Sunday, August 26, 2012

The 707's tear it up!

If I'm going to call my blog "Faster and Louder", I damn well better be on the lookout for some raw and raging punk rock. I've found exactly that in the most unlikely of places - Ft. Lauderdale, Florida! The 707's play it fast and furious with pissed-off lyrics and a tough, anthemic sound. It's the kind of stuff that makes you wanna wave your fist in the air and shout along until you're hoarse. If this were 1996, you might call their music "street punk". But I prefer to let the band label themselves - they call it punk rock n' roll. And that's what's awesome about these guys. They take the speed and ferocity of early '80s hardcore punk and mix in a heavy dose of rock n' roll. They've posted five songs on their ReverbNation page, and the shit straight-up rips. This is exactly what the world needs - a punk rock band with real passion and something to say, but without an ounce of pretension or cheesy p.c. rhetoric. If "Rats Get Fat" and "Unemployed" don't get you fired up, perhaps nothing will. And you have to love that this band has not one but two anthems in "707" and "Ours Not Yours"! Surely the regulars go nuts when these songs get played live. Or at least they should. I believe there's an EP in the works, and no doubt you'll all be raving about it in a couple months. But why wait? Get hip to this action now! It's a little bit of a cliche to say that punk rock will never die, but hearing bands like this reminds you exactly why that's the case. Get in the pit!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Clash or the Pistols?

It's been a while since I did a band battle post. This one's kind of an old chestnut amongst punk rock debaters, but that's okay. I do enjoy the classics. Let the heavyweights slug it out!

My personal stance on this topic is no secret. The Clash is not just my all-time favorite punk band but also my all-time favorite band of any genre. The only band that matters! But the Sex Pistols are right there behind 'em - my second favorite punk band ever. So, then. Who are you taking: The Clash or the Pistols? I know you love both. But what if you had to choose? There's no wrong answer here. Just a matter of personal preference. Rotten or Strummer? "White Riot" or "God Save the Queen"? Mick Jones or Steve Jones? Never Mind the Bollocks or London Calling? Sid's sneer or Simonon's smashed bass? The debate has raged for decades in regards to who was the greater band. But I'm more interested in who you like more. Forget arguing about influence or importance or even musical talent. When push comes to shove, which of the two do you listen to more often? Whose music does more for you personally? If you could take a time machine back to 1977, which band would you be more excited to see? No pun intended, we've got ourselves a veritable clash of the titans. I have cast the first vote. Now it's your turn.

Have it at!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Beyond Veronica rocks the pop!

Granted, I've always had a major weakness for female-fronted power pop. But while Beyond Veronica fit the bill to a T, they're so much more than mere heirs to the Blondie/Muffs prototype. What separates this band from the pack is that they draw liberally from the garage rock and girl group sounds of the 1960s - and then seamlessly blend those influences with more modern elements of power pop and '70s punk. Style-wise, their bang-on mix of garage and power pop will appeal to fans of both genres. Just as importantly, they bring some serious talent to the table. Bonnie Veronica and Kirk Larsen are a truly dynamic vocal/guitar tandem, and for sure this is a band that really knows how to write a good pop song. The group's second album Hard Times For Dreamers is 100 percent up my alley. But beyond that, it's really freakin' good!

As a pop guy to the core, I'm tempted to wish that every song on the album were in the same vein as opening track "If You Love Her". Talk about an instant hit! I'm always a sucker for high energy, super-catchy power pop. This song transports me to my happy place! But truthfully, one of the major strengths of Hard Times is its variety. If every song sounded the same, what fun would that be? I like it that this band is capable of everything from the gorgeous, tender jangle-pop of "My Friend" to the high-powered punk rock n' roll of "What You Want". And lead single "The River's Edge", with its haunting paisley pop sensibility, is more Pandoras than Muffs. Blessed with both a considerable songwriting acumen and serious musical chops (Larsen is flat-out phenomenal on lead guitar, and all the rhythm players knock it out of the park), Beyond Veronica really have the stuff to pull off a multi-faceted repertoire. They do power pop with real power and garage rock with hooks! A song like "Take You There" is pretty much '60s garage at its finest, while "Secret Things" ought to be on every power pop geek's best-of-the-year mix.

Conceptually, the idea of Beyond Veronica is a band in the spirit of all the great female-fronted punk and new wave groups of the late '70s and early '80s. With Bonnie Veronica in that strong female lead role, the stated kinship to the likes of The Avengers, Blondie, and The Runaways cannot be denied. But what I like is that Beyond Veronica aren't trying to be any of the aforementioned bands. They've got their own thing going on. Over the past ten years, Veronica and Larsen have cultivated a cool, distinct take on girl-fronted power pop. I'm glad to finally be hip to 'em! Add Hard Times For Dreamers to the ever-growing list of top ten caliber albums of 2012!


