Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Brad Marino - Subterranean Jungle


I can never resist writing about a Ramones cover album - especially when one of my favorite artists is involved! Subterranean Jungle is by no means one of the most celebrated albums in the Ramones catalog. But like any perceived "lesser" Ramones LP, it's still a damn good record (and definitely underrated)! By the time the Ramones were writing and recording Subterranean Jungle in the latter months of 1982, they had clearly set out to get back to their punk rock roots. Brad Marino notes that this album falls somewhere in between "poppy" Ramones and their harder-sounding efforts of the later '80s. And that's a real sweet spot for a lot of fans. Marino has always been a big fan of this particular Ramones album. Having thought about covering a lesser-known Ramones album for years, Marino used his 2020 quarantine time to make his own version of  Subterranean Jungle. If nothing else, this release ought to get people thinking and talking about Subterranean Jungle again! 

One of the worst things I can say about Subterranean Jungle is that it made no sense for a Ramones album to start out with two covers! But with that said, Marino's versions of "Little Bit O' Soul" and "I Need Your Love" are as excellent as you'd expect given his talents and musical background. He makes the latter sound like it could have been written by the Ramones! While Marino is no stranger to straight-up Ramones worship due his time in Rydells, he also brings his love for classic pop and rock and roll into the mix on this album. So while he's covering Subterranean Jungle, he's not totally trying to copy it. It's no surprise that he does well with Joey-penned songs like "My My Kind of Girl" and "Everytime I Eat Vegetables It Makes Me Think of You". If you don't already think of those two as great Ramones song, Marino's versions just might have you re-evaluating your stance. Other particular high points on this release include the Dee Dee compositions "Outsider" and "Somebody Like Me".  

Perhaps the best thing about a re-do of Subterranean Jungle is that it lifts these great songs from the shadow of the abysmal production and drum sound of the original album. Marino, a huge fan of both the Ramones and the '60s pop music that so heavily inspired them, truly "gets" all of these songs. His treatment of this material reminds us what a terrific album Subterranean Jungle still is and how it could have been even better had more sympathetic producers been at the helm. Obviously, you've got to be a Ramones super fan to even consider buying a cover version of a Ramones album. Then again, who isn't a Ramones super fan? Vinyl for this release sold out in just four days! Look for a new album from Brad Marino in 2021! 

-L.R.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Midnight Callers - Red Letter Glow


Fresh off of their stunning performances on the JEM Records Celebrates John Lennon compilation, The Midnight Callers are back with their debut album on JEM. This New York based foursome is comprised of Chris Paine (rhythm guitar), Martin Stubbs (lead guitar), Julien Budrino (drums), and Marley Myrianthopoulos (bass). Red Letter Glow is the name of the album, and it will be warmly received by those who enjoy punchy rock and roll with hooks. This, my friends, is an old school rock record! Influences range from '60s pop to classic rock to '70s/'80s power pop to '90s Brit-pop and alternative rock. The Midnight Callers pretty much have it all: the guts of a bar band, the talent to write hit singles, and the musical chops to rock arenas. And with the assistance of engineer/co-producer Kurt Reil (The Gripweeds), they've absolutely nailed the production on Red Letter Glow. This album manages to evoke the heyday of FM rock while still sounding fresh and modern in 2020. 

One aspect of Red Letter Glow I especially enjoy is the variety of its songs. Kicking off with the high-energy rocker "41 Miles To Roscoe" (a recent Coolest Song in the World on Little Steven's Underground Garage!) and glam-rock influenced "Down On Luck", this album really comes out swinging! From there, it shows you the many sides of The Midnight Callers. "River Rise" channels The Beatles by way of Cheap Trick, while "Return the Favor" sounds like the best song The Knack never wrote. I know that "power pop with actual power!" is a music reviewer's cliché, but I can't think of a better description for "Not Tonight". "I Need You" sounds like a rock radio smash straight out of 1978. "The Lights Are On" is the sort of epic, "cigarette lighters in the air" power ballad that you almost never hear in this day and age. 

Red Letter Glow reminds me of the rock albums I grew up on. It delivers a perfect mix of radio hits, rockers, deep cuts, and ballads. The songwriting, musicianship, and production are all top-notch. The Midnight Callers are a new and exciting rock and roll band in the classic style. And that's something I will never tire of. Another great find for JEM Records!

  

-L.R.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Kurt Baker - After Party


The trilogy is complete! Eight years ago, Kurt Baker and Wyatt Funderburk co-wrote Baker's first full-length album Brand New Beat. Produced by Funderburk, Brand New Beat quickly became a modern classic of power pop. It was a record so great that even its outtakes made for an album (Brand New B-Sides) that would be the envy of a lot of pop bands. Baker and Funderburk collaborated again on 2015's Play It Cool - which was arguably even better than Brand New Beat. Five years later, Baker, Funderburk, and all the Party Animals are back with the third (and best!) installment in this series. 

Out today on Wicked Cool Records, After Party manages to be the best of both worlds. It has the stylistic variety of Play It Cool, but in spirit it's closer to the early '80s power pop influenced Brand New Beat. Joining Baker and Funderburk are old pals Geoff Palmer (guitar), Kris Rodgers (keyboards), and Craig Sala (drums). With Baker now residing in Spain, these guys don't get the chance to see each other all the time. And that gives After Party a "the gang is back together" type feel. It was recorded this past January and February while Baker was back home in Portland, Maine. All of these individuals have seen their musical careers take off in the years since Brand New Beat was released. But they were all happy to get together and make the kind of record that only the Kurt Baker Band can make!

