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!



-L.R.

https://kurtbakerwcr.bandcamp.com/album/i-cant-help-failing-in-love 
https://www.facebook.com/KurtBakerMusic 
https://www.facebook.com/WickedCoolRecords 

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!



-L.R.

https://rumbarrecords.bandcamp.com/album/cant-stop-the-bleeding 
https://www.facebook.com/monoinstereoband/ 
https://www.facebook.com/RumBarRecords 

Cheap Gunslingers - self titled

Now here was a pleasant surprise! When I heard that Edo McGrady (Gotohells) had formed a new band that was releasing an album on Rum Bar Records, I figured it would be really good. I wasn't wrong, but this band ended up being good in ways I didn't quite expect. You can still hear strains of Gotohells style greasy punk rock n' roll in Cheap Gunslingers alongside hints of glam and rhythm & blues. But perhaps the biggest inspiration for this Florida/North Carolina based band is early American punk and proto-punk. And you know that's a real sweet spot for me! Cheap Gunslingers sound like a band birthed under the heavy influence of the Velvet Underground, Stooges, and Ramones. McGrady on vocals is equal parts Iggy, Lou, and Johnny Thunders. You've heard of '77 punk...maybe Cheap Gunslingers are more like '75 punk! It's just really neat to hear a band in 2019 that can write an entirely original song based off of the chord progression from "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend". And the "Radio on!" refrain in opening track "Record Store" has got to be a tip of the cap to the Modern Lovers!

With the band philosophy of "rock n' roll should sound like you're running from the cops!", Cheap Gunslingers really take it back to a time when the idea of "polished" sounding punk rock would have been heresy. They keep it raw and simple. While the songwriting approach is based on quality hooks and a love for traditional rock n' roll, there's just something tremendously satisfying about the band's minimalist execution. Even with many decades of combined musical experience represented in this group, Cheap Gunslingers bash through these tunes without any regard for proper musicianship or any need for a fourth chord. "Record Store", a Saints by the way of Stooges style ripper, has this album crackling right out of the gate. It's a song about rock n' roll being everything in life, and appropriately it's worthy of being cranked loud in the car wherever you may be headed. "Good Time" proves that blatant Ramones thievery doesn't have to result in a song you've heard 500 times before. "Three Chords" is a perfect summation of this band's reason for existing. "Run Girl" puts a grim, confessional spin on '60s teen tragedy rock. "Please Kill Me" is an absolutely electric Rolling Stones inspired rocker. And while this record is a mostly thumping affair, McGrady turns out a couple of superb ballads in "Water Table Line" and "Bars of the Song".

Cheap Gunslingers slot perfectly onto the Rum Bar Records roster along side kindred spirits Indonesian Junk - sounding like they might have just crawled out of the bowels of CBGB circa 45 years ago. The band's debut album is stripped-down punk rock n' roll at its finest. And yet none of that stripping down obscures the quality of the songwriting. This a damn solid record from track one all the way through track ten. Gotohells, in comparison to similar bands of their time, have held up better than most. And while Edo McGrady has never really received his due acclaim, perhaps now is his time.

  
-L.R.

https://rumbarrecords.bandcamp.com/album/cheap-gunslingers 
https://www.facebook.com/cheapgunslingers/ 
https://www.facebook.com/RumBarRecords 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Vista Blue - "Nashville Scooter Club"

As Vista Blue creeps closer and closer to becoming the first band to be reviewed 20 times on F & L (the number is now up to 18), I feel like preparations must now be made for a proper commemoration of this milestone. I'm thinking trading cards, a fully sanctioned gumbo eating contest, a line of action figures, and the formation of a baseball punk super group called Ban the WAR. Luckily I will have some time to hammer out all of the details. Vista Blue is slowing down its release schedule for a while as the band works on its "Hit the Floor" 7" and not one but two new full-length albums. In the meantime, you can now enjoy another free digital single from VB. "Nashville Scooter Club" is a humorous ode to the current prevalence of electric scooters in the streets of Nashville. It's got that bargain basement Beach Boys vibe this band is so known for. While this song was written with Nashville in mind, I think anyone who dwells in a "cool" city will get a chuckle out of this one. As always, I really admire this band's ability to goof on things in a totally non mean-spirited way. And seriously: who WOULDN'T want to join a scooter club? The first rule of scooter club is to always talk about scooter club!