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cyanide Pills' new single!

I've been talking a lot lately about how the current wave of U.K. punk rock is the best in decades. I've already posted on The Gaggers, The Ricky C Quartet, and The Ten O Sevens. And the thing is, I've only scratched the surface! Hailing from Leeds, the Cyanide Pills are another favorite of mine from this "new wave" of English punk. They started out with kind of a Boys/Buzzcocks old school poppy sound by way of The Briefs, and somehow they seemed to pull off that type of thing better than a lot of their American counterparts. But on their brand single on Damaged Goods, they've got some new tricks up their sleeve. I'm not saying that they're "maturing", but clearly the Cyanide Pills have avoided the temptation to completely repeat themselves. With a new album due early next year, these lads really seem to be hitting their stride!

A-side "Where Did It Go?" is simple and catchy with a heavy Jam feel and some Clash-like power riffing. I love the tasty little guitar licks, and the chorus will quickly sink its hooks into you. Quality stuff! On the flip, "Lock Me Up" slows the tempo a little and has a darker vibe to it. Again these guys really know how to spin a catchy melody, and in this case there's something vaguely chilling about the tone. I really like both tunes, but in this case I may give the slight edge to the flip side. It really shows how this band is growing in their writing, putting the proverbial "unique spin" on their '77 U.K. punk influences. In a good way, there seems to be somewhat of a "Brit-pop" thing going on here as well. If this is a teaser for the new album, consider me teased! So really, let's have no more talk about the world coming to an end. I've got music to look forward to!


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

God bless (Randy) America!

"Randy America" is one of the all-time great punk rock pseudonyms, and F*ck Vision is possibly the greatest album title in the history of recorded music. That's an awful lot to live up to! But the first solo release from the former Jake and the Stiffs singer is pretty much what I expected it to be - brilliant. Just a few months ago, I stated that Mr. America was the single most overlooked punk songwriter of my generation. Strong words, eh? Now I have the opportunity to demonstrate that I'm not completely full of shit! F*ck Vision is out. And if you don't like it, you're really gonna have to question my judgment when it comes to music. But I'm confident that you're gonna love it. Yeah, I know I'm biased. But come on! It's Randy fucking America! He's practically royalty in at least two counties of Delaware! He's the John Daly of pop-punk! He won't let you down.

Let's make it clear that F*ck Vision is not a Jake and the Stiffs album. It's a Randy America solo record. There are a few songs that will remind you of Jake and the Stiffs - which is understandable given the uniqueness of Randy's singing voice and his knack for penning perfect little pop-punk tunes. Songs like "Yo-Yo Girl" and "I'm Glad I Said Goodbye" are "classic" Randy America all the way. No doubt, bands like The Dickies and Boys (he covers "Brickfield Nights") remain fundamental influences. But a large portion of F*ck Vision finds the man breaking new ground and having a go at a more power pop/alternative rock type sound. It's been at least ten years since he last released any new music, so the "growth" in his songwriting repertoire is not exactly surprising. God bless him, he's still a pop guy through and through. He delivers more quality hooks than Bass Pro Shops, and any given song on the album is liable to get stuck in your head for weeks on end. I know a lot of guys who'd commit gruesome murder for the ability to craft the chorus to "Do You Wanna Runaway". But just like Cole Hamels after he developed a cutter and curveball, Randy has taken his game to a whole new level. "Sunrise Song" recalls the crunching alterna-pop of the '90s (think Superdrag), while "Shadows and Shade" achieves an improbable blend of soaring melodies and heavy post-hardcore guitars. It's like Rivers Cuomo wrote a song for Helmet! There aren't a whole lot of "epic" pop songs out there, but "Cecile" is exactly that. And the thread that holds it all together is Randy's peculiar vision. He's got almost as many funny voices as Joe Conklin. His lyrics are clever, twisted, and often hilarious, especially when he's tackling the timeless subject of messed-up relationships. When the first line of the album is "I've thought about blowing my fucking brains out too many times since I've met you", it kind of sets a tone!

Those of us who are fans have really missed Randy America over the last few years. There's no one else like him. And given the surging popularity of powerpop/punk as a sub-genre in recent years, there finally seems to be a market for the man's music (Jake and the Stiffs were probably too punk for the pop crowd and too pop for the punk crowd). Thankfully he decided to release these songs he's been writing and recording at home. And now he has assembled a backing band called The Pike Creek Pinups, comprised of members of The Keefs (the first band I ever reviewed for this blog!). It cannot be denied: Randy America is back for reals! You can stream F*ck Vision for free over at Bandcamp. If you like what you hear, buy a copy or two or ten. Who mastered this thing? It sounds like a million bucks!


