Monday, January 15, 2018

Stiff Love - Trouble

Any time there's a band recommendation in my inbox from Greg Mongroll, I am absolutely paying special attention. Over the years, he's turned me on to everyone from The Cry to Mystery Date to Patsy's Rats. So when he advised me to look into Stiff Love, I knew I was not going to be disappointed. Trouble is actually the second release from this foursome out of Olympia, Washington. The band also released a really fantastic tape last year titled For the Whole Family. If you're unfamiliar with Stiff Love as I was, you may be pleased to discover that Xtine from Beta Boys and Lysol is on guitar/vocals and Claudia from The Vitamens is on drums. Rounding out the lineup are Dahlia on guitar and Elysa on bass. I freaking love this record! It reminds me of what I always imagined punk rock should be back before I really knew what it was. I love the rawness of these songs, and that guitar tone is just perfect. The title track is an absolute breakneck ripper, while "Up In Your Room" is another standout propelled by tremendous urgency and really interesting guitar work. If you're looking for some straight-up killer punk rock, this EP along with the aforementioned tape are mandatory purchases. Do not miss the track "I Don't Mind Committing Crime". An instant punk classic!


Friday, January 12, 2018

Bikini Cops - Three

Drunken Sailor Records just can't stop firing out the hits! At the rate it's going, this label will eventually sign every great punk band on the planet! As if the new Booji Boys record wasn't already enough, the latest release from Perth's Bikini Cops will give you an ear-ramming you won't soon forget. Three is the band's third EP, and it comes at you with six quick hits of fast and ferocious punk rock that beg to be played at wall-shaking volume levels. There are no doubt hints of the Aussie punk tradition in these blazing tracks. But first and foremost I'm catching the influence of early Black Flag. The band brings it hard and furiously, with five of six songs not even coming close to the two-minute mark. I dig hearing a band that plays like it's intent on destroying anything and everything in its path. Combine that with a singer who yells every word like he really means it, and you've got yourself some essential hardcore punk. Ya gotta love it!


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Number Ones - Another Side of The Number Ones

What a tremendous pleasure it is to have new music from The Number Ones! The Dublin foursome was the toast of the power pop world from 2012-14, releasing two perfect singles and a brilliant debut album. It has been a long three year wait for new recordings from The Number Ones, but now we happily receive a new EP called Another Side of The Number Ones. I had to wonder what the 2018 version of the band would sound like. The group nailed that Good Vibrations Records scruffy powerpop/punk sound so splendidly on its original run that there was no point in settling for more of the same. Fortunately, musical progression for The Number Ones did not involve turning away from timeless power pop. The band's command of radio-worthy choruses and memorable melodies has never been sharper. Lead track "Lie To Me" has been live on Bandcamp for a few weeks. As soon as I heard it, I knew that The Number Ones were as devoted as ever to crafting the kinds of songs that you wish they still played on the radio. "Lie To Me" reminds me quite a bit of the mighty Exploding Hearts as well as modern-day pop greats like The Cry. In a just world, it would be a massive hit. On "Long Way To Go" and "You're So Happy I Could Cry", you can hear the band turning to the classic sounds of the '60s for inspiration, yet still finding a way to make it all sound fresh. To close the EP, "Breaking Loose" is a textbook slice of power pop: strong on hooks, with the punch to match.

Another Side of The Number Ones is available from Static Shock Records in the U.K. and Sorry State Records in the U.S.A. It's a very fine addition to an already stunning discography. I appreciate that The Number Ones have managed to mature as an outfit without having to fundamentally change what they're about. And what are they all about? Great pop songs! Let's hope that they will keep writing them for many years to come!


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Proto Idiot - Leisure Opportunity

My quest to acknowledge the best releases I didn't get around to reviewing in 2017 could last for months if I really went all-out. But if I had that kind of time, I would have already reviewed all of this stuff in the first place! With that in mind, I'm trying to focus on the releases from last year that I'm most embarrassed to have missed. In that category is Leisure Opportunity, the latest album from Manchester, U.K.'s Proto Idiot. It was released in November on Slovenly Recordings, so I suppose this review could qualify as "almost" timely. Proto Idiot features Andrew Anderson of The Hipshakes on guitar and vocals along with Callum Darley (drums) and Michael Seal (bass). Anderson's work in this band allows him to step a little outside of the garage realm and really embrace a fondness for the arty side of '77 Brit-punk and musical strangeness in general. On this album, Anderson again proves himself to be a witty lyricist and a wonderfully playful songwriter. Songs like "Better Way of Life" and "Do It the Same" hit that Wire/Buzzcocks minimalist punk sweet spot, while "What Is My Purpose?" suggests what Devo might have sounded like if they'd been English. I like that "Yes Yes Yes Yes" is super weird yet totally irresistible. And "Angry Vision" is a definite highlight, sounding like a weirdo punk re-write of Vicki Sue Robinson's disco smash "Turn The Beat Around" (yeah, really!).