Next up for Vista Blue: a Halloween-themed album coming out on Ratgirl and OUTLOUD! Records. And the forthcoming "Hit The Floor" will be the fruit of a recording session at the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis. In the meantime, the band's Around the World split CD with The Barbecuties, Screaming Dogs, and Los Padrinos is now available for purchase from Radiant Radish Records. 18 reviews in, and I still haven't accidentally typed Vista Blue's name as "Vida Blue". Now that's quality control!



-L.R.

https://wearevistablue.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/wearevistablue/ 
https://radiantradish.bandcamp.com/ 

Friday, June 14, 2019

Duncan Reid and the Big Heads - "Kelly's Gone Insane"


How about some "heavy melody power pop punk" from the co-lead singer of one of the greatest bands of all-time? Count me in! When it comes to the pop side of original era punk rock, I put no band above The Boys except the Ramones. Forty-some years later, Boys singer/bassist Duncan Reid is again making some of the best punky power pop music out there with his current band the Big Heads. With the Big Heads, Reid has now released three LPs with a fourth in the works. The first of those albums, 2012's Little Big Head, is getting the reissue treatment on splatter vinyl with bonus tracks. To go with this reissue, the band is releasing a new 7" single with our friends Crocodile Records. The A-side is "Kelly's Gone Insane" - a track off of Little Big Head. It's backed by "Pretty Little Rachel" and "Baby Baby". The former was previously available only as a digital bonus track. The latter, to the best of my knowledge, is previously unreleased. "Kelly's Gone Insane" is one of the band's most popular numbers and was a natural choice for a single. It really highlights Reid's skills as a songwriter - as he takes very dark subject matter and still manages to turn out a song that's totally catchy and irresistible. "Pretty Little Rachel" is classic power pop in both a musical and spiritual sense, drawing from '60s pop influences and spinning a timeless tale of a man's powerlessness in the face of female beauty. "Baby Baby" might be the true gem of the lot. You can hear strains of The Boys on this track for sure, and that hook is worth its weight in gold.

The mere fact that Duncan Reid is still making music in the 2010s is a wonderful thing. What's even better is that he's making music of exceptional quality. This is one of the legends of power pop leaning punk (or vice versa), and he has not strayed far from his wheelhouse. Perhaps at this point it's a little less punk and a little more power pop. But isn't that where The Boys were already headed by the turn of the '80s? If you are a fan of The Boys or just great melody-driven pop in general, "Kelly's Gone Insane" makes for a fine introduction to Duncan Reid and the Big Heads. It officially releases Monday and will be limited to just 300 copies. This one will move fast, so be sure to hit up Crocodile Records on Facebook for ordering information!

  
-L.R.

https://www.facebook.com/CrocodileRecs/ 
https://duncanreidandthebigheads.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/DuncanReidTheBigHeads/ 
https://duncanreidandthebigheads.com/ 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Prozacs - Ambivalence

Ambivalence is the title of the album, but J Prozac is clearly anything but ambivalent about his devotion to pop-punk. Supported by a revolving cast of players, he has kept The Prozacs going strong for now nearly 20 years. The Prozacs were always that band that bridged the gap between pop-punk's Lookout!/Mutant Pop salad days and the genre's recent run of unprecedented glory. In fact, you will now find The Prozacs label mates with the likes of Jagger Holly, Black Russians, and Radio Buzzkills - the best of the best of pop-punk's new generation. Ambivalence is the Prozacs' fifth album - but only their second of this decade. In recent years, Jay has branched out with an absolutely wonderful solo album and other projects like Stiletto Bomb and Doubtfire. Ambivalence finds him channeling some of that artistic growth into The Prozacs brand while still remaining ever faithful to the pop-punk music he so dearly loves.