Friday, August 03, 2012

Hey, it's The Smoggers!

"Shame On You"? How about shame on me for not yet reviewing any '60s style garage bands! Or maybe I was just waiting to hear a band play the style as well as The Smoggers do! This Spanish foursome has a new EP out on KOTJ Records, a label run by Óscar from the awesome blog Kick Out The Jams. You know the man's got great taste. If he puts out a record, I want to hear it! Straight and to the point, this is '60s garage music the way it ought to be - combining the primal fury of, say, The Count Five with the dance-inducing energy you'd expect from a first rate party band. Oh, and it was co-produced by the legendary Mike Mariconda! "Shame On You" is classic garage rock right down to the fuzzed-out guitars, squawky Farfisa hooks, ripping guitar leads, and howling vocals. It's textbook sonic fun, and it works because these cats play rock n' roll as if their lives truly depended on it! Whether you're hearing this song in a club or just on your bedroom turntable, you'll just have to get up and dance! In short, The Smoggers have what a lot of neo garage bands don't have: soul. And Side B, I'd say, kicks it up another notch or two. "It's Just Not The Same" is a splendidly punked-up rendition of a new wave obscurity by The Delinquents (Yeah, those Delinquents- Lester Bangs's backing band!). And "Jump Inside" is the fastest and most furious cut on the record - one minute, forty-nine seconds of pure wildfire adrenaline. Drop the needle on this bad boy, and you'll have yourself an instant dance party! The vinyl is limited to just 300 copies, and word has it they're down to the last 100 and going fast. Get on it while the getting's good!


Thursday, August 02, 2012

Paper Bags II!

You've got to love it that Paper Bags titled their second EP Paper Bags II. How freaking cool is that! But that's where the similarity to Van Halen or Led Zeppelin ends. No arena rock here, folks. The real action is at the bar! As you'd expect from a San Francisco all-star garage punk band, the frames of reference are mid '90s lo-fi trash and early '80s pre-hardcore snot, with a dash of Oi! to boot (no pun intended - I swear!). I looked over my review of the band's last EP, and I was all over that shit! And with good reason - this band rules large! Paper Bags' music is everything punk rock should be: fun, stupid, catchy as hell, and often in questionable taste. And in a world where sequels are almost never as good as the originals, Paper Bags II is actually better than its predecessor! "Knife" kicks it off in ripping fashion, and there's zero let-up from there. If you're like me and used to order records solely based on Bruce Roehrs's endorsement in Maximumrocknroll, this is the band for you. "S.Y.F.A.T.B.", in fact, is a tribute to Bruce Roehrs ("See you fucks at the bar!"). There's also a tender little dittie about contracting an S.T.D. and a cover of a classic early '80s punk obscurity ("Mommi I'm A Misfit" by The Tragics a.k.a. The Misfits). Yeah, I know! What's not to love? Gulp down a cheap beer, wave a fist in the air, and sing along loudly! If "garage street punk" really is its own genre, Paper Bags are its new kings!

This is the fifth No Front Teeth/Rapid Pulse Records co-release that I've reviewed in the past few weeks, and I've got to say that every single one was phenomenal. These guys are on a roll! I always thought that Rapid Pulse was the world's great unheralded punk label in its time, and right now No Front Teeth is the best label going by far. It's great to have Rapid Pulse back, and it's awesome to see these two labels working together. Talk about a dream team! Let's hope there are many more co-releases to come! For more info on the Jim/Marco collaboration, check out the cool interview Mike Frame did for Razorcake!


Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Pelado Records: The Ten Greatest Singles

This is the second in a series I'm doing on label retrospectives. Earlier this year I listed the ten greatest Dirtnap Records albums. Now we turn to the late, great Pelado Records. The importance of Pelado Records in my personal music history cannot be emphasized enough. This was my #1 favorite record label in the "prime" of my zine days (later '90s to early 2000s). More so than any other label of the time, Pelado appealed to my taste in music and probably influenced it as well. Most of my favorite bands of that era were either on the Pelado roster (Dimestore Haloes, Prostitutes, Bladder Bladder Bladder) or associated with the label through compilation appearances (Moral Crux, Dead End Cruisers, Trash Brats). It was an incredible time to be a fan of punk music, and all these years later I really feel like the music holds up. And when you look at the thriving state of current labels like No Front Teeth Records, it's clear to see that the torch has been passed. Pelado Records may be gone, but its influence is still felt.

While Pelado released a number of great albums, I decided to focus on the label's 7" output for this particular list. In the early days of the label especially, the singles were what I looked forward to the most. When I sat down to brainstorm titles, it was kind of overwhelming at first. There were so many great singles on Pelado, and by limiting it to ten I had to leave out a lot of worthy contenders. But as always, that's half the fun of this kind of project! Here we go!

