Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Meet The Hitchhikers!

"The Hitchhikers are a glued together tumbleweed of spit, beer, sweat and grease. This Punk band is comprised of x-members from The Humpers, The Bleeders, The Neurotones and He's Dead Jim, and is a mashed together greasy-meatball of pure gut-rot fun, and the chef's name is Chuck Berry. Well guess what my fans of filth...this is exactly what you're gettin, straight from the syringe and into your thick-head, a shot of brainwash that'll make ya forget you're mom slept with the mailman." 

Seriously - what else needs to be said?! Click play and turn it up loud! The bomb has been dropped. More Hitchhikers coverage coming soon!


Friday, February 24, 2012

Sugar Stems? More like sugar rush!

I’ve given up profanity for Lent, so I’ll just say holy fudge triple cream cupcakes! The new Sugar Stems single is so mega-crazy super-duper good! Good gravy, this is the stuff! Kids, do you like the POP? The Sugar Stems have got something special for you! Betsy, Drew, and the gang are set to start work on a new album, but in the meantime a brand new single on Certified PR Records drops next week. A-side cut “Greatest Pretender” is another bright, upbeat sugar-bomb from a band that specializes in exactly that. Very Shivvers-esque! I just played it seven times in a row, and I am still craving a repeat. The reason to release singles is because you can write songs this good! Perfection. On the flip, “Did You Ever” is a bouncy, feel-good number that rocks just a little too hard to be called “twee”. Love it! The band that made Milwaukee famous is at it again. You can still download their incredibly awesome LP at their bandcamp site, and by all means check out for the skinny on how to score yourself ten copies or more of “Greatest Pretender”! 

Listen up!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Buzzcocks or The Dickies?

Here’s a band battle that should get you thinking. Sure: Boys vs. Buzzcocks or Undertones vs. Buzzcocks might have been the more “obvious” way to go. But that might have been too easy. And what fun would that have been? We’re going from to coast to coast, and across the pond, and complicating the question. Outside of The Ramones, these might be the two greatest pop-punk bands of all-time. These days we’re hearing lots of bands that worship at the altar of both. But the two are so different that it makes it harder to choose. “Where Did His Eye Go?” or “Orgasm Addict”? “Waterslide” or “Promises”? One mastered the punk rock love song. The other was non-stop laughs. Both were beyond great. If you’re looking at consistency and complete body of work, it seems the Buzzcocks may have the slight edge. But for a 1-2 punch of classic albums, I don’t know if The Incredible Shrinking Dickies and Dawn of the Dickies can be topped. I’m tempted to give it to the Buzzcocks for writing the greatest lyric in the history of time: “You even made it with the lady who puts the little plastic bobbins on the Christmas cakes”. But then I want to give it to The Dickies for writing a song about a talking penis. Both bands played crucial roles in my punk rock education, and neither’s worth has been diminished by the passing of time. At the end of the day, though, it really comes down to who I listen to more often. It’s really, really close. By the smallest of margins, I cast the opening vote for The Dickies. Now it’s in your hands! 


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Marvelous, Darling!

What’s this, another Canadian band?! Damn straight! And I’m just gettin’ started! The Canadian Takeover cannot be stopped at this point. There is too much momentum, too many reinforcements in tow. By the end of this calendar year, your children will be playing hockey. We’ll all be drinking Moosehead and eating poutine. Tim Hortons will buy out Starbucks. And that is okay by me! In my three-and-a-half year absence from music reviewing, I missed an awful lot of great singles by Toronto’s Marvelous Darlings. Single Life compiles them all onto one super-awesome 21-track collection. The sales pitch on the Marvelous Darlings is that they do “some of the best ‘77 punk meets power pop since the Exploding Hearts”. High praise indeed, but I agree totally! And where the Marvelous Darlings really differentiate themselves from a lot of the other nouveau punk/powerpoppers out there is that they inject a heavy dose of rock n’ roll into the Undertones/Buzzcocks blueprint. I hear a lot of Cheap Trick in this band, and even some early Replacements in songs like “The Swords, The Streets” and “Careerist”. These dudes can flat-out rip it! The guitar playing is especially hot. Ultimately, though, it’s the songs that are the real treat here. And these guys know how to craft infectious melodies and catchy choruses that’ll stick in your head from now until the end of time. “I Don’t Want To Go To The Party” is high speed pop/punk that’s teeming with energy and jammed with hooks that could snag a shark. “I’ll Stand By Her” might be even better. But when they slow things down a little and full-on embrace their pop side, they truly demonstrate what they’re made of. “Teenage Targets” is sooooooo good. It’s what every love song should be - passionate, touching, tells a great story. I love the melody, I love the harmonies. It sounds like it should have been a radio hit 30 years ago! I am powerless to resist it. And “Lagoons” is in the same class. It comes on all tender and pretty, then intensifies into a rousing anthem of love and longing. I’m obsessed! Single Life compiles 16 tracks plus five demos, and it’s all gold. You doubting me? Stream it and listen for yourself. See what I’m talking about. Prepare yourself for Canadian dominance. There will be more invaders. 


