Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Matt Ellis - Everything Sucks

Hamilton, Ontario's Matt Ellis was one of the many musical artists who helped get me through 2020 lockdown with my sanity intact. Those were crummy times, but the music sure was good. That spring/summer, Ellis released some of the most inspired Ramones-inspired recordings I've ever heard. Sadly, it's nearly two years later and we're still dealing with this COVID shit. So it's hard to argue with the sentiment of Everything Sucks, Ellis's new digital single. On this release, he tears into two blistering songs about having no hope for the human race and hating everything. Would you expect anything less from the author of hits such as "Rat Fucker" and "It Stinks Like Shit"? As always, his execution of this musical style is flawless. He takes an already stripped-down musical approach and strips it down even more to the barest bones. Both of these tracks are 100% DIY homemade efforts -- played and recorded entirely by Ellis. These are 60-second anthems of the times and well worth your two bucks! I should also add that Full Moon Fever, the LP which compiled all of Ellis's 2020 recordings, is still available and about to be repressed. Get it from Surfin' Ki Records or directly from Ellis's Bandcamp! 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Ricky Rochelle - So Far So Good

Now this is exactly what I mean when I talk about digging the pop side of pop-punk! Ricky Rochelle is the lead singer and drummer for the Young Rochelles and of course also a member of the New Rochelles. So Far So Good, his first solo album, was premiered one track at a time over a ten-week period late last year. It was officially released yesterday and is now available from all of the major streaming sites. While Ricky's bands are among the very best in today's pop-punk scene, on this solo release he flexes his pop chops even more than usual. And I'm not complaining! These tunes are catchy, cleanly-produced, and unapologetically sweet in their melodic style. I don't know for sure if So Far So Good was fully intended as a concept album, but to my ears these songs tell a love story: beginning in heartbreak, moving into the promise of new love, and culminating in marital bliss. As a veteran of marital bliss, I find this album really hitting a soft spot for me. Happy love songs are so much harder to pull off than bitter love songs, so it's commendable that Ricky Rochelle has succeeded at making an album that features several of the happiest love songs you'll ever hear. Part of that is because he's just so darn likeable, and part of it is because these are just really terrific songs. And while this album doesn't shy from grand romance (particularly on closing track "You Are My Heart"), I appreciate how songs like "Brighter Trails" and "The Best Damn Feeling" hone in on those smaller, more routine moments that truly define what it means to be in love. Those tracks give me goosebumps. Elsewhere, songs about Yetis, jackrabbits, and monkeys add a lighter touch without disturbing the flow of the album (although I swear "Speedy Jackrabbit" actually fits the narrative!). 

I enjoy the bitter side of pop-punk as much as anyone, but I've got to hand it to Ricky Rochelle for creating the ultimate feelgood pop-punk record. At a time when there is so much ugliness and despair in the world, Ricky Rochelle has delivered a debut album that gives us all a reason to smile. Physical release coming soon on Eccentric Pop Records!

Friday, January 14, 2022

Hayley and the Crushers - Fun Sized (Cassette Edition)

The record will show that I previously reviewed Hayley and the Crushers' wonderful Fun Sized compilation in February of last year. There's no need for a second review, but I wanted to get the word out about a special cassette release of Fun Sized on the very cool tape label Memorable But Not Honorable. The thing about a MBNH release is that you can't sleep on it. These releases are limited and always sure to sell out very quickly. So if you're a Crushers fan and would enjoy owning a special edition of Fun Sized on pink or yellow cassette, hop on over to MBNH's web store immediately! There are only 50 copies of each color in stock. This release comes with four unreleased live studio bonus tracks! And by the way, the CD version of Fun Sized is still very much available from Rum Bar Records!

The Cheap Cassettes - Ever Since Ever Since

I'm starting to suspect that The Cheap Cassettes have been ingesting performance-enhancing substances in recent years. The Seattle power pop trio (with Boston roots) is currently over a decade into its existence and making by far its best music to date. The run of greatness that began with the "Kiss The Ass of My Heart" and "See Her In Action" singles continues today with the release of the brilliant new album Ever Since Ever Since on Rum Bar Records. I liked the band's debut album All Anxious, All The Time so much that I reviewed it twice. But Ever Since Ever Since makes All Anxious, All The Time sound like a demo tape!

The first thing that struck me about Ever Since Ever Since is that it's a true album. All of the songs would be great in isolation, but clearly they were meant to be heard together in the band's chosen sequence. The flow of this album brings to mind mid-period Replacements, and that can never be a bad thing! The songs (mixed and mastered by Kurt Bloch) pack a serious punch but still leave themselves plenty of room to breathe (six of the 11 tracks run longer than four minutes). The album certainly has its share of should-be radio hits ("She Ain't Nothing Like You" is an actual radio hit, now in rotation on Little Steven's Coolest Songs In The World!). But complementing the more instantly-catchy pop songs are some absolutely fantastic deep cuts. This album highlights Charles's maturity as a songwriter without veering from what The Cheap Cassettes do best: great American rock and roll with big hooks. In my book, the tearjerker rocker "Red Line Blue" is one of the best songs that Charles has ever written. "Endless Summer Ends" just keeps growing on me and growing on me with no end in sight to my amazement. "Cold Sunday" is like Charles's own "Here Comes A Regular".

