Sunday, July 12, 2020

honeychain - Pocket Full Of Good Luck

The terrible year 2020 continues to be one of our best years in recent memory for music. Joining  a superb slate of 2020 album releases is the second long player from Los Angeles trio honeychain. Pocket Full Of Good Luck is the band's first release on Die Laughing/Golden Robot Records. It was recorded, produced, mixed, and mastered by singer/guitarist Hillary Burton. It follows 2017's CRUSHED, which in my book is a modern classic of power pop.

A lot of you know Burton as the drummer in The Pandoras, but she's been releasing music under the honeychain name since 2013. The current lineup, which includes Andre Tusques on bass and Loye Aubrey Jr on drums, sounds awesome. Over the years, Burton has developed a signature style of songwriting that incorporates influences from numerous eras and genres. While honeychain is definitely a classic Southern California sun-soaked punk pop group, the band's sound owes just as much to early '90s alternative rock, the pure pop of the '60s, and modern day garage rock. I would have had zero complaints about a repeat of CRUSHED, but Pocket Full Of Good Luck does not settle for just more of the same. It's a fine example of how a great pop band ought to progress. It takes everything I liked about honeychain and adds so much more. Songs like "Go Away" and "Great Big World" capture the vintage honeychain punky power pop sound in all its glory. On the other hand, songs like "Spaceman" and "Flee Los Angeles" take the heavy guitar '90s alt-rock inspirations of the band's previous releases and push them front and center. "Flee Los Angeles" in particular will rock you straight back to 1993! This album is such a pleasure to listen to because it gives you a little bit of everything. "Beautiful Now" is haunting and gorgeous. The title track is a punk rock thrill ride. "Chemtrails" is bittersweet pop at its absolute finest. "289" is pure garage rock and an absolute blast. And then there's the stunning "Late Night Movie Show", which Burton co-wrote with her dear friend Kim Shattuck. It closes the album in a beautiful and memorable manner. It's just so heartfelt, sweet, and moving in a completely unpretentious way. I find myself focusing on the significance of every word Burton sings. As I imagine every other honeychain fan listening to this song with me, there won't be a dry eye among us.

With now two great albums to its name, honeychain has established itself as one of the finest pop/rock bands of the present day. And Hillary Burton is such an amazing songwriter! Pocket Full Of Good Luck picks up where CRUSHED left off and moves several steps forward. It's all the best of pop, rock, and punk mixed together in cool and creative ways. It sounds like a million bucks, and the songs are fantastic all the way through. Click here to listen or buy!

Digital purchase link
CD purchase link  

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Guerrilla Teens - Dillinger Red

Alright, kids: ya better get cracking on this one! Six days from now, the first two demo tracks ever released by Portland, Oregon punk rock and roll supergroup Guerrilla Teens will be disappearing from the Internet. They will literally self-destruct in the blink of an eye. And lemme tell you, these tracks are HOT! It won't take you long to identify that this mysterious band is fronted by the mighty Scott "Deluxe" Drake (ex Humpers, Lovesores). He's joined by a couple of old partners in crime along with some star players from Portland's formidable punk rock scene. If the breakup of Lovesores had you shedding a tear (trust me, I feel you!), the arrival of Guerrilla Teens will quickly fill that hole in your heart. Oh man, "Dillinger Red" is pure fire! From the ripping twin guitars to the slamming drums and bass to Drake's powerhouse vocal, this song has got everything you could ever desire from punk rock and roll music. It's paired here with "Super Aces (Bonus Poker)", a primal slow burn that's super sleazy in the best possible way. I could say more, but there's no time to monkey around! Cough up a dollar and get these songs downloaded today. Two brand-new demos will be taking their place on Bandcamp next Friday, and I'm sure they won't be around long either. You have been warned!


Friday, July 10, 2020

Jerry Lehane - self titled

What was I just saying about Rum Bar Records having become home base for the best of Boston rock and roll? It doesn't get any more "Boston rock and roll" than The Dogmatics. And today Rum Bar releases the debut EP from Dogmatics singer/guitarist Jerry Lehane. Incredibly, these recordings had gone unreleased for 29 years until today. Talk about an unearthed treasure!

These five tracks were recorded over a three-day period in 1991 at the Cars-owned studio Synchro Sound. Lehane made a special deal with sound engineer Tom Hamilton that allowed him to record the EP on the cheap by going in after midnight. Lehane, who was between bands at the time, enlisted the services of several talented friends to play on his debut solo record. This included Charlie Chesterman (Scruffy the Cat, Harmony Rockets, the Motorbikes), Chris Doucette (The Galley Slaves, Witch Doctor, Hotbox), Danny Coughlin (Children of Paradise, Lazy Susan, Eric Martin & the Illyrians), Chris Erikson (Sacred Cows), Randall Gibson IV (Scruffy the Cat, The Flies, the Illyrians), Lance Hewitt (Timmys), and Scott Seiver (Ted Leo, Tenacious D, John Legend, Pete Yorn). It's just so cool to envision all of these amazing musicians gathering late at night to cut a record! At this point, you may be wondering why it took almost three decades for this EP to see the light of day. There does not appear to be a good answer to this question. Thankfully, Malibu Lou heard these songs and immediately wanted to release them. The original plan was for Lehane to record three brand-new songs with Ed Riemer and create a mash-up of old and new. But then came the pandemic, and all of that went out the window. So what we have here are five tracks out of the 1991 time capsule that really hold up. If you're expecting a Dogmatics feel, well there's certainly a little bit of that. You'll hear the guitars that open "Kiss My Tattoo" and instantly know who you're listening to. And the rocking and rolling "Fish" could easily pass for a lost Dogmatics track. But over the course of these five songs, Lehane covers a good deal of musical territory. "Kiss My Tattoo" is high energy garage rock, Boston style. "Runaway With You" is a Stonesy barroom ballad that Lehane's current label mate Tom Baker would be proud to have written. "All I Can Do" is twangy, aching, and reminiscent of the Replacements. 

