Friday, September 27, 2019

Johnathan Pushkar - Straighten Up

Johnathan Pushkar's debut full-length is like the Wonders album that never was. Produced by Wyatt Funderburk and released by the legendary JEM Records, Straighten Up is ten songs of perfect British Invasion inspired power pop crafted by one of music's brightest young stars. While still only in his early 20s, the Pennsylvania born and bred, now Nashville-based Pushkar has already been playing in bands for a decade. I'm pretty close to theorizing that he wasn't actually born in the '90s but rather sprung out of a time machine that he boarded in 1964. Here he is in 2019, completely unaware that rock and rollers aren't supposed to be wholesome and perpetually smiling. He writes songs as if the past five decades never happened - connecting with that part of all us that's forever 16 and dreaming of true love. It had to be fate that this young man would wind up making a record with the guy who wrote "What If"!

From the opening strains of "The Girl Next Door", Johnathan Pushkar can easily be identified as a '60s pop classicist. And it's not just that unmistakable Rickenbacker tone. His scholarship of power pop music and its roots goes all the way back to Buddy Holly (at least). His affection for the timeless craft of the three-minute pop song comes through in every note he plays and sings. If you love jangly guitars, sweet-sounding melodies, and beautifully-executed harmonies, you'll be hooked by track one. And there's no fall-off from there. "The Girl Next Door" was the album's lead single and has been blowing up the indie charts all summer. But the next two tracks "We Could Be Together" and "Isabella" are smash hits in their own right! Elsewhere, Pushkar proves himself to be an endearing and relatable storyteller on the keyboard-tinged "Boyfriend". "Smile", with its gorgeous melody and pure-hearted sentiment, is an absolute gem of a pop song. "Hackensack" is, of course, a cover of the Fountains of Wayne classic. It would be impossible to improve upon the original, but Pushkar comes darn close to matching it. To pull off this song, you need a voice full of vulnerability and a heart you freely wear on your sleeve. Those qualities shine through again on the album's outstanding closing number "I Can't Help The Way I Feel".

Straighten Up is an album for diehard believers in true love and simple pop tunes (Aren't they one and the same?). Johnathan Pushkar specializes in songs that are hopeful and sweet and life-affirming. Everything he stands for is the perfect antidote to the misery and cynicism that plague our modern world. If you're looking to make a great power pop record, the first thing you ought to do is get Wyatt Funderburk to produce it. Pushkar did just that, and he also enlisted respected musician friends like Sandy Gennaro (Joan Jett, The Monkees), Bill Cinque (Neil Diamond), and Jeff Alan Ross (Badfinger) to play on the record. Call this album "retro" if you want. I prefer to think of it as timeless. Johnathan Pushkar isn't old enough to be nostalgic for the British Invasion, but he's wise enough to know that these sounds ought to be forever revived for new generations. The future of power pop sounds an awful lot like its past, and I could not be happier!



-L.R.

https://www.johnathanpushkar.com/
https://open.spotify.com/album/37gbuyfxXpALkHQay3QJds
https://www.facebook.com/JohnathanPushkarMusic/
http://www.jemrecordings.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/Jem-Records-607560186079388/

Indonesian Junk - Spiderbites


Wait, was I actually right about something for once?! 37 days ago, I predicted that Indonesian Junk's third album would be its best record yet. That was really just an educated guess based off of one song plus the material from last year's Darkness Calling EP. But man oh man, I sure wasn't wrong! Spiderbites, out today on Rum Bar Records, far surpasses all previous IndoJunk efforts. But in a way, that was to be expected given the incremental strides that this Milwaukee trio has taken with each new release. Spiderbites sounds like the record that Daniel James and the gang have been working towards all of these years: a tour de force of Midwest-tough rock and roll formed from equal parts power pop, hard rock, and old school glam punk. If you can't find something here to like, you're looking at the wrong blog!

