Friday, August 16, 2019

Trampoline Team - self titled

Here we go! I've been dying for a new Trampoline Team full-length ever since the New Orleans trio released the absolutely raging "Drug Culture" single a couple years back. In my book, "Drug Culture" is one of the top ten punk singles of the current decade! And now we get a full album in a similar vein - a self titled smasher out on HoZac Records. This is Trampoline Team's first album in four years, and it's a total ripper! Blurring the lines between early '80s hardcore and snotty low-budget trash, these 12 tracks hearken back to garage punk's later '90s glory days. The songs are short, snappy, and as subtle as a punch in the mouth. I know it's always a reviewer cliche to refer to a band as a "breath of fresh air". But can you possibly deny that this is exactly the kind of record we need more of in 2019? This is punk music the way it ought to be: raw, blistering, and exuding fuck-you attitude! If you're looking for a punk rock record that'll get your toes tapping as you revel in your contempt for everyone and everything that pisses you off, this album ought to spark your joy. Highest recommendation!


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Flashlights - Shadows and Lights

Secret Mission Records has been bringing music from some of the best bands in Japan to American shores for a number of years now. That very much continues with the vinyl release of Flashlights' acclaimed full-length Shadows and Lights. This Tokyo foursome plays indie pop with a tremendous Japanese punk pedigree (members of Rock-A-Cherry and The Knocks are involved). Originally released on CD in 2016, this album has been remastered for vinyl by the one-and-only Jeff Burke. Who do Flashlights sound like? Well they don't really sound like any other band, and that is part of what makes them great. They can go from jangling, twee-ish pop to moody indie/punk - sometimes within a single song! Listening to the bittersweet punky pop of "Midnight Carboy", you could understand why Jeff Burke would "get" this band. Yet for the most part, this album follows a path that is impossible to pigeonhole. It's not quite power pop, but I think power pop fans would dig it. It's not quite punk rock, but the punk influence is quite palpable (especially on a song like "Neo City"). It sounds completely original, yet it still satisfies in a way that only a really good pop record can. The sequence from the haunting "Stormy Night" to the easy, breezy "Time" to the Velvet Underground influenced "Shadows" is the perfect encapsulation of this album's appeal. This really is one of those releases that stands out from the pack - not just because it's different, but also because it's so well-done. The songwriting is brilliant, the guitar work is exceptional, and the vocals are overflowing with charm. Flashlights are one of the most celebrated underground bands in Japan today, and now you have the chance to find out why. If you like what you hear, you'll want to pounce on the vinyl. Only 500 copies were pressed, and less than half of those made it to the U.S.A. You know what to do!


Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Reflectors - "Teenage Hearts"

Oh man, do I ever have something great for you today! The band name The Reflectors might be new to you, but perhaps you remember James Carman, Nick Fashion, and Ryan Miranda from the amazing L.A. power pop band Images. With Johnny Reyes joining in on drums and Carman (LA Drugz, Telephone Lovers, Maniac) back on guitar and vocals, The Reflectors pretty much pick up where Images left off. The band's debut single will be out next week on the German label Time For Action Records. The A-side, "Teenage Hearts" is a perfect slice of Buzzcocks/Undertones punk-pop meets early LA power pop. The cover art and musical style scream 1979, and that's definitely alright by me! This song could not be any more up my alley! On the flip, "Desert Crusader" moves away from the love song motif in favor of darker themes and an even punchier sound. It's really cool to hear the band trying something different for the B-side and totally pulling it off! That chorus is nothing short of haunting. What a tremendous debut single from The Reflectors! Vinyl releases Tuesday, and you can order it here.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Jordan Jones - self titled

Sometimes all you need is some really great pop. And if some great pop is what you seek, the debut album from Jordan Jones will send you straight to your happy place. It's actually kind of cool in this day and age of pervasive social media to still find musical artists with some air of mystery to them. I even read the full one-sheet for this record and still know essentially nothing about Jordan Jones. But I think that's the entire point. With a record this great, the music ought to speak for itself. This album had a cassette-only release on Burger Records last year, and now Spaghetty Town and Beluga Records are teaming up to make sure the world hears it.

When I first heard lead single "Rumors Girls" a little while back, I was absolutely floored to come across such a perfect pop song. What an earworm! And what the album makes clear is that that song was no fluke! Jordan Jones proves to be an immensely talented songwriter with a particular fondness for classic power pop and early '70s glam and pop. Song after song is chock full of massive hooks and infectious melodies, and I could easily have been led to believe that this was a collection of forgotten AM radio hits from 1973. The use of keyboards and the generally warm sound give this record a feel that is not often attained by newer power pop groups. I heard lead track "Wrote You A Song For Me" and thought, "Okay, this has to be the hit." But then I heard "Understood", and I honestly couldn't decide which song I liked better! The album continues in that same manner for all of Side 1: a veritable parade of songs that would be all over the radio in a better world (or in another era). Side 2 mixes it up with more ballads, but they're damn good as well! Closing track "Oh My Heavenz" puts the gold in AM gold!

What can I say about an album that appeals to my love for artists ranging from Big Star to T.Rex to the Exploding Hearts to Eric Carmen? Call it power pop, call it pop-rock, call it whatever you like. The debut album from Jordan Jones is brilliant pop music crafted in pursuit of timeless melody. A record any catchier this would probably cause a worldwide health crisis!