Several of the songs on this EP, including the raging "Kiss My Tattoo", were written in the aftermath of a painful breakup. It has to be a little weird for Lehane, now happily married for over two decades, to hear these songs and relive that particular moment of his life. But in purging himself of some unpleasant memories, he created some remarkable music. And then there's the excellent "Feel Like Dying" - a song about a soldier heading off to the Gulf War. That might seem very specific to 1991, but the themes of the song are every bit as relevant and impactful today. It's amazing how a 29-year-old EP fits in so seamlessly with the rest of the music coming out on Rum Bar Records today. Then again, that kind of makes sense. There's a long list of current Rum Bar artists who would consider The Dogmatics and Jerry Lehane to be huge influences on their songwriting and musical style. Hopefully by next year, we'll hear those new solo tracks. Jerry Lehane is a national treasure! Be sure to check out this recent interview he did with Anngelle Wood!


Thursday, July 9, 2020

WhistleStop Rock - "Queen of the Drive​-​In"

The WhistleStop Rock Festival has spawned its own supergroup! WhistleStop Rock was created last year when nine of New England's top punk/power pop/rock and roll bands united to form a woman-empowered concert festival. The bands are The Chelsea Curve, Cold Expectations, Field Day, Heather Rose In Clover, Justine and The Unclean, Kid Gulliver, The Knock Ups, Linnea's Garden, and Tiger Bomb. The festival has also featured special guests such as Tanya Donelly, Joyce Raskin White, Seana Carmody, Lockette, and The Shang-Hi-Los. The WhistleStop hit several New England towns earlier this year. Even after the pandemic arrived, the festival has continued with virtual shows.

Recently the women of WhistleStop made the leap from playing shows together to making a record together! They were exchanging stories about good times they'd had at drive-in movies (hint: they were totally unrelated to the movie!). Justine Covault (Justine and The Unclean, Justine's Black Threads) thought that sounded like a great song idea. Within a day, Simone Berk (Kid Gulliver, Sugar Snow) and Linnea Herzog (Linnea's Garden, PowerSlut) had co-written the perfect summer pop song. And just like that, WhistleStop Rock was a band! Joining Berk (lead vocals) and Herzog (guitar) for the recording of "Queen of the Drive-In" were Covault on guitar, Linda Bean Pardee (The Chelsea Curve) on bass, Sandy Summers (Kid Gulliver) on drums, Heather Rose on stylophone and backing vocals, Lynda Mandolyn (Tiger Bomb, Crystal Canyon) on backing vocals, and JoEllen Saunders Yannis (Cold Expectations) on backing vocals. What a group!

"Queen of the Drive-In" is exactly the power pop/rock and roll smash you'd expect given the contributions of all these talented individuals. In the grand tradition of musical odes to the drive-in, this song is very, very naughty! Berk's lyrics are hot, hilarious, and totally fantastic. In the interest of keeping this blog PG rated, the only line I will quote is "What did we see? I'm not paying attention". Berk delivers a perfectly dirty-sweet vocal, and you will not hear a catchier song this summer. The single is already available from Bandcamp, but the women of WhistleStop Rock have something special planned for the official release of this single. Each performer on "Queen of the Drive-In" appears in a music video produced by Daniel Ouelette. The video will premiere tomorrow night as part of a virtual WhistleStop Rock show on Facebook. All of the WhistleStop bands will be performing, as will special guests A Bunch of Jerks and The Shang-Hi-Los. The show will be live tomorrow from 7:30-9:30 Eastern time. In the meantime, give "Queen of the Drive​-​In" a listen. And check out all the cool bands I've linked below!


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Autogramm - "Working Man"

Here's something fun for you today! Vancouver new wave trio Autogramm has released a cover of Rush's "Working Man", which the band recorded while all members were in pandemic lockdown. While "Working Man" is no doubt a Canadian rock classic, you might consider it an interesting choice for a synth-pop/power pop band. And that's the whole point! Autogramm transforms this legendary heavy rock tune into a catchy pop song with a Devo meets Gary Numan feel. There's nothing "ironic" about this cover choice. I sense that the band has genuine love for the original and wanted to put its own signature on it. Autogramm is releasing this song as the first single in advance of its sophomore album - due out next year on the Los Angeles label Nevado Music. All proceeds from the sales of this track are going to local non-profit RAVEN Trust (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs), a legal fund that defends Indigenous rights in Canada. You can check out "Working Man" and the rest of Autogramm's catalog over at the trio's Bandcamp!


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Breaklights - "Second To None"

Wow, time really flies! As I sat down to review Breaklights' new 7", I was surprised to discover that it's been four years since I last wrote about this Austin, Texas based band. "Second To None", out now on Otitis Media Records, is actually the band's first 7" following a couple of EPs. On this release, Breaklights retain their signature sound rooted in '90s/early 2000s melodic punk and pop-punk. I like to call it "pop-punk for grown-ups": powerful, melody-driven music with mature lyrics and a nice mellow vibe. This release was produced by FILMAGE director Deedle LaCour, and it sounds amazing. Breaklights have always sounded to me like a punk band from the '90s that would have been on a major or bigger indie label. They fully embrace big hooks and a polished sound, but that punk edge is still there. "Second To None" pairs Charlie's warm vocals and heartfelt lyrics with punchy guitars and a soaring energy. Although this song does not even reach the three-and-a-half minute mark, it has a grand, anthemic feel to it. The band does something a little unconventional with the arrangement of the song towards the end. I won't spoil the surprise other than to say that I enjoyed this little twist. "Overdue" is the flip side (literally) to the feelgood vibe of "Second To None". With an opening line like "Hanging around someone like you/Is a real bad time for two", you know exactly what you're in for. This is an honest analysis of how things can go wrong between two individuals, and I think a lot of people will relate. Again, this is a perfect example of how pop-punk can sound fully "mature" and still pack a serious punch. This is a great-looking 7" and a top-notch pair of songs from Breaklights. If you missed the band's 12" EP Don't Try So Hard from 2018, that's really great as well and definitely work checking out!


