Sunday, November 29, 2020
Friday, November 27, 2020
At a moment in our lives when we're wildly desperate for normalcy, The Cavemen have come through for us bigtime. Is there anything left to believe in if The Cavemen aren't clubbing us in the skull with some violent and utterly repugnant rock and roll? "Euthanise Me," out today on Slovenly Recordings, is the latest EP from these world infamous savages. They come out swinging on the title track, bringing the fury and aggression as Paul Caveman screams his guts out. Now there's a lead singer who's committed. Or perhaps he just needs to be committed? Only The Cavemen could broach the subject of euthanasia as a means to ease into far less comfortable topics. But sure enough, "Eat Your Heart & Wear Your Face" really ups the ante. It's fast and mean. But in a totally perverse way, it makes me want to dance. I love the old school punk feel of this track. If you're going to wax poetic about murder and cannibalism, you sure ought to make it catchy! "Nightmare" is equally fierce and infectious - the perfect primer for activities ranging from illicit sex to binge drinking to the commission of felonies (or perhaps all three if you're a multi-tasker). "Over You" is a damn fine love song. But it's such a bitter, miserable love song that it's more like a hate song. If you like your hooky punk super tough or your tough punk with hooks, this one will leave you fully satisfied. The Cavemen have given us a vintage Cavemen release, and this is exactly what we all needed. It's a sign that a shit year is coming to an end and that rock and roll will deliver us back to the light. You are more than encouraged to crank this EP loudly enough to terrify your neighbors and nemeses. Just make sure to courteously remain at least six away.
Thursday, November 26, 2020
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
It's hard to believe it was only nine months ago that Melbourne-based Romero burst upon the power pop scene with its stunning debut single "Honey". February 2020 now seems like a lifetime ago. Oh, how innocent we all were! While the world has changed drastically in the intervening months, one thing that's remained constant is Romero's flair for perfect three-to-four minute pop singles. The band offers up new single "Troublemaker" as some relief from the despair and struggle of this wretched year - a "record to sing along to even when the shower runs cold". Romero again proves to be the quintessential guitar pop band while sounding utterly unlike any other guitar pop band you could name. This is music that taps into the angst of the moment and somehow harnesses it into something sublime and joyful. No matter how bad things get, a Romero single always delivers a moment where there's a reason to hope and an occasion to dance. Proceeds from digital sales of "Troublemaker" will be donated to Pay The Rent.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
After fully embracing his sensitive singer/songwriter side on his proper solo debut Easiest Thing To Do in 2017, Sal Cannestra vowed that "the next one will rock". And on the Pete Donnelly produced Plenty of Music, this New York indie rock and roll lifer delivers on his promise. Cannestra (Sleeper/Serpico, The Gerunds) was most recently heard fronting The Thirteen, a terrific Philly-based pop/rock and roll outfit that released albums in 2008 and 2013. For this particular release, Cannestra recruited a whole bunch of talented friends. Donnelly, in addition to producing, plays bass and keyboards. Peter Santa Maria (The Thirteen, Jukebox Zeros), Jim Balga (Blockhouses), TJ Quatrone (Hurricane Kate, Sleeper/Serpico), and Jason Victor (Dream Syndicate, Matthew Sweet, Skull Practitioners) are also featured players. Here Cannestra explores a great mix of the musical styles he's been associated with over the past quarter century plus. He tries everything from power pop to indie/alternative rock to ballads to poppy punk. I would describe this overall as a good, honest rock and roll record. If you liked The Thirteen's Lift-Off!, you will almost certainly find Plenty of Music to be a logical progression from that album. Songs like "Daisy and Dani", "The Heart Of It", and "A Little Dumb, A Little Cruel" are punchy pop songs with smart lyrics and great hooks. With its vivid imagery and memorable refrain, "All This Will Be A Park Someday" just might be Cannestra's crowning songwriting achievement. Elsewhere, tender love songs ("By Any Other Name"), kick-ass rockers ("Listen Up"), and epic ballads ("Soft Sunrise") fall perfectly into place.