While I'm also a big fan of Baker's more garage/rock and roll centered Spanish band The Kurt Baker Combo, I'm always going to have a soft spot for the power pop stuff he co-writes with kindred spirit Funderburk. After Party is informed by many of the same influences that had me connecting so instantly with Brand New Beat. It's got that new wave/power pop meets early '80s FM rock (Donnie Iris, Cheap Trick, .38 Special) vibe with just a hint of '90s Lookout! Records. I've previously featured "Over You" and "I Like Her A Lot" on this blog - both of which are classic Baker/Funderburk collaborations. In a similar vein are "Wandering Eyes" (a crunching pop-rock hit right out of the Rick Springfield playbook) and "She Don't Really Love You, Dude" (which is either power pop influenced pop-punk or pop-punk influenced power pop depending on your point of view). If you're into big hooks, punchy guitars, and catchy choruses, this album will not leave you wanting. But if you're looking for something a little different, Baker and the boys have got you covered. I dig how the gentle little McCartney-esque number "Waiting For You" turns up at just the right time. And if you wish that Joe Jackson's 1979-80 period had never ended, you'll be psyched to hear "Good". Elsewhere you've got power pop running straight into a Beach Boys song ("Used To Think"), spot-on new romantic/synth-pop worship ("Keep Dreaming"), and a genuinely lovely piano lounge ballad ("A Song and a Drink"). 

Brand New Beat was a huge album for a lot of people my age who grew up on '80s radio and then came to love pop-punk as young adults. As collaborating songwriters, Baker and Funderburk gleaned the best elements from 30 years of melody-driven rock music and created something that felt new and exciting in 2012. They easily could have resorted to formula and cranked out several more albums that were copies of Brand New Beat. But instead, they worked to build on their musical vision and embrace a wider range of influences. Once I came to accept that Play It Cool wasn't going to be Brand New Beat part 2, I quickly realized it was a better record. And that progression culminates with After Party. Baker and Funderburk are far better songwriters (and a far better songwriting team) than they were 8 or 9 years ago. After Party reflects that growth while still retaining the original spirit of the trilogy. Baker's name is on the cover of the record, but this is just as much Funderburk's creation (his production, as always, is immaculate). And this record certainly would not be what it is without the contributions of some of the finest musicians in today's rock and roll scene. Say what you will about 2020. But any year that gives us a new Kurt Baker record can't be entirely bad!


Natalie Sweet - Oh, By the Way​ it's.​.​.Natalie Sweet


Oh, what a day for Rum Bar Records! Today Malibu Lou has launched not one, not two, but three great albums back into orbit! My last but most definitely not least Rum Bar post of the day concerns the first American release of Oh By the Way​ it's.​.​.Natalie Sweet. Originally released in Europe last year on the fabulous Surfin' Ki Records, this was my #2 album of 2019. And I sometimes lose sleep over not having made it #1! This is the debut solo album from Natalie Sweet, formerly of The Shanghais and The Control Freaks. It's kind of like The Shanghais album that never was, but it's also a vintage Travis Ramin production (see also: Candygirl, Tina and the Total Babes). Oh, and Morten Henriksen of the legendary Yum Yums is on guitar. Sweet basically assembled a power pop super group for this album! I won't get too deep into a review since I've written about this album before. But I'll just say that it finds Sweet and Ramin fully embracing their shared love for new wave power pop, girl groups, '50s doo-wop and rock n' roll, and the almighty Ramones. After Ramin completed work on Oh By the Way, he teased it as a "slammin' power pop album somewhere between Rocket to Russia and Parallel Lines". And I must say that his description was spot-on! If you can never get enough of your Josie Cotton, Holly and the Italians, and Nikki and the Corvettes records, be sure to add this one to the rotation. Vinyl still available here!


The Short Fuses - Dawn of the Deaf


Can I get a Hell yeah!? One of the most monstrous rock and roll records of recent years finally gets a physical release! The Short Fuses unleashed their raging comeback album Dawn of the Deaf in April of last year. It was their first new album in nearly 16 years. And holy smokes, did this thing ever rip! Travis Ramin, Miss Georgia Peach, and Justin Staggs re-assembled as a trio and flat-out rocked it. Inspired by 2016 election rage and a fascination with horror that was a rite of passage for almost any 1980s East Coast punk kid, the band was revved-up to make the resistance rock record of 2019. And now it becomes the resistance rock record of 2020! Dawn of the Deaf is out today on the mighty Rum Bar Records. This just might be the hardest-rocking thing Lou has ever released. Not playing it loud ought to be against the law. In my quarter-century of reviewing records, I don't know if I've ever heard a more successful merging of hard rock and punk influences. And then you've got Georgia's powerful, soulful vocals taking it over the top (is there a more underappreciated singer in all of rock?). If you were raised on a steady diet of the MC5, Motörhead, the Dead Boys, and The Misfits, these 12 thundering tracks ought to be right up your alley. From the powerhouse opener "Baby Got Bat Wings" to the face-melting "Rock Yo Self (Until You Wreck Yo Self") to the resistance anthems "Furiosa" and "No" to the arena death rock of the title track to the epic instrumental "High Score", Dawn of the Deaf is an unrelenting force! Heck, there's even a cover of Jakkpot's "You Ain't Shit (Without a Leather Jacket)" that gives the original a serious run for its money! 

In order to ensure that Dawn of the Deaf was as awesome of a rock and roll record as humanly possible, The Short Fuses enlisted a production team of legendary proportions. Daniel Rey produced the album. Adrian Popovich from Tricky Woo mixed it. Geza X mastered it. With all of that talent involved in the creation of this album, you had to know it was going to sound amazing and massive. More than a mere satisfying comeback, Dawn of the Deaf is The Short Fuses' best album by far. You can feel the passion, conviction, and energy that went into this record. And rather than overshadowing the message, these killer tunes make it all the more powerful. These songs were written and recorded well before the events of 2020, but their re-release at this exact moment in time could not be more fitting. If you're outraged by injustice in the world, this album ought to be your personal soundtrack to fighting the power. Crank up the volume, rock out righteously, and don't let the bastards grind you down!


