Monday, April 15, 2024

The Reflectors - Going Out Of Fashion

Well if you know, you know: most of you don't need me to tell you that The Reflectors are one of the greatest power pop bands currently in existence. When a band of this caliber releases a new record, you buy first and ask questions later. That said, I think The Reflectors' third album Going Out Of Fashion (out now on Neon Nile) will surprise you a little. At the very least, it surprised me. With power pop bands, a sophomore jinx is rare. On the other hand, that third LP can be problematic. If your third album sounds too similar to the first two, people get bored. But if your third album sounds too different from the first two, people are disappointed. On Going Out of Fashion, The Reflectors have navigated this situation marvelously. Far from succumbing to the junior jinx, they've made their best album yet. They've accomplished this by going back to their punk rock roots but also progressing to a more mature style of songwriting. That almost sounds like a contradiction, but trust me, it's not. Going Out Of Fashion is by far the band's punkiest record, and as a result, its sound has been highly energized. This is a "Play loud or else!" type of record. You can hear the influence of classic first generation punk-pop coupled with the modern power pop sound that The Reflectors have helped define. At the same time, you can hear that the band's songwriting has not stagnated. Several of these tunes are more lyrically and musically sophisticated than anything these guys could have written a few years back. And I love the variety of this record. Vintage Reflectors songs like "All the Way Down," "I Gotta Run," and "Living in a Dream" will be crowd-pleasers in power pop circles. But just as good are more "grown-up" pop songs like "I Don't Know Anymore" and the extraordinary "Time Is All I Have." In the other direction, punk-influenced songs like "Limitation" and the stone-cold banger of a title track bring a much harder edge to The Reflectors. "Losing My Mind" is pure punk rock that will just about melt your face off! 

Resisting the temptation to just make Faster Action, part 2, The Reflectors have really stepped it up with Going Out Of Fashion. This is a fantastic album in every sense: the songs, vocals, production, and musicianship all knock it out of the park. This is still essentially a Reflectors album, but it's far from a copy of the band's previous efforts. In a world where melody, stellar hooks, and great songs are timeless, the title of this album certainly does not describe this truly excellent band. 

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Cola Cubes - "Bold Street Beach" b/w "Dream Come True"

Well here's another release that will have most of you going nuts! Cola Cubes are a trio from Liverpool, and their debut single sounds like an unearthed treasure from 1980. "Bold Street Beach" lives at the intersection of power pop, punk, and surf, and it's a stone cold smash. It's catchy, rocking, and totally fun. This track is sure to get your heart racing if Nikki and the Corvettes and early Go-Go's are your jam. Backing "Bold Street Beach" is a really great cover of Dolly Mixture's classic "Dream Come True." What a way to make a first impression! Cola Cubes refer to themselves as "your new favourite band," and I can't say they're wrong! A physical release of "Bold Street Beach" on cassette tape is up for pre-order now.

The Yum Yums - Poppin' Up Again

When I first heard The Yum Yums' new album Poppin' Up Again, I was blown away — not because it was anything unexpected, but because it was everything I had expected yet somehow far more than I had expected. The Yum Yums are one of those rare bands that can get away with making the same kind of album over and over — it would, in fact, be a tremendous disappointment if they didn't! If Morten Henriksen ever began playing jazz riffs or started writing seven-minute songs about late stage capitalism and the inevitability of death, the world would be a far bleaker place. So Poppin' Up Again basically sounds like a Yum Yums album, and of course that's a good thing. But what's remarkable after thirty years plus of this band is that there hasn't been even the slightest decline in quality. 2020's For Those About To Pop! was arguably the best album the band had ever released. For Morten to come back with another batch of songs that's every bit as good is pretty incredible. This is an all-time-great power pop band doing its thing as well as it has ever done it. If you like sugary melodies, crunching guitars, earworm hooks, and timeless lyrics about sweet girls, falling in love, and falling in love with sweet girls, Poppin' Up Again will take you to auditory heaven. How many bands wish they could write 14 songs this good in their entire career? If you want a master class on bubblegum power pop punk rock 'n' roll, school is in session, and your professor is Morten Henriksen! 

The Yum Yums' first album Sweet As Candy was a game-changer for me. It was my gateway from the Ramones to the Raspberries and Paul Collins Beat, and ever since then, power pop and pop-punk have lived in my mind as twin siblings with slightly different fashion aesthetics. Little has changed with The Yum Yums in the ensuing 27 years. If anything, this band is an even better version of what it once was — aging like the sweetest fine wine. Poppin' Up Again is a perfect power pop record, and we would expect nothing more or less from the mighty Yum Yums.