Monday, November 23, 2020
The Mud City Manglers ending up on Spaghetty Town Records has to be one of the most perfect marriages of a band and label ever. You're talking about THE label for dirty punk rock and roll releasing the first album in 20 years from the definitive dirty punk rock and roll band! It's hard to believe that it's been two decades since Pittsburgh's Mud City Manglers unleashed their classic full-length debut Heart Full of Hate. Give Me the Hammer, a split release between Spaghetty Town and European labels Beluga Records and Ghost Highway Recordings, is the long-awaited sophomore release from these legends of grimy and gutsy rock and roll. The good news is that the Mud City Manglers still sound like the Mud City Manglers. They are a veritable sonic bulldozer on this 11-track release - tearing through track after track of ferocious rock and roll that meets at the intersection of Motörhead, AC/DC, and the Dead Boys. On this particular release, the band brings a harder, tighter sound than ever. Fierce, pummeling songs like "Hangover Hurricane", "Bring It Down", and the title track are what all "action rock" should aspire to be. And on the moody slow-burner "Better Off Dead" and blistering heavy rock cover of Harry Nilsson's "Jump Into The Fire", these guys show creative chops that are seldom encountered in this genre. It may be a tad premature to declare that the Mud City Manglers have delivered another classic. But let's just say that Give Me the Hammer will disappoint absolutely no one.
Sunday, November 22, 2020
Wow, Sweet Time Records has just released the best punk rock compilation I've heard in forever! You know how sometimes comps are dumping grounds for lesser songs that bands just happened to have lying around? Well that's most definitely NOT the case with the Sweet Time RNR Comp! This 26-track extravaganza collects high-quality songs from some of the best bands from today's international punk/garage/rock and roll scene. A global pandemic made it impossible for the Sweet By Sweet Time festival to be held this year. This compilation is a response to that. All payments over the set minimum on physical sales and all proceeds from digital sales will be distributed to the music venues in Nashville that would have hosted Sweet By Sweet Time 3.
A few days ago, I wrote about the launch of Justine Covault's brand-new record label Red on Red Records. This label, which has already assembled a roster including the likes of Kid Gulliver and The Neighborhoods, will of course be releasing new music from Covault's own bands Justine and the Unclean and Justine's Black Threads. Red on Red just released a pair of holiday singles this past week. One of them is "An Irishman For Christmas" by Berk/Lehane, which I reviewed a few days back. Today I'm reviewing the other - a wonderful interpretation of the revered Christmas carol "Angels We Have Heard On High" performed by Justine's Black Threads in their patented bluegrass meets rockabilly style. As usual, the Black Threads lineup features Covault on vocals and guitar, Johnny Sciascia (Eilen Jewell, Cranktones, Jittery Jack) on upright bass and harmony vocals, and Jim Scoppa (T.H. and the Wreckage, Stan Martin Band) on guitar. It's hard to go wrong covering songs from the '60s, although in this case we're talking about the 1860s (with the melody dating back an additional 120 years...now that's old school!). This is a lively and rollicking version that nonetheless holds faithful to the traditional hymn. Covault's lead vocal is absolutely terrific, and she and the rest of the Black Threads breathe new life into a centuries-old classic. Fans of Covault and/or Christmas music will not want to miss this one!
Friday, November 20, 2020
It's been a couple years since I last reviewed McLovings out of San Sebastián, Spain. "This guy's not doing you good", the band's sixth single, was just released yesterday on Bandcamp. This is by far my favorite release from McLovings yet. These two songs, while still firmly rooted in punk and rock and roll, really hit that classic power pop sweet spot. And at a combined three minutes, 53 seconds, these two numbers don't waste any time getting to the hooks. If you like catchy pop tunes with punchy guitars, this single and this band ought to require your further inspection. Spain never lets me down!
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Red on Red Records has been officially launched! Red on Red is the newest venture from Justine Covault (Justine and the Unclean, Justine's Black Threads, WhistleStop Rock). Red on Red has already assembled a fantastic roster including The Neighborhoods, Nightspell, Kid Gulliver, The Chelsea Curve, Cold Expectations, and of course Covault's bands Justine and the Unclean and Justine's Black Threads. The label has also signed Berk/Lehane, a collaboration between Simone Berk (Kid Gulliver, Sugar Snow) and the legendary Jerry Lehane (The Dogmatics). 2020 continues to be the year of Simone Berk - which is one of the few good things that can be said about this year! Red on Red has just released Berk/Lehane's single "An Irishman For Christmas" . Sure, the title brings to mind one of those cheesy Hallmark movies that I can never stop watching. But I can assure you that there's nothing cheesy about this song! Co-written by Berk and Lehane, this song is properly described as "Boston-Irish-interfaith-romance-folk-punk". It tells the story of a girl transplanted from Cleveland to Boston who dreams of a very special Christmas gift - an Irishman to call her own. If "romance-folk-punk" is an actual genre, that's yet another genre for me to embrace! And Berk/Lehane are supported here by a star cast of Boston musicians: James Young, Ed Riemer, Billy Loosigian, and Norm Hartley. I've jokingly stated that my disinterest in "modern" Christmas music includes anything recorded after 1970. But honestly, "An Irishman For Christmas" is an absolute delight and instantly joins the list of songs I will look forward to playing every year at Christmas time. Was there ever any doubt that a collaboration between these two individuals would turn out amazing? If Hallmark ever does come calling for the movie rights, I hope Simone, Jerry, and Justine hold out for the highest possible compensation!
