Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Internal Credit - II

Who says all sequels suck?! Falmouth's Internal Credit return with their second EP, which turns out to be every bit as crackling and frenetic as its predecessor. Our second dose of Internal Credit arrives just four months after the first - a testament to both the roll this band is on and the more sublime possibilities of our digital age. Again these guys are really pushing the tempos. At a running time of just two minutes & ten seconds, opening cut "Find You're New" is the "epic" of this set. Otherwise, tracks are whizzing by in well under two minutes. I would still describe the sound as garage/post-punk with an emphasis on the punk, but with poppy hooks and a speed approaching hardcore. That's a whole lot of cool stuff going on, but the execution is thrilling in its simplicity. Within seconds of pushing play, I find myself running wildly around the house and pumping my fist in triumph. Internal Credit just sounds like a band that has tremendous fun playing punk rock, and not surprisingly that leads to music that's tremendously fun to listen to. When I first checked in on Internal Credit, they were still preparing for their first gig. Now they've got gigs under their belts, t-shirts for sale, and a second EP to their name. Blink and you might miss a feature film and triple album!



Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Decibels - Scene, Not Herd

It gives me immense pleasure to report that it's 2019 and The Decibels still sound like...The Decibels! This Sacramento foursome was one of the first "new" power pop groups I ever got into back in the '90s. The band's 1997 debut album Create Action! remains my favorite non major label power pop album of the '90s. I dug through my archives to see if I still had a copy of the review I wrote 21 years ago. Sadly, I do not. That's probably for the better since I find everything I wrote in my 20s cringe-worthy. Heck, I even find things I wrote in my early 40s cringe-worthy! Suffice it to say, I owe my love of power pop partially to The Decibels. And after a taking a long break from 2003-2017, this band is back and sounding great!

The Decibels have two recent albums out on Screaming Apple Records with plans for a new 8-song release this year and another album album next year. Scene, Not Herd is the latest LP - the band's first album of original songs since 2003. As expected, it's a power pop fan's delight. These guys haven't changed much from their mod power pop by way of the British Invasion beginnings. The formula remains very much the same: ringing melodies, punchy guitars, and classic '60s inspired pop songwriting. But what I appreciate is that they've made the kind of record you would expect from an older, wiser version of The Decibels. A lot of the lyrics are reflective of the wisdom we gain as we become proper adults and discover what's truly important in life ("And I wish that I could cancel/Due to lack of interest/All the things I thought of aloud" is one of my favorite lines of recent memory). I doubt the 1997 version of this band could have written a song like "Hey Emily" - which is tender and heartbreaking, yet ultimately full of hope. If anything, The Decibels have become even greater students of power pop and its musical origins. Over the course of this album, you'll hear the influence of everyone from the early Who to The Beatles ("Misery") to The Byrds to classic power pop bands like Shoes and The Nerves. "Stupidity" reminds me a little of Material Issue, which you know is positive in my book! If you were concerned that Dean, Joe, Brent, and Brian might have lost some of that old magic after a decade and a half apart, you will be happy to discover that they've picked right up where they left off. The band's melodies remain exquisite, and there's not a single dud among these 12 tracks.

The Decibels recently created a Bandcamp account to share their music with old fans and hopefully plenty of new ones as well. If you're a longtime Decibels fan, you should be thrilled to sink your teeth into Scene, Not Herd and its companion piece Big Hits (plus 12 more!) - a collection of covers that gives you a glimpse at the band's musical inspirations. And if you've lost your old copies of Create Action! and The Big Sounds of The Decibels, you can purchase digital versions of those as well! The Decibels will be heading up to Seattle this coming Friday May 24th to play with my pals The Cheap Cassettes. Be there or be square!



Thursday, May 16, 2019

Moral Panic - self titled

Alien Snatch Records just keeps on killing it! Out now on the legendary German label is the second self-titled album from Moral Panic. It follows up the band's 2017 debut on Slovenly Recordings, and I must say that this Brooklyn trio sounds even better the second time around! Formed out of the ashes of the absolutely terrific Livids, Moral Panic plays scorching garage punk smashing head-on into late '70s Midwestern punk rock (the band even covers "Not Now, No Way" by the almighty Pagans!). What's not to love about that?! The label makes a Carbonas comparison, and I will not argue with that at all. Hot damn, is this album ever a face-melter! In just 19 minutes, it delivers 10 blistering tracks chock full of pissed-off vocals, red-hot guitar leads, and legit catchy tunes. And Jeff Burke's magic touch with mixing and mastering sure doesn't hurt. If you're into fast and furious punk with hooks, this is about as good as it gets!



Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Real Boys - Teenage Shitheads

One thing I love about the Bandcamp platform is how I can stumble upon something super awesome that I would otherwise not be aware of in a million years. I can find no evidence anywhere that The Real Boys from North Bay, Ontario actually exist. Yet there's the EP streaming on the ole' Bandcamp and downloadable for free! It's called Teenage Shitheads, and it sounds exactly like you would expect it to given that particular title. I'm talking snotty and fantastically dumb punk rock in the old school style. Opening track "Population Control" reminds me of Fear, and I was pretty much hooked from there! "Outta Place In The Human Race" is a song that just about everyone ought to be able to relate at one time or another. "Toxicity" might as well be the theme song for planet Earth in 2019. I like the rawness and pure raging energy of this release. I'm reminded of the days when you would unexpectedly come across some punk band's killer demo tape and play the hell out of it. I suppose streaming demos are the new demo tapes! If you dig early '80s hardcore or snotty punk rock in general, this one is worth snagging. My love affair with Canadian punk rock continues!



