Saturday, August 11, 2018

Personality Cult - self titled

Drunken Sailor Records' perpetual winning streak remains very much in tact with the stunning debut album from North Carolina's Personality Cult! This band is the creation of Ben Carr from Natural Causes, who's doing something quite different with Personality Cult. Think old school powerpop/punk with plenty of quirks and a little bit of a jagged edge. Yep, that sure does sound like something Drunken Sailor would want to put out! And of course it sounds like a record I'd be enthusiastically touting! That early Buzzcocks influence is hard to deny, and the songwriting is just totally spot-on. Carr sure knows how to turn out a minimalist punk tune with a hook. It seems almost surreal that this music could be coming out of the American south in just sounds so much like 1977 U.K! But given Carr's background, you know not to expect straight paint-by-numbers punk. And that's what I appreciate about Personality Cult. It's powerpop/punk, but with a unique touch to it. Plus there are songs that break from the general feel of the album. "Functioning Fine" is fully into new wave/post-punk territory, while "Fashionably Late" is Devo worship at its finest.

I could probably describe Personality Cult as kindred spirits/American counterparts to label mates Freak Genes. And you know how I feel about Freak Genes! This debut LP from Personality Cult is a surefire top ten album for 2018. If you like that old school catchy punk meets new wave type sound, check out a band that does it brilliantly!


Sunday, August 5, 2018

Corner Boys - Love Tourist

How much do I love Corner Boys?! Well, I named their debut 7" my #1 single of 2017. So you can imagine I was pretty stoked to discover that the Vancouver trio was making quick work of a follow-up. Out now on Dirt Cult Records, the 4-song Love Tourist sounds so much like a genuine punk recording from 1979 or '80 that even experts would be hard-pressed to tell the difference! Corner Boys really hit the mark for what pop-inspired punk rock ought to be. They write catchy tunes with hooks, but they play with such whirlwind speed and youthful exuberance that it seems inadequate to just call them "power pop". Think Canadian greats like Pointed Sticks and Young Canadians, anything on Good Vibrations Records, and classic American bands like The Simpletones (whose "TV Love" is covered on this EP in quite brilliant fashion). The title track is as close as a modern-day band has come to sounding like The Undertones in a really long time. "(It's A) Mystery", with its perfect mix of pep and snot, delights me to no end.

Corner Boys' first single Just Don't Care was a darn tough debut to follow, but Love Tourist is every bit as good. It makes me wanna dance until I drop and shout along to those choruses until I lose my voice. This absolutely one of my favorite bands going right now, and I'm sure a lot of you are about to feel the same!


Friday, August 3, 2018

Criminal Kids - Self Titled

Last fall, Criminal Kids were nice enough to make a couple of songs from their then forthcoming debut EP available for free download. Here we are today, and that EP is no longer forthcoming. It's out now on Spaghetty Town Records in the USA and Gods Candy Records in Canada! After hearing the teaser "Outcast", I knew the whole EP was gonna slay! And sure enough, this six-song release is exactly what I expected. Criminal Kids hail from the south side of Chicago, and their music is definitely a reflection of where they come from. They play tough, aggressive music that's equal parts punk and rock. While hardly the first band to mix gritty urban punk with the high-powered rock n' roll of Motorhead and AC/DC, Criminal Kids have taken that style and really given it a kick in the ass. They bring a ton of energy - with guitars ripping, bass punching, and drums slamming. And listen to those vocals, man....that's some first-rate screaming! This is an awesome EP to listen to with headphones on, because it's fun to hear the wild racket that each guitar is kicking up. I can totally picture the band tearing it up on stage! Especially on tracks like "Takin' It Back" and "Vanity", Criminal Kids sound like they've come to punch you in the mouth with their music. They bring great commitment to this genre of music, along with plenty of killer riffs and quality hooks. These guys are definitely throwbacks to the later '90s heyday of punk rock n' roll, but they've managed to add something to it that feels fresh to my ears. Legend has it that Teddy Spaghetty was so blown away by their live show that he immediately signed them to his label. It's not always easy to capture that same kind of energy on a studio recording, but this debut EP sure gives it a good run. My only instructions are to play it loud!


