Monday, April 29, 2019

The Cheap Cassettes - "Worse N' Better"

Here's another one of those "No, you didn't just imagine that I reviewed this before!" posts. I did the same thing with Geoff Palmer's new single earlier in the month. And if I don't extend The Cheap Cassettes the very same courtesy, that would really diminish the chances of one of these guys someday buying me an adult beverage. We are talking about one of my three favorite bands and all the glory that entails. Guys, I swear your F & L varsity jackets are in production!

"Worse N' Better"/"Hieroglyphics In Lipstick" is The Cheap Cassettes' second 7", but it was actually their first single. Confused yet? These two songs originally came out on a nifty-looking cassette single I reviewed back in September of 2017. But with that release limited to a scant 50 copies, the fabled Cheap Cassettes' debut cassette is probably even rarer than the cassingles you might have owned back in the '90s (check under the back seat of your car just in case). The band's plan all along was to eventually release this single on record. And you know what? When The Cheap Cassettes plan things, they follow through! The band has flipped the order of the songs and released them as a 7" record on its own label Cassettes On Record Records. So now "Worse N' Better" is "the hit", and "Hieroglyphics In Lipstick" is the proverbial "B-side that could have been the A-side". I would not have argued either way. "Worse N' Better" probably didn't get the attention it deserved the first time around, so now it steps into the spotlight. I won't really get into breaking down these two tracks since I've, you know, already done that. I'll just say that if you like power pop and aren't already an obsessed fan of The Cheap Cassettes, what are you waiting for?! And how cool must it be to be able to put out your own record and have it say "recorded & mixed by Kurt Bloch" on the back?! Head on over to Bandcamp and order this bad boy today!



-L.R.

https://cheapcassettes.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/cheapcassettes/ 
https://www.facebook.com/cassettesonrecordrecords 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Sick Bags - "Cigarette Spit"

If you've been following this blog closely over the years, you may recall that the Faster and Louder "Greg Mongroll picks" have a storied history dating back to year one. It was Greg who first alerted me to the existence of The Cry!, The Shirks, Thee Mighty Fevers, Patsy's Rats, and many more bands that I would come to love. His latest pick is very much in keeping with the previous ones. Sick Bags are a fairly new band out of Richmond, Virginia playing great trashy punk rock and roll. With me recently craving some straight-up snotty punk rock, this Mongroll pick was well-timed! "Cigarette Spit" is Sick Bags' debut EP, and it arrives on the heels of that killer track "Microwaved Brains" from last year's Typical Girls Volume 3 compilation. You may know guitarist/songwriter Tony Leet from his previous bands Dirty Fingers and the Ladies. Lead singer Mel Medina is fronting a band for the first time, but she sure sounds like a natural. I'm hearing the influence of everything from the sleazy side of '77 punk to old school California punk to '90s garage trash. No complaints there! If you like your punk music raw, gritty, and chock full of attitude, these three tracks ought to hit the spot!



-L.R.

https://sickbags.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/getyoursickout/ 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Vista Blue - Around The World

Has it really been almost five months since I've reviewed Vista Blue? That's hard to believe! There's been a lot going on in Vista Blue land of late. The band is just about to wrap up a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund its first-ever recording in a "real" studio. That studio just happens to be the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis, and the tapes from that session will be sent to Europe to be mixed and mastered by Perry Leenhouts (Travoltas/Point Break Sounds). You still have a few days left if you wish to support this project with a pre-order of the record. In the meantime, Vista Blue continues to make tons of music available for free download. "Opening Day" was released last month to commemorate the start of baseball season (I long for those days of boundless optimism among Phillies fans...). A collection of outtakes/unreleased tracks called Pieces came out a few weeks before that. Now we have Around the World, which features four cover songs that will soon appear on a compilation CD on Radiant Radish also featuring Los Padrinos!, The Barbecuties, and The Screaming Dogs.