The Lemon Drop Gang - I'm Not the One!


I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but Rum Bar Records has added another great band to its roster! The Lemon Drop Gang hails from Tucson, Arizona and features Johnny O'Halloran (Magnatone, Tina and the Total Babes, Nikki Corvette and the Stingrays) on guitar and his wife Steph (Tulip Sweet and Her Trail of Tears) on vocals. Johnny O'Halloran is, of course, from Boston's famous O'Halloran family. He and Malibu Lou have been pals for decades, so it's only fitting that The Lemon Drop Gang are now officially Rum Bar recording artists!

A band name like The Lemon Drop Gang perhaps suggests a sweet indie pop group. Well let's just say that names can be deceiving! Reissued today on Rum Bar, the band's 2016 debut album I'm Not the One is indeed a really great pop/punk/garage/rock and roll record with hooks for days. But it's also quite haunting and at times straight-up creepy - a perfect album for the Halloween season! Steph O'Halloran is a powerhouse on lead vocals. Her voice has an amazing tone but also an undeniable presence. Once you hear her voice, it's hard to get it out of your mind. A running theme of this album is "tales of psychotic love". It's full of songs about obsession, possession, outright stalking, and love gone horribly, horribly wrong. I'm not a big horror guy in the traditional sense. But if you're talking about psychological horror, well that's way more my speed. Steph O'Halloran has got a sick and twisted mind, and I absolutely LOVE it! I appreciate how many of these songs seem so pleasant and tuneful at first listen before you really dig into the lyrics. Then things turn scary. 

Musically, The Lemon Drop Gang is drawing a lot from '60s pop and girl groups as well as '70s punk and new wave. They are at their core a melodic guitar pop band. But their songs have hidden layers and take surprising turns. And in there with the punk, garage, and power pop influences, you can definitely hear some eerie, distinctly southwestern undertones. Songs range from fierce and punky ("Hit the Wall", "Bubble Yum") to beautifully haunting ("Ghost", "You Just Don't Know It") to perfectly pop ("Georgie"). Moving away from the general theme of the album, "Georgie" is a response to the The Seekers' 1967 hit "Georgy Girl". If you've ever listened to "Georgy Girl" and thought, "God, that's such terrible advice!",  you will feel much better about "Georgie". This song celebrates individuality and advises against the trap of living your whole life in accordance to what society expects of you. That's a wonderful and powerful message, and "Georgie" is one of the year's most essential independent singles. Another highlight is closing track "Time To Myself" - a true anthem for those who want nothing more than to get away from everything and everyone. Talk about a song that really holds up in 2020! 

I'm Not the One is a stunning debut from one of the most unique and fascinating garage pop bands I've come across in a long time. It's definitely a pop record, but in a wonderfully twisted way. Of course these songs will quickly have you tapping your toes and humming along. But they'll stay with you long after that and just might haunt your dreams. The Lemon Drop Gang have been around a long time and are fixtures of the Tucson music scene. I can only hope that being on a label like Rum Bar will bring them the international exposure and adoration they so richly deserve. Don't let 'em change ya, Georgie! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Hoodoo Gurus - "Get Out of Dodge"


Well here's a band you might have heard of! The legendary Hoodoo Gurus are back with a terrific new single on their own label Big Time. "Get Out of Dodge" is a return to the band's classic power pop sound and features guest backing vocals from both Vicki Peterson (The Bangles) and John Cowsill (The Cowsills, Beach Boys). Not one to shy away from political topics or social commentary, Dave Faulkner wrote "Get Out of Dodge" as a statement on the hate, intolerance, and extremism that are sadly on the rise in today's world. The song is about how it's sometimes best to not engage with toxic people who are set on hating you. If these individuals are never going to soften their views, the best course of action is to just remove them from your life. "A good surgeon knows when a damaged limb can be saved and when it's better to amputate," Faulkner says of this song. "So cut your losses and get yourself to a better place, somewhere people will cherish and support you, and live to fight another day." 

"Get Out of Dodge" was recorded back in June at Harry Vanda's Hercules Street Studios in Surry Hills (where the band had previously recorded Answered Prayers). Wayne Connolly engineered and assisted in the production of the track. The song is available now as a digital release and will be coming out on 7" record later this year (backed by the the recent anti-Trump number "Hung Out To Dry"). While COVID-19 forced the cancelation of Hoodoo Gurus' 2020 tour dates, you can expect to see them back out on the road next year along with a new album to mark their 40th anniversary as a band!

 


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

TJ Cabot - Get Ready! Get Set!


When TJ Cabot goes down to the basement, you never know what he's gonna come up with. Budget rock? Synth punk? Devo-core? MTX covers? Lo-fi Ramones worship? On Get Ready! Get Set!, we are treated to more of the latter. Unlike the 1975 Ramones obsessions of the Dick Charles EP, these four new tracks are more Riverdales/Head inspired. 

Recorded in the basement using Audacity and no external microphones, Get Ready! Get Set! is lean and mean with four tracks averaging one minute, 43 seconds. You probably don't have to stretch your imagine too far to guess what "Gasoline Breath" is about ("In the shack there's some empty cans/You can bet I ain't talkin about beer, man!”). "I Don't Like/I Won't Try" is an attempt to replicate what the unrecorded Ramones song "I Don't Like Nobody That Don't Like Me" might have sounded like. "Ego Transplant" is just another ordinary song about utilizing serial murder to improve your chances with the ladies but not quite having the science figured out (Don't you hate when that happens?). "Hate You More" features the golden lyrical nugget "I realize I base my entire life on weighing out pieces of shit/and whatever bit is smaller, I put up with". My god, that's profound! When imitating the Ramones, it is always best to keep it as simple and stupid as this. Millhouse Deville even shows up to lend his vocal duties to "Ego Transplant", leading me to believe that he and TJ have squashed their personal differences. I expect all of Thee Artificial Rejects to show up on the next recording assuming that Skookie and Puddin are legally allowed to re-enter New Brunswick. And yes, a download price of three Canadian dollars does amount to a 24% discount for us loyal American fans. Feel free to pay extra if your conscience so dictates. The Millville Ladies Auxiliary Club has got to be paid back someday. 

