Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, Piss Test!

Alright! Let's cap off the month in style! As you may have guessed from the name, Piss Test is not an emo band. Instead think catchy and aggressive Killed By Death style fury with a heavy injection of Texan punk n' roll scuzz - except they're from Portland! You may know Zach, Samantha, and Rodrigo from such groups as Red Dons, Therapists, Cuntifiers, Scott Baio Army, Soda Pop Kids, Call Sign Cobra, Zach the Cuntry Wonder, and Shadowhouse. But I get the feeling that Piss Test is gonna be bigger than any of those bands. The Portland trio has a brand-new 7" out on the venerable Jonnycat Records, and the thing is flat-out hot. I'm talking punk-as-fuck type stuff that rocks! I love the raw sound and memorably vitriolic lyrics. You can tell how much fun these three are having, and that energy is totally contagious! This is what we've been missing in today's scene - bands who bring a genuinely original take to an "old school" punk style. You hear a Piss Test song, and you know it's a Piss Test song! "Frigid Punks" is quite the scathing statement, and it's an instant anthem to boot! I dare you to resist singing along. And if you crave a good laugh in a sleazy and brilliantly tasteless sort of way, it's hard to beat songs like "Necrophilia (It's Halal)" and "IPA". These cats have got the attitude and the killer tunes to boot. If you're highly distressed that punk music has become way too safe and clean-cut for your degenerate tastes, Piss Test will warm your heart with its sordid tales of chemical abuse and bad life choices. Best new band of the year so far!


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sick Thrills indeed!

Seriously: what's not to love about a ten-song 7"?! That's some real bang for your buck in this tough economy! Columbus, Ohio's mighty Sick Thrills have given us No Fashion - the kind of record that makes me nostalgic for the heyday of the 7" EP. No doubt the instant gratification of downloading is pretty nice. But it will never be cooler than opening up a new 7" and playing it for the first time. And I love that DIY sleeve!

In a time in which so many bands attach themselves to some sort of sub-genre movement, the Sick Thrills are just straight-up PUNK ROCK. Of course when you're cramming ten songs onto a 7", you know you're not messing around. But the "hardcore" pigeonhole doesn't seem 100 percent right here. Instead I'm hearing more of a cross between Killed By Death punk and early '80s hardcore with a touch of Midwestern '77 danger to boot. The recording is great: very raw and basic in purely the best way, with guitars that cut like razors and a totally savage sound in general. Hot damn, this is what a punk rock record should sound like! It's lo-fi, but it freaking rips! The songs are quick bursts of fury, but they're surprisingly melodic and full of sing-along hooks that surely have the live crowds hoisting their beers in the air. Jon Slak on lead vocals sounds a little deranged and highly pissed - both tremendous attributes for music of this style. And while the pace of the record is dizzying, it's not like these guys are playing at all-out warp speed. The Sick Thrills just happen to be very efficient in their delivery, eliminating any unneeded excess and delivering the goods in succinct gut punches of glory. Having been blown away by songs like the blistering title track and the smash hit "Drugzzz", I'm kind of shocked that this is the first I've heard of this band. How have the Sick Thrills managed to evade my radar for so long? Check out the their YouTube channel to hear the awesomeness for yourself! 


Sunday, February 17, 2013

My favorite punk bands, post 1980

Anytime I'm asked to name my all-time favorite punk bands, it really just ends up turning into a list of my favorite '70s punk bands. No doubt about it, '77-'79 is my era. Think about my favorite punk rock bands. Clash, Pistols, Ramones, SLF, Gen X, Buzzcocks, Dead Boys, Dickies, Undertones, X Ray Spex, Dictators, Pagans...every single one of those bands debuted in the '70s. Same for The Jam, The Boys, The Kids, Heartbreakers, Saints, Avengers, Eater, and Adverts. Or how about Lurkers, Sham 69, Slaughter and the Dogs, Ruts, Teenage Head, and Chelsea? I could do this all day. Am I that much of a dinosaur? Probably!

So I thought about it a little. What if I only included bands that didn't release their first record until 1980 or later? Could I even make such a list? Of course I could. And here it is! My all-time favorite punk bands, 1980 to present:

(In no particular order)

Granted, they've never topped or even equaled that first LP. But that first LP, in my humble opinion, is one of the ten greatest punk albums ever issued. When I think "classic" Southern California punk rock, this is always the band that comes to mind.

I'm kind of cheating here, since The Descendents did put their first single out prior to 1980. But that was pre-Milo. And without Milo, it's not really The Descendents. Seriously: who doesn't love The Descendents?! Who among us hasn't worn out a cassette copy of Milo Goes To College as a punk rock rite of passage?