I really like covers records, and I always enjoy Vista Blue's covers. So Around the World makes me doubly happy! "Uh Oh" is a song originally released in 1983 by New Orleans power pop legends The Limit. If you are unfamiliar with "Uh Oh", I highly recommend seeking out the original version of this classic song! Vista Blue honors it with a very fine cover version. I have to admit I was somewhat dreading VB's cover of "Bonehead's Bank Holiday" by Oasis. But this particular interpretation of the song sounds much more like Vista Blue than it sounds like Oasis. That's a win in my book. I'll never deny that Noel Gallagher writes brilliant songs....I just like it better when other bands are performing them! "Let's Go (To Pasadena To Meet Your Parents)" off of The Kung Fu Monkeys' third 7" Hi-Fi At Low Tide is a song that many '90s pop-punkers like me hold sacred. It really makes sense that Vista Blue would cover a Kung Fu Monkeys song given that the two bands are such kindred spirits. And while no mortal band can outdo the Kung Fu Monkeys, Vista Blue turns in a more than respectable rendition of this particular song. To finish the record, the band has at The Mamas and the Papas' iconic "California Dreamin'". And with a little help from some special guest star singers, this cover turned out great!

I appreciate that the four songs Vista Blue chose to cover for Around The World are extremely meaningful to the band. All of the bands covered here were huge influences on Vista Blue. Given Vista Blue's musical style, "California Dreamin'" seems like the perfect choice of a cover. Yet it easily could have gone sideways if the band hadn't absolutely nailed it. And if you were previously unfamiliar with The Limit or (God forbid!) The Kung Fu Monkeys, I hope this release inspires you to check those bands out. Keep your eyes on Radiant Radish Records for further info on the full Around The World CD!



-L.R.

https://wearevistablue.bandcamp.com/album/around-the-world 
https://www.facebook.com/wearevistablue/ 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Short Fuses - Dawn of the Deaf

Well that didn't take very long! Remember when I told you that The Short Fuses' "comeback" single "The Pink" was a teaser for a brand-new full-length album? I bet you didn't think the tease would only last two weeks! The Short Fuses just couldn't be cruel enough to make you wait several months for Dawn of the Deaf. Out digitally today on Ramo Records, this is the Minneapolis trio's long-awaited fourth album - and first since 2003's Dutchess Hustle.

I will admit that I'm always suspicious when any reviewer proclaims a longstanding band's latest album its "best yet". It's usually a load of crap. And given my involvement in writing some of the press info for Dawn of the Deaf, you would be doubly advised to approach this review skeptically (I would probably suggest that for all of my reviews!). But as a fan, I 100% believe this is The Short Fuses' best album. And it's not even close. The irony is that I'm a notoriously "pop" guy, and this is by far the least pop thing the band has ever done. There were always hints of pop lodged in there with the rock and soul on previous records. Dawn of the Deaf, on the other hand, is a fully focused hard-rocking record made by three individuals who sound like they're on a mission to pummel anything in their path. To recap the origins of this record, The Short Fuses had not recorded or played together since 2003. In the intervening years, Miss Georgia Peach and Travis Ramin had played in 1,000 bands combined (I exaggerate; it was only 999). Justin Staggs was, among other things, painting, making movies, and directing music videos. At some point not too long ago, Justin was writing some new songs that seemed perfect for The Short Fuses. He realized he missed playing with his good friends Georgia and Travis. The feeling was mutual. And just like that, a band was reborn. Travis, who'd been working on a large number of power pop projects, was really itching to rip some guitar. And riding a surge of 2016 election rage, The Short Fuses were energized to make their most powerful sonic statement yet. The band called in the big guns. Daniel Rey (Ramones, Nashville Pussy, Misfits) was enlisted to produce Dawn of the Deaf. Adrian Popovich from Tricky Woo was brought in to mix the record. The legendary Geza X was tapped for mastering duties. All stops were pulled out to ensure that this album would melt faces. Did it work? Well, I would definitely recommend donning protective headgear before clicking play.

