Friday, November 16, 2018

Jagger Holly - The Last Of The International Playboys

Having come up in the zine world as a pop-punk kid in those ancient times of the '90s, I am pleased as punch to hear this genre of music still thriving today. There's tremendous Ramones-inspired/three-chord talent out there right now, and we are very fortunate to have labels like Monster Zero and Mom's Basement Records that devote themselves to filling the world with great pop-punk. It's no surprise, then, that those two labels have a hand in what I consider to be the best pop-punk album of the last several years. The Last Of The International Playboys is the second album from Jagger Holly, a band featuring Jay Dee from Johnie 3 and Spastic Hearts along with members of DeeCracks and On My Arms. Essentially what we have here is a pop-punk supergroup - one born in Ohio and now based in Austria. I was a big fan of Spastic Hearts, and I like Jagger Holly even better. The sound is pure pop-punk that fully embraces the pop side of the equation (oh, those harmonies!). The Last Of The International Playboys brings to mind genre standard-bearers such as MTX and Darlington, but not in a copyist sense. This is just great pop-punk in the "let's have a good time!" mold. Literally and figuratively, it's the perfect mix of American pop-punk and European pop-punk. Jay, I mean Jagger, writes lyrics that make me laugh out loud but also show genuine tenderness in the love song department. Topic-wise, these 12 tracks cover all of the essential issues in life: partying, longing for lost love, pursuing new love, hanging out at the beach, heartbreak, romance, and crushing on porn stars. Usually with a pop-punk record, I go through all of the tracks and try to identify which songs are the "hits". I can't do that with this album since literally EVERY song is a hit!

The Last Of The International Playboys won't turn any non-fans of pop-punk to the dark side. But if you are a fan of pop-punk, I 100% guarantee that you will love this album and play it to death. From the lyrics to the melodies to the vocals to the musicianship, you simply won't hear this style of music done better. And if you could quantify fun, this would be a ten out of ten. Blue vinyl is available from Monster Zero, and red vinyl is available from Mom's Basement. Outloud! Records is releasing the album on CD. This is the summer album of 2018 - arriving just in time for winter!

 
-L.R.

https://monsterzerorecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-last-of-the-international-playboys-2 
https://outloudrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-last-of-the-international-playboys 
https://www.facebook.com/jaggerhollyrocks/ 
https://www.facebook.com/MomsBasementRecords/ 
https://www.facebook.com/OUTLOUDrecords/ 
https://www.facebook.com/MonsterZeroPunkrock/ 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Sweatshop Boys - Two Men

I last reviewed Israel's Sweatshop Boys way back in 2015 when their outstanding EP Always Polite, Never Happy had recently come out. I have to say that that particular release has held up really well over the last three years plus. When it comes to today's powerpop/punk/garage bands, Sweatshop Boys are up there with the best of 'em. So I am more than pleased that the band has finally released its second album - the long-awaited follow-up to 2013's The Great Depression. It's called Two Men, and the band describes it as "an existentialist day dream for all those who stare at the abyss and spit right into it". If you think that sounds like some pretty heavy stuff, I'd say you're right! But what I enjoy about this album is that it tackles serious philosophical questions of existence (Is life devoid of meaning? Are we all completely alone?) using music that's totally upbeat and catchy. Rather than using fun tunes to escape the problems of life, Sweatshop Boys uses them to confront them! As the band says, these songs won't make your problems go away. But at least you'll feel less alone. Isn't there something tremendously comforting in knowing that when you have troubling thoughts about your very existence, someone else is thinking those exact same things?!

Musically, Two Men recalls a time when powerpop/punk/garage hybrids like Marked Men, Steve Adamyk Band, and Sonic Avenues were ruling the punk underground. With that musical style no longer as commonplace as it was in the early part of the decade, it's nice to hear Sweatshop Boys carry it off so well. These guys know how to write a punchy punk tune with melody, and collectively they form one of the tightest units out there. Two Men delivers energy and hooks in abundance, but "lightweight" is the last word you could ever use to describe any of these 12 tracks. You might think "Distractions" is just another power pop love song, but dig deeper and you'll find it's really about something else entirely. Elsewhere the band searches for answers to the great existential questions, sometimes pondering the pointlessness of it all ("Vertigo", "A Terminal") and sometimes finding solace in Beach Boys records or unfulfilling sexual conquests ("Brian"; "Too Young").

As you would expect with five years between albums, Two Men finds Sweatshop Boys taking a big leap forward. Yet it's still tremendously satisfying purely as a powerpop/punk record. If you choose to pay close attention to the lyrics (hint: you should!), you can enjoy this release on a whole other level. I love that these songs are extremely profound yet often quite witty/humorous. This is the soundtrack to your latest existential crisis, and somehow it turns out to be a blast!

  
-L.R.

https://sweatshopboyspunk.bandcamp.com/album/two-men 
https://www.facebook.com/sweatshopboyspunk
https://rockstarrecords.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/rockstar.empire

Friday, November 2, 2018

The SUCK - "Party Town, USA"

What could be better to kick off the weekend than a triumphant shot of good times straight out of Party Town, USA?! Where is Party Town, USA? I think I might know, but I prefer to think of it as a state of mind. Its most celebrated residents are the SUCK: internationally adored ambassadors of street rock and the best new thing to happen to music in 2018. The exclusive digital single "Party Town, USA" is out now on Something To Do Records. It's the third release in the label's monthly singles series titled Something To Do Music For Something To Do People. If you were lucky enough to snag a copy of the SUCK'S debut EP earlier this year, you know exactly what to expect: top-tier Ramones-inspired rock n' roll that kicks all kinds of ass and is above all else FUN. I love the catchy leads and massive guitars on this track, and seriously these lyrics make Andrew WK sound like a lightweight partier! Honestly, I feel like the SUCK will save us all. They are an '80s teen movie come to life, and they will not stop until the masses are dancing in the streets. If you, like me, dream of a world where they build towering monuments to HEAD and Troegs beer outsells Coors, "Party Town, USA" will be your new personal anthem. Play loud or suffer the consequences!



-L.R.

https://somethingtodorecords.bandcamp.com/album/something-to-do-music-for-something-to-do-people-vol-3 
https://thesuckstreetrock.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/StreetRockSUCK/