-L.R.

https://tjcabot.bandcamp.com/album/get-ready-get-set-ep

Monday, October 19, 2020

Rad Max - Straight to Video


Portland, Oregon's Rad Max recently contacted me about their new single "Driller Killer" -  a song inspired by the film Slumber Party Massacre II. I immediately dug it and quickly ascertained that it comes from a full album of songs devoted to '80s pop culture obsession. Of course I should have known that already since the band emailed me about the album six whole months ago! Woops! That was very bogus of me. While Rad Max may be 80s-fetishists, that's 100% okay by me because I'm one too! The band's debut album Straight to Video transports you to a world full of VHS tapes, shopping malls, video arcades, and cool movies with cheesy training montages. Musically, Rad Max plays a punky brand of new wave pop rock that you can dance to. Even if they weren't '80s-inspired, these would be cool songs. They've got real hooks and a great goofy energy to them. On lead vocals, Rad Rachel is likable and spunky in a way that transcends the band's schtick. The most fun part, of course, are the humorous lyrics and wonderfully ridiculous song ideas. The aforementioned "Driller Killer" recounts all the bad decisions that teens continually made in '80s slasher movies. "Flix From '86" salutes nearly every cool movie released in 1986. "Is That Freedom Rock?" hilariously lampoons the most notorious TV commercial ever made for a compilation album. "The Computer Controls the Tower" is a nod to the countless evil computers of pop culture's past. There are multiple Tom Hanks movies referenced on this album, and luckily one of them is the cinematic masterpiece The 'Burbs

Does much of my fondness for Straight to Video have something to do with nostalgia? Of course. But even if you never experienced '80s culture first hand, you'd have a hard time denying that this record is tremendous fun. Rad Max have done a fine job of honing in on aspects of the '80s that were completely awesome, absolutely ridiculous, and in many cases both. The whole reason that '80s fetishism endures is that the '80s really were that cool. And it's not likely that Rad Max will run out of movies, TV shows, and fashion trends from the '80s to write songs about. When it's safe to congregate in bars and clubs again, Straight to Video ought to be a fixture of every '80s night ever! 

-L.R.

https://radmaxrocks.bandcamp.com/album/straight-to-video
http://radmax.rocks/
https://www.facebook.com/radmaxrocks/
https://www.instagram.com/radmaxrocks/

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Feels - "She's Probably Not Thinkin' Of Me"


What a wonderful surprise that a new track from The Feels has popped up out of nowhere! The Feels is the (mostly) solo project from Christian Migliorese (The Tattle Tales) - one of my favorite songwriters ever. It's been four years since the release of The Feels' absolutely fantastic mini album Dead Skin and (shockingly) over a decade since The Tattle Tales last released music. Yeah, really! New single "She's Probably Not Thinkin' Of Me" is set to appear on an upcoming EP entitled 11 Monthly Listeners Can't Be Wrong! It picks up where Christian left off with Dead Skin. Call it whatever you like: pop rock, alt pop, power pop, indie pop, or just plain pop. This is melodic guitar pop at its finest. In classic Christian Migliorese fashion, it delivers big crunching guitars, gorgeous melodies, heartfelt vocals, lyrics that'll stop you in your tracks, and hooks for days. It clocks in at just a hair over two minutes, leaving you wanting more. So don't be cheap; fork over the 99 cents so you can own this song and play it as many times as you want! 

Hearing "She's Probably Not Thinkin' Of Me" inspired me to revisit the entire Christian Migliorese back catalog. I've discovered two things: 1) all of his stuff is just as good as I remembered and 2) he's definitely taken his artistry to another level with The Feels. My god, can this guy ever write (and sing) a pop song! 


Friday, October 16, 2020

Gallows Birds - Quaranteenage Kicks


Now it can be told! Up until very recently, Gallows Birds were a band shrouded in secrecy. I got an advance listen to the group's instant smash "My Lambretta" and knew I had discovered a band I was going to be into in a very major way. Internet research failed to yield any further information. And although I was eventually able to sniff out the involvement of Travis Woods (Eccentric Pop Records head honcho), I was still left in suspense. In recent weeks, Gallows Birds have finally revealed themselves. Woods is the guitarist and songwriter. Locked down in Wilmington, North Carolina this past spring with daydreams of scooter rides and summertime fun running through his brain, he started writing and recording songs. He reached out to some friends long distance to bring these tracks to life. Richie Holes (from the amazing pop-punk band Goin' Places) recorded the lead vocals at home in New York. Glenn Wellman provided all the drum tracks from his residence in Johannesburg, South Africa. And just like that, Gallows Birds had made a record! Lou from Rum Bar Records jumped on the chance to release it. Out today, Quaranteenage Kicks is the ultimate summer pop record. And it doesn't even matter that summer is over. When you've got music like this, summer is eternal! 

Quaranteenage Kicks is an album most obviously inspired by the early Beach Boys. With the dark cloud of a pandemic hanging over him, Woods found joy in creating a universe where little matters beyond girls, cars, surfing, and sunshine. Other influences at play include the Ramones, Lookout! Records garage pop combos like The Hi-Fives & Smugglers, and even some old new wave pub rock (the band covers both Graham Parker and Wreckless Eric's band the Len Bright Combo). Kicking off with the upbeat "Back to the Beach", this album wastes little time setting a tone. This is a high-spirited rock and roll record with a heavy pop-punk influence. These are songs that will make you feel good. Tracks like "GTO" and "South for the Summer" will have you looking forward to those good times and carefree days that we have to hope are right around the corner. Even a bitter love song like "So Unhappy For You" is still tremendous fun. Holes was the perfect choice to play the Mike Love role to Woods' Brian Wilson. The dude was born to sing songs about girls! 

