Friday, December 6, 2019

The Whiffs - Another Whiff

Alright, power pop fans. Here's the one you've been waiting for! Since releasing their mini album Take A Whiff in 2017, Kansas City's The Whiffs have added Joey from The Rubs to their lineup and transformed themselves into a road-tested powerhouse. Another Whiff, out today on DIG! Records, was recorded over a year's time in the band's basement practice space. With Rory, Zach, and Joey all contributing songs, you would expect The Whiffs' proper debut album to be something really special. And let me tell you, it sure is! Again the band hearkens back to the mid/later '70s heyday of American power pop (Big Star, Raspberries, Dwight Twilley) with additional nods to the best of 21st Century pop-leaning punk (Exploding Hearts, Gentleman Jesse). But on this 14-song long player, The Whiffs expand their sound to incorporate the aching ballads and beer-soaked anthems of heartland rock lore. This album just feels like America. It transports me to some mythical dive bar where The Replacements, Tom Petty, and Cheap Trick still rule the jukebox. The band still delivers gorgeous melodies, three-part harmonies, and memorable choruses in spades. But while Another Whiff is steeped in power pop classicism, it doesn't limit itself to that. This album is as universal as music gets - packed with songs about heartbreak, lost love, and whatever magic it is that keeps us going back for more.

My greatest appreciation for Another Whiff comes from comparing it to Take A Whiff and realizing how far this band has come. I was so stoked on Take A Whiff that I could not have imagined much room for improvement. But Another Whiff is indeed better by leaps and bounds. Certainly adding another talented songwriter to the band didn't hurt. But clearly The Whiffs benefited from taking their sweet time and honing these songs to their complete satisfaction. This is a rare case of me having no clue which song is supposed to be "the hit". This record is chock full of songs that would be all over the radio in a world where 1980 never ended. Songs like "Shakin All Over" and "Dream About Judy" are pure power pop bliss. "Please Be True" follows that Petty by way of the Byrds blueprint to perfection. "On The Boulevard" is the perfect song for that particular moment when you can't decide whether you'd rather cry in your beer or start dancing. The wonderfully nostalgic "Seventeen" channels Alex Chilton not just in style, but also in spirit.

Another Whiff was one of my most highly anticipated albums of 2019, and it turned out even better than I hoped. It's a great power pop album and a great album, period. You will be seeing this record pop up on a lot of people's year-end top tens, and it will certainly rank very highly on mine. Vinyl available now from DIG! Records!


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The OC Rippers - Demo

Greg Mongroll has been tipping me off to great new bands since the days when he was one of the three people who followed this blog. He never lets me down, which ultimately means he never lets you down! His latest find is The OC Rippers, a new project hailing from Ocean County, New Jersey (hence the "OC" in the band name!). The OC Rippers have emerged with a demo tape that you can download for free or purchase on cassette by emailing the band. What I like about this demo is that it reminds me of my early days in the punk world - when it was always so cool to discover a demo tape from a new band. A little bit of that magic has been lost in our modern-day digital world, when bands post "demos" online that often just sound like studio recordings. But The OC Rippers' demo actually sounds like a demo I would have played the hell out of in 1995. It's lo-fi but not really "garage". This is just good stripped-down old school punk. Sometimes the band comes out ripping it fast and hard ("Never Coming Down"). Other tracks like "Look Your Best" are slower in tempo and crudely performed in a charming pre-punk/early punk way. I love that there's nothing I can compare this band to directly. If they have influences, they're not made obvious. The keyboards on some of the tracks are a neat touch as well. I still don't feature new bands as often as I'd like to, so I must thank Greg for helping me out a little. Be the first on your block to get hip to The OC Rippers!


Monday, December 2, 2019

Sick Bags - Only The Young Die Good

Fresh off a killer debut EP released early this year, Virginia's Sick Bags are back with six more tracks of fierce and filthy punk rock and roll. Again, guitarist Tony Leet (ex Dirty Fingers, Ladies) has penned some raw and rocking punk tunes that ascend to another level on the strength of Mel Medina's bad-ass vocals and Paul Kirk's scorching guitar leads. Only The Young Die Good, poised for a vinyl release in late December/early January, is a potent mix of Stooges/MC5 thunder, early American punk grit, and even a little '80s glam metal sleaze. Sometimes you just need a record like this that kicks you straight in the teeth, and I like how everything builds up to the epic and blazing "Halfway to Hell". There's nothing fancy going on here: just tough, straight-forward punk rock with attitude for days. Already recognized as one of Richmond's must-see live acts, Sick Bags are rising stars of the trashy punk scene. Physical release of Only The Young Die Good coming from two of the best labels out there: No Front Teeth and Spaghetty Town Records!


Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Anxieties - Mission Failure

The Anxieties' latest album has been quite a long time in the making. Seriously: in the years it took the Portland foursome to get Mission Failure made, the band's lyrics had to be re-categorized from science fiction to non-fiction. All of that paranoia, distrust of the government-entertainment complex, and wariness of constant surveillance don't seem too far-fetched at a time when our televisions are literally recording our conversations and artificial intelligence can recognize our faces in photographs. Alexa, play The Anxieties!

To the best of my knowledge, this is the Anxieties' first full album of new material since Under Surveillance, which was recorded back in 2009-2010. The band started writing Mission Failure a decade ago, but a series of lineup changes led to a number of delays in the completion of the record. One thing led to another, and suddenly Scott Von Rocket and company were considering that the album title was turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perseverance ultimately prevailed, and here we are in 2019 with a new Anxieties full-length finally in our possession (LP release to be announced). Man, do we ever need this band more than ever! Mission Failure is probably the most focused display yet of The Anxieties' musical vision. These songs re-imagine the surf-inflected melodic punk of early '80s southern California for our 21st Century dystopia, with a touch of that post Dirtnap Records garage punk/pop in the mix as well. The title track has the band emphasizing melody more than ever before, while "Atlantis Rising" flexes surf rock instrumental chops in a major way. But more than anything else, this album finds The Anxieties ripping it up old school style. Six of 14 tracks don't even hit the two-minute mark, and several more barely exceed it. Songs like "Blank Stares", "Hypnotised", "Panic Room", and "Radio Silence" are fast and frantic thrillers - fully exuding the anxious tenor of our times. There's a spastic quality to many of these songs that has long been a hallmark of Von Rocket's bands. And that perfectly fits The Anxieties' brave new world vibe. While many of these songs were written by a much earlier version of this band, the new lineup sounds amazing and definitely manages to put its own stamp on the material. Pretty much everyone who's been in The Anxieties over the past decade has had a hand in making this album what it is. And you never really mind waiting for a record when it turns out this awesomely. Mission Failure is highly recommended listening whether you're skateboarding, circle dancing, or privately contemplating your growing dread of science gone too far.