Ambivalence is the first Prozacs album to feature longtime drummer Jimmy Craig. It would not exist without a great amount of perseverance on the part of J Prozac. This record took nearly a year to record and required the contributions of three different bass players. Yet the band powered through and ultimately produced what is probably its best album in a very long time. Opening cut "Rocking Out" celebrates the pursuit of playing punk rock for the sheer love of it - and it's really a statement about where The Prozacs are at this point. The group sounds energized, fully committed, and more than happy to be standing side by a side with a great new generation of bands it helped to inspire. Then suddenly the band tears into "Outta My Face" - almost certainly the "angriest" sounding Prozacs song I've ever heard. It's the kind of song you can only really pull off with an absolute killer manning the drum kit - and Craig is more than up to the task! Two songs in, and it's firmly established that this will not be one of those pop-punk albums where every song sounds the same. J Prozac, after all of these years in the game, has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. "Party's Over" proves that the Screeching Weasel songwriting formula can still yield fantastic tunes. The deceptively upbeat "Out of Time" is a sing-along anthem for our doomed world. "Wishing & Waiting" is thoughtful, sincere, and a fine example of the kind of song an adult pop-punk musician should aspire to write. "Lost In The Waves" is the latest case of J Prozac knowing how to end a record in style. It's a quasi-instrumental that blends pop-punk and surf in a very unique way. And while many of the songs on Ambivalence rail against the hardships and frustrations we encounter as we try to make it through day-to-day life, this song finds the album circling back to the optimistic note on which it began.

What Ambivalence makes clear is that The Prozacs remain a first-class pop-punk act. And while the word "maturity" is almost always the kiss of death within this genre of music, Jay has proven that pop-punk can grow up and still be really awesome. He worked like hell to get this album just the way he wanted it, and that commitment to a vision really paid off. Ambivalence is right at home on OUTLOUD! Records' star-studded roster!



-L.R.

https://theprozacs.bandcamp.com/album/ambivalence 
https://www.facebook.com/TheProzacs/ 
https://outloudrecords.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/OUTLOUDrecords/ 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Creechers - Triple Feature

It had been a while since I'd heard some really good budget rock. Well Creechers sure fixed that! The Pittsburgh trio, featuring members of The Spectres, will be releasing a lathe-cut EP called Triple Feature later this month. I've reviewed The Spectres a couple times in the past, and Creechers are cut from similar cloth. I'd say the difference is that Creechers are a little on the poppier side of budget rock. You know I've got no complaints about that! From the opening strains of "Knife Stick", this EP gets my toes tapping and my head bobbing. "Get With You" would fit right in on any budget rock comp tape you made for yourself in 1992. "Get Off The Phone" is not a Heartbreakers cover, but it sounds like it could be. What a fun record! Sloppy and poppy is damn sure how I like my garage rock! Release party for the lathe-cut EP is on June 22nd at Babyland in Pittsburgh. Any copies not sold that night will be made available on Bandcamp the next day. Download is available now for just three bucks. I told you it was budget rock!



-L.R.

https://thecreechers.bandcamp.com/album/triple-feature 
https://www.instagram.com/tapeurchin/ 

Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Candy Snatchers - Moronic Pleasures

Lately I've been feeling the urge to revisit The Candy Snatchers. It's not that I think the band was at all overlooked back in its late '90s/early 2000s heyday. It's just that so much of what we made of Larry May and company always came down to how wild, chaotic, and flat-out incredible their live performances were. But even if you set the Snatchers' stage show aside and just focused on their studio releases, I'd say they ought to be remembered for producing some of greatest garage punk rock n' roll music ever committed to record. Their self-titled debut album from 1996 is an absolute classic of sleazy and destructive punk rock n' roll. Compared to a lot of similar albums of its time, I think it holds up far better. I can put it on today, and my immediate response is still "Holy shit!". This may have been as close as the '90s got to recreating Iggy and the Stooges - with echoes of the Dead Boys, Misfits, and New York Dolls thrown in for good measure. Subsequently, The Candy Snatchers went to Compactor Studio in Brooklyn in 1997 and tracked what was arguably an even better second LP. It was to be called Moronic Pleasures. And for reasons I still cannot fathom, these recordings were rejected. After a second failed attempt to make this album, the band re-recorded many of the same songs in New York with Dean Rispler in 1998. This became the second Candy Snatchers LP, Human Zoo. Human Zoo is a beast of a record in its own right, but it never sat right with Snatchers super-fan Jake Starr that Moronic Pleasures had gone unheard all of those years. He took upon the task of rescuing this unheard Candy Snatchers album, which he released digitally on his label Fandango two years ago. And now thanks to Hound Gawd! Records, Moronic Pleasures has finally been released on LP. If it hasn't crossed your mind to buy a Candy Snatchers record in a couple decades, this sure is the one to get!