Monday, July 6, 2020

Sweet Reaper - Closer Still

It seems like every time I turn around, Alien Snatch Records has released something new and awesome! Closer Still is the vinyl debut from Ventura, California trio Sweet Reaper. What we have here are 11 tracks of fuzzy garage pop that would be equally at home on the beach or at the cemetery. On the continuum of all things Alien Snatch, this band slides neatly between Radioactivity and the Hex Dispensers. Think catchy, lo-fi tunes that manage to be really upbeat and a little haunting at the same time. Sweet Reaper originated as the album Sweet Reaper by Seth Pettersen in 2015. That solo project soon turned into a proper band, and Closer Still is the second of the group's two full-length releases. It sounds like something that Dirtnap Records might have put out circa 2003, but with a little more of that modern-day Southern California flavor. You can call this a party record, but only if you're comfortable partying at a haunted house on the beach. Actually that sounds kind of awesome. Red vinyl is limited to 100 copies - you know what to do!


Sunday, July 5, 2020

Vista Blue - "The Senator's Daughter"

Here it is: my 25th Vista Blue review! I feel like I should be awarding the band something silver to celebrate this occasion. Baseball bats? Scooters? Faster & Louder varsity jackets? I'll have to see what's in the budget. You may have noticed that Vista Blue has been a little less prolific than usual this summer. That's because their alter egos Ralphie's Red Ryders have been hard at work on a full-length album that will be coming out on this Christmas on Outloud Records. In the meantime, the band has released an EP of odds and ends centering around its recent cover of the Fountains of Wayne classic "The Senator's Daughter". Those of you who are Fountains of Wayne fans are probably familiar with this track already from the wonderful free tribute album that Radiant Radish released back in May. If for some bizarre reason you are not a Fountains of Wayne fan, perhaps this song will be new to you. I love how this interpretation honors the original version yet still sounds very much like a Vista Blue song. It's terrific! "Colt Cabana #1" was originally recorded as a perk from the Kickstarter campaign that funded Vista Blue's curling-themed split with The Zambonis. The band pledged to record an entire EP of songs about professional wrestler Colt Cabana, and now you get to hear one of those tracks! "Cactus!" was written for the Phone Losers of America prank call network and was actually played as intro music on an episode of The Snow Plow Show. I never imagined that repeating the word "cactus" for 24 seconds would yield such brilliant results. But man, it totally works! "Four Seasons" is the original demo for the lead track off of The Kids Still Don't Like It, the kid-friendly record the band released back in 2018.

I like that "The Senator's Daughter" is a release for Vista Blue super fans. And if you’ve read this far, a Vista Blue super fan is exactly what you are. As a fan, I love that this band is willing to do fun things like make entire EPs for kids, write songs about pro wrestlers on demand, and submit unsolicited theme music to prank call podcasts. If you've never heard Vista Blue before, start with Hit the Floor! and work your way through the catalog from there. For the rest of us, "The Senator's Daughter" is tremendously satisfying fan service. I can't wait for the next 25 reviews! 


Saturday, July 4, 2020

TJ Cabot & Sonic Hz - "Overcompensation"

So it had to happen that two of Moncton, New Brunswick's most celebrated musical entities would join forces. All of Atlantic Canada has responded with shock and awe. On the surface, this seems the most unlikely of marriages. You've got the retro synth wave of Sonic Hz crossing paths with the DIY trash-punk of TJ Cabot. It's like Vangelis meets hardcore Devo, or The Screamers giving Jan Hammer shock therapy. Details on how this collaboration came about have been suppressed due to an ongoing contractual dispute between TJ Cabot and his band-mate Millhouse Deville over the rights to several unreleased tracks and a Rollie Melanson rookie card. However, the message board chatter indicates that TJ Cabot and the artist known as Sonic Hz were seen congregating at an abandoned '80s shopping mall and exchanging ideas about a shared musical vision that no one ever dared to anticipate. "Overcompensation" turns out to be the perfect fusion of two disparate musical worlds. It's as if TJ Cabot's '70s robot punks climbed aboard one of Sonic Hz's '80s spaceships and created a soundtrack for a movie that would only be available today on VHS. This song is something very different for TJ Cabot (it would not be the same track without the synths), and it's totally unlike anything you've heard from Sonic Hz. And at three minutes, it's twice the length of the average TJ Cabot track. So you're getting more bang for your buck (actually the track is free, so really it's more bang for no bucks). If this song is not already being piped into retail stores, public parks, and medical facilities all throughout the greater Moncton area, it is up to you citizens to submit your requests.


Friday, July 3, 2020

Lucy and the Rats - Got Lucky

This has been one of the best weeks ever for new album releases! We already had The Speedways on Monday and The Yum Yums on Wednesday. Last but certainly not least is the absolutely stunning sophomore long player by London-based foursome Lucy and the Rats. A co-release between Stardumb, Surfin' Ki, and Dirty Water Records, Got Lucky builds on the promise of the band's 2018 debut album and ultimately exceeds it by leaps and bounds.

As a singer and songwriter, Lucy Ellis (ex Spazzys) has been responsible for some of the finest pop music of recent years. She crafts beautiful melodies and sings with a tenderness and vulnerability that bring to mind the 1960s heyday of girl groups and Brill Building pop. While known primarily for their punk bona fides, band-mates Joe Tolosoa (Los Perros, Johnny Throttle), Manu Santos (Thee Tumbitas, Johnny Throttle, Raw Fun, Michael Jackson), and Liam Brody (The Gaggers, Johnny Throttle, Scraps) have proven to be exceptionally accomplished players in a pure pop style. If I had any complaints about the debut album, it's that I would have liked to have heard a song or two that picked up the pace a little and exercised the band's punk chops. And that's where Got Lucky really hits the mark. It delights with a nice mix of moods, tempos, and musical styles. It has got plenty of the dreamy, bittersweet pop songs that this band is so well known for. "September" is wistful, beautiful, and exquisite in every way. "On Fire" sounds like a lost girl group classic and will absolutely tear your heart out. It takes a special songwriter and singer to make a ballad work, but "Lucky" is truly extraordinary. I've been going back to this song again and again, and it makes me smile every time. But while the softer side of Lucy and the Rats remains fully intact, the punkier side also comes out on this album. Uptempo numbers like "Real Thing" and "Time To Time" really put the power in the pop. "Sorry" and "Jelly Baby Baby" are perfect pop-punk songs. "Pinch Myself" is pure '77-style punk along the lines of last summer's "Stick To You" single.