The Dogmatics 
'81-'86 would be one of my desert island discs. 

Moral Crux
Moral Crux was probably the band that first got me started on my '77 punk revival kick. As they say, the rest is history.

The Prostitutes
I've gone on record proclaiming The Prostitutes to be the greatest punk rock band of the '90s. I'll still stand by that.

Exploding Hearts
I put Guitar Romantic up there with almost any classic punk LP from back in the day.

The Queers
If Screeching Weasel was the best overall pop-punk band of the '90s, then The Queers' Love Songs for the Retarded was the best overall pop-punk album. I think that given what the pop-punk scene would later become, people sometimes forget how great it was when bands like The Queers were leading the way in the early to mid '90s. Joe King is one of the best songwriters the punk world has ever known. I love the early stuff with Wimpy as well.

Dimestore Haloes
This selection will surprise no one.  

Screeching Weasel
Some people are tempted to dislike Screeching Weasel purely based on all the terrible imitators they spawned. That's hardly fair. Say what you want about Ben Weasel, but you cannot deny that the guy is a brilliant songwriter. And at a time when punk music had largely lost touch with its roots, he was one of the main individuals responsible for getting it back on track. I don't think any punk band besides The Ramones has ever had a run better than Screeching Weasel circa '89-'94.

The Unlovables
Truly one of the greatest pop-punk bands of all-time. Hallie and the gang made two classic albums back in the 2000s, and you can hear both of them over at The Unlovables' Bandcamp. If you see a large bald man on the street singing "I Want A Boy" at the top of his lungs, say hello to me.

The Bobbyteens 
Of course I'm a huge fan of all things Tina Lucchesi. But I've especially got a soft spot for The Bobbyteens, who married lo-fi garage trash to power pop and the '60s girl group thing long before it was cool to do so. "Firecracker" is on all my short lists of the greatest rock n' roll songs ever. 

Zero Boys
I'd say the Zero Boys are my personal favorite of all the early '80s hardcore bands. And not just because they hailed from the Midwest! Unlike most of their contemporaries, their primary inspiration was '70s punk. They took the influence of the Ramones, Dictators, Pistols, etc. and combined it with a  raging intensity and the speed of light ethos of hardcore. Given this band's somewhat legendary status, it seems odd to say they should have been bigger. But I think you know what I mean.

Funny how I went with The Kidnappers rather than some of the bands that influenced them (Teengenerate, Supercharger). These German lads were the next generation of the classic garage-punk sound, adding some serious power pop inflections to the mix. Their debut album put Alien Snatch Records on the map, and their second album was one of the last great Rip Off releases. Their most recent album, Will Protect You, was one of the first things I ever reviewed for this blog.

The Business
Classic English Oi! always hits the spot for me. It doesn't get more classic - or more English - than The Business!

So there you go. I sometimes do listen to music that's less than 35 years old! 


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Meet The Plain Dealers!

Seriously, man: do not fuck with Cleveland! You have been warned.

If you could invent the ideal punk rock band to represent Cleveland, Ohio, they'd probably sound a lot like The Plain Dealers. The band, featuring Brandon and Eric from the late, great TKO's, has a classic '77 punk rock n' roll sound smeared in urban Midwestern grit. They recently put a few new tracks up on their Bandcamp page, and that shit is red-hot. The formula is tried-and-true, but it's delivered with such fury and conviction that it makes me wanna run outside and start screaming to the world about the greatness of The Plain Dealers. Fuck yes, man! Punk rock! Ain't it the best?!

"Take Out The Trash" and "Untrue" are raging blasts of pissed-off old school punk with snotty vocals and rockin' guitar leads. Both songs grab you with a simple, shout-along chorus and a heavy dose of take-no-shit attitude. "Die With Me" is more on the epic side of things a la some of the slower Dead Boys songs. I'm also hearing a little Dictators, which can never be a bad thing. And "Wild Child" sounds like something from the heyday of the Stitches or U.S. Bombs. Great stuff! I guess some people might even call these guys "street punk", which probably isn't too far off if you're referring to the streets of Cleveland.

It seems to me that there just aren't enough bands like The Plain Dealers these days. They aren't pop/punk, they aren't "garage". They don't cater to any hip trends. They just play good old punk rock n' roll that kicks you hard in the ass. And while their musical influences are no great mystery, they have their own identity entirely. There's just something uniquely "Cleveland" about this band. And trust me: that's meant as a high compliment.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Hit split!

