Monday, March 18, 2019

Steve Adamyk Band - Paradise

When you think of powerpop/punk in the 2010s, the Steve Adamyk Band ought to be one of the first bands that comes to mind. Adamyk was there at the beginning of the decade, and he's still here at the end. Out on Dirtnap Records, Paradise is now the sixth SAB album (and first in three years). It's the first to feature the band's most recent three-piece lineup with Pat Johnson of The Acorn and Johnny O of Uranium Comeback backing singer/guitarist Adamyk. Spoiler alert: it rocks!

First things first: Paradise sounds like a Steve Adamyk Band record! No one's going to hear this album and be like, "Whoa! They really changed their sound!". And thank God for that. I'm not saying that Steve Adamyk invented powerpop/punk, but he was one of the individuals most responsible for defining what that genre would become in the present decade. A Steve Adamyk Band record that deviated from the basic formula of power pop influenced punk rock would just seem...wrong! Certain SAB albums have leaned more "pop" or "garage", but the band has never wavered from its general musical style. Paradise, for the lack of a better term, is quite possibly the "punkest" of the band's six albums. Recorded by Mike Bond and mixed by Jesse Gander, this is a huge-sounding album that really punches up the guitars and vocal harmonies. Locked in tight with his latest rhythm section, Adamyk just sounds like a guy who's super inspired to play some fast and tuneful punk rock! There's a palpable Ramones influence propelling "In Death" and the ripping title track. The band has never sounded more powerful or purposeful as it does on "Waiting To Die Part 2". "No Help", in the vernacular of the modern-day punk rock reviewer, is positively crackling! But don't go thinking that Adamyk has come to the table without some goodies for you pop people as well. "Take It To The Top" is powerpop/punk played right down the middle: the sort of song that Adamyk should never stop writing since he's just so damn good at it! "When I Was Gone" and a fine cover of The Kidda Band's "Get Off The Telephone" swing all the way to the power pop side and are total crowd pleasers. "Left In Pieces", which manages to mash the Beach Boys and new wave pop into the band's core sound, is one of this record's true gems.

There are few better than Steve Adamyk at turning out high quality poppy punk tunes. And my takeaway from Paradise is that his passion for creating this type of music has never been stronger. It goes without saying that anyone who has bought all of the band's previous albums will love Paradise as well. But I'll take it a step further: if the sixth Steve Adamyk Band album is somehow your first, it will make you want to own the other five!


Friday, March 15, 2019

My Top 20 Favorite Bands: 2000 to Present

I fully acknowledge it's weird that after spending so many years touting new music, my list of all-time favorite bands is still comprised almost entirely of artists from the '70s. So I got an idea: what if I wrote a massive list of my all-time favorite bands and then deleted everything that was pre year 2000? What would that look like? It was an easier exercise than I expected. I had no trouble coming up with a long list of bands from the present century that I totally love and still listen to on a regular basis. For bands that were active prior to 2000, I only considered their post-2000 output. For more recent bands, I had to factor in that their recordings may have not yet been subjected to the "test of time". With all of that in mind, here we go! 

20. Phone Jerks
I know what you're thinking. "Didn't their first album just come out?!" Fair enough. But in a world without Teengenerate and Loli and the Chones, Phone Jerks are the next best thing. Plus there was no way I could write a list like this and not represent multiple bands from Canada.

19. The Cry!
First album is a bona fide power pop classic. Second one isn't bad either! I anticipate we will finally get a new album from this band in 2019.

18. Something Fierce 
Don't Be So Cruel still sounds like the best album that the 1980s Clash never made. Rumor has it that Something Fierce is now on the verge of releasing new music for the first time in eight years. 

17. The Dahlmanns 
I've reviewed this band on seven occasions. It actually seems like more than that! The gold standard for the marriage of pop and punk. 

16. Sugar Stems
Super underrated extra awesome power pop group. I highly recommend all three of their albums. Does pop music get any better than "Love You To Pieces"? 

15. The Figgs - As the '90s turned over into the 2000s, The Figgs were at the top of their game. I probably listen to Sucking In Stereo as much as I listen to any Figgs album. Badger is my favorite Figgs EP by far. The early stuff gets all the love, but this band's post 2000 output is no less impressive.

14. The Unlovables
Crush * Boyfriend * Heartbreak is one of the greatest pop-punk albums ever made.

13. Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band
Promises To Deliver is my most most listened-to album of this current decade. 

12. The Kidnappers 
A decade before it was fashionable, The Kidnappers concocted a peanut butter cup mashup of garage punk and power pop, peaking with the "Spanish Girls" single and Neon Signs LP. I have enjoyed the twins' more recent outfit Küken, but I must admit I still miss The Kidnappers!  

11. Night Birds 
For my money, this is the best punk group of the last ten years. Favorite album: Born To Die In Suburbia. Second favorite: Mutiny at Muscle Beach. If you like old school hardcore punk with brilliant lyrics and a ton of melody, you need to own this band's entire discography. Little-known fact: I have consciously inserted a Seinfeld or Larry David reference into four different Night Birds reviews. I'm saving "These pretzels are making me thirsty" for the next full-length.

10. Bobbyteens
This band would have ranked higher if I'd allowed myself to consider its early singles and debut album from the late '90s. Still, top ten ain't too shabby! 2000's Not So Sweet is my favorite of the band's albums - a definitive mixture of the Ramones, girl groups, and power pop.

9. Midnite Snaxxx 

Is there any punk musician of the last 25 years more under-appreciated than Dulcinea Gonzalez?

8. The Connection
I've referred to The Connection as "America's best rock n' roll band", and I think that sums it up pretty well. 

 7. Beach Patrol
 I've been a huge fan of this Green Bay outfit since 2006, when I named its full-length debut my album of the year. Over time, the band has only gotten better. Domenic has become one of our finest songwriters. The recent Levity is, in my opinion, the best album he's ever written.