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Mala Vista - self titled EP

One thing I love to write about but don't hear that often is pure '77-style punk rock. Well I'm hearing it from Mala Vista, and I am stoked! This band out of Queens and Brooklyn has released its debut EP as a five-track 7" and a seven-track digital download. This politically-minded foursome possesses the spirit of The Clash and a sound that brings to mind everyone from The Damned to the Dead Boys to Eater. Given the troubling normalization of white supremacy in recent years, "Mouth Breeder" is a welcome punk anthem for 2019. With its throbbing bass lines and ripping guitar leads, it's the perfect example of how to make a social statement and still rock LAMF. Play it loud and get fired up! Similarly, "NY Groove" re-interprets the sounds of 1977 punk rock and roll for a modern-day attack on wealth and greed. Elsewhere, lyrics reflect a personal struggle to make one's way in an unjust world. I really dig the sound here: it's rooted in classic punk, yet it's got an edge to it that some '77 revivalists can never manage to capture. This is music with passion and guts, and it's a reminder that punk rock can still satisfy in a way no other kind of music can. As a '77-punk geek and a lifetime East Coaster, I'm definitely feeling this record!


Monday, August 5, 2019

Dogmatics - "Summertime"

I don't often do "teaser" posts. But come on: we're talking about the almighty Dogmatics! This is one of my favorite bands of all-time, and in my mind THE definitive Boston garage/punk/rock and roll band. Dogmatics have not released a record in 33 years, but that is about to change! A while back, Malibu Lou let me in on the news that Dogmatics were joining the Rum Bar Records family. You can imagine my reaction to that! The result of this union will be a brand-new album coming out this fall. To get us all primed for this splendid event, Rum Bar has released Dogmatics' cover of Unnatural Axe's "Summertime" as a digital single. Appropriately enough, it appears now in the midst of...summertime! I am totally stoked for new music from Dogmatics and for a whole new generation of garage/punk fans to receive a proper introduction to one of the best bands to ever come out of Boston. In my 2013 review of the band's 1981-86 compilation, I lamented that Dogmatics' Facebook page had only 790 likes. Well now the count is over 1300 and growing! Be sure to crank "Summertime" while you're drinking by the pool, and be on the lookout for the new album coming soon! And if you're still unfamiliar with Dogmatics, be sure to check out my YouTube playlist or the entirety of 1981-86 on Spotify!


Friday, August 2, 2019

Mikey Erg - Waxbuilt Castles

I'm just gonna come out and say it: Waxbuilt Castles is Mikey Erg's best album yet! If we are limiting this discussion to solo Mikey Erg, that means I'm putting this release ahead of 2016's Tentative Decisions (which I also love). The "buzz" around Waxbuilt Castles is that it's a huge departure for this beloved figure of pop-punk. This, it's said, is his "'70s pop-rock album". Mikey has even stated he was going for his own version of Paul McCartney's first solo record. All of this is true. And as someone who's old enough to have experienced '70s pop-rock firsthand, I have to say Mikey has really hit the mark here. Yet I wouldn't describe this album as a departure so much as I would call it a logical progression from Tentative Decisions. Even in the heyday of The Ergs!, it was obvious that pop-punk was only a fractional component of Mikey's songwriting influence. I always thought of him as a guy who writes great pop songs, period. And Waxbuilt Castles is a great pop record, period. 

Recorded in collaboration with Mikey's band-mate from the LLC, Alex Clute, Waxbuilt Castles finds Mikey Erg doing what Mikey Erg does best: writing songs about heartbreak, loneliness, and regret. These types of songs have been his bread and butter since he wrote "Thinking With My Heart" nearly 20 years ago, and he's grown into a true master of the form. The entire first verse of "Clueless Or Cruel" is as devastatingly relatable as anything that Jim Ellison or Doug Hopkins ever wrote. Perhaps on this release, Mikey has softened his vocal approach a tad. And with the integration of piano, pedal steel, and acoustic guitar into his sound, he's a long way from punk rock here. Yet Waxbuilt Castles still sounds like classic Mikey Erg - which speaks to how his talents have always transcended genre. The upbeat, jangling pop of "Bad Decision Monday" would not have sounded out of place on Tentative Decisions. "& Nico" is just a more mellowed-out version of the kinds of songs he's been writing for two decades. And even when he's blatantly indulging his '70s fetish (the easy-going soft rock of "Kimberly Gofigure", the early Elvis Costello worship of "Little Crushes", the bittersweet country rock of "Why Was I Programmed To Feel Pain?"), he does so in a way that feels totally true to himself. Mikey's feel for what makes a great song has only grown stronger with age, and with this particular album there are so many tracks that will absolutely grab you. "Clueless or Cruel" boasts the sort of simple but indelible chorus that some songwriters spend their entire careers chasing. "Hopland Superette" comes on so unassumingly, yet you'll suddenly realize you've been singing that hook for a week. "Kimberly Gofigure" might be Mikey's own "Hold My Life" - a song that at first seems oddly laid-back for a lead-off track, but ultimately proves to be the perfect album opener.

While Waxbuilt Castles has Mikey Erg's name on it, it was by no means a one-man creation. Mikey found the ideal collaborator in Clute - whose instrumental prowess and creative input were integral to this release. But that's what great artists do: they find other great artists capable of pushing them to new heights. Don't let the "this isn't a pop-punk album" angle discourage you. Waxbuilt Castles is the best collection of songs Mikey Erg has ever written. Even without buzzing guitars and racing tempos, these songs will still punch you in the gut. If you've been a fan of this man's music through the years, there's almost no way you won't love this record. And if your parents like it too, how is that anything but a huge win?