Friday, July 27, 2018

Lovesores - Gods of Ancient Grease

THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT! Following six EPs dating back to 2012, Portland, Oregon's Lovesores finally present their debut LP on Dead Beat Records. I appreciate that there was never a big hurry to get a "proper" album out. Lovesores were hell bent on releasing great rock n' roll records, and it didn't really matter if that meant 7 inches, 10 inches, or 12 inches. At some point you're bringing it so hard that a couple more inches aren't going to make much of a difference. Previous EPs such as Bubblegum Riot (2013) and Rock and Roll Animal (2016) burned as hot as punk rock n' roll gets, and that's the same standard that Gods of Ancient Grease lives up to.

Produced by Portland punk rock legend Thee Slayer Hippy, Gods of Ancient Grease makes little attempt to "progress" or "update" the Lovesores sound. What you're getting here is wild, furious, and 100% from-the-heart rock n' roll steeped in the sleaze and swagger of 1970s American punk. If there's a fountain of youth, Scott "Deluxe" Drake drinks from it copiously on a daily basis. The charisma and unrepentant fuck-all attitude that ooze from his vocals ought to be the envy of every teenage screamer in the business. And as always, Saul Koll and Adam Kattau bring the fire on dual guitars. Add one of the most underrated rhythm sections going (Alex Fast and Boz Bennes) to the mix, and you've got yourself a world-class rock n' roll band! But I suppose you knew that already! If anything, Gods of Ancient Grease finds the band clinging the closest it ever has to its '77 punk roots. Songs like "Exquisite Kicks", "Planet Nein", and "Blue Suede Collar" are vintage Lovesores - coming on with ripping guitars, locking into a mid-tempo groove, and then socking you in the mouth with a huge sing-along chorus. The title track, quite honestly, is one of the most powerful testaments I've heard to the eternal glory of rock n' roll. And then there's the Dead Boys thievery on "Good Girls Don't Scream", which is blatant and highly appreciated! While none of these eight tracks veer far from what you've come to expect from the Lovesores and Scott Drake, I enjoy the creative songwriting touches shown on both of this album's side-enders. "Wednesday Monkeys", with its overt melody and interesting production techniques, is like a rock epic minus the excess. And appropriately enough, "Mission To Mars" gets a little spacey.

I know that "highly anticipated album" is a phrase guys like me often overuse. But it most certainly applies to Gods of Ancient Grease! I used to say that Loveosres were the greatest existing band without a full-length album. Well now they finally have a full-length album, and it's something else! Would I sound a little overzealous if I proclaimed it an instant classic of punk rock n' roll? Of course! But I dare you to listen to this thing and tell me I'm wrong!


Monday, July 23, 2018

The Anxieties - Buried Alive

In preparing this review, I was shocked to discover that it has been four and a half years since I've written about The Anxieties! Where does all the time go? I know that real life issues have led to some extensive periods of inactivity for The Anxieties, but I appreciate that they've never thrown in the towel. This band is way too cool to not exist! I'm notoriously lukewarm on horror-themed punk music, but I absolutely love The Anxieties. That's probably because they mix the horror with a whole lot of sci-fi/dystopia - which is way more up my alley.

I recall The Anxieties' Buried Alive EP being in the works a couple years ago, and I am happy to report that those songs have finally seen the light of day. Those tracks have been packaged with the three songs from the Lab Rats EP, the two-song The Quarantine digital release, and one comp cut to make one ten-song CD that plays like a full-length. The four new songs feature the band's most recent lineup, and they sound fantastic. "Destination Dystopia" reminds me of early Anxieties - mixing spazzy poppy punk with old school California punk influences. Listening to the lyrics about how we're well on our way to an actual dystopia, you might think this song is a response to recent current events. But I'm pretty sure this song was written a few years back. That confirms something I've long suspected: The Anxieties are actually from the future! "Buried Alive" is an Adolescents/Agent Orange inspired ripper that cleverly employs a horror metaphor for the hopelessness and desperation of working a miserable job. "I Don't Wanna Go" is the perfect mix of horror and sci-fi, and it's just mysterious enough to let your imagination run wild. Seriously: where are they taking him?! In the best way possible, I am creeped out! Musically, the vibe is straight-ahead catchy punk with killer melodic leads. For the first time, I can hear The Anxieties' channeling their alter egos Jabronis. Or maybe it's more like the Buzzcocks binge watching Black Mirror! Speaking of songs that leave a great deal to the imagination, "Experiments in the Basement" is a very well done surf/punk instrumental. Even with there being no words, it's easy to picture this song appearing in a movie about....experiments in a basement!

