Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Sore Points - "Not Alright"

Whew! Sore Points are back with a new 7", and they have not tempered their sonic fury in the slightest! "Not Alright" is the Vancouver trio's third release overall and first with Slovenly Recordings. The band's sound burns hotter than ever on this four-song EP (longest track: one minute, 43 seconds!). As always, Sore Points seem to exist in an eternal 1980 - when first wave punk and early hardcore smashed straight into each other and spawned some of the most exciting records ever cut. The band isn't fooling with the formula at all. This is fast, furious, and absolutely blistering punk rock fueled by pummeling guitars, a rapid fire rhythm section, and just enough melody to get your toes tapping. I think "On The Wire" is the "hit", but I swear "Not Coming Back" is the most thrillingly scorching track Sore Points have recorded to date. If you dig hardcore punk rock but wish more of it still had a foot in rock and roll, this is the band for you. LP on Deranged is top-notch, but this is the best stuff yet from Sore Points!



Friday, September 13, 2019

Mystery Girl - "Heartbreaker"

Now here's a band that's had a productive past couple of years! Mystery Girl's new single  "Heartbreaker" is already its fourth release since the early part of last year. This Albany, New York based foursome is so totally up my alley that I'm kind of embarrassed that I've never reviewed the band before! I checked out "Heartbreaker" on a tip from Alex Kish, and I was immediately into it. The title track falls somewhere in between glam-punk and power pop, and it's a total earworm. It's got really catchy lead guitar work, a memorable chorus, and some top-notch backing vocals. What a damn good tune! I've been whistling that melody for a week! B-side "Salted Slug" turns to some straight-up Johnny Thunders inspired punk rock and roll. I of course have a soft spot for this sort of thing, and I must say that Mystery Girl pulls off the style quite well. That hook is legit, and again the lead guitar sounds amazing. This song is so impressive that I actually checked to make sure it wasn't a cover of some obscure Heartbreakers tune!

Alright, this is how you do a 7-inch! You've got a pair of songs that are quite different from each other yet equally good. If you dig glammy punk rock with a pop sensibility, this is a band worth looking into!



Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Smart Shoppers - self titled

Hey! I've got a debut for you today that I'm totally stoked on! The Smart Shoppers hail from Green Bay, Wisconsin and play exactly the sort of punked-up goofball new wave I've been longing for of late. The Smart Shoppers as they appear on this debut EP include Joe from The Last Sons of Krypton on lead vocals along with Aaron on guitar and Jash on drums. The legendary Rev. Norb recently joined on bass to round out the lineup. The Smart Shoppers, like a lot of bands, started out as just a fun side project. They were never supposed to be a "real" band. But you know how it goes. These guys kept practicing, realized that they actually liked their songs, and went ahead and made a record. And after a couple of years of perfecting their craft in Jash's basement, they finally played their first two shows a couple weekends back...with The Control Freaks! Greg Lowery compared them favorably with The B-52s Wall of Voodoo, and that's definitely on point. They're going for a more aggressive Devo/Minutemen type sound, and that really hits the sweet spot for me. Call it new wavey punk or punky new wave. Either way, it's goofy and fun and catchy and wonderfully weird. I haven't heard a record like this in a long time. It gives me those nostalgic '80s kid tingles but also some nostalgic '90s punk tingles. The band has been prolifically writing new songs since Norb joined, so stay tuned for much more from The Smart Shoppers!



Monday, September 9, 2019

TV Crime - Metal Town

Well here it is, after many years of great anticipation! TV Crime, the Nottingham-based foursome that wowed so many of us the moment its debut track "Hooligans" went on-line three and a half years ago, has finally released a debut album. We've had little in the way of new material from TV Crime over the years - just a pair of singles released in 2016 and 2017. But all the while, the band was taking its time to craft a debut full-length it could be truly proud of. Listening to Metal Town (out now on Alien Snatch Records), one could hardly deny that the band's commitment to getting it right has paid off handsomely. Individuals I hold in the highest esteem have already chimed in with high praise, and I can only echo those sentiments.