6. Pale Lips
It seems like only yesterday that I was hearing this band for the very first time. It was actually four years ago! Pale Lips' debut LP was officially listed as my #2 album of 2016, and the band's latest is almost certain to be my #1 for 2019. Definitely my favorite active band.

5. Exploding Hearts 
I don't think much explanation is required here.

4. Kung Fu Monkeys
The creation of a Kung Fu Monkeys Bandcamp page officially remains the best thing to ever happen to The Internet. I recently decided to put on School's Out, Surf's Up, Let's Fall in Love to see if it still holds up after 18 years plus. Boy, does it ever! There's never been another album quite like this. It's like pop-punk meets twee meets meets surf meets kiddie pop meets bubblegum meets '60s teenage dance party, propelled by James Cahill's seemingly impossible vocal range and a rhythm section that plays as if it's hopped up on Pixy Stix. Music more joyful than this has never been produced by humans. The early 2000s saw the band moving into its "mature" phase, which produced several less punky yet still totally delightful 7" releases. More recently, 2012's Son Of... The Incredibly Strange Case Of The Mysterious Mystery 7" arrived seemingly out of nowhere and delighted longtime fans with some gorgeous and masterful baroque pop. 

3. Stiletto Boys
Yeah, I know this band had a home field advantage. But I would have been a fan even if they'd been from thousands of miles away. It's funny how time changes your impressions of things. When the Stiletto Boys made their first album, I was like, "I love it, but I kind of miss the rawness of the singles". When their second album came out, I was like, "I love it, but I kind of miss the rawness of the last album". Looking back all of these years later, I am awed by the way the Stiletto Boys pushed themselves to get better and better with each new release. I can still put on A Company of Wolves and find myself stunned by its greatness. Sean Wolfe was so driven to make Liberator perfect that he was willing to scrap a completed album and start over. It ended up being 13 years between albums. And it was worth it. Liberator (2013) proved to be the band's masterpiece - a must-own for fans of power pop influenced punk rock with insightful and intensely personal lyrics. If you lost track of the Stiletto Boys after the year 2000, you've got some serious catching up to do. R.I.P. Sean.

2. The Ergs 
If you want to see me when I'm angry, call the Ergs a generic pop-punk band. Sure, they were Descendents fans. They were also into hardcore, jazz, and obscure indie rock. They were unabashed music and book geeks, which I related to on a personal level. They fully understood that Dirty Work is one of the true cinematic masterpieces of our time. How can you not appreciate a band that releases a single called "Blue" and backs it with a cover of "Blew" by Nirvana? Only a person well-versed in the road signage of northeastern Pennsylvania interstates can appreciate the humor in writing a song called "Ashley Sugarnotch". Most importantly, the music still holds up. Dorkrockcorkrod is an all-time top five pop-punk album in my book. f'n remains one of the most impressive demo tapes I've ever heard. And don't even get me started on the singles. On my Mt Rushmore of New Jersey rock, I have The Boss, The Shirelles, Dramarama, and The Ergs!

1. Dimestore Haloes
The Haloes coming in at #1 will surprise no one. Granted, I had to remove their first two albums from consideration. But their last two albums are actually their best, in my humble opinion. The Ghosts of Saturday Night was the perfect transition between what the Haloes had been and what The Cheap Cassettes would later become. Wait, you don't own it yet?! Get on over to Bandcamp and rectify that immediately!

So there you have it. There were quite a few other bands that just missed the cut (too many to mention, in fact). But I'm pretty satisfied with this list, and I plan on updating every year!


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wild Zeros - "Teenage Lifestyle"

I raved about a new single from Wild Zeros a little while back. But actually that was just one of two new 45s from this veteran band out of La Rochelle and Bordeaux, France. Out on Chickpea Records, "Teenage Lifestyle" of course leads with a cover of the classic track from Syracuse, New York garage punk legends The Penetrators. Why make a cover tune an A-side? I say why NOT make a cover tune an A-side?!

One thing I like about Wild Zeros is their choice of cover material. They have a tendency to cover powerhouse songs from bands that ought to be household names in punk circles but are still unknown to a lot of people. Taking on "Teenage Lifestyle" (first released in 1979), Wild Zeros don't try and out-do the original (that would be impossible). Their rendition is faithful to The Penetrators' version, but with that special Wild Zeros touch. It sounds wild...and French! This track is from sessions recorded by Lo'Spider at Swampland in Toulouse a couple years back, and it totally rips! It is my fervent hope that more than a few people will hear this and immediately want to own the original version on record (Luckily you can still get the re-issue of The Penetrators' Kings of Basement Rock LP from Slovenly Recordings!). To finish off this one-sider, Wild Zeros turn out an original called "Vampire Girl". It's exactly what you've come to expect from this band: trashy garage punk rock n' roll done right! It's like the '90s never ended! Copies of this single are limited, so head on over to Discogs if you want to buy the vinyl. These tracks - and the rest of the Wild Zeros catalog - are available digitally via Bandcamp!