I am a fan of the entire Short Fuses' catalog. But to me, Dawn of the Deaf sounds like the album this band has been trying to make for 20 years. Sometimes there's no substitute for that veteran know-how. And the band's excitement over making this record is palpable. It doesn't hurt that Georgia sounds amazing. Her voice is just so full of power and soul and a conviction that is undeniable. In that respect, she's perfectly in sync with the entire band. The Short Fuses have unleashed a resistance rock record for 2019, and they could not sound any more fired-up and raring to fight! You can hear the group channeling its inner Motörhead and MC5 more than ever. There's also a discernible Misfits/Danzig flavor to a lot of these songs which reflects the band members' East Coast upbringing. If you prefer your heavy rock with a sniff of the supernatural, the title track and "Galloping Ghost" ought to hit you just where you like it. Meanwhile, songs like "Baby Got Bat Wings" and "Rockford Getaway" demonstrate how to properly do scorching rock and roll with a soul influence. If you're not already pissed about the present state of things, "Furiosa" just might push you over the edge. A song titled "Rock Yo Self (Until You Wreck Yo Self)" promises something very epic...and proceeds to deliver exactly that!

I think most of us would have been perfectly happy with ANY new music from The Short Fuses. I would gladly have taken instrumental covers of Gaga hits or a concept album about the life and times of Ralph Malph. But lord almighty, has this trio ever crushed this reunion! Dawn of the Deaf is the ultimate "crank-it-up-loud and rock-the-fuck-out!" raging guitar record. The riffs are roaring, the solos are fire, and Miss Georgia reminds us that she is one of the true powerhouse singers in rock. And from a songwriting perspective, the band has never delivered a more compelling batch of tunes. If you've been waiting a while to have your ass kicked by a rock and roll record, HERE YOU GO!



-L.R.

https://theshortfuses.bandcamp.com/album/dawn-of-the-deaf
https://www.shortfuses.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/TheShortFuses/ 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Geoff Palmer - "This One's Gonna Be Hot"

You might be asking, "Didn't you already review this one last year?!" I sure did! But a second post for Geoff Palmer's solo smash "This One's Gonna Be Hot" is warranted because it's finally available on record! And if ever there were a song that needed to be on a 7", this was the one! The legendary Stardumb Records has ventured to release the 7", and I've got a feeling this thing is gonna fly off the shelves! The Connection singer/guitarist has gone back to his pop-punk roots and delivered an instant classic party song. I am somewhat notorious for disliking party anthems, but I must admit that I have been fully converted by "This One's Gonna Be Hot"! I might even be persuaded to drink some of that Miller Lite! That line "This one's gonna be hot/When it drops" is what I call truth in advertising! As you gather that big stack of vinyl to spin at your next house party or DJ outing, this one is a mandatory inclusion!

The release of this single comes in advance of a full solo LP from Geoff Palmer titled Pulling Out All The Stops. Out next month, the album will be a co-release between Stardumb and Rum Bar Records. Backing "This One's Gonna Be Hot" are two tracks exclusive to this 7". "Punker Than Me" is a cover of an Invalids song that was a rite of passage for almost every pop-punk kid in 1995. Here Palmer and friends have given it their own twist and actually outdone the original in my humble opinion. In a much different vein, "That's What You Do" is a perfect slice of the Beach Boys/Beatles influenced pop that has long been a Palmer specialty. Head on over to Stardumb Records to snag the single and pre-order the album. Both of these fine products are available in the States from The Machine Shop!