Metal Town is nothing short of the brilliant debut that was fully expected from TV Crime - a pub rock extravaganza informed by power pop, first wave UK punk, and '70s glam and arena rock. If you think that sounds like something I'd be especially into, you could not be more correct! Over the course of 13 tracks, the band puts on a clinic on how to play powerful punk rock and roll with all of the hooks and melodic appeal of the best power pop. Kicking off with a new-and-improved version of "Hooligans", this album takes little time in showing us how far TV Crime has come. The group's sound has grown bigger and cleaner - while still retaining the soul and guts befitting a proper pub band. These songs evoke comparisons to everyone from The Jam to Elvis Costello to Thin Lizzy, but not in a way that feels retro or consciously derivative. Essentially, this is great pop music played with the force and vigor of punk rock. From the big hooky rock of "Neo Waltz" to the quintessential sing-along punker "In The Gutter" to the footballer pop anthem "Match Day Programme" to the adrenaline rush of the title track to the pub-hardened Buzzcocks dash of "Never Been In Love", the material is consistently well-crafted and carried off with an energy that thrills. When the band slows the pace a tad (consider its "theme song", "Television Crime"), it comes off like a pop group that ought to be all over the charts. The 7" tracks re-recorded for this release have never sounded better - a testament to both the first-rate production and the tightened chops of a band firing on all cylinders.

I've heard "album of the year contender" mentioned in conjunction with Metal Town by more than one individual. Who am I to argue? I anticipated a great deal from TV Crime on its debut album, but honestly Metal Town manages to exceed what I was expecting. You would have to look far and wide to find a band and album better suited to this blog's readership. And in a wonderful occurrence of history repeating itself, it seems we have returned to the days of Alien Snatch Records being the undisputed king of record labels. I'll drink to that!



Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Safes - Winning Combination

When Frankie O'Malley told me that Winning Combination was going to be a "progression" for The Safes, he sure wasn't kidding! "I like when bands step out and try something different and it's good," he explained. If that was the goal for Winning Combination, I would say The Safes have succeeded...and then some!

Having hinted at a psychedelic era Kinks/Who/Beatles direction in the past, The Safes have gone full-on chamber pop on this, their fifth full-length album. But that's not even the half of it! Always the quintessential family band, The Safes have taken that idea to a whole new level. For this project, the Brothers O'Malley have assembled a veritable orchestra of cousins, nieces, and nephews to add new dimensions to their sound. In total, this album features 19 different brothers and sisters playing together - with violins, clarinets, cellos, vibraphone, and several other instruments building on the usual guitar, drums, and bass. Frankie O'Malley alone plays guitars, drums, bass, piano, Wurlitzer, vibraphones, accordion, sleigh bells, organ, sitar, and melodica on this release! The fact that this album could even be made is remarkable. How many people in this world could find 15 capable session musicians that are all related to them?! Now that's a talented (and very musical) family! Yet as amazing as this concept was, it easily could have flopped if had not been executed so beautifully. It's a credit to The Safes that all of these orchestral touches enhance the songs rather than distract from them.

The O'Malleys have stepped boldly out of their hard-driving pop rock and roll comfort zone, but they remain as devoted as ever to the craft of melody-driven songwriting. The elevated sophistication and added musical layers advance The Safes' sound but do not fundamentally change it. This is still one of America's finest pop bands. And even with everything that's going on throughout this record, the melodies and lyrics are still what shine most brightly. Opening track "It's True" is not just "different" - it's one of the Safes' finest and most striking songs to date. It opens the album in a bright & jaunty fashion, with lyrics that vividly evoke the fresh air that meeting someone special can breathe into our lives ("Circles spinning into light /Exploding joy like dynamite/A century of Saturdays replace a decade of malaise"). That melody will grab a hold of you in a way that seems almost effortless, and it will stay with you. Laden with majestic harmonies and intriguing lyrics, "Open Your Eyes" could just about pass for a Ray Davies composition circa 1967-68. "The Rest of My Life", so delicate and mellow in a musical sense, is so relatable lyrically that it practically stings ("I can't live like this for another day/But I can't seem to live any other way"). Similarly, "Make or Break" is as devastating in its words as it is gorgeous in its melodies. "Dreams That Ignite" is picture perfect chamber pop - featuring exquisite harmonies, lush piano-driven melodies, and nary a loud guitar in earshot.

If Winning Combination had just been a progression for progression's sake, that would have been admirable enough. But if you're going to swing for the fences, you might as well hit the ball out of the park. You don't want people saying, "Well, this is neat, but I'd much rather listen to Tasty Waves or Record Heat." The O'Malleys didn't just set out to try something different - they were determined to uphold the quality of their previous releases. The comparisons to The Kinks' Something Else, The Who Sell Out, and The Zombies' Odessey and Oracle are likely to be frequent with good reason. Those aren't just albums that stand out in those bands' catalogs - they're records you go back to again and again. Winning Combination wonderfully celebrates The O'Malley family and family in general. But I'm not going to put this in the "for fans only" category. This is a new high point for The Safes - and an absolutely a perfect starting place for anyone looking to get into this band. It's available now from the Spanish labels Action Weekend and Bickerton Records! 