If you're going broke buying all of this music I've been touting lately, I apologize (okay, not really). But I hope you've got a little more saved up for Got Lucky. When I heard the advance single "Dark Clouds" this past spring, it was clear to me that Lucy and the Rats had turned out the finest song of their existence. I am happy to report that the entire album is at that same level. If you love power pop with a punk influence, Got Lucky is an album you need to own. Lucy Ellis is a tremendous songwriter and as likable of a singer as you'll ever hear. And this band as a whole is everything that power pop ought to be. Vinyl is available now from Stardumb and Surfin' Ki Records in Europe and The Machine Shop The Machine Shop in the U.S.A.!


Thursday, July 2, 2020

Jay Allen and the Archcriminals - Fun Is Fun, The Trilogy Is Done.

With Rum Bar Records having become home base for the best of Boston punk, garage, and rock and roll, it was never in doubt that Jay Allen and the Archcriminals would be a big part of that. Jay Allen (Quest for Tuna, Thumbcramp, Bosley) is a legend in the Boston punk scene going all the way back to the '80s. Backed by the Archcriminals, he has delivered the new album Fun Is Fun, The Trilogy Is Done. on Rum Bar. This eight-song long player follows Fun Is Fun But This Is Unsanitary (2003) and Fun Is Fun But You Gotta Be F'n Kidding Me (2010). In true Jay Allen fashion, this is a unique and entertaining creation influenced by '70s punk, garage rock, old rock and roll, and even a little pop. Jay Allen is a genuine original. When you put on one of his albums, you immediately know who you're listening to. What does Fun Is Fun... sound like? Well that changes from track to track! Opener "Cry A Little Tear" (featuring Emily Grogan on backing vocals) is an on-point homage to doo wop and early rock and roll. I've never heard anything quite like this before. It's like Sha Na Na meets Elvis meets The Dictators, and it's just so damn good! "Little Daggers" brings to mind label mates Indonesian Junk - think trashy '70s punk with a pop heart. This song really hits me hard. I love the raw emotion in the vocals and lyrics, and man that chorus is sticking to my skull like glue! "Grow Some Stones" is great straight-forward pub rock and roll not unlike The Dogmatics. "Big Lie" and "Beautiful Chaos" are rough-edged pop songs with a little bit of a Replacements feel. "I'll Be Damned" is some rip-roaring cow-punk to get you up and moving. And then there's "Chopped Liver". Who else would ever think to write a song about heartbreak with a backdrop of Jewish cuisine, and then throw in a shout-out to Fred G. Sanford for good measure? Jay Allen is a freakin' genius! If you're a fan of Boston punk/garage or the Rum Bar label in general, Fun Is Fun... needs to be on your radar.


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Roxies - live at the Wild At Heart

Back in March, I wrote about a delightful 7" record by Berlin-based punk group The Roxies. This band is three quarters German and one quarter English, which sounds an awful lot like my DNA. The musical DNA is a match as well: I can never get enough of high-energy old school punk with a touch of pop. At the time of my review, The Roxies were fresh off of a well-received tour of Northern England and building all kinds of momentum. Then came the pandemic. And like every other band in the world, The Roxies found themselves grounded. While they have not yet had the opportunity to play for live crowds again, they did perform at the legendary Berlin club Wild at Heart a couple weeks back without an audience. The entire performance was live-streamed, and you can now view the whole thing on YouTube. Watching this video, you'll get a great feel for the energy of The Roxies. Even though there's no crowd directly in front of them, they give an enthused and lively performance. Plus you get to see what an incredibly cool venue the Wild At Heart is! Having only heard a few songs from this band before, I was pleased to hear more. If all goes well, some of these newer tracks will turn up on the album The Roxies plan to record later this year. For now, check out this amazing set which also features a fun little interview with the band. They sure seem like lovely human beings! I want to drink beer and eat fish and chips with these people! The Roxies are all about spreading the love and giving people the chance to get out and have a sweaty good time. Someday the actual live shows will resume, and this is a band you're gonna want to see!

(You will need to click on the link to watch the video on the YouTube site. Action starts at 3:45!) 


Monday, June 29, 2020

OC Rippers and live music returns to NJ!

Review by Ralph Rivera

On June 27th, 2020, the first live music festival returned to New Jersey since February 29th and the legendary "Leap Day Festival" in Atlantic City! Since March 13th, ALL bars and clubs have been shut down - basically killing every tour, live date, and record release for months now. Well guess what, my friends? Leave it to New Jersey to break the seal and put on the first live bands, public gathering, benefit show, FULL ON BBQ since the world came to a grinding halt!

Before I get into reviewing how great every band was, this is completely dedicated to one man and one man alone: Mr. Jay Baluski. This dude has been a NJ fixture probably as long as me. He completely organized this show, got the bands on board, and found a non-political reason to get the ENTIRE NJ scene together in a matter of TWO DAYS! All hails to you, my brother!