"An Irishman For Christmas" is just one of two singles that Red on Red has rolled our for the holidays. I will be posting on the other later this week. Also of note, Red on Red will be celebrating its launch with a virtual showcase at ONCE VV this coming Saturday, November 21. The streaming show will feature exclusive, best-of, and rarely seen videos from its artists, including two live videos of The Neighborhoods, new videos for best-of-catalog songs by Kid Gulliver, Cold Expectations, and Justine and The Unclean, special guests appearances by The Dogmatics and Mess Around co-hosts Jay Allen (with his band the Archcriminals) and Tom Baker (with his band The Dirty Truckers), and culminating with the exclusive premier of the Red on Red theme song and video!! The song was recorded by Justine with David Minehan, Lee Harrington, and Jim Janota, and the video showcases all of the label roster artists and its creative partners. The show wraps with a live chat/interview with label head Justine and some of her roster artists, hosted by DJ JoEllen Saunders Yannis of WMFO's On The Town With Mikey Dee. For more information, check out the Facebook event page or sign up here!
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Here's a quick little post that you all ought to enjoy! Milwaukee-based rock and roller Tim Schweiger has been releasing cool tunes with his band The Middlemen for a whole lot of years now. New single "Red Coyote" is the third release this year from Schweiger & The Middlemen (not including the best-of collection The Good Stuff). I highly recommend checking out all of the band's releases. But "Red Coyote" is certainly a great place to start. If you're into rootsy Midwestern rock and roll with a pop sensibility, this swinging tune should be very much to your liking. Schweiger recorded this track in Pete Donnelly's home studio in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Schweiger sings lead and plays guitar and drums while Donnelly plays guitar and bass. You can tell these two had great fun rocking out this number in the studio. What a perfect slice of infectious rock and roll! For good measure, Schweiger called in Wisconsin indie/punk luminaries Justin Perkins (mastering) and Amos Pitsch (artwork) to add crucial touches to this dandy digital single. If you like what you hear, be sure to dive deeper into the full catalog from Tim Schweiger & The Middlemen!
Monday, November 16, 2020
Friday, November 13, 2020
Check it out: a sequel that's even better than the original! How often does that happen? The Merinuks made a big splash debut with their EP1 earlier this year. But Donn, Larry, and Adam have absolutely outdone themselves with the newly released EP2! To recap, these Hamilton, Ontario goofballs named themselves after the legendary artist Darren Merinuk - who was so honored that he ended up designing the band's logo and cover art! The Merinuks' music is a great mix of punk, garage, and rock influences with a snotty but totally fun attitude. If EP1 was a little more on the garage rocking side of things, EP2 swings farther in the punk direction. Think early Canadian punk meets The Replacements circa 1981! "Gary's In Trouble" is an 87-second shot of pure punk rock energy that ought to have you shouting along and hoisting your beer in the air. "I'm Mean" and "Bent Outta Shape" are catchy punk tunes rooted firmly in sloppy rock and roll. "King Merinuk", the "epic" track on this release at just a few ticks over three minutes, is great campy fun in a Cramps sort of way. And for an added touch of uniqueness, Thea Faulds plays Theremin on a couple of tracks! All in all, this is a completely killer release from a band we're going to be hearing a lot more from. And I mean that literally since another EP is already in the works!