Friday, September 6, 2019

The Control Freaks - She's The Bomb

I know what you're probably thinking: "Is this another Control Freaks album already?!" You're damn right it is, and it's truly an occasion worth celebrating! Take the day off and blare this thing until the neighbors beg to come over! She's The Bomb follows 2017's (rightfully) acclaimed debut Mindless Entertainment. It's out today on Slovenly Recordings - the planet's preeminent record label for shit-hot garage punk rock and roll!

If you've been keeping score at home, you're likely aware that The Control Freaks released an impressive four singles in between albums. If you missed some or all of them, Greg Lowery and the gang have got you covered. Ace 7" tracks "I Hate Your Face", "Hate List", "I Am Crime", and "Don't Mess With Jessica" all appear on the new album. It would have been kind of a shame if they didn't, because they are killer tunes! But fear not: if you have been a loyal Control Freaks supporter and dutifully kept up with every new release, there are still plenty of new songs on She's The Bomb that'll knock your socks off. I would describe this album as the best of everything Greg Lowery has ever been about. In these songs, I can hear the budget rock spirit of Supercharger, the genius dumb songwriting of The Rip Offs, the '77-style punk leanings of The Infections, and the gleeful snottiness of the Zodiac Killers. And with covers of lesser-known first wave punk classics quickly becoming a signature of this band, you'll be delighted to discover that this album features not one but TWO covers of Aussie '77 punks Babeez! (I checked the rule book: this sort of maneuver is extremely rare but completely legal!)

As good as Mindless Entertainment was, She's The Bomb totally blows it away (no pun intended, I swear!). The Control Freaks have fully hit their stride, and Lowery's chemistry with singer/guitarist/keyboardist Sherrilynn Nelson is a joy to behold. Whereas there were three or four tracks that really stood out for me on Mindless Entertainment, She's The Bomb is stacked with smash hits from start to finish. And Nelson's zippy keyboards definitely add something cool and new to the Control Freaks sound. Given that I am striving to be less prone to hyperbole in my old age, I won't come out with some sort of "this is the best record that Lowery has ever put his name on!" type hot take. But I will say that this album is very comparable to the classic records he's had a hand in creating. If the title track sounds like the perfect combination of Supercharger and The Rip Offs, doesn't that make total sense? "Tell Me Why" ought to elicit a "Hell yeah!" from any diehard budget rocker, while "Time's Up" is such a prime slice of sing-along '77 punk that The Control Freaks might accidentally cover it someday. "Creep You Out" gives me the same goosebumps I got the first time I dropped the needle on Kill...The Infections. The only thing preventing "Hate List" from being adopted as the new national anthem is that "I Hate Your Face" might be an even better choice.

After nearly 30 years of being top dog in the garage punk world, Greg Lowery shows no signs of passing the torch or changing his approach to music. And why would he if can continue to make records this awesome? I suppose if you're looking for musical innovation, state of the art production, or deeply sensitive lyrics about the frailty of humankind, you might take a pass. But if you're dying for a fucking perfect garage punk album, She's The Bomb is exactly what the doctor ordered! First aid kit sold separately.



Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Radioactivity - "Erased"

For its 50th release, Wild Honey Records has something really special for you! "Erased" is the first new song from Radioactivity since its 2015 LP Silent Kill. The band did release the "Infected" single on Wild Honey in 2017, but that contained a pair of songs that were intentionally left off of the album. These songs are literally hot off the presses - having just been completed August 22nd! "Erased" was written after Radioactivity finished recording Silent Kill, and it definitely picks up where the album left off. It features that melancholic style of songwriting that we've come to expect from Jeff Burke, but it damn sure rocks hard! The song is driven by a tough, punchy riff that contrasts perfectly with its bittersweet melodies. The balance between the punk and pop here is just right! On the flip, "Fear" is a song that Burke wrote way back in 2011 when he was living in Japan. Although it dates back to his days with Radioactivity precursors The Novice, it actually fits Radioactivity better. It's dark and reminiscent of the Buzzcocks - the kind of stinging moody number that Burke should never stop writing. And I sure dig that guitar solo!

"Erased" is available in two limited edition versions: one green and one pink. Artwork is by English artist Jami Morrison. Move fast if you want a copy!