Even if you already own all of the remastered bonus tracks, Buried Alive is well worth picking up just for the four new songs. Otherwise, this is kind of like getting a whole new Anxieties album! This is definitely the perfect band for our times: influenced equally by the fun of '50s/'60s B-movies and the not-so-fun of our modern reality. Fingers crossed for more music from these guys soon!


Friday, July 20, 2018

Nick Piunti - Temporary High

Nick Piunti's name has become synonymous with the finest in melody-driven guitar pop. With that in mind, you know exactly what to expect from his latest effort. Out today, Temporary High is Piunti's fourth album in six years (and his second on Marty Scott's Jem Records). It's absolutely the kind of record we've come to expect from Piunti - grounded in gorgeous melodies and smart, thoughtful lyrics. Again Piunti has worked with Andy Reed & Donny Brown as his rhythm section and Geoff Michael as his co-producer. Another frequent collaborator, Ryan Allen, co-wrote two of the tracks. This album definitely applies the principle of not fixing what isn't broken, and I applaud that fully!

In typical Piunti fashion, Temporary High doesn't leave you waiting long for the "hit". The title track is in the lead-off position, and it's vintage Piunti power pop/alternative/dad rock goodness right down to the punchy guitars and stick-in-your head chorus. And I love the coupling of immensely pleasing melodies and serious, hard-to-swallow lyrics. We can probably all think of someone we know that resembles the lyric "Last in the line but first with your hands out", but Piunti shows a deft touch in building from tough love to genuine sympathy. Elsewhere, Piunti runs the gamut of crunchy, mid-tempo power pop ("You're Perfect and I'm Not"), ultra-mellow alt-rock/pop ("Deep Freeze"), upbeat jangly pop ("No Return"), and pure singer/songwriter fare ("If This Was Right", co-written with Allen). The common thread across the album's ten tracks are stellar hooks, silky smooth harmonies, and melodies you're bound to find yourself whistling all day. And while this album has its share of songs exploring the doomed/ill-fated side of romantic relationships, what strikes me is how many of these songs take the brighter view of love. You'd perhaps expect sarcasm from a song titled "You're Perfect and I'm Not"; instead the sentiment is genuinely sweet. Finally an anthem for all of us married men who never forget how lucky we are! And how great of a line is "You stood by this wreck of a train passing by"! Similarly, "No Return" and "Contagious" are tributes to enduring adult love, crafted with humor and eloquence.

It's always an immense pleasure to come across a new record from Nick Piunti. I am not adverse to the idea of Piunti trying new things (check out the drum machines and keyboards on "Headphones"). But ultimately, I know he's never straying too far from the tuneful pop craft he's mastered. He's just so good at what he does, and the quality and consistency of his songwriting is the same with every new album. He continually writes songs about meaningful things and delivers them with indelible melodies. Four albums in six years certainly qualifies as a creative roll. I can only hope he stays on it for many more years and albums to come!


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Ravagers - "Drowning In Blood"

One of my favorite labels going these days is Spaghetty Town Records. I dig the label's unrelenting commitment to trashy rock n' roll, and I'm continually impressed with the talent it manages to recruit. With the likes of The Sweet Things and Dr. Boogie already on board, Spaghetty Town has added the mighty Ravagers to its formidable roster. This band, of course, features Hagen from RMBLR and Gabs from Biters. "Drowning In Blood" is the first we've heard from this Baltimore foursome in three years, and it does not disappoint! The title track puts the ROCK in punk rock. Those guitars are absolutely on fire, and Hagen's vocals are straight-up ferocious. What a ripper! On the flip, "Suzi (Has An Uzi)" is more on the pure punk side with a nasty Dead Boys style edge to it.

In addition to Spaghetty Town, No Front Teeth and Gods Candy Records are also involved with the release of "Drowning In Blood". It's great to finally hear new stuff from Ravagers, and I was stoked to discover that a full album is coming soon. If you like your punk music tough and hard, turn it up and enjoy!