-L.R.

https://www.stardumbrecords.com/ 
https://geoffpalmer.bandcamp.com/album/this-ones-gonna-be-hot-ep 
https://www.facebook.com/GeoffPalmerMusic/ 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Prissteens - Almost 24

What's this, another Prissteens collection from Girlsville? Well kind of. Almost 24 is essentially a re-vamped version of 2016's long out-of-print Demos and Rarities cassette - with the live cuts and 7" tracks replaced by additional demos covering the years 1996-99. If you missed out on Demos and Rarities, Almost 24 retains the most intriguing aspect of that collection: the nine tracks The Prissteens demoed in 1999 in preparation for their second album. That album was never made, but Lori Lindsay and Leslie Day reemerged a few years later with their new band Purple Wizard. Songs like "If You Really Loved Me" and "Sugarboy" bridge the gap between both bands and suggest that a second Prissteens album would likely have sounded quite different from the first. Minus the live cuts and studio tracks, Almost 24 has a nice flow to it. This is the most inclusive collection of Prissteens demos ever assembled, with songs representing the full span of the band's career. And even if you already own both volumes of Demos and Rarities,  you will definitely want to shell out a buck for a download of the previously unreleased "Don't Think About You". I wondered after the release of Demos and Rarities Volume 2 if there could possibly be any more "A"-list Prissteens demos lying around. Apparently there was at least one! "Don't Think About You" is what I like to think of as the "true" Prissteens sound - raw garage rock inspired by '60s pop and girl groups. If you're a Prissteens super-fan, "Don't Think About You" is a must-own track. And come on: you'll want to own the cassette since it's just so freaking cool! For those of you who still own nothing by The Prissteens, I'd probably say start with the Demos and Rarities Volume 2 download and work your way out from there. Either way, we are talking about one of the greatest rock and roll bands to come out of New York City (or anywhere else, for that matter!) in the '90s. I will always jump on any opportunity to write about The Prissteens!



-L.R.

https://girlsville.bandcamp.com/album/the-prissteens-almost-24 
https://www.facebook.com/GirlsvilleRecords 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Lifters - "Are You Ready For The Good Life"

"Are You Ready For The Good Life" is the sort of song title that seems to promise something. You can't call your song that and not deliver a killer track. And deliver a killer track is exactly what Durham, North Carolina's Lifters have done! You might not be familiar with this band yet, but you probably know who these guys are. The group was formed by Colin Sneed and Johnny Valiant after the breakup of Unwed Teenage Mothers. To round out the trio, they recruited the one and only Rich Crook (Reatards, Lost Sounds, Lover). Given the individuals involved, you might expect something in the vicinity of garage punk and power pop with a little of that Carolina sauce. And you'd be right! "Are You Ready For The Good Life" is the band's debut single, and just the second release from Nashville's Uh Huh Records. The A-side is an absolutely crackling number that begs to be played over and over. It ought to have you bobbing your head and tapping your toes and turning up the volume. To my ears, it's like early Replacements meets loud fuzzy pop with a pinch of the Saints. On the B-side, "Plane" is another good, bouncy rocker with cool noisy guitars.

In a good way, Lifters brings to mind the heyday of Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill indie rock. Lifters are a band I am sure will appeal to regular followers of this blog, and yet at the same time they don't sound like any other band. I'll have my eye on this trio going forward, and I will also be closely watching Uh Huh Records. The individuals running it clearly have fine taste. I also recommend the label's first release - a ripping single of catchy punk n' roll from wrestling enthusiasts The Mighty Jabronis!

   
-L.R.

https://uhhuhrecords.bandcamp.com/album/are-you-ready-for-the-good-life-b-w-plane 
https://www.facebook.com/uhhuhrecords/ 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Yoohoos - Up Goes The Rocket

The Yoohoos truly had me at "Hello!". I've always maintained that when pop-punk is done right, it's pretty much the best music ever. And The Yoohoos do pop-punk right! Up Goes The Rocket (Monster Zero Records) is the most exuberant, fun-filled collection of songs I've heard from any band in quite some time. It's actually this German trio's very first LP - although they've been a band for almost 14 years. There's only one word that properly describes this album, and that word is FUN! Would you expect anything else from three people named Eggnog, Vanilla, and Koko B.? The Yoohoos are definitely kindred spirits to Groovie Ghoulies, but with a more bubblegum sound and a more specific fascination with spaceships and aliens. What I enjoy about these three is that they're not afraid to go way over to the pop side of the fence. This is some of the poppiest pop-punk you'll ever hear, and I am loving it! The vibe is a great mix of goofy, sweet, and just plain adorable. Seriously: how can you not love a band that sings about cuddling all of the kittens in the world?! That's a mission I can truly endorse! The Yoohoos can rock the party like nobody's business ("Hello!", "Little Alien"), but they can also do pure tender pop that will just about break your heart ("Love Disposal Service", "Rainy Cloud"). There's just something super appealing about a band that can move seamlessly from the surprisingly touching sci-fi of "Rusty Robot" to the 41-second blitzkrieg of happiness that is "Spread The Magic". And after thinking for years that New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" would be an awesome song for a pop-punk band to cover, I am delighted to report that The Yoohoos have proven me right!

