of, and immediately want to hear again as soon as it's over. In what is turning into an epic summer for LPs, this one is as essential as any!