Friday, February 17, 2012

Human Toilet is not a lifestyle choice!

Take a shredder style metal guitarist with a secret love for Black Flag and add in a singer who sounds a little like Lee Ving. What do you get? Human Toilet! This Brooklyn trio transforms that early ‘90s metallic post-hardcore sound into something genuinely cool. Plain and simple, these guys rock! And what I really appreciate is how great their new album sounds. It was recorded with analog technology, and you can totally tell! Even listening on a digital format, it sounds like you’re playing a vinyl record. It’s got a warm, heavy sound befitting the band’s crushing power. The drums pound; the guitars roar. This trio is tight! No doubt Human Toilet borrows some of the noisy and atonal aspects of late ‘80s/early ‘90s indie rock. But at heart they’re still a punk band, playing hard and fast and oozing attitude at every turn (with requisite tongue-in-cheek lyrics). On tracks like “Human Toilet”, “Low Life”, and “Giuliani Time”, they fire up the steamroller and flatten everything in sight. Elsewhere, the grinding guitars and aural intensity of “Must Love Dogs” and “The Long Con” have me feeling like it’s 1992 again. Jayson from To Eleven hilariously and astutely describes their vibe as “What if the Rollins Band had not sucked?” That’s perfect! This is what early ‘90s mosh pit rock should have sounded like: bruising and punky and scummy in all the right ways. Think later Black Flag. Think Fear meets Jesus Lizard. Kurt Cobain would have been a fan. 


Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Billie Joe sure does write great songs when he's not trying so hard to be "serious". Best song by a family band since "Heartbeat, It's A Lovebeat"! 


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The F & L Hall of Fame: Moral Crux

It seems fitting that Moral Crux would be one of the first bands inducted into the F & L Hall of Fame. They along with the Spent Idols were one of two bands who kick-started my love affair with the ‘77 punk sound, which has spanned 17 years and counting. It was 1995, and I mail-ordered a copy of I Was A Teenage Teenager by Moral Crux after seeing it advertised in Maximum RocknRoll. It’s kind of a cliché thing to say, but my life would never be the same. It’s not quite accurate to call Moral Crux part of the ‘77 punk revival, as they’d actually been around since 1983. But getting into Moral Crux, Spent Idols, etc. really got me started on the path that would lead me to so many of the bands I’d later become associated with as a reviewer. Before there was the Dimestore Haloes or Stitches or Stiletto Boys or Dead End Cruisers, there was Moral Crux.

What I loved back then (and still do now) is that Moral Crux combined the best of two worlds. Musically they were classic ‘77 punk/pop driven by catchy melodies and actual singing. But lyrically, they had a political message and social conscience. It was as if Generation X and the Canadian Subhumans had a head-on collision at The Ramones’ practice pad. Being a typical recent college grad across-the-board liberal, I ate that stuff up. But today, as a middle-aged non-partisan, I appreciate Moral Crux even more. As it was with The Clash, the themes of Moral Crux’s music transcend youthful rebellion. One never gets “too old” to distrust institutions of power, stand up for the little guy, and question the so-called “truths” that comprise mainstream thinking. Sure: 90 percent of the time, “political” punk rock is lame. But when it’s done well, there’s nothing better. Moral Crux is one of the finest political punk bands there’s ever been, and pushing 30 years of existence the group is still going strong. Singer James T. Farris has been the band’s constant from the beginning, and along side longtime collaborator Jeff Jenkins on guitar he’s kept Moral Crux a vital force in underground punk. The band has done six full-length albums, and they’re all equally great, from the lo-fi, hardcore-flavored 1987 debut and ‘89’s The Side Effects of Thinking to the more polished pop-punk of Panic Button/Lookout issues Something More Dangerous and Pop Culture Assassins. This is a band that has never “reinvented” itself. This is a band that’s remained in its small town Washington state base for three decades, never relocating to the “big city”.