So here we go. An absolutely beautiful NJ summer Saturday, and it's go time. We got six bands from all genres of the "underground" gathered in one of the most beautiful parks at the Jersey Shore. For over 20 years, Hebrew Park has been the site of the annual "Angry Drunk BBQ". A Jersey tradition if there ever was one. Too many bands to even list. But I digress. This was a donation show for our local animal rescue shelter Popcorn Park Zoo, which if you're ever around the Jersey Shore, you should check out. From what I heard, we raised THOUSANDS of dollars! NOW on to the bands. If you can imagine this, OC Rippers OPENED this show! In my humble opinion, the best band in NJ right now. They started out full throttle and just NEVER let up! With originals that will get you dancing to amazing covers that if you didn't know the lyrics, you'd never recognize. These guys just totally set the mood for the entire day. Ending with an incredible cover of the Nervous Eaters' "Just Head", I could only WISH I could be in a band this good. Next up was Coffin Void, a local grindcore band that the bass player from OC Rippers plays guitar in. I'm not the biggest fan of that style, but DAMN they were tight and got the entire crowd out in the pit. Next up was my friend Ian's band USELESS. I've known this dude since the '80s, and I knew this was gonna be HEAVY. After watching these guys plow through a half hour of tunes that I can only call "sludge rock", I was converted. Neurosis meets Sabbath meets REAL rock and roll! They did a cover of "Ain't No Sunshine" that I shit you not should be played on EVERY radio station! Next up was a band I just heard of, but they have no Bandcamp. So I went in blind. From Asbury Park, New Jersey, let me introduce you to one of your new favorite bands, Tiki Torture! I was talking to their guitar player/singer for a while. He was telling me they were surf metal. I was on board already because that's pretty much what I play. These guys hit the stage, and it was all over! EVERYONE moved up to check these guys out. Starting out with a couple standard type "punk" songs, they slowly went into DK/Agent Orange mode. To say I was blown away would be an understatement. By the time they launched into their epic song "MooseKnuckle", I was converted. Supposedly they have an LP coming out soon that will be available on Bandcamp, but we only got Soundcloud for now. At that point, it was time to socialize, take more pics, and get reacquainted with some people I hadn't seen in 20-30 years.

The ENTIRE NJ underground scene came out for this show. ALL OF US! Old friends, new friends, seeing children for the first time - IT WAS ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL! I've never seen so many people so happy just to see each other again! And believe it or not - we're already planning another show just like this! You can't stop punk rock! This was the first live music show in MONTHS, and EVERYONE came out for a good cause and just to feel alive again. I thank EVERYONE that made this happen, and I'm so blown away that there were at least FOUR generations at this show and everyone got along with no bad vibes whatsoever! It's time to live again, my friends! Thank you, Josh Rutledge, for giving me this chance to show people that things ARE going to get better! Stay underground and stay strong!

-Ralph Rivera

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Speedways - Radio Sounds

Well here we go: the album I entered 2020 looking forward to the most is finally here! Radio Sounds is the second LP by London-based foursome The Speedways - and its first as a proper band. Based on the two singles released in advance of Radio Sounds, my expectations for this album were sky-high. But somehow this record has actually surpassed what I was hoping for. Singer/guitarist Matt Julian has always excelled at crafting three-minute pop songs in the classic tradition. But having found the perfect band-mates in guitarist Mauro Venegas, bassist Adrian Alfonso, and drummer Kris Hood, he's made absolute magic on this 12-track full-band debut.

Radio Sounds is spiritually aligned with 2018's spectacular Just Another Regular Summer. But this album is bigger, better, and even more emotionally wrenching than its predecessor. The playing and production are immaculate, and the songs are truly magnificent. Julian is really in his element here, turning out song after song about heartbreak, longing, and the sadness of love lost. He has quite a flair for combining the melodic punch of new wave power pop with the drama and romance of '60s girl groups and teen idols. Radio Sounds, as the title suggests, draws inspiration from the timeless pop hits of yore. The influence shows not just in the melodies, harmonies, and choruses but also in Julian's lyrics. Of course he can write a catchy song that will have you humming along and hopping merrily around the house. But as enjoyable as these tunes are on the surface, they're also songs that you can really feel. I consider Julian a true soul singer. When he sings of heartache, despair, and bitter disappointments in love and life, every word rings authentic. He's lived his music. And that is the secret formula for great pop - to create joy by making others less alone in their misery.

From start to finish, Radio Sounds is packed with remarkable songs. If lead single "Kisses Are History" doesn't move you to tears, you probably weren't listening very closely. "The Day I Call You Mine" is perhaps my favorite Speedways song to date. The protagonist in this tale is willingly throwing himself into heartbreak's line of fire, and I relate to that on a personal level. Even as I listen to this song and think "This guy's in for it!", I know I would be in the same boat. If you believe in love, you sometimes have to take your punches. If you stop believing in love, that's a far bleaker existence in my book. "Empty Pages", another choice cut, manages to be devastating and hopeful all at once. That chorus will pull at your heartstrings all day long! "Good Girls Don't Break Hearts" and "Telephone Lies" are vintage Speedways numbers - bitter pills that go down easy. If 1980 had never ended, these would indeed be radio sounds. "Your Brown Eyes Look So Blue" is snappy R & B that ought to have you dancing into the night. And just as Julian did on Just A Regular Summer, he places the album's two most dramatic, epic songs at the end of each side. "This Is About A Girl Who Loves The Sun", which eerily employs Marilyn Monroe's "I'm generally miserable" quote as a backdrop, will absolutely tear your heart out. Album closer "In A World Without Love It's Hard To Stay Young" sounds like it should be playing over the closing credits to a powerful cinematic love story. That title is truly profound, and the song seems the perfect culmination to an album that ultimately asserts that the heartbreak we endure in life is absolutely worth it. I've played this song dozens of times over the last few weeks, and it never ceases to take my breath away.

The Speedways worked meticulously to make Radio Sounds the strongest album it could be, and they have succeeded spectacularly. As great as Julian was on his own, he's even better in tandem with the like-minded and talented Venegas, Alfonso, and Hood. This album rings with the echoes of everyone from Buddy Holly to Phil Spector to Elvis Costello to the Exploding Hearts. It's a classic style pop record that manages to sound fully contemporary in 2020. Radio Sounds isn't just the best power pop album of the year. It's the best power pop album in a whole lot of years! It's available now from Snap! Records/Hurrah Musica, Beluga Records, & Alien Snatch Records!