Wow, is this turning out to be the year of epic splits, or what?! Hot on the heels of last week's post on the Big Eyes/Mean Jeans split, I am delighted to report on another five-star team-up! And this one is HUGE! I'm talking two of my favorite bands! Ever since I first heard The Cry!, I knew they were destined to work with The Connection in some capacity. I envisioned a joint world tour and perhaps a feature film. But for now, a split 7" is a great start to this titanic alliance. The record officially comes out on Valentine's Day, which seems appropriate since these are two bands that really make the ladies swoon.

It's no big secret that The Cry! is one of my favorite bands of the moment. These guys do that '77 punk meets power pop thing that I've always loved, and somehow they've found a way to contemporarize it for a new generation. And while bands of this style always get points for fine musical taste, what really separates The Cry! from the pack is their exceptional talent. New jam "Discotheque" is just the latest in a long line of instant classic pop songs from these Portland lads, and it really shows an affinity for that early '70s Chapman/Chinn glam rock sound. The harmonies, as always, are on-point. And Brian's lead guitar work is hot! No doubt these guys could have gotten away with writing another ten songs just like "Modern Cinderella" or "Think I'm In Love". But as a fan, it's nice to be surprised by something a little different yet equally awesome. And if "Discotheque" sounds like the best song The Boys never wrote, it's only appropriate that the band also tackles a song The Boys did write: "T.C.P." As far as I'm concerned, there can never be enough Boys covers. And this one is really great: faithful to the original but by no means a straight-up copy. It seems The Cry! is gravitating towards power pop with a more rock n' roll edge, and I'm really stoked about that. They're right in the thick of the "best band in the world" conversation! 

The Connection had to come strong to pull their weight here, but of course they've delivered as always. This band is just total class all the way. New England's newest hit makers never disappoint. "Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long" is a spot-on cover of the Myddle Class/Blues Project garage standard from 1966, while "She's Gonna Leave You" is another perfect shot of post British Invasion power pop a la LP gems "All You Gotta Do" and "I Want You". I think it's neat that these cuts show both sides of The Connection: the high energy garage rock side and the tuneful '60s pop side. These fellas always take it back to the days when rock n' roll made the girls scream and had all the kids dancing. And a la The Cry!, what makes them stand out in a somewhat crowded throwback rock n' roll field is their A-grade songwriting. I've been a fan of this band for a couple years, and "She's Gonna Leave You" is my favorite song of theirs yet!

Alright, kids! Although not officially released until Thursday, this split is limited to 500 copies and selling fast! Hop on over to Mooster Records and get in on the action! 


Thursday, February 07, 2013

Top Twelve Albums of 2003!

Are you ready to feel really old?! All the albums listed below came out ten years ago. It seems like only yesterday that I was writing about these titles when they were brand new. I was 32. Now I'm about to turn 42. Where did the time go?!

Ah, 2003. It was the year of SARS, "Mission Accomplished", and freedom fries. LeBron James graduated from high school. Arnold Schwarzenegger became a governor. And I wrote a couple hundred record reviews. The "punk revival" of the late '90s/early 2000s had started to slow down. But there was still a lot of great punk/garage/power pop music coming out - much of it by new bands, some by (very) old bands. When I think back to the "glory days" of Now Wave Magazine, '03 was pretty much the peak. That was the year Brian "Bmo" Mosher and Vinny "Gimme Noise" Bratti came aboard my writing staff. People actually started reading my zine and sending me records. The likes of Dirtnap and Alien Snatch Records made the leap from up-and-coming labels to dominant forces in punk rock. And if you look at the list below, you can see it was one hell of a year to be writing about rock n' roll. Let us take a trip down memory lane! 

12. The Ends - Sorry XOXOXO
Probably the most underrated of all the Pelado Records groups. This is one of those bands I wish I had appreciated more in their time. They later put out an album on Dirtnap. 

11. Locomotions - self titled
Great garage punk rock n' roll from Sweden featuring Mr. Martin Savage. Remember "The American Fuse" and "Stockholm City Girls"? And they covered The Dogmatics?! Alien Snatch Records ruled '03. 

10. Buzzcocks - self titled
Yeah, this was the Buzzcocks album with the "weird" production. But of all their post-reunion LPs, this may have featured the strongest material.

9. The Spits- self titled
I think the Spits put out two self-titled LPs in 2003. Which one am I talking about here? Does it really matter?

8. Moral Crux - Pop Culture Assassins
The only band to make this list and my best of 1993 list that's coming out next month. And they're still alive and kicking! I've never heard a Moral Crux album I didn't like, but Pop Culture Assassins was a particularly inspired blast of politicized '77 pop/punk. 

7. The Minds - Plastic Girls
As I previously discussed in a post on the greatest Dirtnap albums, The Minds were the shit! 