I love how Gallows Birds managed to make something uplifting and hopeful out of a dire situation. In the definitive feelbad year of 2020, we can enjoy the definitive feelgood record in Quaranteenage Kicks. For many years into the future, "My Lambretta" will be an annual fixture of my summer playlists. The original songs are terrific, and the covers all fit splendidly. No pop-punk fan will want to miss the band's sped-up rendition of Parker's classic "Local Girls". And while the Beach Boys' "Dance, Dance, Dance" was an obvious cover choice, I can't imagine a more perfect way to conclude the album. A mystery no more, Gallows Birds are the international pop-punk surf rock and roll super group the world needed. Let us hope for the day when they can assemble in person and play a beach party near you!


Thursday, October 15, 2020

Spaghetty Town Records Circus: streaming live October 22nd!


Just a quick announcement for today: Spaghetty Town Records has organized a very cool live music streaming event for next week. Teddy Spaghetty and Criminal Kids assembled a lineup featuring five Spaghetty Town bands from three countries. Fast Eddy, Killer Hearts, Pale Lips (Canada), Motosierra (Uruguay), and Criminal Kids will allow perform live on October 22nd beginning at 9:00 PM Eastern Time. The event will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube and will be hosted by the legendary Sleazegrinder. All of these bands have been itching to perform live for months, and you know they'll be ready to put on a show! For all the details, check out the Spaghetty Town Records Circus event page on Facebook! 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Slaughter and the Dogs - "Manchester Boys"


I suppose it's no surprise that the best '77-style punk single of the year comes from a band that's been playing this kind of music for over 45 years! It's not quite accurate to say that Slaughter and the Dogs are "back" when they never really went away. But Wayne Barrett has definitely reinvigorated this storied group with a young, aggressive lineup and a crackling new single. "Manchester Boys" is nothing short of classic Slaughter and the Dogs. It's a powerhouse pub punk football anthem with an infectious melody and a rousing chorus that will compel you to sing along (unless you're not a Manchester fan!). And Barrett sounds great on lead vocals! In the midst of a pandemic, this song may have you longing for a time when people could gather in mass, drink copious amounts of beer, and cheer on their team to the bitter end. We can all look forward to a time when those things are again possible. In the meantime, you can blast "Manchester Boys" in the company of smaller groups or even when you're alone - because love of team will prevail even during a global pandemic! The B-side of this release will be familiar to all of you. It's a newly recorded version of the band's classic song "Where Have All the Bootboys Gone". For this new rendition, Barrett and the boys have chosen to give this iconic number a kick in the ass for 2020. It's a faster, harder, and tougher update of the original. It really shows the power and fierceness of this new Slaughter and the Dogs lineup. You're facing a high bar when you re-do such a beloved tune, but these guys absolutely killed it. What a raging cut! Once this band is able to get back on stage and tour again, you will want to be there! 

"Manchester Boys" is no run of the mill effort from an oldtimer punk band. It's a first rate shot of old style sing-along punk from a band that's got as much desire and energy as ever. The single is out on Blighty Records. If you want to hear it, you'll have to do it the old fashioned way and buy the vinyl. For more information, check out Slaughter and the Dogs on Facebook or send an email to Florianschueck@web.de!


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

CAREFUL - "Comeuppance" (Drunk Dial #7)


For the latest 7" from Drunk Dial Records, we have something a little different. The artist is CAREFUL, the new solo project from Dave Williams (CRUADES, Steve Adamyk Band, Sedatives). And for the lack of a better term, this is by far the most serious sounding volume in the Drunk Dial series. I would even venture to say that Williams was permitted to record this song completely sober. The track "Comeuppance"  is a very personal and powerful number that reflects Williams' state of mind following the breakup of CRUSADES. To say that the demise of the band hit him hard would be an understatement. He fell into (in his words) "the kind of deep-seated sadness that could only be managed by regular unpacking and exploration". This new project CAREFUL became an outlet for him to let out all of his thoughts and emotions, with the end goal of providing help or inspiration to others who are struggling in life. Stated influences included The Lemonheads, Juliana Hatfield, Dinosaur Jr., Punchbuggy, and Doughboys - early-to-mid 90s alt-rock favorites of his that set him on the path towards punk and hardcore. I love that Williams had the courage to put himself out there with "Comeuppance". And as a huge fan of earlier '90s indie/alternative stuff, this is a real musical sweet spot for me. I totally dig the straight-forward driving indie rock sound with impassioned vocals and lyrics. It reminds me of a time in my life when the best way to get myself out of a dark place was to follow someone like Bob Mould into his own dark places. In the end, "Comeuppance" proves to be a rousing and uplifting number. The B-side is a highly energized cover of "Ingrown" by the '90s Aussie band Smudge (fans will note the Lemonheads connection!). 

Digital and vinyl copies of CAREFUL's contribution to the Drunk Dial series can be purchased via Bandcamp. An extremely limited edition of smoke vinyl copies are available - with proceeds being donated to Rainbow Railroad. A full-length debut from CAREFUL is already in the process of being recorded, and I am looking forward to that very much!