I have to admit that I had a "Where has this band been all of my life?" moment when I first heard Up Goes The Rocket. But I know darn well where The Yoohoos have been since 2005: in Nuremberg, making great pop-punk records! So the better question is where have I been all this band's life? This album just puts a massive smile on my face, and I'm so glad that Kevin from Monster Zero took the time to tell me about it. Yoohoos 'r GO!



-L.R.

https://monsterzerorecords.bandcamp.com/album/up-goes-the-rocket 
https://monsterzerorecords.com/products/yoohoos-the-up-goes-the-rocket-lp 
https://theyoohoos.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/yoohoosarego 
https://www.facebook.com/MonsterZeroPunkrock 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Les Breastfeeders - "Ma Mort D'avant Ma Mort"

It often occurs to me that I don't write about garage rock frequently enough. So here's something really great from the garage world that just released today. Montreal's Les Breastfeeders return from a long absence with a new single on Blow The Fuse Records. "Ma Mort D'avant Ma Mort" is the band's first new record since 2011 and first new music since 2012. Given the long time that has passed since the band's last album, it's not shocking that "Ma Mort D'avant Ma Mort" finds Les Breastfeeders showing a little "progression". Moving away from the band's signature wild '60s punk sound, this track takes the psychedelic garage route with elegantly hypnotic guitars, great-sounding harmonies, and a toe-tapping beat that is very hard to resist. The fact that the lyrics are sung in the band's native tongue really enhances the '60s Francophone feel of this number. I'm sometimes lukewarm on the garage-psych thing, but I absolutely LOVE this song! The production and songwriting are top-notch. The B-side is a cover of Chocolate Watchband's classic 1967 single "Sweet Young Thing". It's very much in the spirit of the original, but Les Breastfeeders definitely put their own little twist on it.

While largely known for their exciting live performances, Les Breastfeeders are not exactly slouches in the studio. "Ma Mort D'avant Ma Mort" is one of the strongest garage rock singles I've heard in a good while. If you like what you hear, the group has three full-length albums that you can stream via Bandcamp. I'm particularly partial to the track "Hé​-​hé" from the band's debut Déjeuner sur l'herbe!



-L.R.

https://lesbreastfeeders.ca/ 
https://blowthefuserecords.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/lesbreastfeeders 
https://www.blowthefuserecords.com/en/ 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Short Fuses - "The Pink"

They're back! 16 years after The Short Fuses called it a day, they have returned with a new single that teases the shortly forthcoming full-length Dawn of the Deaf. It's not like the individuals in this band haven't kept busy over the past decade and a half. There's not enough time in the day to adequately review the musical resumes of Travis Ramin and Miss Georgia Peach. And Justin Staggs has done wonderful things as a filmmaker and painter. But something special happens when these three get together to play rock n' roll. The Short Fuses' reunion has produced the band's most ferocious material to date, and these two new songs ought to whet your appetite for the monster LP that is soon to come. Inspired in part by 2016 election rage and in part by Travis needing to cleanse his musical palette after working on so much power pop stuff, this incarnation of The Short Fuses is a pure rock n' roll experience. The trio sounds fired-up and focused, and they've really pulled out all of the stops to ensure that faces will be melted. These songs were produced by Daniel Rey, mixed By Adrian Popovich (Tricky Woo), and mastered by Geza X. Now that's a lot of star power! Not surprisingly, the band sounds awesome. "The Pink" is thundering heavy rock a la MC5/Hellacopters. The riffs are mighty, the leads are screaming, and Georgia belts it out big time on vocals. If you love a song you can wail along with on air guitar, this track will have you in your glory. On the B-side, the band really picks up the speed with the scorching "Furiosa". This one is all fire and fury, and it's the perfect rallying cry for 2019. I've got plenty more to say, but I'm saving that for the album review. Ladies and gentlemen, THIS IS HOW YOU ROCK!



