Thursday, June 14, 2018
Given that the marriage of garage punk and power pop is so common today, it can be easy to forget that it wasn't always that way. Along side the Marked Men (Mark Ryan and Jeff Burke have remastered these two albums for vinyl), Firestarter paved the way for a new era of hooky but still tough as hell punk music. Listening today, I'm struck by how well both Firestarter albums have held up. It's a wonderful thing that Secret Mission has brought this essential music back into circulation. Move fast if you want a vinyl copy of Livin' On The Heat!
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
If you buy a ton of music, you might already have a lot of these songs in your digital collection. Otherwise, Sick Sounds is a great way to sample some of the truly excellent punk, garage, and rock n' roll music that's out there right now. And the Gino and the Goons track "Lay With Me" is previously unreleased! This compilation also gives you a good idea of the type of stuff you'll hear if you tune into Wassup Rocker Radio. Check out the WRR web site or Facebook page for lots more info!
Sunday, June 10, 2018
If you're looking to hear what's great in punk music in 2018, Please Stop! is one of the first bands you need to check out. Power Suit and Dead Bodies was a formidable debut, and Built To Die is even better. I'm amazed at how this band can pack so much substance into songs that rarely run much longer than a minute. Each of these 11 tracks hits you quick but definitely leaves an impression. Punk rock with power, intelligence, and a relentless fighting spirit is something we will always need more of. Built To Die is available in two versions from No Front Teeth: a standard edition and a limited edition with a translucent sleeve. Get on it!
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
I have mixed feelings about this being the last Speedways release. On one hand, that's kind of a bummer. But on the other hand, I feel like this is such a perfect power pop album that it would be pointless to try and top it. Julian wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel here. This album is a tip of the cap to the timeless sounds of '70s guitar pop, recalling everyone from 20/20 to Tom Petty to Elvis Costello to the Paul Collins Beat. With his songwriting honed in on tuneful melodies, hook-laden choruses, and poignant lyrics, Julian comes off like someone who was born to create this kind of music. "In Common With You" sounds like a lost AM radio hit from the days of my youth, while "Don't Tell Me" could have come out of the American heartland 40 summers ago. And even though this is a digital release, it has the feel of a vinyl record. The title track and "Reunion In the Rain" conclude their respective "sides" in gut-wrenching, highly dramatic fashion.
Just Another Regular Summer is everything you could want from a classic power pop album. Julian sure knows how to write a catchy tune, but at a deeper level he just "gets" what this type of music is all about. Almost all of us have known heartbreak, and almost all of us have continued to put ourselves in its line of fire. That's part of the human condition, and that's why love songs will never go out of style. I have to chuckle when people dismiss songs about human relationships as "lightweight". Come on, what could be less lightweight? There will always be great worth in music like this, and kudos to The Speedways for carrying it off so splendidly.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
The Everybody Knows recently completed a two-week tour of Finland and the Baltics with the mighty Fashionism. These guys are major up-and-comers in the power pop world, and I think we will be hearing a lot more from them going forward. In the meantime, be sure to acquire "Hello Hello" and play it on repeat! Hit up the band on Facebook if you want to order a physical copy.
Saturday, June 2, 2018
Friday, June 1, 2018
One of MANIAC's greatest strengths is that it has four songwriters and four essential contributors. Singer/bassist Zache Davis is probably considered the "front man", but on quite a few of these songs he trades off vocals with his band mates. F & L favorite Justin Maurer authored some of the album's strongest tracks. Andrew Zappin is one of my favorite lead guitarists working today. James Carman, in addition to being an incredible drummer, is a tremendous pop songwriter and vocalist. That's a whole lot of talent, but it's the way it all comes together that defines MANIAC. You can hear that in the interweaving of the two guitars, the sophisticated layering of the vocals, and Carman's soaring harmonies. Davis, quickly emerging as a modern master of odes to failed relationships, contributes the deliciously bittersweet "Neutral Libido" and crackling "Living In Stereo". The latter brings to mind a Cali-soaked Buzzcocks. Maurer's songs cover a range of topics from youth and the loss of innocence ("Children of the Dirt") to how our contemporary society no longer believes in anything ("Post Post World"). The reappearance of three 7" tracks was music to my ears because they were just too good to leave out ("Calamine", to me, is a top five MANIAC song). And then there's "Dead Dance Club", which I absolutely love! It's completely unlike anything the band has done before, yet it fits so perfectly on this album. This song has me envisioning MANIAC as a band in a John Hughes movie!
MANIAC is a band like no other - distinctively part of the modern wave of powerpop/punk yet so undeniably influenced by the art and multiculturalism of Southern California. Those last two singles suggested that MANIAC was on the verge of a significant step forward, and Dead Dance Club fully confirms that. "Maturity" in punk groups is often considered risky or downright counterproductive. In this case, however, the advancements in songwriting and production really hit the spot. Demimonde was a very good album. Dead Dance Club is a genuinely great one.