Monday, October 12, 2020

Sino Hearts - Mandarin A Go-Go


Wow! Sino Hearts land right in the center of the F & L musical universe. With primary influences intersecting at '70s punk-pop and power pop, this Chinese band definitely hits my stylistic sweet spot. It's hard for me to believe that this band has been around for several years and I'm just now becoming aware of its music! Zhong (ex DeeCRACKS) is the primary creative force here. On the band's excellent new album Mandarin A Go-Go (Soundflat/Topsy Turvy Records), he's the songwriter, singer, guitarist, and bass player. Zhong wears his love for the Exploding Hearts on his sleeve, and there's nothing wrong with that at all! Beyond that, he also takes inspiration from first generation punk-pop (Buzzcocks, Boys, Ramones), the late '70s mod-revival, classic era power pop, and even some modern pop-punk (there are hints of Mikey Erg in some of his vocals). In short, Sino Hearts are a great mix of almost everything I like in music. Mandarin A Go-Go ably bounces from the textbook powerpop/punk of "Loveless Nights" to the swinging, mod-inspired title track to the pure power pop of "Growing Apart" to the hopped-up punk-pop of "Mary K" to the tender, melancholic pop of "A Way or Another". And while the influences are clear, Sino Hearts never sound like they're trying to be any of the bands they admire. Zhong approaches the punk/pop/mod style with a good amount of originality and a personality of his own. This is fun music with tremendous heart - and that's a combination that always works for me. Some songs will make you wanna dance. Others will tear your heart out. A few might manage to do both. Guitar romantics unite!



Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Resonars - Disappear


Disappear, the latest album from The Resonars, finds one of our finest modern-day pop craftsmen operating at the peak of his powers. For over 20 years, Matt Rendon has been making first-rate '60s-inspired psychedelic pop records under the Resonars name. His output has been remarkably consistent and ever faithful to the 1965-67 era of popular music. While Disappear does feature appearances from members of Rendon's live band on a couple of tracks, it was for the most part recorded entirely by Rendon in his home studio. As always, he wears the influence of The Byrds, Zombies, Hollies, and later '60s Who & Kinks on his sleeve. And as always, the quality of his songwriting and vocal arrangements is at a level comparable to the top bands of the psychedelic pop era. 

Listening to Disappear, I find myself marveling that Rendon recorded those majestic harmonies all by himself. He's not just a one-man band; he's a one-man chorus! On this release, he moves seamlessly from the quintessential psych-pop of "My Fog" to the jangly proto power pop of "How Did You Get Here?" to the Beatlesque "No Little Plans" to the Pet Sounds influenced "Don't Ever Disappear" to the marvelous, Who-inspired "Brown, Baby". If it weren't for the vintage glam rock strains of "Let's Bring It On Home", you could probably be convinced that this album was actually made in 1966! The two cover selections (The Mamas and the Papas' "Even If I Could" and the Herman's Hermits hit "Don't Go Out in the Rain") are beautifully-executed and perfectly complementary to Rendon's originals. 

There aren't many bands/artists that can get away with spending an entire career in the same stylistic lane. The Resonars are one of those few. If you could write psychedelic pop songs this good, why would you ever want to stop? And by operating (mostly) alone, Rendon has near complete control of his artistic vision. Disappear finds him excelling as a songwriter, singer, musician, and producer. The mid-to-late '60s is arguably the greatest of all eras of popular music. And as long as The Resonars are around, it never really has to end.



Friday, October 09, 2020

Jem Records Celebrates John Lennon


On the occasion of what would have been John Lennon's 80th birthday, today Jem Records releases a very special project to honor his memory. Produced and directed by label president Marty Scott, Jem Records Celebrates John Lennon features seven of Jem's top artists covering 15 beloved Lennon songs. The song selections cover every phase of Lennon's career from early Beatles classics all the way through 1980's solo smash "(Just Like) Starting Over". Making a tribute to pop music's (arguably) greatest songwriter presents certain challenges for sure. For starters, how do you choose which songs to include when there are countless classics to pick from? And how do you improve upon perfection? The answer to the former is that you can't go wrong with any of the cover choices. And as far as the latter point is concerned, no one is ever going to try and out-do John Lennon. The real idea is to celebrate his music and continue to fill the world with his songs. 

The lineup for Jem Records Celebrates John Lennon consists of The Weeklings, The Midnight Callers, The Grip Weeds, Johnathan Pushkar, The Gold Needles, Richard Barone, and The Anderson Council. It goes without saying that every single one of these artists is massively influenced by The Beatles and John Lennon. For this project, they all did their best to put their signatures on legendary Lennon-penned songs. It seems weird to say that John Lennon's talents might sometimes be taken for granted. But listening to all of these songs on one collection, I find myself with a renewed appreciation for his greatness as a lyricist and architect of guitar-driven pop music. Honestly, all of the performances on this album are exceptional and highlight the wealth of musical talent on the Jem roster. But a few tracks especially stand out to me. The Midnight Callers had the neat idea of covering both the white album demo "Child of Nature" and the solo track it evolved into, "Jealous Guy". Their take on "Jealous Guy" is absolutely extraordinary - in my opinion the high point of the entire album. It would probably be sacrilegious to say it's better than the original. But if it's not, it comes very close! I may be biased since he's one of my favorite Jem artists, but Johnathan Pushkar's version of  "(Just Like) Starting Over" is another major highlight for me. I have a sentimental attachment to that song because it always reminds me of being nine years old and discovering pop music for the first time. And I must say that Pushkar's interpretation really does it justice. It has the feel and tone of one of his original numbers, which is hardly surprising given that his musical aesthetic is so deeply grounded in a love for The Beatles. In typical Johnathan Pushkar fashion, this track makes me smile. Also noteworthy are The Weeklings' modern, hard-rocking version of Rubber Soul's "The Word", Richard Barone's super lively mash-up of "Revolution" and "Power to the People", a stunning "Strawberry Fields Forever" from the legendary Grip Weeds, and faithful but tremendously inspired versions of Beatles classics "It Won't Be Long" (The Midnight Callers again!) and "No Reply" (The Gold Needles). 

To me, the most important thing about a tribute album is that you should be able to feel the love that went into it. That's most definitely the case with Jem Records Celebrates John Lennon. Of course this album features some of the finest bands and artists in contemporary pop music. But the real star here is John Lennon. His songs are interpreted with great reverence and a passion that's palpable. When a tribute album falls short, I find myself just wishing I could listen to the original songs. This tribute, on the other hand, inspires me to the listen to the original songs. While Marty Scott is super enthusiastic about everything he releases, I can tell he's especially proud of this album. And he should be. Let's hope for a sequel in another 20 years!