Moral Crux played a huge part in my zine writings over many years. An early print issue of Now Wave Magazine featured a full-page write-up on Something More Dangerous. I did a lengthy interview with James that appeared in Pat Grindstaff’s Rock N’ Roll Outbreak. Pop Culture Assassins was reviewed multiple times on the Now Wave web-zine in 2003. It’s a pleasure to write about Moral Crux again, and something tells me this won’t be the last time. The common thread with all great protest music, whether it’s Woody Guthrie, Stiff Little Fingers, or Midnight Oil, is that the message only resonates because the songs are great. The same is true about Moral Crux. Track down all their albums. You won’t be disappointed.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

How About The About: Blanks?

Implored by F & L’s head talent scout Greg Mongroll to check out Berlin’s The About: Blanks, I diligently obeyed. I bought $200 headphones, retreated into the cave, and let the noise flow through me. Good things started happening immediately. There was dancing and fireworks and a faint scent of sausage. Greg, you know what I like! The Germans gave us lager beer and bratwurst, two of my favorite things in the world. They’ve also given us some of the best punk rock of recent years, and The About: Blanks are essential players in this newest wave of Deutsch-core. You may remember some of these guys from bands like the Shakin’ Nasties, Moorat Fingers, The Not Amused, The Shocks, Frantic Romantics, The Bottrops, and King Kahn and the Shrines. They’re all card-carrying members of the Justice League of European Punk. Now they are one united force. They’ve got a new LP out called 12 Boring Blasts, and they’re poised for a title shot at the pogo-punk championship belt. Like fellow Germans the Modern Pets, The About: Blanks do the snotty ‘77 thing with hints of pop and a jumpy modernist spark. Their myspace page is loaded with songs you can stream or download- including a couple tracks from the new album and the band’s entire debut EP from 2010. “She’s A Nosebleed” is still the hit - it’s the kind of insanely catchy pogo-licious sing-along that I have not been able to resist in my adult life. Aces! If The Briefs had Johnny Rotten on vocals, and he was German, it would sound like “Your Pretty Face Is Going Down To the Jobcentre”. There’s more Sex Pistols worship apparent in “Too Boring To Talk To”, while the great “Kill Your Boyfriend” comes on with Clashy riffs and Ramonesy lyrics. And what kind of genius comes up with song titles like “Chuck Berry Vs. Dracula” and “Come Again (You Make Me Wanna)“? Brilliant! This might be my favorite new band for 2012. Seriously: how did I not already know about The About: Blanks?! I’m sure Greg wondered the same thing. That’s why I pay him the big bucks.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Top Ten Punk Rock Albums - 1982

Last month I counted down the ten best punk LPs from twenty years ago. Now we’re going back another decade to 1982. I turned 11 that year. I was not yet into punk. Those of you who were surely bought some or all of these titles! Like the 1981 top ten I did last year, this list demonstrates that punk music in the early ‘80s had changed a lot in just a few short years. The first wave of punk bands had either broken up or evolved musically. The ’77 punk sound was out of vogue. Hardcore was in. A new generation was taking over. And while some may remember ’82 as the year punk rock made its first steps towards a long, miserable decline, others will just remember it for its incredible music. Check it out:

10. Dead Kennedys- Plastic Surgery Disasters
Sure: sometimes the DKs’ place in the pantheon of punk rock can be a little overstated. But there’s no denying their first LP was a stone cold classic. And this, their second album, was nearly at the same level. 

9. Fear- The Record
If The Record was a slight letdown compared to the mind-blowing awesomeness of Fear’s tracks on the Decline of Western Civilization soundtrack, it nonetheless kicked serious ass. After all, we are talking about the best record from one of the best punk bands ever. Not even an ill-fitting producer could ruin “Let’s Have a War”, “I Don’t Care About You”, and “I Love Livin’ In the City”.

8. Bad Brains (self-titled)
Notoriously, this album has the ringing endorsement of Adam Yauch. I’ll try to overlook that.

7. Adicts- Sound of Music
In contrast to the typical tough guy “Oi!” band in 1982, The Adicts were all about poppy melodies and glammed-up Clockwork Orange theatrics. Who doesn’t love “Chinese Takeaway”? This is the only band that made both my ’81 and ’82 lists.