-L.R.

https://theshortfuses.bandcamp.com/album/the-pink 
https://www.shortfuses.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/TheShortFuses/ 

Monday, April 8, 2019

Brad Marino - Extra Credit

I'm just going to come right out with my hot take: Extra Credit is as good as any album that Brad Marino has ever been a part of. And given that I recently proclaimed The Connection "America's best rock n' roll band", that should tell you how high I set that bar. We are talking about a guy who has authored eight of Little Steven's Coolest Songs In the World!

When I first heard that Brad Marino was working on a solo project, I was pretty stoked. The dude is one of my favorite vocalists and songwriters. But I had to wonder: how would solo Marino stack up to The Connection? The answer is: even better than I could have imagined! I think the whole point of doing a solo record is that it's 100% your baby. That is certainly the case with Extra Credit. Marino basically serves as a one-man-band here. He sings and plays guitar, bass, and drums. The only outside musician to make an appearance is co-producer Kris Rodgers, who contributes his usual stellar work on keyboards along with additional vocals on a few tracks. The songs written for this record would not necessarily sound out of place on a Connection or New Trocaderos album. Yet somehow Extra Credit feels a little different from any other record Marino has lent his name to. He has never sounded more "pop" - or more inspired by the timeless sounds of the '60s. If I had to summarize what this album sounds like, I'd say, "Joey Ramone and Chuck Berry walk into a bar and run into the Rolling Stones."

A few of the tracks on Extra Credit were previewed on-line last year, and they are well worth hearing again. Every time I hear "C'Mon C'Mon C'Mon", I imagine Marino performing it on some '60s TV show in front of a studio audience packed with screaming teenage girls. If the Michael Chaney penned rocker "Fit To Be Tied" were any catchier, we'd all be receiving emergency alerts from the CDC. The newer songs are absolute gold as well. "No One Else Tried It" is Stonesy rock n' roll done to cocksure perfection. "Wake Up Baby", a songwriting collaboration between Marino and Kurt Baker, is the finest slice of British Invasion pop heard since...The New Trocaderos! If there were any justice in the world, "What Comes Naturally" would be a #1 smash on seven continents. It's pop and it's country, but don't call it pop country! If your sweet spot for the Ramones is the run from Rocket To Russia through End of the Century, "Broken Record" and "It's Not Right" will take you straight to your happy place.

Listening to Extra Credit, I'm pretty wowed that it's just one guy doing (almost) everything. But if you're a talented multi-instrumentalist like Brad Marino, I can see why a solo project would be a lot of fun. When you're playing all the instruments, you're not asking anyone else to interpret your songwriting vision. You have the luxury of attending to every last detail. And it's the details that really set this album apart - from the guitar solos to the backing vocals to those wonderfully clever lyrics. There's nothing I enjoy more in music than power pop rock n' roll with a touch of punk. With this release, Marino takes his swing at that style and crushes it like J.D. Martinez jumping on a hanging curve. This album has been in heavy rotation in my car player since the dead of winter, and it remains there as summer approaches! 

When a member of a great band ventures into solo territory, you never know what you're going to get. In this case, Brad Marino has managed to turn out a solo debut that is uniquely his vision but still guaranteed to delight fans of his existing bands. If you were worried that Extra Credit was going to be Marino's She's The Boss, I can assure you it's more like his own Jesus of Cool. Stream and vinyl pre-order are available now from the Ghost Highway Recordings Bandcamp. LP is a co-release with Beluga Records. Digital and CD coming out in the states on Rum Bar Records!



