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!



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!