Saturday, March 9, 2019

Freak Genes - III

The always wonderful Freak Genes are back with what is already their third album in 20 months. On Qwak Qwak, you could hear Andrew and Charlie flirting with electronic instrumentation. III (out on Drunken Sailor Records) finds them all-in on synth-pop. Think more 154 era Wire, less Pink Flag. That's quite a leap for inside of two years, but in my business we call that a "natural progression" (Wire themselves did the same thing!). Everything that was charming, wonderfully weird, playfully non-conforming, and non-conventionally catchy about the duo's first two albums remains fully in tact. Perhaps the more cohesive synth-pop sound makes this particular album feel less all over the place. But I can assure you that it is still somewhat all over the place! The one-sheet promises "garage rock meets Gary Numan", and tracks like "Get Ready To Go" and "Strange Light" deliver exactly that. You can pick up the influences immediately yet still recognize distinct qualities of these guys' other bands. They are never afraid to experiment, but they always come back to writing memorable tunes with hooks. Meanwhile songs such as "Breach" and "Now It's Done" demonstrate that even synth pop era Freak Genes have not totally left post-punk behind. And if your favorite part of every Freak Genes album is coming across a song that makes you go "I don't know what the hell this is, but I sure like it!", "Stitches" and "Close Up" are oddball tracks that you will surely enjoy. There will never be such a thing as two Freak Genes songs that sound the same. Is it just me, or could "Nothing In Between Us" pass for one of The Cure's "poppy" songs?!

I can't fully put my finger on what delights me so much about Freak Genes. I think it's that they've made me fall in love with post-punk and new wave again. This was music I grew up on, yet I've been mostly lukewarm on its modern adherents. Charlie and Andrew take those influences and actually have fun with them. Even if there's a dark turn or two on III, it remains a joyful musical creation that's an absolute pleasure to listen to. Originally inspired by the idea of recording misfit songs, Freak Genes have become a misfit band (and that's a lower case "misfit"....these guys are probably 20 albums away from attempting horror punk). And I hope that's what they continue to be forever.


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

PlasticHeads - Nowhere To Run

You know I can never make it more than a couple weeks without talking up another band from Canada. And today I've got a band from Toronto for you that just might blow your head off! PlasticHeads is the latest outfit from the legendary Jon Sharron (Brutal Knights/Career Suicide/Chokehold). He's on guitar and vocals along side the likes of Ellis from Flesh Rag and Erik from School Jerks. PlasticHeads are pretty much what you'd expect given the involvement of the above individuals. Think snotty '77 punk smashing head-on into early '80s hardcore. Nowhere To Run is the band's ripper of a debut album, and it's set for a vinyl release on the venerable Ugly Pop Records. If you've been desiring some real deal punk fucking rock in your life lately, these ten tracks are exactly the kick in the pants you need. The band tears through these songs hot and fast, with seven of the ten tracks clocking in under two minutes. Musically and vocally, the intensity is relentless. Yet the songwriting is definitely rooted in '70s punk - always a sweet spot for me personally. Could there be a more fitting soundtrack for our modern day dystopian reality than "The End Is Near"? And how many people will quickly adopt "I Can't Sleep" as their personal anthem? If you dig Zero Boys, DOA, early Black Flag, or anything that Jon Sharron has ever been involved in, you're gonna go nuts for this record!


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Top Ten 2019

It has been an annual birthday tradition of mine to list my top ten favorite bands of all-time. Every year, I reflect on how this list might have changed over the past 12 months - based on which bands I still listen to the most and connect to the most on a personal level. Analyzing this latest list, I offer the following notes:

  • My musical tastes for the most part seem to be permanently stuck in the '70s. That maybe has something to do with me being born in '71. Or maybe there was just a lot of great music in the '70s.
  • While I consider myself a fan of many genres of music, there's still nothing that lights my fire like '77 punk.
  • The Ramones keep rising on these lists. It's not like I ever didn't appreciate the greatness of the Ramones. But the more I go back to all of those records, the more awestruck I am by how well they hold up. 
  • Still nobody on the list from post 2000. Maybe I need to do a separate write-up for that sometime.  
  • I'm kind of surprised that there aren't more power pop bands on this list. Material Issue is holding it down! 
  • Bands that just missed the cut: Undertones, Sex Pistols, The Who, Kinks, Real Kids.

On to the list:
1. The Clash
2. AC/DC 
3. Ramones
4. Material Issue
5. Buzzcocks
6. Husker Du 
7. New York Dolls 
8. Rolling Stones 
9. Generation X   
10. Dictators   

With each advancing birthday, I used to wonder if a window was closing for me doing this blog to be "age appropriate". In more recent years, it has occurred to me that it always be age appropriate for me to write about rock n' roll. With any luck, I'll still be reviewing records when I'm 90. And I'll probably still be stuck in the '70s.


Sunday, March 3, 2019

Rum Bar Records Winter 2019 Label Sampler

I suppose I need to squeeze this one in while it's still winter! And with the snow accumulating at this very moment, there's no time like the present. I'm well-known to be a fan of Rum Bar Records. And who isn't a fan of free stuff? So of course I'm going to be pushing free stuff from Rum Bar Records with the utmost enthusiasm!

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't do the best job of keeping up with Malibu Lou's multitude of releases last year. Counting digital-only releases, he put out over 30 titles in 2018 alone! That's a lot of moving and shaking! I feel like he's reached the point where he may need to move Rum Bar HQ into a multi-story office building. I'm envisioning something like the Capitol Records Building, but with colder weather and a much better drink menu. Anyhoo, the label's 2019 winter sampler compiles 19 tracks from 19 Rum Bar artists. Most of these tracks are taken from existing Rum Bar releases, and a few are from forthcoming releases (I gotta tell you that the Brad Marino solo album is gonna have you all jumping for joy. It's sooooooo good!). The sampler is a free download from Bandcamp, or you can buy a hard copy on CD for five bucks. Either way, it's a sweet deal. You get ace tracks from artists I've touted before (The Cheap Cassettes, The Peawees, Justine and the Unclean, Indonesian Junk, Watts) plus many more from bands I'm just discovering myself. "The Next One", a teaser track for the upcoming Cromm Fallon solo album, has me really looking forward to that particular release. Tad Overbaugh and the Late Arrivals make a fine addition to the growing heartland rock wing of the Rum Bar roster. "Good Enough" finds veteran garage rockers Muck and the Mire flirting heavily with power pop.