Friday, June 26, 2020

Kid Gulliver - "i wanna be a pop star"

Having already released one of this year's most delightful singles in "Susie Survived Chemotherapy", Boston's Kid Gulliver is back for an encore! "i wanna be a pop star" is another perfect shot of power pop that brings together the best elements of '60s pop, early '80s new wave, and '90s alternative rock. Featuring the songwriting talents of David Armillott and the magnificent voice of Simone Berk (Sugar Snow), Kid Gulliver is all about timeless melodies and choruses you can't help singing along with. "i wanna be a pop star" is my kind of pop song for sure. I love how it pairs the sweetest vocals and melodies with lyrics that could not be more bitter and sarcastic. Armillott's indictment of the superficiality of pop stardom and the absurd idolatry it inspires is very much on point. This song delivers an irresistible sing-along hook, and in an alternate universe Kid Gulliver probably would be pop stars. Of course I speak of an alternate universe where fame and radio airplay were actually based on musical talent. This track was produced by Brian Charles at Zippah Studios in Brighton, Massachusetts, and it sounds absolutely amazing. Power pop is a genre made for the three-minute single. Kid Gulliver are quickly turning into masters of the form.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Tommy Ray! (Official) SoundCloud!

Power pop fans rejoice! An official Tommy Ray SoundCloud now exists for your listening pleasure! Now you can stream Tommy Ray's entire catalog for free. That includes his recent solo album First Hits Free, both of The Cry's classic LPs, and the 2019 release PDX Punx by The Decayed. It's an exciting time for Tommy Ray, who recently completed a second solo album called Handful of Hits that will be out October 1 on the German label GadM. What a treasure trove of pop hits we have here! If you like what you hear, all of these titles are available for purchase on the Tommy Ray & The Cry! Bandcamp. First Hits Free is one of the finest albums to be released this year so far, and I promise that Handful of Hits will be just as good. For now, head on over to SoundCloud and dig into Tommy Ray's existing catalog!


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Concrete City - "Break Up The Band"/"Strange Bodies!"

I don't write about a whole lot of "indie rock". But today I'm featuring a band from that universe that I've been enjoying tremendously. Concrete City hails from Baltimore, Maryland and is comprised of a star-studded cast of players from that great city's punk/indie scene. The lineup is Mike Hall (The Thumbs, Sick Sick Birds) on lead vocals, Tim Baier (Roads To Space Travel) on guitar, Elena Fox (Squaaks) on bass, and Lee Ashlin (The Fuses, ADVLTS) on drums. These four individuals bring together a wide array of musical influences, and what results is a cool, contemporary take on indie/alternative/college rock. I'm definitely catching the vibe of '80s British post-punk - particularly The Cure and New Order. But the influence isn't super obvious, and there are touches of more recent modern rock and indie pop in the mix as well. Concrete City has not one but two new-ish singles that are well worth checking out. "Break Up The Band" and "Strange Bodies!" are both available via Bandcamp. The latter is a $3 download, while the former is free. As you would imagine given the players involved, the musicianship and songwriting are top-notch. This is a great example of how to make rock music that's moody and sophisticated but not the least bit pretentious. And these songs have legit hooks to boot. This is really extraordinary stuff. If you long for the days when alternative rock ruled, this band will take you straight back there. A full album is in the works and should be out by year's end or whenever conditions allow. I'll keep you posted! 


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Song Premiere: Tommy and the Commies - "Impulse Action" and "One Arch Town"

Exciting news: Hurtin' 4 Certain, the new EP from Tommy and the Commies, releases July 17th on Slovenly Recordings! It has been nearly two full years since Slovenly released the instant classic debut long player Here Come Tommy and the Commies. Hurtin' 4 Certain is the first new music since then from this sensational mod/punk/power pop trio out of Sudbury, Ontario. The title track premiered last month on Slovenly's 2020 Isolation Sampler. I am very pleased today to debut two more tracks from an EP that will have you all going absolutely crazy and begging to be inducted into the fan club. "Impulse Action" and "One Arch Town" are vintage shots of Tommy and the Commies' signature "hooligan pop". I know everyone likes to throw around Buzzcocks comparisons, and I certainly won't disagree. But "Impulse Action" is a little less Love Bites and a little more Spiral Scratch. "One Arch Town" sounds like a song The Dickies might have written if they'd ever gotten serious for a moment. For real: this band has never sounded tougher, punchier, or more energetic on record. Even if you ordinarily hate "pop" punk, you will love this. These are songs you will want to play at an obnoxiously loud volume while you dance wildly around the house and pump yourself up for some hooligan-ish antics of your own. Power poppers, '77 punks, mods, and garage freaks unite: your next favorite record arrives in 24 days!


Sunday, June 21, 2020

Mom - "Tonight"

So I got an email the other day with the subject line The best single you haven't heard...yet! I have to admit I was suspicious. I get some really weird submissions sometimes - stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with the kind of music I review. But let me tell you: Mom's debut record is exactly the kind of thing I like. And it was indeed the best single I had not yet heard! Mom are Donny, Luke, and Frank. They hail from Malmö, Sweden and play awesome power pop with a '70s bubblegum glam feel. "Tonight" is the first of two singles Mom is releasing in advance of a debut album expected out this fall. The title track is a stone cold smash. It's upbeat, hooky, and a whole lot of fun. I'm talking Pop with a capital P! This song sounds like something that would pop up on a playlist in between Nick Gilder, Milk 'N' Cookies, and the Bay City Rollers! The B-side is a cool poppy version of The Miracles' classic "The Tracks of My Tears". I am digging this record and can't wait to hear more from Mom! Download is available for just a dollar. Teenage rock and roll forever! 