While the 1970s New York punk comparisons that have followed this band since its inception are in no way off-base, they only touch the surface of what Indonesian Junk is all about. You can pick out influences pretty easily if you want. But at this point Indonesian Junk really just sounds like Indonesian Junk. On this release, the band attains its hardest, hugest sound yet - with the hooks to match! This is not a band that's afraid of trying something different every now and then. The anthemic mid-tempo pop of "City Lights" and pitch-black balladry of "I Could Die" are pretty much without precedent in the IndoJunk catalog. "See The Light" finds the band fully mastering that epic Stooge-y vibe it's been flirting with for years. But what I like best about Spiderbites is that it lets loose the rock in a way that the band's prior albums never quite did. I love hearing Daniel and company lay the pedal to the metal and just kick some ass! "Mean Christine" has everything you need from an opening track: huge riffs, a stick-in-your-head chorus, and some absolutely sick lead guitar! "Wild, Wild Party" and "Headbanger" are like KISS rock anthems if they'd been way more into Johnny Thunders. "Through the Night" is an absolutely blistering rocker that ought to have you pumping your fist and shouting along regardless of what you're doing (be careful in libraries and funeral parlors). "When I Find You" is straight-up one of the best songs released by anybody in 2019. Who doesn't love revenge served up as a cheerful pop song?!

Spiderbites is an absolute blast of an album. Throw it on wherever you may be, and you've got yourself a party! Indonesian Junk give me a little bit of just about everything I desire in music: radio-worthy hooks, powerful guitars and drums, clever and often very dark humor, the spiritual presence of dearly departed punk greats, an energy that excites, ripping solos, and a lead singer with genuine personality. I've been fond of this band from day one, but it's Spiderbites that really blows it over the top for me. This is the best of '70s stadium rock, first wave punk, and American power pop combined into one damn tasty Milwaukee brew. If you haven't been informed yet, take note now: Indonesian Junk is a rock machine! Don't be the last on your block to join the fan club.



-L.R.

https://rumbarrecords.bandcamp.com/album/spiderbites 
http://indonesianjunk.blogspot.com/ 
https://indonesianjunk.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/indonesianjunk/ 
https://www.facebook.com/RumBarRecords 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Nervous Jerk - 1994

I've had a 25-year "career" in reviewing records, but it honestly feels like it was only yesterday when I started. That's especially the case when I hear a band like Nervous Jerk, who remind me so much of the bands that made me want to start writing about punk music in the first place. This New Zealand trio plays a straight-forward style of punk rock that's both catchy and totally ballsy. New EP 1994 features three up-tempo numbers that absolutely rip but still lend themselves to singing along. I recommend checking out the video for the title track, as the inclusion of the lyrics really helps you get to the deeper meaning of the song. All in all, this is a super fun record. I might describe it as pop-punk that can be enjoyed even by people who don't like pop-punk. This is easily one of my favorite newer punk groups of the moment. Whatever is in that Aussie air appears to be spreading east!



-L.R.

https://nervousjerk.bandcamp.com/album/1994-ep 
https://www.facebook.com/jerknervous/

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Middle Ages - self titled

I'm always excited to hear anything that Dan Wood lends his name to, and that immediately makes the debut album from The Middle Ages essential listening in my book. Wood (The Pets, Razz, Tropical Sleep) recently returned to his native Seattle after many years as a fixture of Bay Area garage and punk. Back in the Pacific Northwest, Wood has assembled a new band that's every bit as formidable as his previous outfits. Also on board are Cris Wood on bass/vocals and Donny Hilstad (The Statics, The Dutchess and the Duke) on drums.

Dan and Cris are true collaborators with this band: co-writing the songs and singing them together. Those interwoven vocals and old school punk style will make X comparisons inevitable. And while I'd say those comparisons would not be off base, there's a lot more to The Middle Ages than that. This band has an approach of taking elements from a number of musical styles/eras and forming a sound that's all its own. The Middle Ages draw equally from punk, garage, pop, and rock and roll - crafting punchy tunes with first-rate hooks and a likeability factor that's off the charts. The songs cover all the bases from revved-up rock and roll ("Whoa Yeah") to big crunching power pop ("Runaway") to infectious sing-along punk rock ("Bad Man"). Fans of Dan's recognizable guitar style will not be disappointed. The riffs on this thing are absolutely filthy! Yet the creative partnership between Cris and Dan gives The Middle Ages a very different feel from, say, The Pets. I can't think of another band out there that sounds quite like this. Lean and mean at just nine tracks, this a filler-free and simply terrific debut from a band I expect we'll be hearing about a lot in the upcoming years. The band released the record on its own label Ripe Records, and you can order it here. There were only 300 copies pressed, so get on it!