Covering styles ranging from garage to punk to glam to Americana to psychedelic rock to swamp-pop, the Rum Bar Records Winter 2019 Label Sampler is a great way to familiarize yourself with one of the best record labels out there. And if you like what you hear, more from all of these artists can be obtained at the Rum Bar Bandcamp. Now can winter please be over?!


Friday, March 1, 2019

Conmen - Get Loose

Yeah! Conmen have finally made an album! Out now on Rock N Roll Disgrace, Get Loose is the Boston outfit's first new release since its debut 7" came out four years ago. This album is a massive treat for anyone who loves the pop side of old school punk. It's definitely "cleaner" sounding than Conmen's 7" and demo - but not in a bad way. This is just great back-to-basics fun three-chord punk. The songs are short, snappy, and catchy as hell. These guys summon the spirit of the early Ramones without coming off like strict copyists, while some tracks (particularly "You Were Dancing") lean more towards The Undertones. You know I ain't complaining! This is a really enjoyable record to throw on when you're in an upbeat mood or want to get into an upbeat mode. Clocking in at just under 23 minutes, these 11 tracks practically beg for repeat spins. This is yet another one of those records that will remind you why you fell in love with punk rock in the first place. I was starting to think Canada had a monopoly on bands like this, but it looks like Boston has staked its claim!


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Gulag Beach - Potato Mash Bash

Berlin-based Gulag Beach are many thousands of miles from the American West Coast, but everything about their music just screams California. Out on Germany's Rockstar Records, Potato Mash Bash is already the fourth LP from these old school beach punk destroyers. By now, the Gulag Beach sound is well established. And the band does not veer from it here. Think surf-tinged melodic punk with anthemic choruses, Rikk Agnew inspired guitars, and some top-notch rapid fire drum work. I'm hearing the influence of everyone from Youth Brigade ("DINTE, pt. 1") to The Adolescents ("Dollar Hero") to the far more recent Bodies ("Ode To Capitalism", "Generation Maybe"). This isn't anything you haven't heard before, but these guys pull off the textbook Cali-punk sound exceptionally well. There will always be a place for punk bands like this one that bring tremendous conviction and genuinely strong melodies to the table. And at a time when the world needs punk rock anthems more than ever, Gulag Beach sure endeavors to write them. These songs ought to get you fired up to take on the powers that be least jump in the circle pit. Another excellent release from Rockstar! 


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Psychotic Youth - 21

Well this blog definitely lived up to its name with the stuff I reviewed this past week! And perhaps that's the way it ought to be. But fear not: I have by no means turned my back on the poppier stuff. And when it comes to poppier stuff, does it get any better than Psychotic Youth? Jörgen and company are still going strong after 34 years, and new album 21 absolutely sounds like vintage Psychotic Youth! For real: this is one of the greatest power pop bands of all-time still operating at the peak of its craft.

After an 18-year gap between the band's classic LP Stereoids and the triumphant comeback The Voice of Summer, we only had to wait two years for 21. And this album is everything you would expect from Psychotic Youth. It's a whole lot of power pop, a little bit of garage, a little bit of punk, and a little bit of surf. The harmonies are to die for, and as always Jörgen absolutely excels at writing about matters of the heart. He will devastate you with his songs about loss, longing, and relationships gone sour - and then turn around and write something like "You're The One" that reminds us of why we bother to endure all of that heartbreak in the first place. I always have to chuckle when people criticize pop-punk or power pop bands for writing love songs and not tackling more "important" topics. Seriously? The quest for love has defined our species and its art for thousands of years. What could be more important than that?! I think we become even more aware of this as we get older, which explains why Jörgen is writing some of his most powerful material in his 50s.

21 is the work of a songwriter and band that are aging like fine wine (I know: a terrible music reviewer cliche, but still undeniably true!). I would honestly put this album up there with anything Psychotic Youth has ever done. It has everything from snappy punky pop ("Nr 1 In My Heart") to Ramones inspired goodness ("Wither Up and Die") to tear-out-your-heart balladry ("If Not For You") to vintage Psychotic Youth wall of guitar power pop ("Dreams"). Jörgen Westman belongs to the masters class of power pop songwriting, and it is a treat to hear him still at the top of his game. Do not miss the CD bonus track cover of Marshall Crenshaw's "Cynical Girl" - a tip of the cap to an obvious influence!


Friday, February 22, 2019

Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars - "Stay In Your Lane"

Whew! If you feared that after all of these years, Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars might have mellowed-out a little or settled comfortably into "musical maturity", you can breathe a little easier today. If anything, the passage of time has only deepened the rage and ferocity driving this Ohio outfit's recorded output. It's as if they're siphoning all of the rancor and discontent that's in the air and using it to acquire musical super powers. "Stay In Your Lane" is the Angry Cougars' 7th EP, and it's every bit as fierce and pummeling as the band's first. Ms. Machete still sounds like an individual you do not want to mess with, and behind her the band remains in permanent attack mode. As always, it's tricky to categorize the music beyond calling it loud and aggressive rock n' roll. The title track is a fast and furious Motörhead inspired punk ripper, while "Who Dies First" slows the pace but dials up the heaviness in a big way. "Grudge Match" comes on with thunderous, AC/DC caliber arena riffs, then turns on a dime to blazing and supremely pissed-off hardcore punk. Track four, exclusive to the vinyl, is a cover of Iggy and the Stooges' "I Got A Right" - arguably the first ever punk song.

