Friday, May 14, 2021

Watts - Shady Rock & Rollers

It's hard to believe that it's been five years since Watts released The Black Heart Of Rock-N-Roll -- the greatest '70s rock record of the 21st Century. A string of fantastic singles ("All Done With Rock n Roll", "Queens", "Breaking Glass") followed in the ensuing years -- suggesting that Watts had yet another epic rock album in the works. Today the Boston foursome finally unleashes its long-awaited follow-up to The Black Heart Of Rock-N-Roll. Out on Rum Bar Records, Shady Rock & Rollers is both a vintage Watts record and a logical next step in the band's progression. 

While Shady Rock & Rollers finds Watts still carrying on in the grand tradition of Aerosmith, KISS, and AC/DC, it broadens the band's musical vision with a more refined sound and major nods to its glam rock foundations. Building off the '70s hard rock purism of The Black Heart Of Rock-N-Roll, Shady Rock & Rollers brings to mind a time when there was no shame in aspiring to write massive radio hits that would dominate the airwaves and fill arenas. The band still delivers on all the essential fundamentals: big riffs, big hooks, ripping solos, and stellar work from one of one of modern-day rock's finest rhythm sections. If you want fist-pumping rock anthems, the bookend tracks "Loud & Fast" and the aforementioned "All Done With Rock n Roll" are sure to satisfy. "Queens" is like the best KISS song in 40 years. "The Night The Lights Went Down", featuring drummer John Lynch on lead vocals, is a punchy barroom rocker right in that Mott the Hoople/'70s Stones/early Aerosmith wheelhouse. But a particular strength of this album is the way the band complements its loud & fast side by also mastering the art of hard & slow. There are a number of tracks here that find Watts leaning hard into pop territory (yet still rocking hard!). "Shady" seems inhabited by the spirit of Marc Bolan, while "Heavy Metal Kids" and "Shocking Pink" are firmly rooted in the Cheap Trick wing of power pop. "When the Party Ends" is that rare power ballad that's actually powerful.  

It is to all of our benefit that Shady Rock & Rollers' concluding track "All Done With Rock n Roll" is not a retirement letter but rather a lamentation on how real rock and roll has fallen out of the mainstream. Watts is most definitely not done with rock and roll and has just delivered another fantastic album redolent of a time when the likes of Cheap Trick, KISS, and the almighty Stones reigned supreme. Uninterested in fame and fortune, Watts makes rock and roll for rock and roll's sake. Having missed the heyday of arena rock (I was only six years old in 1977), I can still experience a similar magic every time I put on a Watts record. It doesn't get much sweeter than popping Shady Rock & Rollers into my car CD player on a sunny day and cranking it loud! Now let's see if we can talk Malibu Lou into simultaneously releasing four solo albums from each member of Watts. Maybe next year?

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters - Waiting In A Corner


I know the joke is getting old, but I'll repeat it anyway: what in the world is going on in Australia to produce all of this incredible punk music lately? Is it in the air? The water? Something in the Aussie diet? Well the correct answer is that this has been going on for nearly 50 years, and the larger world is finally noticing. Hot on the heels of fantastic long players by Stiff Richards and Civic, the fifth album by Melbourne-based Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters completes a holy trinity of essential '20-'21 Aussie punk rock and roll long players. Originally issued in April on Legless Records, Waiting In A Corner will get its European release on Drunken Sailor Records at the end of this month. On these nine tracks, Briggs & The Heaters tear into some powerhouse rock and roll that's got The Saints and Radio Birdman embedded in its DNA yet still sounds right at home in the modern-day world of garage and punk. This is a timeless sound done right: hard-driving, tough as nails, and crackling with raw energy. The band is on fire, and Briggs's lyrics profoundly reflect on big picture themes like change, growth, and devastating loss. Waiting In A Corner is bookended by two brief instrumentals, so the meat of the album is the seven songs in between. And each one is totally killer! There's nothing even close to a sub-par track on this release. I love that "Eaten Alive" and "Too Many Years" -- which comprise over a third of the album's running time -- are two of its strongest tracks. Sometimes five-minute plus punk rock songs are novelties; here they are highlights. 