-L.R.

https://wearethemiddleages.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.facebook.com/themiddleagesnw/
https://themiddleages.bigcartel.com/product/ma-lp

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Los Pepes - "Automatic"

This has been a great year for you if you love Los Pepes (as I do)! Less than six months after releasing their fourth album Positive Negative, Los Pepes have followed with a fantastic new EP! "Automatic/Here Comes The Darkness" will be released on vinyl soon on Wanda and Beluga Records. But with an autumn tour of Europe imminent, the boys decided to go ahead and release these songs a little bit in advance. I must say this is my favorite Los Pepes release in quite a while. I'm always a fan of the "all killer, no filler" approach to releasing music. The two titular tracks are big-time hits. "Automatic" roars out of the gates with guitars on fire and a ton of melody. Man, this is how you do power pop with BALLS! And you know that's what Los Pepes are all about. "Here Comes The Darkness" crackles like early Who doing '77 punk. Doesn't that sound great? Of course it does! If you dig loud pop, you just won't hear it done much better than this. This EP's "deep cuts" prove to be formidable in their own right. "Your Justice" is another shot of thundering power pop with a touch of '80s beach punk influence in the guitars and backing vocals. And for the knockout blow, "This Is Rock and Roll" is an absolutely scorching cover of the classic track by The Kids! Not only does this song acknowledge an important influence on Los Pepes, but it also serves as a veritable mission statement for this tremendous band. This sure IS rock and roll, and we should be very thankful! Familiarize yourself with these songs now so you can sing along on the tour dates listed below! 

26/09/2019 D-Bochum, Wageni
27/09/2019 D-Berlin, Urban Spree
28/09/2019 D-Kassel, Goldgrube
29/09/2019 D-Hamburg, Hafenklang
30/09/2019 D-Dresden, Chemifabrik
01/10/2019 D-Karlsruhe, Alte Hackerei
02/10/2019 D-München, Folks
03/10/2019 D-Frankfurt, Klapperfeld
04/10/2019 FR-Tranqueville-Graux, La Bazka
05/10/2019 FR-Paris, ESS’pace
06/10/2019 FR-Blois, L’Auakera




-L.R.

https://lospepes.bandcamp.com/album/automatic-here-comes-the-darkness 
https://wandarecords.bandcamp.com/album/automatic-here-comes-the-darkness 
https://www.facebook.com/lospepesmusic 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Sore Points - "Not Alright"

Whew! Sore Points are back with a new 7", and they have not tempered their sonic fury in the slightest! "Not Alright" is the Vancouver trio's third release overall and first with Slovenly Recordings. The band's sound burns hotter than ever on this four-song EP (longest track: one minute, 43 seconds!). As always, Sore Points seem to exist in an eternal 1980 - when first wave punk and early hardcore smashed straight into each other and spawned some of the most exciting records ever cut. The band isn't fooling with the formula at all. This is fast, furious, and absolutely blistering punk rock fueled by pummeling guitars, a rapid fire rhythm section, and just enough melody to get your toes tapping. I think "On The Wire" is the "hit", but I swear "Not Coming Back" is the most thrillingly scorching track Sore Points have recorded to date. If you dig hardcore punk rock but wish more of it still had a foot in rock and roll, this is the band for you. LP on Deranged is top-notch, but this is the best stuff yet from Sore Points!

 
-L.R.

https://slovenly.bandcamp.com/album/sore-points-not-alright-ep 
https://slovenly.bandcamp.com/album/sore-points-not-alright-ep 
https://www.facebook.com/Sorepointsband/ 
https://www.facebook.com/slovenlyrec/

Friday, September 13, 2019

Mystery Girl - "Heartbreaker"

Now here's a band that's had a productive past couple of years! Mystery Girl's new single  "Heartbreaker" is already its fourth release since the early part of last year. This Albany, New York based foursome is so totally up my alley that I'm kind of embarrassed that I've never reviewed the band before! I checked out "Heartbreaker" on a tip from Alex Kish, and I was immediately into it. The title track falls somewhere in between glam-punk and power pop, and it's a total earworm. It's got really catchy lead guitar work, a memorable chorus, and some top-notch backing vocals. What a damn good tune! I've been whistling that melody for a week! B-side "Salted Slug" turns to some straight-up Johnny Thunders inspired punk rock and roll. I of course have a soft spot for this sort of thing, and I must say that Mystery Girl pulls off the style quite well. That hook is legit, and again the lead guitar sounds amazing. This song is so impressive that I actually checked to make sure it wasn't a cover of some obscure Heartbreakers tune!