Thursday, August 1, 2019

* The Coolies - Uh Oh! It's​.​.​.The Coolies

There are supergroups, and then there are SUPERGROUPS! The news that Kim Shattuck and Melanie Vannem (Pandoras/The Muffs) had teamed up with radio personality extraordinaire Palmyra Delran (Pink Slip Daddy/The Friggs) to form a cartoon super-trio had me excited beyond belief. My only concern was that a lineup like that was going to set a very high bar in terms of expectations. Well I must tell you: * The Coolies are here, and they had no problem whatsoever clearing that bar! They are everything I imagined they would be and more. Their debut release, a 10" record from Wicked Cool Records, sold out so quickly that a second pressing is already in the works. And with all profits from this release going to The ALS Association Golden West Chapter, it warms my heart to see it doing so well! As you would expect from a collaboration involving these three rock and roll icons, these six songs hit that sweet spot where punk, garage, and '60s pop converge. Kim Shattuck is the primary songwriter, but all three band members are key contributors. I'm especially fond of the Palmyra Delran co-write "Blueberry Crumble". Due in no small part to a guest appearance on theremin from Stevie Van Zandt, this song will have you imagining * The Coolies turning up on an episode of Scooby-Doo! "Uh Oh!" sounds a lot like The Muffs (obviously!), and those harmonies are absolutely dazzling. "Ignoramus" puts the rock in garage rock, while the sweet country of "Glad I Met You" and perfect pop of "Yeah, I Don't I Know" will only cement Kim Shattuck's rep as a true master of melody-driven songwriting. If you're a fan of these three amazing women, you will not be disappointed by * The Coolies. And if you just love poppy punky garage rock in general, this is a release you won't want to miss. Reserve yourself a copy now!


Monday, July 29, 2019

The Sorels - self titled debut EP

What could be more exciting than a double debut?! This one in particular is worthy of an international celebration! Here we have the debut 7" from Winnipeg glam rock and roll trio The Sorels as well as the first-ever release from exciting new label Reta Records. This single is a co-release with the always fantastic Surfin' Ki Records, so you ought to know to expect something pretty great! The Sorels immediately become my favorite band from Winnipeg and perhaps even all of central Canada! "She's In The Gang" is an instant smash of '60s girl group pop by way of the Ramones and New York Dolls. I can't get this song out of my head, and I wouldn't want to even if I could! It's got an infectious beat, a whole lot of rockin' lead guitar, an irresistible sing-along hook, and even some killer piano to boot. And how about that bad-ass lead vocal?! This is just great rock and roll that follows in the footsteps of everyone from the Shangri-Las to The Runaways to the Bobbyteens to Baby Shakes to The Shanghais. It's certainly right at home on the Surfin' Ki roster, and it also gives you a great idea of what Reta Records is going to be all about! On the flip, "School Girl Blues" is more of a straight-up glam rocker with a ton of swagger and riffs for days. If you dig Suzi Quatro or more recent bands like BBQT and Furies, you're gonna flip for this one! This single leaves me wanting more - from both The Sorels and Reta Records! Official release date is on Wednesday, so hop on over to the Reta Records Bandcamp page or the Surfin' Ki store if you'd like to reserve a copy on blue or transparent red vinyl. No dilly-dallying, kids. This thing is gonna go FAST!


Friday, July 26, 2019

Stubborn Hearts - Trixie

After pilfering so many review ideas from Mick Fletcher, I would say I'm due for another Greg Mongroll pick. Although technically I'm stealing this one from Mick as well. What can I say? I stand on the shoulders of giants! I'm especially stoked on Greg Mongroll's recommendations when they're New England based. Stubborn Hearts are representing for Rhode Island, and I love that the band name says so much about who they are. Stubborn Hearts are Jenn Lombari (vocals/guitars/songwriting) and Doug Metivier (drums). The duo's new EP is called Trixie, and it delivers five songs of powerful & heartfelt melodic punk rock. Musically it recalls '80s/'90s emo-core and melodic hardcore, but the words and voice of Jenn Lombari are what really connect for me on a personal level. When bands go to the trouble to publish their lyrics, ideally it's because they have something meaningful to say that speaks to the human experience. And that's definitely the case here. These five songs are linked by one common thread: the agony of lost love and longing, and the toll that it all takes on our emotional state. Lombari addresses these themes in an open and wonderfully engaging way. This is intense stuff, and it's carried off with tremendous honesty and humor (the line "I've got mediums and therapists on speed dial" is both hilarious and devastating). Lead track "Our Hearts Are Turned To 10 Tonight" is honestly one of the most beautifully-written and spot-on love songs I've ever come across. I'm always awed when a two-minute song can say more about the fragility of romantic relationships than I ever could with thousands of words of prose. Those last five lines in particular give me goosebumps.

Stubborn Hearts are a band that remind me of why I came to love melodic punk music in the first place. Stripped down to just guitar, drums, and voice, their music exhibits a rawness I find incredibly refreshing in 2019. Trixie is full of relatable songs that emanate straight from the heart. At a time when "emo" has practically become a dirty word, this band demonstrates what emotional punk rock once was and still can be. Greg Mongroll will never steer you wrong!


