Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Fritz - self titled

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



Monday, March 19, 2018

The SUCK - self titled EP

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

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

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



Friday, March 16, 2018

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

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

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

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



Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Midnite Snaxxx - "Greedy Little Thing"

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

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



Monday, March 12, 2018

SUZES - "Resuscitate"

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

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

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



Friday, March 9, 2018

Radio Days - El Delfin Y El Varano

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

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

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



Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Amyl and the Sniffers - Big Attraction & Giddy Up

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



Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Hangups - self titled EP

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



Monday, March 5, 2018

The Top Ten 2018

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

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


Friday, March 2, 2018

The Jackhammers - Your Problem Now

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




Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Dirty Truckers - "Best Of"

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