Alright, this is how you do a 7-inch! You've got a pair of songs that are quite different from each other yet equally good. If you dig glammy punk rock with a pop sensibility, this is a band worth looking into!

    
-L.R.

https://mysterygirl518.bandcamp.com/album/heartbreaker-ep 
https://www.facebook.com/MysteryGirl518/ 
https://brainslash.storenvy.com/products/26321412-mystery-girl-heartbreaker-7-ep 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Smart Shoppers - self titled

Hey! I've got a debut for you today that I'm totally stoked on! The Smart Shoppers hail from Green Bay, Wisconsin and play exactly the sort of punked-up goofball new wave I've been longing for of late. The Smart Shoppers as they appear on this debut EP include Joe from The Last Sons of Krypton on lead vocals along with Aaron on guitar and Jash on drums. The legendary Rev. Norb recently joined on bass to round out the lineup. The Smart Shoppers, like a lot of bands, started out as just a fun side project. They were never supposed to be a "real" band. But you know how it goes. These guys kept practicing, realized that they actually liked their songs, and went ahead and made a record. And after a couple of years of perfecting their craft in Jash's basement, they finally played their first two shows a couple weekends back...with The Control Freaks! Greg Lowery compared them favorably with The B-52s Wall of Voodoo, and that's definitely on point. They're going for a more aggressive Devo/Minutemen type sound, and that really hits the sweet spot for me. Call it new wavey punk or punky new wave. Either way, it's goofy and fun and catchy and wonderfully weird. I haven't heard a record like this in a long time. It gives me those nostalgic '80s kid tingles but also some nostalgic '90s punk tingles. The band has been prolifically writing new songs since Norb joined, so stay tuned for much more from The Smart Shoppers!

  
-L.R.

https://thesmartshoppers.bandcamp.com/album/smartshoppers-s-t-ep 
https://www.facebook.com/The-Smart-Shoppers-407843116675291/ 

Monday, September 9, 2019

TV Crime - Metal Town

Well here it is, after many years of great anticipation! TV Crime, the Nottingham-based foursome that wowed so many of us the moment its debut track "Hooligans" went on-line three and a half years ago, has finally released a debut album. We've had little in the way of new material from TV Crime over the years - just a pair of singles released in 2016 and 2017. But all the while, the band was taking its time to craft a debut full-length it could be truly proud of. Listening to Metal Town (out now on Alien Snatch Records), one could hardly deny that the band's commitment to getting it right has paid off handsomely. Individuals I hold in the highest esteem have already chimed in with high praise, and I can only echo those sentiments.

Metal Town is nothing short of the brilliant debut that was fully expected from TV Crime - a pub rock extravaganza informed by power pop, first wave UK punk, and '70s glam and arena rock. If you think that sounds like something I'd be especially into, you could not be more correct! Over the course of 13 tracks, the band puts on a clinic on how to play powerful punk rock and roll with all of the hooks and melodic appeal of the best power pop. Kicking off with a new-and-improved version of "Hooligans", this album takes little time in showing us how far TV Crime has come. The group's sound has grown bigger and cleaner - while still retaining the soul and guts befitting a proper pub band. These songs evoke comparisons to everyone from The Jam to Elvis Costello to Thin Lizzy, but not in a way that feels retro or consciously derivative. Essentially, this is great pop music played with the force and vigor of punk rock. From the big hooky rock of "Neo Waltz" to the quintessential sing-along punker "In The Gutter" to the footballer pop anthem "Match Day Programme" to the adrenaline rush of the title track to the pub-hardened Buzzcocks dash of "Never Been In Love", the material is consistently well-crafted and carried off with an energy that thrills. When the band slows the pace a tad (consider its "theme song", "Television Crime"), it comes off like a pop group that ought to be all over the charts. The 7" tracks re-recorded for this release have never sounded better - a testament to both the first-rate production and the tightened chops of a band firing on all cylinders.