In Drunken Sailor's press release for Waiting In A Corner, Will Fitzpatrick characterizes the album as a "goddamn classic upon arrival". I could not agree more. Reserve yourself a copy while you still can!

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Nervous Triggers - "Good Run"

With most of our hardships and struggles, we can usually rationalize with the words, "But it's not the end of the world." But what if it actually is? That is the premise behind "Good Run", Nervous Triggers' new single and the band's first new music in nearly four-and-a-half years. On this release, the Jersey Shore surf-punks reflect on the ultimate worst-case scenario: the fiery demise of a failed human race. It's a dire message, but not one without some wickedly dark humor ("Running out the clock on the human race/But at least Bill Gates can escape into space") and spot-on social commentary ("And my long-term plan for managing debt/Is the inevitability of a merciful death"). Musically, "Good Run" is textbook beach punk: powerful, melodic, and more than a little dark. The last time I encountered new music from Nervous Triggers was when they released "Do The Drool" -- a song that terrified me largely because I knew that the dystopian nightmare it envisioned was already well on its way to becoming a reality. It was a great song, but it was kind of hard to listen to! It's odd that a song about the obliteration of humanity would be easier for me to stomach, but there's always that hope that "Good Run" is more of a warning and less of a prophecy. Or to paraphrase a line from this song, perhaps this is a reminder for us to get our living in as fast as we can. That's a good life philosophy even if you aren't pessimistic about the fate of humanity. I've always avoided the lazy Night Birds comparison with Nervous Triggers, but I must mention that Joe Keller guest stars on this release on "surf punk backing vocals" and delivers the goods as expected. "Good Run" is the first song from Nervous Triggers' pre-COVID recording sessions to see the light of day, and I've got a feeling more tracks are on their way. For now, have some fun with the end of the world!

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Poison Suckers - self titled 7"


With me notoriously being a geek for Canadian punk rock, it always bothered me that I never really had a favorite punk band from Winnipeg. Then I got turned on to The Sorels, and it was all settled. Now with the arrival of Poison Suckers, I can say I have two favorite bands from Winnipeg! And there's a connection: Poison Suckers are Joanne from The Sorels and her husband Joe from Fashion Bathers, Shitbots, etc. With this band, you get cool elements from both of these formidable talents. Poison Suckers don't really sound like any of the aforementioned bands, but in listening to the duo's debut EP you can totally sense Joanne's love for girl groups and dirty glam rock and Joe's fondness for blown-out lo-fi garage punk. Put it all together, and you've got a marriage made in heaven! Out now on Transistor 66 (on slime green vinyl, no less!), the four-song debut from Poison Suckers is an absolute treat for lovers of budget rock. It's super lo-fi, but not in a shitty way. You could probably pass these songs off as the work of some forgotten garage band from 55 years ago! "Grain Alcohol" and "You Like Me" conjure some old school girl group magic with a rawness and budget fidelity that serve the songs completely. On "Take My Time", the band tears into some down and dirty, riff-driven rock and roll featuring a powerhouse vocal from Joanne. And speaking of powerhouse vocals, Joanne brings it full force on the MC5-inspired scorcher "Stick Up"! If you like trashy rock and roll with soul, guts, and brilliant songwriting, you've got yourself a brand-new must-have record to chase down!