Jake Starr sums it up perfectly: "Don't get me wrong. Human Zoo rocks like a motherfucker. But Moronic Pleasures as recorded at Compactor Studio is the Candy Snatchers at their zenith." If I were trying to explain the greatness of The Candy Snatchers to someone, I would just play them Moronic Pleasures. The band has never sounded rawer, wilder, or meaner than it does here. Larry May sounds like a freak of nature on lead vocals - wailing away as if he's starring in some sort of psychotic opera. The guitar work from Matthew Odietus (RIP) is straight out of the Johnny Thunders and James Williamson playbooks. And with then-new drummer Sergio Ponce pounding the kit, the "classic" era Candy Snatchers sound is in full force. 11 of the 19 songs captured here were re-recorded for Human Zoo, but by no means does that make the purchase of this album unnecessary. Signature tracks like "No Time To Waste", "Burn It To The Ground", and "Pissed Off, Ripped Off, Screwed" burn even hotter in their original form. And then there are eight more songs here that did not appear on Human Zoo. Fans will surely recognize songs like "Run You Down", "Ass Casserole", and the Stooges cover "Fresh Rag" from later Snatchers releases. They fit in perfectly here - creating a 19-track scorcher of an album that is your definitive Candy Snatchers long player.

Jake Starr knew what he was doing when he brought Moronic Pleasures back from the dead. And he did it right - securing the original masters from the Compactor sessions and enlisting Dennis Kane to mix and master the album. The "lost" classic second album from The Candy Snatchers is no longer mere legend or rumor. Thanks to Oliver at Hound Gawd!, it's an actual vinyl record that you can order today and soon play on your turntable. This record proves that no conversation of the greatest garage-punk rock n' roll bands of the '90s can exclude The Candy Snatchers. And with the band back and playing live shows with a new lineup featuring Johnny Yeagher on guitar and Doug "Goose" Duncan on bass, let's be sure not to limit The Candy Snatchers to the past tense!



-L.R.

https://www.houndgawd.com/shop/en/SHOP/Vinyl/The-Candy-Snatchers-Moronic-Pleasures.html 
https://www.facebook.com/thecandysnatchers/ 
https://www.facebook.com/HoundGawdRecords/ 
https://fandangorecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-candy-snatchers-moronic-pleasures-the-lost-album-fr-040 
 

Friday, June 7, 2019

Local Drags - Shit's Lookin' Up!

While I've long been a big supporter of pop-punk by the book, I have lately been especially enamored with artists who take a pop-punk influence and do something a little different with it. I have to admit I was predisposed to liking Local Drags as soon as I saw singer/guitarist/bassist Lanny pictured posing with a cat on the one-sheet. But even without any feline involvement, I would have been into this record. You may know Lanny Durbin as co front-man in the new wave power pop punk band Starter Jackets. Well Local Drags are kind of like a less '80s-inspired, more classically Midwestern power pop version of Starter Jackets. This band retains the influence of pop-punk and modern melodic punk, but the prevailing vibe is power pop by way of '90s indie/alternative. Big guitars and even bigger melodies are in order here. I'm hearing a lot of Cheap Trick & Replacements worship informed by pop-punk, and I am fully on board with that! 