Monday, November 09, 2020
Sunday, November 08, 2020
Monday, November 02, 2020
After 35 years, Psychotic Youth still sounds like....Psychotic Youth! The legendary Swedish band has just released its 14th album Forever and Never. In the same vein as the band's 2017 comeback album The Voice of Summer and last year's superb 21, Forever and Never has all the hallmarks of a vintage Psychotic Youth record. It features 15 tracks of classic power pop with touches of punk, surf, and garage rock. Again working with Norwegian super producer Christian Jacobsen (The Yum Yums, The Dahlmanns), singer/guitarist Jörgen Westman has put on another master display on how to write three-minute pop songs that would top the charts in a better world. Also on board are longtime band members Ulf Abrahamsson (guitar), Anders Nordstrand (bass), Gunnar Frick (organ), and Kent Sjöholm (drums). Four of these five have been with the band going back to the very beginning in 1985. Yet after three and a half decades, these guys remain as faithful as ever to their original punky pop blueprint. And the eternal teenager Westman has never stopped writing perfect little songs about the highs and lows of romantic love.
Sunday, November 01, 2020
I realize that I may be courting controversy by writing about a Christmas album on the first day of November. To that point, I will say two things. Firstly, we probably deserve a lengthened holiday season in a year as wretched as this one. Secondly, Ralphie's Red Ryders are not so much a Christmas-themed band as they are a Christmas Story themed band. And A Christmas Story transcends the season in which it is set. A Christmas Story is one of our greatest American films inspired by the writings of one of our greatest American humorists. You may perceive it as the tale of one boy's yearning for the most awesome Christmas present ever. I prefer to think of it as a story about learning profanity from your father, confronting bullies, honoring triple dog dares, pondering the relative toxicity of Lifebuoy soap, suffering the consequences of not securing your home against the neighbor's hounds, triumphing over faulty home appliances, and realizing to your bitter disappointment that advertising is everywhere in American society. Exploring a few of the above themes as well as many others from A Christmas Story, You'll Shoot Your Eye Out! is the 12-song debut album from Ralphie's Red Ryders - the Hohman, Indiana pop-punk trio that sounds suspiciously and uncannily like F & L favorites Vista Blue. For those of you who choose to keep your Thanksgiving season pure, it does not release digitally until Black Friday. But this OUTLOUD!/Radiant Radish Records split release is available starting today on compact disc.
You'll Shoot Your Eye Out! brings that signature Vista Blue sound that never leaves me disappointed. It's buzzing pop-punk with sprinkles of power pop & the Beach Boys. Songs range from the band's punkiest ever ("Hey Scut, You Suck", which suitably channels Wimpy era Queers) to one of its poppiest (the sublime "I'm Gonna Get An A+ On My Theme"). Topics cover everything from decoder rings to being overdressed for the cold weather to shopping at Higbee's to major awards to those darn Bumpus hounds to (of course!) Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifles. For those of you outside of the United States who might have no idea what I'm talking about, this is still as good of an album as Vista Blue has ever made. If you are familiar with the movie, you probably don't need to be told what the epic closing track "Electric Sex" is about. Suffice it to say that the song is everything I thought it would be and more. It's... it's... it's indescribably beautiful!
When I first discovered that Ralphie's Red Ryders were recording a full album of songs about A Christmas Story, I knew they were facing a tall order. You could easily write a triple album of Christmas Story themed songs and not run out of quality ideas. It's probably not possible to make a record like this without infuriating a few diehards because favorite characters or scenes of theirs were left out. But as far as I'm concerned, any unexplored song topics are simply opportunities for Ralphie's Red Ryders to record again someday. All the absolutely mandatory topics are covered here, and the band's attention to minutiae ("They Traded Bullfrog", "I Got A Zeppelin") is truly commendable. In true
Vista Blue Ralphie's Red Ryders fashion, the lyrics will make you laugh and have you feeling nice and warm on the inside. Neither fans of A Christmas Story nor fans of the band will have any reason to be disappointed.
If it goes against your deeply held principles to acknowledge anything Christmas related between now and Thanksgiving, check back on the 27th when the digital release of You'll Shoot Your Eye Out! goes live. Otherwise, put your CD order in now and get a download code right away. And while you're at it, be sure to check out the new season of Snow In Southtown - the Christmas movie and music obsessed podcast featuring Mike from Vista Blue and his pal Rusty! I don't know how I went from refusing to turn on the heat to opening my arms to Christmas cheer in a matter of days. Was it Ralphie's Red Ryders or was it those movies on Lifetime and Hallmark? I don't know, but clearly I have passed the point of no return!