Thursday, June 14, 2018

Firestarter - First Album and Livin' On The Heat


Can you believe it has been 18 years since Firestarter released its debut album? That was a release that helped define punk/powerpop as the genre we know today. That and the band's 2003 followup Livin' On The Heat are stone cold classics - two of the greatest albums released this century. Would you have expected anything less from 3/4 of Teengenerate? In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Firestarter, Secret Mission Records has re-released both of the band's albums on vinyl. The bummer is that the label has already sold out of copies of the self-titled album (although you still might be able to snag it from some distributors). And supplies of the Livin' On The Heat reissue are very limited! If you're a huge fan of modern day punk/powerpop and have somehow never heard Firestarter, you at the very least need to acquire the digital versions of both albums. This is the first time that these two LPs have been released outside of Japan, and it seems only right that a whole new generation of punk and power pop fans will have the chance to enjoy them.

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!



-L.R.

https://secretmissionrecords.bandcamp.com/album/firestarter-first-album-lp 
https://secretmissionrecords.bandcamp.com/album/firestarter-livin-on-the-heat-lp 
https://www.facebook.com/secretmissionrecords/ 
http://www.secretmissionrecords.com/ 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wassup Rocker Radio Presents: Sick Sounds

You know what I love about being into music in the digital age? There are so many ways to hear cool tunes. That's why I don't waste a single second bitching about mainstream music. Who cares what they're playing on commercial radio? You can go onto The Internet anytime you want and hear totally rippin' music. In particular, Internet radio is thriving. One of the best programs going is Alex Kish on Wassup Rocker Radio out of Toledo, Ohio. WRR plays the best in garage rock, punk, glam rock, and rock n' roll. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who likes the music I cover on this blog. You can listen every night of the week on various Internet radio outlets or stream/download episodes at your convenience. Today I'm featuring a very special project from Wassup Rocker Radio: a free digital compilation featuring 32 of the hottest bands from the world of punk/powerpop/garage. It's called Sick Sounds, and it is stacked with killer tunes! Check out this lineup: The Connection, Geoff Palmer, Brad Marino, Devious Ones, Lucy and the Rats, Küken, The Crazy Squeeze, Teenage Frames, Criminal Kids, Faz Waltz, BBQT, Gino and the Goons....and that's not even the half of it! This is a great way to snag some free tracks from a whole lot of amazing bands. And perhaps, like me, you'll discover some groups you've not heard before. After hearing The Matt Truman Ego Trip, Black Heartbreakers, and The Exbats for the first time, I will surely have a lot more to say about those bands going forward!

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!



-L.R.

https://wassuprockerradio.bandcamp.com/ 
http://wassuprockerradio.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/wassuprockerradio 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Please Stop! - Built To Die

How about a full-length album on a 7"? Is such a thing even possible? If I had any doubts, Please Stop! has erased them entirely. 11 songs clocking in at just a tick under 13 minutes is absolutely an album in my book. So let it be said that Built To Die is the debut full-length from this Midwestern punk powerhouse. It follows last year's superb EP Power Suit and Dead Bodies, and it's out on No Front Teeth Records. Call it hardcore punk, call it snotty punk, call it whatever you like. This is some of the fiercest, smartest, and most ripping punk music you could ever hope to hear. And while no punk group is better at hitting you in the mouth with its music, Please Stop! is first and foremost a band with something to say. The lyrics on this release are remarkable. They're provocative, often unsettling, and open enough to interpretation to really make you think. A lot of these songs can be seen as social commentary - but not in a way that's obvious or heavy-handed. Staysee, as always, is a force of nature on the mic. Her vocals are the perfect combination of pissed-off, crazed, and just straight-up bad-ass. And her bandmates match her power and fury at every turn. Songs like the title track and "Faults" deliver a jolt like only the best hardcore punk can. "Born Again" and "Kill That Thing" slow the pace just a little but are equally bruising and doubly menacing. Man, Danimal sure knows how to get a raging sound on his guitar!

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!

   
-L.R.

https://pleasestop.bandcamp.com/album/built-to-die 
https://www.facebook.com/pleasestoprocks/
http://www.nofrontteeth.co.uk/ 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Speedways - Just Another Regular Summer

And just like that, The Speedways have come and gone! This band was by design a one-off project. They made an album, played one show, and that was that. But if you're only going to make one album, it ought to be as good as Just Another Regular Summer! The Speedways was Matt Julian from The Breakdowns going for a classic power pop sound. Power pop was certainly a huge influence on The Breakdowns as well. But with The Speedways, Julian laid the glam and punk influences to the side and concentrated purely on the pop. On this album, he plays guitar, bass, and keyboards and performs all of the vocals. His old band mate Dec Burns is along for the ride on drums. Lyrically, this album is full of classic power pop themes like heartbreak, longing, and unrequited love. Basically Just Another Regular Summer is an album for power pop purists, and it's an exceptional one at that.