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Born Readies - "Mean Genes"

Sometimes all you really need is some great rock and roll! "Mean Genes" is the new single from Denver-based rockers The Born Readies, and lord is this thing ever an explosion of big guitars and big hooks! This is the band's first release since last year's LP Its Just Rock & Roll, and it's the recorded debut of its latest lineup. If you dig '70s glam and the hooky side of classic rock, this tune ought to be right up your alley. I love the simplicity and clarity of this band's mission: "four dudes who want to make good tunes" and "keep it dumb and fun". These guys are true believers in rock and roll, and they know how to write a good, old-fashioned rock radio hit. They aren't overly conscious about their influences, although I can definitely hear some Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Slade, and early KISS in their musical DNA. "Mean Genes" is a name your price download over at Bandcamp, and it's the perfect song to crank loud in the car on a hot summer day. If you like what you hear, be sure to check out the album as well. Awesome band!


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Proto Idiot - Find Out For Themselves

My relationship with post-punk music has notoriously been of the love/hate variety. But in the case of Proto Idiot, it's strictly love. A lot of that has to do with the unique sound this Manchester trio has cultivated. It seems almost wrong to even call it post-punk. It might be better to describe it as "poppy new wave post-punk garage rock art", but I suppose that would be a mouthful. Try fitting that onto a promotional sticker! More importantly, my major complaint with most post-punk is that it's just no fun at all. Thankfully, "fun" is probably the first word that I would associate with Proto Idiot. Find Out For Themselves, the band's third album, matches its "angularity" and musical creativity with tremendous humor and a general sense of adventure and playfulness. Give me a post-punk album that has songs you can dance to, and I'm a happy camper! Check out the one-sheet description: "This is music for sophisticated eccentrics who enjoy the finer things in life – the sort of record that a mad and inbred member of the monarchy would relish." I mean, come on! How could you read that and NOT want to hear the record?!

Find Out For Themselves offers more of those "weird in a good way" musical antics that we have come to associate with the highly creative minds of Andrew Anderson, Callum Darley, and Michael Seal. I really get a kick out of a band that can go from the Wire/Gang of Four with Brit-pop leanings vibe of "Sit Back, Relax, Enjoy" right into the bizarro spazz-fest of "Prokel Yokel". And what comes after that? Sing-along synth-pop? Count me in! I like this album because it manages to traverse just about every corner of Proto Idiot's musical universe. "Fill In" is what Fugazi could have been if they had been English and not a terrible bore. "Nothing To It" is a delightful, Devo-ish romp. "Erase/Rewrite/Repeat" is what might have happened if Paul Weller had never formed The Style Council and instead started a groovy post-punk band. If you were at a club or bar or funeral parlor and heard "Find Out For Ourselves", you would absolutely be compelled to get up and dance. Propelled by Michael Seal's nifty bass work, "You're Not Nice" has a snotty energy to it that is nothing short of joyful. And if you're looking for more of Proto Idiot's "typical" poppy/garagey/quirky goodness, "Someone Else" delivers exactly that.

I've been a fan of Proto Idiot for a while, and I must say that Find Out For Themselves is the most complete fulfillment so far of the band's musical vision. It's fully post-modern yet very much steeped in the classic elements of British pop music. It's wonderfully creative yet still excitingly "punky". Basically these three have made an album so good that it has ruined almost all other post-punk for me. Good going!


Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Prostitutes - Nineteen

I recently did a Facebook post asking people to name "the five greatest punk rock bands from the state of Pennsylvania". As far as those types of posts go, I usually let my friends do the talking and withhold my own opinions. I'm actually thinking about doing a full top ten list that I'll publish here. But I will tell you this: my #1 greatest Pennsylvanian punk band, without a doubt, is The Prostitutes. That might have even been true if the band had broken up 20 years ago. But I continue to be awed and inspired by the amazing music Kevin McGovern continues to turn out under The Prostitutes name - now 23 years after the release of the band's debut single.

Now based in Baltimore, The Prostitutes in their latest incarnation are a tight power trio also featuring JR Matthew on guitar and Barry Jewels on drums. The recent digital single "Cheap Highs" was a clear indicator that the 2019 version of The Prostitutes are a major force to be reckoned with! In short order, the band is back with another outstanding single that's available as a name your price download from Bandcamp. "Nineteen" is like the older, wiser counterpart to the band's classic song "Twenty-Two". It's a tale of aimlessness, dead-end employment, and rampant chemical abuse. Except in this case, the lyrics come from a place of perspective and reflection. I think most of us have those moments where we look back upon on our younger selves and think, "What in the hell was I doing?!". If you're a great artist like Kevin McGovern, you turn those thoughts into a song. This is exactly the kind of music you would hope to hear from a punk band nearing the quarter century mark of its existence. Lyrically and musically, it's informed by life experience and personal growth. Yet it still rages with a passion and purpose. Kevin doesn't rest on his past glories. Working with his new band mates and kindred spirit producer Tim Shock, he's moving forward! But don't for a minute think that means that he's fully retired his notorious nasty streak. "Not Around" is full of the blunt truth-telling and eloquent tongue-lashings that have been a Kevin McGovern signature for years. And it just straight-up rocks! "Now I'm leaving town/Low budget hearse in reverse" just might be the line of the year. This song is vintage Prostitutes, yet it feels updated for the musical landscape of 2019 punk rock.

If you had told 25-year-old me that I'd be reviewing The Prostitutes in 2019, I would have said, "No fucking way!" I certainly didn't foresee myself still writing about punk records when I was pushing 50, and I probably didn't foresee The Prostitutes making it out of the '90s alive. Yet here we are, and one thing that's become clear to me through the years is that punk rock is not something that people "outgrow". Over 40 is probably the median age of the people who read this blog and the members of bands I write about! I can sit here with a straight face and tell you I'm genuinely excited about The Prostitutes future. Whether you're a longtime fan or just hearing this band for the first time, "Nineteen" is essential listening.