Sunday, May 12, 2019

Guitar Gangsters - "Being Stupid"

Yeah, you read that right: London's Guitar Gangsters are still at it! Out on the ever-dependable Wanda Records, new single "Being Stupid" is the latest installment in a recording career that dates back 30 years. And if you appreciated that Guitar Gangsters were one of the few punk acts in '89 that were still keeping the faith to the spirit of '79, you ought to be very happy about what they sound like in 2019! Now as always, the Ley brothers are all about the classic melodic punk of late '70s Britain. And they show they can still craft a damn catchy tune. "Being Stupid" is a nice snappy number recalling The Jam by way of The Kinks. If you're looking for a strong melody or a hook to grab ya, this song should do the trick. On the flip, "The Losing Side" burns with an urgency that most younger bands would be wise to emulate. I'm always a sucker for an anthemic chorus, and this song delivers exactly that! How can you not admire a song that can get you pumping your fist and still leave you with a melody you'll be whistling all week?

I always turn to Wanda Records for the best in new '77 punk, and "Being Stupid" sure makes a fine addition to the catalog. A tremendous showing from a veteran band that has never gotten enough credit!



Friday, May 10, 2019

Weird Numbers - Minotaur Dreams

With me being such a big fan of Zache Davis and his wonderful band Maniac, I was of course eager to check out his new project Weird Numbers. Davis formed Weird Numbers in 2017 with his former Girls band-mate Colin Griffiths and Ethan Jacobsen (Griffiths' band-mate in Tourist). These three have been friends going way back to the early 2000s, and Weird Numbers may make some of you nostalgic for the Seattle punk scene of that era. Out on Dirt Cult Records, Minotaur Dreams is the band's excellent debut EP. I'm really digging these five songs - which make a fine mashup of new wave, post-punk, and power pop influences. The Zache Davis style of songwriting is immediately recognizable. I might describe "Dolphin Encounters" and the title track as Maniac-like, but even more "pop". In a good way, "Switching The Code" sounds like it could have been a modern rock hit in 2006. "Uzis and Bikinis" takes a deep dive into post-punk with exquisite angular arrangements and a melody that will haunt you. This is how I like my post-punk: mixed with a generous portion of well-crafted pop! And Davis, one of the most interesting and imaginative lyricists out there, continues to shine in that respect. Vinyl available here!



Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Justin Maurer - "Falling on Deaf Eyes"

Justin Maurer (Clorox Girls, Maniac, Suspect Parts) has been a favorite of this blog for many years. Today I want to feature something he is doing outside the realm of music. He has written and produced a play called "Falling on Deaf Eyes" that will be premiering next month at Hollywood Fringe Festival 2019. "Falling on Deaf Eyes" is an autobiographical comedy about a single Deaf mother raising a family of teenage punk rockers in a small town. This production incorporates music, sign language, storytelling, and theatrical visuals along with a team of sign language interpreters to ensure access to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The play is being directed by Jevon Whetter and will feature the performances of a talented cast of actors and musicians. I had the pleasure of discussing "Falling on Deaf Eyes" with Maurer. Here's what he had to say! 

F & L: "Falling on Deaf Eyes" must be an extremely personal project for you. Have you written about your mother's experiences raising you and your siblings before? How did it come about that this story became a stage production?

JM: The title "Falling on Deaf Eyes" is a play on what my mom used to call her "Deaf eyes". She wouldn't miss anything because her vision was so astute. I remember one time, I walked into the room and she turned her head. I asked her how she knew I was in the room because she couldn't hear me. She said, "I saw the curtain move in the corner of the room...Deaf eyes!"

I did write a few true stories in some chapbooks that were published. I had my dad thrown in jail when I was 16 for assaulting my sister, and I've written a little bit about that. It's a therapeutic experience to just let stuff like that go, and by writing about it, you can also hold the responsible parties accountable. We ended up getting a restraining order against him and moving into low-income housing. My mom was a part-time ASL teacher at the high school, and sometimes we had to eat canned food from the local food bank. Punk rock was a very important outlet for me at this time. And going back and looking at the strength of my mom, I wanted to write something that could show her resilience during this time.

As far as this becoming a stage play, I realized that punk can have a limiting audience, and book readings can have a limited audience. I also realized by working as a freelance ASL Interpreter that many of my performances weren't accessible for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. I wanted to put together a show that everyone could enjoy, and to also try something new. I've been recording and touring with punk bands since I was 15. I'm 35 now and wanted to give myself a new challenge.

F & L: You are working with some tremendously talented individuals in this production. How did you go about bringing these people into the fold?