You may already be familiar with Freak Genes - Andrew Anderson's brilliant collaboration with Charlie Murphy. If you liked the Freak Genes record, you'll dig Leisure Opportunity as well. These "side" projects really show different dimensions of Anderson's musical talent, and that growth seems to be bleeding a little into The Hipshakes' music as well. If you like your punk music full of quirks and distinctively British humor, you're about to discover a real gem!


Monday, January 8, 2018

Boys Order - Do The Wildcat

Do you love pop? I mean, do you really love pop? If so, Boys Order is definitely the band for you! This trio from Osaka, Japan has released its long-awaited debut album on Secret Mission Records. It's called Do The Wild Cat, and it's a full half-hour of the catchiest and most unrelentingly fun music you could ever hope to hear. Boys Order have a significant pedigree in the Japanese garage/punk world, with singer/bassist Chihiro Isadora having previously played in Radio Shanghai and Prambath. The band also features members of Thee Bossmen and Teenage Lust. It was back in 2014 that Secret Mission released the band's fantastic debut single, which created quite a build-up for this full-length debut. I have to say that Do The Wild Cat is everything I hoped for and more! Boys Order are very up front about what they're about. They're as pop as pop can be, exhibiting a particular fondness for the punk/powerpop/new wave of the late '70s and early '80s. Think Nikki and the Corvettes, Rezillos, The Stripes, etc., and you're totally in the ballpark. Boys Order take those influences and add their own touch - with a delivery that's jagged and frantic enough to align the band with the best of modern-day Japanese garage punk. Do The Wild Cat will have you bouncing off the walls from the get-go, with energy to burn and hooks in abundance. Songs like "Midnight Triangle", "Party! Party! Party!", and the high-spirited title track fire off like bubblegum-fueled rockets. Even the most cynical and joyless person in the world would be hard-pressed to resist cracking a smile and tapping the old toes upon hearing "Blue Blue Red". I'm not sure what "Kill Old Self" is about, but I have been singing it to myself for days. And when the band pulls back a little on the pace, songs like "Riverside Walk" and "Out of Sight Out of Mind" prove to be wonderful examples of pure pop, new wave style.

There's something about Japanese power pop bands that sets them apart from their counterparts throughout the world. And I'm not just talking about the obvious vocal differences. I cannot quite put my finger on the distinctive characteristics of Japanese power pop. But Boys Order exemplify them well. This is a band with very obvious inspirations, but what it does with them is absolutely unique and wonderful. Buy Do The Wild Cat and prepare to get hopped up on pop!


Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Red Cords - "Gonna Find My Baby"

Now is that time where I try and catch up on some great stuff from last year that I have not yet reviewed. For this particular piece of unfinished business, I will tackle perhaps my most egregious omission of 2017. The Red Cords are the pride of Falmouth, U.K. "Gonna Find My Baby" is, I believe, the band's third single. Given my admiration for Charlie Murphy's other musical endeavors (Freak Genes, Murph & The Gazorpos), it's no surprise that I had "Gonna Find My Baby" earmarked for review this past fall. But then I kept putting it off and putting it off, and here we are nearly eight months after the release date. Shame! But it's never too late to discover great music, and the digital version of this release is still a red-hot bargain at £2! "Gonna Find My Baby" is wonderful primitive rock n' roll straddling the worlds of garage and punk. It's everything a great trash-rock A-side ought to be: wild, catchy, and guaranteed to set you off on a spree of furiously hyperactive activity. You'd probably need a couple of energy drinks to equal the jolt this tune provides. Potential side effects include dizziness from excessive dancing and ear damage from cranking up the volume so loud. On the flip, "Bad Moon Brain" is the closest you can get to first album Ramones without trying to sound like the Ramones. Brilliant! At a total running time of two minutes, 51 seconds, this single demands to be played over and over.

"Gonna Find My Baby" is available from Murphy's own Nerve Centre Records. It may very well have been my #1 single of 2017 if I had paid attention just a little bit sooner. On the list of the great failings of my adult life, my procrastination on this review ranks way up there. What a perfect punk record!