Friday, July 19, 2019

Booji Boys - Tube Reducer

Having taken the garage/punk scene by storm with a pair of brilliant LPs in 2017, Booji Boys have returned with a third album that will disappoint absolutely no one. Tube Reducer is due out on vinyl on Drunken Sailor Records next month, but the digital tracks have been made available for your immediate listening pleasure. Your first response will likely be something along the lines of "This sure sounds like Booji Boys!". And there's nothing wrong with that! This Halifax, Nova Scotia based outfit has an immediately identifiable sound that it has clearly perfected on this outing. In case you've been living under a rock for the past couple of years, I'll summarize: Booji Boys play pop songs at hardcore speed, with scuzzy lo-fi production and vocals so muffled that you'll swear they were recorded in another dimension (I hope I'm not giving away any trade secrets!). But don't let the budget fidelity distract you from appreciating some of the finest songwriting in today's punk world. Compared to its two predecessors, Tube Reducer is every bit as loaded with killer tunes. And the energy level of the band remains off the charts. Tracks like "Lucky Citizen" and "Berlinetta" are thrilling jolts of crackling melodic punk, while "Stevie Cool" is basically anthemic power pop if it were fired out of a missile launcher. While not exactly a cover, the title track is clearly an homage to a certain classic punk song. It's one of THE essential songs to rock out to in the summer of 2019. And while Booji Boys offer plenty of their signature sound here, they never let themselves become predictable. "Herky Jerky" and "Nervous Idea" find them revisiting their hardcore roots, while album closer "Moto-Hard" is precisely the off the rails noise rock anthem I've been awaiting for practically this entire millennium. There's no denying that the band's first two albums were going to be very hard to follow. But in Tube Reducer, Booji Boys have delivered a veritable masterpiece of lo-fi punk rock. It's their best album yet! LP will be out August 16th, so get your orders in now if you want one on silver or orange vinyl!


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wild Zeros/Proto Idiot - Jukebox Serie split 7"

It's hard to beat a split 7" when you really like both bands. Well today I've got a split featuring two bands I like a lot! Out on the new French label Permanent FREAK, this team-up between France's Wild Zeros and Manchester's Proto Idiot appears to be the first installment in a series called Jukebox Serie. Sometimes with splits, bands don't always put their best material out there. But I must say that that is not the case here. Both bands contribute a strong pair of all-new original songs. Wild Zeros turn out the tracks "Don't Want It, Still Get It" and "First Floor Freak". This is already the fourth Wild Zeros 7" release in less than a year, and this effort is very much in keeping with the previous three. Think '90s-style garage punk rock and roll with filthy guitars and a beat that's sure to get you shaking your hips. I'm especially partial to the blazing "First Floor Freak". Given the partnership with Wild Zeros here, it's fitting that "Tell Me What You Want" is Proto Idiot at its "punkiest" (yet still plenty quirky/oddball). If you're looking for a song to inspire you to suddenly start vigorously jumping up and down for no apparent reason other than it would be tremendous fun, this track ought to do it! What a jolt of energy! "New Ways of Seeing" slows the pace a tad, exploring that poppy side of new wave/post-punk/art-punk that these gentlemen are so well known to occupy. And if you're left wanting more, you're in luck since Proto Idiot just released a new LP!

I would imagine that if you're a fan of one of these bands, you're probably a fan of the other. And if not, maybe you will become one now! I hope this is just the first of many installments of Permanent FREAK's Jukebox Serie. It's limited to just 300 copies, so get cracking!


Monday, July 15, 2019

The Dialers - self titled

Those of you who come to this space in search of quality power pop are in for a treat today! Mick Fletcher sent me a link to The Dialers' self-titled LP the other day, and it was immediate music to my ears! The Dialers, now based in both Sacramento and Houston, feature ex-members of BOATS!. Out now on the illustrious and ever-dependable No Front Teeth Records, the band's debut album is ten tracks of textbook power pop. These guys have that classic skinny tie era sound down pat with a touch of punk-pop influence on a couple tracks. This really hits the sweet spot for me: good, punchy guitars, melody-driven songwriting, big hook choruses, and lyrics about love and heartbreak. What could be better? Digital album is a $5 download from Bandcamp, while No Front Teeth is offering three different versions of the vinyl. This thing really scratches my eternal itch for power pop. Good call, Mick!


Saturday, July 13, 2019

NECK - You Don't Think It's Evil

Today NECK. On deck: Booji Boys and The Sorels. I've often thought that my coverage of Canadian bands could turn into a blog of its very own! But that would be kind of wacky for a guy from Pennsylvania to be blogging exclusively about bands from Canada. Speaking of wacky, we have this new album from the almighty NECK. There's not much that needs to be said of these guys other than that they're true legends and ought to have a hockey team or at least a tasty pilsner named after them. You Don't Think It's Evil is the follow-up to their 2015 classic Hate To Read, and it adheres strictly to all the central tenets of NECK-dom. These gentleman continue to carry on like they're HEAD's goofier Canadian cousins, and they take care to limit each track to a minute-and-a-half or less. On this set, NECK weighs in on topics such as online dating, the fear of dying in a sinkhole, the scourge of self-righteous joggers, murder for hire, the effects of excessive beer drinking, and joining the skyforce "just because". It's as if they peered into my soul and wrote an album that would speak to my life experience. This is brilliant stuff, but of course you knew that already if you're a fan. Ramonescore at its absolute finest!