I'm pretty sure you could ask 11 Cheap Cassettes fans to name their favorite song off of Ever Since Ever Since and receive 11 different responses. I'm struggling to identify a single lackluster track. I might peg "She Ain't Nothing Like You", "Malnutrition", and "How I Got What I Wanted" as the obvious "hits". But there are gems to be found all the way through the album. "Your I's Are Too Close Together" is a better-than-the-original cover of The Elevators' 1980 cult classic single. Kevin's "Wishing The Sun Away" instantly transports me to the early '90s heyday of Pacific Northwest alternative power pop. The jangly "There Goes That Girl" could almost be a Smithereens song. Ever Since Ever Since is one of the finest examples I've heard of what "mature" power pop ought to be. Hooky choruses and memorable melodies abound, but there's a soulfulness and emotional depth to these songs that is quite rare for this genre of music. Decades ago, Charles told me that he aspired to have a band comparable to The Plimsouls. Well, my friend, I'd say you've done it! 

Clearly it's too early to start making album of the year proclamations (especially considering that Malibu Lou will be dropping another bomb in two weeks!). But Ever Since Ever Since sure does set a high bar for the rest of 2022. CD and digital release today. Vinyl is coming later this year!

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Meet Wasted Pretty!

I'm definitely late to the party on Marinette, Wisconsin's Wasted Pretty. But there's never really a bad time to discover cool new bands! Wasted Pretty (you can never go wrong taking a band name from a Figgs song!) came into existence in response to 2020 pandemic life. Bored with COVID isolation and online school, twins Ginger and Joey decided the best solution was to start a punk rock band. By the summer, they had already released their debut single (mastered by legendary engineer Brooke Delarco!). Three more releases have since followed, and twice the band has received airplay on Rodney on the Rock! Wasted Pretty, to me, is what punk rock is all about: kids picking up guitars and writing songs about their real-life frustrations....and having great fun doing it! "Sucks Being Underage" is an instant classic of adolescent punk rock -- the kind of song that only real kids could convincingly pull off. "Where Are You?" poses a musical question that has puzzled the world for five decades: what really happened D.B. Cooper? "Cherry Bomb" is a robustly punked-up rendition of the Runaways' signature song. "Vampires and Lip Gloss" and "Look Out" represent the new generation of horror punk. I dig this band's enthusiasm, energy, and sheer personality. But these kids also possess considerable talent along with an innate flair for making a decades-old musical style feel fresh and exciting. They are currently working on a debut album with Wisconsin music legend pAt mAcdonald. Be sure to check out Wasted Pretty's YouTube channel channel which features cool animated videos for several of the band's songs!

MILT - The Days of Milt

Come on, Australia: now you're just showing off! As if the current crop of Aussie punk rock bands wasn't already stacked enough, along comes this absolutely insane debut album from Melbourne-based MILT. The Days of Milt is a killer mash-up of ferocious garage punk and wonderfully odd post-punk delivered with an ideal mix of rage and humor. Songs range from savage rippers like "Procrastinator" and "White Collar Crime" to edgy post-punk bangers such as "9 to 5" and "Rising Inflation". Along the way, MILT takes the time to wax poetic about dead cats, educate you about insects, recite Ben Stiller's filmography, and spectacularly cover the Wiggles song "Fruit Salad". And an instrumental titled "Dawn of Shit" nicely sums up the state of the world. Who knew that a punk rock record could be so enlightening? A truly brilliant debut!

Sunday, January 09, 2022

The Drolls - The Puget Sound

The honor of my first 2022 album review goes to The Drolls, a Seattle-based trio with quite the pedigree. This band is comprised of Denny and Josh from the late, great Sicko and Julie from Chinchilla and Drip Tank. Holy '90s, Batman! You would expect a band featuring two-thirds of Sicko to be awesome, and The Drolls do not disappoint! The Puget Sound, the band's debut album, is a delightful long player that walks a fine line between pop-punk and later '80s/early '90s college radio. It's certainly an oversimplification to say this album sounds like a Sicko record with only Denny's songs. But if you loved Denny's Sicko songs, you are guaranteed to love The Puget Sound. The album features 12 tracks of catchy, clever, and charmingly geeky pop songs that will put a smile on your face. Tunes like "Getting Old", "Nobody Move", and "Worse Things" summon the same magic that made Sicko one of the greatest pop-punk bands of the '90s. Even the more "indie rock-ish" tracks ("Sad Little King", "Alternate Timeline") are super fun and chock full of hooks. If "Mythology" suggests that the members of this band have worn out multiple copies of The Lemonheads' It's a Shame About Ray, about 99% of us will fully relate! And you have to love the humor of The Drolls re-doing Sicko's  "Rehashed" and calling it "Rehashed Rehashed"! 

The Puget Sound is available now from Snappy Little Numbers Quality Audio Recordings -- who are graciously selling the digital version (with a bonus cover of Big Country's "In a Big Country"!) for the bargain price of free. Or if you prefer, you can purchase the Puget Sound blue galaxy vinyl while supplies last. The Puget Sound is a truly brilliant album title, and thankfully the music is just as good!