6. Zero Boys- Vicious Circle
An all-time classic of hardcore punk, the Zero Boys’ debut album is a lightning bolt of sonic exhilaration. One of the fastest and tightest bands of hardcore’s glory years – with maximum catchiness to boot!

5. Blitz- Voice of a Generation
When it comes to old school Oi!, it doesn’t get any better than this. Wave your fist in the air, hoist a bottle of brewski, and kick someone deserving in the balls. Hard to believe that this band turned into Joy Division within the following year.

4. Anti-Nowhere League- We Are...The League
Perhaps the only band on this list that might make the Angry Samoans seem like Boy Scouts, The League were disgusting and depraved and just plain wrong. And I wouldn’t want it any other way! Blasting out ferocious three-chord odes to sexual depravity and extreme people-hating, Animal and co. were arguably the “punkest” band of their time. But We Are...The League is far more than fuck-off attitude and shocking turns-of-phrase. It’s a great punk rock album chock full of loud & proud anthems for the ages.

3. Misfits- Walk Among Us
The horror/zombie shtick has made The Misfits perpetual favorites of teenage punk kids, but it’s the quality of the music that turns every adolescent infatuation with the ‘Fits into an eternal love affair. At a time when most punk bands were turning away from melody, The Misfits embraced it. At a time when punk music was supposed to be “serious” and political, The Misfits were pure fun. Walk Among Us is one of those albums that everyone needs to own.

2. Descendents- Milo Goes To College
Even the most fervent haters of pop-punk music make an exception for The Descendents. I, like most self-respecting punk rockers, came of age listening to this on cassette tape, pumping my fist and shouting along to “Suburban Home”, “Bikeage”, and “Hope”. I could never get enough, and I still can’t. Juicy burgers! Greasy fries!

1. Angry Samoans- Back From Samoa
If “snot-punk” is a bona fide genre of music, the Samoans were its archetypes. This, like the band’s debut LP, has proved to be one of the most influential punk albums ever made. Tasteless, offensive, and averaging one minute, sixteen seconds in length, these 14 tracks make The Ramones sound like Emerson, Lake & Palmer. In this age of political correctness run amok, songs like “They Saved Hitler’s Cock”, “You Stupid Jerk”, and “Homo-Sexual” remind us that this world used to be a perfectly respectable place.

Pretty impressive list, eh? 1982 was the balls! The 1983 list will be much harder to assemble. Better start working on that now!


Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sonic Avenues!

While Les Canadiens may be having their worst season in years, it’s not all frowns in Montreal this year. Sonic Avenues are doing the city proud, and their second LP Television Youth is the first title to make my 2012 Album of the Year short-list (yes, I’m already thinking about such things!). Clearly there are great things happening in Canada right now when it comes to punk rock, and Dirtnap Records knows that better than anyone. Late last year, the label gave us the incredible sophomore album from Ottawa’s Steve Adamyk Band. Now Dirtnap heads east and taps Sonic Avenues for its newest release. Ken has been on fire lately, putting out one killer record after another. And so the winning streak continues! Television Youth is a welcome dose of high-speed punk/powerpop that sounds right in place on the label that gave us the Marked Men and High Tension Wires. Even more so, I’m reminded of The Stiletto Boys, one of my favorite bands of all-time. Rare is the band that can play this fast yet still retain an uber-melodic sensibility throughout. The worst pop/punk bands manage to be neither pop nor punk. Sonic Avenues are the opposite of that! They combine all the best aspects of pop and punk, coming through with track after track of racing, exhilarating tuneage that puts a modernized twist on the Dickies/Buzzcocks formula. “Givin’ Up On You” kicks off the party with a bang, and from there it’s off to the races. Songs like “Throw It Away”, the title track “Television Youth”, and “Static Attraction” are hook-laden burners fueled by hyper-driven melodies and mega-catchy guitar leads. I also enjoy the nimble bass work, superbly harmonized backups, and occasional use of organ in the background. The vocals hit that just-right mix of snotty and emotionally charged, and especially on bittersweet love songs like “Late Summer Goner” and “Back Up Back Down”, I hear plaintive echoes of the Exploding Hearts. What’s not to love?! Sonic Avenues rule the school! The Canadian Invasion is full-on happening!