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Booji Boys - Weekend Rocker

My greatest failing of 2017 was not getting hip to one of the greatest punk albums of the year - Booji Boys' self-titled debut - until way late in the game. Luckily I didn't have to wait long to make amends, as Booji Boys managed to get another LP out the door just before the close of the year. So you could say it took me a year to review Booji Boys' first album and nine days to review their second! This band hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I swear I'm not taking part in any kind of active conspiracy to only promote Canadian bands. It only seems that way sometimes. Rather than risk the potential controversy of arguing that one of these two albums is more essential than the other, I will merely urge you to purchase both and double your pleasure. What I love about this band is that I can't neatly classify its sound. It's super lo-fi but not really garage. It's got hooks, but it isn't really pop-punk. It's fast and chaotic but not really hardcore. It's new wave inspired, but it's totally punk rock. If I had to pick one word to properly label Booji Boys, I would just go with "great" and be done with it! Weekend Rocker doesn't stray too far from the blueprint of the self-titled album, but it's by no means a mere re-hash. Again Booji Boys show the ability to cram quick bursts of punk urgency full of quality hooks - and do so in such a way that makes "proper" sound quality seem not only unnecessary but perhaps even counterproductive. Most of these tracks blaze by in well under two minutes, radiating the kind of energy and excitement that will make you wanna jump around the room and scream real loud just for the sheer joy of it. And then, unexpectedly, the album closes with a seven-minute experimental epic that wouldn't have sounded out of place on a prime era Husker Du release.

Perhaps this is just a limited-time offer, but Drunken Sailor Records has Weekend Rocker available as a name-your-price download over at Bandcamp and is only asking £4 for the digital version of the self-titled album. That's a deal and a steal! And if you want the vinyl, you better hop to it. Although Weekend Rocker was just released on LP on Christmas day, 100 copies on green vinyl are already gone. There were an additional 400 copies were pressed on black, and they're going fast! 


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Prostitutes - Don't Want A Future

If you had told me 20 years ago that I'd still be reviewing The Prostitutes in the year 2018, I would have thought you were nuts! At the time I didn't foresee The Prostitutes even making it through the '90s - much less another two decades on top of that. And the 26-year-old version of myself could not possibly have imagined that I'd still be writing about punk rock records in my later 40s. Yet here I am still, and here are The Prostitutes still. Don't Want A Future is the band's brand-new digital EP, released via Bandcamp this past Thursday. That might seem like an ironic title for a band that is 21 years past its debut release. Yet to me, it's perfect. After numerous implosions and reincarnations of this musical entity over two decades plus, Kevin McGovern has been the sole constant. As a singer, lyricist, and artist, he is truly one of a kind. He has taken The Prostitutes from Pennsylvania to Ohio to California and now back to Pennsylvania. With the exception of one song dating back to 1998 ("Give Me Head Or Give Me Death"), Don't Want A Future is essentially a recap of the last three years of Kevin's life. He's gone through some serious stuff, and I love that these songs reflect that. If anyone overheard you singing along to these songs, they would probably be worried for your mental health!

McGovern worked on Don't Want A Future with producer Tim Schock from August through November of 2017. While immediately recognizable as a Prostitutes recording, this EP shows considerable progression from the band's existing body of work. It's still very much inspired by classic punk rock, but you can tell that great time and detail were devoted to crafting and refining these songs. Compared to the raw adolescent fury of the band's early recordings, these songs are darker and more melody conscious, but no less raging. And there's just no mistaking that voice!

I have long considered The Prostitutes to be one of the greatest punk bands of my generation, and Don't Want A Future only enhances the group's legacy. It pretty much writes the book on how the punk genre can "mature" without losing its edge. Longtime fans will love these songs, but I don't think you would require a familiarity with previous Prostitutes releases to appreciate this EP. It very much stands on its own. I suppose at this point, nobody should be surprised that Kevin McGovern has turned out another punk rock masterpiece!


Monday, January 1, 2018

Outtacontroller - No Echo

Quick: name the best present-day band I've never reviewed on this blog. I'm sure you could come up with a few, but prior to today my own pick would have been Outtacontroller. It seems almost ridiculous that a blog like mine wouldn't have already featured Outtacontroller numerous times. This band out of Halifax, Nova Scotia could not be any more up my alley. It does that late '70s buzzsaw powerpop/punk thing I like so well with just enough garage grit to identify it as contemporary. After a couple of albums and a single on P. Trash Records, No Echo arrives as the fourth-ever release on Jarama 45RPM Recs out of Madrid. You know I'm a big fan of that label, and this EP fits right in with all of its previous releases. It's crammed full of poppy punk goodness - with four smokin' cuts spinning, of course, at 45 RPM. From the opening note, I was in toe-tapping, head-bobbing heaven. The "hit", "Cheap Leather Jacket", is a perfect example of how to go way to the pop side of things without having to sacrifice any punch. And any fan of Ramones/Dickies inspired punk pop will go crazy for all four of these tunes. Depending on how you determine the release date, this is either the final great record of 2017 or the first great record of 2018. Either way, I am pumped to kick off the new year with something this killer. If you're not already into Outacontroller, go buy everything they've done!