6. Marked Men - self titled
Their debut album. How many of us forgot it came out on Rip Off Records?

5. The Briefs - Off the Charts
The long-awaited follow up to Hit After Hit, this album holds up fantastically well a decade later. "We Americans" and "Tear It In Two" are two of my favorite Briefs songs ever.

4. The Checkers - Make A Move
Remember Teenacide Records? The Checkers brought back the early '80s new wave pop thing a la Blondie/Josie Cotton, and they did it marvelously. A forgotten gem of Southern Californian power pop.

3. Star Spangles - Bazooka!!!
This came out on a major label?! Early Replacements meets Johnny Thunders with a touch of power pop. Supposedly they put out another album a few years later, but Gunther 8544 and I share a theory that that second album doesn't really exist. Either way, Bazooka!!! is a classic. 

2. The Ergs!- Dorkrockcorkrod
One of the greatest pop-punk albums ever made. 

1. Kidnappers - Ransom Notes & Telephone Calls
This was my album of the year selection back in 2003, and a decade later it still holds the #1 slot. Imagine a poppier, German Teengenerate. New album due out this year!

Honorable mentions:
Leg Hounds - Ready To Go, Dirt Bike Annie - Show Us Your Demons, Damone - From the Attic, Ruth's Hat - The Hitchhiker's Guide To Rock n' Roll

One of the reasons I like doing these lists is that I have no archives of the stuff we posted on the Now Wave site back in the day. So in some way, I'm preserving/documenting the NWM era. Given this situation, there are surely a few releases that I've totally forgotten about. And then when you remind me, I'll totally kick myself. Or maybe you've forgotten too. It has been ten years!


Monday, February 04, 2013

Big Eyes v. Mean Jeans!

 Ahh! There's nothing better than a split that makes perfect sense. For one thing, Big Eyes and Mean Jeans are both from the Pacific Northwest. And they also happen to be two of the best bands out there when it comes to today's punk/power pop scene. I haven't actually sat down and figured out who my top ten fave current bands are. But if I did, both of these bands would be very much in the conversation. Needless to say, I was pretty psyched when I found out they were joining forces for a split on Dirtnap! What a treat!

The format for this split is one I like a lot. Both bands contribute an all-new track, and then they each cover one of the other's songs. In the battle of the original tunes, I'd say it's too close to call a clear winner. Mean Jeans come strong with "I Miss Outerspace", a song in their signature pop-punk style. If you liked the band's last album, this is very much in the same vein: catchy, Ramones-inspired tuneage with a sci-fi angle and a tinge of longing in the vocals. Big Eyes veer off their usual power pop course and deliver "Losing Touch" - a muscular mid-tempo number with a throwback garage feel. It's sneaky good. I love how the guitar riff lodges itself into my brain and refuses to let go. And Kate's vocal totally rocks!

The exchange of covers is great fun as well. Mean Jeans take on Big Eyes' "Since You Left" and make it sound like a Mean Jeans song. Big Eyes take on Mean Jeans' "2 Twisted 2 Love You" and make it sound like a Big Eyes song. Isn't that precisely the sort of thing you want from a split?!

It seems likely that if you're already a fan of one of these bands, you're a fan of the other as well. Big Eyes and Mean Jeans go together like peanut butter and jelly. No wonder they toured together! If you're somehow unfamiliar with these two acts, this probably is not the place to start. Go stream Mean Jeans' On Mars and Big Eyes' Hard Life if you've yet to be initiated into the ways of these two tremendous bands. Then you too will be super stoked about this split. Red vinyl sold out, black vinyl going fast!


Sunday, February 03, 2013

Stooges or Ramones?

Whether or not you like football, you deserve a Super Sunday. So here we go then. It's not just another band battle. It's the Super Bowl of band battles! A steel cage has been constructed. No weapons will be brought inside. Just two titans slugging it out for the heavyweight belt of punk rock (Yeah, I know: I'm mixing my sports metaphors. Sorry).

So who you got? The mighty Ramones or the incomparable Stooges? Sometimes with these band battles, I just wanna know who you actually listen to more frequently. But this is the Super Bowl! There's more at stake. I wanna know who you think was the greater band. You can consider all the usual elements: importance, influence, body of work, etc. You can pit Raw Power against Ramones self-titled, "I Wanna Be Your Dog" vs. "I Wanna Be Sedated". But ultimately it comes down to a gut decision. If you had to pick, which of these two bands could you not live without? All things considered, who was the better band? Who emerges victorious in this epic battle?

As always, you can cast your vote in the comments section or come join the Blog Alliance Guild on Facebook! Have at it!