Friday, July 12, 2019

Suspect Parts - "You Know I Can't Say No" (Video Premiere)

I am deeply honored to premiere "You Know I Can't Say No" - the new music video from Suspect Parts! It has been released in conjunction with the powerpop/punk supergroup's new single of the same name. Following the band's tremendous debut album from 2017, "You Know I Can't Say No" is Suspect Parts' first single in nine years and fifth overall. It's out today on Dirt Cult Records in the USA and Wanda Records in Europe.

Made up of Justin Maurer (Clorox Girls, Maniac), James "Sulli" Sullivan (Ripchord, More Kicks), Chris Brief, and Andru Bourbon (Radio Dead Ones), Suspect Parts represent the union of three countries and several complementary musical aesthetics. The group's brand of buzzsaw powerpop/punk has roots in '60s pop, early UK punk, and the melody-driven punk rock of '70s California/early 2000s Pacific Northwest ."You Know I Can't Say No" is vintage Suspect Parts - a bittersweet pop song with a whole lot of guitar crunch. There are times when I think that Sulli is the new Pete Shelley, and this is one of those occasions! The video was shot at Smail Shock's recording studio in Kaulsdorf, East Berlin. Shock (from legendary Berlin punk band The Shocks) recorded this single as well as the band's LP. You can see him in this video walking down the stairs and watering plants in the control room. I consider myself a big Suspect Parts fan, and this is my favorite track from this band to date. That melody is something else! Accompanying "You Know I Can't Say No" on this release are another brilliant heart-wrenching pop tune in "Song For Sadie" and a really fun cover of "Hundsgemein" by Berlin new wave band Ideal. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you need this record and this band in your life. This is how you do powerpop/punk! My friends in Europe can order the record here! If you're in the States, order here!


Monday, July 8, 2019

Johnathan Pushkar - "The Girl Next Door"

Marty Scott of the legendary JEM Records first heard Johnathan Pushkar only last week. He signed him immediately and has very quickly released the single "The Girl Next Door" on JEM. Scott says of the Nashville-based Pushkar: "He's the new kid on the Power Pop block, but I think he is going to own a lot of property very soon." I'm in full agreement. Ya gotta love a guy whose musical philosophy is "Writing songs for today's audience like it's 1965"! Armed with a 12-string Rickenbacker, Pushkar is a power pop classicist drawing his primary inspiration from the British Invasion and '60s pop in general. He's got the hooks, he's got the style, and he clearly understands the timeless art of the three minute pop song. "The Girl Next Door" is his third single, and it arrives in advance of his debut album (recorded by my favorite music producer, Wyatt Funderburk!). Enjoy - and stay tuned!


Sunday, July 7, 2019

Autogramm - "Bad Day"

Here we have a release that combines three of my favorite things in music: Canada, new wave, and Jarama 45RPM Recs! Autogramm is a band comprised of well-known players from the Vancouver music scene. Jiffy Marx (Hard Drugs, Blood Meridian) is on guitar. CC Voltage (Dysnea Boys, Loyalties, Black Halos, Spitfires) is on bass. The Silo (Black Mountain, Lightning Dust, Destroyer) is on drums. And yet Autogramm is completely unlike the aforementioned bands. This trio plays a brand of new wave pop that's most definitely informed by early '80s radio (The Cars, Gary Numan, Devo) but also "modern" enough sounding to not be dismissed as a mere nostalgia trip. With Autogramm drawing equally from synth-pop, power pop, and new wave rock influences, it's no surprise that new single "Bad Day" sounds like a radio hit that time forgot. Of course it reminds me of an era in popular music that I very fondly recall. But even without the synths, this would have been a well-crafted and immensely catchy pop song. Those hooks are legit! And at a deeper level, I really respect that Jiffy's lyrics are intensely personal and explore the very serious topic of depression. By confronting such dark subject matter in such a musically uplifting way, this song has the effect of reaching out to those in need. I always love it when music connects people in truly meaningful ways. On the flip, "Quiero Estar Sedad" is a cover of a well-known classic song that just about everyone reading this surely loves. I was just talking with someone recently about the topic of Ramones covers that are genuinely good, as opposed to just being second rate copies. Well this one definitely falls into the category of genuinely good! When it comes to ways to transform a song, altering the musical style and the language of the lyrics are pretty effective options. This is so fun! What a wonderful single - and another smash from the Jarama 45RPM hit factory! I also recommend checking out Autogramm's excellent album from last year titled What R U Waiting 4?!


Friday, July 5, 2019

The Darrans - self titled

What's this: another killer Aussie punk band?! If you're wondering what's been going on with Australian punk lately, I'd say it's the same thing that's been going on for the last 40 years. It's just that the world has been paying closer attention the last couple of years. The Darrans definitely share musical DNA with Radio Birdman, Cosmic Psychos, The Hard-Ons, and many other legends of Aussie punk. In fact, I'd describe their debut album as quintessential Aussie punk. This band plays loud and aggressive punk rock with thundering guitars, an unruly attitude, and a singer who knows how to scream his guts out in a totally bad-ass way. If you're craving some ripping old style punk rock with just the right amount of heavy rock influence, songs like "Alright", "Crispy Socks", and "Come Steyne" ought to give you the jolt you desire. In general, I'd say this album will batter your eardrums. And I mean that, of course, as a high compliment. These guys tear through most of these tracks like they're trying to flatten everything in their path. And even when they slow things down a tad ("The Thing"), their sound is absolutely pummeling. Remember when hardcore punk wasn't yet called hardcore because it was, you know, just punk? That's what The Darrans remind me of. Crank this loud and annoy the neighbors!