Believe it, kids: "Stay In Your Lane" kicks ass! It's tremendously satisfying to hear Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars sounding as committed as ever to slaying anything in their path - six years after they unleashed "Book of Hate" on an unsuspecting world. I can't think of another band that hits the spot quite like BMATAC when you're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. If you're a strictly digital person and have thus far missed out on the wonders of this band, the time for catching up has arrived. Angry Cougars are now on Spotify! Your enemies and friends alike ought to be on notice.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Tiger Touch - "Hawthorne Boogie"

How about some righteously crank-worthy ROCK AND ROLL! Based in Portland, Oregon, Tiger Touch is a band comprised of former members of West Coast outfits The Gimmicks, Black Furies, Bonneville Power, and People Electric. And let me tell you: these dudes aren't screwing around! "Hawthorne Boogie" is the band's second 7", and it's a double dose of high energy action rock that kicks you straight in the teeth. These two tracks definitely bring to mind '90s Scandinavia via Detroit 1970, but what I enjoy about Tiger Touch is that there's even more going on than that. This band's sound is a potent cocktail of punk, glam, garage, heavy rock, and just good, old-fashioned '50s rock n' roll. These guys know their rock n' roll history and have absorbed their lessons well. And man, can they ever play: you've got three guitars raging like fire and a rhythm section that's as tight as it is relentless. The title track is MC5 worship done right - with thundering riffs, thumping drum work, and no shortage of epic soloing. On the flip, "Berlin City" hits with comparable power and even punches the pace up a tad. Turn up the volume and let the energy flow through you!

Even if you don't ordinarily go in for the "rawk" thing, Tiger Touch just might sway you to the dark side. And if you do, "Hawthorne Boogie" will have you in air guitar heaven. When it comes to punk rock n' roll, this is how you do it!


Monday, February 18, 2019

Priors - "Call For You"

Bam! Fresh off of the sense-numbing assault that was their brilliant New Pleasure album, Montreal's Priors hit us hard and fast once more with a crackling new EP on Slovenly Recordings! With New Pleasure being such a shock-and-awe moment in recent-day garage punk, Priors really needed to come strong to keep the fire burning. Well, they've done just! In terms of both intensity and quality, there's no letup on these three killer tracks. Hearing the band tear through "Call For You" (a relative epic at two minutes, 47 seconds!), I might be inclined to say that this 7-inch format is the best way to take in the relentless sonic fury of Priors. This is some premium high-speed punk bashing, perhaps with even more rancor and madness in the vocals than usual. Doesn't that sound like a recipe for awesomeness?! Push play on this one, and it'll give you a jolt that no energy drink on earth can match. The aptly-named "Destroyer" is a near-perfect bite of what Priors have been cooking for a while: noisy, forward-looking garage-punk played at a hardcore pace. "Swelter" fires away in the same manner - powered by raw-as-fuck guitars and a general sense of going off the rails. If these three tracks don't leave you feeling dazed and battered, you've got the volume set way too low!

Clearly a band on a roll right now, Priors sound like nothing less than a force of nature on this latest EP of theirs. Be glad it's only three tracks - your heart might not be able to take any more!


Friday, February 15, 2019

The SUCK - In-Cog-Neat-O

You all have had your little taste of street rock. Are you finally ready for the main course? You better be! I've been teasing/promising/threatening the arrival of a full-length debut from the SUCK for a while now, and finally the wait is (almost) over. In-Cog-Neat-O is up for pre-order today over at the magnificent Moms Basement Records. I gotta tell you that this thing is gonna have smoke coming out of your ears! Lean and mean at eight tracks with only two of 'em daring to eclipse the mostly forbidden two-minute mark, In-Cog-Neat-O brings on the next phase of street rock - the one that will bring hope to humanity and have young and old alike pledging allegiance. While by all means inspired by/allied with the HEAD/NECK/Vapids axis of Ramones worship, the SUCK very much has its own thing going. Packing such explosive power that its membership had to be spread across three contiguous states, this gang really brings the rock on this debut long player. For real: these dudes aren't afraid to make a punk record that actually sounds good! Those guitars pack a mega-punch, and you'll swear they enlisted an army to record some of those backing vocals. And while this album obviously owes a great deal to the Ramones and pop-punk, it also earns high marks in the originality/uniqueness department. Given that my stance on humor is "the darker, the better", the SUCK and I are definitely on the same wavelength. The closest thing to a "love song" on this record is about a guy who gets catfished. "#youredead" is a feelgood hit about threatening murder over social media. "Death Machine" is literally about building a contraption for killing people. "The Vape Store" concerns the plight of unemployed grown men who hit on teen girls. These songs are so very wrong - yet somehow so right! Elsewhere the band addresses some of the burning topics of our time: Mexican bogeymen, the ruthlessly competitive sport of flip cup, and the tangled web of love interests complicating the plot of the Twilight franchise.

Coming off a massively acclaimed self-titled EP and the instant classic web single "Party Town, USA", the SUCK had the pop-punk and Ramones-loving communities pumped for an absolute ripper of a debut album. I am confident in guaranteeing that nobody is going to be disappointed! The SUCK has come out and crushed this one. You've got The Dunk and The Alien cranking up the guitar thunder, The Basement knocking the snot out of his drums, The Problem laying it down like Dee Dee, and The Cola bringing a voice to this band's unique sense of humor and unwavering pursuit of fun. And as for the short running time...that just gives you more chances in a day to listen to the album! While leaving little doubt about its influences, In-Cog-Neat-O finds the SUCK carving out plenty of territory for itself. It's a little bit Ramonescore, a little bit party punk, a little bit pop-punk, and a whole lot of street rock! Your prayers have finally been answered. East Coast, represent!


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Van Dammes - Risky Business

Here's one I think regular readers of this blog will really dig. Van Dammes hail from Helsinki, Finland and fall towards the poppier end of the garage-punk spectrum. Out now on Germany's Rockstar Records, their latest EP dishes out the perfect mix of melody, rawness, and pure energy with a touch of organ to boot. It all makes for one highly infectious cocktail! This is super-catchy stuff, yet it's got a scruffiness to it that might appeal even to people who aren't ordinarily into power pop or pop-punk. The title track reminded me of The Kidnappers, and I was basically hooked from there. It's rare to hear a band play with this much speed and force and still keep all of that melody in tact. And the enthusiasm fueling these songs is palpable. These guys must be a blast to see live! Thankfully "I Don't Like Music Anymore" is just a song title and not a statement of intent. The six killer tracks on Risky Business have sure left me wanting more!