Thursday, October 08, 2020

Kurt Baker - "I Like Her A Lot"


Oh man! The second advance single to drop from Kurt Baker's new album After Party is absolute GOLD! "I Like Her A Lot" is immediately recognizable as the fruit of the Kurt Baker/Wyatt Funderburk songwriting partnership. As talented as these two are individually, something magical happens when they work together. After Party, out later this month on Wicked Cool Records, will complete their trilogy of collaborative albums. "I Like Her A Lot" brings the '80s rock influenced power pop sound I fell in love with when I first heard Brand New Beat eight years ago! You've got guitars blasting over a strong melody, a simple but totally undeniable hook, and lyrics that appeal to the eternal teenager in all of us. What's not to love? If all of that wasn't already cool enough, the music video for this song is essentially the greatest trailer ever made for the cult classic horror flick Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare! If you've never seen this essential piece of cinema, you'll want to now. After Party will be out two weeks from tomorrow. Spoiler alert: it's great! 

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Rum Bar Records ROCKTOBER (Free Digital) label sampler


Who's ready for another Rum Bar Records sampler? Malibu Lou released a deluxe label sampler this summer, and now he's back with a massive, 39-track fall edition called ROCKTOBER! Like all of the previous samplers, ROCKTOBER is a free download showcasing the amazing bands and artists that make Rum Bar Records one of the world's top independent record labels. It covers musical styles ranging from garage to punk to glam to greasy rock and roll to hard rock to power pop to psychedelic rock to pub rock to country rock to dirty blues. Many of these tracks are from recent or upcoming releases. If you still haven't picked up the latest from The Yum Yums (a lot of people's album of the year!), Jerry Lehane, Geoff Palmer & Lucy Ellis, The Hi-End, and The Idolizers, you can hear choice selections from all of those releases. And if you're looking for a preview of Rum Bar's stacked slate of October releases, you can check out tracks from Gallows Birds, The Lemon Drop Gang, The Short Fuses, Natalie Sweet, French Girls, and The Shang Hi Los. For those who are still entirely unfamiliar with the Rum Bar catalog, label favorites like Watts, Cheap Cassettes, Indonesian Junk, Muck & The Mires, Brad Marino, The Dirty Truckers, Mono In Stereo, and Justine and the Unclean make appearances as well. I also dug the cool track from Electraluxx - who, having been on Melted Records, are as O.G. Rum Bar as it gets! The big new discoveries for me this time were French Girls (Phoenix-based pop/punk/garage band featuring veteran musicians Che Beret and Chiffon Baton) and The Lemon Drop Gang (Tucson-based group starring the legendary Johnny O'Halloran and his wife Steph). Both deliver ace pop rock and roll songs that really made my ears perk up. Brace yourself for the Rum Bar Arizona takeover! 

Fans of Rum Bar Records may already own many of the songs on ROCKTOBER. But they might find an unreleased track or two for their efforts! The real audience here is people who know of the label but might only have a couple releases. Lou has been putting out a tremendous amount of great music lately in a variety of musical styles. For the bargain price of free, you can get a nice taste of what Rum Bar is up to right now. And while the downside might be that most of this stuff is previously released, that might actually be the upside as well. There's no filler here: just great tunes from a bunch of fantastic Rum Bar releases. Download and enjoy!



Tuesday, October 06, 2020

MAGA Youth - self titled


Post election 2016, it was declared by many that a Donald Trump presidency would lead to a revival of the angry, politically-charged punk rock that characterized the Ronald Reagan years in America. While I would argue that political punk rock never really went away, I understood the point. Four years later, I would say that these predictions have been largely realized. In many genres of music (not just punk), artists concerned with social justice and resisting the rising tide of white supremacy and fascism have had a lot to write about. If you're inspired and energized by political punk rock, there's plenty of it out there. Whether or not any of it stacks up to the Reagan era stuff is a matter of personal opinion. This brings me to the mysterious MAGA Youth. This band consists of five old punk rockers who decided to re-do actual political punk songs from the '80s and revise the lyrics to reflect life in the Trump era. That's a pretty neat idea in my book. The band's debut EP is made up of updated versions of classic tracks by Reagan Youth, Wasted Youth, Youth Brigade DC, 7 Seconds, and DayGlo Abortions. These guys have taken the hardcore punk sound of 30-40 years ago and made it topical for 2020. There's a lot of political punk that I just can't get into because it doesn't speak to me musically. But MAGA Youth definitely hits the old school punk sweet spot for me. These songs have me pumping my fist and raring to go. And if the band decides that a second EP is necessary, there will be no shortage of old songs or new problems to choose from! All money collected from the sale of this EP will be donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center to fight hate groups, teach tolerance, and seek racial justice. 



Monday, October 05, 2020

Travoltas - "Find You There"


For the 25th volume of its Something To Do Music for Something To Do People series, Something To Do Records has something really special for us! "Find You There" is the new single from Netherlands pop legends Travoltas, and it's an absolute slice of heaven! For 30 years and running, Travoltas have been the world's preeminent Beach Boys inspired pop-punk band. To the best of my knowledge, "Find You There" is the band's first new song in over three years. It was written by Daan van Hooff and is the band's first recording with Tim van Doorn behind the keys and on backing vocals. This, my friends, is classic Travoltas. It's that rare pop song that can clock in at nearly four minutes and not seem like it's twice as long as it should be! Perry and the boys have never sounded better. The melodies and harmonies on this track are simply to die for, and I just love how the song tugs at your heartstrings. This is the song a 24-year-old Brian Wilson would have recorded if he'd time traveled to the late '90s and joined a pop-punk band. It sounds like it should be playing over the closing credits to an epic love story movie. While Travoltas have been so good at this sort of thing for decades, this just might be their ultimate Pet Sounds moment. If you believe in fate, romance, and true love, put on some headphones and bask in 234 seconds of pop bliss!