Thursday, June 18, 2020

TJ Cabot & Thee Artificial Rejects - Digital/Tape

Well I guess the cat's out of the bag. Goodbye Boozy Records, that veritable institution of lo-fi trash, has identified the previously mysterious TJ Cabot & Thee Artificial Rejects as the home recorded solo project of Tyler from Phone Jerks. This revelation accompanies the label's release of the latest ear-battering product of Tyler's recording under the influence. This EP is available as a digital release from Goodbye Boozy's Bandcamp. In addition, 14 cassette copies were made - of which none remain at the time of this review (I guess if you've ever considered Tyler a sellout, you are now technically correct). The release of exactly 14 copies seems like an oddly specific choice. Was this based on a meticulously-calculated projection of how many people world-wide would actually buy it? Does it represent the number of adult beverages that fueled the conception, recording, and production of the EP? Is this a subtle tribute to Maple Leaf great Dave Keon?

This release is something quite different from Phone Jerks, and it's actually quite different from the previous TJ Cabot demos. It's...what's the word I'm looking for...weirder? Yeah, that's it! "What's In It" is really great Devo-inspired minimalist punk rock, the second in what we can all hope will be a long string of songs written about Tyler and Emily's beloved greyhound Donair. "On The Menu" sounds like a rare Stooges cut that could have been released as a Rip Off Records 45 (and if it couldn't be on ROR, Goodbye Boozy is surely the next best thing!). It's the most straight-forward punker track on this EP - a raging ball of hate hurled at some of the most despicable individuals known to humanity: foodies. I can laugh at this one become I'm kind of a foodie myself (If Tyler ever does a song about craft beer dudes, I'm really in for it). I appreciate that this track sounds less like the work of one man at home and more like the creation of a full band that routinely caps off its recording sessions with fistfights and crime sprees. To finish, "Kissin the Causeway" is a weird as fuck cover of a song by Cape Breton, Nova Scotia legends Buddy and the Boys. Common reactions to this track so far have been "What the hell is this?!" and "God, turn that off!". But if you consider the TJ Cabot project to be an on-going tribute to the land of Tyler's upbringing, then this cover choice makes perfect sense. Goodbye Boozy, a label with the stated mission of releasing "crude and minimal records", has most definitely found a kindred spirit.


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Yum Yums - For Those About To Pop!

Behold one of the most "pop" albums ever made! And with a title like For Those About To Pop!, anything less would have been a huge letdown! For Those About To Pop!, the fifth album by Norway's long-running power pop sensations The Yum Yums, will be released on LP two weeks from today on the venerable Screaming Apple Records. Waterslide Records out of Japan, Rum Bar Records out of the USA, and House of Rock Records out of Norway will all be releasing the album on CD. And let me tell you: if you're a fan of The Yum Yums' previous four albums, you're gonna go WILD for this new one!

For Those About To Pop! of course sounds like a classic Yum Yums album. I'll take that a step further and say that this is the band's best album yet! Morten Henriksen is a true pop god, and he's at the height of his powers here. This is the ultimate feelgood pop record. It's bursting with catchy melodies, punchy guitars, soaring harmonies, fun lyrics, and some of the most addictive choruses you'll ever have the good fortune to encounter. Henriksen follows the same recipe that has worked for the past 27 years: take one part Ramones, one part power pop, and one part early '70s glam & bubblegum; mix it all up, and pour it out with maximum enthusiasm. The Yum Yums were one of the first bands in the '90s to bring power pop into the punk world, which put them at the forefront of a genre we now call powerpop/punk (Seriously, how many punk rockers did you know in 1993 that were into The Barracudas and Paul Collins Beat?). For Those About To Pop! proves that The Yum Yums are still masters of this musical aesthetic. It's perhaps the most energetic and optimistic of all the band's albums. Henriksen has certainly authored his share of bitter love songs, but the vibe on this album is full-on upbeat. He's written a bunch of songs about falling in love, being in love, and hoping to fall in love. Heck, he's even written a couple of love songs to pop music itself! A good many of you will want to adopt the title track as your new personal anthem. In a better world, "Baby Baby" and "The Kind of Girl" would be massive, million-selling radio hits. "Crush On You" has me reliving the glorious new wave summers of my youth. "First Move" (featuring lyrics written by the illustrious Wayne Lundqvist Ford) and "Can't Get Enough of Your Lovin'" take it even further back to the heyday of teenybopper glam rock. Honestly, I could have singled out any song on the album. It's nothing but gold from beginning to end!

With seven years having passed since The Yum Yums released their last album Play Good Music, it's no surprise that For Those About To Pop! is so stacked with hits. Even better, this album feels like a statement. It's not just another Yum Yums album. It's the ULTIMATE Yum Yums album! It seems redundant to talk about this being an especially "pop" Yum Yums record, but that will make complete sense when you hear it. Clearly this was an album designed to be experienced in the warm weather months. It's a celebration of summertime fun, love in full bloom, and the pure magic of melody. Be prepared to sing along, dance a little, and have these songs stuck in your head until the end of time.


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Putz - Rise And Shine

I know I'm sounding like a broken record, but I'll say it again. When it comes to Ramones via Lookout! Records inspired pop-punk in 2020, The Putz is as good as it gets. Today the Indiana trio releases its fourth album Rise and Shine on two of the best labels out there: Eccentric Pop Records and OUTLOUD! Records.