Thursday, July 4, 2019

The Ten Greatest American Punk Bands

Seven years ago today, I made a list of the ten greatest American punk bands. I used to do fun stuff like that all of the time back in the early days of this blog when the only people reading were a handful of my friends. I thought it would be fun to re-make that list today and see how my selections have changed. Without peeking at the old list, I worked up the new one and then compared it to what I wrote in 2011. The difference in the two lists in some way reflects how my tastes have evolve (Man, I haven't had the inclination to put on a Bad Religion record in years!). It also reflects me broadening my definition of "punk rock" over time. I did limit my selections to the punk era (1976 to present), so that's why there's no Stooges or New York Dolls. But by all means, I would highly approve of someone else including those two bands on their list! On that note, here we go!

10. The Rip Offs
The Rip Offs only made one album, but what an album it was! Got A Record along with the band's five classic singles helped define a standard for what garage punk ought to be. And while the sound/recording aesthetic is easily imitated, it was the tunes that made The Rip Offs unbeatable. Their influence is still felt to this day.

9. The Humpers
Speaking of influential bands! The Humpers were the best of that entire wave of '90s "punk rock n' roll" bands. They took tried-and-true Heartbreakers/New York Dolls/Dead Boys inspirations, mixed them with the best of early rock and roll, and created something unique and exciting. One of the greatest American rock and roll bands, period. 

8. The Real Kids
Here's a classic case of my evolving definition of "punk rock". The younger me might have argued that The Real Kids were a power pop band or just a rock and roll band. Today I'd say they were/are both of those things - but also a defining band of first wave American punk rock!

7. Dead Boys
Every time I revisit this band's catalog, I'm reminded why I came to love 'em in the first place. I've flipped-flopped 26 times over which album I prefer, but man the music sure holds up! The real deal! 

6. Black Flag
In the past, I would have qualified this selection with "Keith Morris era only". But screw it...I have come to not only appreciate the Rollins era stuff but also sometimes prefer it! The Complete 1982 Demos blow my head off! The greatest hardcore punk band to ever walk the earth.

5. Avengers
I recall my quest as a younger lad in the '90s trying to track down a copy of the pink album. And when I finally did, that record became a permanent staple of my turntable. Now thanks to the wonders of modern technology, this essential part of music history is available to everyone. These songs still give me chills.

4. Zeros
When it comes to '77 era teenage punk with a pop sensibility, this is a band that ought to mentioned with the best of 'em.

3. The Dictators
I mean, come on: what's the name of this blog?! 

2. Pagans
THE definitive Midwestern American punk band. Its influence on what would later become "garage" punk was immeasurable. No punk music collection is complete without a proper Pagans best-of. I highly recommend this one.

1. Ramones 
The greatest punk band from any country!

So there you go. Honorable mentions go out to The Heartbreakers, Devil Dogs, Wipers, Adolescents, and Angry Samoans. There were ultimately six bands in common between this list and my 2011 list. I recently posed a similar question on my Facebook feed the other day (look me up: Josh Rutledge, York, PA) and got a lot of great responses. Maybe I'll do this list again in seven more years!


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Pavid Vermin - Jump, Jive, And Fail

Well here's a band I can pretty much guarantee you've never heard of before - because it did not exist prior to this spring! Pavid Vermin is actually the name of a one-man project completed by the talented Rhode Island musician Glenn Robinson. It all started when Robinson did some lo-fi recordings in his basement earlier this year. He thought they sounded cool but doubted that they were of a high enough recording quality to merit a proper release. For fun, he decided to share one of the tracks via a story on his hilarious Instagram Obscurist Vinyl. The next thing you know, Pavid Vermin was getting fan mail from Mikey Erg and an offer from the wonderful Bloated Kat Records to do a full album. So Robinson wrote a bunch of songs in just a few weeks, and now Pavid Vermin is a real band with a real CD on a real label! And Jump, Jive, And Fail is honestly one of the best things I've heard all year! Robinson has always had a knack for writing really good poppy punk and power pop songs. But with this particular release, the lo-fi approach complements his voice and style of the songwriting in a way that could not be more perfect. What results is a really cool blend of pop-punk, power pop, and indie pop. I'd say Mikey Erg's admiration definitely falls into the category of "great minds think alike"! This is just great catchy punk with a truckload of memorable hooks and just the right amount of DIY charm. It's definitely at home on the same label that has released the likes of House Boat, Lipstick Homicide, and Science Police. If you're into the lo-fi end of pop-punk, you're gonna LOVE this album! Digital release is a name your price download, and the CD can be had for just $8 plus shipping!


Monday, July 1, 2019

The Speedways - "Seen Better Days"

Hey! The Speedways have become a full-fledged band! I previously hailed Just Another Regular Summer as a royal treat for power pop fans and one of my favorite albums of 2018. While The Speedways were originally a one-off project created by Matt Julian, the addition of Mauro Venegas (guitar), Adrian Alfonso (bass), and Los Pepes/More Kicks drummer Kris Hood has made this band a permanent entity. And that's great - because the idea of never hearing more music from The Speedways was really bumming me out! Out now on Snap Records/Hurrah Musica is the debut 7" from The Speedways. On the A-side, "Seen Better Days" is to my mind the finest track from the album. This was the song that turned me into an instant Speedways fan last summer. Backing "Seen Better Days" is the first recording from the full band version of The Speedways - a cover of the Kirsty MacColl classic "They Don't Know". We could get into a whole conversation about why a band should or should not have a go at a seemingly untouchable song. Instead I'll just urge you to read Pulsebeat host Wayne Elliott's interview with Matt Julian over at Just Some Punk Songs. It really gets into the reasons why the band chose to record this song and how it tried to put its own stamp on the number. I must say that while The Speedways had the impossible task of matching the original, their rendition is more than respectable. And if this sends at least one person off in search of the Kirsty MacColl version, it will have been a worthy endeavor!