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.



-L.R.

https://thespeedways.bandcamp.com/releases 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Everybody Knows - Hello Hello

Behold my personal nomination for song of the summer! I absolutely flipped the first time I heard "Hello Hello" by The Everybody Knows, and it's been stuck in my head ever since. Based out of Joensuu, Finland, The Everybody Knows of course took their name from the song by The Incredible Kidda Band. That's really cool! The band has only been around a couple years but has now released two 7-inches. Hello Hello is the latest one, and it's available digitally from the group's Bandcamp for just €1. The title track is just so tuneful and infectious. It's truly a perfect power pop song.

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. 



-L.R.

https://theeverybodyknows.bandcamp.com/album/hello-hello-ep 
https://www.facebook.com/everybodyknowsband/ 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Real Sickies - Get Well Soon

Wasn't I just talking about how many killer LPs have come out in just the last few weeks? You all are gonna go broke buying all of this stuff! Add one more to the list. Real Sickies are the best thing to come out of Edmonton since Wayne Gretzky's mullet. They knocked my socks off a few years back with their demo tape, and just last year they finally released an excellent debut single called "Cool Club". Get Well Soon is the band's debut album, and it's brought to you by a host of labels including This Is Pop, Dirtyflair, Monster Zero, and It's Alive Records. With names like those associated with this release, you know it's gotta be good! Real Sickies openly worship at the altar of the Ramones and Teenage Head, and there's not a damn thing wrong with that in my book. If you're looking for new ground to be broken, Get Well Soon is not the album for you. But if you're like me and can never get enough great punk/powerpop/rock n' roll, this record is not to be missed! From the opening strains of the title track all the way to the end, this release is just total fun. Past hits "Go Away" and "Cool Club" reappear here along with great new songs like "C'mon Baby" and the raucous shaker "Everywhere You Go". This is a cool mix of songs covering everything from old school pop punk ("Very Large Failure", "I Don't Wanna Be Here") to high energy rock n' roll ("Time Out") to dramatic balladry ("Runaway With You"). And a cover of The Barracudas' "Summer Fun" leaves no doubt as to what Real Sickies were going for on this debut long player. Get in the car, crank this album loud, and enjoy your summer!



-L.R.

https://realsickies.bandcamp.com/album/get-well-soon 
https://monsterzerorecords.com/products/real-sickies-get-well-soon-lp 
https://dirtyflairrecordcompany.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/therealsickies/ 
https://www.facebook.com/MonsterZeroPunkrock/ 
https://www.facebook.com/thisispop780/ 
https://www.facebook.com/itsaliverecords/ 

Friday, June 1, 2018

MANIAC - Dead Dance Club

Man, have we ever had an astounding flurry of new album releases over the last couple of weeks! The barrage continues with the second album from MANIAC, who have been a little quiet since releasing brilliant singles back in 2015 and 2016. I would definitely consider myself a MANIAC, so of course I was eager to hear the long-awaited Dead Dance Club (out today on Hovercraft and Dirt Cult Records). The band's first LP Demimonde from late 2014 is, in my opinion, an overlooked gem of present-day punk albums. I wouldn't change a thing about it, but I appreciate that Dead Dance Club is a little different. Sure, MANIAC can still do fast and frantic punk rock with the best of 'em. The opening 1-2 punch of "City Lights" and "Subject To Change" might lead you to believe that this album is headed down the same dizzying path as the last one. But then comes the moody and modern "Neutral Libido", and it's quickly apparent that the band has upped its game. It all still sounds very much like MANIAC - edgy, energetic, and forged in the storied traditions of West Coast punk and pop. But the band has really pushed itself to expand its sound on this release. There is no shortage of ripping tracks, but standout numbers like "Modern Love" and "Post Post World" really give the album atmosphere and room to breathe.

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.



-L.R.

https://dirtcultrecords.bandcamp.com/album/dead-dance-club 
http://www.hovercraftpdx.com/ 
https://store.greennoiserecords.com/collections/new-arrivals/products/maniac-dead-dance-club-lp 
https://wearemaniac.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/WeAreManiac/