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Raws - Duvara Dur Diyen Demir Yumruk

I'm pretty sure I've never reviewed a band from Turkey before. And if I have, it certainly wasn't one that sang in its native tongue. There's a first time for everything, isn't there? Out now on Slovenly Recordings imprint Mondo Mongo, Duvara Dur Diyen Demir Yumruk is the new EP from Istanbul punk veterans The Raws. D.D.D.D.Y. roughly translates to "smash walls with an iron fist". Now that's a sentiment that's awesome in any language! Both the EP title and the band name are spot-on: this is some raw-as-fuck punk rock capable of smashing any wall you aim to build. Those of you who know Turkish will get even more out of these songs than I do. But from the opening strains of "Yedi Kuru Dal", I found myself totally digging The Raws' mean, scuzzy groove. I have "Hala Açız" pegged as "the hit". And by "hit", I mean it will hit you upside the head! If you like your punk music dirty and aggressive, you just might find yourself shouting along without really knowing what they're saying. "İntikam Peşinde" is another highlight - as perfect of a minute of blistering chaos as you could ever hope to hear. To finish, "Tepelerin Arkasında" is a high energy punk basher you can almost dance to. I say "almost" because I imagine the kind of dancing this song might inspire would not be for the faint of heart! Regardless of your familiarity with the Turkish language, this is an essential purchase if you crave some raw and ripping garage punk. Is there any language more universal than the language of music? D.D.D.D.Y. indeed!


Sunday, February 10, 2019

Internal Credit - Internally Credited

My New Year's resolution to write about more new bands is not so challenging when I come across music this good! Internal Credit is about as new as it gets. From what I can gather, this digital EP Internally Credited is the band's first release. This is some truly great punk stuff from Falmouth, UK! Charlie Murphy, one of my favorite people in music, is part of the lineup. But the rest of the band was already playing together before he joined, so you won't want to classify this as another "Charlie project". The full lineup is Rob Camp on bass, Jo House on drums, Morgan Mathews on guitar/vocals, and Charlie on guitar/vocals. I would describe Internal Credit as garage punk with the emphasis on punk. I just love the rawness and energy of these six tracks. For the most part, the band plays fast and furiously, with absolutely tremendous enthusiasm. I wouldn't call this "pop" punk, but all of these songs are quite tuneful and seemingly crafted for the purpose of singing along. Songs like "Paint Flakes" and "Other Ways" barrel along with a hardcore urgency and just might leave you catching your breath. You can hear the old Charlie Murphy influence rearing its head on "Today, Alright" - and that's never a bad thing! "Need To Turn" is definitely "anthemic" punk rock that will have you shouting along at home (or at the gig!). "Grey Photograph", with its chaotically poppy charm, kind of takes me back to the heyday of bands like The Real Losers and Hipshakes.

Internal Credit is the best new punk group I've heard in a good while. After twenty-some years of writing about music, I still get excited hearing punk music stripped down to its essence and played with maximum gusto. Listening to Internally Credited, I can't help envisioning what the band's live performances are like. I imagine kids dancing like crazy, shouting along, and just having a generally wild time. Those of you in southwestern England can find out for yourselves when Internal Credit plays with Youth Avoiders in Bristol on April 18th. Might as well familiarize yourself with the songs now!


Friday, February 8, 2019

The Cavemen - Lowlife

Well here they come again! Last year, The Cavemen dropped one of the fiercest and most delightfully pummeling rock n' roll long players of recent memory with the appropriately-titled Nuke Earth. If these New Zealand neanderthals weren't already recognized as the planet's premier slingers of savage rock n' roll, Nuke Earth certainly settled the matter emphatically. So prolific is this gang that I actually missed out on the subsequently released single "Burn Out For Love". Points off for me! Next up from The Cavemen is "Lowlife" - out today on Slovenly Recordings. The title track was recorded amidst the band's recent raid of Brazil, and it captures this road-tested crew at peak ferocity. Here The Cavemen sound every bit like fellas capable of tearing the roof off of any venue that will have them. "Lowlife" cranks like some unholy hybrid of raunchy rock n' roll and full-on Stooges savagery. The sound is blown-out and positively filthy, with earsplitting guitars not quite overpowering some hopping bass lines while Mr. Paul Caveman screams out his guts per usual. Ya gotta love it! "Baby I'd Do It For You" is actually an outtake from the Nuke Earth sessions, but it sure doesn't sound like a song any band would care to discard. A la the best tracks on the album, this one manages to be fast and furious yet still catchy as fuck. It will have you head-bobbing like a maniac for a solid minute, so prepare accordingly. To finish, "Drownin'" may be this EP's most enticing attraction to longtime fans. It's a song the band recorded back when these guys were still in high school! It's raw as hell and may surprise a lot of people. I'm talking grimy budget rock blues - pretty far from what this band ultimately became! Yet it holds up quite nicely, and I think the Cavemen faithful will be really stoked to hear it. Man, can you imagine what The Cavemen were like in high school?! Sounds like the premise for a movie!

Like always, The Cavemen have come out swinging on "Lowlife". This is just one of several 7-inch records releasing on Slovenly today. But I figured I ought to start with this one since I know it's gonna be a fast mover. You better be a fast mover yourself if you want a copy on purple vinyl!