10. Primitive Rollers/The Bees - split 7"
Admit it: you forgot about this one! I'd heard of neither band before this record came out, and I don't think either band has released anything since. But what a great record! The Bees did the trashy garage punk thing, and the Primitive Rollers were like The Heartbreakers reincarnate.

9. No One's Victim- The Chase
Pat always had a good ear for the melodic/anthemic side of street punk, and No One's Victim turned out to be one of his best finds. These lads from Clovis, California seemed ticketed for a bright future and a multi-album deal on a label like TKO. For whatever reason, it never happened. But I'll put this record up against just about any street punk release of its time.

8. Dead Empty- Tattoed Women
I saw this band a number of times in the early 2000s, and I was convinced that they were going to be huge. They were that good. Had they arrived on the scene a couple years sooner, when street punk was "hot", they probably would have been huge. Either way, this was a phenomenal record. Guitarist Andy Mehos is now in the very excellent Mean Streets.

7. The Beatings- Kiss On The Cheek
Yet another band I thought was poised for world domination that ended up breaking up with little fanfare. Maybe there was a "Pelado curse"! Ha! The late '90s were a golden age of glam-punk, and The Beatings were a big part of it. Baltimore's finest!

6. American Heartbreak- Please Kill Me
You may recall that in the year 2000, American Heartbreak delivered one of the great rock albums of recent memory. What you might not remember is that said album was preceded by a 7" that came out on Pelado. It was kind of an outside-the-box move for Pat to work with a band featuring former members of Jetboy and Exodus, but he clearly was not a guy who'd let scene politics get in the way of releasing a great record. Obviously, this is the "slickest" sounding thing to ever come out on Pelado. But that's not a bad thing. Glammy power pop rock n' roll par excellence!

5. Dimestore Haloes/Bladder Bladder Bladder split 7"
This was the one that started it all for me. I had heard of the Haloes prior to getting this record, but this was my first time actually hearing their music. They were in their early days and still very much a work in progress. But warts and all, I loved 'em from the start. They contributed the songs "Sickness" and "Tombstone Radio". Bladder Bladder Bladder, Californians by way of the U.K., came off like dead ringers for Mick Jones fronted Clash on "U.S. Dole Queue" and "White American National Killer". My life was never the same.

4. Los Pinkos- Girl Krazy
This is one of my all-time favorites! Los Pinkos were from the Detroit area, and had a poppy garage rock n' roll sound. Main guy Mike went on to form the very similar Metros, who had an LP and single on Rip Off Records. Dig this jam:

3. (tie)
Dimestore Haloes- Everybody Loves You When You're Dead
Bladder Bladder Bladder- No Go Girl
I know. I'm cheating. I'm bending the rules of mathematics. My top ten is secretly a top 11. Oh well. Consider it a bonus track. For reasons already made clear, these two kindred spirit bands are inextricably linked in my mind (if only they'd toured together!). Both of these records came out around the same time. It was 1998, I think. It was a good year. Classic releases from both bands!

2. Exploding Hearts- Modern Kicks
Ah, the late great Hearts. This was supposed to be their first 7" but ended up being their second. I have a hard time deciding which one I like better. The one on Vinyl Warning was incredible as well. Let's call it a tie. Everyone knows the classic title track. And B-side "Busy Signals" is one of the band's most beloved non-album songs. Is it any surprise that this record still goes for mucho bucks? In an interesting note of personal trivia, I sent this record to my friend Vinny as a surprise gift a number of years back. He then returned the favor last year by sending me a copy of the first Dimestore Haloes album. It's a big, old circle of Pelado band love!

1. The Prostitutes- Get Me Sick
This was actually the second Pelado release ever (after the Dead End Kids and prior to The Bristles). If there was one record that put Pelado Records on the map, this was it! The year was 1996. The Prostitutes hailed from my neck of the woods - Harrisburg, PA. And boy, did they ever do us central Pennsylvanian punk rockers proud! Get Me Sick was a neutron bomb of depravity and ill will, fired off with a ferocity that put most "snotty" punk rock bands to shame. It was as if G.G. Allin, The Pagans, and The Humpers had gotten together and made a record. All these years later, I consider the title track to be one of the greatest punk rock songs not just of its time but also of all-time. In my humble opinion, this was the best punk rock band of the '90s. And Kevin's still at it today!

That was a pretty formidable list, I must say. What a great label Pelado was! Honorable mentions go out to Kickstarter, the Romeo's Dead/Burdens split, the Upsets/Richmond Sluts split, and Chinese Takeaway. I'm considering doing a follow-up list sometime in the near future where I'll list the ten greatest Pelado albums. In the meantime, check out the Pelado Records page on Facebook if you haven't already!