While The Speedways have already run through their initial copies of "Seen Better Days", more supplies are on the way. Be sure to follow the group's Bandcamp and Facebook pages for updates. And if you still haven't picked up Just Another Regular Summer, you're missing one of the best power pop records of recent memory!


Saturday, June 29, 2019

Kurt Baker Combo - "(I Can't Help) Failing In Love"

How about we close out the month with something super great! You know I'm a huge fan of the Kurt Baker Combo, so it's likely I'd write a positive review even if they put out a whole album of a cappella covers of hair metal songs (wait, that actually sounds kind of awesome!). But in all honesty, I must say the band's new 7" on Wicked Cool Records is probably its best release to date. "(I Can't Help) Failing In Love" is Baker's first 7" with the Combo since 2015. Note the spelling on the title track. This isn't the Elvis song. It's an original number that Baker co-wrote with his longtime collaborator Wyatt Funderburk and producer Mike Mariconda. Given Funderburk's involvement, you would expect a little of that old Brand New Beat/Brand New B Sides magic. And if that's what you're expecting, you will not be disappointed! "(I Can't Help) Failing In Love" hits that sweet spot where classic power pop meets early '80s radio hit rock. And when I say "hit", I'm not kidding. Oh my god, those hooks! This is probably the "poppiest" track Baker has released since signing to Wicked Cool. And if you think I mean that as anything but a supreme compliment, you don't know me very well. It's great to hear Baker flex those power pop muscles again. And it sure doesn't hurt that his band mates (Juancho Lopez on bass, Jorge Colldan on lead guitar, and Sam Malakian on drums) rock this number into next week! On the flip side, "Pack My Bags" has a "Joe Jackson circa 1980" feel to it. I've got no complaints about that at all! This Baker/Mariconda original does a magnificent job of playing up the Combo's formidable chops in a way that fully serves the song. And you are likely to find yourself whistling that melody all day!

 "(I Can't Help) Failing In Love" was executive produced by Wicked Cool's very own Steven Van Zandt. This is a case where the artist, label, and producer all clearly shared a vision for what a good 7" record ought to be. You've got the perfect pop hit backed with a B-side that actually gets you excited to flip over the record. Of course these songs are great in a digital format as well. But this single was obviously designed to be a 45, and I highly recommend enjoying it in that fashion. I envision this record in a jukebox or topping a pile of 45s next to your bedroom turntable. My Italian friends should watch out for the Kurt Baker Combo coming your way live July 10-12!


Friday, June 21, 2019

Mono In Stereo - Can't Stop The Bleeding

If Rum Bar Records did not intentionally release Mono In Stereo's new EP on the first day of summer, then that was one hell of a coincidence! Out today, Can't Stop the Bleeding sounds like it was made for those warm afternoons you spend on the porch guzzling cold beer and shooting the shit with your pals. Arriving four years after the band's terrific debut album Long For Yesterday, these five tracks hit that spot where the great American rock n' roll of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty intersects with '80s/'90s Midwestern punk. Mono In Stereo has a reputation for writing anthemic songs, and the band wastes no time delivering more on this EP. Right out of the gates, punchy rocker "The Conversation" hits you with a chorus that you'll be hard-pressed to resist singing along with at the top of your lungs. Given all of the heart, passion, and conviction that these guys put into their music, their knack for writing quality songs sometimes gets overlooked. It shouldn't. If you're looking for hooks, "The Conversation" has sure got 'em! And I really dig the lyrics. You get the gist of what's going on, but there's enough room for interpretation that you can apply this song to your own life. "Different Kind Of Man" is vintage Mono In Stereo right down to the culminating "whoa oh" chanting, while "Not Your Fault" finds the band embracing the classic American power pop sound you might expect from a group hailing from Rockford, Illinois. Those three songs alone would have made a fine EP. But Can't Stop the Bleeding manages to save its best for last. It finishes strong with a couple of fist-raising anthems - "Fores" and the title track. "Fores" is the band's most powerful song to date - an impassioned cry of support for the LGBTQ community and its ongoing fight for equality. It skillfully appropriates an iconic rock riff - whose author is fully acknowledged in the songwriting credits. As a fan of music that celebrates and catalyzes positive social change, I choose to believe "Fores" can play some small role in the betterment of all humanity. I dream of living in a world where the words "You're not alone!" are being chanted in the streets. Closing track "Can't Stop the Bleeding (Send Me Away)" is not so much a ballad as it is a battle hymn. Its gruff-voiced sincerity is nothing unusual for modern-day punk rock, but it rises above the ordinary on the strength of a rousing chorus and an indelible melody.

Call it dad rock, call it heartland punk, call it Americana rock n' roll, call it whatever: the music of Mono In Stereo is proof that "mature" rock can still pack a punch. This band still cranks up the guitars and approaches songwriting like it's trying to move mountains. These guys demonstrate that getting older (I can say it because I'm their same age!) doesn't have to mean surrendering your passion or the urgency of your mission. I went into this release expecting anthems, and I was not let down. And let's be honest: they pretty much had me with the cover art!