JM: You're right! I'm very lucky to have them all on my team. I met Jevon Whetter as he was a striking Deaf teacher during the L.A. teachers' strike. I was friends with his brother Del who told me how experienced Jevon was at acting and directing plays for the National Theatre of The Deaf and Deaf West Theatre. Since this is my first time writing and producing a play, I wanted someone experienced, and also wanted a pair of Deaf eyes on the play to make sure that it's also entertaining for a Deaf audience. Jevon suggested Deaf actor Lisa Hermatz for my mom's character. She is very charismatic, and I think she's perfect for the role. Voice actor Jann Goldsby will be voicing for Lisa. We have Canadian singer/songwriter STACEY writing an original score on piano for the play, and she will be playing it with us live for all of the performances. We also have some very talented ASL interpreters George Balayan and Andrew Leyva working with us. Del Whetter is producing.

This thing all seemed to come together pretty effortlessly. Now we need to put the work in and put some finishing touches on the script and rehearse quite a bit for the four weeks leading up to the show!

F & L: What is your previous experience with stage productions?

JM: In high school on Bainbridge Island, Washington, where the play is set, I worked with the legendary Bob McCallister. He had been in loads of music videos, directed and wrote many plays, and was an all-around inspiration. I remember I was too broke to buy or rent a suit for our high school prom, and he let me borrow a suit. I was in a bunch of plays with him in high school, and since then have not set foot on a theatre stage. I have written quite a bit, though, and all of these mediums are related - scripts, short stories, books, treatments, etc. Luckily for me, I have some very experienced theatre folks on my team who will help bring this vision to fruition.

F & L: Aside from the entertainment value of this production, are you anticipating this being a highly educational experience as well? What would you like people to learn about American Sign Language?

JM: Sure, I'd like hearing people to be aware of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing American experience. They're often a voice that isn't listened to or disregarded. I would like people to expand their curiosity about American Sign Language, but also be aware that along with a language, there's a very rich culture. Storytelling is an important part of this culture as well as performances in ASL. Hopefully we do it justice.

F & L: You've received a great deal of recognition for your work as an ASL Interpreter for the LA teachers' strike. What was that experience like for you?

JM: It was an incredible experience. It was emotional. It was tense. It was inspiring. 32,000 teachers picketing and marching for six days in the rain was a real sight to behold. The rallies had around 50,000 people attending, and included musical performances from groups like Ozomatli, Wayne Kramer, Aloe Blacc, and Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine. Being up on that stage in front of city hall with all of the teachers screaming and chanting, it was something else, man. I won't forget it for the rest of my life. It was such an honor to be a part of, and I have so much respect for all of those teachers who put everything on the line for their students and their communities. As far as the recognition, I was just doing my job. It was an emotional moment, so many of the speeches were filled with passion and emotion. My interpretation reflected this emotion. It was my job to provide equal access to communication for all of the Deaf educators on strike as well as the Deaf and Hard of Hearing parents and students at home who were watching on TV for updates. The strike affected millions of people, and there's approximately 800,000 Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in Southern California, many of them in LA County, with kids in the LA Unified School District. An interpreter should never be the center of attention. But as I was on TV interpreting the press conferences, and was up there on stage interpreting the speeches and musical performances, I did end up getting some attention. I think it's important to note that I was there to provide equal access to the Deaf Community, not for any other reason. I'm so fortunate to have been able to have been a part of that inspiring movement.

F & L: How did the experience of growing up with a Deaf single mother inform you as an artist?

JM: My mom could feel music, but being profoundly Deaf, she couldn't hear it. She loved feeling the bass in the car. So I could blast music driving around with her. She was supportive, although she wished I would spend more time studying or doing school work rather than spending endless hours playing guitar and drums. She also saw punk fashion as being directly related to people who used drugs. She also was confused by the bondage thing, spiky hair, mohawks. She didn't really understand that part of it. She was ostracized her whole life for being different; she just wanted to fit in. Having kids with green mohawks certainly didn't help that ambition of hers. But that said, she let us have band practice in the basement, she let us throw shows in the basement. So she was cool as a mom; she was supportive of us in that way. God bless her for putting up with us.

F & L: I see you have seven performance dates scheduled for this production. Do you envision continuing this production again in the near future?

JM: Yes, there are seven shows as a part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. I would love to tour with the show. We've gotten a little interest up in Seattle, where this show is set. So I'd love to go up there and do it. I also found out that the Bainbridge Island Museum is doing an exhibit on Bainbridge Punk and Youth Culture. This show is set on the 1990s on Bainbridge Island, so I would personally love to do a performance on Bainbridge as well as in Seattle. It's amazing that the museum up there is legitimizing all of the trouble we caused as a legitimate form of art 20 years later. Back then the cops would shut down many of our shows. We'd have to hide in the bushes 'cause we were drinking underage. Neighbors would call the police on our band practices and our shows. It's nice to see the adults on Bainbridge now perhaps changing their perspective on the music we made and the shows we threw. We created something out of nothing. Kind of like this play.
More info and tickets to "Falling On Deaf Eyes" are here:


IG: @fallingondeaf
IG: @maurerjustin
Twitter: @justinmaurer17