Friday, April 05, 2024

Kate Clover - The Apocalypse Dream

You've probably been hearing a lot about Kate Clover's new album The Apocalypse Dream. Believe what you're hearing: this thing is an absolute treat for anyone who loves first wave punk rock, powerful pop, modern garage rock, or all of the above! If you enjoyed Clover's last LP Bleed Your Heart Out, you can count on The Apocalypse Dream being everything that album was and much more. Any reader of this blog will find Clover's musical approach still hitting their sweet spot, but with this release her songwriting rises to another level. It's quite a task to channel classic punk & new wave in a way that feels genuinely current in 2024, but Clover manages to do exactly that. She oozes cool without even trying (which is really the only way to ooze cool!), and her songs offer just as much in lyrical substance as they do in intoxicating hooks. Of course the pre-album singles have been amazing, but there are plenty more gems on the record — such as the pandemic-inspired title track, the perfect punk-pop tune "You'll Be the Death of Me," and the anthemic new wave throwback "L.A. Prayer." No doubt this album will have you flipping out if grew up on Blondie and the Buzzcocks. But your Gen Z relations are gonna love it too!

Monday, April 01, 2024

CB Kiddo - "Running to You"

A couple weeks back, I tipped you off to the arrival of your new favorite band. Anyone reading this who hasn't already downloaded CB Kiddo's first demo and mailed in their fan club application is either a robot or a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. Emily could have retired from music right then and there and still had the coolest single of 2024. But luckily she has not retired from music, and she quickly got to work on topping the lo-fi punk-pop magnificence of her debut. No less of an authority than Mick Fletcher has proclaimed that CB Kiddo graduates from the halls of the very good and enters the realm of greatness on this new single titled "Running To You." Perhaps I'm being influenced by the cover of the Forgotten Rebels' "Tell Me You Love Me" on the virtual B-side, but there's just something about these recordings that is quintessentially Canadian. Clearly there's something in the air or the water or the pizza dough up North that couldn't be replicated elsewhere. If someone pressed these tunes onto a 45 and claimed they were recorded during a Maritime blizzard in 1980, no one would have any reason to suspect that was a lie. "Running to You" is a scruffy powerpop/punk earworm that will have you pounding that repeat button until half your day is shot. And the cover of "Tell Me You Love Me" is outrageously good. If you didn't already know the song was a classic, you will now. Emily Williston has been one of the best punk vocalists going for a number of years, and now her songwriting talents are really getting the chance to shine with CB Kiddo. If you're into glammy, garagey, old school pop-punk, you should be running in direction of "Running to You."

The Bacarrudas - "You Can Have My Love If You Want It, OK?"

Wow: The Bacarrudas sure knew how to pick the perfect debut single! Excuse me while I go pick my jaw off the floor. Notice I said The Bacarrudas, not  The Barracudas or Barreracudas. The Bacarrudas are a '60s-style frat rock band from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. As fellow citizens of this commonwealth, they are entitled to free admission to any music fests I will someday arrange along with complementary Faster and Louder varsity jackets. Technically, their debut single was a Christmas release which came out at the end of last year. But for their first proper single, The Bacarrudas treat us to a preview of Pool Party, their forthcoming debut album on Mom's Basement Records. Now this is no ordinary garage rock band. This is a garage rock band featuring the god-like singing and songwriting talents of Mr. Adam Rabuck.  "You Can Have My Love If You Want It, OK?" has more energy than a 1980s exercise video, and it is sure to promote the burning of even more calories. If the song were any catchier, your school nurse would have warned you about it. Push play and get dancing! The full album drops May 3rd!

The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs - Call the Dogs/Crazy Operator

Well it's April 1st, but I'm not fooling around. Today I've got not one two new EPs for you from one of the best rock 'n' roll bands out there. With these two new releases, The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs pick up right where they left off on 2021's killer long player One More Drink. Call the Dogs is a ten-inch record out on Warsaw's Heavy Medication Records. Crazy Operator is a 7" out on Madrid's Ghost Highway Recordings and limited to 250 copies. Both of these releases were timed to coincide with the Cheetahs' tour of Europe — which is still ongoing with several gigs in Spain over the next few days. Altogether, this is eight tracks of the Cheetahs doing what they do best: high energy rock 'n' roll in the classic punk style with hooks for days. Call the Dogs kicks off with a title track that's vintage Cheetahs. Channeling the primoradial ooze of punk music, this rocker is every bit the ass-kicker the title suggests. The band's recent digital single "Victim of the Service Industry" is next, making its vinyl debut. It's truly an anthem for these times. "'80s Baby" is a total ripper for fans of blood and guts '77-style punk. "Long Haul" closes things out on a slightly poppier note with hints of classic Bowie. Crazy Operator comes roaring out of the gates with the scorching title track, followed by the hooky glam rock 'n' roll of "Wake Up" and a wonderfully creative arrangement of Pete Shelley's synth-pop hit "Homosapien." "Let's Dance," an old Cheetahs' favorite, is pure fire and a perfect closer for this EP.  Needless to say, you need both of these records if you're a Streetwalkin' Cheetahs fan. Closing in on three decades as a band, the Cheetahs have never sounded better. They are the definition of aging like fine wine. They've got some hot tunes for us here — with many more to come in the near future!