Saturday, October 03, 2020

Guerrilla Teens - All The Hits


So we barely had time to cry in our collective beers over the breakup of the mighty Lovesores before Scott "Deluxe" Drake and Saul Koll resurfaced in the exciting new rock and roll force Guerrilla Teens. It was as if the music gods would not allow us to endure a pandemic without a ray of hope. Also on board were ex Humpers guitarist (and O.G. Lovesore) Jeff Fieldhouse, Epoxies/Sex Crime/Suicide Notes drummer Tim Connolly, and bassist Anna Anderson (Suicide Notes). Now that is a bona fide Portland, Oregon punk rock super group! Guerrilla Teens hit the ground running by recording ten killer demo tracks, which were released as five separate digital singles that came and went in the blink of an eye. If you snoozed, you lost. But now you get another crack at all these tunes....if you hurry! 

Launched as a fundraiser for The Oregon Wildfire Relief Fund, All The Hits compiles all of Guerrilla Teens' COVID demos into one blockbuster digital album. This collection is not likely to be available permanently, so I advise jumping on it now! Just as it would have been an oversimplification to call Lovesores a reboot of The Humpers, it's not fully accurate to consider Guerrilla Teens a continuation of Lovesores. But it's no stretch to say that all three of the aforementioned bands are cut from the same cloth. No doubt about it, Scott "Deluxe" Drake is one of the greatest lead singers that rock and roll music has ever produced. After 35 years+ in the game, he sounds as fierce, focused, and fiery as ever. And now he's backed by an epic guitar tandem and a red-hot rhythm section. As you would expect, Guerrilla Teens don't veer too far from that sleazy '70s punk by way of the Stones and Chuck Berry lane ("Tell Me What To Do" and "Black Weather" could easily be mistaken for lost Humpers tracks). But with this particular band, I'm also sensing an affinity for old school garage rock and Stiv Bators inspired dark pop. There are plenty of songs here that will rock the snot out of you but also a few that suggest that Drake and friends have some tricks up their sleeve. And keep in mind that these are all demos recorded in isolation. If it's ever safe for Guerrilla Teens to mingle with the outside world, you all won't know what hit you. 

Be sure to grab All The Hits while you still can. Your purchase will be donated to The Oregon Wildfire Relief Fund. And while you're at it, check out the new single "Barbie's Reality House" that just dropped yesterday. Rock and roll will save us all!

-L.R.

Friday, October 02, 2020

The Shang Hi Los - "Sway Little Player"

 


Wow! When I heard that Dan Kopko (Watts) and Jen D'Angora (The Dents, The Downbeat 5) had started a new band together, I was 100 percent sure it would be great. But somehow the debut single from The Shang Hi Los is even better than I could have imagined. Boston does it again! The track is called "Sway Little Player", and it's the kind of rock and roll song you'll want to play on repeat all day (or is that just me?). Kopko and D'Angora are no strangers to any longtime follower of this blog. On "Sway Little Player", they share lead vocals and sound absolutely amazing as a tandem. They are joined by Lee Harrington (The Neighborhoods) on bass and Chuck Ferreira (Eddie Japan, Lonely Leesa & The Lost Cowboys) on drums - making The Shang Hi Los the latest in an endless line of Boston garage/punk supergroups. This particular track combines the spirit of late '50s/early '6os rock and roll with a cool punk/new wave edge (I'm getting huge Blondie vibes, which is never a bad thing!). Music doesn't get any more upbeat or catchy than this. If this song doesn't make you feel good about being alive, there is probably no hope for you. 

"Sway Little Player" releases today on Rum Bar Records, and I can't think of a more perfect addition to Malibu Lou's star-studded roster! It's not always easy to make a record in the middle of a pandemic. But Ed Valauskas, Dave Minehan, and Benny Grotto were able to team up to produce this perfect slice of joyful rock and roll. In addition, Harry McCoy produced the super fun music video embedded below. It gives you a great feel for what The Shang Hi Los are all about. What a debut. I am so excited to hear more! And if that's Dan's real hair, I am so jealous! 

 

Thursday, October 01, 2020

MOM - Pleasure Island


I always love it when I can start off a month in style! Donny, Frank, and Luke - collectively known as MOM - released two of the year's best pure pop singles over the course of the summer. I've had quite a few people comment to me privately about much they enjoyed those singles ("Tonight" and "Don't Leave With My Heart"). Mike from Vista Blue even gave "Don't Leave With My Heart" a spin on his excellent radio show The Radiant Radish. MOM has spent much of this year recording its debut album Pleasure Island with good friend Harry Log "somewhere in the Swedish wilderness". The album was officially released last week via Bandcamp and Spotify. 

It goes without saying that Pleasure Island is a treat for pop fans and eternal teenagers everywhere. On this 11-track release, MOM combines the best elements of 1970s bubblegum, glam, and power pop along with a touch of early '80s new wave. Both singles are included along with brand-new hits like "Better Than You" and "Ordinary Girl". The band also includes some really strong ballads and deep cuts ("Hurt By You", "Talk To Me") that give the album a well-rounded feel. MOM has a somewhat unusual approach to making music, as Frank and Donny share guitar, drum, and synthesizer duties while Luke plays bass and some occasional cowbell. Donny is the primary songwriter, and he doesn't hold back on the sugar sweet melodies and radio hit hooks. This album is as pop as pop gets! If your record collection includes the likes of The Bay City Rollers, Nick Gilder, The Sweet, The Records, Milk 'N' Cookies, Racey, Mud, and Kidda Band, you will most definitely conclude that Pleasure Island is accurately titled. Look for a vinyl version sometime in the near future!