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Beach Patrol - Levity

Is there anything more rewarding in music fandom than following a band's journey from very good to truly great? I've been touting Beach Patrol since 2006 - when the Green Bay then-trio debuted with a release I ultimately named my album of the year. A full decade later, Eudaimonia was one of my favorite long players of 2016. The band's growth over that ten-year period was staggering. It was Eudaimonia that convinced me that Domenic Marcantonio had become one of our finest present-day songwriters. I knew he would be challenged to top those songs. But here comes the new album Levity, and all I can say is wow!

Levity was recorded back in October 2017 at Westmont Station - Pete Donnelly's home studio near Philadelphia. Taking Donnelly up on a long standing offer to record Beach Patrol, Domenic and drummer Preston Ely made the long drive to the East Coast and knocked out the album in just two days. With Donnelly producing and filling in on bass, Levity was recorded entirely in single takes with no overdubs. At a lean eight tracks, this easily stands as Domenic's strongest collection of songs to date. The irony is that if you heard Beach Patrol back in 2006, that is when you might have suspected Pete Donnelly was producing! Here Donnelly's influence is more limited to his recording expertise and always-stellar work on the bass. Beach Patrol has honed its own style and sound over the years, and Levity is the work of a seasoned rock n' roll band at the peak of its craft.  

If I was going to compare the songwriter Domenic Marcantonio was back in the earlier 2000s to the songwriter he's become today, that would be easy to summarize. Back then, he wrote great power pop songs. Now he just writes great songs, period. He can still write a hook like nobody's business, and he remains faithful to the timeless art of the three-minute pop song. Yet what is most impressive is how he uses this musical form to truly say something. He never writes a throwaway. Every song offers something clever or insightful or pertinent to his life experience. On this release he comes off a little like a modern-day counterpart to the Elvis Costello/Graham Parker/Joe Jackson triumvirate. Except he's not so much angry as he is full of practical wisdom. "Don't Panic" is upbeat rockin' pop serving essential life advice. The Parker-esque "Get It Together" is a reminder that complaining about our problems often blinds us to our many blessings. Domenic revisits a similar theme on the self-reflective "Nerve" - the ultimate statement of a band that has come to accept and truly appreciate its place in the world. And the music on this album proves to be every bit as engaging as the ideas. Opening track "Clown" pairs an instantly classic lyrical couplet ("I'd be a clown for you, baby/But please do not mistake me for a fool") with a melody you'll be humming for weeks. "Just As I Suspected" ought to have you lookin' sharp and heading for the dance floor, with Donnelly ably playing the Graham Maby to Domenic's Joe Jackson. Donnelly even pulls out the standup bass on the dramatic and soulful ballad "Hands At Love". This is the album's high point - a showcase for just how far Domenic has come as both a songwriter and a singer.

Listening to Levity, I'm somewhat stunned that it was all recorded in single takes. It doesn't sound rushed, and the band could not be any tighter (there are certainly advantages to a guitarist and drummer playing together for nearly half their lives!). I've never found a Beach Patrol recording to be lacking energy, but Donnelly's recording approach probably gave the band even more punch in the studio than usual. This was the first record where I really noticed what incredible chops Domenic has developed on guitar. Just about every song on this record is driven by a unique and memorable guitar riff. I just love how the rockin' and melodic sides of Beach Patrol work in such perfect harmony here. It's not every day that a band has the chance to make a record with one of the greatest pop/rock n' roll minds of our time. Clearly these guys seized the opportunity. Hands down, this is the best Beach Patrol album yet! Credit to Paula Mortimer for allowing the band to use her "Beautiful Lake Winnie In Quinney American Flag Sunset" photo on the cover. Isn't it amazing?!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Flesh Of The City - self titled

Strangely, yet another killer band from the Gaggers/Shanghai Wires/Miscalculations/Disco Lepers family tree has arrived with seemingly zero press. I figured that ought to change! With Marco Palumbo's lead vocals so immediately recognizable, you probably have a pretty good idea of what to expect from The Flesh Of The City. The band name alone makes it quite apparent that you're not in for any easy listening! In the most satisfying way, The Flesh Of The City manages to be the perfect combination of all of the bands referenced above. On this full-length debut, Marco and company deliver eight tracks of menacing punk rock blending snotty vocals, sharp guitars, and bleak visions of a world in despair. Songs like "Visceral Jolt" and "Inside You" lean a little closer to The Gaggers, while "Patron Saint" and "Other Peoples Ideas" would sound perfectly in place on a Miscalculations release. "Flesh of the City", the album's masterful centerpiece, is the best of all of Marco's projects condensed into a single song. I appreciate that the identity of this band is less about a particular musical style and more about the exploration of Marco's dark worldview. A brilliant artist in many regards, he crafts these depictions of life that are disturbing yet incredibly compelling. And the instant he opens his mouth to sing, he's got you hooked. If you long for a time when the lines between punk, post-punk, and new wave were virtually non-existent, this may be the album for you. Get it from No Front Teeth Records in the UK and Dirtyflair Record Company in Australia!


Sunday, February 3, 2019

Natalie Sweet - Oh By the's

Super Sunday? You bet it is! When Travis Ramin described Natalie Sweet's solo debut as a "slammin' power pop album somewhere between Rocket To Russia and Parallel Lines", you had to know my ears perked up! Especially given my fondness for Sweet's past musical endeavors and all of Ramin's productions, I knew this was something I needed to hear. Yet not even that kind of build-up could have prepared me for the OH MY GOD! moment of actually hearing this record. My jaw dropped to the floor within the first 30 seconds of the opening track. Soon I was dancing around my basement in joyful celebration. The whole album left me feeling like a little kid on Christmas morning. If I could have dreamed up the perfect power pop album and had an unlimited budget to hire the best people to make it happen, I still couldn't have topped this. 