Nasty Party - "People On The Street"


It looks like I have a new favorite EP of 2021! Based in Sydney and London, Nasty Party is a duo consisting of Nasty Simon and Rhys Nasty. Back in December, I reviewed the band's debut EP to considerable acclaim. The follow-up has proven to be even better! All the qualities that I loved about the previous release remain fully in tact: a classic '77-style punk sound, irresistibly catchy tunes, and incredible lyrics that opine on contemporary social and political issues. "People On The Street" leans a little more to the punk side of punk/new wave, and two of the tracks reference issues in Australia that the band cares about deeply. The title track refers to the recent "Watergate" scandal which mismanaged the largest river system in Australia. Musically, it brings to mind '80s Clash with a touch of Wire/Gang of Four. It's funky and jumpy and sure to get you up and dancing. And if you like a song's opening lyrics to make an impression, dig this: 

The dirtiest mutts on the planet/
Diggin' up our own backyard/
From Parakeelia to the left wing thugs/
If you think that’s bad grab your popcorn cos/
We got irrigation thieves

Wow! Would you expect anything less from a band that calls itself Nasty Party? Just as passionate is "Locked Out", which addresses Sydney's draconian Lock-Out laws of 2014 that devastated the city's small businesses. On this track, the band rips into some high energy '77 punk-pop rooted in pub rock. Again, the lyrics are sharp as hell and full of righteous indignation. The title of the EP establishes a clear theme for this release: if your elected representatives are failing you, get out there and demand that they do better! Sandwiched in between the two political anthems is "Beautiful", which kind of sounds like the Buzzcocks on speed. All in all, this makes for a brilliant EP and a fully satisfying follow-up to one of last year's most promising debut records. Nasty Party hits a real sweet spot for me, with a sound rooted in the late '70s/early '80s and lyrics focused on right now. I can't wait to hear what this duo does next!

Friday, May 07, 2021

Autogramm - No Rules

2021 has already produced a slew of outstanding full-length albums, and Autogramm's sophomore long player No Rules is up there with the best of 'em. Out on Nevado Music, the 11-track No Rules finds the Vancouver and Chicago based trio further refining and expanding its new wave influenced sound. While this album is not without its power pop leaning moments, it also ventures quite extensively into the darker, moodier realms of synth-pop and post-modern rock. In terms of stylistic variety and artistic vision, Autogramm has taken a big step forward on this release while remaining as enamored as ever with its core influences (Gary Numan, Devo, The Cars, etc.). Here the band offers everything from the new wave dance anthem "No Rules" to the quirky, punky "Jody Is A Cop" to the robo-pop earworm "Fuck Fast Fashion" to the Police inspired "Future Primate". There are certain songs on this album that I probably would have mistaken for actual '80s new wave songs if I hadn't known they were by Autogramm. And yet in spite of the obvious reference points which tick all the nostalgic boxes for anyone my age, there's plenty about this album that feels current in 2021. "Mantra", while inspired by a personal experience of singer/guitarist Jiffy Marx, comes off like a survival guide for life in modern times. And it's quite interesting that the album's two "poppiest" songs are about anxiety and depression. Full of undeniable hooks and profound, relatable lyrics, "Anxiety" and "Bad Day" would be massive radio hits in a perfect world.  

I love that Autogramm is unapologetically a new wave band. There isn't a trace of irony or kitsch in what they do. They are inspired by a form of music that they genuinely love, and they execute the style superbly with just enough of a modern touch. Far from a sophomore slump, No Rules delights from start to finish. Hail the newest wave of new wave!

Los Pepes - "I Want You Back"

If you need a jolt of sonic energy to wake you up or liven up your day, the new single from Los Pepes ought to do the trick! "I Want You Back" is available now in digital form and will be releasing on vinyl May 14th via Black Wax Noise Division. And for this release, Los Pepes are not fooling around! These tracks are vintage Los Pepes -- kicking up a veritable tornado of punk rock, power pop, and balls-out rock and roll. This is all ripping guitars, smashing drums, and racing melodies. The energy level is an 11 out of 10. But even amidst all the speed and fury, the hooks still stand out. The band has released music videos for "I Want You Back" and "Never Get It Right" -- both of which will give you a little taste of the crackling Los Pepes live experience. "Tell Me" is a little more on the power pop side of things with the emphasis on the power. This is my first time writing about Los Pepes since September of 2019. I've gotta say the band is sounding as good as ever! If you like loud pop that rocks, "I Want You Back" is guaranteed to please. These gentlemen will be returning to the stage at the end of this month, and you know they're itching to melt some faces. Locals be ready!