-L.R.

https://ghosthighwayrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/extra-credit 
https://rumbarrecords.bandcamp.com/album/extra-credit 
https://bradmarino.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/bradmarinomusic 
https://www.facebook.com/RumBarRecords
https://www.facebook.com/GhostHighwayRecordings/

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Outcasts - Tell Me The Whole Story

I was over the moon to hear that Secret Mission Records was doing an Outcasts singles collection. I'm an old school punk geek to begin with, and I'm especially inclined towards the somewhat overlooked Northern Ireland scene of the late '70s and early '80s. The Outcasts were one of the best bands to come out of that scene. Tell Me The Whole Story essentially repeats the content from the long out of print Anagram Punk Singles Collection disc released in the '90s - collecting all of the band's 7" tracks. But for this release, Secret Mission has gone the extra mile and delivered a package that true fans will love. This is the first ever Outcasts singles compilation on vinyl, and all 26 tracks have been remastered especially for this release. The album comes with a gatefold jacket with lots of photos and press clippings, a poster, and detailed track by track liner notes written by founding member Martin Cowan.

Formed in Belfast in 1977, The Outcasts achieved fast infamy in Northern Ireland as "the band you love to hate". A reputation for unruly behavior and getting banned from various music venues preceded the group. But The Outcasts worked that notoriety in their favor, ultimately grabbing the attention of Terri Hooley and getting signed to his legendary label Good Vibrations. What is interesting about this collection is that it allows you to trace the musical evolution of The Outcasts. The tracks from the band's debut single on IT Records are quintessential 1977 punk rock - pulsating with the raw energy of kids who were just learning how to play. "You're A Disease" and "Frustration" are blistering numbers and truly essential listening for any fan of first wave punk. Moving into the tracks from the bands 7" releases on Good Vibrations, you really get to the "classic" Outcasts sound that is forever associated with this band and Northern Irish punk in general. "Justa Nother Teenage Rebel", "Love Is For Sops", and "Self Conscious Over You" remain some of the most enduring specimens of first wave "pop" punk. This release also features the original version of "The Cops Are Comin'" - the band's most infamous number and the inspiration for the title of this double album. If you've never heard it before...let's just say that it requires an appreciation for a dark sense of humor!

I appreciate that this collection really does tell the whole story of The Outcasts. The band's original run from 1977-85 was marred by great misfortune and tragedy. After getting dumped from Good Vibrations and losing its manager, the band continued releasing music on its own labels throughout the early '80s. In 1982, drummer Colin Cowan was tragically killed in a car accident. Like many surviving '70s punk bands who kept going into the '80s, The Outcasts had to navigate various shifts in musical style. The back half of this collection traces the band's sound from the harder-edged punk of "Gangland Warfare" and "Mania" to the Killing Joke inspired post-punk of "Beating and Screaming Pt. 1" to the Glitter Band cover "Angel Face" to the new wave rock of "Nowhere Left To Run" to the rockabilly influenced "Seven Deadly Sins". Perhaps the second of these two albums is really for fans only, but it's not without its moments.

Now we get to the tricky part with Tell Me The Whole Story: the label has already sold out of all of its copies! Only 500 copies were pressed, and they sure went fast! But if you're an Outcasts fan and are willing to hunt it down, it will be well worth the effort. It's a beautifully packaged collection that fully honors one of the best of the lesser-known '77 punk bands. And getting the story behind each song from Martin Cowan himself is an absolute treat. The other half of the audience for this release is a whole new generation of punk fans who perhaps are just discovering this band for the first time. If you love old school punk that leans pop and are not yet familiar with The Outcasts, $10 for this download will be money well spent!