Shit's Lookin' Up! is the debut full-length from this Springfield, Illinois duo (which also includes Matt Sailor on drums). It's a co-release between It's Alive and Stardumb Records - a truly legendary pairing of pop-punk labels! The title, which references a lyric in opening track "Can Probably Wait", is really a perfect tone-setter for the whole album. This is for the most part an upbeat, crank-it-up-loud sort of pop record with some mellow moments to soak in while you sip on your glorious cheap beer. "Plot Holes", with its crunchy guitars and epic hook, is modern-day power pop at its finest. "500 Hours Free" is in a similar vein. "Hidden Track" is deeply emotional in a totally satisfying '90s alt-rocking way. With Lanny being so strongly in control of this project, Local Drags are a bit more of his vision compared to the group effort of Starter Jackets. But if you dig Starter Jackets, I would say you are likely to dig Local Drags as well. Shit's lookin' up? Sure is!



-L.R.

https://localdrags.bandcamp.com/album/shits-lookin-up 
https://www.facebook.com/localdrags/ 
https://stardumbrecords.com/products/local-drags-shits-lookin-up-lp 
https://www.facebook.com/stardumbrecords/ 
https://www.facebook.com/itsaliverecords/ 

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

honeychain - "Go Away"

Imagine my thrill when Bernardo from Jarama 45RPM Recs. asked me to give a listen to his latest release and it turned out to be....honeychain! God, I love this band so much! And I love this label so much! Talk about a marriage made in heaven! This is already the 8th single to be released by Jarama 45RPM. And believe it or not, this is honeychain's first-ever 7" record! I am still baffled as to why this LA alt-rock/power pop trio is not totally massive and selling gazillions of records. I can't think of anybody alive who's better than Hillary Burton at writing radio-worthy pop hits about heartbreak and the devastation of love gone bad. honeychain's full-length album Crushed is one of the best power pop albums of recent memory. If you don't own it yet, I highly encourage you to rectify that immediately! Now with "Go Away", the band has delivered another song that would be all over the radio in a better world. Compared to past releases, the sound is a little less slick with a bit more edge to the guitars. It's got a Buzzcocks meets Go-Go's vibe to it, with wonderfully bitter lyrics and a perfect sing-along hook. I love the energy of this song. If you're gonna tell off the one who tore out your heart, you might as well do it with glee! On the flip is the band's cover of Material Issue's "Goin' Through Your Purse". With this being my favorite song by one of my three favorite bands of all-time, I knew there was the great possibility of disappointment. There are only a handful of bands on earth that should have even dared to touch this song. Luckily, honeychain are one of them. They manage to honor the original version while still putting their own touch on it. And Hillary Burton, to me, is a true kindred spirit to the late, great Jim Ellison. Covering this song was a win-win: I think it will cause some Material Issue fans to discover honeychain and some honeychain fans to discover Material Issue.

I was pumped to hear that "Go Away" was coming out, and I sure wasn't let down! This is punky power pop at its finest! The record officially releases tomorrow. Hit up the Jarama 45RPM Bandcamp for ordering information!



-L.R.

https://jarama45rpmrecs.bandcamp.com/album/go-away 
https://www.facebook.com/jarama45rpmrecs/ 
https://www.facebook.com/honeychainmusic/ 
https://honeychain.bandcamp.com/ 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Pat Todd & The Rankoutsiders - The Past Came Callin'

Can it be that Pat Todd's "new" band has now been around for 15 years? Well, the math sure doesn't lie! Pile a couple of decades of the Lazy Cowgirls on top of that, and you're talking about a guy who's been one of our finest rock n' roll songwriters for 35 years and counting. And here's the thing: Pat Todd in 2019 isn't resting on his laurels. With the Rankoutsiders, he's been making some of the best records of his life. And new album The Past Came Callin' is a perfect case in point. It's the fifth album from Pat Todd & the Rankoutsiders - and the second to be released on Hound Gawd! Records. Like any top-notch songwriter, Todd will go to great lengths to preserve his musical inspirations. A few of the songs on this release were written many years ago but for varying reasons were never recorded. With this album, Todd found the perfect spot for these old songs to fit. And together with some terrific new material, they showcase one of the great overlooked treasures in American rock n' roll. As always, Todd and his band-mates stick to the tried-and-true blueprint of roots rock n' roll and country. There's nothing fancy going on here: just tremendous songwriting and first-rate playing from the best damn bar band you could ever hope to hear. Backing Todd on this release are Nick Alexander on guitar, Kevin Keller on guitar, Steven Vigh on bass, and Walter Phelan on drums.