I was a big fan of Natalie Sweet's previous band The Shanghais, and I was kind of bummed that that they were no more. Thankfully Sweet's solo debut retains a lot of the qualities of The Shanghais (and some of the songs as well). For this solo release, Sweet has assembled a veritable power pop/punk all-star team. Ramin produces and plays drums, Morten freaking Henriksen (!) plays guitar, and Devin Clark Jorgenson (Color TV) plays bass. Sweet, so impressive as a snotty punk vocalist on the Control Freaks album, returns to a more pure singing style on this release. She's really the perfect singer for this kind of music. A la a Debbie Harry or Holly Beth Vincent, she's the ideal combination of tough, tender, and just straight-up cool. You believe her tales of heartbreak, and you want to join her when she's out there having fun. Her collaboration with Ramin on this project is so strong that you can hear both of their signature styles all over this record. And that's no surprise considering their long friendship and many shared influences (new wave power pop, girl groups, '50s doo-wop and rock n' roll, the Ramones). Comparisons to previous Ramin productions like Candygirl and Tina and the Total Babes are not unwarranted, yet this could equally be described as the great Shanghais full-length that never was. Production-wise, this album sounds like a million bucks (although I feel like that number may need to be adjusted for inflation). It is tailor made for radio airplay, or at least radio airplay in 1980. Seriously: are those backing vocals not to die for?!

Kicking off with the best new wave pop song in decades, "Lip Service", Natalie Sweet's debut album is a must-own item for any fan of punky power pop. Shanghais fans will recognize "Good Love", which has been given the old TravoRamo makeover for this release. I'm usually not one for trying to fix what isn't broken, but damn if they didn't find a way to make this song even better! "I Still Want You" exquisitely channels the pure pop side of the Ramones (Dare I say more Road To Ruin than Rocket To Russia?). "I Don't Want To Need You (Tonight)" takes on the always welcomed Shangri-Las gone punk theme and totally knocks it out of the park. "Do The Shanghai" would not sound out of place on the Nikki and the Corvettes album. "Pizza Man" is a cover from National Lampoon's Lemmings (penned by Christopher Guest!). Yet in the hands of Sweet, Ramin, and co., this song doesn't mock the silliness of '50s teen tragedy songs so much as it fully embraces it. 

Is it too early to hand Natalie Sweet album of the year for 2019?! This one's gonna be hard to beat! Probably the only person who freaked out more than me upon hearing this album was Carlo from Surfin' Ki Records. So it's hardly a surprise that Surfin' Ki will be releasing it on vinyl. The CD is coming out in Japan on the legendary Wizzard In Vinyl - rebooting a label that has been inactive for over a decade! Pop people, rejoice!


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Pale Lips - After Dark

Aww yeahh! After Dark release day has arrived! Shouldn't this be an international holiday? I fully expect to see people celebrating in the streets! You know After Dark has been playing on repeat all morning here at Faster and Louder HQ! This sophomore long player from Montreal foursome Pale Lips was without doubt my most highly anticipated album of this year. I know I said almost the exact same thing about the last Pale Lips album. But while I still love Wanna Be Bad, I'm here to tell you that After Dark blows it out of the water! It's definitely the best album I've heard in a couple of years. Out on Alien Snatch (Germany), Spaghetty Town (USA), Gods Candy (Canada), and Waterslide Records (Japan), After Dark doesn't veer far from the Chuck Berry by way of the Ramones blueprint of its predecessor. But while I probably could have identified two or three obvious "hits" on the last album, this one is basically nothing but hits. I have a new favorite track every day! Pale Lips have proven once again that rock n' roll still satisfies in a way that no other style of music possibly can. And you just won't hear music more joyful than this. Put this album on, and you've got yourself an instant party wherever you may be. If you're not dancing and singing along within the first minute, there may be no cure for whatever ails you. And don't bother asking me for tips on how to get these songs out of your head. No such means exist.

After Dark finds Pale Lips doing what may seem impossible: taking the hot sounds of 60 years ago and making them feel fresh and current in 2019. You can hear a song like "Some Sort Of Rock N' Roll" and easily identify the influences. Yet Pale Lips add something to the mix that is uniquely their own. It's not just the bad-ass guitarist and the super-likable singer and the cool, no-nonsense bass player and the unsung, rock-solid drummer. It's the way these four manage to insert their unique personalities into their music. I'm not saying your granddaddy won't like this record; it's just that your ten-year-old niece will like it too. And so will your next door neighbor, so do not hesitate to play it loud in the name of spreading the gospel. While throwaway lyrics are allowable or sometimes preferable in rock n' roll, that's not how Pale Lips operate. This band writes some of the smartest, funniest, and most quotable lyrics you'll ever come across. Lead single "You're A Doll", in addition to being more fun than the law should allow, is a profound statement on gender stereotypes. "Hiding From The Moon" is probably the best song ever written about the drawbacks of dating a werewolf. "All My Baby Brought Back Was The Blues" is the latest in a long line of Pale Lips songs that had me laughing out loud in multiple spots. "I'm A Witch" is a direct response to "The Witch" by The Sonics...a response worthy of a mic drop!

While for the most part sticking to Pale Lips' signature style of upbeat poppy punk rock n' roll, After Dark is not without its surprises (which I suppose I'm about to ruin). You'll hear a few musical instruments outside of just guitar/drums/bass. And a couple of the "riskier" song choices contribute to this being an even better album than Wanna Be Bad. "That Old Ghost Don't Lie" is beautiful and haunting and just a completely stunning pop song. "Cosmic Love", quite literally, takes Pale Lips' sound to outer space. You know that feeling you get when your favorite band releases a new record and it's so totally great that you wanna tell everyone you know about it? That's basically where I'm at right now! Witches, aliens, and ghosts: oh my! I probably won't go out in public and demand that people stop what they're doing so I can play them "I'm A Witch". But if I should witness other individuals doing exactly that, my year will be made.