  
-L.R.

https://secretmissionrecords.bandcamp.com/album/tell-me-the-whole-story 
http://www.secretmissionrecords.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/secretmissionrecords/ 
https://www.facebook.com/officialoutcasts/ 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Parasites - Intergalactic Love

If you're a fan of pop-punk and Ramonescore, the Something To Do Music For Something To Do People series over at the Something To Do Records Bandcamp is a must follow. It started back in September with a digital single from The Putz, and an additional installment has been released every month since. Don't dismiss these songs as odds and ends. These are killer tracks from some of the best bands out there! I'm particularly delighted by Volume 8, which just came out this week. Parasites are by far my favorite pop-punk band of all-time, and their contribution to this series is a Star Wars themed number called "Intergalactic Love". It's a thrill to me that after all of these years, Parasites still sound like...Parasites! The 1996 version of me is crying tears of joy! This, like all the installments, can be downloaded for just a buck. Check out the whole series!



-L.R.

https://somethingtodorecords.bandcamp.com/track/intergalactic-love 
https://www.facebook.com/SomethingToDoRecords/ 
https://theparasitesofficial.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/OfficialParasites 

Thursday, April 4, 2019

More Kicks - "I'm On The Brink"

You had to know I would respond positively to a band that describes its music as a "pop explosion"! Seriously: if a pop explosion is going down, I want to be there! On their second single, London's More Kicks deliver a treat for the ears of any power pop fan. The quality of these songs is no surprise given that Sulli from Suspect Parts/Ripchord is at the helm. He's a wonderfully talented songwriter, and with this particular band his focus is on the fine art of melody-driven pop music. The band cites influences ranging from Buzzcocks to Squeeze to Supergrass, with additional nods to '60s pop and soul music. The result is a sound that stands out within the power pop world - a lot of that owed to Sulli's distinctively Brit-accented vocals. "I'm On The Brink" is the "hit" here: a simple yet beautifully crafted number that glides on a melody you'll be humming all day. This is what people like me refer to as "timeless" pop! "He's Gonna Let Her Down", with its punchy guitars and memorable sing-along hook, is textbook power pop with a modern feel. "Can't Fake What You Got" features some groovy bass lines and really interesting guitar work. If I call this song "Oasis-like", will that properly be construed as a supreme compliment?

"I'm On The Brink" is out now on the always fantastic Wanda Records. I also recommend tracking down More Kicks' excellent debut single "It's A Drag". Debut album is recorded and set to release later this year!



-L.R.

https://wandarecords.bandcamp.com/album/i-m-on-the-brink 
https://morekicks.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/morekicksmorekicks 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Ditches - "The Taste"

I first reviewed Ditches less than a year ago after the release of their first 7" 1000 Elephants. Now the Stockholm foursome is back with a second 7" - out on the always dependable Spanish imprint Jarama 45RPM Recs. While the previous EP alternated between super fast-paced garage punk and mid-tempo power pop, here "The Taste" and "Tired Eyes" both favor the modern-day powerpop punk model of Radioactivity or later Marked Men. That's hardly a surprise with Jeff Burke on board to mix and master this release. The aforementioned tracks burn fast at barely over a minute each, and they cram a whole lot of melody into those brief running times. What I like about Ditches is that they manage to inject a contemporary Scandinavian punk feel into a sound that people largely associate with 2000s USA. "The Taste" and "Tired Eyes" both have the darkly melodic appeal of bands like Masshysteri, but with more than enough punch to satisfy punk purists. A cover of The Go-Go's' "We Don't Get Along" (exclusive to the vinyl) is almost completely transformed from the original. It's snappy and tuneful, but with an air of melancholy that brings to mind fellow Swedes Rotten Mind. For me, this song is the highlight of the record. I guess you'll need to track down the vinyl!

When I first started this blog, this sort of melodic punk with garage grit was all the rage. Now there are not as many bands making this kind of music, and it's exciting to hear a band like Ditches that pulls it off well. One of the best new punk groups in Europe!



-L.R.

https://ditches.bandcamp.com/album/the-taste 
https://www.facebook.com/ditchesband 
https://www.facebook.com/jarama45rpmrecs/ 
https://www.discogs.com/Ditches-The-Taste/master/1516779