I've heard "album of the year contender" mentioned in conjunction with Metal Town by more than one individual. Who am I to argue? I anticipated a great deal from TV Crime on its debut album, but honestly Metal Town manages to exceed what I was expecting. You would have to look far and wide to find a band and album better suited to this blog's readership. And in a wonderful occurrence of history repeating itself, it seems we have returned to the days of Alien Snatch Records being the undisputed king of record labels. I'll drink to that!



-L.R.

https://aliensnatch.bandcamp.com/album/tv-crime-metal-town 
https://tvcrime.bandcamp.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/TELEVISIONCRIME/ 
https://www.facebook.com/ALIEN.SNATCH.RECORDS 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Safes - Winning Combination

When Frankie O'Malley told me that Winning Combination was going to be a "progression" for The Safes, he sure wasn't kidding! "I like when bands step out and try something different and it's good," he explained. If that was the goal for Winning Combination, I would say The Safes have succeeded...and then some!

Having hinted at a psychedelic era Kinks/Who/Beatles direction in the past, The Safes have gone full-on chamber pop on this, their fifth full-length album. But that's not even the half of it! Always the quintessential family band, The Safes have taken that idea to a whole new level. For this project, the Brothers O'Malley have assembled a veritable orchestra of cousins, nieces, and nephews to add new dimensions to their sound. In total, this album features 19 different brothers and sisters playing together - with violins, clarinets, cellos, vibraphone, and several other instruments building on the usual guitar, drums, and bass. Frankie O'Malley alone plays guitars, drums, bass, piano, Wurlitzer, vibraphones, accordion, sleigh bells, organ, sitar, and melodica on this release! The fact that this album could even be made is remarkable. How many people in this world could find 15 capable session musicians that are all related to them?! Now that's a talented (and very musical) family! Yet as amazing as this concept was, it easily could have flopped if had not been executed so beautifully. It's a credit to The Safes that all of these orchestral touches enhance the songs rather than distract from them.

The O'Malleys have stepped boldly out of their hard-driving pop rock and roll comfort zone, but they remain as devoted as ever to the craft of melody-driven songwriting. The elevated sophistication and added musical layers advance The Safes' sound but do not fundamentally change it. This is still one of America's finest pop bands. And even with everything that's going on throughout this record, the melodies and lyrics are still what shine most brightly. Opening track "It's True" is not just "different" - it's one of the Safes' finest and most striking songs to date. It opens the album in a bright & jaunty fashion, with lyrics that vividly evoke the fresh air that meeting someone special can breathe into our lives ("Circles spinning into light /Exploding joy like dynamite/A century of Saturdays replace a decade of malaise"). That melody will grab a hold of you in a way that seems almost effortless, and it will stay with you. Laden with majestic harmonies and intriguing lyrics, "Open Your Eyes" could just about pass for a Ray Davies composition circa 1967-68. "The Rest of My Life", so delicate and mellow in a musical sense, is so relatable lyrically that it practically stings ("I can't live like this for another day/But I can't seem to live any other way"). Similarly, "Make or Break" is as devastating in its words as it is gorgeous in its melodies. "Dreams That Ignite" is picture perfect chamber pop - featuring exquisite harmonies, lush piano-driven melodies, and nary a loud guitar in earshot.

If Winning Combination had just been a progression for progression's sake, that would have been admirable enough. But if you're going to swing for the fences, you might as well hit the ball out of the park. You don't want people saying, "Well, this is neat, but I'd much rather listen to Tasty Waves or Record Heat." The O'Malleys didn't just set out to try something different - they were determined to uphold the quality of their previous releases. The comparisons to The Kinks' Something Else, The Who Sell Out, and The Zombies' Odessey and Oracle are likely to be frequent with good reason. Those aren't just albums that stand out in those bands' catalogs - they're records you go back to again and again. Winning Combination wonderfully celebrates The O'Malley family and family in general. But I'm not going to put this in the "for fans only" category. This is a new high point for The Safes - and an absolutely a perfect starting place for anyone looking to get into this band. It's available now from the Spanish labels Action Weekend and Bickerton Records! 

  
-L.R.

https://thesafes.bandcamp.com/album/winning-combination 
https://bickertonrecords.bandcamp.com/album/br028-winning-combination 
https://actionweekend.bandcamp.com/album/the-safes-winning-combination-aw023 
https://www.facebook.com/thesafesmusic 
https://www.facebook.com/ActionWeekendRecords/ 

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Control Freaks - She's The Bomb

I know what you're probably thinking: "Is this another Control Freaks album already?!" You're damn right it is, and it's truly an occasion worth celebrating! Take the day off and blare this thing until the neighbors beg to come over! She's The Bomb follows 2017's (rightfully) acclaimed debut Mindless Entertainment. It's out today on Slovenly Recordings - the planet's preeminent record label for shit-hot garage punk rock and roll!