Kicking off with the quintessential Rankoutsiders rocker "If Only I Could Fly Backwards In Time", The Past Came Callin' is not without its scorching moments. "The Ballad Of Crystal Valladares" is a raucous barroom blaster that brings to mind kindred spirits Supersuckers. "Goin' Nowhere" was resurrected from the 14th & Nowhere sessions and packs the expected punch. But many of the album's finest tracks veer from the frenzied punk rock n' roll you might associate with this band and label. I love hearing the Rankoutsiders take the foot off the pedal and show total mastery of country/western, ballads, and middle of the road heartland rock. "Call You On Sunday Night" sounds like it ought to already be a fixture on dive bar jukeboxes all across middle America. "Run" is a song you can play for your Jimmy Buffett loving friends in hopes of turning them to the light side of the force. "Yeah, Ya Had A Bad Night" is finally seeing the light of day after two decades, and I can't listen to it without imagining crowds singing along in unison as they hoist their beers. And one thing I respect about Todd is his willingness to put his own spin on existing songs. "Down In Old Boerne" is an old Texas folk song receiving the Rankoutsiders treatment. The band's version of William Bell's 1962 Stax side "Any Other Way" might be my favorite track on the whole album. "Idle Time", written by Dale Hollon of Sons of Hercules, is breezy country rock fit for 1970s radio. "Somewhere Down The Line" is, of course, an old Lazy Cowgirls song. It was re-recorded because of how perfectly it fits this particular band.

Working again with producer Earle Mankey, Pat Todd has crafted yet another stellar addition to his catalog. The man is one of our great American songwriters, and he's backed by a band that can rock the hell out of even his most reflective material. The Past Came Callin' is such a fitting album title because it reflects both the life experience that inspired a lot of these lyrics and the fact that some of these songs had been lingering in Todd's mind for years. This is just a brilliant album from start to finish - an essential purchase for both longtime fans and anyone who enjoys good, solid rock n' roll with a country influence.

  
-L.R.

https://www.houndgawd.com/shop/ 
https://www.facebook.com/HoundGawdRecords/ 
https://www.pattodd.net/ 
https://www.facebook.com/pattoddrankoutsiders/ 
https://open.spotify.com/album/0LeasT1KBQDI7p9aDOIsoZ 

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Lucy and the Rats - "Stick To You"

How about a new Lucy and the Rats 7" co-released by the splendid Surfin' Ki and Stardumb Records! You know that's gotta be good! But here's the surprise twist: for this release, Lucy Ellis has handed lead vocal duties over to guitarist Joe Tolosa! With Tolosa (Johnny Throttle, Los Perros) taking his turn on the mic, the band takes on a slightly different identity. Its previous output has been pretty much pure power pop. "Stick To You" leans more towards old school poppy punk. The one-sheet mentions Teenage Head & The Boys, and I won't argue with that at all. We all love Lucy, but Joey proves to be a really cool singer in his own right! This an upbeat, high energy number with killer lead guitar and a beat that ought to get your toes tapping. I dig! On the flip, "True Romance" is a perfect example of how to do pop-punk and still make it totally rock. It has that "classic Stardumb Records" feel to it that seems appropriate given that particular label's involvement. If you like a sound that's equal parts pop, punk, and rock n' roll, this one ought to hit the spot for you. I don't think any fans need to worry that Lucy has retired from fronting the Rats. But if you have two good singers in your band, why not take advantage of that? Like the band's previous singles, this one is absolutely essential. Order the vinyl from the links below. Digital release is through Dirty Water Records!



-L.R.

https://lucyandtherats.bandcamp.com/album/stick-to-you
https://www.stardumbrecords.com/products/lucy-and-the-rats-stick-to-you-true-romance-7
http://surfinkirecords.bigcartel.com/product/lucy-and-the-rat-stick-to-you-true-romance-ep-preorder
https://www.facebook.com/Lucy-and-the-Rats-817424101645809/
https://www.facebook.com/stardumbrecords/
https://www.facebook.com/surfinkirecords/