The Putz is one of those pop-punk bands that manages to be totally obvious about its influences while still infusing its music with its own style and personality. Much of that is owed to Billy Putz being such a likable vocalist. Even when he's singing not-so-nice things, he sounds like a guy you'd totally want to hang out with. And as a songwriter, he excels at writing three-chord pop songs that are catchy and totally fun to sing along with. I've always maintained that writing really good simple songs is one of the hardest things to do in music. It's only perceived as easy because bands like The Putz make it seem so effortless! On Rise and Shine, Billy Putz, guitarist Patrick McVay, and drummer Dougie Tangent flawlessly execute the fundamentals of great pop-punk. You won't hear a tighter trio in this genre of music. And when it comes to finding that sweet spot between pop and punk, these guys hit it bang-on. Rise and Shine is an absolute blast, and it comes out firing with one of the strongest 1-2-3 opening sequences I've heard on a pop-punk record in a while. "Cut the Shit" is snotty, high-spirited, and straight out of the early '90s Queers playbook. "She's a Brat" is upbeat and super poppy - always a winning formula in my book. "Laserblast" is The Putz doing what The Putz does best: making a fun sing-along out of putting some insufferable asshole in his place. But while this album does revisit the snotty theme on a couple of tracks ("Grow Up" is especially fantastic), I like that we encounter the many different moods of this band. "You're the Kind of Girl That I Like" shows the sweeter side of The Putz, while "Another Autumn" is tinged with longing and sadness. "Invitation Only" touches on the classic pop-punk themes of feeling uncool and unaccepted. The title track clocks in at over four and a half minutes (an eternity in pop-punk music!) and delivers a very serious message about making the most of your life. Closing number "All The Time In The World" is a sentimental love song that reaffirms my long-held contention that all great pop-punk can be traced back to Buddy Holly.

Rise and Shine is everything I could have wanted from a new Putz album. It doesn't try to fix what isn't broken. You know who the influences are, and you probably own all of their records. Yet at the same time, this album features a cool variety of songs and shows a definite progression from the band's earlier work. And beyond all else, it's just really damn good. You could say this album is a throwback to the heyday of pop-punk. But my hot take is that right now is the heyday of pop-punk. Get your mitts on Rise and Shine while supplies last!


Saturday, June 13, 2020

Rum Bar Records: Somebody Out There Is Having A Party Vol 2 Free Digital Summer Sampler

So I was on social media yesterday and caught Ralph Rivera's review of the new Rum Bar Records sampler. He was particularly touting a track by a Spanish band called Heatwaves. Right away, I knew two things: I needed to listen to this comp, and I needed to hear everything that Heatwaves have released. Done and done! Somebody Out There Is Having A Party Vol 2 is a deluxe free sampler featuring 33 bands/artists that are either on the Rum Bar roster or part of the Rum Bar extended family.

As you know if you're a regular visitor to this blog, Rum Bar is one of my favorite labels. But Malibu Lou puts out such an incredible volume of music that I have struggled greatly to stay caught up. Literally two-thirds of the tracks on this sampler are by artists I have not reviewed before! This was a great way for me to catch up on some of what I've missed. And for the amazing price of free, Somebody Out There Is Having A Party Vol 2 is an easy way for anyone to become familiar with one of the planet's finest independent record labels. Stylistically, it covers garage, rock and roll, punk, power pop, dirty blues, glam rock, heartland rock, country, psychedelic pop, pub rock, and everything in between. The variety across these 33 tracks is tremendous. Of course this collection highlights many top bands from the Boston area (The Hi-End, Justine's Black Threads, Watts, The Dents, Muck & The Mires, Dirty Truckers, Stop Calling Me Frank, Jay Allen and the Archcriminals). But the Rum Bar family extends well beyond its Boston hub, and you'll also hear ace tracks from the likes of Florida's Cheap Gunslingers, Spain's K7s, Switzerland's 45 Rally, Rockford, Illinois's Mono In Stereo, and Ken Fox of the legendary Fleshtones (doing power pop!). There's even a golden oldie from The Heartdrops, who were a fixture on Lou's old label Melted Records. While most of these tracks are from Rum Bar's existing catalog, I was tickled pink to hear unreleased songs from Justine and the Unclean (the spectacular "Fourth Love"), Indonesian Junk ("Nothin' I Can Do", an old Daniel James Gang favorite), and the aforementioned K7s (one of the best pop-punk bands on earth!). The Heatwaves track "Vampire" alone justifies the price of admission. Wait, there is no price of admission! Even better! Download this sampler today and make it part of whatever socially-distanced summer parties you've got planned. And then go buy all of these bands' records. At the rate Lou is putting out great music, he's gonna need a bigger bar.


Friday, June 12, 2020

The New Brutarians - "New Muse"

How about another cool tune from The New Brutarians? Yes, please! When we last checked in with Adam and Christina, they had just given us a preview of their debut 7". I don't know if the record has even been released yet, but now they're back with a track off of their second EP due out in September. "New Muse" again finds the duo hitting that sweet spot where pop art, glam rock, and proto-punk intersect. It's probably the band's most overtly "pop" song yet, but it's still art damaged enough to frighten off the squares. Last time I mentioned that The New Brutarians would be rounding out their first EP with a track called "(Rock Me) I'm A Dadaist" (Oh my god: best song title ever!). They've since posted that one on the digital platforms as well. Let me just say that when you begin a song with the lyrics "I'm living like a hologram/I dined on Alice Cooper's brain", you can't possibly go wrong!  If you're a fan of Lou Reed, Johnny Thunders, The Only Ones etc., head on over to Bandcamp or SoundCloud and get a whiff of what The New Brutarians have been cooking!


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Chain Whip - 14 Lashes

14 Lashes is the perfect name for Chain Whip's debut album. Every song on the record hits with force and fury, and each successive strike will leave you begging for more. This Vancouver foursome originally self-released this album last summer. Now it's getting a European vinyl release on Drunken Sailor Records - a label that's no stranger to modern classics of punk rock. This is an absolutely flawless hardcore punk record in the style of the early '80s. It rips through 14 tracks in less than 20 minutes, each song a pummeling shot of power and aggression. This album features all the marks of great hardcore: punishing guitars, insane drumming, and super pissed-off vocals from lead singer Josh. And yet these songs aren't just raging - they're really fucking good! Even as these guys shred your eardrums, they're sneaking in legit hooks. On top of that, this is a perfectly produced hardcore record. It sounds raw but totally powerful, and those guitars and drums hit so hard. You could put any of these songs on a playlist with DOA, Poison Idea, Circle Jerks, etc. and they would fit right in. 14 Lashes is an angry record for angry times. Play it at a ridiculously high volume, and you will be properly fired up to take on anyone or anything. Official release date is June 26th, but you might wanna jump on this now while copies are still available!