If you've been keeping score at home, you're likely aware that The Control Freaks released an impressive four singles in between albums. If you missed some or all of them, Greg Lowery and the gang have got you covered. Ace 7" tracks "I Hate Your Face", "Hate List", "I Am Crime", and "Don't Mess With Jessica" all appear on the new album. It would have been kind of a shame if they didn't, because they are killer tunes! But fear not: if you have been a loyal Control Freaks supporter and dutifully kept up with every new release, there are still plenty of new songs on She's The Bomb that'll knock your socks off. I would describe this album as the best of everything Greg Lowery has ever been about. In these songs, I can hear the budget rock spirit of Supercharger, the genius dumb songwriting of The Rip Offs, the '77-style punk leanings of The Infections, and the gleeful snottiness of the Zodiac Killers. And with covers of lesser-known first wave punk classics quickly becoming a signature of this band, you'll be delighted to discover that this album features not one but TWO covers of Aussie '77 punks Babeez! (I checked the rule book: this sort of maneuver is extremely rare but completely legal!)

As good as Mindless Entertainment was, She's The Bomb totally blows it away (no pun intended, I swear!). The Control Freaks have fully hit their stride, and Lowery's chemistry with singer/guitarist/keyboardist Sherrilynn Nelson is a joy to behold. Whereas there were three or four tracks that really stood out for me on Mindless Entertainment, She's The Bomb is stacked with smash hits from start to finish. And Nelson's zippy keyboards definitely add something cool and new to the Control Freaks sound. Given that I am striving to be less prone to hyperbole in my old age, I won't come out with some sort of "this is the best record that Lowery has ever put his name on!" type hot take. But I will say that this album is very comparable to the classic records he's had a hand in creating. If the title track sounds like the perfect combination of Supercharger and The Rip Offs, doesn't that make total sense? "Tell Me Why" ought to elicit a "Hell yeah!" from any diehard budget rocker, while "Time's Up" is such a prime slice of sing-along '77 punk that The Control Freaks might accidentally cover it someday. "Creep You Out" gives me the same goosebumps I got the first time I dropped the needle on Kill...The Infections. The only thing preventing "Hate List" from being adopted as the new national anthem is that "I Hate Your Face" might be an even better choice.

After nearly 30 years of being top dog in the garage punk world, Greg Lowery shows no signs of passing the torch or changing his approach to music. And why would he if can continue to make records this awesome? I suppose if you're looking for musical innovation, state of the art production, or deeply sensitive lyrics about the frailty of humankind, you might take a pass. But if you're dying for a fucking perfect garage punk album, She's The Bomb is exactly what the doctor ordered! First aid kit sold separately.



-L.R.

https://slovenly.bandcamp.com/album/the-control-freaks-shes-the-bomb-lp 
https://www.facebook.com/ControlFreaksSF/ 
https://www.slovenly.com/ 
https://www.facebook.com/slovenlyrec 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Radioactivity - "Erased"

For its 50th release, Wild Honey Records has something really special for you! "Erased" is the first new song from Radioactivity since its 2015 LP Silent Kill. The band did release the "Infected" single on Wild Honey in 2017, but that contained a pair of songs that were intentionally left off of the album. These songs are literally hot off the presses - having just been completed August 22nd! "Erased" was written after Radioactivity finished recording Silent Kill, and it definitely picks up where the album left off. It features that melancholic style of songwriting that we've come to expect from Jeff Burke, but it damn sure rocks hard! The song is driven by a tough, punchy riff that contrasts perfectly with its bittersweet melodies. The balance between the punk and pop here is just right! On the flip, "Fear" is a song that Burke wrote way back in 2011 when he was living in Japan. Although it dates back to his days with Radioactivity precursors The Novice, it actually fits Radioactivity better. It's dark and reminiscent of the Buzzcocks - the kind of stinging moody number that Burke should never stop writing. And I sure dig that guitar solo!

"Erased" is available in two limited edition versions: one green and one pink. Artwork is by English artist Jami Morrison. Move fast if you want a copy!



-L.R.

https://wildhoneyrecords.bandcamp.com/album/erased
https://www.facebook.com/wildhoneyrecords/
https://www.facebook.com/radioactivitytx/

Monday, September 2, 2019

Vista Blue - Tricks and Treats

While I was preparing for this review, it suddenly dawned on me that Vista Blue is my favorite pop-punk band. Perhaps that was obvious to you all after the first 18 times I reviewed this band. But Vista Blue has always existed in this unique place where pop-punk, power pop, alternative rock, and The Beach Boys co-exist. Hearing the band concentrate almost completely on pop-punk for a whole album was a really delightful experience. Tricks and Treats, out next month on OUTLOUD! and Ratgirl Records, is of course a Halloween-themed album. But I've never been a big horror guy, and I still love this record! I imagine that those of you who love pop-punk and horror will go nuts for this thing!

Being a Halloween-themed Vista Blue record, Tricks and Treats is of course loaded with songs referencing horror movies. On this record, the band pays homage to such films as Doll Boy, Sleepaway Camp, Wishmaster, and Children of the Corn (Hey! I like that one!). There's also a cover of the doo-wop golden oldie "Zombie Walk" by The Magics. But what really endears me to this record is the way it takes more traditional pop-punk themes and applies them to the Halloween season. "I Don't Wanna Trick Or Treat With You" is like a kid-friendly twist on the Ramones. If someone dissed my Drew Brees costume and ate all of my Twix, I wouldn't want to trick or treat with that person either! The nerve! "My House Is Haunted" is an upbeat number about being so in love that you literally don't care that you're living in a haunted house. It's essentially a scarier "Let It Snow". How many lovelorn teens will relate to "I Think Your Boyfriend Is A Zombie" this fall? "I'm Gonna Be You For Halloween", the ultimate pop-punk kiss-off, brings new meaning to the idea of having a scary ex.

Tricks and Treats is such a splendidly executed pop-punk record that it makes me feel like I'm 25 again. It just puts a massive smile on my face. Vista Blue blasts through these 11 tracks with the rocket-fueled simplicity of the Ramones, the candy-coated gleefulness of the Kung Fu Monkeys, and the literate vulnerability of the Mr. T. Experience. It was bands like this that made me love pop-punk, and it's band like this that make me love it still. While this album will not be available until next month, pre-orders are now live for the digital album on Vista Blue's Bandcamp and the cassette on Ratgirl Records. OUTLOUD! will be releasing the CD. Scarier than LSU's front seven and catchier than a zombie infection, Tricks and Treats is truly the Halloween record for all seasons.



-L.R.

https://wearevistablue.bandcamp.com/album/tricks-and-treats 
https://www.facebook.com/wearevistablue/ 
http://ratgirlrecords.storenvy.com/products/28592843-tape-vista-blue-tricks-and-treats 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Civic - "Selling, Sucking, Blackmail, Bribes"

If you have been dissatisfied with how pop-heavy this blog has been in recent weeks, I've got some relief for you today! I first reviewed Civic in April of last year and hailed the Melbourne outfit as one of the best of this amazing new breed of Aussie punk rock and roll acts. The band's new single on Anti Fade and Total Punk Records does nothing to diminish my original evaluation. Believe it or not, "Selling, Sucking, Blackmail, Bribes" somehow rips even faster, harder, and meaner than the songs from the band's debut 12"! The approach is the same - as the band unleashes a furious attack inspired by the Stooges and old Aussie punk. The main difference is how totally scuzzy this track sounds. I just love the rawness and pure sonic barbarism of this number! It lets loose a veritable firestorm of guitars, which singer Jim McCullogh fully matches with vocal rage. This sort of trashy garage punk played with the force of hardcore is hardly anything new. But it's sure been a while since I've heard it carried off this convincingly. This song will just about knock your head off! On the flip, "Velvet Casino" is a little less frenzied but still totally pummeling. It reminds me a little of early Saints, which can only be a good thing.

Now with an American release to its name, Civic is no longer Australia's little secret. If you're not yet hip to this band, get with it!



-L.R.

https://civicivic.bandcamp.com/track/selling-sucking-blackmail-bribes 
https://totalpunkrecords.bandcamp.com/album/selling-sucking-blackmail-bribes